THE SECOND STORY | March 18th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

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

Highest and lowest priced new listings

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

New 16

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 5

Pending 21

Sold 10

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled 2

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

Bang for the Buck (tie)

Cute, charming

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

THE SECOND STORY | March 11th, 2010

Back in the saddle again….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

Highest priced and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday Tour 12 (I need to catch up!)

New 16

Back on Market 2

Price change 2

Pending 14

Sold 3

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 6

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

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 4th, 2010

Bob and his sled slip sliding awaaay…

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

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

Alameda opportunities:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour

New 19 (some are repeats from a while back)

BOM (Back on Market) 1

Price changes 2

Pending 14

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

Expired 7 (some are showing up as new again)

Withdrawn/cancelled 2

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

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

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 25th, 2010

Finding Alameda

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

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

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour
(9 with 2 repeats)

New 9

Back on Market 1

Price Changes 3

Pending 7

Sold 9

Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 3

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

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Out of Rehab

Cute & Charming, Got me a Makeover

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

THE SECOND STORY | February 19th, 2010

Morning rush….evening calm.

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

Tuesday Tour (another nice bike ride)

New 6

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 1

Pending 10

Sold 7

Expired 1

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

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

Alameda real estate by graphs the past two years…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang for the Buck

Get me a Facelift

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

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

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 11th, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour 7

New 10

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 7

Pending 15


Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 0

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

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

Bang for the Buck and Get Me A Facelift

That’s a wrap! Shred On!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 4th, 2010

On the road again….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tueday Tour 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New 12

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 3

Pending 5

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


Withdrawn/cancelled 3

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

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

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

THE SECOND STORY | January 28th, 2010

No on B on Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alameda real estate this week…

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

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour 6

New 11

Price changes 0

BOM (back on market) 2

Pending 10

Sold 1

Expired 0

Withdrawn/cancelled 2

Alameda real estate awards this week…

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

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

All righty! That’s a wrap…carry on!

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

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 21st, 2010

Fill ‘er up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Alameda real estate this week….

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

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

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

Tuesday Tour (3)

New 6

Price changes

BOM (back on market) 0

Pending 12

Sold 5

Expired 1


Alameda real estate awards this week…

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

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

That’s a wrap! Carry on!

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

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

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

Best! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 14th, 2010

On the rocks, falling rocks, rockin’ sista….

Post/Title Story I took this photo my last full day in Maui in December. It was the only very cloudy and rainy (heavy mist) day of my stay. I decided to drive the paved perimeter road around the edge of the West Maui Mountains and saw amazing sights. The surf was roaring, the swells stacked up as far as I could see. The road is super narrow, and “Falling Rocks” signs on most curves spoke the truth about the slipping mountains and slippery road conditions. It’s a slow ride but well worth it. This is the best blow hole I’ve ever seen! The spray was straight up and the action non-stop with this angle of surf. If you look closely, you’ll see some of the dumbest people ever. Some people just don’t get the combination of monster surf, slick rocks, and an untamed Pacific Ocean.

I spent five days last week working on clearing my folk’s house out now that they are in assisted living. Well, I can’t say that I worked on it. Actually two dear friends volunteered their vacation time to come and help me. INCREDIBLE! Well, I can’t say they helped me. I can say they did it all! It was the most amazing gift to me. My dad and step-mom kept muttering that they couldn’t believe that people who didn’t even know them would come and do this for them. It literally was beyond my dad’s comprehension.

I had no idea what we’d be facing so I arrived the day before my friends flew in to assess the situation. I cleared out some cabinets of food and unidentifiable objects, determined that the obvious unsalvageable items were the first to get tossed, and that we’d go from there on day two. We took care of necessary financial business. The folks and I spent 7 hours together the first day – away from their apartment. We had deep and thoughtful discussions. We had about 3 hours together the second day. We had 2 hours together the third day. We interviewed two real estate agents, and the folks made the right decision about who to use and the house is now listed for sale. And we had 2 hours together with my rockin‘ step-sister the fifth day (she is so quick with the wit and solutions that she makes me look like a slug – we now call each other sista)!

The fourth day was the garage sale. Now here’s the deal on that – I don’t like garage sales. They bring out the worst in me. But Craig’s List makes it tons easier! 8pm Friday night I posted the sale for 9-2 the next day. 8:45am the first person showed up and it was determined that by far most of the people read about the sale via Craig’s List. The garage sale signs the agent put out were a nice addition.

We met marvelous neighbors and lovely strangers. Any money made was second to the fact that there was less to haul or have hauled away. At the end of the garage sale day and with just a couple of items remaining in the house, I gave in and wept profusely, overwhelmed by feeling that I had torn everything they’ve ever known out from under the folks. It was a way of grieving about role-switching, house and home, belongings and belonging, treasures and treasured. In the end, it was obvious that it was five days of mini miracles. And we were all blessed. Thank you Debbie and Donnie!

Now you know why I didn’t post last week. And unless something more interesting shows up for next week’s post, I’ll share some lessons I learned about garage sales, although you may already know them and have terrific lessons of your own to share!

Alameda real estate this week…

We closed 2815 Otis (my Seller) last Friday. We got lender approval for the short sale at 221 Central ( my Buyers) on Tuesday. We got an accepted offer on Clinton (my Seller) a week ago last Tuesday. We closed 1209 Eagle (my Sellers) the day before Thanksgiving.

Active listings this week: 96, 130 last report (Nov. 20)
Pending listings this week: 70, 81 last report (Nov. 20)

Tuesday Tour 7 (this week, although I’ve was on the tour both last week and this week)

Highest price new listing (this week)
Lowest priced new listing (this week)

The following categories go back to Nov 20 for the the solds, pendings. expireds, and withdrawns. Please realize that some of these may now be appearing as active on the market, even new or pending. We’ll get back to the weekly update details starting next week.

New 8

Price change 7

BOM (back on market) 2

Pending 47

Sold 72

Expired 28

Withdrawn/cancelled 24


Alameda real estate awards this week…

Bang for the Buck

Cute, Charming

Get Me to Rehab


So back on schedule, as best I can control (freak) it. Enjoy your weekend. It sounds like big rains starting on Sunday? You can get free sand bags from the city yard off Grand Street near the estuary (take a left before the ramp). Use them to block/prevent debris from going into the already overworked drain system.

Carry on! Happy New Year – I can’t believe January is already half gone!

best, marilyn