THE SECOND STORY | June 16th, 2009

April and May sales stats and market charts for A-Town!

(A couple of weeks ago I took a very late afternoon bike ride with the intention of seeing if it was still possible to circumnavigate my way around the island perimeter from Sherman along the estuary, along the wharfs beyond Mariner Square, sticking as close to the water as possible, ending up at the former Naval Air Station, aka Alameda Point, riding next to the western most chain link fences there (erected so the Least Terns have their place on the base reserved). That’s when I caught the western sunset. And that’s when I caught the attention of a security guard. I put on my best smile and said I hadn’t gone anywhere that wasn’t open. Then he said he was about to lock the open gate I came through when he saw me. Well, I wasn’t hiding. I had that stupid ‘see-me-anywhere’ vest on along with a flashing bike headlight, and a flashing red light on the back of my helmet. Anyway, it was a great ride with some deadends and backtracking where new fences are up. Then I headed back, about 8:45pm, along Central, over to the beach and home.)

Active listings (June 16) 178, 160 (April 14)
Pending listings (June 16) 100, 78 (April 14)

Please take into consideration that since so few properties have closed the figures are skewed, and that the actual DOM (days on market) are not always considering re-insertion of listings as new when they are simply just continued. And of course location, size, and condition are not reflected in averages except that the price may be higher for one than others….but each micro market has it’s own quirks that the stats just cannot reflect back to us accurately. That’s a lesson as to why agents you are talking to should spend time in the market you are part of…..

April sales charts (April 08-April 09) Show charts

2 bedroom single family homes (6)

  • average DOM 62
  • average sales price $486,500

3 bedroom single family homes (7)

  • average DOM 59
  • average sales price $612,000

4 bedroom single family homes (0)

3 bedroom townhomes (0)

2 bedroom apartment style condos (2)

  • average DOM 72
  • average sales price $325,000

4 unit apartment buildings (0)

May sales charts (May 08-May 09) Show charts

2 bedroom single family homes

  • average DOM 7
  • average sales price $547,500

3 bedroom single family homes (7)

  • average DOM 34
  • average sales price $572,142

4 bedroom single family homes (5)

  • average DOM 54
  • average sales price $700,300

3 bedroom townhomes (3)

  • average DOM 44
  • average sales price $529,333

2 bedroom apartment style condos (4)

  • average DOM 18
  • average sales price $311,000

4 unit apartment buildings (0)

That’s a wrap….carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 11th, 2009

BIG yard sale at 1727 Clinton…..

(I’ve been watching this mural come to life over the past two – three weeks. This is at Garden Cleaners, corner of Webster and Haight, on the Haight Street side. All of the plants and flowers painted on the wall grow abundantly in our dirt here in Alameda. And I love the depth the artist created that makes the garden sit in a flower box (the bricks at the base of the building). What a wonderful addition to what was previously a boring box. We are fortunate to have property owners who are willing to add custom touches all can enjoy to their buildings.

New topic! Blog title! A neighbor at 1727 Clinton is having a HUGE yard sale Friday from 12-4, and Sat and Sun 10-5 (maybe 4pm). If you think you need something you may just find it there. I was over this evening to check it out and it is amazing.

New topic! Concert at the Cove Friday (Motown, soul, R&B) 5:30 – 7:30pm

New topic! I was showing property this afternoon and saw a creative use of a standard household item. The first picture is the “Dorothy Door” (as in The Wizard of Oz). These are the flat overlapping doors you lift up to get into a basement or subarea. Look closely at the second picture and I think you’ll agree with me and my clients that the handle is a toilet paper roll holder.

Alameda real estate this week….

The listing at 933 Shoreline Drive #305 I put on the market last week received 2 offers this week. We’ll see what shakes out shortly. People have loved the full bay view!

My client got an accepted offer after only (and I mean only) 4 weeks of waiting on a short sale single family home in San Lorenzo. But the lender has made it a really quick close.

The least expensive single family homes in town, primarily all short sales or lender owned properties (REOs) have been receiving upwards of 4-9+ offers quickly. Most of these are exceptional messes with unpermitted additions, other bizarre work, substantial deferred maintenance, and/or unfinished projects. I called several agents this week to see just what was going on with their listings and that was the consistent report.

Here are a couple of articles I thought added some insight to the financing mess out there.

Tips for refinancing your loan.

FDIC shelves toxic loan program

Many of you know that my daughter Sutter and son Evan are often sources of info for me…they are my personal news screeners. While I’ve been working on this Ev sent a link that he found very interesting and heavy on the numbers with respect to the mortgage mess. I went through it and it’s not the most positive but the positions are supported by some substantial facts. Check it out. You can blow it up to full screen and just scroll through the slides. T2 Partners Presentation on the Mortgage Crisis. Thanks Ev!

