THE SECOND STORY | February 26th, 2009

Common sense, common decency, common courtesy…federal, state, local

(This picture is from the top floor of a condo at Marina Village with the lagoon in front, marina in the middle, and estuary in the back. I like the reflection of the not-yet-blooming trees on the water which was dotted with wind-blown blooms from other trees nearby.)

The broker tour was so gorgeous this past Tuesday! The properties didn’t do too much for me but the sunshine sure did! It was the first time in weeks I’ve been able to ride my bike on tour, having hosted a couple of new listings in the past three weeks and then with the rain…

I woke up early on Tuesday morning and started writing. That’s when I came up with the blog title for today.

Common sense – Federal government

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” If ‘they’ want to stimulate things…why not offer some perks to the ones who have played by the rules? How about FORCING the banks who took the bailout money to actually LOAN it to qualified individuals at super-attractive rates instead of hoarding it? How about letting us refi our personal residence loans at lower interest rates and keep the same number of years remaining on the loan(s) in place…not starting over at 30 years? No cash out refis unless you’ve got big equity in the property. Good credit required. That would make credit show up again. How about not charging points on those new or re-cast loans to those who have done the ‘right’ thing for years? How about giving those of us who own property (any property we own, not just personal residences) the choice to expense capital improvements over one to two years, instead of capitalizing (depreciating) the improvements we make (roofs, seismic upgrades, foundations, windows, additions, you name it). That would put a bunch of people to work, eh? And if we can’t get loans to do the work then allow folks to bust into what they may have left in their retirement accounts without penalties? How about letting people into their retirement accounts without penalties for the next couple of years? Oh, here’s an idea….if elected officials don’t pay their taxes….they are immediately fired. Give me a break.

Common decency – California government
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’ve been saying it for over a year…if the state legislators can’t get a budget together in a timely manner, then they cease to get paid until it’s passed. And during that period they don’t get any per diem allowances, no car/gas allowances, and no other perks. Better yet, let’s go to a part-time legislature. We have too much government and they ARE the problem. Professional politicians are passe. Get them back on the streets working with the rest of us, or better yet let them just go back to their lovely lives before politics, where they do so much damage.

Common courtesy – City of Alameda building inspectors
Pretend every customer whose property you enter is a member of the Royal Family. How about carrying covers (booties) to put over your shoes/boots before you enter a property bringing in the debris from wet or dry weather or the last job site? How about a city name tag? I know that’s a tough one since we are in a budget crisis. Based on that, my next idea of having a city shirt might be a bit of a stretch but it would increase the appearance (literally) of professionalism along with how the city wishes to be represented in the field. How about putting back what you take apart? If you pull out an electrical outlet, put it back — don’t leave it for the customer to do. If you turn something off, then turn it back on again (unless it’s unsafe). If you turn something on, then turn it off. If you write on the back of the inspection card the items that still need to be inspected or corrected, how about sticking to the list?

Speaking of the city….we do have one job opening. I received an email Thursday afternoon and confirmed it via phone with Mayor Johnson that Debra Kurita, the City Manager, resigned about 4:15pm. Or maybe we can do more with less….but I do like the fact that David Brandt, as Assistant City Manager will be running the show in the interim.

Alameda real estate this week….

I want to bring to your attention info regarding some financing changes out there. Okay…first it’s a mess. Even the most awesome borrowers are being rung through the ringer by either frightened underwriters OR funders who have run out of money and can’t fund the loans they have comitted to on agreed upon contract dates.

Here are some links for updates:

Condo projects have new rules to meet loan requirements effective March 1

Jumbo loan borrowers are being hit big time with interest rates that have no merit.

First time buyers get a nice, big break.

How does the Bay Area fare with the housing bailout?

Mortgage interest deduction at risk for taxpayers w/ incomes over 250K

Active listings 164, 165 last report
Pending listings 70, 73 last report

Tuesday tour 8 with 2 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 3

Price changes 6

BOM (back on market) 1

Pending 9

Sold 8

no expireds or withdrawn/cancelled

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

Only 1 was worthy….really worthy Get me to rehab ! The only thing missing is that it didn’t reek of stench. This is the worst property I’ve ever seen in this town. It hadn’t rained for a day and it was still raining inside the joint. The owner is known as a slumlord in Alameda. The city has petitioned the court which put it into receivorship. I think that is happening on another property this guy owns on Central. Despite the horrific process of getting permission to demolish a property (this is pre 1942 so is on the historical list), it’s a prime candidate. The HAB (Historical Advisory Board) with a hopeful helping hand from the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, should release their grips on this one. If you drive down Cedar, check out the surrounding properties and see if you think this would be worth Gold Coast prices in that location IF someone got it through rehab. Priced as 3 units for 935K (even the agent knows that is a complete joke) with some nice original details, the cost to restore this mess is beyond comprehension. Expect the price to come down 400-500K in the near future. Sell off what is salvageable and take it down. Very sad.

