THE SECOND STORY | March 2nd, 2021

Your Refund Could Open the Door


One of the silver linings to filing your income tax return is finding out that you are going to receive a refund that could literally open the door to owning a home. If you happen to be one of these fortunate taxpayers, your next decision is what to do with it.

With the average tax refund near $3,000, it could be the ticket to buying a home sooner rather than later. Regardless of the size of your refund, it can be used toward the down payment or closing costs of the home.

Most people think it takes 10% or more down payment to purchase a home, but actually, it is much less because of several low down payment mortgages . There are VA and USDA mortgages that allow for no down payment for qualified buyers. FHA has a 3.5% down payment program and FNMA and Freddie Mac have 3% down payment mortgages for qualified creditors as well as 5% down programs.

Closing costs for originating new mortgages can easily range from two to three percent of the purchase price but most lenders will allow the seller to pay part or all of them based on the agreement in the sales contract. If you are using a VA or USDA loan, your refund could go toward paying the closing costs.

On a practical matter, if you are due a refund, have it deposited directly into your account. It is necessary to trace the source of the funds. Cashing a refund check and depositing the cash adds an unnecessary aging requirement.

Maybe you have the money saved for your down payment and closing costs but you have other debt that is keeping you from qualifying for a mortgage. The IRS refund could be used to pay down that debt. However, you need solid advice from a trusted mortgage professional before you do that.

While the average tax refund might not cover the down payment on the median price home, it certainly helps. Your refund could make it a simple as 1-2-3 to get into a home.

  1. Get the hard, cold facts for the homes and mortgages in your area and price range.
  2. Get pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional.
  3. Start looking at homes.

Download the marilynschuto get started.

THE SECOND STORY | February 25th, 2021

Properties are flying off the shelf….

…like toilet paper in Trader Joe’s (nearly a year ago) and interest rates have dropped a lot.

This pumpkin was on my front porch for Halloween. I moved it to my back porch and and it sat there for months. Then this morning some type of animal left some scraps behind. Now it’s in the green bin!

I’ve had some conversations with some folks over the last 2 months. Sometimes they’re local, and they own property out of town and/or they’re thinking of buying further north, or selling/buying land out-of state. Another friend is no longer ‘local’ but she’ has raw land in AZ. She now lives in a different state. She called me about her situation.

IF you are thinking about making a real estate decision (buy, sell, rent, lease), etc. please be sure you don’t sign anything that may commit you to something you may not understand.

I took 5 commercial classes (decades ago) over the course of 2 years, all out of the area and some were out of state. Because I didn’t have the body of commercial sales/work in my portfolio, I wasn’t able to get the designation….CCIM (Certifed Commercial Investment Member).  Another agent and I wanted to have the same knowledge that these folks (mostly men) had.

One of best things l learned in those classes was about IRC 1031 Exchanges (and 1031 Reverse Exchanges).

I do not give legal/tax advice…and encourage folks to find an advisor that knows about exchanges and reverse exchanges. I

f this description fits you or a friend, I may be able to refer you to one or more of the agents that have this designation. But when in doubt…go to your account/tax advisor and ask the simple question – ‘What is a 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange?” If you don’t get a logical answer, spoken in plain English, you may want to keep looking for better advice.



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active listings this week 16 

DOM  1390 high  6 low  168 avg  med 42

Pending listings this week 16 (including 1 PSB)

DOM  124 high   0 low   28 avg   med 12

Sold listings this week  16

DOM  83 high  0 low   26 avg   10 med

Have a fun weekend – my phone says it will be sunny!

Have questions? Let me know or maybe you have the answers to my questions!

Best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | February 23rd, 2021

Transferring Property Prior to Death


Sometimes, as people approach the inevitable, they start trying to get their things “in order”. They may even have a will, but they decide to transfer title to real estate prior to their death which could be an unnecessary expense for the would-be heir.

Generally, when property is passed through direction of a will, the heir will receive a stepped-up basis which means that the fair market value of the property at the time of death becomes the cost basis for the heir. If the property were sold for that fair market value, there would be no gain and no capital gains tax due.

However, if the property is gifted prior to death of the donor, along with the title to the property comes the cost basis of the property. The transfer of title does not trigger the capital gains tax but when the property is sold, the gain is calculated by subtracting the basis from the sales price leaving a capital gain subject to tax. In other words, the person receiving the gift does not get the stepped-up basis.

There certainly can be advantages to transferring the property prior to death. It completes the transfer without having to wait for the death and bypasses the probate process that might be required to settle the will. Another advantage to the donor may be to remove the property from the owner’s name which could lower the taxable estate.

