THE SECOND STORY | October 23rd, 2009

Vehwy skehwy – City Hall redux

Post/Title Story: While I was at the Community Development (not Community Services as I called the new name for the former Planning and Building Dept.) this past Wed., I was informed that the Halloween decorating contest among the city departments had a winner! Welcome to the City Clerk Crypt! This upright coffin and it’s occupant is the friendly greeting visitors receive at our ever efficient and friendly City Clerk’s office! That is the door to the department. Well done. And I’m the one who doesn’t get into Halloween.


Real estate briefs:Real estate briefs:

The low down on serious finance changes
Condos and their owners facing big challenges
Amazing data on CA housing market


Alameda real estate this week: I put another property on the market this week – 1209 Eagle. Two listings closed this week. 219 Cypress B, the Woodstock co-op unit, and 1305 Regent.

Here’s The Second Story for 1305 Regent which closed for 565K as is, on a 619K list. This property is about 125 years old, is neat and tidy, good location, great back yard, and came with a brick foundation and neutered interior. Neutered means no original charm or detailing left, and I mean none! It had served the family well for over 6 decades. When I first met with the owner’s family there was no indication on city records that the duplex existed! Sure it was a house but not the two units. We discussed the options, and they decided to apply for the legalization of the lower unit (complete with very low ceilings) via the city Amnesty Program.

At about the same time, the owner’s line of credit was cancelled by the bank, with no rhyme nor reason. As the daughter launched her mission of getting that re-instated since it was providing the funds for her dad’s assisted living accommodation, other family members started in on the process of getting that unit on the records. There happened to be some solid forenzic details supporting the existence of that unit back to around the 1930’s. The mom had kept hand-written records of rents and tenants. The trim in the lower unit was identical to that in the upper unit. The family had initially lived in the lower unit while the upper unit was ‘modernized’ i.e. neutered. The two original all copper water heaters were still in service. Note two! And two gas meters were in place. Note two! With a thorough floor plan for both units as part of the completed application, the city inspector came out and determined some rather minor electrical needed to be corrected. Based on when the unit came into being, the low ceiling height was a non-issue. Soon we had a legal duplex!

After several offers were received over a few weeks, strong buyers came along using FHA financing which allowed them a minimal downpayment, and then the ability to put their other cash into the property for a big rehab. The financing was a bit risky in that there was no assurance that an FHA appraiser wouldn’t call the foundation.

Sellers are given a laundry list created by the appraiser of items that must be remedied prior to closing. There is just no predictable list from which to anticipate repairs, corrections. Smart agents will put a cap on the dollar amount of that work, or at least a contract clause that states the Seller is to approve the work in writing, thus still retaining some control over unanticipated expenses. Typical items include correcting interior and exterior chipped paint (lead concerns), venting of water heaters, electrical outlets working, appliances operational, roof in good shape. But as my Seller’s daughter found out, the large and rather generic 20 page guideline she discovered on the FHA website, is a bit intimidating.

FHA was designed to help first timers get into safe, relatively low-maintenance homes. Who would have thought that it would be used for Victorian era homes today? But it’s about the only leveraged financing game in the country left!

The east bay appraiser, who knew Alameda and the FHA system, found no lender required work. And actually it made sense because so many of the smaller items had been done prior to market. But the fear of the unknown hung heavy.

And then the the last surprise….the sewer lateral test passed! I guess they don’t make clay pipe today like they used to. About 20 years ago I had a 99 year old house pass that test. And now 1305 Regent. We couldn’t believe it.

All this time there was terrific pressure to close quite a bit earlier than the 45 days called for in the contract – hey, I didn’t write that up, the other agent did it. The buyers were facing the loss of a loan rate lock this past Wed. With the sewer lateral test completed, which saved about 4 days of work, the lender and escrow officer, seller and buyer, jumped through hoops to get the transaction closed. And close it did last Tuesday.

Questions came up about why didn’t we get the sewer issue addressed sooner? Well, when the money to pay bills is sitting in the house, not in the bank, and vendors want their payments in a timely manner, it becomes a choice of what and how to spend what is available. And vendors with whom I do business know the local systems, properties, procedures, and will take their payments through escrow if they don’t have to wait too long. And I’m not about to allow vendors I don’t know come in under the guise of getting a ‘good deal’ or ‘quick fix’ only to have the job mucked up. My goal is to have solid relationships with my vendors and in turn they know they will get paid and I know we can call them if there are subsequent questions and issues.

Alameda is getting some terrific new residents who will do good work to the property. The Seller’s family is resting a bit easier knowing the transaction has been settled. And what about that credit line that was cancelled? The daughter got it reinstated when she was able to find a real human being who took note of her letter to the lender and they worked quickly to get it back in place once some additional documentation of value was obtained. YAY for Jodi and YAYs for all the work that other family members did towards getting this challenging transaction closed.

Active listings 130, 130 last report
Pending listings 96, 117 last report (loads closed this week)

Tuesday Tour 10, 1 of my own so I didn’t see a couple of properties I wanted to check out.

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 12

Back On Market (BOM)

Price Changes 6


Sold 26 lots of those pending sales we saw in the past 30 days!

Expired 6

Withdrawn/cancelled 6


lameda real estate awards this week…

Winner, Cute/Charming, Out of Rehab, Bang for the Buck – all my new listing

Get me to rehab TIE!

Got me a makeover


OK! That’s a wrap! Carry on! Have a great autumn weekend as the daylight fades away! marilyn

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I arrived in Alameda in 1973, as a new bride...with husband Carl Schumacher, both of us from Newport Beach. He was embarking on his career as a Naval Architect (i.e. yacht designer) under Gary Mull. Please see the 'ABOUT ME' page in this website! to see how it has all turned out! I'm so blessed!