THE SECOND STORY | January 22nd, 2009

Where were you….

Every neighborhood needs a Statue of Liberty. Our neighbors have one…and she was smiling big this last Tuesday! Many of us on this block flew our American flags that day….some are still out.

I expect many will remember, many years from now, exactly where they were when Barrack Obama was sworn in as President last Tuesday. Each member of our little family, spread around the map a bit, had a neat take on the event. Where were you? Share your thoughts with me…I’d love to hear.

I joined a friend for a 7am breakfast at her apartment. Many of you know I am not the best early morning person, unless it’s 1am. But I got on my bike, rode over and we settled down to a huge homemade celebratory meal and three hours of watching the event. And what’s a breakfast without a box of tissues for the tears of amazement.

Evan, in San Diego, watched from work. “We plugged a computer into Bill’s plasma in his office and everyone watched it in there. It was like Christmas morning for me this morning. I woke up on my own, earlier than usual.

Not sure if you guys saw the music at the inauguration, but there was a piece with Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero. McGill was teh clarinetist and is an InstantEncore partner. We actually know his brother, Demarre, pretty well. Demarre is in the San Diego Symphony and runs Art of Elan, a chamber music series in SD that partners with us, too.”

Sutter, in New Zealand, unable to shake her Mass Media college degree and professional journalist background, sent a link from the NY Times and one photo featured a place near and dear to our hearts over the years… Uptown Body and Fender owned by the most amazing, gracious, woman, Giovanna. She turned her immaculate shop into an all day theatre for friends, neighbors, and customers.

“I woke up at 5:28am (NZ time) to take it all in. I watched from my own personal “production studio”. I started watching the live feeds on the two broadcast networks, here, but any time one of the ill-informed Kiwi TV show hosts started talking about inane topic on either(or both) channels, I’d mute the TV and watch via the NY Times website, which had the same feed but without the commentary. Then I’d get tired of the grainy images and turn my chair back to the TV.

Cried a fair bit. Sean (who was already at work this morning, but heard my analysis of the shebang when I got home from work), thinks it was because I was homesick. I think it was just the emotion of the day.”

Erin, in a San Diego middle school science classroom observed, “That sounds a bit lovelier than my situation…getting to watch it surrounded by 36 teenagers, half of whom were busy doodling on their paper or twiddling their thumbs. Some of our students were genuinely moved & recognize the importance of it, but a good number of them felt like this was just another boring event they were forced to watch….Hey, if Obama can’t keep their attention for 15 minutes, I suppose I shouldn’t worry so much when I can’t do the same 🙂 Despite that, it was wonderful every minute. Especially the poem! Overall, what an extraordinary day.”

Alameda real estate this week….

Agents are commenting about receiving a numerous calls about values. I’ve certainly found that to be the case the past two weeks. The questions range from “is the property worth enough so there is enough equity to get a lower interest rate on my outstanding loan balance?” to an opening line of, “Marilyn, is this the most insane time to put a property on the market?”

My answers are as unique as the people and the situations they are in. But those questions generate a series of questions from me….Why now? How long have you owned the property? How is the loan balance compared to what you think is the value? What kind of loan is on the property? Where are you going? Is the trade-off for selling now made up by the discount you’ll get on the next property? What’s the real estate climate like where you are moving? Do you have a Plan B? And sometimes we talk about alternatives.

The answers aren’t easy to give, and they involve simple facts. Alameda is not hit as hard as other areas, but prices are nonetheless down. We’re in it all together. We’ll get through it. Call if you have questions. I’m working full time at this.

Active listings
159, 153 last report

Pending listings
53, 58 last report

Tuesday tour 6

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

New 11

Price changes 7

BOM (back on market) 1

Pending 5

Sold 6

Expired 3

Withdrawn 2

Real Estate Awards this Week..
.remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Cute/Charming, Bang for the Buck

Have a nice weekend…enjoy the rain!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 17th, 2009

December, 2008 Sales Stats & Market Charts for A-Town!

Another year and we start it with a wrap up of the last month of last year. So what’s ahead? I wish I had a crystal ball. I feel there is a real sense of hope, the ‘we can’ attitude that is coming with the change of leadership for the United States. The challenges are massive and we really are all in this together. It’s time to get the house in order…move ahead deliberately to take back our place as the world leader…in innovation and education, yet learn to lead by listening, seeking to understand then be understood. It’s all trite sounding but NOW is all we’ve got. Maximize the moment with an eye to the future of and for the world.

