THE SECOND STORY | November 6th, 2008

We had an election!

Whether your candidates or issues won or not, we still had an election. And real history continues to be made as we move forward (hopefully) with inspired and inspiring leadership at all levels of government. And we need it more than ever. My wish is that each citizen makes time to let his or his opinions on the issues that matter to him/her be known ,in civilized and courteous ways, to the appropriate officials. Only then can we get them to listen to us and not the lobbyists. Only then will they report to us, responsibly, rather than to the corporations. We need take back OUR government – the one we have allowed to wander so far from our reach. We are the ones who need to be heard. And we need to demand that we be heard!

On the local level Measure P passed, by less than 400 votes out of just under 24,000 votes cast. So the price tag of buying and selling went up quite a bit with the huge increase in Alameda city transfer taxes. (And contrary to the postcard that had all the city council members names on it, and Mayor Johnson’s photo, transfer taxes do not impact Realtor commissions, one of the reasons given that Realtors were against P. Makes one wonder what else they sign onto without understanding an issue. Scary.)

I had the opportunity to hear Robert Reich and Newt Gingrich last month at the Oakland Speakers Series held at the Paramount. It was awesome. And at this time Reich has me hooked with his simple and clear logic. That was sealed when I heard him give a very brief op-ed segment on NPR (FM 88.5) a couple of weeks ago regarding the bailout of huge corporations. “If They’re Too Big to Fail, They’re Too Big, Period.” Just scroll down and you’ll see the post I’ve linked.

Comments heard about the election, the day after:

-At the weekly HBR sales meeting:”We had the kids up and made popcorn to celebrate the new President!” to which a friend replied “I made Baked Alaska to celebrate. A flaming Baked Alaska!”

Subtle like a train wreck, that comment was – and sharp as a cleaver – and very clever.

-At the San Leandro Costco lunch tables: “How much you think your taxes are goin’ up?”

And now that the horrific, lie-filled, distorted campaign-mercials are over….we move right into Christmas-mercials. Enough!

A bright spot? How about the blog header photo of the roses from the garden? I cut two dozen on Halloween. Nothing like flowers to bring balance into life.

Real estate this week in Alameda…

Active listings 202, 198 last report

Pending listings 69, 68 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest price new listings Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New listings 16 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 9 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 1 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 7 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 4 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Bang for the Buck Click Here to View Listings

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Enjoy your weekend! Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 4th, 2008

Autumn Rose Havest PLUS September and October sales stats for A-Town!

How amazing is Alameda that we can have incredible harvests of so many fruits, vegetables, and flowers year round? And the specimens in the blog photo are proof! I picked over two dozen roses just before Halloween!

Onward to biz!

Please remember that these prices are averages only. In order for a proper assessment of value to be made, location (lagoon or deep water or mixed used neighborhoods, location within townhome or condo complexes), amenities (interior and exterior upgrades) consistent maintenance or lack thereof, and age/style (ranch, Victorian, single level) greatly affect market value. Also keep in mind that micro market conditions influence value.

I am finding myself spending some serious time with Sellers attempting to see if there may be alternatives to selling that might allow them to ride out the market if their equity position is not strong OR if the market cannot meet their expectations.

What is most interesting perhaps is how few properties are selling.

DOM is Days on Market which may be skewed if the agent churned the listing (re-inserted it as new).

Alameda September Sales Stats

2 bedroom single family homes

3 bedroom single family homes

4 bedroom single family homes

2 bedroom apartment style condos

3 bedroom townhomes

4 unit apartment buildings

  • 0

Alameda October Sales Stats

2 bedroom single family homes

3 bedroom single family homes

4 bedroom single family homes

2 bedroom apartment style condos

3 bedroom townhomes

4 unit apartment buildings

  • 0

Please call if you have questions about the market and how your property might fit into it at the time. The size of the inventory, properties actually selling, DOM, properties that are competing in the price point that may be appropriate to the subject, sales that don’t go back more than about three months (current appraisal guidelines), and the type of financing available ALL combine to paint the picture of the existing market. Then factor in the items that started this post and you’ve got marketability!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 30th, 2008

Bach, Beach, and Autumn Activities

What’s the difference between Bach and beach? Only the letter ‘e’. Sutter and I saw the writing not on the wall, but in the sand three weeks ago while walking the length of Corona del Mar Beach. While the sand-writing appears to say Bach, Sutter determined the writer realized an ‘e’ was missing and tried to squeeze it in! Bach or beach, they are both beautiful and full of rich sounds.

