THE SECOND STORY | July 18th, 2019


-Berkeley/Albany Buyer Needs a Place to Cook with Lot for Days

-Oakland/Berkeley Buyer Needs Public Transport or High Cool

-Oakland/Berkeley Buyer Needs Yard and 1.5 miles to BART

These are three samples of many emails I get each week (actually each day). These are from a group that is known as Total Agent Network and some agent needs to recommend another agent so she/he can be part of it.

For the most part, many agents get that some these agents look like idiots. (IMHO).

-Look at what they wrote…

-“Buyer needs a place to cook with Lot (from the Bible?), or a large lot for days at a time?”

-“Buyer needs public transport or High Cool?” Is cool missing an ‘s’ at the beginning of the word ‘cool?’

-“Buyer needs yard and 1.5 miles to BART. ” No house, just a lot with a yard, and it needs to be 1.5 miles from BART?

I encourage all of my clients to NOT have me list their property on this site. I’d rather we use the MLS so the world (as necessary) is told that their property is on the market.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Alameda is a small town. If you whisper a secret on Park Street, in 10 minutes the secret will be on Webster.

Same with selling a house…somebody, either on Park St. or Webster, will say they would have paid a lot more than the Buyers did. And then the Sellers will feel ripped off, because the property wasn’t fully exposed to the market.


Roses from my front yard.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 17

New 17

Total active 64 (including 1 Active-Contingent and 3 Price Changes)

Total pending 65

Sold 13

OK…have a nice weekend. You deserve it!

Best, marilyn



THE SECOND STORY | July 16th, 2019

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer’s needs. The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes. They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls. Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry. The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area. Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages. Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms. Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness. If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate. This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.

THE SECOND STORY | July 11th, 2019

Random summer A-town thoughts…..


+I was fast asleep (well, I thought I was), and I heard the garbage trucks coming up and/or down the street.

Usually, I put the green, blue, and gray bins out on a Wed. night, for an early Thursday pickup. But last Thursday was Independence Day. Nah, they’d take the day off.

OMG! I felt like I was back in 3rd grade. Hauling the cans out (that’s what they were back then), chasing the truck down the street because my oldest brother and I didn’t put them out the night before.

I got up…hauled the bins out…just in case. I went back to bed.

It wasn’t a dream. The ACI folks had emptied them! And they came back the next morning…knowing that lots of the bins weren’t out the evening before. One big hurrah for ACI (Alameda County Industries).

+And speaking of bins….I cleared out my car trunk this week. Threw a bunch of stuff away…and then I came across 2 mini fire extinguishers. The indicator said they were nearly empty.

I called the folks @ Alameda Fire Extinguishers (the company that recharges the 7 extinguishers this building)…and found out that the Kidde’s were recalled maybe 10 years ago. How long had I had them? Where did I even get them?

So I got a lesson on how to use the new one…and it will work. I Hope I never need it.

+Hot fun in the summertime! BTW…the Safeway @ South Shore, had a gas leak? or a fire? Everybody was evacuated and the AFD was crawling all over the roof. Good thing they didn’t have those Kidde’s.

+Oh, and if you went to the Jamestown (who owns South Shore Center) presentation Tues between 5-7pm, or Wed between 7-9am, let me know what you thought of it.

This is where they were supposed to make a good impression of their projected changes. It was held in a clear tent-like thing, close to McDonalds. There were no seats. (I thought it was a presentation.) There was nobody from Jamestown presenting their ideas to the whole group.  They had some light snacks, and some wine (I don’t drink alcohol). And their flyers looked like blown-up website photos. And BTW….this project is supposed to include 1215 multi-family housing units. How are they supposed to get these folks off and on this island, and on landfill? One representative told my friend, that liquefaction wasn’t a problem.

Just some random thoughts…

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 8

New this week 24

Total Pending 67

Sold this week 11

That’s a wrap! 

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 9th, 2019

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill. Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve. Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently. If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool. If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you’ll need to turn it off. Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down. There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate. Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner. There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause. Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

THE SECOND STORY | July 5th, 2019

Parade watching…

My friend, Kevin, said I missed two bridges in Alameda….over the lagoon on Grand Street and over the lagoon on Broadway! He wins! I cross them all the time!

The afternoon of July 3rd, Grand Street residents had put out chairs for our parade (and party) attendees, that lined the streets! And the party I went to on Park Street, did the same thing! They were chained to whatever! I wonder if we will see some action from our local city officials about that. Probably not…one of them lives on Grand Street.

Good news for me….while I verbally said I’d volunteer to work with the ‘barricade brigade,’ for July 4th, on July 2nd I heard what I had volunteered for: to meet at the Oak Street Police Dept at 6:45am (OMG) for a viewing of a video, and we’d be assigned a place to be until 2pm. Yikes! But I wasn’t signed up…it was verbal! YAY!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tuesday tour 8

Active 42 (including 1 PCH and 1 AC)

Pending 21

Sold 20 

That’s a wrap! Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Let me know if you have ??? about the market…it’s weird out there!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 2nd, 2019

Building Equity

Owning a home is the first step to building equity. Tenants build equity but not for themselves; they build it for the owners.

Equity is the difference in the value of the home and what is owed on the home. There are two dynamics that cause this to grow: appreciation and principal reduction.

