THE SECOND STORY | March 19th, 2009

All the info in the world is nothing without context.

(On the other side of this glorious fully bloomed tree is one of the Harbor Bay Realty conference rooms. Each season this gem has something to offer.)

I’d rather not repeat mistakes. Some of my best lessons are learned via the School of Hard Knocks ( graduation from which is far out on the horizon). One knock I took last year lead me to meet the Blue Screen of Death. I didn’t even know what it was until son Evan explained what I was looking at on my computer. Several hundred dollars later, and with a new hard drive and the excellent work of my tech meister, we (me and my computer) were up from the knock down.

The lesson learned was to think twice about opening an email if I don’t know the sender and/or if the subject matter is not clearly spelled out. If people are new to me, or I to them, the use of the phone is quite appropriate, and for me, preferable.

So, with that in mind, an email showed up last week from a person without a last name, and with only Alameda in the subject. As I was about to toss it, I paused and thought about it. And I opened it. And nothing bad happened. And there was a real phone number in the signature.

A woman from the east coast had been given my name as a real estate agent in Alameda. She expects to be moving back to the Bay Area, to our town, and wondered if I did rentals. I explained that my work was on the sales side but that I’d be happy to direct her to our property management section of the company website and since she wasn’t familiar with Alameda, I could perhaps help her with some pre-screening once I knew a bit about her priorities.

The email conversation has evolved. I wanted her to have a sense of place and distance about the properties she was considering. As I was thinking I could mark up one of the company paper maps, scan it, and email it back to her with the overall view, I said to myself, “Self, they have already invented Google Earth.” I haven’t maximized its use in my biz, but being willing to learn by doing (my late husband Carl’s dear alma mater Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s slogan), I spent a bit of this afternoon trying to figure out how to place addresses and make a tour on Google Earth. I got the address part down, but not the tour. So I saved the thing I made and emailed it.

It is very obvious to me if I can figure out the basics and a few tricks of this amazing tool, I may just enter the 21st century. The ability to show folks from across the world items of importance to THEM, not me, is powerful. As a consumer, I have used the ‘fly at ground level’ and ‘drive the streets’ modes. That beats any map or GPS. (BTW, If any of you have sources that can increase my learning curve, I’d love to know about it.)

Back to the relocation. I asked how she got my name. It is always nice to call, send a note, or even an email to say thanks to someone who shares my name. She got it from someone named Jamie, who knows Bethany, who rides the ferry with some folks who knew me. And I can’t figure out who any of these people are. And maybe it’s not important (except for wanting to offer a genuine thank you).

That got me thinking about connections. I visualize Facebook as being a crawler….linearly moving outward and reaching some we know, have known, care to know, know but don’t care to interact with, or bond with those whom we have something in common but may not necessarily know.

Then I thought about the string that lead the emailer to contact me. I was amazed by the effort it took to complete that request for information. My hope is that I may have helped her, just a bit, find satisfactory rental housing in a more informed, enlightened, and efficient manner before she explores Alameda in person, even if that means she selects another city. Our contact may have provided info about airport noise, distances and routes to/from work, and straight talk about California and Alameda schools. I encouraged her to take some time and hang out at a couple of local coffee shops and just listen to the people. And then ask questions. Alamedans are a friendly group: opinionated and caring about their town. And an indirect side benefit to me was learning a bit more about Google Earth and how it might help my customers!

This experience has, for me, reinforced the importance of context. All the info in the world means nothing without context. And that is why great real estate agents continue to do well, whatever market conditions exist.

(As another side benefit, it so happens daughter Sutter sent me this link from one of Seth Godin’s blogs. I rather liked the message of Where have all the agents gone? Check it out.)

New Topics
-From my New Zealand info source (Sutter), came this priceless piece. May be you’ve seen it.

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Alameda’s wish list for $ from the Feds Check out the list the City of Alameda has put forth for stimulus money from the Feds.

Whoa! That loan costs a lot!Here is an excellent explanation of what costs the lenders are imposing on buyers these days. Low interest rates come with a price.

Alameda real estate this week….
Active listings 180, 178 last report
Pending listings 60, 60 last report

Tuesday Tour 15, 1 repeat

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 11

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 7

Pending 9

Sold 5

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

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

Winner of the week, cute/charming

Out of rehab (mostly)

Bang for the Buck, Get me to Rehab (but I can still live there while the work is being done – mostly)

Have a good weekend, enjoy the rain! Yea! But we had a lovely week of sunshine!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 16th, 2009

February 2009 Sales Stats and Market Charts for A-town!