Some people spring clean. I autumn clean. From an email via New Zealand this week “glad to know, also, that the world’s economies may ‘change’, the world’s weather patterns may be forever altered, but your pattern of fall cleaning remains. ūüôā ” The down-under daughter was referring to my menial email update about what was going on here which included: the annual deep cleansing facials for the carpets and rugs, washing the permanent furnace filters, attacking the nooks and crannies in the laundry room, regrouping a couple of the kitchen cabinets, and yet to come -the removal of the scuffs on the kitchen Marmoleum replaced by a shiny finish.

My fall routine usually begins the end of September with a call to Super Rooter (Bill Faler – 510) 893-9339) to clear all the exterior drains around the property. If the gutters haven’t been cleared since spring, then I ask my favorite roofer, Interstate Roofing ( Bill Wong 510- 601-6369) who I can get to do them. Call Bill for the new roofing jobs. His crew does the best job but not the cheapest. He’s not big on fixing other roofers’ work but loves maintaining his own.

I’m pretty sensitive about who clears the gutters since they are over three stories high. One time a vendor bent the newer gutters. Plus I need to know they have Workers Comp insurance. I actually like getting the gutters cleared after the first big wind/rain storm of the season because all the crud from the neighbor’s mega pine tree has then blown onto our property during the south winds.

At the first sign of rain I cover the yard furniture that doesn’t get stacked in the carriage house/garage. So that was today.

The time change prompts me to replace all the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries around the house and apartments. Last year I started replacing the batteries on the thermostat timer and the clocks in our place. (Can you tell I didn’t have a clue that some clocks were a bit slow?) And I pour my non-toxic concoction down the drains to get them cleared and fresh. That will be Sunday. Recipe follows.

Drain Cleaning Recipe
Add the following in this order to the drain:
1 cup salt
1 cup baking SODA
1 cup vinegar
30 seconds later add 2 quarts of boiling water

And I cook. I made a pot roast in the slow cooker this week. Four friends each got a dinner, waiting to be reheated. You’d have thought I was a gourmet chef by their reactions. Simple and yummy. Recipe follows.

Pot Roast
2 cans (10 3/4 oz Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup)
1.5 pouches of dry onion soup
Small red potatoes (your choice on how many)

Carrots cut into 2″ pieces (your choice how many)
2 -2.5 lb boneless beef bottom round roast or chuck pot roast

Stir soup, onion soup mix, potatoes and carrots together in a 4.5 qt. slow cooker. Add beef and turn to coat. Cover and cook on LOW 8-9 hours or HIGH 4-5 hours (or until beef is fork-tender). Now you’re cookin‘!

And now it’s time to enjoy the rain!

Real estate this week in Alameda…. I received seven inquiries this week: 2 emails from folks in my database, 3 phone calls, 1 in-person contact at an open house (the last four unknown to me), and 1 in-person contact at the bank. Each person asked how the market was. Quickly noting that if they didn’t have to sell, it might be better to wait a while, our conversations moved along. Then I gave a verbal review of how the market is in their segment. To the four unknowns I politely asked out how much they owed on their property. Then I emailed a quick courtesy search of active/pending/sold properties for the previous 90 days (about how far back appraisers are going for comps), and let them see how they might fit into the market. People seem to want to know the basics so they can plan ahead. People wonder if there are opportunities for them out there right now. People want reassurance that Alameda’s market at this time is not the same as what they read or hear about in the media. At this time I can assure them of that. It doesn’t mean the market meets their expectations. It’s just honest info with no hassle, no commitment. Seems to work for everybody.

My listing at 928 San Antonio will be open on Sunday with one of my associates between 2-4pm.

My listing at 1233 Regent had that great price change last week of $50,000, down to $749,000. It’s available!

Active listings 198, 194 last report

Pending listings 68, 69 last report

Highest priced new listing – a 3 way tie! Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listingClick Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 7 with 1 repeat Click Here to View Listings

New listings 11 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 14 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 10 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 7 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 2 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 5 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn / Cancelled 2 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Cute/Charming Click Here to View Listings Two Spanish Med. style built as duplexes (twins) but on separate lots. Being sold separately. Could be nifty for multi-generational owners, one unit of each building is single level. Garages for all units. Separate water, gas, electric. Laundries in each unit. Like small homes! Each building has a pest report between 35K and 41K but work on the price, factor getting the work done, negotiate it out….could be sweet….fini!

