THE SECOND STORY | August 28th, 2009

Buff Beach Bongo Boy!

(Many times I’ve ridden my bike along Shoreline and cruised right by this gentleman who has intently been playing to the beat of the music coming from his boom box. And I’ve never had my good camera with me. Today was different. First, I was in my car. Second, I had the camera! So I pulled over (note car in background of photo to left), and introduced myself. Otherwise known as Jeff Webster, a plumber by trade, he said it was okay to take his picture and post it on the blog! Business is a bit slow right now he says, and he just had a bike stolen yesterday. He says he’s had two bikes swiped in the last couple of months. Jeff knows how to pound out the beat. I told him he’s becoming an Alameda icon of sorts. He smiled and said people see him about town and know he’s the bongo guy.)

FYI – The Alameda Boys and Girls Club is almost on the move….with a bit of help from bond funds generated by Measure WW which focused on East Bay Parks ,the Alameda City Council may be allocating some of those funds towards an investment in preserving our long history of recreation in the city creating a win, win, WIN for all!

Dear Honorable City Council Members,

It’s over. Most of us know it is. And the rest will soon find out.

The city can no longer provide the services we have come to expect. Among those services are those offered for decades by the Alameda Recreation and Park Department and our public schools. Revenues no longer support immensely valuable youth programs in the manner we feel we are entitled to. Our citizens have spoken loud and clear that maintaining those services is a priority. It’s time to open our eyes to other ways our expectations can be met and maybe even be exceeded. Partnering with excellent organizations that can and will fill those gaps is no longer a luxury. It’s the way city services must be delivered. And we need only look in our back yard.

There is an opportunity before you at your September 1 meeting. You are in a position to allocate funds for our own ‘shovel ready’ project, the building of a new Alameda Boys and Girls Club facility on OUR west end, yes, OUR west end. You all know the project. 77% of the funds are in place and the City is eligible for Measure WW funds via the WW Local Grant Program. I urge you to allocate 2 million dollars of the funds dedicated to the city via Measure WW.

The side benefits to the city are many and have been presented to you over the past years. They are quantifiable: educational opportunities are increased; police services are decreased because better citizens are developed; partnerships with other organizations expand the usefulness of this project by reaching deeper into the community.

But the primary benefits go directly to the kids and their families in ways we may not know of for many years. The Youth Development Facility will allow kids to discover interests and talents many of them have NEVER been exposed to and develop them in a clean, safe, secure, and encouraging environment. They are taught respect for others and property. There is guidance when it lacks at home. There is the chance to find dignity and personal worth by learning the value and rewards of a strong work ethic. Mentoring is learned and shared.

This project is ready to go NOW. Please vote to allocate two million dollars to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club Youth Development on Monday, September 1st.

Maybe it’s not really over, once the Alameda Boys and Girls Club Youth Development Center becomes a reality, with your help.

Thanks for your kind consideration.

If you are interested in telling council members how you feel about this , here are their email addresses!
Frank Matarrese
Lena Tam
Beverly Johnson
Marie Gilmore
Doug deHaan

Alameda real estate this week…..

Folks, it’s busy out there. This week has presented a number of closed transactions, and a good group of pending sales. Just on Wednesday I had a listing receive 2 offers, another listing received 1 offer, and I wrote an offer on behalf of a buyer. I expect we may see two of these three properties go pending in the next couple of days.

Active listings 162, 167 last report
Pending listings 112, 115 last report

Tuesday Tour 11

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 9

Back on Market 1

Price changes 12

Pending 14

Sold 14

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

Real estate awards this week..
.remember this is only my perspective!

I’m skipping the awards. I’ve had 3 super late nights in a row and I can’t even remember what I saw on Tuesday! But I do remember it was heavenly riding my bike on the tour. Just perfect.

So that’s my story. I’m going to get some sleep!

Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | August 20th, 2009

Golf Gals

(That’s me with my friend Linda! She and I play a round of golf almost every week. We take her new fancy candy apple red Lexus and throw our stuff in the back. She drives out her driveway, crosses the street, and backs into my driveway. Last Friday she drove us to Harding Park in San Francisco, next to Lake Merced.

This shot is after we hit off the 18th tee and had to fly the balls over water and a marsh, which we did. The big-time President’s Cup will be held there this October and we are trying to expand our golf experiences beyond the Alameda Muni so we decided to play where the big boys play. With great luck we had mostly sunshine and not too much wind – and a fun time on a course that is considered challenging. A nice guy from TX joined us. He and his wife came to SF to get out of the heat in Dallas. I think their trip was a success, as was our field trip!)

Alameda real estate this week….

I’m going to jump right into the thick of things and try to give you a flavor of what’s going on based on my experiences over the past seven days.

Last Friday – My clients closed on their full bay view condo at 933 Shoreline. List price was 419K, and they got that price and then gave $3375 for the buyers’ closing costs.

We actually sold this three times in the past 7 weeks. The first time there were three offers. The one that was accepted backed out because the buyers got concerned about transfers with their jobs and the condo rules said you have to owner occupy your unit for at least two years before you can rent it. If the allowable number of rentals was maxed out, then they’d be up a creek.

The second buyers came in with a minimal down payment and were using FHA financing and everything looked super good. But the FHA didn’t approve of the complex because of unfunded liabilities (sounds like our city), so buh-bye to them. The third buyers were actually in the second bidding group but this time were able to rustle up 20% down and they now own it.

In the middle of that transaction there was a leak in the bathroom ceiling, caused by a failed wax ring under a toilet. A chunk of the ceiling was replaced, the toilet fixed, the ceiling painted, and problem solved. I was so grateful for a proactive owner in the upper unit who promptly accepted responsibility for the corrective work.

