THE SECOND STORY | May 13th, 2021

The Results Are In…

I knew the Shredding Party went pretty well, and there were a few checks that came in last week…

Bottom line: We (all of us) were able to donate a total of $7419. 00…

…to Alameda (city) Meals on Wheels, which included my matching funds.

Thank you to all who came, shredded (or not), and donated!

One of my good friends works for a company that will match any charitable donation (up to a certain capped amount ) that an employee chooses to write a check to, as long as the recipient has been identified as an IRC 501 (C) (3) exemption. And that includes AMOW! And because he made such a lovely donation I matched both his and the company’s donation. 

Alameda Real Estate This Week


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active listings 30 including 2 PCH

DOM  high 1468   low 6  avg 108  med 37

Pending listings 17 including 1 PSB

Sold listings 17 

DOM  high 27  low 1  avg 8   med 7

NEW Showing rules/guidelines for Alameda Co:  More than 2 buyers plus 1 agent can now see a property, as long as the buyers are from the same family. The buyer’s agent needs to call a scheduling service (one of those services Is in the MLS listing) to be sure the time is available. And the Buyer’s agent needs to have his client(s) sign the PEAD form and send it to the listing agent BEFORE the showing takes place. Be sure to verify that the above is current, because the rules are changing….that’s the responsibility of the Buyer’s agent to do! Be Safe!

Have a nice weekend! marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | May 11th, 2021

It’s Not too Late to Refinance


With mortgage rates below 4% since May 2019, you would think that most people would have already refinanced but according to a recent Lending Tree survey, 49% of homeowners say they are considering a mortgage refinance in the next year. The report estimated that over a third of homeowners are have mortgages above 4% and 11% didn’t know what their rate was.

Slightly more than a third of the people surveyed regretted missing the opportunity to refinance in 2020 when rates did hit their historical low. Homeowners should not beat themselves up on this issue because the only way to know to tell that it hit bottom is after it has started going up again.

The current rates are very favorable to borrowers and some economists believe that when inflation is factored in, the rates are close to zero effectively.

While there are nine specific reasons people choose to refinance their homes, two are among the most prevalent: to lower the payment or take cash out of the equity. Most reasons include:

  1. Lower the payment
  2. Lower the rate to pay less interest
  3. Shorten the term to pay off the loan sooner
  4. Take cash out of equity to pay off higher cost debt
  5. Take cash out of equity to improve their liquidity
  6. To remove a person from the loan as in a divorce
  7. To combine a first and second mortgage
  8. To replace an adjustable-rate mortgage
  9. To consolidate debt

There are some commonly held myths about refinancing among homeowners such as:

  • You can only refinance your home once.
  • You must refinance through your current lender.
  • There should be two-percent difference in the rate to justify it
  • You need 20% equity to refinance
  • Applications require a lot of documents
  • You need cash to cover closing costs
  • You won’t save that much by refinancing
  • It’s free to refinance

If your current mortgage is a FHA, there is limited borrower credit documentation and underwriting program. The mortgage must be current and not delinquent, and the refinance must result in a net tangible benefit to the borrower such as a lower rate, lower payment or better terms. For more information, see Streamline or contact an FHA approved lender.

VA has a similar program if your existing mortgage is a VA-backed home loan. The purpose is for a borrower to reduce their payments or make their payment more stable. They must certify they are currently living in or did live in the home covered by the loan. The Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, IRRRL, may be available.

USDA also has a program for current USDA direct and guaranteed rural homebuyers who have been current on their payments for 12 months prior to requesting the loan refinance. No appraisal or credit review is required. There must be a minimum of 40% net reduction to the PITI payment. More information is available.

Before refinancing your home, determine how long you plan to keep the home. If the reason for refinancing is to save interest by getting a lower rate, you may accomplish that immediately. However, if you plan on selling soon, you may not be able to recapture the cost of refinancing.

There are costs associated with refinancing regardless of whether you pay for them in cash, or they are rolled into the cost of the mortgage. These costs can range from two to five percent of the mortgage.

Check out the Refinance Analysis to determine your breakeven point and savings. Call if you have questions or want the recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

THE SECOND STORY | May 6th, 2021

They came, they met, they shredded, they left FEELING GOOD!