Get Me To Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Pray for rain, pray for weather-tight roofs and free-flowing gutters and downspouts!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 23rd, 2008

Empty nester to the max…


They’ve flown the coop! Actually, they’ve been gone for years: going away to college, then moving out on their own – which is always a parent’s wish come true! But it seems more final when they get married. With Sutter and Sean (S&S) so doing August of 2007, and now Evan and Erin (E&E) last Friday, it’s all good!

Before I embarrassed anybody I asked E&E if I could put a picture of them on the blog and share what I’d read at their ceremony. They acquiesced. The officent of the wedding one of Erin’s uncles. Erin’s parents, me, and our two dear extended family friends shared a reading or thoughts (not to exceed two minutes). Here it is.

“Evan, Erin, and I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland this past summer. You know, you learn about people when you travel together. I found out that they walk a lot faster than me. I found out how considerate they were towards me, from the moment I got separated from them while leaving the London underground (within an hour of arriving in London), to the hike up Edinburgh’s tallest rock in the cold and wind. I found out they are very sweet to each other. I found out that Erin prefers 5 star hotels to a youth hostel.

It was fun to watch them in a new environment, since I knew the wedding was on the horizon.

When Evan asked if I might make a few remarks since he said Carl and I seemed to have figured out the marriage thing, I was honored.

I’m not sure anybody figures out the marriage thing. But I’ll share some thoughts that were dear to me and Carl during our journey together.

Beside loving each other, a most important part of our deciding to be married was that we could do more together than apart. And that proved to be true.

We chose to honor tradition but not necessarily bow to it.

We questioned everything – except police.

We worked hard to eliminate the concept of limitation from our thoughts and thus from our lives. We were convinced that all things were possible through out faith in one good God.

We didn’t search out adversity yet chose to see the opportunities in it.

We tried to show up. Yep, show up. Sometimes we showed up late. But be in the moment. When it’s gone it’s gone.

We didn’t make a big deal of birthdays or anniversaries. We tried to count the moments, not the years. We found we touched infinity by being in the moment.

We chose to work hard. We started our lives with the premise we’d rather work hard and be sub-standard than settle for mediocrity.

We did not listen to news in the morning. Ever. And we chose not to believe 75% of what we heard. That stance minimizes drama and disappointment.

He once told me when we got married I was looking for freedom. But what I found was independence. A truer statement could not have been made. And with that independence comes the ultimate discipline – self-discipline.

Back to traveling. As a couple and as a family, we had some great adventures. You have many adventures ahead of you.

I have one more piece of advice. Travel with high quality luggage. And leave the baggage behind. Enjoy the trip!”

Real estate this week in Alameda….
I put a new listing on the market on Tuesday: 928 San Antonio Ave. Check out the website. Some of you may recognize the petite and unique Gold Coast 1895 Colonial Revival.

My listing at 960 Shorepoint Court #101 closed today. This nifty 1/1 condo closed for 275K on a 279K list price.

And my listing at 1233 Regent had a significant price change to 749K down from 799K. When the price was established (by me), there was very little on the market at that price point, for the size and location. While comps have been tough for most listings these days because appraisers don’t want to go back much further than three months for sales, we had some properties to work with in setting that price. BUT in the past two weeks, we’ve seen several properties come on the market at about the same price or less, larger, often newer (Bayport homes), and with some amenities Regent is missing. Thus you can see the importance of fitting into the market TODAY, and beating it tomorrow, not relying on ancient history. I’m grateful that all my clients are clear on this concept and need to position their properties so all the other ones out there help sell their property. Of course, this means owners are committed to selling, not just following a market downward. Leaders win in this market. And hindsight shows it. Can be very uncomfortable in the process. But if one is in a ‘have to” mode….that’s the way it’s done.

928 San Antonio will be open Saturday and Sunday, 2-4pm and I’ll be there Saturday.

1233 Regent will be open Sunday 2-4pm and I’ll be there.

Active listings 194, 195 last report

Pending listings 68, 69 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 10 w/ 3 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New 12 Click Here to View Listings
Note that some re-sale (not necessarily short sales or bank repos) Bayport Homes are selling nearly $200,000 under the current new home prices there. Also note that the new listing on SeaBridge out at Harbor Bay Isle, sold for 840K in 2005 and is now on the market for 740K (not a short sale or bank repo).