A picture often says 1000 words and so it is with several charts showing a variety of market measurements of Alameda, both zip codes 94501 and 94502. Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive contract with the company who generates these from Multiple Listing Service data and, for those who are inclined to use these tools, they are invaluable resources. And I can format the reports to meet a variety of needs. Nonetheless, they are guides but if you are into data…these are for you!

Sales activity Dec 2007 – Dec 2008 Show charts

December 2008 Sales Stats for Alameda

2 bedroom single family homes (2)

3 bedroom single family homes (5)

4 bedroom single family homes (6)

2 bedroom apartment style condos (1)

3 bedroom townhomes (4)

4 unit apartment building (1)

Here are two examples of the market….

2233 San Antonio (in the 4 bedroom section) closed 11/05 for 770K. It came on the market September 08 for 778K (nice looking, brick foundation), closed for 715K 12/08, so do the math and figure in probably 6-7 % for closing costs.

1210 Paru
Click Here to View Listings
a 5 unit upgraded Victorian conversion w/smaller units, concrete foundation, parking, laundry. Listed for 825K, dropped to 749K, closed for 715K in December.
This is happening across the board. Please see my post of 1/8/09 about Location, Location, and Motivation.

So here’s to a year of renewed personal and world awareness and at least one random act of kindness daily.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 16th, 2009

Soft story buildings in Alameda

The lighter-than-air ship photo I chose for last week gets featured again. I love the color contrast. See last week’s post for airship details.

Tonight I attended the second of two public meetings held by the Planning and Building Department for those who are interested in or affected by the up and coming Soft Story Ordinance. No this is not a feel good, cozy, easy to read story. This is about seismic stability. The proposed ordinance, mostly taken from one enacted in Berkeley, addresses the safety issues posed by buildings with big open spaces that make up the first level – like a garage. This ordinance will be focused on buildings consisting of a least five residential units. Most of them are quite boxy. You know the style. But it also can affect mixed-use properties, similar to some on Park Street. There are lots of apartments above some of those commercial/retail shops!

One of the items the city has yet to figure out is how it will affect condos. We have a fair number of large condo buildings with massive garages under them….The Willows between the beach and Alameda Towney Centry, all the complexes on Shorepoint Court, just off of Westline near Crown Beach, the Park Webster at the foot of Webster Street, the St. Francis Condominiums on Otis across from Bank of Alameda to name a few. How are those folks going to handle the upgrades, whatever they may be? Those buildings are no less vulnerable than all the apartment buildings like them.

The City Council made this a priority item over a year ago and the proposed ordinance first came to public knowledge when Planning and Building staff rolled it out to the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee for the Planning and Building Department back in October. The committee is made up of citizens (I’m one of them) who have regular business contact with the department, representing engineering, contractors, architects, designers, real estate sales and property management, along with the top officials of the department. It big news and some of us scrambled to get word out to stakeholders since it hadn’t been done too well by the department. Anyway, after numerous small group meetings among real estate groups and the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County (I’m the one who called that Executive Director who had not received one word of this proposal), we were able to put the brakes on the first reading of the ordinance in front of the City Council. They were planning on doing that without any public hearings or meetings, or announcements!

But now that two meetings have been held, an article about soft story buildings has been published in local papers, and more folks have been notified, the first reading is schedule for Feb. 17. This ordinance will be passed and it will save lives as well as property. But its implementation is not all that clear yet. To be determined: identification of such buildings, creation of ‘the list’, timing for owners to obtain mandatory engineering reports, requirements for compliance, financing options. Stay tuned.

Real estate this week in Alameda….
The market is NOT dead….but when you check out the sold properties the sales prices may be interesting to you. And so it will be with two transactions I am involved with that are schedule to close by the end of the month.

I got word tonight that Bank of Alameda is out of the real estate lending business. They have not been known to be competitive over the years, hot or cold markets. But they are definitely in business! They are only interested in deposits, and I guess to get your biz they may up the return on CDs. Should be interesting to watch for changes.

The tour was glorious via bike…like a summer day (please, rain soon!)

Active listings
153, 146 last report

Pending listings
55, 58 last report

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats
Click Here to View Listings

Highest priced new listing
(one was higher but not a new listing)
Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing
Click Here to View Listings

New 9
Click Here to View Listings

Price change 8
Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 2
Click Here to View Listings

Pending 8
Click Here to View Listings

Sold 8
Click Here to View Listings

Expired 1
Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn 1
Click Here to View Listings

Real Estate Awards this Week…remember this is only my perspective

Get me to rehab (not a new listing but first time on the tour)Click Here to View Listings

Got me a facelift (owners have had it for 5 weeks – bought it at a foreclosure auction, obviously thought there was room for profit – has a brick foundation and some code compliance issues are being dealt with) Click Here to View Listings

Have a great weekend! I’m chasing a golf ball around on Friday but am working the weekend!