I’m happy to hear it’s supposed to rain this weekend. I’ll be working on taxes and checking messages. Give a call if you have real estate questions. I’d love to hear your takes on what you’d like to see regarding the bailout….since the country is in the giving mood as a result of so much previous taking, should ALL owners of personal residences, not just the stressed owners and distressed properties, be receiving relief and if so, in what form?

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 20th, 2009

Shredders tearing it up…

Our title is not referring to a bunch of snow-boarders shredding down a mountain, but rather to clients, neighbors, and church family who joined me for my 3rd Annual Shredding Party last Saturday! We do it rain or shine, and thankfully the rain held off, but it was breezy and COLD!

The mega Cintas truck and driver/operator, Sal, came for three hours. Folks bring as many bags/boxes of print material they want to have criss-cross cut while they watch it via camera, get ground up in the truck. This is my gift to the invitees. Each person seems so relieved to be safely rid of the stuff.

The gratitude expressed is amazing! Over the years grateful participants have asked if they could make a donation to offset the costs. Since this is my treat to my clients, I decline. But this year we collected donations anybody wished to make to Alameda Little League, Alameda Meals on Wheels, and Alameda Boys and Girls Club. Each is getting $100 in the name of the Shredding Party. One neighbor gave an additional $100 to the Alameda Hospital Foundation in the name of the Shred event. Cool, huh? Everybody wins.

Boy, this is almost an all-nighter. My mouse quit working, I lost some of the blog, but have regrouped just using the laptop w/ the portable mouse I travel with, and forgetting about the full size keyboard and split screen!

Alameda real estate this week…
The fixer listing on Foley went pending yesterday. I put 31 Oak Park on the market on Tuesday and it had five private showing appointments yesterday. Givin’ it some awards this week.

Next week I hope to provide some info regarding the National Stimulus Package and how it is supposed to help jump start the real estate portion of the economy.

Active listings 165, 164 last repoort
Pending listings 70, 63 last report

Tuesday tour
8 no repeats

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 11

BOM back on market 1

Price changes

Pending 10

Sold 3

Expired 1

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

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

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Cute/Charming

Get me to Rehab the city took this owner to court due to the blight he created and the exceeding health and safety issues at the property. The court has awarded the listing to an out of area company and for being a wreck, it is way over-priced.

I’m Out of Rehab; Got Me a Makeover (well, never really was in rehab but it’s a great remodel)

Get me a Facelift

Grand Dame

So have a great weekend. I’ll be at Oak Park Sunday 2-4. Come by, say hi, check it out!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 16th, 2009

January, 2009 Sales Stats and Market Charts for A-Town!

See last week’s post for a description and details of the photo in the header. It’s about family in New Zealand…

If you had between a 3 and 5 day weekend, lucky you that Lincoln and Washington had birthdays so close together! Hope you stayed dry, enjoyed the hail, or went up to the mountains and found lots of snow!

As I said last month, a picture often says 1000 words and so it is with several charts showing a variety of market measurements of Alameda, both zip codes 94501 and 94502. Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive contract with the company who generates these from Multiple Listing Service data and, for those who are inclined to use these tools, they are invaluable resources. And I can format the reports to meet a variety of needs. Nonetheless, they are guides but if you are into data…these are for you!

Today I put 31 Oak Park on the market. See the sidebar for the website that is loaded with photos. It’s a really lovely 2/2.5 townhome at Harbor Bay for 499K. Loaded with upgrades, (with permits), it also has a larger than usual backyard, divided into two ‘rooms’ – one with a patio and one with a deck. NICE! Check out the website .

Last week I put 1629 Foley, a fixer on the market and there have been a ton of calls….showing once again….price pulls ’em in.

If you’d like to receive an email notice when the weekly update is posted and when the monthly stats are posted….let me know and I can include you on the list (which is sent BCC so nobody sees anybody else’ email address).

Active listings as of 2/16/09 170
Pending listings as of 2/16/09 62

The charts are of value when there are so few sales to report. The numbers are skewed because one property in a category may have been on the market for 180 days, and the next one 7 days. See what happens to averages? Oh well.

Jan 2009 Sales Stats for Alameda Show charts

2 bedroom single family homes (3)

  • Average DOM 45
  • Average sales price 430K

3 bedroom single family homes (6)

  • Average DOM 53
  • Average sales price 535K

4+ bedroom single family homes (2)

  • Average DOM 128
  • Average sales price 802.5K

3 bedroom townhomes (0)

2 bedroom apartment style condos (2)

  • Average DOM 179
  • Average sales price 318.5K

4 unit apartment buildings (0)

Have a good week! Call if you need vendors or market info…I’ll do my best to help.