Active listings 172, 167 last report
Pending listings 98, 90 last report

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 12, with 2 repeats

New 16

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 13

Pending 17

Sold 7 (this is corrected as of Friday AM. Thanks Ken for letting me know I somehow put last week’s solds in – I can’t figure out how I did that….)

Expired 0


Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Winner of the Week

Cute, Charming

Bang for the Buck

and a special award for Awesome Hydrangeas (check them out in person at the open house)

Have a pleasant weekend! Can you believe we are over half way through this year? It hit me the other day. It is screaming by. OMG, I sound like my mom!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 4th, 2009

2 Tubes and 6 Bridges….welcome to Alameda Island!

(This is the convergence of the Bay Farm Bridge with the Bay Farm Bike Bridge, taken from the wooden bridge that non-auto users use to get between 94501 and 94502. Most can name the four primary bridges but many leave out the bike bridge and the Fruitvale Railroad Bridge. They count, too! The railroad bridge is adjacent to the Miller-Sweeney Bridge, aka the Fruitvale Bridge. And the railroad bridge does lift up and lower down once per week.)

I had a bunch of pent up energy this evening. I really missed not riding on the broker tour on Tuesday due to the new bay-front condo listing I put on the market and held open for the agents. So about 6pm this evening, and this is why I LOVE this time of year, I set out on my bike.

I have a loop I often take and it goes like this: from home head west a couple of blocks to Grand Street, south to the beach bike path, head east and make the turn onto Broadway. Take the 1st right onto Bayview. Follow Bayview to High Street, get on the sidewalk, get back onto the bike path and go through the small park and head under the Bay Farm Island Bridge.

Continue on the path and make the U-turn and head up the ramp onto the Bike Bridge. Some may not know just how unique a bike drawbridge is – it is said it’s the only one in the US! Many of us back then said it was a stupid waste of 3.3M to build it, but it’s cool and safer for pedestrians and skate boarders, and bicyclers.

At the end of the Bridge, head east with San Leandro Bay on my left and Mount Trashmore on my right. Some may not know that that sealed mound with methane gas pipes sticking out of it was once Alameda’s city dump, thus the fond name for the place. Take the bike path past the Bill Osborne Model Airplane Field. Cross Doolittle and ride the path along the east side of Alameda’s two municipal 18 hole golf courses.

Across from the golf courses is the Oakland Airport North Field, full of small planes tucked away in some of the most amazing hangars! I taught flying out there with Lou Fields, (a Navy pilot with loads of aircraft carrier launches and landings), from whom I took my flight instructor training. Back to those hangars. Behind some of those doors are the ultimate man caves. Yep, I mean man caves. They tinker on their toys, watch TV, lounge around, just get away from it all and/or hang with other cavemen. And ladies, if you think it’s impossible for a guy to keep anything immaculate… the secret is OUT! You could eat off some of those floors.

Cross Maitland and head into the Harbor Bay Business Park. At some point I cross the street and get on the bike path that edges right next to the bay. Shortly thereafter I’m directly across from the end Runway 29 and can watch the planes depart into the westerly wind.

Staying on the path I end up at the Harbor Bay Ferry. Continue to rim the bay front all the way back to the Bay Farm Island Bridge. After a head wind all through the biz park, it’s nice to have a bit of a tail wind. Retrace the steps back along the beach, usually in a head wind again, to home. Well, except tonight I stopped at Big 5 Sports and bought two collapsible chairs (on sale $14.99 each), then cut through over to the Safeway gas station and filled up the tires. Just ask and they’ll turn the air on for free!

I love this place! Here’s my attempt to map that route. If this works, how cool is that! I’ve always thought it was between 8-10 miles and it’s just under 10.5 miles.

Alameda real estate this week…

New listing at 933 Shoreline Drive #305! Feedback from the agents has been good which translates into showings of the property. I’ll be hanging out there 2-4pm on Sunday. Great views!

I thought all these articles were good (source California Association of Realtors weekly Money Market Matters online newsfeed)

Low mortgage rates are going, going, gone?

Lock in the rates now….or wait?

Mortgage fraud? You may be busted…

Is it the high payments that need to be fixed? Maybe not so much…try employment and property devaluation.

Active listings 167, 173 last report
Pending listings 90, 83 last report

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 12 with 3 repeats

New 11

Back on Market 3

Price changes 8


Sold 5

Expired 5

Withdrawn/Cancelled 4

Alameda real estate awards this week….
remember this is my perspective only!
None this week…I didn’t get to see enough!