Carry on!


THE SECOND STORY | January 8th, 2009


Have you seen this floating around town? I first saw it the 3rd week of November while I was working on clearing out the storage unit I’ve had that has housed Carl’s office stuff. By the grace of God and some basic regrouping I was able to give the space up! I love this lighter-than-air ship ! It’s so quiet and so massive! As soon as I saw it I grabbed my camera, storage unit forgotten, and chased it over to the Oakland North Field. Carl and I had the very rare opportunity to actually fly the Goodyear Blimp a number of years ago. Yep, really take the controls and fly it. You should have seen the faces of the other passengers! That was a delightful side benefit of being an active commercial pilot at the time. I told the Captain I’d give him a good glider ride if he gave us a good blimp ride….he smiled and then once we were level over the estuary….waved me up to the right seat….

Before we get to the business at hand I’d like to say Happy New Year and I hope your holiday season was calm, peaceful, and joyous.

This post is a bit long….lots to catch up on. Sorry it’s posted later than usual. I don’t do html code and for some reason last night when I was working on this when I would insert a link to a property I’d end up with pages of code I’ve never seen and I couldn’t figure it out. I still haven’t figured it out but I’ve been able to cut and paste around it….ggrrr.

And, yes, my extended trip to Maui was wonderful! Thanks for asking! I know I’m a spoiled brat….but I really did do some work (a Second Story blog posting with Nov. sales stats, I took 2 webinar classes, did loads of business reading, emailed with clients who contacted me about moving and then worked to find alternatives for them, thought about how I might improve my services, just let my mind wander). I zoned out completely for the first week buzzing through two novels while enjoying the warmth.

This time I took my golf clubs with me rather than rent them and despite the transport charge (only on the way back….I don’t get it) and a bit of toting hassle (thank goodness for helpful folks and those airport carts which are free everywhere else in the world but the US) it was really worth it. There is nothing like your own stuff. It’s the most I’ve played over there – 4 rounds. It’s not meant to be a golfing trip. Two of the rounds were the best I’ve ever played. Two and a half rounds were by myself and I didn’t cheat with myself either. Got to play with some friends one day and one member of the foursome was Lon Simmons. He’s a friend of one of the players and he lives on Maui now. It was my first time on the very local, low key course, but it’s his stomping ground. It seems that once he saw I could at least hit the ball, I was worthy of some of his coaching and local knowledge…and it was a blast!

I’ve also learned to ship a box of stuff to Maui so I’ve got things I want (books, DVDs, foam beach chair, big beach towel, insulated lunch bag, travel mug, etc.) when I get there. Then I ship it all back the day before I leave. Much easier. And since this is like home away from home it makes sense.

While I was gone I created a new blog called Timely Shares . If you know of anybody (groups, solo travelers, couples, families) who want great places to stay in Maui or Kauai or Arizona check it out. My travel plans are different for the coming year so I have some of my Westin timeshare units available. They are awesome! For friends and clients, friends of friends, and friends of clients, I’m pretty sure I can give some sweet accommodation deals for when they may want to travel….maybe even to places well beyond the islands and Arizona. Check it out.

Even though I shut my brain down, I must have carried a more open and receptive demeanor this trip. People were coming up to me and asking questions about places, events, attractions, if I lived there, and the such. I found I could answer many of them. It was kind of cool. But I was amazed at how many I spoke with who were from the east coast and there for their first time. All age groups. That’s a long way to go. And the tourist industry is begging for attention so it was great to know folks were deciding to take advantage of the quieter times there.

Coming home to the cold (yep, I am the epitome of a weather wimp) was a shock. I don’t remember being this cold this long. I don’t mean just the weather being cold…it is…I mean I’M cold. Once I put on a jacket, scarf, my Ugg boots…they stay on all day even in the house. I’m not complaining….just observing. This is the first time I have ever come close to understanding why there is a ‘snow bird’ industry….folks fleeing the cold for the soothing warmth of lovelier climes.

Think you know the states of the US and geography? Try this….it’s very clever.