P.S. I’m now on Facebook (link on sidebar to right) and starting in on LinkedIn. If you have tips for me, let me know. Friends? Well, we’ll see….

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 12th, 2009

Getting it up in the down under

The photo in the header this week is slightly different than the one to the left because I wanted a bit of variety. But the boat is the same one, and the captain and co-pilot (skipper and crew) are also the same. The skipper is Sean, Sutter’s husband. (We have a deal that I won’t call him my son-in-law if he won’t call me his mother-in-law).

He and Dan have been dedicating all their free time for many months to getting the boat, part of the R class sailing fleet in New Zealand, up and running on hydrofoils, which has been highly experimental in this class. Mostly the only rule is to go fast. And they did just that a couple of weeks ago when they placed first (again) in the annual National regatta in Wellington. Here’s another shot of them close up . And this is an awesome video a local TV station took of them prior to heading up to Wellington. Congrats boys! And to Sutter who does her own racing (sans foils) with friends down under.

Alameda real estate this week…
You know how you get really busy and then are tempted to not do something you know you should do? Well, I was facing that feeling last Friday. I had paid a LOT of $ for a two day conference in San Francisco at the Hilton on Powell. It was the annual Sell-a-bration sponsored by the national Certified Residential Specialist organization. They have excellent courses but I’d not attended the national meetings. Well, I made myself slow down Friday morning in order to get my real estate transactions in order, then took BART over to the meetings. It is in my nature to use what I have paid for – I am not a fan of waste. And within 30 minutes of attending the first class I knew my $600 educational investment was recouped many times over. And it just kept getting better. I commuted back and forth and came back inspired, refreshed, uplifted but not super-hyped. And the big news is I need to start social networking. So if you are on Facebook and/or LinkedIn, let me know and maybe we can connect….it clearly is the way the world is going and I’m excited to get started with it.

I put 1629 Foley on the market this past Tuesday. It’s quite unique: a 1/1 fixer bungalow for $199,000. Back in 2003 we got a pest report that came in at just under 50K then. No work has been done in that time and long before. Foley is the street behind the Alameda MarketPlace (corner of Park and Buena Vista). Go down Buena Vista from Park, take the next right on Foley, which is a one-way street. The side of the street 1629 is on is zoned C-M, commercial manufacturing despite the obvious residential nature of that side of the street. The other side of the street is residential. Check out 1629 Foley for more details, photos, and a virtual tour. You’ll also find some items buyers need to consider before making an offer (zoning, financing, fixing, etc). I listed it under single family residences as well as commercial properties for sale.

We had a bit of a spike in the number of new properties on the market despite the repeats.

Active listings 164, 150 last report

Pending listings 63, 58 last report

Tuesday tour
15 with 5 repeats

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 20

Price changes 11

BOMs back on market 1

Pending 11

Sold 3

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

Real estate awards this week….
remember this is just my perspective.

Get me to rehab – 3 to choose from but Foley gets it.

I need a SERIOUS facelift maybe should have tied for Get me to Rehab.

Some I liked but were too much $ or staged nicely but still too much $ so I’m just sticking with these awards this week.

Have a great weekend…relish the rain!

Call if you need vendor referrals or have questions about the market. I’ll be busy with the Shredding Party from early morning through the early afternoon when I meet up with friends and clients.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 5th, 2009

Thar she blows!

(The header photo was taken last winter in the back yard. It was a cold day with a bright sky and a mock cherry tree with no sign of life. In just a few weeks it will be full of gorgeous blooms, the real sign of things to come.)

I wish the title reflected the experience of watching whales off the beaches of Maui, with Lanai and Molokai in the background…but… not so much. Last Saturday afternoon I decided to brush my teeth before leaving for the office to deal with some paperwork. As I turned the hot water handle on to dampen the toothbrush which I hold in my right hand, the handle broke off in my left hand and the water shot straight up about 2 feet. I grabbed the closest towel, then towels, as I reached to turn off the water valve under the sink. It wasn’t there. Just some knob that I couldn’t twist. The cold water valve I could turn off but not the hot.

And since we have a tankless water heater, that means hot water keeps on coming.. And I keep the water temp hot. I felt like I had my own version of that scene from I Love Lucy, where she tries to pack candy boxes as the candy-laden conveyor belt moves faster and faster by her. My version was vertical. I was fighting a loosing battle with a small geyser that not only didn’t run out of steam, it created it!