Price changes 12 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 13 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 11 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 0

Expired 5 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn / cancelled Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week…because I had 928 San Antonio open for the broker tour, I only got around to two properties this week. Fortunately I did catch six open houses last Sunday I felt I needed to see. So I feel current on the inventory. I only have two awards.

Cute / Charming my listing at 928 San Antonio

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings very original and has a 49K bid for foundation (decent sized single level house on Broadway, that I thought if the work could be negotiated, this could be sweet once again. There was an engineering report and a bid for the suggested corrective work regarding the foundation. I didn’t see any other inspections regarding the rest of the systems at the property.)

Have a good weekend! I’m around! Call if you need vendor referrals or have questions regarding the market. (Oh, I took the blog header photo almost two years ago, at the South Shore beach close to Park Street.)

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 16th, 2008

Home sweet home…

A variety of events have culminated in family being the focus of much of my attention this past week. For the past four years I’ve made a trek to Newport Beach during autumn. I make a home at the Marriott Newport Coast Villas , a quick walk to Crystal Cove State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. The blog header photo was an extraordinary sunset painted before my eyes Wednesday evening at Crystal Cove.

Being there gives me a chance to see my dad and his wife over the course of a few days and meals. I remember the ‘good old days’ of middle school (not so good) and high school (very good), and fondly recall how Carl and I met at Balboa Yacht Club.

As the photo shows, I still have my megaphone from senior year cheer leading, topping a shelf in my home office. A friend hand-painted them for us back then and while I hardly notice it, it fills the space nicely and adds some color. Maybe I should just give it up….
Each visit I enjoy at least one bike ride from the Balboa Pier to the Huntington Beach Pier and back, midst locals rather than loads of tourists. And I definitely make time to do work! Thank goodness for the Internet!

Evan and Erin typically make a visit from San Diego for part of a weekend. And this year Sutter joined me from New Zealand! As of yesterday, Sean is now in Alameda too!

And why are we all together? E&E are getting married Friday afternoon in a smallish ceremony. After 8 years of being together starting in college, Evan popped the question last December, and here we are. So we broke bread with both families tonight.

What about the ‘home sweet home’? Alameda is home. Newport is a nice place to visit. Even Sean got a sense of Alameda as ‘home’ when he and Sutter went to one of their favorite eateries on Wednesday, Ramirez Taqueria on Alameda Ave. It’s been over a year since Sean was there. When they walked in one of the amazing workers asked if Sean wanted his regular and then told him what it was. Even though NZ is home to S&S now, they clearly have a second home here.

Real Estate this week in Alameda…

Active listings 195, 188 last report

Pending listings 69, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings 3 large apartment buildings, listed with the same company, leads me to believe common owners (different LLCs) are making big moves either out of the market or into other less management intense investments. Interesting.

Lowest price new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 12 w/ 2 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New 16 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 14 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 7 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 5 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (Back on Market) 1 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 4 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn / cancelled Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week….none, since I was out of town when the tour took place.

So have a good weekend! I’ll be checking voice mail in between the wedding celebration events of Friday and Saturday. Patience, please!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 9th, 2008

Gettin’ it done…

The weekly update will be sans a story this week…due to time constraints! Making a run to SFO late, and the MLS is down starting at 10pm. Now that’s not my style….too early!

Real estate this week in Alameda….

My listing at 1233 Regent will be open this weekend with my associates, both Saturday and Sunday 2-4pm. Check out the website.

My listing at 640 Waterview Isle closed yesterday. 699K was the list. 765K was the sale price. No concessions. Multiple offers.

Two new-on-the-market properties have gone pending this week. 1724 Alameda Ave . Click Here to View Listings and 1614 Versailles Click Here to View Listings . Shows there are folks with serious down payments and these both are in the 800K range. Will be interesting to watch.

Active listings 188, 186 last report

Pending listings 70, 71 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 13 with 2 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New 17 Click Here to View Listings

Price change Click Here to View Listings

Pending Click Here to View Listings

Sold Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 1 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 5 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 3 Click Here to View Listings

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective. Once again, not enough worthy properties for all the listings I typically give weekly.

Cute/Charming Click Here to View Listings

Bang for the Buck Click Here to View Listings you’ll see a couple of entries here showing some history. This is now a bank repo and finally priced to sell.