Last Sunday – The open house Sunday at 1727 Clinton was full of folks. It’s a great way to watch people, and then hear what they are saying when they don’t know they can be heard. I guess that’s called eavesdropping but I’m not hiding and then listening. They are just talking loud! People loved the storage, the floor plan, and were awed by the finished basement. I’ll be there this Sunday 2-4.

Last Monday morning – The fixer house at 757 Pacific (list price 250K) received 13 offers last Monday. Goodness! Of those, 11 were all cash. Of those six were countered.

Last Monday afternoon – Took a Buyer and his charming daughter out to look at property for our first time together. Saw four places. Interest in two.

Last Monday night – I put a condo on the market. 2137 Otis #316. It’s the third time I’ve sold this particular unit in the last 5 years or so. The most recent owner paid $359, 000 (higher than the list), because this was her dream unit in a dream location. She lived in the complex for decades and decided when it came on the market. Due to market conditions, it’s now priced at 269K. It’s the top floor, back corner unit overlooking the lagoon. Sweet. And immaculate with nice upgrades. It got an offer last night but it’s too low, too soon, so it is being tossed.

Last Tuesday – Of those six counter offers, five were returned for the Seller to consider. And the price marched upward. All contingencies had to be removed and close in 21 days.

Last Tuesday eve – Still trying to get info about the situations for the houses my client was interested in.

Last Wednesday – We had a winner for the fixer on Pacific.

Here’s what I have learned this past week with the action on Pacific. Buyers and their agents think they have a lot of control. Not so much. Their agents are presenting incomplete offers when there have been specific instructions to include proof of funds available to close the transaction, include signed off disclosures, and don’t mess with terms when there is so much competition! Sure prices are down, but good perceived values are out there, so the agents need to learn to write a strong, clean offer, and make it easy for the seller to accept it. I certainly hope that is what I do when I’m representing buyers….It goes a long way towards credibility. I made sure to compliment in writing, the two agents who wrote beautiful, complete, organized offers but whose clients were not quite aggressive enough.

Again, another big week for pending sales, and the number of closed transactions is starting to reflect the boost in pending sales about 4 weeks ago.

New subject! I thought this article on indecision was good. I think we all go through this. It’s always a challenge to see the wider view when I’m wrapped up in the minutiae of the moment.

Active listings 162, 167 last report
Pending listings 115, 117 last report

Tuesday tour 14, 4 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing my listing on Otis

New 14

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 11

Pending 18

Sold 16

Expired 5


Real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perception!

Winner, Got me a Facelift

Bang for the Buck

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! Carry on! Have a nice weekend! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | August 13th, 2009

Standing up vs. supporting.

(A dahlia from my friend Jackie’s garden.)

In the past ten days I’ve had the opportunity to think about what it means to stand up for something or somebody. I’ve shared my thoughts with a few close friends and they in turn began to think about the difference between the two. I had the amazing experience last week of having someone dear to me stand up for me during a emotional meeting involving a personal real estate transaction. I honestly couldn’t remember when the last time was that had happened. It was nothing short of overwhelming. And comforting. And reassuring. And freeing. And relieving some of whatever the burden was I was carrying. Thank you, Larry!

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had amazing support throughout my life for things I’ve attempted to do, ended up doing, and ended up abandoning. But this ‘standing up’ concept really hit me last week. ‘Support’ seems to be a background position. It’s all good and it’s appreciated.

But standing up for a cause or a person…that’s making a statement, a loud one even without a loud voice, without hesitation, in front of others. Sometimes it comes easily and naturally. Sometimes it comes after great consideration of the issue, and/or the risk to oneself for taking a stand. Once a stand is taken, it’s pretty hard to call for a do-over.

This lead me to recall two instances when my mom stood up for me. They are as fresh in my mind as if they happened yesterday. I was not close to my mom. She did a great job as a mother but we didn’t really click, didn’t talk about day to day things, didn’t do mom and daughter things together. She was wrapped up in making my dad’s life 1950’s perfect and they saw perfection in each other and that worked for them. Plus they had three squirrely sons, younger than me, who demanded attention.

When I was in fourth grade I went to three different schools because my dad was transferred around with his job and promotions. The short time we lived in La Jolla, we rented a very cool house, hanging over a canyon. The only place to play was in a flat cul-de-sac downhill from the house. There was a witch that lived down there. At least that’s what we called her. She hated kids and especially kids that didn’t belong on her street. We were playing kickball or baseball and she took our bikes and threw them off the sidewalk into the street. I couldn’t believe it! I ran up the hill and got my mom. She trotted down the hill, got to the witch, and let her have it full blast about how these kids needed a safe place to play, that they were good kids, didn’t hurt her or anybody else and she’d better not bother us again – ever. I was dumbfounded and she never bothered us again.

In my junior year of high school, I was accused of vandalizing the language lab. They had traced the act to the seat and time I was in it. Thus I was guilty. I was appalled! They sent a bill to my folks for around $100, if I recall. My mom asked if I knew anything about this and I had no clue. We lived close to Corona del Mar High School and once again, she trotted over to defend me. She asked no more questions were asked of me. But she let Mrs. Townsend, the Girl’s Vice Principal really have it. Once again, I stood by dumbfounded. And it turns out they were wrong in accusing me. Apology? Nope. Grateful for my mom standing up for me? Yep, very much.

I’ve wondered when I last took a stand for someone. I must admit, I can’t think of who or when that might have been. That’s scary. I guess when I speak at a Planning Board meeting or in front of the City Council that is taking a stand….but when that stand goes against the grain growing in the room….that’s a bit risky, eh? Plus those meetings are televised live so that eliminates an easy do-over. The two last times I’ve spoken it’s been about unions and mismanaged contracts, inept former elected officials, and really inept hired (now fired – oops resigned) city management. Yet reversing a stand may take even more courage and conviction. It says a mistake has been made. But it also states that one is willing to admit it out loud in front of the same group the initial stand was made. That’s more than gutsy. That’s ethical.