Some owners may transfer title prior to death to qualify for Medicaid. The value of the asset may make them ineligible. It may trigger a Medicaid Transfer Penalty when the gift is made within five years and the basis of the property is less than fair market value.

Once a property is deeded to someone, the donor loses control of the asset and it cannot be reversed. Depending on the value of the estate, there could be gift or estate tax implications. As mentioned earlier, it may have capital gain tax consequences for the donor when they dispose of the property.

If the person receiving the gift has creditors or judgements, the gift becomes an asset subject to those creditors or judgements.

Even though the mechanics of transferring title to a property is simple, there are many things to consider for both the person giving the property and the one receiving it. Consult an attorney and tax professional to determine the best informed decision available. There could be other alternatives that would better serve your situation.

THE SECOND STORY | February 18th, 2021

Rain rain go away…and leave your branch/twigs on the downspout.

One photo says a lot…

Look closely!

This is an example of how lousy painters paint!

There’s a branch/twig stuck in a rain gutter/downspout. 

What did the painters do? They left it there and painted over it.  

If you want/need some excellent painters, let me know. They painted my house in 2019 and they have an excellent warranty for what they paint!

In fact….I keep a vendor list in my computer, that I use to refer neighbors, customers, and friends to, for all types of work! If you have any vendor that you are super-pleased with, let me know and I’ll add them to my list, once I check them out!

If you need a vendor, I’m happy to refer her/him/them to you!



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active listings this week 21 including 1AC and 2 PCH

Pending listings this week 14 including 4 PSB

Sold listings this week 6

You can see that the inventory count is low, prices are high, interest rates are low, and demand is high.

Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 16th, 2021

Is It Time to Cancel the Mortgage Insurance?


Mortgage insurance benefits the lender if a borrower with less than a 20% down payment defaults on their loan. Most conventional mortgages greater than 80% and all FHA loans require the borrower to have this coverage.

Private mortgage insurance on conventional loans can range from 0.5% to 2.25% based on the loan-to-value and the credit worthiness of the borrower. A $350,000 mortgage would have a monthly mortgage insurance premium of $146 a month at the low-end of the scale and over $600 on the high-end.

You may request that your mortgage servicer cancel the PMI when the principal balance reaches 80% of the original value at the time the loan was made. You should have received a PMI disclosure form when you signed the mortgage documents stating the date. If you have made additional principal contributions, it will accelerate the date.

Other criteria considered to cancel the PMI on your loan is:

  • The request must be in writing.
  • You must be current on your payments with a good payment history.
  • The lender may ask that you certify there are no junior liens in effect.
  • If the lender is concerned that the value has declined, an appraisal may be required to show that it is eligible.

Conventional loans are supposed to remove the mortgage insurance when the unpaid balance is 78% of the original purchase price.

Another possibility is that the lender/servicer must end the PMI the month after you reach the midpoint of your loan’s amortization schedule. For a 30-year loan, it would be after the 180th payment was paid. The borrower must be current on the payments for the termination to occur.

With the rapid appreciation that many homes have enjoyed in recent years, homeowners may be able to refinance their home and if the new mortgage amount is less than 80% of the current appraised value, no mortgage insurance would be required.

The owner would incur the cost of refinancing but eliminate the cost of the mortgage insurance. To calculate the savings, subtract the new principal and interest payment from the old principal and interest with PMI. Then, divide the savings into the cost of refinancing to determine the number of months necessary to recapture the cost.

FHA loans have two types of mortgage insurance premium: up-front and monthly. For loans with FHA case numbers assigned on or after June 3 2013 with LTV% greater than 90%, the MIP will be paid for the entire term of the loan. If that is the case, refinancing on a conventional loan is the only way to eliminate the MIP. For loans with original LTV% less than 90%, the MIP is collected for 11 years until the balance is 78% of the original amount.

When buying a home, purchasers may not have enough resources for a large down payment. It is understandable to use the best mortgage available to buy the home. The next goal should be to manage the mortgage to lower the overall costs. In this article, we explored eliminating the private mortgage insurance.

THE SECOND STORY | February 11th, 2021

Shredding Party…get your stuff together! Free to you, from me! 9am-1pm MAY 1, Saturday!


       Blooming hedge!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been clearing stuff out of your living quarters since last March.  What I don’t see, doesn’t exist…until I look in the cedar chest, an old chest of drawers in a bedroom, a closet in another bedroom, a hall closet. They’re full of photos, trinkets, memories: different generations from both the Schumacher family and the Willson family.