Have a good weekend!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 2nd, 2008

Gnarly, Greedy, and Oops- just kidding about that loan…

Often my Saturday mornings consist of listening to the lighter side of National Public Radio as I go about chores, padding around the house. Last May I was spell-bound and amazed as I listened to an episode from This American Life . In it, someone was speaking freely about his involvement as a borrower. He wouldn’t make a loan to a guy like him if he were the lender. And the guy who tells of leaving bartending to making at least 70K PER MONTH after some customer who came into the bar offered him a job amassing mortgages. He now has nothing. This is the penultimate story of OPM. Other People’s Money. And how so many got so much for so little in such a short time, and how it all backfired.

So if you are interested in a real story with real people and real events (the Wall Street guy, a borrower, the loans, the hunger for mortgages, the degradation of standards i.e. deregulation, all bundled together with their particular stories), I’d like to encourage you to listen to, or download onto your portable device The Giant Pool of Money.

It certainly confirmed everything I’d read in my commercial real estate trade newsfeeds, magazines, and investment articles (the few I could comprehend). I remember reading and re-reading about CDO’s – Collateralized Debt Obligations and trying to understand what they were, over a year ago. Of course, what they were was BOGUS! No substance behind them. For me, hearing this program helped me tie all the loose ends together. And as ‘the mess’ has continued to get messier in past couple of weeks it is clear there is plenty of blame to go around for it all.

Real estate this week in Alameda…

I’ve put a new listing on the market 1233 Regent Street (between San Jose and Encinal). Check out the property website. Loads of photos, a virtual tour, and then when you are on the virtual tour home page you can click on the upper left and connect to the video tour. I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday 2-4. Come by and say HI!

Read on for three first-hand financing stories I’ve been involved with this week.

1) Hey, what happened to the loan program we were using? It’s on the cutting room floor. The buyers who were using a state of California loan program in conjunction with another government insured program to purchase a condo I have listed found out a week ago that the California program got cut by the Governator when he approved the budget. So the very good agent, with whom I have worked since we both started the biz over 22 years ago at the same office, is all over it. Based on some facts that came to my attention quite by accident, but that were unknown to the Buyers’ agent, it became obvious her clients needed to dump their ‘friend’ who was ‘doing’ the loan. So they did. And while the issues are not fully resolved at this time, they have a true expert working to get them this specialized financing. If she can’t do this gig, nobody can.

2) Hey, where’d the lender go? Oh, they closed their processing office and sent all the biz to a southern California office. Well, the Buyer is mightily qualified and well-represented, but somehow the loan papers just never showed up – for nearly a WEEK! Only today did the mortgage broker find out that the file has been in a huge pile no longer close by, dumped on people who didn’t expect to see their work load increase. So we missed the closing date and nobody had any reason why. My client, the Seller, is buying an upleg investment property out of the area, moving plans have been rescheduled and utilities turned back on since the move date is the only thing moving at the moment. The agent representing my Seller on the Buy-side has been scrambling with the agent representing the Seller on the other end. Yep, it’s a stack of pancakes and we’re on the bottom, driving everything else. Easy to get mad, better to make nice. Need to stay focused that everybody is working to the same end.

3) What do ya mean you want more money? A contact I’ve come to know through a separate transaction told me today that his previously approved loan for the purchase of an investment duplex out of the area has a few more demands from the lender. What was originally 20% down now must be 30%. What was a 0 points loan is now 2 points. And that’s that.

What do all these transactions have in common? The financing. A Buyer needs to be plenty secure that the financing won’t be changed unilaterally by the lender when it is least expected, i.e. at the last moment, at the end of the transaction, even when the loan was previously approved in writing.

Sellers may see contracts with the Buyer’s financing contingency staying in place through the actual funding of the loan (like 2 days before the closing). It’s about the only way the deposit won’t be at risk if the lender gets gnarley and greedy.

Been there, done that. It helps to have been through several of these market situations over the years. Pity the ones who are trying to figure out to solve problems rather than just write up orders. I LOVE IT! This market gets the riff-raff out and lets the rest of us take care of business.

Active listings 186, 192 last report

Pending listings 71,75 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday Tour 8 with 2 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New 13 Click Here to View Listings

Price change 10 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 12 Click Here to View Listings Don’t be fooled, 1621 High Street was on the market a long time and started at 899K – sold for 799K

BOM (back on market) 2 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 9 Click Here to View Listings some may show up as new listings.

Withdrawn/cancelled 5 Click Here to View Listings some may show up as new listings.