Even Ben Franklin was smiling! 

(This was a promotional item that I received in the mail this week:

a pair of sox. What’s up with that?) 

The Shredding Party, last Saturday, was terrific! It was a sunny Saturday, with lots of smiles and a boat-load of kindness. 

I can only say thanks to all of you who participated. We were able to give a total of $6574 to Alameda Meals on Wheels.

I waited until today to turn in the $$$$ because I was receiving more checks from folks. That amount may change upward, should the last check show up.

What’s amazing, is that one of my friends works at a company that encourages donations to worthy causes. That company will match his check, once they see the proof that the check is deposited. 

AMOW says thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Alameda Real Estate this week!


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active Listings   23 

DOM  high 1460  low 6  avg 116  med  29

Pending Listings  16

DOM  high 16  low 0  avg 7  med 8

Sold Listings 11

DOM  high 19  low 0  avg 7  med 8

As you can see, the inventory is almost non-existent. If you are curious about the Alameda market, give me a call, text, email.

If you have questions about the real estate market, let me know. It’s pretty bizarre out there!

Be well, be safe, have fun in the sun!


THE SECOND STORY | May 4th, 2021

Writing a Successful Offer in a Low Inventory Market


With at least 40% less homes on the market currently than there were a year ago, serious buyers have probably experienced the disappointment of losing a home they wanted to buy from increased competition. Today’s buyers are looking for ways to improve their odds of being the best contract without having to use the purchase price as their only tool.

Buyers should reconsider, rethink, and re-evaluate their “must have” features and amenities. It is probably unrealistic in a normal market to think you can have the perfect home at the price you want but in today’s market it is less possible. List the things you must have and the things you would like to have and prioritize them. Try to identify the critical from the convenient.

The next step is to put together your “home” team. You are the captain of this process, but it is essential to have a strong first officer and that is your real estate agent. This professional will oversee the process, advise you on current market conditions and normal procedures. Your agent will even help you assemble the rest of the team like mortgage officer, title, insurance, warranty, inspectors and can recommend service providers.

Your agent can advocate your cause personally to the listing agent by personally delivering the offer and expounding on your strong points to lobby your position. Obviously, your agent will not share anything that you do not expressly give them permission to.

Even before you write the offer, your agent can inquire with the listing agent about any preferences of the seller not mentioned in the listing agreement as well as to use the proper contract forms and addendums.

The following list of suggestions are provided for your consideration realizing that some may not be appropriate for your individual financial situation or comfort level.

  • Get pre-approved from a local lender and include documentation with offer to purchase.
  • Have lender phone and email listing agent to expound on pre-approval.
  • Increase the amount of earnest money.
  • Acknowledge flexibility on closing and occupancy dates.
  • Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
  • Waive the appraisal and have proof of funds to meet the difference in the purchase price.
  • Avoid concessions like asking the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs or points.
  • Avoid including personal property to go with the sale unless specified in listing agreement.
  • Purchase “as is” with right of quick inspection to cancel contract if condition is unacceptable.
  • Shorten time frames on necessary contingencies.
  • Attach proof of funds for down payment or full purchase price if cash.
  • Arrange bridge financing to be able to pay cash.
  • Buyer should pay their own normal closing costs.
  • Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home. Some listing agents are advising sellers to not accept them due to potential discrimination liability.
  • Escalation clause … offer to pay $X,000 more than highest acceptable offer up to a limit.
  • If you physically sign the offer, use a contrasting color ink to add a personal touch. If using a digital contract, change the font and color to distinguish the signature.
  • Make your best offer first because they may not make a counteroffer.

When a new listing hits the market, it is commonplace for there to be a rush of interested buyers that result in multiple offers. It is prudent for you to research and consider which of these ideas you can implement before you find the home; it is much better to have more time to make these decisions, especially, if it involves a mortgage officer or an attorney.

Your real estate professional will be able to tell you if these suggestions are viable and may be able to offer additional recommendations. If you do not have an agent, contact me at (510) 908-9021 or marilynschuto discuss a plan to craft your offer in the most favorable way possible.