One of these days I’ll be motivated to do what I did years ago…digitize them. I think I did it through Costco, but I gave up that membership years ago.

Have stuff, will fill.  As long as I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. But in kindness to my kids, maybe I’ll have to rejoin Costco get those photos digitized and pick up one of their roasted chickens, too.

This week I had the opportunity to work with a ‘new’ buyer. She was referred to me by another previous client. She’s one smart cookie! I called the agent tonight, whose listing we looked at last Sat. @ 2055 Whitehill Place. Turns out we both rode our bikes over there (much to our surprise).

It was listed for 800K, the price that the owner paid for it maybe 2-3 years ago. Once we got into the place…it seemed like a house, not a townhouse/condo. Only 12 units in the HOA, has a pool, a large 2 car garage, and a decent patio, on a relatively quiet street. I called the listing agent to see what happened because offers were due today.

They had 3 offers over 900K, and after my call, he added the pending sale into the MLS. No contingencies. That’s what this market is generating. Rates down, prices up, and folks are getting out of the big cities.



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active listings this week 26 including  2AC & 1 PCH

DOM  High 176  Low 5  Avg 132  Median 45

Pending listings 14

DOM  High 83  Low 0   Avg 15  Median 10

Sold listings 16 

DOM  High 138  Low 0  Avg 26  Median 6

We need the rain! Looks like Sat and Sun will honor us with that.

Be well! Start clearing out your paper (taxes, notebooks, binders, etc!)

Call if you have questions about the market…but I’m not sure that I have the answers!

Best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | February 9th, 2021

Make Your Best Offer FIRST


This strategy is not about trying to negotiate the best price; it is about beating out the competition and buying the home. It may be difficult to understand until you have lost a few homes to better offers but when the reality of the situation is that there are not that many homes on the market, the competition heats up and different tactics are necessary.

Sales in December were annualized at 6.76 million, a 22.2% increase year over year according to the National Association of REALTOR®. The median sales price is $309,800 which is up 12.9% from the previous year. Inventory for December fell to 1.9 months’ supply from 3.0 months’ supply in December of 2019. Six months inventory is considered a balanced market.

Things that work in a buyer’s market will not work in a seller’s market. The shortage of available homes for sale has led to not only shorter market times but multiple offers that have sales prices above the listing price. Buyers, especially in entry to mid-level priced ranges, may have lost out multiple times to buy a home.

Buyers must be strategic if they want to successfully find a home. There are some things that are absolutely essential to just be in the game.

Unless you are paying cash and have adequate proof of funds, you need to get pre-approved. REALTORS® and financial advisors have been saying this for decades, but it is critical now. There are plenty of reasons that benefit the buyer but most importantly, it is to show that a buyer is serious and has gone through the effort to have a lender run his credit and verify his income, expenses, employment, and credit.

If the home fresh on the market, in a desired location and price range, you need to assume there will be competing offers and you may never even get a counteroffer from the seller. You need to consider making your highest and best offer first, as if you will not get a second chance. This is more difficult for some people than others because of their bargaining nature.

Earnest money that accompanies a contract shows that the buyer is acting in good faith. The amount that may be customary may not be enough in a competing market. Consider two or three times what might be normal. Talk to your agent about what would make an impression on the seller.

While contingencies will protect your earnest money from specific concerns like loan approval and inspections, the seller will look at them as ways that the buyer can get out of the contract and they’ll need to put the home back on the market. If a seller is presented multiple offers, they might be prone to accept one with the least contingencies, especially, if the prices are comparable.

There is usually a period connected to the different contingencies that are allowed to complete them. By shortening these times as much as possible limits the time the seller might feel they are in limbo.

If you have the flexibility, you might express your willingness to move the closing and/or possession dates to accommodate the seller’s schedule. This could be an important factor in your favor and could be done in a verbal statement conveyed from your agent to the listing agent.

These are things buyers should consider and discuss with their agent before they find the home that they want to buy. While you are formulating your position, another offer may be accepted before you even make yours. For more information, download our Buyers Guide.

THE SECOND STORY | February 4th, 2021

Last year’s Shredding Party we donated $6080. to Alameda Meals Wheels

Amazing what I can see from my back porch!

The Shredding Party…is booked for

Saturday, May 1, 2021!  9am – 1pm

It’s free to you, and I pay for everything!

However, if you chose to donate to



Last year we gave $6080. to AMOW!