Protecting the varnished wood cabinetry and hardwood floors was my main concern. Now completely drenched, I forced myself to abandon ship and call the fire department for help. From previous routine maintenance experience I knew I wasn’t strong enough to twist the wrench around the EBMUD nut in the box at the curb. And we don’t have a shut off valve right at the house.

A fire truck showed up about 15 minutes later. The upshot is that they couldn’t figure out the stub under the sink, but they did find a shut off at the water heater. I had completely forgotten about that valve. Then they finally understood that I had a wrench for the water shut off at the curb and shut the water off to the building, too. They said they don’t carry a wrench for that device.

The good news? By midnight the floors and cabinetry appeared unharmed and intact despite both the volume and heat of the water. The ceiling tiles that were soaked on the level below, popped off and got tossed. The carpet under the ceiling tiles, while heavily soaked in 2 small areas, cleaned up and dried out nicely. The water that seeped into the laundry room below only left a bit of a mark. I didn’t need to file an insurance claim. My favorite carpet cleaner got a big fan to me the next day but it wasn’t necessary by then. To avoid exceeding our water allotment, that night I used two 50 pound washers at Launderland (South Shore) to wash the soaked and still warm towels (that’s how hot the water was). My dear friends across the street let me use their shower for two days. Remember I had water, but no hot water.

The surprise? On Monday, the plumber said that if I’d had a wrench nearby (and I did), I could have twisted that stub closed and solved the problem. Oh my gosh. Do I feel stupid? Yes, but I find a bit of comfort in the fact that the fire fighters didn’t even figure that out.

The moral? Make sure the emergency solutions you have around the house, in the car, or wherever, work. If the system doesn’t work, fix it before you need it. Coming…a new shut off valve below the sink and a water shut off at the house, not just at the curb. Don’t repeat my mistakes….at least create new ones.

Oh, and a new bathroom fixture is being installed next week. It’s all good. And I’m very grateful for the next-to-nothing damage, the minimal hassle, the assistance of the fire department, and the generosity of my friends across the street. Save the spouting for the whales.

Alameda real estate this week…
1233 Regent and 1612 Clinton closed last week. See sidebar for details. My clients got an accepted offer on 450 Taylor. I listed two properties that will be coming on the market in the next two weeks. I cancelled the listing on the cute Gold Coast 2/1 house at 928 San Antonio because I could not meet the Seller’s expectations in this market. And as a complete surprise, I received a wonderful referral (email) letter from a client, now friend:

“Marilyn Schumacher truly provides “Results…exceeding the challenges”. With the housing market in a huge decline, I wanted to make sure I choose the right Realtor to sell my home. All though I knew several friends in the industry, I felt more comfortable choosing a Realtor that was recommended, I didn’t want it to get “personal” if the house didn’t sell. All of my concerns were wiped away when I chose Marilyn as my Realtor. What I gained from the process was; a house that sold in under 3 months and a seamless sale without any surprises, except that I gained a friend in the process. Marilyn’s straightforwardness, sincerity and most of all professionalism are what makes here stand out from the rest. Thanks again Marilyn! ”

Active listings 150, last report 150

Pending listings 58, last report 53

Tuesday tour 9 with 3 repeats (some from long ago)

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 15

Price changes 11

BOMs (back on market) 2

Pending 11

Sold 6

Expired 9 (some show up as new)

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

Get Me A Facelift

Get Me to Rehab

Got Me a Makeover

Have a lovely, wet (outside, not inside) weekend!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 29th, 2009

“In fashion you are either in or you are out….”

(I took this week’s photo last year on the 15th of November. It was a striking autumn sunset on a summer-like day. It was pretty obvious that something special was about to blast over the bay…and then the paddler showed up on cue.)

Some of you may recognize the title of the post as a quote from the Bravo TV show Project Runway. It is one of my favorites. I like it because it showcases amazing talent and creativity, with incredible weekly results. But like everything, what is trendy usually has a limited shelf-life. In this instance I’m referring to home interior and design trends. For example, in my mind, wallpaper is a commitment, but paint can be a one night stand.

Knowing there are projects I’d love to consider in the future, I drop articles of interest I come across into one of those great title company 3 sided folders. And at this time of year as I clear out the 2008 files and make room for the 2009 papers, I find I get sidetracked looking at what I’ve collected over time. While it’s not the same as having the real deal…gazing at the photos and articles are a lot cheaper and a nice diversion from fixing the files.

Don’t be misled by the story titles….granite and stainless are not “out”. There maybe some new concepts in the “in” box! Have fun with three links about home trends that may be of interest..from dressing up a home (whether for sale or not) to kitchen trends to building design trends .