The first three rules of real estate have always been known as ‘location, location, location.’ But in ANY market, motivation must be a factor. It just may be more obvious in a down market. Thus this week’s title, exchanges MOTIVATION for the last ‘location’.

While I was gone an offer came in on my listing at 1233 Regent. Buyer and Seller went back and forth but to no avail. One day after I got home, super MOTIVATION kicked in along with loads of logic for my client. So on Christmas Day he had an accepted offer…we just needed a couple of sets of initials so it went pending on 12/26.

Last week, just before New Year’s Eve I interviewed for a listing. The owner was referred to me by a client here in town. I declined the opportunity. Why? Great location, nice property, NOT MOTIVATED! Folks, when you buy real estate and pay over the list 4 years ago, you’ve made a commitment! Then when you put in 60K worth of spa-like bathrooms, a new furnace (yes, a necessity), add in air conditioning (minimal demand for it around here), then accept your dream job out of state….and the market turns on ya….it don’t care what you paid, what you put in it, or what you want out of it! What’s more, there are actually recent sales in this lovely gated community. And they are over 10% lower than what the Seller feels she deserves for her efforts.

On New Year’s Day I wrote an offer for clients on a property that has been sitting for a while. Fabulous location but with some issues. My clients accepted the counter-offer this past Monday morning. In anticipation of that happening we booked inspections the Friday and Saturday before. After a whirlwind of inspections so far this week…we are about to see how MOTIVATED the seller is. We are a bit skeptical but need to see it through to the end.

One of the thought processes I had on Wednesday morning was that it was too bad we didn’t have the perfect buyers for the property. Then I realized that we DID have the perfect buyers. We just didn’t have the ‘perfect’ market! Despite the significant surprises the inspections have revealed, they are still interested…but not at the price agreed upon. See it’s one thing to put a property on the market with loads of reports and inspections and info. It helps eliminate surprises. It’s another to consciously decide that thorough inspections aren’t necessary. It only creates surprises, and new material facts for the next folks to dwell on if it doesn’t work out with the current prospects. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

As many of you have heard me say, “Save the surprises for birthdays. Surprises don’t belong in real estate.”

PAY ATTENTION! an quick excerpt from my California Association of Realtors online weekly update “Wells Fargo was offering 30-year conforming loans at 5 percent plus one point, while Bank of America was offering the same kind of loan at 6.625 percent plus one point on the same day in December 2008.”

I had to go into Bank of America the other day and they had their rates posted. 4.25% for 417K or less…WOW! Then I moved my eyes to the right and it was 2.65 points! Call me if you’d like reliable lender referrals…straight talk about the choices. I have one client who has recently decided to go with a reverse mortgage (they have changed quite a bit in the past year) and he is much calmer about his financial situation. Not everybody offers everything, plus we have the challenge of being sure a refi will appraise this days. Call if you have questions.

Again, from the above noted source “Stricter underwriting standards, higher down payment requirements, and more rigid credit score requirements are leading many home buyers to apply for Federal Housing Agency mortgage loans. Loans issued through an FHA-approved lender often require only a 3.5 percent down payment and borrowers can have credit scores in the 600 range, as opposed to 720 or higher — the standard for most financial institutions. It’s important to note that although FHA loans appear to be the best option for many home buyers, borrowers with FHA loans often pay a higher premium for mortgage insurance. ” NOTE from marilyn: the mortgage insurance can be a killer. The goal is to logically explore options.

In the next few days I’ll post the December sales activity and sales graphs. For now I’m focusing on what we’ve got since the 1st of January.

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings 146, 175 last report

Pending listings 58, 60 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

New 11 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 3 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 4 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 17 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 1 Click Here to View Listings

No awards this week….the pickings are too slim!

Have a great weekend! Here’s to positive change for all of us despite the world’s glaring declarations of insurmountable issues.

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | December 14th, 2008

November 2008 Sales Stats & Market Charts for A-Town!

Both summer and winter….that’s what it’s like in Maui in December. Warm (but not sweaty hot), and very possibly stormy. It is after all, their winter. I took the BIG surf photo on the left, in December, 2004 at the big surf spot, Jaws . It was a trek to get there but was a chance of a lifetime. Waves were 35′ that day. You can see the small surfer on the huge wave. Obviously it is always a media event. The only way surfers get into the wave is to be towed into via customized jet skis
The other photo was taken in December, 2007 during the 10 days straight of sideways torrential rain, the locals named the Monsoon, the strongest storm since 1983 on Maui. This was the flooded highway in Ka’anapali complete with broken sewer lines, closed beaches and contaminated oceans red with soil run-off. But it was warm!