(see previous post for description of the photo at right which was used as the header photo for the week)

There is activity out there…but I must refer you to the January 8th post in which the title says it all….”Location, Location, Motivation!” If those three rules of real estate for this market are not in place, kiss any offers buh-bye. Activity means offers being made, but the closed sales don’t necessarily reflect that activity. But it’s a step in the right direction.

AND check out last week’s post about challenging your property taxes. It’s got some really important info. You owe it to yourself to at least review it and do your family, friends, and co-workers a favor – share it with them. You may be a real hero!

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’s email address).

If you’ve got questions about a piece of property, want to know about close-to-Alameda-properties (deeply discounted in San Leandro), give a call. Need info about your own tax challenge? Pick up the phone….punch in the numbers, 510-814-4709, leave your message and question(s). I check my messages regularly and my outgoing message is updated at least once daily.

Active listings as of 3/16/09 178, 170 last monthly update
Pending listings as of 3/16/09 60, 62 last monthly update

The chart link below is of value to see the trends year over year. The source is the MLS but Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive contract with the vendor who preps the data and presents it. I can do amazing searches. But remember – if a listing has been pulled off the market for more than 30 days, then the price and days on market (DOM) start as fresh, eliminating the original price and the previous days on the market. It’s how the system reads the data. Want more background? Give a call.

Feb sales charts year over year Show charts

2 bedroom single family homes (6)

  • Average DOM 38
  • Average sale price $439,000

3 bedroom single family homes (8)

  • Average DOM 54
  • Average sale price $553,875

4+ bedroom single family homes (7)

  • Average DOM 35
  • Average sale price $852,00

2 bedroom apartment style condos (0)

3 bedroom townhomes (0)

4 unit buildings (0)

Note the sidebar for some interesting info about the tax credit. Jumbo loans have moved up to $729K but the rates are quite a bit higher than the 417K conforming loan amount. Expect to pay at least 1 point for all financing.

Have a great day….we all deserve great, productive, joy-filled days.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 12th, 2009

Want to challenge your property taxes? DON’T pay a company to do it for you! I may be able to help and the price is… FREE!

(It’s beautiful outside and the garden is starting to show it! I took some photos of the front yard because the hedges were going nuts with color. I kind of like the zig and zag of the picture and the contrast with the ivy. There was an estate sale on the corner last weekend and folks walking by literally would stop, take a look, marvel, and then ask what those plants were (I was doing some cleanup outside.) I told them I didn’t remember but they turn a luscious green after the bloom. When I saw the plants at Thomsen’s Garden Center a few years ago, I knew those were the right plants for those locations and Iris Watson, the owner, agreed. She’s advised and helped our backyard long before it was ours, which means well over 20+ years because she remembers when some of the plants were put it!)

Back to the title of the post. This is primarily directed to my clients. BUT if you can’t find your agent because he/she is out of the biz, has become a secret agent, lost his/her license, lost a place to hang a license, isn’t proactive with his/her customers, then give me a call. I may be able to help. And if I don’t know you….I’ll have to limit my assistance to our fair city of Alameda.

The last time I did this was during the period 1989 – 1993. Every person I helped, including my own family, won their challenge and did not have to attend a hearing. There are plenty of companies starting spring up once again, sending postcards to owners how for around $100 they can reduce your taxes. Do you get your money back if they can’t? What about if they kind of don’t know your area? Do you think they know anything about properties around you other than what they can find on public records?

Who is a prime candidate for this? If you bought after 2004 that would be a start. If you bought before that, there’s a chance your taxes (even with the 2% annual increase the county can use), that your taxes are still lower than the drop in value since the top of the market. But we can talk that through. It’s pretty easy for me to make that determination with you.

When is it worth doing? It depends on how much you value your time vs. what you can realistically expect to receive back via the challenge. As a simple gauge, take the difference between today’s assessment and what you think the proper market value is (with my help, of course), and multiply that by .0126%. That would be the amount you’d get back. If it’s $10 that’s one thing and maybe so close the county wouldn’t accept the paper challenge. But if it’s a couple of hundred bucks….now you’re talking.