Alameda real estate this week….the activity levels are up. Offers are popping. Big week for pending sales. This week I had the opportunity to work with a seller whose home was listed with Harbor Bay Realty. The listing agent wrote an offer on it and a second offer also came in. Our policy is to have the Broker or Designated Broker (there are two of us, if our Broker is unavailable) review multiple offers with the client so there is no unfair advantage had by the listing agent over the other competing agent/buyer. But don’t kid yourselves. Multiple offers do NOT necessarily mean higher than list prices. Or even close to list prices. This is not the market you knew over two years ago. But this seller more than once commented to me on how pleased she was with the process. (While it is legal for an agent to represent both buyer and seller at the same time, I decline the opportunity due to the conflict of interest it poses to me. Sure it’s all good until it’s not…the extra money from ‘double-ending the deal’ is not worth the risk of frustrated and unsatisfied customers.)

Active listings 150, 159 last report

Pending listings 57, 53 last report

Tuesday tour 10, 1 repeat

Highest priced new listing this bed and breakfast property has been on and off the market for years. Somebody is clueless here (calling it like it is).

Lowest priced new listing

New 6

Price changes

BOMs (back on market) 3

Pending 16

Sold 5

Expired 2

Withdrawn/canceled 6

Real Estate Awards this week….

Winner of the Week, and Bang for the Buck

Cute/Charming (the inside)

Get Me to Rehab

If you love guacamole, then I guess this is your weekend due to the Super Bowl. Enjoy!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 22nd, 2009

Where were you….

Every neighborhood needs a Statue of Liberty. Our neighbors have one…and she was smiling big this last Tuesday! Many of us on this block flew our American flags that day….some are still out.

I expect many will remember, many years from now, exactly where they were when Barrack Obama was sworn in as President last Tuesday. Each member of our little family, spread around the map a bit, had a neat take on the event. Where were you? Share your thoughts with me…I’d love to hear.

I joined a friend for a 7am breakfast at her apartment. Many of you know I am not the best early morning person, unless it’s 1am. But I got on my bike, rode over and we settled down to a huge homemade celebratory meal and three hours of watching the event. And what’s a breakfast without a box of tissues for the tears of amazement.

Evan, in San Diego, watched from work. “We plugged a computer into Bill’s plasma in his office and everyone watched it in there. It was like Christmas morning for me this morning. I woke up on my own, earlier than usual.

Not sure if you guys saw the music at the inauguration, but there was a piece with Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero. McGill was teh clarinetist and is an InstantEncore partner. We actually know his brother, Demarre, pretty well. Demarre is in the San Diego Symphony and runs Art of Elan, a chamber music series in SD that partners with us, too.”

Sutter, in New Zealand, unable to shake her Mass Media college degree and professional journalist background, sent a link from the NY Times and one photo featured a place near and dear to our hearts over the years… Uptown Body and Fender owned by the most amazing, gracious, woman, Giovanna. She turned her immaculate shop into an all day theatre for friends, neighbors, and customers.

“I woke up at 5:28am (NZ time) to take it all in. I watched from my own personal “production studio”. I started watching the live feeds on the two broadcast networks, here, but any time one of the ill-informed Kiwi TV show hosts started talking about inane topic on either(or both) channels, I’d mute the TV and watch via the NY Times website, which had the same feed but without the commentary. Then I’d get tired of the grainy images and turn my chair back to the TV.

Cried a fair bit. Sean (who was already at work this morning, but heard my analysis of the shebang when I got home from work), thinks it was because I was homesick. I think it was just the emotion of the day.”

Erin, in a San Diego middle school science classroom observed, “That sounds a bit lovelier than my situation…getting to watch it surrounded by 36 teenagers, half of whom were busy doodling on their paper or twiddling their thumbs. Some of our students were genuinely moved & recognize the importance of it, but a good number of them felt like this was just another boring event they were forced to watch….Hey, if Obama can’t keep their attention for 15 minutes, I suppose I shouldn’t worry so much when I can’t do the same 🙂 Despite that, it was wonderful every minute. Especially the poem! Overall, what an extraordinary day.”

Alameda real estate this week….

Agents are commenting about receiving a numerous calls about values. I’ve certainly found that to be the case the past two weeks. The questions range from “is the property worth enough so there is enough equity to get a lower interest rate on my outstanding loan balance?” to an opening line of, “Marilyn, is this the most insane time to put a property on the market?”

My answers are as unique as the people and the situations they are in. But those questions generate a series of questions from me….Why now? How long have you owned the property? How is the loan balance compared to what you think is the value? What kind of loan is on the property? Where are you going? Is the trade-off for selling now made up by the discount you’ll get on the next property? What’s the real estate climate like where you are moving? Do you have a Plan B? And sometimes we talk about alternatives.