On to business….

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman is a book not to be missed. I feel strongly enough about it even though I’m only 2/3 through it, that it is worth a recommendation. Some of you no doubt already have read it. I started it a week ago and will finish it in the next couple of days. I should have read it 3 years ago.

Thanks to my daughter for leaving it in Alameda, rather than taking it with her to New Zealand! She had raved about it and for good reason. With a few years as a marketing coordinator for a highly successful, privately held software company based in Alameda, Perforce Software, she had seen the business model(s) used by Perforce over the years (a small but mighty company, and ahead of the curve thanks to Chris Siewald and his team). And it clearly is ingrained into the flat world. (I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to work for several Perforce employees over the years, as well the owners of the company in their acquisition of the properties that has allowed the current expansion to take place .)

Now into our little piece of the flattened world. A picture often says 1000 words and so it is with several charts showing a variety of market measurements of Alameda, both zip codes 94501 and 94502. Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive contract with the company who generates these from Multiple Listing Service data and, for those who are inclined to use these tools, they are invaluable resources. And I can format the reports to meet a variety of needs. Nonetheless, they are guides.

In order for a proper assessment of value to be made, location (lagoon or deep water or mixed used neighborhoods, location within townhome or condo complexes), amenities (interior and exterior upgrades) consistent maintenance or lack thereof, and age/style (ranch, Victorian, single level) greatly affect market value. Also keep in mind that micro market conditions, certainly from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block in Alameda, influence value.

Consumer websites such as Zillow and Trulia sweep info from public records and digitize it. Again, these are interesting, but nothing adds solid insight as much as knowing the neighborhoods, seeing as much inventory as possible, and having solid contacts with other local agents and appraisers who can add insight to the picture.

So even though the exclamation point in the title of the post may not really indicate a blasting real estate market, for those who want to jump into it, move up, move down, or make lifestyle changes and are positioned to do so, this can be an amazing time.

That being said, here are the November stats. Please contact me if you have questions. If you don’t think I will recognize your address, give a call, or certainly reference the blog in your email subject line.


November Sales Stats for Alameda
2 bedroom single family homes

3 bedroom single family homes

4 bedroom single family homes

2 bedroom apartment style condos

3 bedroom townhome

4 unit apartment building

  • 0

Note that since October, there have been no detached homes sold over 900K.

THE SECOND STORY | November 27th, 2008

Family that is maybe more like family than family.

When Carl and I moved to Alameda in 1973, I knew nobody. And he barely knew anybody. We’d just gotten married and started lives together. We hardly knew each other. He was embarking on his dream of becoming a yacht designer. I was all for it. I’d never known anyone with such a vision of a goal and dedication to it. And me? I’d never had a problem being creative about getting work. I either created it just tried to find a hole and fill the void!

Alameda was tough. It was hard to find groups of folks. The roots seemed to grow deeper than the houses are old. Generations belonged to the typical civic clubs, the political clubs, church clubs, the good old boys clubs, and the good old ladies clubs. We had to go somewhere else to find vibrancy. Occasional trips to coffee houses in Berkeley seemed to do that. We walked to the Alameda Theatre for a movie. And then that closed.

But if it’s not your time to be chewed up and spit out, ya hang in there. And so we did. It took me over a year to even have a sense that I knew anybody. When I wasn’t working at my part time job as a Clerk Typist II for the California Youth Authority at a center at 28th and San Pablo in Oakland (now that was rough, and I can tell you first hand about watching a corrupt system), I rode my bike all over Alameda, trying to get to know it. Carl worked for a designer in one of the first buildings at Mariner Square. He’d ride his bike to work, and then I’d ride up to meet him and we’d ride back. We decided long ago that the length of Pacific Avenue pretty much represented the town as a whole. It literally changed from block to block. And it still is that way.

A local barber was the Mayor. Where was I, in Mayberry? Chuck Corica admitted he didn’t know everything (a rarity for an elected official) and I’m told he created citizen appointed committees to oversee each department of the City, then report back to him. Maybe it takes giving shaves and haircuts for six bits (a bit =12.5 cents) being in and among the people to get a clue about how the bureaucracy works (or doesn’t).

The local internet of the day was Alameda Times-Star was locally owned, run, published daily. Editor Abe Kofman championed Alameda Meals on Wheels . Today, his nephew Ed, along with the talented board of directors continues to steer that group under the premise of ‘for all Alamedans, by Alamedans.’ AMOW receives NO government assistance. Rosemary Reilly has run the day to day operations for years and there are no more dedicated volunteers than those who work for AMOW, distributing meals and visits.