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective. Too many awards, not enough recipients again.

Winner, Cute/Charming, Bang for the Buck (my new listing!) 1233 Regent

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings great location, tough floor plan

Have a great weekend. For all our sakes, I hope it rains but may it not interfer with your plans!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 25th, 2008

Where do I start?

Between the local issues we face and the federal financial mess we are in….I’m not sure where to begin.

I think I’ll work my way up the food chain.

Alameda:
Here’s a link to NO on P campaign. You may see signs around town. Measure P is proposing a huge increase in transfer taxes. Those are the fees paid by buyer and seller when property transfers title from one party to the other. They originated once Proposition 13 kicked in. The website is very good, including offering alternatives that would spread to almost all citizens, rather than a very few, the burden of generating income to offset the huge deficits the city is facing.

Transfer taxes originated after Proposition 13 kicked in. Proposition 13 was the voter-approved initiative that reigned in uncontrolled county spending throughout the state. Can you imagine not knowing how much your annual property tax bill would be? That’s how it was….if the county spent more than its income then property taxes could be raised in two ways. Either the value of the property was increased OR the value remained the same but the tax rate was increased. Many of you may remember that scenario personally, or like me, remember your parents going crazy when tax bills showed up.

City contract negotiations. The fire department is negotiating with the city for a new contract. We all want excellent fire and police services. We also want a strong parks and recreation department which adds substantially to our quality of life here. For over the past 20 years our elected city officials have continued to approve contracts with city employee unions that have now put us in the hole for millions of dollars for pension and benefit plans that we cannot pay without some more funding! Unfortunately Alameda and many other cities and counties are on the same path as Vallejo. The grim reaper is calling at our back door. I’ve had very challenging conversations with wonderful people who are members of unions. But it’s time those members force their leadership to come up with new solutions before the employees find themselves unemployed by an bankrupt city. Now that would be a lose-lose situation. Perhaps increasing salaries and elminating long-term benefits would be a start. Let union members figure out their destinies the way the many of us mere mortals have to.

Local city election. Instead of worrying about offending various portions of the citizenry, when are we going to get a candidate who will simply tell the voters the truth about what is going on? OR how about some type of Q&A that each candidate answers in writing? We’ve sometimes seen that in the papers….there are so many issues out there that should not be dodged. I am aware that the current city council met with city management in the last year to prioritize the issues that they are facing. I’d like to know what’s on that list. Has anybody outside City Hall seen it? If so, who? If not, why?

-Soft-story building retrofit ordinance. On September 10, Alameda Planning and Building Department officials slid copies of a proposed property safety ordinance onto the conference table around which the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee members were sitting for their monthly meeting. It was an overview of a new ordinance that was going to be presented as complete to the City Council on October 7. I was astounded! This was news to the common folk at the table. I’m all about safety. But I’m also about transparency, communication, and citizen input so the government can get it right the first time for the benefit of the community.

To get an idea of the type of building affected check this out. This ordinance deals with 5+ residential unit buildings, including mixed-used that would have least 5 residential units.

After suggesting that the Alameda Building Official write his next article about this subject, we asked what stakeholders had been notified. We didn’t get a direct answer. I called the Executive Director of The Rental Housing Association of Alameda County, who had NOT been notified of this ordinace. The following Tuesday a two page generic city letter was sent out to, well, we aren’t sure, but I got one. Realtor members of the CSI starting calling and talking to the Alameda Association of Realtors leadership. After attending a number of committee meetings, last Monday afternoon four members of the AAR (two of whom are on the CSI – one was me!) met with the Alameda Director of the Planning and Building Department and the Alameda Building Official. As we filed into the office, the Director had just removed the ordinance item from the 10/7 City Council agenda, and by the time we filed out, a date had been set for a community workshop – 10/9/08 2-5pm in the conference room at the Main Library on Oak Street. And yes, the city is sending out notices again (still not sure to whom), and the RHANAC is using their mailing list and collaborating with another group to get their version of a notice out to owners who may be affected by this.

Federal: If I’ve learned anything about government, especially in the last few years watching our dear city, the wheels of government turn slowly, as they should. It is certainly trying on even a saint’s patience to try to get something done. But with proper input, we might prevent huge mistakes. Transparency is not a word found in the Dictionary of Bureaucrats.