As the home increases in value, it is said to appreciate. Various authorities will annualize an appreciation rate based on average sales prices from one year to the next. Since appreciation is based on supply and demand as well as economic conditions, it will not be the same year after year.

If you looked at a ten to twelve-year period, some would be higher than others and there may even be some individual years that it is flat or even declined. For the most part, values tend to appreciate over time.

Most mortgages are amortized which means that a portion of the payment each month is applied to the principal in order to pay off the loan by the end of the term. A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years has $395.06 applied to the principal with the first payment. A slightly larger amount is applied to the principal each following month until the loan is paid with the 360th payment.

If additional principal payments are made, it will save interest, build equity faster and shorten the term of the mortgage. Using the previous example, if an additional $250.00 principal contribution was made with each payment, it would only take 270 payments to retire the loan instead of 360. It would save $69,305 in interest and shorten the mortgage by 7.5 years.

To see the dynamics of equity due to appreciation and principal reduction, look at the Rent vs. Own. To see the effect of making additional principal contributions on your equity, look at the Equity Accelerator.

THE SECOND STORY | June 27th, 2019

Happy 4th of July….

…and if you’re in town maybe I’ll see you at the parade. I’ve volunteered (thanks to the Bay East Association of Realtors) to move barriers around, in a specific location, so the parade participants and observers can get in and out.  And no, I’ve never participated in this way!

First time I’ve seen a bull being ridden in the parade!

OK…answers to last week’s questions!

How many bridges does Alameda have?

6, by my count: High St, Fruitvale, Park St, Bay Farm Island bike bridge, Bay Farm Island car bridge, and Ballena Bay.

What’s the speed limit? Seems like it’s 40 mph…but it’s 25 mpg…but few people follow the law. I could tell the cops where they could sit and watch their speed machines…and make a lot of $$$.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 14

Total active 51 (including 1 AC – active, contingent – one party has a property to sell), 5 PCH – price change – either up or down)

Total pending 67

Total sold 12

Happy Independence Day!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 25th, 2019

Taxes and the Homeowner

Whether you’re an owner now or expect to be one in the future, it is important to be familiar with the federal tax laws that affect homeownership. Since personal income tax was enacted in 1913 with the 16th amendment, homes have had preferential treatment.

The mortgage interest deduction is based on up to $750,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve a principal residence. In addition to the interest, the property taxes are deductible, limited to the new $10,000 limit on the aggregate of state and local taxes (SALT). The taxpayer may also deduct interest and property taxes subject to limits on a second home.

Homeowners can decide each year whether to take itemized personal deductions or the allowable standard deduction which was significantly increased under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Single taxpayers may exclude up to $250,000 of capital gain on the sale of their home and up to $500,000 if married filing jointly. They must have owned and lived in the home for at least two of the last five years. For gains more than these amounts, a lower, long-term capital gains rate is paid rather than one’s ordinary income tax rate.

Capital improvements made to a home will increase the basis and lower the gain. Homeowners are probably familiar that large dollar expenses like roofs, appliances or major remodeling are capital improvements. However, many lower dollar items may also be considered improvements if they materially add value or extend the life of the property or adapts a portion of the home to a new use.

Homeowners are urged to keep records of money they spend on the home that they own over the years so that their tax professional can decide at the time of sale what they must report to IRS.

You can download a helpful Homeowners Tax Guide that explains in more detail and includes a worksheet to keep track of the basis of your home and capital improvements.

THE SECOND STORY | June 20th, 2019

How many bridges does A-town have….and

….what’s the legal speed limit?

Let’s see if our answers match!

Nobody pays attention…but I know where cops could issue lots of tickets! But I guess they’re busy with other items. Do you know of a place where our police officers could rake in a bunch of money re: tickets?

What drives me crazy, is how:

-some bike riders may have a helmet, but it’s not on their head.

-some bike riders don’t have any lights on, when it’s dark.

-some bike riders have no reflectors, or strips of reflector material, so they can be seen.

-some bike riders jump between the sidewalks and the streets.

and on and on and on….

If you have an idea of how many bridges we have…let me know and we can compare them!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour 16

Active listings (including 1 AC, 4 PCH) 46

Total pending 59

Sold 15

That’s a wrap! Short, sweet!

Have a fun weekend! best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | June 18th, 2019

Show Them You’re Serious

June and July are the busiest home sale months of the year. When inventory is in short supply and you may be competing with other offers, it is important to show the seller you’re serious. Make your offer look as good as possible because you may not get the chance to make or accept a counter-offer.

Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. Your home has just gone on the market. There is lots of activity and suddenly, there is more than one offer to purchase. The seller’s first consideration may be to accept the highest offer but there are many other things to consider like closing dates, closing costs, possible repairs, contingencies and of course, the ability of the borrower to get a loan.

Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement. It shows sincerity and good faith that you’re actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller. The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

  1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.
  2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home. The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs. Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.
  3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers’ moving date. If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.
  4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they’ll know sooner that the offer is solid.
  5. If the contingency really isn’t important to you, leave it out of the offer. The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will wonder what might happen to keep it from closing.
  6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home. Consider including a picture of your family and pets.
  7. If you’re not using a digital contract, physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color. You’d be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.

One way to eliminate the competition of multiple offers is by not procrastinating. When you have decided to write a contract, don’t wait; do it immediately and ask your agent to deliver it quickly. Your agent will be able to help you craft a solid offer that makes you look serious and can give you advice that may be unique to your situation.