THE SECOND STORY | September 29th, 2020

Alternative Investments


In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have rarely been this flush with cash. The economic uncertainty due to the pandemic and the volatility of the stock market has caused assets in money-market funds to increase to approximately $4.6 trillion, the highest level on record according to Refinitv Lipper.

The question becomes should an investor be “out of the market” until things settle down or should they seek to find alternative investments to produce satisfactory results. Even in the middle of this uncertainty, residential rental property has been a stable performer.

Rents are continuing to increase along with values. Investor mortgages are available at 80% loan-to-value at fixed interest rates for 30-year terms. Most other investments must be purchased for cash or at best, are limited to low loan-to-value loans, at floating interest rates for relatively short time frames.

The use of borrowed funds, especially at today’s low interest rates, contribute to the rate of return and in some cases, increase it. This characteristic is known as leverage.

Income properties enjoy specific tax advantages like long-term capital gains rates lower than ordinary income rates, standard depreciation, which is a non-cash deduction, as well as expensing many big-ticket items in the year purchased.

Tax deferred exchanges are available for investors wanting to avoid the tax due on sale and defer the profit into the replacement property.

One of the most cited reasons people invest in rental homes is that they feel they are more in control. They understand a rental home because it is the same type of property and requires the same maintenance as the home they live in. They can make the decisions to improve it, repair it, what rent to charge and when to sell it. For most owners, a home represents their largest financial asset. That familiarity becomes a natural bridge to decide to invest in rental property rather than something they are less familiar.

If you’d like to know more about the benefits, download the Rental Income Properties guide and call me at (510) 908-9021 to discuss what kind of opportunities are available.

THE SECOND STORY | September 24th, 2020


One of my real estate cohorts told me that she had a Seller who was hugely burdened by moving. “Good news,” the widowed husband said,  “I found my wife’s ashes.” OMG.

Per usual, if you have an open space…you’ll fill it with ‘stuff.’ We all need to pare down.

Speaking of cleaning…I had my annual check-up for my teeth last week. My dentist -for-the-day let me know that he was looking for a house in Alameda. I handed him my card, and went on my happy way….without any cavities.

Because we had the time to get to know each other last week, (he with his mask on and me without a mask, with my mouth wide-opened), I let him know to call me if he had any questions about the market.

He called me on Wednesday, saying he made an appointment with an agent who had a listing that he (and his family) wanted to see. He decided to call me because he didn’t want to work with the same person who was representing the seller. Smart man! It was nice to meet his family: comprised of 3 generations.

Last evening I prepped the PEAD (Property Entry Advisory and Declaration – Visitor) form so we could access the house.

It was a bit weird inside…and it didn’t work for my clients. We agreed that the location was great but…not the right house.

Remember – I let people know that you buy a location…that comes with a house (condo, townhome, TIC).  But if the location is not right or the house (condo, townhome, TIC) is not right….we move on!

I love working in this town…because folks are just friendly. 


Thank you, Betty!


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

ACTIVE LISTINGS  54 including 2 BOM and 5 PCH

Days on market   high 1237  low 4  avg 59   med 9

PENDING LISTINGS  15 including 2 PSB

Days on market  high 81  low 0  avg 16  med 11


Days on market  high 16  low 51  avg 17  med 12

We’re done! Enjoy the weekend. Contact me if you have questions about the market…or just want to chat!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 17th, 2020

Maintenance records.

My name is on this chalk board along with Andy Weber and John Poole, both were local contractors back in the day!

A friend sent me this photo. It details what’s been done to a portion of the subarea of his huge Alameda house. He has definitely had upgrades done over the years but this kind of takes the cake.

These days we don’t need to rely on chalkboards but it’s a very good thing to put your receipts/finaled permits for work done on your property in some type of online file system. I use Dropbox.

If you decide to sell…those records (or lack thereof) will justify the price that the Buyer is offering.

Getting a pest and property inspection done upfront, by the Seller, makes the whole process much easier. The Buyer may decide to wipe out (remove) the physical inspection contingency with her/his offer.

If you have questions about who I used for these inspections, give me a call, email, or text me. Many home inspectors don’t have actual contractor licenses. This is a big negative to me. My inspector has a Contractor’s license as well as a Structure Pest Control Operator’s license.

And BTW….he was the ‘G.C’ (general contractor) who built his own 5000 sf home in Moraga, and he still did inspections for me here in Alameda.