This is the perfect time to get rid of your paper:

taxes, receipts, old photos, magazines & newspapers!

Tell your neighbors, friends, enemies, everybody!



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

Active listings this week 12  (including 8 new)

DOM  High 1360  Low 0  Avg 127  Med 67

Pending listings this week 17 (including 1 PSB)

DOM  High 107  Low 0  Avg 13  Med 7

Sold listings this week  11

DOM  High 305  Low 0  Avg 39  Med 7

Be careful out there….folks are driving their cars/trucks well-above the speed limit and masked walkers, masked dog-walkers, and masked bike riders are doing their best to stay out of their way.

Call / email / text if you have questions!  best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 2nd, 2021

Home Insurance and Mortgage Insurance


Many homeowners with mortgages pay for both types of insurance but only one of them protects the owner.

Homeowner’s insurance covers damage to your property and losses from fire, burglary, vandalism, and other named natural disasters. When an insured has a loss, they file a claim with the insurance carrier which would be subject to the deductible mentioned in the policy.

If the homeowner has a mortgage on the property, the lender will require that the borrower carry adequate insurance on the property and name the lender as an additional insured. This protects the lender that the home will continue to be sufficient collateral for the loan in case of a loss.

Mortgage insurance is not like homeowner’s insurance in that it is solely for the protection of the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan. Usually, lenders require mortgage insurance on any loan greater than 80% loan-to-value. Occasionally, they may require it on some loans less than 80% based on their underwriting requirements and possibly, from anticipated risk from the borrower.

VA loans do not require mortgage insurance. Conventional lenders must remove the mortgage insurance when the loan amortizes below the stated percentage. FHA loans require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

When a property appreciates so that when the owners refinance, the loan-to-value ratio is less than 80%, no mortgage insurance would be required. This can be a strong motivation for some owners to refinance to save the cost of the mortgage insurance.

Mortgage insurance premiums are not regulated by law like homeowner’s insurance is in most states. Most buyers are concerned about the interest rate on their mortgage, but few question the amount of the mortgage insurance premium.

The homeowner can select the carrier for his homeowner insurance, but the lender determines the carrier for the mortgage insurance. When you are interviewing lenders, the type of insurance that will be required and the price of the mortgage insurance should be included in the discussion.

THE SECOND STORY | January 28th, 2021

Winter in A-town…..


San Francisco skyiine after a bit of rain……

                             The rain has arrived! The wind is blowing!

                                 The tides are extremely low and high!

                       My sump-pump is pumping water out to the curb.

                                                 Life is good!

Most agents that I talk with are pretty happy with virtual meetings. It took a while to get used to them. And we’re constantly saying ‘your muted’ or ‘you need to mute yourself.’ That’s happened to me a lot!

I’ve been able to adjust (mostly) to the new normal. Real estate is very different and in my mind, I think it’s mostly better. No driving clients around to see properties (not so safe), no open houses (totally not safe), virtual tours are better than ever (the photos, the videos, the floor plans).  It’s like going to the grocery store and buying stuff right off the shelf…you don’t open anything (not safe at all)… except you’re buying a property. Plus the rates are so low.

if you are thinking about making a real estate purchase, talk to a trusted lender and find out how much it will cost you to make that purchase, and have your real estate agent give you an approximate net sheet (drawn up by the title/escrow company) to see what the local fees, taxes, cost of purchasing will be. The last thing you want is to be shocked by the extra costs.

If you have questions, as a seller, I will coach you about what you should do to prep your property BEFORE it goes on the market. I’ll let you know what is happening in Alameda regarding pricing.

If you have questions, as a buyer, I will coach you regarding the language of real estate, and what is happening in Alameda regarding pricing.

If you look at the stats for this week, you’ll see that most of the sales are going way over the list price. In reality…the BUYER is the one that sets the price. The Seller, in this market, prices the property so there will be multiple offers.

New computer programs are showing up…some ok, some not, some are great.

AC (active contingent on selling another property)
PCH (price change)
PSB (pending sale, want backups)
DOM (days on market)

Active listings 26 including 3 AC and 3 PCH

DOM  high 1362   low 7  avg 133  median 65

Pending listings 15 including 1 PSB

DOM  high 160  low 3  avg 28  median 11

Sold listings 12

DOM  high 73  low 0  avg 12  median 6

Hopefully, the rain will continue with some sunshine in between the storms. Wear a mask and your foul-weather gear.

Talk to me if you have questions. If I don’t have the answers, I’ll let you know, and I’ll try to find out those answers.

Carry on! best, marilyn