Alameda real estate this week….

It’s been a super busy week. I put two new listings on the market. 757Pacific, a complete fixer, with the third bedroom falling off the back of the heavy texture-coated bungalow. The calls on the fixer have been non-stop for two days….unbelievable. And we put a lovely home at 1727Clinton on the market. I’ll be there Sunday 2-4 for an open house. Come on down! I also listed a condo but will put that on the market as soon as some cleaning gets done. And today, the condo at 933 Shoreline is to close.

Note the large number of pending sales this week. What I see in those is a few high priced properties, and lots of funky properties that have been on the market for extended periods but are now getting snapped up, including short sales and bank repos.

Kinda close to home…real estate action in Silicon Valley

Active listings 167, 168 last report
Pending listings 117, 113 last report

Tuesday Tour 9 with 2 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 12

BOM (back on market) 3

Price changes 11

Pending 21

Sold 10

Expired 1

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

Winner, Grand Dame, Got me a Makeover

Bang for the Buck

Get me to Rehab and the second Get me to Rehab

That’s a wrap! Carry on!

Have a great weekend! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | August 6th, 2009

You’re FIRED!

(The group who attended our annual National Night Out front porch party last Tuesday seemed to like the dessert! We had the largest attendance yet. I figure at least 30 neighbors came over and jawed a bit. McGruff the Crime Dog showed up with the Police Chief and other officers. It’s always a nice time to see people but this year seemed especially caring. Notice the remnants of the word ‘neighbors’ on the chocolate frosting that topped the white cake with raspberry filling. Yummy from Costco! We have great neighbors! Yay!)

First of two rants this week…
I attended the city council meeting last Monday night on request of the Local Government Relations Committee of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. The city budget was before the council as was the decision of whether to have a special election in November. The special election would be for one item: the initiative sponsored by the Alameda Fire Department. The proposal would put before the citizens, rather than let city management or leadership decide, the issue of whether we should ramp up the staffing and service of the fire department. I was asked to let the council know that the committee was not in favor of the special election, which would be a cost to the citizens of about $400,000. Not only does the city NOT have any money for a specialized special election, the initiative fails to say how the proposal would be funded. Hhmmm.

So after saying I was speaking on behalf of two parties, I finished up with the the Chamber position in about 45 seconds. Then I said the next party I was speaking for was… ‘MYSELF!’ Keep in mind that I have some minor goals when I speak in front of the council or the planning board. Beside getting my point across, I want to look directly at each member, speak directly to each one, get each one to smile back at me, maybe get some laughs out of the audience, and not to drone on or repeat what others have said.

This is the gist of what I said, sans notes, and I was still outta there with time to spare on the three minute clock. In fact I never even got to the yellow warning light.

“We have heard tonight that there is no extra money in this city. We have heard that we can’t afford to pay down, much less pay off the 76 million dollars we have in unfunded liabilities dedicated to retirement benefits, most of which go to fire and police. I am against spending money for this special election.

I want to blame somebody, anybody, everybody, for the mess we are in. I have thought a lot about who to blame. It’s not the police and fire fighters we need to blame. It would be easy enough to figure out who was in city management and which council members were in place when these exorbitant benefits were approved. Yet it has occurred to me that I am to blame!

We are to blame. I’ve lived here since 1973 and I’ve voted in lots of elections. And it’s the elected officials who have hired city management who have encouraged approval of those union contracts. Few if any, seem to have considered the future effects of their decisions on the city and its citizens. I helped put those decision-makers there. And shame on me. But I can tell you that the citizens are watching their elected officials much closer these days. (There was strong eye contact between me and each council member, maybe with even a sense of relief that I wasn’t directly persecuting them.) And it is no longer possible for you to look at a spreadsheet and pretend you know what it means. If you don’t know what a line item is, you have an obligation to ask at a public meeting. And you don’t give up until you get it.

I am in awe of our current City Manager and how she effectively and bluntly communicates to us the reality of the mess we are in! (At that point, Anne Marie Gallant caught her breath in surprise.) It’s about time we all heard the truth. And I am bummed that we are losing David (Brandt) our Assistant City Manager, who is accepting opportunities in small-town Oregon. (A smile on David’s face showed up.) But be warned, council, you are being watched and scrutinized, and will be held accountable. (Every council member was nodding.)

So I’m done. Good night.” (Lite laughter emitted from the audience.)

I looked around the room after taking my seat. It seemed every city department head was in attendance. And due to the budget considerations I bet they were! As I left the room, people said thank you. I was told later that night and the next morning that Council members DeHaan and Matarrese both elaborated on the comments the “man” made about blame. One person said that the people in the room were very clear that a woman made those comments. But that’s not the point. The point is maybe people got the point.

And then at our house, the next night, at the National Night Out event, the Police Chief and a couple of other managing officers, and the head of Alameda Muni Power and some of his co-workers came directly to me and said how much they appreciated my comments. I was shocked… and most grateful that what came out of my mouth the night before was lucid and heard. When I arrived at that meeting I had no idea what I’d say…but by the grace of God….oh, well.

Second of two rants this week...

As one of two designated brokers at Harbor Bay Realty who are called on when our Broker of Record is unavailable, I have the occasional opportunity to review and discuss purchase contracts with clients of Harbor Bay Realty agents. Often these meetings involve multiple offer situations. And so it was for about three hours late this afternoon.

Folks, if four of the six agents who wrote offers on behalf of their clients knew how stupid and incomplete their offers looked to me and the seller of the property, they would die of embarassment. If the clients of each of those four agents had any clue about the contradictions between what their lenders said they could do versus what the contract said they wanted to do, and that their offers were often incomplete, they’d fire their agent!