And I’m really worried if Congress starts owning banks, (the link is a good overview)brokerage firms, houses, and who knows what else as a result of this bailout package. Why you suppose private enterprises are stepping in to buy some of these grossly mismanaged companies? Because they see an opportunity to make a ROI (return on investment). The fact is if these “goverment leaders” actually spent time in their home towns at the local coffee shops, (not for photo opportunities or campaigning) they’d get an earful. They would have known what was happening in real estate….lots of us did. Lots of you did. We may not be rocket scientists, but we’re not morons either.

Except for the larger scale, the problems are the same as small cities. Do ya think the government has handled your social security benefits well? How about Medicare? How about the tax code? Energy policies? We had staggered days to fill up our cars in the 1970’s and we’ve made NO progress! Environmental policies? The education system?

Enough….let’s talk local real estate….it is a micro market business. And Alameda is holding its own.

Real estate in Alameda this week…

Active listings 192, 199 last report

Pending listings 75, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 11 with 1 repeat Click Here to View Listings 10 are in the link since 102 Parfait went pending quickly. See awards.

New 9 Click Here to View Listings

Price Changes 12 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 14 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 0

Expired (some show up as new listings) 2 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled (some show up as new listings) 3 Click Here to View Listings

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective.

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Cute Charming Click Here to View Listings and pending already!

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

No others were deemed worthy!

Have a great weekend! I’d love to get some emails sharing your feelings about what is going on. I see wonderful opportunities for the citizenry to take ownership in their various levels of government and make/demand serious changes of those who want to be in charge. It’s time to raise our expectations.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 18th, 2008

I’ve got that autumn feeling….

The apple tree in the backyard gives and gives – enough for many friends, plus the birds and the squirrels. I picked at least another three dozen the other night, filling a crate over the top. Alameda’s propensity to grow amazing fruits, vegetables, and flowers keeps me in awe.

My exceptional young friend and neighbor took this picture of the back yard apple sign a couple of years ago. And the sign was given to me several years ago by my sister-in -law, Kim, another dear friend, one of the more creative people I know! Sweet!

Real estate in Alameda this week…

I’m saving comments until next week about the proposed increase in transfer taxes (the chunk of change paid by buyers and sellers when properties sell, currently $5.40 per each $1000 of sales price, scheduled to go to $12 per thousand.

Active listings 199, 209 last report

Pending listings 70, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing (the highest was actually re-inserted as new so I don’t count it). The map on this listing is not accurate, but it is a new house on Mecartney, to the east of US Bank, corner of Island and Mecartney.) Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 11, with 4 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New 9 Click Here to View Listings

Price Changes 10 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 11 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 7 Click Here to View Listings

BOMs(back on market) 2 Click Here to View Listings

Expired (some show up as new listings) 9 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn (some show up as new listings) 7 Click Here to View Listings

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective.

Winner of the Week Click Here to View Listings also Cute, Charming, and Out of Rehab

Cute, Charming Click Here to View Listings

Bang for the Buck not this week

Got Me a Makeover not this week

Get Me a Facelift Click Here to View Listings

Grand Dame not this week

Out of Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Get Me to Rehab tie! Click Here to View Listings this duplex was the second property I’ve ever turned around and walked out of due to gagging. Gross in every aspect. Click Here to View Listings this second listing is just a mess.

Enjoy your weekend. If you have real estate questions, especially regarding financing, let me know and I’ll try to get answers for you….and if you need vendors, again, give a call (that’s the best way if you think I won’t recognize your email address). Best! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 11th, 2008

Homeowner (dis)associations & (dys)functions?

When I started selling properties involving homeowner associations I learned early-on to tell my clients to rip open the huge package of HOA documents and start their due diligence by reading the minutes of the HOA. There is absolutely no better way to learn what and who the issues are in a planned community. And I’ve read plenty myself, as an agent/broker, in order to get a sense of the issues and how they are addressed. Check out these very real excerpts that I’ve come across during the course of representing sellers and buyers in my own transactions.

“(the) owner’s use of pots and pans to bang on the back wall at 3:00 a.m. was unacceptable behavior.” Duh.

“Considerable work has been done within the unit to clean it up, including removing 16 birds, one chicken, one rabbit, and five cats…” What, no snakes? Oh, that’s right. They’re prohibited by the House Rules.

“Complaints have been submitted to management regarding an ‘older’ woman yelling at guests using the guest parking lot.” Gee, welcome!