Let me know if you need/want the name of the company and how to reach the office.


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Active Listings  36 including 1 BOM, 2 PCH

Days on market  High 1229  Low 6 Avg 79  Med 31

Pending Listings 15 including 3 PSB 

Days on market  High 38  Low 3  Avg 15  Med 12

Sold Listings 21  High 59  Low 0  Avg 15  Med 13

We’re done! The air is so much nicer today….let’s hope it stay that way for the weekend!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 10th, 2020


I have 2 emergency kits in my car. I also have a very large, tough plastic bin in the corner of my back yard (like you might find on docks).

Orange sky Thursday morning. And it only got worse.  The lovely woman who runs/manages our Alameda office of BayEast,  said that it was like waking up on Mars.

In my car is a backpack that I got from KQED (NPR) for giving them a donation (which I continue to do each month), 2 or 3 years ago.

The duffle bag was a gift that was given to those of us who are involved with leadership, from the President of the BayEast Association of Realtors, late last year, at their inauguration party.

The duffle bag is full of all kinds of stuff to survive on and with. There is a battery-powered lantern, a wind-up radio, a blanket. I’ve added a couple of extra roll-up bags that more stuff can be stuffed into.

Due to my flying adventures, and my sailing adventures with my late husband, Carl, I always carry a pocket knife with me. I may not be able to carry it on a commercial flight…but if I’m checking in my bag, I’ll put it in my roller suitcase.  

I also have a very large tough plastic bin in the corner of my backyard (like the ones you might see on docks) that holds more supplies.


With all that is going on these days, I think these packs, bins, and bags are a necessity. Now I have to pack the packs back up again!

What do you have in your bins and bags?


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Active listings 36 including 3 PCH 

Days on market  high 1223   low 8  avg  77  med 28

Pending listings 10 including 1 PSB 

Days on market  high 35  low 4  avg 17  med 17

Sold listings 14

Days on market  high 179  low 0  avg 22  med 7

best, marilyn

Maybe the smoke/ash will make the ‘I don’t wanna wear a mask’ folks put on a mask, eh?

THE SECOND STORY | September 8th, 2020

It’s Worth Digging a Little Deeper


There are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, for one reason or another, they cannot afford to buy a home currently. Some people may not for any number of reasons but it would be very surprising to know how many who can buy but have gotten some bad information along the way. It’s worth digging a little deeper to find out the facts.

John and Karen have been renting a home for the last five years at $2,000 a month. During that time, the value of the home they were renting went up by $30,000 in value while the unpaid balance decreased by $18, 400. Even though they were fortunate enough the rent remained constant over the five years, they missed out on close to $50,000 of equity that the owner realized instead of them.

Another thing to consider with today’s low interest rates, it is quite common for a mortgage payment to be lower than a tenant is paying rent for a similar property. So, in this example, John & Karen paid more to rent than a house payment would have been and missed out on the equity build-up that occurred due to appreciation and amortization.

The simple fact is when tenants like John and Karen pay their rent, the landlord is the beneficiary of the rent received as well as the equity earned. Over time, the rent paid by John and Karen and other tenants will pay for the landlord’s rental. It a great concept and a good investment.

True, not everyone can afford a home. A buyer needs money for a down payment and closing costs. They also need to have income and good credit to qualify for the mortgage. Some of these may seem insurmountable but instead of imagining that buying a home is not in the cards at the current time, talking to a real estate professional is a better route to take.

There are lots of low-down payment mortgages available including 100% financing for qualified veterans and USDA eligible buyers. It is sometimes more difficult to find sellers willing to pay all or part of a buyers closing costs when inventory is low, but lenders do allow it. It is a matter of finding the willing seller.

The source of the down payment could be a gift from a family member as long as there is no repayment expected. It’s amazing how many parents or grandparents might be willing to help a relative get into a home. Funds for a down payment may be available as loans or withdrawals from qualified retirement programs like IRAs or 401k plans. It’s worth investigating based on what retirement programs you have.

Good credit is necessary to qualify for a loan but buyers should not assume that theirs is not adequate. A trusted mortgage professional can assess a situation and may be able to suggest some things that will not only raise the score enough to be approved but possibly, even raise the score enough to qualify for a better interest rate.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about whether a person can or cannot qualify for a home at this time. Instead of relying on second hand information or something that might be floating around on the Internet, spend some time with a real estate professional who can give you the facts, assess your situation and if necessary, point you in the right direction to get help from a trusted mortgage professional. Call (510) 908-9021 to schedule an appointment where we’ll help you dig deeper to determine whether you can buy a home now.