The answers aren’t easy to give, and they involve simple facts. Alameda is not hit as hard as other areas, but prices are nonetheless down. We’re in it all together. We’ll get through it. Call if you have questions. I’m working full time at this.

Active listings
159, 153 last report

Pending listings
53, 58 last report

Tuesday tour 6

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 11

Price changes 7

BOM (back on market) 1

Pending 5

Sold 6

Expired 3

Withdrawn 2

Real Estate Awards this Week..
.remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Cute/Charming, Bang for the Buck

Have a nice weekend…enjoy the rain!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 17th, 2009

December, 2008 Sales Stats & Market Charts for A-Town!

Another year and we start it with a wrap up of the last month of last year. So what’s ahead? I wish I had a crystal ball. I feel there is a real sense of hope, the ‘we can’ attitude that is coming with the change of leadership for the United States. The challenges are massive and we really are all in this together. It’s time to get the house in order…move ahead deliberately to take back our place as the world leader…in innovation and education, yet learn to lead by listening, seeking to understand then be understood. It’s all trite sounding but NOW is all we’ve got. Maximize the moment with an eye to the future of and for the world.

A picture often says 1000 words and so it is with several charts showing a variety of market measurements of Alameda, both zip codes 94501 and 94502. Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive contract with the company who generates these from Multiple Listing Service data and, for those who are inclined to use these tools, they are invaluable resources. And I can format the reports to meet a variety of needs. Nonetheless, they are guides but if you are into data…these are for you!

Sales activity Dec 2007 – Dec 2008 Show charts

December 2008 Sales Stats for Alameda

2 bedroom single family homes (2)

3 bedroom single family homes (5)

4 bedroom single family homes (6)

2 bedroom apartment style condos (1)

3 bedroom townhomes (4)

4 unit apartment building (1)

Here are two examples of the market….

2233 San Antonio (in the 4 bedroom section) closed 11/05 for 770K. It came on the market September 08 for 778K (nice looking, brick foundation), closed for 715K 12/08, so do the math and figure in probably 6-7 % for closing costs.

1210 Paru
Click Here to View Listings
a 5 unit upgraded Victorian conversion w/smaller units, concrete foundation, parking, laundry. Listed for 825K, dropped to 749K, closed for 715K in December.
This is happening across the board. Please see my post of 1/8/09 about Location, Location, and Motivation.

So here’s to a year of renewed personal and world awareness and at least one random act of kindness daily.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 16th, 2009

Soft story buildings in Alameda

The lighter-than-air ship photo I chose for last week gets featured again. I love the color contrast. See last week’s post for airship details.

Tonight I attended the second of two public meetings held by the Planning and Building Department for those who are interested in or affected by the up and coming Soft Story Ordinance. No this is not a feel good, cozy, easy to read story. This is about seismic stability. The proposed ordinance, mostly taken from one enacted in Berkeley, addresses the safety issues posed by buildings with big open spaces that make up the first level – like a garage. This ordinance will be focused on buildings consisting of a least five residential units. Most of them are quite boxy. You know the style. But it also can affect mixed-use properties, similar to some on Park Street. There are lots of apartments above some of those commercial/retail shops!

One of the items the city has yet to figure out is how it will affect condos. We have a fair number of large condo buildings with massive garages under them….The Willows between the beach and Alameda Towney Centry, all the complexes on Shorepoint Court, just off of Westline near Crown Beach, the Park Webster at the foot of Webster Street, the St. Francis Condominiums on Otis across from Bank of Alameda to name a few. How are those folks going to handle the upgrades, whatever they may be? Those buildings are no less vulnerable than all the apartment buildings like them.

The City Council made this a priority item over a year ago and the proposed ordinance first came to public knowledge when Planning and Building staff rolled it out to the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee for the Planning and Building Department back in October. The committee is made up of citizens (I’m one of them) who have regular business contact with the department, representing engineering, contractors, architects, designers, real estate sales and property management, along with the top officials of the department. It big news and some of us scrambled to get word out to stakeholders since it hadn’t been done too well by the department. Anyway, after numerous small group meetings among real estate groups and the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County (I’m the one who called that Executive Director who had not received one word of this proposal), we were able to put the brakes on the first reading of the ordinance in front of the City Council. They were planning on doing that without any public hearings or meetings, or announcements!

But now that two meetings have been held, an article about soft story buildings has been published in local papers, and more folks have been notified, the first reading is schedule for Feb. 17. This ordinance will be passed and it will save lives as well as property. But its implementation is not all that clear yet. To be determined: identification of such buildings, creation of ‘the list’, timing for owners to obtain mandatory engineering reports, requirements for compliance, financing options. Stay tuned.