Measure A had just been passed. This effectively stopped the demolition of large Victorians and halted the construction ugly box apartment building in their place.

People did care about what they had! They were starting to get a clue.

As Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was our sense of home built overnight in Alameda. But it came. And if we had believed what so many older folks were telling us about young people not coming to Alameda anymore because it was too expensive, then we’d have sentenced ourselves to living in a dying town.

But over the years old thoughts have died and or disappeared. In hindsight we came at an amazing time of shifting sands in Alameda. It’s taken decades to bring that sense of vibrancy back. And it’s good. And diverse. And people have opinions. And it will no longer be business as usual for our schools and city government, or anything! People care and care deeply. And are more open about it. And more thoughtful.

We were so blessed to have had a couple of dear people ‘adopt us’ and take us under their wings during our prolonged ‘figure out the town’ period. And their touches have continued on with a lovely core group of family that is maybe more like family than family.

And I’m so grateful to be here. In Alameda.

That being said, as is my custom over the years, I take a break from writing The Second Story during the month of December. The blog has been a great learning experience and the natural outcome of the private weekly email I did for 8 years until last May. I’m open to new ideas so if you have any I might apply to this endeavor, please let me know.

Real estate this week in Alameda…
With the holidays now here, things do slow down.

Check out how much junk has sold for in the past couple of weeks. WAY over what it would have sold for if it hadn’t been priced at super-perceived discounts. And note what too high has resulted in on the others.

Active listings 175, 185 last report

Pending listings 60, 66 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 2 Click Here to View Listings

New listings 2 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 5 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 7 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 8 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 4 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

Winner Click Here to View Listings

Get Me To Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Happy Holidays!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 20th, 2008

To Comp(are) or to Contrast…That is the Question.

Photo taken 11/15/08 corner of Cambridge and Northwood

I’ve received several emails and calls recently pretty much with the same questions: “What would it sell for?” and “Can you send me comp information?”

One was this week from an elderly woman who owns a condo that has been a rental for a long, long time. And it apparently is a mess. This woman has been a licensed real estate agent for over 50 years but has not been active for several years.

Another a few weeks ago was from an owner I’ve worked with two times previously.

Another was today from an owner who is anticipating a re-fi.

I almost always choose not to answer the first question until I have actually seen the location and the interior of the property. And the answer to the second question is almost always yes.

My qualifier to that answer is that I can send along (email or snail mail, as appropriate) the market activity for a rather generic grouping of properties into which the subject may fall.
It at least allows an owner to start to see where the market activity is (or isn’t). At that moment since the owner knows more about his/her property than I do it does provide some significant info. And of course, we have the usual conversation including “Why now?” and “Can we explore some other options rather than selling now?”

The word comp is rather a misnomer. Way back when I was in junior high we had an English lesson about the words compare and contrast. I’ve never forgotten it. To compare is to find the similarities. To contract is to find the differences.

In real estate we do both. One property sells for more because it may be in a better location, be in better condition, was priced more aggressively. Those are contrasts, differences.

Comparing is much easier to do when the subject is mostly like other properties. Commonality is the key. Like apartment style one bedroom condos. Or a Waterford floor plan out in the master planned Community of Harbor Bay Isle. Many similarities are already in place.

But that’s where contrasts come in once again. If there are upgrades, or a better location within a complex or development or neighborhood, or the subject only has three neighbors who can be seen from the master bedroom instead of 19. Those are distinct differences. (Sidebar, yep, I counted 19 homes I could see from the second floor of a master bedroom out at Harbor Bay one day).

So how do appraisers do it? Especially if they do not live in the area, do not necessarily go on the broker tour, or do open houses. Well, the really good agents find out who the appraiser is, where the person is from, how much work they do in the area, and then offer to really help the appraiser.

A few years ago I did almost everything but write the thing. I met the appraiser at the subject property. The guy was from Marin County, didn’t have a clue about Alameda, and was having a hard time making it ‘work’. The comps he was using were a joke. So I asked for his comp requirements: how much was the spread either side of the contract price, how far away could a comp be, what was the spread between the square footage of the subject and the comp, and how far back could he go for a sale. It wasn’t easy, but I gave him everything he needed and each place fit his requirements. And the property appraised.