Once again, I’ll say that this is NOT rocket science. And after speaking at length late today with my best escrow officer, it is time Buyers’ agents started wising up and stopped writing offers on short-sale properties asking the seller (who is actually the lender because the lender has to approve what the seller has accepted) to pay for reports, for repairs, for financing fees, for escrow and title fees, and for transfer taxes.

Take a memo consumers and agents….if you want your short sale offers accepted CLEAN THEM UP, MAKE THE FINANCING SIMPLE AND CLEAR AND VERIFIABLE, EAT THE COSTS, AND GET TO THE REAL BOTTOM LINE. It’s the lender who makes the decision and you’d better make it easy for that lender to choose your offer. Of course, there is the alternative choice: you just keep wasting your time writing offers that never go anywhere, and miss whatever is left of the deeply discounted market. How’s that work for ya?

Maybe it’s time the agents started having a 90 minute meet and greet conference with the prospective buyers BEFORE properties are shown and offers written, so it can be determined if the market can meet the buyers’ expecations, if the agent can meet the buyers’ expectations, AND if the buyers can meet the agent’s expectations. That meeting may not be an easy one to conduct, but if the facts of how a particular market works are actually undersood by the agent and then explained to the buyers there would be less grief in a transaction, less disappointment, less frustration, fewer heartaches, fewer surprises, fewer restless nights, fewer offers written, and more offers accepted. Now how would that work for ya? Maybe better, huh? And if the expectations for any of the parties can’t be met realistically, MOVE ON!

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings 168, 180 last report
Pending listings 113, 112 last report

Tuesday Tour 7 w/4 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 5

BOM (back on market) 5

Price changes 9

Pending 17

Sold 8

Expired 8

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

None seemed worthy. Only 7 on the tour and 4 were repeats.

So that’s a wrap….carry on! best, Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 31st, 2009

The art of service, and service within their art….

(With the cool (jacket type) cloudy mornings and misty evenings recently, this picture I took a couple of years ago, seems appropriate to this chilly July. I loved the rower, dory, bike/walk path, and city skyline – very different elements came together for a lovely moment.)

I expect many of us are getting pretty tired of the same old way of doing business in this brand new day. It’s time for the old standards in this town to step up to the plate and get on base. If they don’t the strikes will be coming fast and this town is too small for businesses to weather those storms.

So I want to sing some kudos for a local business and a local event, both of which are offering service within their art, and the art of service to Alamedans.

First, Cycle City on High St. at Santa Clara.

I have been using them to tune-up and service my bike, change out parts, and get accessories for some years now. After reading a post on Evan’s blog about some wonderful bike servicing he found in San Diego, I decided to find out why my 20+ year old gears were slipping when starting to accelerate. Turns out that I’d worn them out over the years and the chain was slipping! I took the bike in on a slow Sunday afternoon, started walking home, got within three blocks of the house and got the call to pick up the bike! They had warned me if it stayed slow they’d get it out that day but it wasn’t a guarantee, but to mydelight…I got a call when I was three blocks from home, so called a friend for a lift, picked up the bike and rode it back!

Recently we took a good quality but long ignored bike that was hanging in the carriage house in to the shop to get it in riding condition. That was a bigger job and they were booked out for 9 days. Well, okay….no problem for us. And worth the wait! Talk about the ultimate recycling opportunity! (get it, cycle, recyle the old bike….)

They are happy, friendly, super knowledgeable, love Alameda, reasonable in price, finish when they say, and stand behind their work and parts, no hassles. And they have some very cool bikes in the store from classic beach cruiser designs with modern materials in super colors, to the lightweight racers. Eye-candy for us amateur but devoted bicyclists!

I also want to commend the Frank Bette Center for the Arts for their Plein Air Paint-out (PAP0). This marvelous (small but mighty) art center is getting in our faces all over town, all the time! This group has begun to figure out how to support the arts, artists, their center, and embrace their purpose and the people at the same time!

A couple of weeks ago truly talented artists were painting scenes all over town for a five day period. As I was riding my (newly re-conditioned) bike I’d suddenly come across an artist here and there painting the most lovely pictures! Then just 15 minutes before the outdoor display of all the artists’ works was to close down at Alameda Towne Centre, I popped over to see the prolific results of their efforts. IT WAS SO COOL! I had a huge grin as I quickly moved through hundreds of pieces of art, displayed beautifully at the center, with delightful background music. Thirty minutes later I walked out with two paintings that really touched me. One was the first I’d seen and it was of a friends’ house! I bought it for them. The other was a gorgeous water/marsh-scape on Shoreline near Broadway from the pier at the bird sanctuary across San Leandro Bay to the edge of the bike/walk baths along the Bay Farm /Harbor Bay Isle fringe.

NEW SUBJECT! I have some dear friends who emailed me yesterday that they have Thanksgiving week available on Kauai at their Poipu Marriott timeshare. Because of their schedules, they won’t be able to use that week and would love to rent it out! Any takers? And because they have decided their 6 week fractional ownership of a Marriott property at Tahoe offers them plenty of time for vacations, they are interested in selling their Kauai property at a good discount. I get nothing out of this except seeing if folks can come together and find a win-win situation. I am queen of the quality timeshares (don’t lecture me, I won’t listen), and think this might be a good ticket for some great travel for the right folks. If you are interested shoot me an email and I’ll introduce you my friends. They are awesome people, and live close by.

NEW SUBJECT! Prices have bottomed out? Check this out….

NEW SUBJECT! Didya get your property tax assessment notice? Several of my clients have been satisfied with the downward adjustment of their assessment for the coming year, and I agree with them that I can’t provide additional comps to assist them in driving it down further. I’m working with a couple of owners with unique properties to see what we can do. But I must say….Alameda, as the news as said, has not had the disaster price hacking of some of our surrounding communities.