Real estate this week in Alameda….
The market is NOT dead….but when you check out the sold properties the sales prices may be interesting to you. And so it will be with two transactions I am involved with that are schedule to close by the end of the month.

I got word tonight that Bank of Alameda is out of the real estate lending business. They have not been known to be competitive over the years, hot or cold markets. But they are definitely in business! They are only interested in deposits, and I guess to get your biz they may up the return on CDs. Should be interesting to watch for changes.

The tour was glorious via bike…like a summer day (please, rain soon!)

Active listings
153, 146 last report

Pending listings
55, 58 last report

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats
Click Here to View Listings

Highest priced new listing
(one was higher but not a new listing)
Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing
Click Here to View Listings

New 9
Click Here to View Listings

Price change 8
Click Here to View Listings

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

Pending 8
Click Here to View Listings

Sold 8
Click Here to View Listings

Expired 1
Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn 1
Click Here to View Listings

Real Estate Awards this Week…remember this is only my perspective

Get me to rehab (not a new listing but first time on the tour)Click Here to View Listings

Got me a facelift (owners have had it for 5 weeks – bought it at a foreclosure auction, obviously thought there was room for profit – has a brick foundation and some code compliance issues are being dealt with) Click Here to View Listings

Have a great weekend! I’m chasing a golf ball around on Friday but am working the weekend!

Carry on!


THE SECOND STORY | January 8th, 2009


Have you seen this floating around town? I first saw it the 3rd week of November while I was working on clearing out the storage unit I’ve had that has housed Carl’s office stuff. By the grace of God and some basic regrouping I was able to give the space up! I love this lighter-than-air ship ! It’s so quiet and so massive! As soon as I saw it I grabbed my camera, storage unit forgotten, and chased it over to the Oakland North Field. Carl and I had the very rare opportunity to actually fly the Goodyear Blimp a number of years ago. Yep, really take the controls and fly it. You should have seen the faces of the other passengers! That was a delightful side benefit of being an active commercial pilot at the time. I told the Captain I’d give him a good glider ride if he gave us a good blimp ride….he smiled and then once we were level over the estuary….waved me up to the right seat….

Before we get to the business at hand I’d like to say Happy New Year and I hope your holiday season was calm, peaceful, and joyous.

This post is a bit long….lots to catch up on. Sorry it’s posted later than usual. I don’t do html code and for some reason last night when I was working on this when I would insert a link to a property I’d end up with pages of code I’ve never seen and I couldn’t figure it out. I still haven’t figured it out but I’ve been able to cut and paste around it….ggrrr.

And, yes, my extended trip to Maui was wonderful! Thanks for asking! I know I’m a spoiled brat….but I really did do some work (a Second Story blog posting with Nov. sales stats, I took 2 webinar classes, did loads of business reading, emailed with clients who contacted me about moving and then worked to find alternatives for them, thought about how I might improve my services, just let my mind wander). I zoned out completely for the first week buzzing through two novels while enjoying the warmth.

This time I took my golf clubs with me rather than rent them and despite the transport charge (only on the way back….I don’t get it) and a bit of toting hassle (thank goodness for helpful folks and those airport carts which are free everywhere else in the world but the US) it was really worth it. There is nothing like your own stuff. It’s the most I’ve played over there – 4 rounds. It’s not meant to be a golfing trip. Two of the rounds were the best I’ve ever played. Two and a half rounds were by myself and I didn’t cheat with myself either. Got to play with some friends one day and one member of the foursome was Lon Simmons. He’s a friend of one of the players and he lives on Maui now. It was my first time on the very local, low key course, but it’s his stomping ground. It seems that once he saw I could at least hit the ball, I was worthy of some of his coaching and local knowledge…and it was a blast!

I’ve also learned to ship a box of stuff to Maui so I’ve got things I want (books, DVDs, foam beach chair, big beach towel, insulated lunch bag, travel mug, etc.) when I get there. Then I ship it all back the day before I leave. Much easier. And since this is like home away from home it makes sense.

While I was gone I created a new blog called Timely Shares . If you know of anybody (groups, solo travelers, couples, families) who want great places to stay in Maui or Kauai or Arizona check it out. My travel plans are different for the coming year so I have some of my Westin timeshare units available. They are awesome! For friends and clients, friends of friends, and friends of clients, I’m pretty sure I can give some sweet accommodation deals for when they may want to travel….maybe even to places well beyond the islands and Arizona. Check it out.