THE SECOND STORY | April 29th, 2021

This Saturday… there! Shredding Party!

This Saturday, May 1 from 9am – 1pm!

1829 Clinton Ave. is where the action is!

If you care to make a donation to

Alameda Meal on Wheels,

I’ll match that donation! 

Alameda Real Estate this week!


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)


Active listings 25   

DOM  high 1453    low 3   avg  112   med  23

Pending listings 16 incl 1 PSB

DOM  high 18   low 6  avg 9   med 8

Sold listings 16

DOM high 217  0 low  avg 20  med 21

Let’s get ready to SHRED!

Wear a mask!  See you soon!




THE SECOND STORY | April 27th, 2021

How long do I have to keep this stuff?


“How long do I have to keep this stuff?” is the usual question you ask yourself when feeling that you are running out of room for all this “paper” that may never be needed.

The paper receipt you get from your fast-food lunch may go directly into the trash. The prudent consumer may keep it to reconcile it with their monthly statement and then, trash it. The natural hierarchy with receipts and documents associated with purchases is that as the price or value goes up, the more important it is to keep them. The question becomes “but for how long?”

The following table will give you an indication on how long certain documents related to your home need to be kept according to best practices of tax professionals. IRS recommends that records are kept for three years from the date the taxpayer files their original return or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. There is no time limit in the case of fraud or failure to file a tax return.

Document Length of time to keep
Home Purchase/Sale Documents
Home purchase documents Duration of ownership + 3 years
Closing documents & statements Duration of ownership + 3 years
Deed to property Duration of ownership
Home warranty or service contract Until expiration
Community/Condo Association Covenants Duration of ownership
Receipts for capital improvements Duration of ownership + 3 years
Mortgage Payoff statements or Release of Lien Forever, in case proof is needed
Annual Tax Deductions
Property tax statement & cancelled check 3 years after IRS due date for return
Year-end mortgage statements 3 years after IRS due date for return
Federal tax returns 3 years after filing return or
2 years after paying tax, whichever is later
Insurance and Warranties
Home Inventory Keep current
Homeowners insurance policy Until the replacement is received
Service contracts and warranties Until warranty/service contract expiration
Home repair receipts Until warranty/service contract expiration

Going digital with your records can make them easy to keep as well as to find when you need them. Create a folder on your computer that automatically backs up to the cloud like Dropbox, Google Docs or OneDrive so that if something happens to your computer, you have them safely tucked away.

The main folder could be the address of your home with subfolders for purchase documents, capital improvements, warranties, etc.

When you receive statements that are already in digital format, simply move them to the correct folder and subfolder. If it is a paper format, scan it and save it in the proper folder so you will have it when you need it.

THE SECOND STORY | April 22nd, 2021

Real Estate (CIP) and Roundabouts…..And the 15th Annual Shredding Party!

I zoomed (not zoomed-bombed) our City Council meeting last Tues. night. One of the items on the agenda was how the city would modify our streets, to accommodate bicyclists: specifically where Sherman/Encinal/Central Aves, merge together, thus reducing traffic, time, etc.

(They postponed what I tuned in to hear: some type of modification to our Rent Control regarding Capital Improvement Plan issues. They postponed this subject to another City Council meeting.)


Bring your stuff to the Shredding                        Party…Saturday, May 1, 9-1pm

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but the city staff said it recommended ‘this configuration.’ After lots of discussions, one of the city council members wondered why the staff didn’t have any of this configuration ‘animated’ so we could actually see how this could work.  YAY!

It’s one thing to reroute traffic. It’s another thing to keep folks (in cars, on bikes, pedestrians/joggers/runners/and those that have difficulty walking/running) safe.

If you’ve experienced the crazy green/white/stripes/lanes/ at the corner of Otis and Grand Streets, you may have an idea of what I’m talking about.

It’s tough enough for me to memorize floorplans, but this presentation totally failed to win me over. One would think that the staff would practice on regular citizens. Nope. I stayed with the meeting until 11pm and it started @ 7pm? I had better things to do….like watch the 11:00pm weather report.