Alameda real estate this week…check out the number of pending sales this week….see a trend?

Active listings 180, 189 last report
Pending listings 112, 97 last report

Tuesday Tour 10 w/ 2 repeats

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 12

BOM (back on market) 4

Price changes 12

Pending 26

Sold 5

Expired 0

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

Bang for the Buck

Get me to Rehab

Out of Rehab; Cute, Charming

Alrighty! That’s a wrap! Carry on! best, marilyn (hey, if you want honest opinions about my expectations regarding vendors, who’s taking care of biz, and what my experiences are with a variety of them, give a call)

THE SECOND STORY | July 23rd, 2009

I’ve been there!

(Elaborating on my comments last week about our trip to Scotland last year, with the British Open being played on the west coast at Turnberry just a week ago, decided to pull out some pictures of the place. We played on the small course twice, explored the shore, beach, and the former airstrip and taxi ways that were installed there in used in WWII. We played on the 18 hole putting course and the 18(?) hole chipping course several times each, and topped off the last night with one of the most gourmet meals any of us had ever had. Greg Norman was playing at the Senior British Open up the road at Troon. Mr. Norman had just come off a good week at the 2008 British Open. But the Senior open….not so much. Seeing him walking up the 113 steps leading to the classic hotel, I asked Evan if he thought I should mosey over to him and say “We all have bad days, Mr. Norman.” Evan’s response – “SHUT UP….just SHUT UP mom!” It’s a golfer’s paradise because there is nothing, nothing else to do around there. They like their golf fast and by foot, in all weather. We were intimidated by the 2 full-sized links courses, but the staff were gracious and fun. My room was around the corner, end, ground floor to the right. Looks rather like the Claremont in the Berkeley hills, eh?)

Alameda real estate this week…

The listing I have at 1305 Regent had the lower unit signed off as approved by the city on Tuesday! Yippee! It’s always a relief to see the final signatures on the job card!

What a difference a week makes. Two Tuesdays ago it was cookin’ hot while I was hosting a broker open house. This week while pedaling around I was wearing two jackets! Bbrrrr.

Tuesday Tour 15 this week, 3 repeats 25 last report

Highest priced NEW listing (the old post office, now medical center on Central, near Park)
Lowest priced NEW listing

Active listings 189, 172 (2 weeks ago – I forgot to include it last week)
Pending listings 97, 93 (2 weeks ago – ” )

New 19

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 9

Pending 20

Sold 12

Expired 4

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

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

I’m outta rehab

Bang for the buck

Get me a facelift

Well, that’s a wrap! Have a good weekend! Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 16th, 2009

“The pot of gold is found right at our home!”

(My clients sent this to me with the note “The pot of gold is right at our home!” This is their home at 219 Cypress B, right here in Alameda! While I’m not sure when this was taken, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was last Saturday evening. We’d had a very light sprinkle, it was fairly warm, and the clouds were pretty. We were walking to the 114th birthday celebration of a huge home on Central and other walkers were pointing out the massive bright and double rainbow right behind us!)

I asked the same clients if they’d elaborate on why they love co-op living so much here in Alameda. They love it so much they would love to buy a larger unit in Alameda’s Woodstock neighborhood. Get it? They REALLY love it! And they asked if I might pump up their neighborhood and home in my blog. So here is my response to their request.

And here is their response to my request. It’s one and the same! And I hope some of you might spread the word of one of Alameda’s amazing housing secrets, at the tip of the island’s west end.

“As far as Woodstock goes, these are the best selling points (I think) to a potential buyer:

1. The LOW monthly cost of living here – no mortgage insurance, no homeowner’s insurance, no structural maintenance costs/worries, no gas bills, no water bills, no sewer bills, no trash bills – it’s all taken care of by the co-op (so no even hassling w/paying any of it) for our HOA which is $140/month.

2. A significant cash reserve held by the co-op – one of the most financially sound HOAs in the state. No worries about some crazy delayed maintenance charge in the thousands dropping on you from out of the blue.

3. The people who handle the stock transfer (both here at Woodstock & the lender, NCB) have been working with Woodstock for a long, long time. They have the whole thing down to a science (OK, a slow science, but…). You don’t have to worry about finding a lender who will approve a mortgage for a stock-transfer or figuring out how to handle all the paperwork; there are people – who are not biased to seller or buyer – who have been through it & will make it all go smoothly (touch wood).

4. And then there’s all the touchy-feely stuff:

  • a strong sense of community – a small, tight-knit community in Alameda (already a small, tight-knit community); we feel a connection with neigbors who live blocks away because we’re all part of this co-op; we watch out for each other, we help each out, and there’s just TONS of friendliness when you walk around; most units, including ours, face large shared green areas which contribute to an even tighter sense of community – BUT, at the same time, they’re all individual (and ours just has one shared wall)
  • a strong sense of history – the oldest residential co-op west of the Mississippi – with some of the original owners (civilian workers at the old Navy base who were housed here when the gvmt decided to sell it off after the war; as you know, these folks loved it so much that they pooled their resources, formed the co-op and bought the land – that’s why we even own the streets!)
  • a really unique residence – the 200 units aren’t the same; it’s not just cookie-cutter apartments-cum-condos; there are these walkways that run through here that are really fun to explore; some of the streets are actually owned by the co-op, including Cypress; has that great 1940s look on the outside – board tries to keep exteriors in line with historic nature of co-op (but no worries – not a registered historic building); all the yards are different because they were created by neighbors/co-op members just putting up fences where they agreed they should be
  • tranquil yet convenient – way out here on the very west end, practically the end of the road; people who live in Alameda (esp Bay Farm) don’t even know where it is; hardly any through traffic on our street – so quiet that the kids ride their bikes in the street during the summer!; and we’re situated to face the courtyard rather than the street, so we’re not staring out at the street; super close to tube, transbay bus, ferry, BART and all the stuff on Webster St. (including the rocking new farmers’ market, new cafe on Webster, BBQ, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, pub, bar that features local wines & beers – with special vintners/brewers nights, too), the beaches & summer concerts, the Bladium – not your Momma’s West End?