Download our Buyers Guide to give you more information.

THE SECOND STORY | September 3rd, 2020

Very strange ‘new’ listing narratives….

These kids are our hope for the future. (2 of     them are my grandkids.)

I found these listings descriptions to be funny. Maybe because I’m in my house, sitting at the computer watching Zoom/RingCentral meetings most of the day.

TAN means Total Agent Network (you need to be worthy of this listing model).  It’s not your regular MLS. It’s good for those agents that use it and are encouraging their Sellers to use it. I’m a member but I use it for info only. IMHO it’s a bit too exclusive…and I always encourage my clients to get the listing out there ASAP to AMAP (as many as possible).

“TAN Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland $2,295,000. Largest plot w/Grassy Yard, Home Office Family Room, Au-Pair Suite.”   I guess they’re planning for a spacious after-life.

Local agent advertising in the MLS “Watch beautiful sunsets from the deck with a view of estuary pond.” Pond? Really?



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

ACTIVE LISTINGS 37 including 3 PCH

days on market  High 1215  Low 5  Avg 75  Med 30


days on market   High 45  Low  0  Avg 15  Med 30


days on market  High 108  Low 0  Avg 19  Med 8

I’m done! Check out my other ‘for fun’ blog

Let me know if you have comments/inquiries about the Alameda market!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | September 1st, 2020

Grilling Safety


More people grill in July, June & August than any other months and correspondingly, there are more injuries, as well as fires, due to grilling accidents in those months. Even though Labor Day is in September, we still need to be aware of safety.

Close to 20,000 patients per year visit the emergency room due to injuries involving grills. Approximately half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. If you are around fire, there’s a chance of getting burned.

About 2/3 of American households own at least one outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker. Interestingly, gas grills contribute to more fires than charcoal grills. In addition, there are over 10,600 home fires started by grills each year.

While grilling is associated with celebrations, good food, fun and friends, it is important to make sure that accidents don’t interrupt your activities.

  • Only use BBQ grills outdoors and in ventilated areas
  • Place the grill away from home or anything that could be flammable
  • Keep grill stable
  • Keep fire under control
  • Keep children away from grill
  • Never leave the grill unattended
  • The grill lid should always be open before lighting it.
  • Grease should not be allowed to build up in the grill
  • Use long-handled utensils


  • Check the tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by using a light soapy water solution to see if bubbles appear.
  • You should not smell gas when the grill is lit. Move away from the grill and call the fire department.
  • If the flame goes out, turn off the gas for 15 minutes and open the lid before re-lighting it.


  • Never add any starter fluid or other flammable liquid to a fire
  • Only use charcoal starter fluid and not gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquid.
  • Keep starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
  • Electric starters have a coil that ignites the charcoal.
  • When finished cooking, close off the grill vents to suffocate the fire and save some of the remaining charcoal.

Practice safe grilling and enjoy any occasion to cook outdoors and share time with your family and friends.

THE SECOND STORY | August 28th, 2020

Advertising about A-town.

Surprise Birthday Party on my block! Huge balloons and a lot of noise!

I just returned from a late afternoon/evening in Napa. I was invited to dinner by my son’s in-laws. Ev and Erin and their 2 kids drove up from San Diego for the week. While the air quality was quite good in Alameda, it was just a  bit smokey in Napa…but still much better than it’s been there for a while. Not wanting to be a total free-loader, I asked what I could bring. They said I could bring some Tucker’s Ice Cream! So I did.

 I knew I needed to drive my car to Tuckers, otherwise, the ice cream would melt during my bike ride home.

Evan had a part-time job during one of his high-school summer vacations at Tucker’s. And we (including Carl) go waaaay back with the former owners. Needless to say…we were regulars.

A bit of truthfulness- this is the first time during the lockdown I’ve ordered out for anything. And this was the first time that I’ve driven my car off the island since SIP.  But I did drive my car to the Southshore Car Wash a few weeks ago. Now it’s gross again.

Here’s a link to Tucker’s history and what they offer!

Their logos says…”Eat Dessert First!’

All Alameda all of the time!