Even though I shut my brain down, I must have carried a more open and receptive demeanor this trip. People were coming up to me and asking questions about places, events, attractions, if I lived there, and the such. I found I could answer many of them. It was kind of cool. But I was amazed at how many I spoke with who were from the east coast and there for their first time. All age groups. That’s a long way to go. And the tourist industry is begging for attention so it was great to know folks were deciding to take advantage of the quieter times there.

Coming home to the cold (yep, I am the epitome of a weather wimp) was a shock. I don’t remember being this cold this long. I don’t mean just the weather being cold…it is…I mean I’M cold. Once I put on a jacket, scarf, my Ugg boots…they stay on all day even in the house. I’m not complaining….just observing. This is the first time I have ever come close to understanding why there is a ‘snow bird’ industry….folks fleeing the cold for the soothing warmth of lovelier climes.

Think you know the states of the US and geography? Try this….it’s very clever.

The first three rules of real estate have always been known as ‘location, location, location.’ But in ANY market, motivation must be a factor. It just may be more obvious in a down market. Thus this week’s title, exchanges MOTIVATION for the last ‘location’.

While I was gone an offer came in on my listing at 1233 Regent. Buyer and Seller went back and forth but to no avail. One day after I got home, super MOTIVATION kicked in along with loads of logic for my client. So on Christmas Day he had an accepted offer…we just needed a couple of sets of initials so it went pending on 12/26.

Last week, just before New Year’s Eve I interviewed for a listing. The owner was referred to me by a client here in town. I declined the opportunity. Why? Great location, nice property, NOT MOTIVATED! Folks, when you buy real estate and pay over the list 4 years ago, you’ve made a commitment! Then when you put in 60K worth of spa-like bathrooms, a new furnace (yes, a necessity), add in air conditioning (minimal demand for it around here), then accept your dream job out of state….and the market turns on ya….it don’t care what you paid, what you put in it, or what you want out of it! What’s more, there are actually recent sales in this lovely gated community. And they are over 10% lower than what the Seller feels she deserves for her efforts.

On New Year’s Day I wrote an offer for clients on a property that has been sitting for a while. Fabulous location but with some issues. My clients accepted the counter-offer this past Monday morning. In anticipation of that happening we booked inspections the Friday and Saturday before. After a whirlwind of inspections so far this week…we are about to see how MOTIVATED the seller is. We are a bit skeptical but need to see it through to the end.

One of the thought processes I had on Wednesday morning was that it was too bad we didn’t have the perfect buyers for the property. Then I realized that we DID have the perfect buyers. We just didn’t have the ‘perfect’ market! Despite the significant surprises the inspections have revealed, they are still interested…but not at the price agreed upon. See it’s one thing to put a property on the market with loads of reports and inspections and info. It helps eliminate surprises. It’s another to consciously decide that thorough inspections aren’t necessary. It only creates surprises, and new material facts for the next folks to dwell on if it doesn’t work out with the current prospects. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

As many of you have heard me say, “Save the surprises for birthdays. Surprises don’t belong in real estate.”

PAY ATTENTION! an quick excerpt from my California Association of Realtors online weekly update “Wells Fargo was offering 30-year conforming loans at 5 percent plus one point, while Bank of America was offering the same kind of loan at 6.625 percent plus one point on the same day in December 2008.”

I had to go into Bank of America the other day and they had their rates posted. 4.25% for 417K or less…WOW! Then I moved my eyes to the right and it was 2.65 points! Call me if you’d like reliable lender referrals…straight talk about the choices. I have one client who has recently decided to go with a reverse mortgage (they have changed quite a bit in the past year) and he is much calmer about his financial situation. Not everybody offers everything, plus we have the challenge of being sure a refi will appraise this days. Call if you have questions.

Again, from the above noted source “Stricter underwriting standards, higher down payment requirements, and more rigid credit score requirements are leading many home buyers to apply for Federal Housing Agency mortgage loans. Loans issued through an FHA-approved lender often require only a 3.5 percent down payment and borrowers can have credit scores in the 600 range, as opposed to 720 or higher — the standard for most financial institutions. It’s important to note that although FHA loans appear to be the best option for many home buyers, borrowers with FHA loans often pay a higher premium for mortgage insurance. ” NOTE from marilyn: the mortgage insurance can be a killer. The goal is to logically explore options.

In the next few days I’ll post the December sales activity and sales graphs. For now I’m focusing on what we’ve got since the 1st of January.

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings 146, 175 last report

Pending listings 58, 60 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

New 11 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 3 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 4 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 17 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 1 Click Here to View Listings

No awards this week….the pickings are too slim!

Have a great weekend! Here’s to positive change for all of us despite the world’s glaring declarations of insurmountable issues.

Carry on! Marilyn