What’s that got to do with today? Everything. I got a call about three weeks ago from an appraiser asking why a property was priced so low compared to the comps. The lady was calling from out of the area, doing an appraisal for a refi. When I quizzed her about what she was using for comps, she gladly gave me the addresses. I knew every house. And not one of them was suited as a comp for the subject. And then I explained why. She had not even gone by the properties but she had what they are told to be the important data: lot size, improvement square footage, properties within her distance and pricing requirements. But did she know about mixed used neighborhoods? NooOOOooo. Completely clueless. I asked her what she was trying for on a value and I told her I wasn’t sure it could be done. The owner put too high a value on the application and it just wouldn’t work. So if you are that owner, I killed your deal. Sorry.

But can you see how it pays to do your homework upfront? Don’t pay hundreds of dollars for an appraisal that won’t work. Call your agent! If you didn’t like your agent or don’t know one that is local, call your friends or ask your neighbors who they have used or would recommend.

And this is not just for refinances, this is for when you are making offers! So that means your agent needs to know it, and your lender should have access to appraisers who know it, too. Ya gotta know the territory…and so should everybody you have on your real estate team!

Real estate this week in Alameda….

Speaking of comps….click here to see recent sales trends . Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive arrangment for obtaining this data. Kind of interesting….residential only (condos, townhomes, single family).

Active listings 185, 192 last report

Pending listings 66, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New listings 7 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 7 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 8 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 10 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 8 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 9 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

WinnerClick Here to View Listings I never thought that I’d ever give this to a unit at The Willows. Well, it happened – light, bright, bay views, tidy, and some room in the price I expect. Even my client Jackie, to whom I showed it gave me the “ooowww, The Willows.” when I told her. Well, her “oowww” became ‘WOW!” once she saw it and she just kept saying “Wow”. No sale there though. Jackie wants to give HOA fees the boot. I’ve done two transactions with her previously. She’s fun to work with, and thank goodness, patient.

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Have a great weekend!

And Happy Thanksgiving. I expect we are all looking a bit differently at things this year and making special notes of things specially worth noting. To my extra special dear clients and dear friends – Thank YOU for sharing your lives with me, for making my work challenging and always new, for the opportunity to help you with your real estate needs, for keeping me grounded in the present but looking to what’s ahead! Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 13th, 2008

Too much stuff.

The moon over Alameda is so bright the last couple of nights! But this is the moon over Corona del Mar, last month. (I realized if I make a comment in the blog about the header photo, and later change the photo, the comment makes no sense. So to avoid confusion I’m now including the image in the post content.) And our local tides have been so low and so high. And the light in fall is different as the sun sets south of west…it all seems clearer. And finally the leaves are turning color in our backyard. Now it’s back to hot weather for the weekend.

It’s been a long time since we’ve moved a household…and hopefully it will stay that way. But I am getting a mini reminder of what my clients go through. I’ve decided to reorganize the garage and say goodbye to the storage unit we got when we closed Carl’s office after his unexpected passing in 2002.

I get the storage gig. Relatively safe and secure. Out of sight and out of mind. Pay for the privilege of cluttering up somebody else’s space. Can’t get rid of something? Drag it over to the storage unit. Fuh-git-about-it.

The last couple of months I’ve had to scale a couple of emotional walls I’ve avoided for 6+ years. First, Evan and Erin asked me to pick out photos of Ev pre-1999 so they could make a wonderful book of their lives before and since they’ve been together. That meant pulling out the scrapbooks. Uh oh. Well, after the tears, the smile appeared. Alone and going through those books, I was in awe of the lives we’ve led.

Then knowing, really knowing that both Sutter and Evan not only have all the tools they need to make wonderful contributions to their communities and the world, but that they are using those tools! It’s the grace of God and how good is that!

Now the storage unit. I’ve had no reason to see it for many months. But as the garage has slowly morphed from mostly Carl’s space to one that must serve several masters, it was time to check out the difference between what I remembered was in the unit versus what really was. The big challenge is separating the ‘stuff’ from the person whose stuff it was.

I need to mention I’ve had an excellent helper with this chore. My new super-sized shop vac is my new best friend. The old one was probably four decades old and came from Carl’s dad’s garage. That got tossed last summer yet I just opened the new one last weekend. What a gem it is! Got it at Paganos, and it was on sale too!

So the process and the progress continues. Again, the grace of God. Onward!

Real estate this week in Alameda…

Active listings 192, 202 last report

Pending listings 70, 69 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings the highest NEW listing. The highest was churned. Anyway this link is for a triplex that has been off and on the market for at least 5 years and not sold.