This one cracked me up: “Head phones must be used while car washing.” I got this image in my head and pictured all these residents washing their cars and only waving to each other since they couldn’t hear. Then I read the next sentence. “No radio/stereo playing without head phones is allowed in any common area.” Oh, that explains it. Keep your music and talk shows to yourself.

Community notes…
With the approach of autumn, it’s time to change the blog photo. I took this of the new/old theatre a couple of weeks ago.

I stopped by the office of Alameda’s own city-wide Meals on Wheels program and its Executive Director, Rosemary Reilly told me they know there are many folks out there who can use their service, but they aren’t hearing from them!

Do NOT confuse our program with the county-run Meals On Wheels program. This is Alamedans taking care of Alamedans. It is completely independent, is NOT government funded, and has devoted local volunteers. There is also a ‘friendly visitor’ element so those who are shut-in can have a breath of fresh air come right to them in the form of a short visit. Kids sometimes accompany adults on the visits and that adds a nice dynamic.

We all have neighbors (even the ones who bang the pots and pans or collect excessive numbers of animals) that just might need some help.

AND this is not for low-income folks only. And it can be short-term while someone has a bit of a recovery period. And it is for ALL ages. Check out that website above. If you know someone who just might be helped it’s worth sharing the info. It is hard to find nicer people doing nice things for the community.

Real estate in general this week…
This week I came across two articles I think every consumer should review.

The first was about using a “weapon” against identity theft called a credit or security freeze. It was in USA Today on Tuesday and I tore out the article so I could share it. I found it in their archives. PLEASE, at least check it out.

The second is an excellent overview of the massive government take-over of the Federal National Mortgage Association (aka FNMA or Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association (aka FHLMA or Freddie Mac). What happened and why do you care? Please check it out!

Real estate in Alameda (and Carson City) this week…
On Monday, both the condo (960 Shorepoint Court #101) and the single family lagoon home (640 Waterview Isle) I have listed went pending. It was a busy time….considering I took 3 days off to play golf in Carson City, returning Wed am. This is the 4th year I’ve gone to this fun tournament in Nevada, run by Alamedans (good courses, even better prices, and the best people!).

And was I thrilled to stay at the Holiday Inn Express this year: excellent internet service, good cell phone reception and nice accommodation! Even warm chocolate chip cookies in the late afternoons!

As soon as each round of morning golf on Monday and Tuesday wrapped up by 1:30pm, I returned calls immediately, sitting in my air-conditioned car, and then headed back to my ‘office’ to get the transactions together, midst multiple offers, counter-offers, and then back-up offers. In the evening, once the delicious (really!) buffet dinner at a local casino that hosts the group was over, it was back to work late. Then up early…. Plus I had the opportunity of writing an offer while away as well as doing some pre-buy math for a client who wanted to really understand the costs of ownership. But that offer was deleted the next day…(see Trends below).

Active listings 209, 213 last report

Pending listings 70, 64 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday Tour 11 Click Here to View Listings

New (note some are input in more than one category – ggrrr) 15 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 8 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 16 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

BOMs (back on market) 0

Expired and Withdrawn (some show up as new listings) 12 Click Here to View Listings

Listing Awards this week…remember this is only my perspective. Even though I missed the Tuesday tour due to golf ūüôā I did get out to view 6 properties late this afternoon.

Winner of the Week not this week

Cute, Charming Click Here to View Listings already pending!

Bang for the Buck not this week

Got Me a Makeover Click Here to View Listings already pending!

Get Me a Facelift Click Here to View Listings says 5 bedrooms but 2 of them are accessed through 2 others (hmm), has a pool – lots of hardscape

Grand Dame not this week

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings huge rooms, unusual floor plan

I’m Out of Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Trends? Consumers are finding out the hard way that the grossly underpriced short-sale listings are generating multiple offers that are bringing the purchase prices close to or up to the most recent sale price of similar inventory. Take for instance 2063 Whitehall . Priced for 385K, there are 6 offers. The last comp was in July, same floor plan but on Willow, for 492,5K. And the offer prices are within 5% of that. Kind of discouraging for those who are just trying to get their feet wet in this market place.

Have a great weekend! May you have the best of all that is good and share it generously. Unlike oil, that type of resource never depletes and only multiplies when used.

Maybe take a quiet moment to ponder the impact of 9/11/2001 on you personally and the world in general. Are we making any progress toward anything substantial and good? If not, why. If so, then pay it forward.

Carry on, Marilyn