So, those are notes. I can do more (not more info but more structured writing) if you’d like, but I figured you might just want some ideas to get your own thoughts going. Possible slants might be the undiscovered aspects of West End, the uniqueness of the co-op (the history, etc). Be pleasantly surprised by our secretive little island’s best kept secret. So, way more thoughts than I thought I had in my head. Thanks for diligently reading to the end!”

And I might add, that the west end is now the quietest part of all 94501 and 94502 since the base closed! Keep that in mind! Thanks S&D!

New subject! I thought this article related somewhat to how Alameda has faired in this mortgage meltdown mess. How to Find the Best Place For You To Live

New subject! This time last year Evan, Erin, and I were in London for a couple of nights of theatre productions (including Phantom of the Opera), and then on to Scotland. We spent 4 days in Turnberry, site of the British Open which is going on right now. We played their small course a couple of times and it is so cool to see it on TV having been there! Greg Norman and his wife Chrissy Evert were guests at the Westin Turnberry where we stayed. He was playing the the British Senior Open up the road a piece. The main difference is that they used Mr. Norman’s helicopter to get around each day. We hoofed it or rented a taxi. What a great place!

Alameda real estate this week….

It looks like we have a 3rd accepted offer on 933 Shoreline #305 as of tonight. Yea, again! With a larger down payment, this one should stick.

I have a new listing I put on the market on Tuesday and had it open for the Broker Tour. 1305 Regent is a Queen Anne Victorian duplex. Check out the website for a virtual tour, floor plans, and why this could be a nice opportunity for the next owners. It’s another example of understanding how the Alameda Amnesty Program can work to legalize a housing unit that has been around for decades. It would be impossible to create the same unit today. The upper unit will be open Sunday 2-4pm and I’ll be there. Swing by and say hi! It is being promoted as a duplex as well as a single family home.

The Tuesday Tour was PACKED! 25 properties! Only 4 repeats. Because I hosted the Regent open house I’m behind a bit on the inventory. I’ve caught up on about 8 properties but will be playing catch-up as best possible.

Note that two high end Harbor Bay homes went pending this week. That must be some type of indication….not sure of what but….somethin’. And 409 Lincoln went pending shortly after the Broker Tour.

Highest priced NEW listing

Lowest priced New listing


BOM (back on market) 4

Price changes 11

Pending 19

Sold 11

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

Alameda real estate awards this week….

Bang for the Buck, Winner

Get Me to Rehab

Get Me a Facelift (tie)

Out of Rehab (and now pending)

Cute/Charming (tie – based on the mls photos….I didn’t get to see them yet).

That’s a wrap! Have a great weekend! Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 10th, 2009

It’s like watching the yellow pages pass by…

A year or two ago in the annual Alameda 4th of July Parade there was a ‘float’ (actually a truck with a bunch of people on it having a good time) that had a sign that read “Shameless self-promotion!” And so it was this year with the Alameda parade! It certainly had one of the largest gatherings of entries yet it moved right along, had some great entertainment (how about the Lincoln Middle School Marching Band – a huge group that sounded great, looked good in their black t-shirts, and they really walked the route!). Maybe it was the result of the economic times, but many commented that more businesses were parading their names along with promotional materials than in recent memory. A great time was had by all!

Alameda real estate this week….
Maybe the third time is the charm…. 933 Shoreline Drive #305 is back on the market. The first buyers backed out because of a rental restriction adopted by the HOA in the past year that states owners must own for at least two years before they can consider renting, and then subject to not exceeding a specific percentage of rental units within the complex. The second buyers also loved the property but they could not get FHA financing on the building (minimal down payment on their part but reserve funding did not meet FHA standards). So I put it back on the market on Wed eve, we have one offer on the table and supposedly a second showing up on Friday.

Is is being foreclosed on? Or is it going short? I’m aware of a situation regarding a property that was put on the market for about 60K less than it was purchased for in recent years. As has been the custom, also in recent years, the loan (note) has/had been sold to various lenders. The problem becomes magnified when those lenders include ones that have gone under and/or been absorbed by others. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing to whom and by whom. So when a notice of default (NOD) is filed against an owner/property by one of those banks that kind of doesn’t exist, what’s going on? Clearly somebody is foreclosing on the property. The owner and the agent have a challenge in getting to whoever is in charge. What a mess. And this is not an isolated case.

Here are a couple of articles I thought were interesting…

Is there a new rush of foreclosures coming to market?

What’s with jumbo mortgages?

Active listings 173, 172 last report
Pending listings 92, 93 last report

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 10, with 2 repeats

New 15 The house at 1221 Sherman does not show up as New on the market because it had an extra zero put into the listing price, making it over 24 MILLION. Once the error was noted, there was a price change to over 2.4M and it never got into the listings as new, just as the price change, a quirk of the MLS. I saw it on the broker tour. We’ll leave it at that.

BOM (back on market) 4

Price changes 6

Pending 13 The house at 1810 Clinton I mentioned last week does now have a pending sale that is supposed to forestall a foreclosure. Let’s hope it all works out, as best possible for all the parties.