Alameda Real Estate This Week


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active Listings 23 incl 1 PCH

Pending listings 22 incl 4 PSB

Sold listings 19

Questions? I may or may not have the answers….and perhaps you have the answers and I can ask you?

Be well, be safe, be happy! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 15th, 2021

Top of Mind….Our 15th Annual Shredding Party!

All of you are invited to my 15th Annual Shredding Party! Tell your friends!

Saturday, May 1st, 9am – 1pm!

This will be the second time we’ve had this party with Covid lingering around. Wear a mask, keep the distance, and IT’S FREE TO YOU, FROM ME! If you choose to make a donation, I will match what you donate, and all proceeds go to Alameda (city) Meals on Wheels! Last year we donated $6080. and the AMOW office staff was ecstatic!

If you want to feel good because you’ve done something good (like donating to Alameda Meals on Wheels)…join us! Text, email, or call me for the address! (It’s at my house.) 

You will see/hear the truck, which will be parked in front of my house!

Alameda Real Estate this week…


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)


Active listings 32, including 1 PCH

DOM  High 1439  Low 1  Avg 8  Med 9

Pending listings 14

DOM  Hgh 8  Low 0  Avg 8  Med  9

Sold listings 12

DOM  12  Low  0  Avg 6  Med 7

If you haven’t heard, the DOM is super low. If you need a loan, the lender needs to put it in writing –  that you’re PRE-APPROVED, not pre-qualified.

If you have some questions about the Alameda market, toss them at me! I may not know the answers but I probably have contacts that do have the answers.

Load up your bags, boxes, and watch those papers turn into bits! Shred away!

Best, marilyn




THE SECOND STORY | April 13th, 2021

Before you pay cash for a home


Before you pay cash for a home, ask yourself if there is a possibility, at some point in the future, you might put a mortgage on the home and would want to deduct the mortgage interest on your federal tax return.

Current federal tax law allows homeowners to deduct the interest on up to $750,000 in acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve a property. When a person pays cash for a home, the acquisition debt is zero. The only way to increase the acquisition debt is to make and finance the improvements to the home.

As with many IRS regulations, there are exceptions to this rule. If a mortgage is secured on the first or second home within 90 days of the purchase closing, the debt is considered acquisition debt. The interest on the funds used to purchase the home can be deducted on up to $750,000 of the mortgage balance.

Assuming a borrower has good credit, the ability to repay the loan and the home justifies the loan, lenders are willing to make mortgages for homeowners. It does not mean that the interest on the mortgage will be deductible.

Additional information can be found in Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, of the Internal Revenue Service at

To deduct home mortgage interest, you must file Form 1040 or 1040-SR and itemize deductions on Schedule A. The mortgage must be secured debt on a qualified home in which you have an ownership interest. Interest on home equity loans is only deductible if the borrowed funds are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.

If you answered yes or even maybe to the question first posed in this article, contact your tax professional to determine the best way to approach your individual situation. For more information, download the Homeowners Tax Guide.

THE SECOND STORY | April 8th, 2021

Slim picking$ and propertie$ are expen$ive!

These were the only clouds in the sky

that I could see

when I took this photo!

All of you are invited to my 15th Annual Shredding Party! Tell your friends!

May 1st, 9am – 1pm!

This will be the second time we’ve had this party with Covid lingering around. Wear a mask, keep the distance, and IT’S FREE TO YOU, FROM ME! If you choose to make a donation, I will match what you donate, and all proceeds go to Alameda (city) Meals on Wheels! Last year we donated $6080. and the AMOW office staff was ecstatic!

If you want to feel good…join us! 

Alameda Real Estate this Week


AC (active contingent on selling another property)

PCH (price change)

PSB (pending sale, want backups)

DOM (days on market)

Active listings 19, incl 1 PCH

DOM  High 1432  Low 0  Avg 120  Med 12

Pending listings 17, incl 3 PSB

DOM  High 217  Low 0  Avg 21  Med 9

Sold listings 15

DOM  High 52  Low 0  Ave 10  Med 9

Be safe out there! It’s not about me…it’s about US!

Have questions about this market? Let me know….I may or may not be able to answer them….

Be safe, be well, and carry on!  best, marilyn