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 8 with 2 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New listings 9 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 7 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 4 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 7 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Winner Click Here to View Listings It’s the view and the quality.

Bang for the Buck, Get Me a Facelift Click Here to View Listings

Have a good weekend! Guess we need to pull out the yard furniture for a last hurrah!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 6th, 2008

We had an election!

Whether your candidates or issues won or not, we still had an election. And real history continues to be made as we move forward (hopefully) with inspired and inspiring leadership at all levels of government. And we need it more than ever. My wish is that each citizen makes time to let his or his opinions on the issues that matter to him/her be known ,in civilized and courteous ways, to the appropriate officials. Only then can we get them to listen to us and not the lobbyists. Only then will they report to us, responsibly, rather than to the corporations. We need take back OUR government – the one we have allowed to wander so far from our reach. We are the ones who need to be heard. And we need to demand that we be heard!

On the local level Measure P passed, by less than 400 votes out of just under 24,000 votes cast. So the price tag of buying and selling went up quite a bit with the huge increase in Alameda city transfer taxes. (And contrary to the postcard that had all the city council members names on it, and Mayor Johnson’s photo, transfer taxes do not impact Realtor commissions, one of the reasons given that Realtors were against P. Makes one wonder what else they sign onto without understanding an issue. Scary.)

I had the opportunity to hear Robert Reich and Newt Gingrich last month at the Oakland Speakers Series held at the Paramount. It was awesome. And at this time Reich has me hooked with his simple and clear logic. That was sealed when I heard him give a very brief op-ed segment on NPR (FM 88.5) a couple of weeks ago regarding the bailout of huge corporations. “If They’re Too Big to Fail, They’re Too Big, Period.” Just scroll down and you’ll see the post I’ve linked.

Comments heard about the election, the day after:

-At the weekly HBR sales meeting:”We had the kids up and made popcorn to celebrate the new President!” to which a friend replied “I made Baked Alaska to celebrate. A flaming Baked Alaska!”

Subtle like a train wreck, that comment was – and sharp as a cleaver – and very clever.

-At the San Leandro Costco lunch tables: “How much you think your taxes are goin’ up?”

And now that the horrific, lie-filled, distorted campaign-mercials are over….we move right into Christmas-mercials. Enough!

A bright spot? How about the blog header photo of the roses from the garden? I cut two dozen on Halloween. Nothing like flowers to bring balance into life.

Real estate this week in Alameda…

Active listings 202, 198 last report

Pending listings 69, 68 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest price new listings Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New listings 16 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 9 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 12 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 9 Click Here to View Listings

BOM (back on market) 1 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 7 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 4 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Bang for the Buck Click Here to View Listings

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Enjoy your weekend! Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 4th, 2008

Autumn Rose Havest PLUS September and October sales stats for A-Town!

How amazing is Alameda that we can have incredible harvests of so many fruits, vegetables, and flowers year round? And the specimens in the blog photo are proof! I picked over two dozen roses just before Halloween!

Onward to biz!

Please remember that these prices are averages only. In order for a proper assessment of value to be made, location (lagoon or deep water or mixed used neighborhoods, location within townhome or condo complexes), amenities (interior and exterior upgrades) consistent maintenance or lack thereof, and age/style (ranch, Victorian, single level) greatly affect market value. Also keep in mind that micro market conditions influence value.

I am finding myself spending some serious time with Sellers attempting to see if there may be alternatives to selling that might allow them to ride out the market if their equity position is not strong OR if the market cannot meet their expectations.

What is most interesting perhaps is how few properties are selling.

DOM is Days on Market which may be skewed if the agent churned the listing (re-inserted it as new).

Alameda September Sales Stats

2 bedroom single family homes

3 bedroom single family homes

4 bedroom single family homes

2 bedroom apartment style condos

3 bedroom townhomes

4 unit apartment buildings

  • 0

Alameda October Sales Stats

2 bedroom single family homes

3 bedroom single family homes

4 bedroom single family homes

2 bedroom apartment style condos

3 bedroom townhomes

4 unit apartment buildings

  • 0

Please call if you have questions about the market and how your property might fit into it at the time. The size of the inventory, properties actually selling, DOM, properties that are competing in the price point that may be appropriate to the subject, sales that don’t go back more than about three months (current appraisal guidelines), and the type of financing available ALL combine to paint the picture of the existing market. Then factor in the items that started this post and you’ve got marketability!

Carry on! Marilyn