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

Active listings 45 including 1 BOM and 2 PCH

days on market: high 1209,  low 8,  avg 75,  median 32

Pending listings: 20 including 2 PSB 

days on market: 179  high, 0 low,  avg 29,  median 13

Sold listings:  11

days on market: 108  high,  0 low,  avg 36,  median 16

Let me know if you have ??? about the market! I may or may not have the answers! But it would be nice to chat…whether in person or not!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | August 25th, 2020

Forbearance is Not Forgiveness


Forbearance is a temporary postponement of mortgage payments. The lender can grant this option to a borrower instead of forcing the property into foreclosure. The CARES Act provides protections for homeowners with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise backed or funded such as FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A mortgage holder should contact the lender to explain the temporary difficulty they are having making payments and ask for relief under forbearance or other options. Once the lender grants approval, it is important for the borrower to get the terms of the forbearance agreement in writing to be clear about when the payments will resume and how the missed payments will be recovered.

Generally speaking, homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees and it should not adversely affect their credit. Unfortunately, borrowers must be vigilant to see that the lender is protecting them from delinquent credit marks according to their agreement.

Forbearance is easy to receive but not so easy to recover from. Free credit reports can be obtained on a weekly basis until April 21, 2021 at Reports are available from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This will allow borrowers to monitor whether the lender has inadvertently reported items inaccurately.

Prior to the end of the forbearance period, borrowers should contact their loan servicer, the company that accepts their payments. Review the terms of the forbearance plan and expectations for repayment. Verify the unpaid balance and that there are not any payments marked as late or delinquent during the forbearance period.

One more item to discuss with the loan servicer is the payment of the property taxes and insurance. Since multiple mortgage payments may have been missed and most payments include 1/12 of the annual amounts for these items, there may not be enough to pay for them when they become due.

Since it is estimated that there are over four million borrowers in forbearance currently, it may be difficult to talk to the servicer but starting the process early and being persistent will be helpful.

At the end of forbearance, the borrower needs to resume regular payments and establish a plan with the lender to repay the missed payments. The terms are negotiated between the borrower and the lender.

One way is through a loan modification which can restructure the loan. In some cases, it would add the missed payments to the loan balance and recalculate the payments for the remainder of the term.

A borrower could pay the forbearance money in cash but the practicality of that is not realistic. If the person couldn’t make the payments during forbearance, they probably don’t have the liquidity to pay them afterward. This option is entirely at the buyer’s election.

Forbearance is a temporary way to postpone the mortgage payments with the understanding that you will be able to resume repaying the loan. If the circumstances that caused the issue initially become permanent, then, other remedies must be considered. If there is equity in the property, selling the home may be the way to materialize it for the homeowner.

Please contact us at (510) 908-9021 if you need to know what your home is worth and how long it would take to sell it. We’re happy to provide this information as a service without obligation so you can be aware of your options.

THE SECOND STORY | August 20th, 2020

Attics…more than just dust…

This gal has been in the attic for too long!

Must be the covid thing. But she seems happy with her isolation.

Too many Zoom meetings. Too many Ring Central meetings. But I must say, I’ve been learning a lot about new apps and new programs regarding real estate. Now, which one is best?

I think I need to find an independent person to experiment with these new programs/apps. This person needs to find out if these programs actually do what they profess they do. And they need to think like a dummy or a mannequin.

I must get 50 emails per day about the ‘new, the latest’ real estate-tricked-out programs. I don’t ask for them. Those that have my phone number….I don’t even answer my phone or I just hang up on them. How rude of me…but how rude of them. But it’s a job for them….and I can appreciate that.

I have a personal policy that I won’t try anything out until I know somebody who recommends it.

It’s kind of like shopping for a piece of property, or getting a loan. I wouldn’t just walk into a bank and say I need a loan now. No, you need to get pre-approved for that loan…and that’s a good reason that I suggest that my clients use a mortgage broker, not just a bank.

A broker has the ability to shop various banks/lenders and often she/he will have a solid relationship with some of those lenders. They know how each other works…and the goal is to get the mutual client pre-approved not just prequalified. And that’s how the buyer gets the best interest rate at the best price. Fees include ‘points’ (each point is 1% of the loan amount).

If you need a recommendation, let me know. And I don’t get any $$$ for referring the lender/broker to you. You are the one who needs to be satisfied.



AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)


days on market: high 1201  low 2  avg 75   median 30


days on market: high 1017  low 0   avg 57  median 12


days on market: high 70  low 0  avg 11  median 9

That’s a wrap! Call, text, em me if you have questions about the market, a lender, or just want to say hello!

Best, marilyn