Sold 11

Expired 3

Withdrawn/cancelled 8

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


Get me to rehab this is a sad story….in 2006 this sold for 750K. It is comprised of two houses on one lot: a major fixer Victorian with two units in the front house and a detached two level cottage. Serious work was needed. Then a huge fire got the front house. It’s slowly been rebuilt but it’s still got a long way to to go and now it’s bank owned and on the market.

Got me a makeover

Get me a facelift

That’s a wrap! Have a good weekend!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 2nd, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

(You may recognize this home on Broadway. It’s one of about six in town that dresses up for most every holiday on the calendar. I wonder where the owners stash all the decorations when they are not in use….)

Speaking of Independence Day and owning real estate, do you remember how independent you thought you’d be because you owned your own home, your own rental property, your own warehouse, or whatever tickled your fancy?

I recall feeling that way. Actually my mother-in-law bought the duplex so her grandchild would have a home. Then later she sold it to us. We had to buy a lawn mower. At a yard sale. Because the yard said we needed to tend to it. I made covers for what passed as couches in our living room. We accepted any and all wooden crates and boards for shelving, dining tables, coffee tables, and end tables. Sunday afternoon garage and yard sales became my routine. I’d have shopped on Saturdays but I had to teach glider flying on Saturdays. Slowly the house became home. And we got on the job training for landlord-ship that became critical to our/my lives/life.

How was our real estate experience? The agent (yes, a local one whose name graces, even today, an Alameda office) didn’t tell us how taxes were figured. So we had a surprise with that. And the same agent said we’d get access two weeks before we had to leave our apartment so we could refinish the hardwood floors. And then disappeared during that time. Those floors finally got new life after we sold the duplex. During the process of the purchase since my mother-in-law lived in Newport Beach, we became the point people. We had no clue about what was going on but even dumb old me figured out that something seemed grossly inappropriate about the same agent representing both the buyer and seller, AKA ‘double-ending the deal.’

Maybe I owe a quick moment of thanks to that situation. Notice I didn’t say to that agent. So when my dad called one night several years later during his dinner and said I should get my real estate license, I said, “why not?” I had already figured out how to take government tests and had passed loads of them for all the various pilot ratings/licenses I held. And the airline industry was in the tank at that time. So why not?

And thus morphed a sky-based career into a land-based career spanning over 23 years, in a town I love, with clients who often are friends or have become friends or are referred by clients and/or friends. I figured there had to be a better way of servicing a customer. And I have continued to learn. In times like these, every day is new, often full of fires that need to be put out.

Back to independence. While owning property does bring a sense of that, we also become slaves to the property as we attempt to not slum it out, figure out how to pay for the most crucial repairs and still put food on the table and gas in the tank, and try to make good decisions about improvements that will satisfy us for the moment as well a yet unknown future owner.

Yet, whether the market be up or down, there really is something about being in charge of your own property. Well, as in charge as you can be in a town that swarms with folks who make a hobby of anonymously reporting owners to the Planning and Building (Code Compliance) Department for installing windows that don’t quite match the vintage/historical nature of the building.

Owning real estate in our neck of the woods = money pit. We can’t deny it. And we love it. It does give a sense of freedom when the transaction is done properly, including proper financing. When that happens, you know you are controlling your housing costs. You are not at the whim or mercy of someone tossing you out or upping your rent.

That is real freedom in just one facet of life. I’m grateful for both the opportunity to own a home, some apartments, and be able to help others define their dreams when it comes to real estate. What a privilege and an honor.

So either dream of decorating a home that will one day be yours, or decorate to your heart’s delight that gem you now call home. Happy Independence Day!

Alameda real estate this week….

-16139 Via Arriba, San Lorenzo closed on Tuesday. This was a first time purchase for my twenty-something client. It was a short sale. The previous owner had paid over 500K for the place and my client paid 250K, waited (only) three weeks for the bank to approve the sale after the seller(s) accepted the contract, and then we got it closed (thanks team!) two days before the deadline.

-Note how many properties went pending this week, and how many SOLD this week.

-3318 Washington is new on the market, but sold for 885K 6-05, then sold 7-06 for 1,099,000, and is now for sale for 850K. The city will take a bath on this I think. Alameda carried a second on this for the previous city manager who resigned.

-1810 Clinton is new on the market. Started a few days ago at 775K, now 675K. It will be foreclosed on July 9 if there is not an accepted offer before then, according to the agent’s remarks in the MLS. Purchased in 2001 for 760K, it was on the market for 1.1M 8-06, then dropped to 990K. No sale. It came back on the market for 939K, then dropped to 879K. No sale. No back yard. Duplex behind it is a separate lot, divided from the house back around 2000. Tough situation. My heart breaks for the family.

Active listings 173, 180 last report
Pending listings 93, 100 last report

Highest priced NEW listing

Lowest priced New listing

Tuesday Tour 10

New 11

BOM (Back on Market) 1

Price changes 8

Pending 15

Sold 21

Expired 8

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

Bang for the Buck, tie! 3318 Washtington 425 Haight

Get Me to Rehab
, tie! Owned by the same person for decades, across from the Alameda Marketplace, it was swarming with agents and clients for about 30 minutes last Wed. am, since it will not have any broker tour or open houses due to the tenant situation.

Stay safe, have fun! Enjoy the parade! It’s a blast to see the streets get tidied up and homes made pretty the week and day before the event. Total community at its best! I’ll be at Clinton and Grand or chatting with friends in the general area!

That’s a wrap! Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 26th, 2009

“We are living our dream.”

(Two days ago I noticed the tear on one of the prolific Bird of Paradise flowers in the garden. Being a bit of a romantic at the moment, I wondered if it was a tear of joy, sadness, relief, maybe anticipation. Maybe it was just the course of life.)

Few comments mean more to me as a licensed real estate broker than the line for today’s post title. It came from a card accompanying flowers I received yesterday from clients whose home closed last week. I had the privilege of selling their home for them here in Alameda and watching them relocate to North Carolina.