IF you think the value of your property(ties) has (have) gone down to less than the current valuation…then you may want to consider challenging your property taxes.
IF you can find your most recent tax bill (second installment delinquent after 4/10/09) and
IF you don’t mind doing a bit of paperwork in exchange for some dollars and
IF the amount you may realize is worth your time and
IF the tax assessor doesn’t proactively re-assess most property values to avoid an onslaught of challenges and
IF we can find some sales comps to support your challenge THEN

Here is a link so you can follow the process .(I’m so excited…everything I just wrote is accurate per the county assessor’s website – yea!)

Alameda real estate this week…

Active listings 173, 163 last report
Pending listings 60, 67 last report

Tuesday tour 12, no repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 13

Price changes 11

BOM (back on market) 1

Pending 8

Sold 10

Expired 6


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

Winner Harbor Bay lagoon home, completely remodeled (addition and upgrades) – will be interesting to see how the market responds to the price of 1.3M

Bang for the Buck great space potential in the high basement (brick foundation) of this Vict duplex

Cute/charming Nice upgrades in this single level HBR home, in a great cul-de-sac, next-to-park location.

Out of rehab (kinda) get me back (kinda) the link shows the property last year, then this year.

Have a great weekend! Call if you have questions about the tax challenge process, need vendor referrals, or have market questions.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 6th, 2009

“Go get them – you have never been one to hold back your opinon.”

(Some things just strike me as funny. And so it was on Monday when I noticed the un-bumper sticker on this rather well-worn Volkswagen van. I didn’t have my camera! On my way to the HBR sales meeting on Wed morning I tried to figure out where I’d seen the van…and I found it. This time I had the camera.)

It all kind of fit in with this Facebook thing I’ve been playing around with. There’s a group of folks from high school I’ve kept my eye on and I’ve made a couple of contacts. I’m quite sure I’m being ignored the same way I’ve chosen to ignore various requests to be my ‘friend.’

But I digress. The prime era for VW vans happened to be when I was in high school. For a graduation present my folks gave me $800 to buy a car of my choice so I could commute to Long Beach State. The only car I wanted was a VW bug. And I got a great one, until it was totaled on a Sunday morning at the intersection of Oak and Central. Got t-boned by a heavy metal Ford Fairlane driven by a little old lady who ran the stop sign (no signal there then). Oops. I again digress.

Back to Facebook. It’s been a big blast-back-to-the-past week. The capper was a comment from a guy in the high school group. He read last week’s post and observed “Go get them – you have never been one to hold back your opinion.” Now that’s just scary. 35 years of no contact – I was that way then? Nonetheless, last week’s post did get some very positive feedback.

Alameda real estate this week….
I had two closings in the past week. 450 Taylor (see sidebar) closed for my Buyers – a nifty Victorian with a wonderful high basement area they are going to put to good use over time once they get that brick foundation project completed. And the fixer 1/1 bungalow on Foley listed for 199K, closed in 14 days after being on the market for 8 days. All cash, completely ‘as is’, 230K (see sidebar and click on the website).

Everyday the rules are changing. The lenders can’t make up their minds what they want for documents. They are over-reacting and making of demands of the best qualified borrowers they’ve seen in years. The government is making new rules for existing and potential owners. It may be well worth your time to check out the following (these descriptions and links come from one of my California Association of Realtors online trade publications):

President Obama’s plan
to stabilize the housing market has two main parts: 1) help for homeowners whose homes have little or no equity to refinance and 2) assistance for struggling owners by giving government incentives to lenders encouraging them to lower mortgage payments to 31% of a borrower’s monthly gross income.

House of Representatives Democrat from Hillsborough, Jackie Speier is proposing aid that will help refinancing in the high-priced Bay Area.

FHA loan limits to increase in some high-priced areas.

California home buyers could get up to $18,000 in tax CREDITS

Active listings 163, 164 last report
Pending listings 67, 70 last report

Tuesday Tour 3 with 2 repeats

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 9

Price changes 13

BOM (back on market) 1 (a Woodstock co-op)

Pending 6

Sold 6

Expired 8 (many are showing up as new listings…)

Withdrawn/cancelled 2

Alameda real estate awards…remember this is only my perspective and this week I have no perspective. Nothing was worthy of an award.

Have a great weekend! Longer days and lots of sun…

Carry on! marilyn

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