Most of you know I really feel I have the clients from heaven….again and again! And Paul and Kathy were no exception. They had made lovely improvements to their home. It was immaculate and they followed my lead in making sure the property could be sold with little or no hassles. They took the time and some money to get the pest report certified, and got permits for the upgrades they had made over the years.

The kicker and major issues came with the financing the buyers brought to the table. FHA loans are having their fair share of challenges these days. They often need 2 appraisals. The process is longer than normal (45+ days vs. 30). Sellers are in limbo while the underwriters wait to the very end to decide whether or not to bestow their blessing on the transaction, fund the loan and close. Can they actually move or not? Do they ask for up to 3 weeks after the close when they know they have their proceeds to start to pack, arrange for movers, close on the next property, forward mail, shut off utilities? It’s Seller hell to say the least.

After wrestling with the vagueness of the situation, they decided to stick to their moving plans and head out even if the transaction blew up. Very gutsy, not easy to do. We closed 3 business days late and they were able to move as planned, funds in hand before they left Alameda. The next home was theirs a couple of days later.

Showing how much we can do these days, during the marketing period they were even able to go on the European canal cruise they had booked prior to putting the property on the market. With the aid of the internet, cells phones, and e-faxes, we were able to get an accepted offer on their home and they enjoyed their vacation!

Back to the blog title and the birds of paradise….
I didn’t post last week for a couple of reasons. Last Thursday was a rather big day for me. And the night before I was up until 3am attempting to prep for all the emotion I figured I just might experience the next day. First on my plate was an ethics challenge that had been filed against me by a local real estate broker. That ridiculousness had been hanging over my head for over 3 months. Not something I took lightly. After all the impositions that put on my life, the guy never even showed up for the hearing, even when he was contacted at his office and was there. How rude is it not only to me and my Broker, but to the volunteer panelists who set aside hours of their own day to provide a service that is integral to supporting the ideals of the Code of Ethics for Realtors? The answer to that question is “very rude and very unprofessional.” To me this shows the challenge was unfounded and clearly not important to him. And without sounding cocky, I felt I was on solid ground. Result? Case tossed. Onward to the next event of the day.

Noon Thursday….here’s where the blog post title seems to hit home. In my own mind I’ve been living a dream the past 7 weeks or so. Last Thursday I was supposed to meet up with a friend I’ve known since 7th grade. After about a 38 year gap, we had reconnected through our high school class FaceBook group. I mean, what else do I do when someone says “I’ve loved you since we were sophomores in high school. I was just too shy to ask you out.”

It seems that is not uncommon in and of itself. You hear or read stories like this. But when it’s your own life….well now that’s a different thing. I was to pick him up at SFO and we were going to have a bit of face time instead of talking for hours on the phone, emailing, and text messaging. We admitted we were acting like 15 year old kids but in very different bodies! After driving over to Pacifica, which seemed appropriate for two people who lived at the beach in younger times, then having lunch at the SF Ferry Building, and then checking into a rather lovely downtown hotel where I had TWO rooms booked (my control freak nature AND safety net regarding neutral ground) by 3pm the next admission came along…

…to a hospital in the city! He was not well, and I was freaked out. Many of you know I am a practicing Christian Scientist and choose not to mess around with medical processes. But he had to do something rather than macho it out so I insisted he get to a doctor, or a doctor get to him or I get him to a hospital. And there he was for 2 full days as they tried to figure out what was wrong. Scans, cameras, you name it, they did it. He was drugged up, and I was a mental mess. I’ve NEVER spent that kind of time in a hospital. The people were wonderful and it was a real eye-opener for me on many levels.

I’m not sure how easy it is to get to know someone who is on some saline/morphine drip thing for 48 hours. But nonetheless, in a bizarre way, those hours of face time did have an impact. He got out, exhausted but basically well, with no resolution and no answers as to what the problem had been. And then our 4 day date actually began and it kept getting weirder… Truly we are living a dream, or at least a comedy. (there may be more to come, depending on – everything!)

And that is why I didn’t post last week. No way. No how.

So today’s post (also a bit late due to my very full work schedule, and a need for sleep in order to fully function) will incorporate last weeks’ activity.

Alameda real estate the past 2 weeks…

-31 Oak Park closed.
-219 Cypress B, a Woodstock 1/1 single level attached home came on the market.
-933 Shoreline Drive #305 (full bay view condo) went pending and then BOM, and then went pending again with two more offers that came in on Monday.
-16139 Via Arriba My client who is involved with a short sale in San Lorenzo got his papers signed yesterday as I was running around at the same moment finding the Homeowners Association and picking up their pile of documents. The listing agent kinda didn’t know there was a Homeowners Association (thank you Placer Title for getting on top of this!), and the listing agent didn’t know the wife was on title (thank you Placer Title for getting on top of this), and the listing agent gave us disclosures filled out so badly by the seller (and not signed by the wife) that they are incomplete and full of lies and oversights.
-I listed 2 properties that are on MLS waiver until they are ready to go.

Active listings 180, 172 last report
Pending listings 100, 98 last report

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 14, 2 repeats

note: the listings categories reflect the time period back 2 weeks but may have changed from new to active, active to pending, new to price change during that time. So properties may have gone through various status changes along the way.

New 12

Back on Market 2

Price Changes 14

Pending 27

Sold 18

Expired 7

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

Alameda real estate awards this week...remember this is only my perspective!
Winner, Bang for the Buck (and already pending: on market for 31K less than it sold for a couple of years ago.

Grand Dame, Get Me a Facelift (add some reconstructive surgery to that too).

Get Me a Facelift

So that’s a wrap! Have a great weekend!

Carry on… marilyn