Have a nice weekend! The Farmers Market is now also on Sat 9-1 on Webster at Haight (as well as Tuedays!).

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 28th, 2009

Boats and golf….totally Alameda!

(A couple of Sundays ago as the weekend heat spell came to an end, a friend and I took the Hubba Hubba out at 5:30pm. The Hubba is a 26′ 1966 Chris Craft, twin engine wood lapstrake boat. It’s got some juice to to it since the engines are 305 hp V8s. We cruised up the estuary out to the bay, under the new bridge, over to the Giants game, and back home. What an evening! Super warm, smooth water, calm winds. Back to the dock at 8:35pm.)

Keeping it on the light side….I found a Father’s Day card cover inside a folder I keep for blog ideas. I don’t know when Father’s Day is but now that I play a bit more golf I appreciate these revised golf rules any day.

New Father’s Day Golf Rules
1. Every drive is a practice drive till you get one you like.
2. Subtract 1 stroke for every tee you remember to pick up.
3. If the ball rolls over the cup, it’s a gimme.
4. If the ball rolls around the cup, it’s a gimme.
5. If the ball looks like it was headed in the general direction of the cup, it’s a gimme.
6. Distractions like noise, wind or clouds moving are immediate cause for a do-over.
7. Chipping on the green will be replaced by an underhand toss.
8. If in a trap, your sand wedge may now be replaced by our sand shovel.
9. The terms ‘par’ and ‘double bogey’ are hereby interchangeable.
10. If you take more than five strokes, count it as a ‘5’ and move on….there are people waiting!

Alameda real estate this week….
Interest rates jumped big time on Wednesday….something about investors not liking government interference. You’ll notice in the solds this week prices are going over list…but ya gotta remember, list prices are way down….the market does speak!

Want to know more about short sales?
Good knowledge here.
Prepping for a refinance Pay attention!

Active listings 173, 173 last report
Pending listings 83, 84 last report

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 7 with 1 repeat

New 9

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 10

Pending 13

Sold 5

Expired 1

Withdrawn/cancelled 8

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is my perspective only

Winner, Bang for the Buck

Cute, Charming

Get me a Facelift

Got me a Makeover

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 21st, 2009

As the parade marches by….

Everybody seems to like a parade! And the most common comment at Alameda’s famous 4th of July parade is “more music!”
The west end needn’t go far to get a lot more music and an amazing display of marching band talent from around California. For years, each May Encinal High School has hosted a huge band and drum line competition. While it was plenty warm last Saturday for the event, the displays of talent were awesome! And the behind the scenes scenes were impressive too. Huge buses, travel coaches, trailers, surrounded Encinal High, off-loading massive boxes and cases of instruments, clothes racks of fresh and pressed uniforms, and food supplies (especially water). Hundreds of parents come along to cheer their kids and bands, put makeup on the twirlers, pick specks of dirt and lint off the uniforms, polish shoes, and polish instruments. The band directors are totally devoted and proud as they coach their armies.

The 300 block of Haight turns the event into a block party that starts in the morning and later in the afternoon turns into a pot luck feast fit for royalty. They even have a trophy they award to the drum line they vote best of show! Another classic example of small town, island living.

Alameda real estate this week…
A bit more on the market. Some quick pending sales. Pricing tells the story (sold or not sold, deal or no deal). Pent up demand. Some multiple offers on non-stressed sales (except that the market is off 20-30% from the highs depending on the usual suspects – location, location, location, and condition).

Active listings 173
Pending listings 84

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

Tuesday Tour 9 with 1 repeat

New 14

BOM (back on market) 0

Price change 4

Pending 15

Sold 11

Expired 2

Withdrawn/ Cancelled 1

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is my perspective only!

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Got Me a Makeover

Cute, charming

Get Me a Facelift (4 way tie)

Get Me to Rehab

If you have an American flag fly it this weekend. I like to take a moment and give quiet thanks for those whose ultimate sacrifice continues to allow us to vote California propositions/ballot initiatives down.

Enjoy your weekend! Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 14th, 2009

Memories and stained glass…often colorful, transparent, beautiful, radiant, cracked.

(The numbers in the header photo read backwards….and that’s because the best light to shoot the glory of the original stained glass windows was when the natural daylight back-lit the designs. I had the privilege of listing this six unit Victorian about 4 years ago…and yes, it sold!)

I spent a couple of hours this evening writing an offer with a young client referred to me, who, as a first time buyer, is trying to find a decent discounted house and make it a home.

Decent and discounted are not the most compatible words in the world of short-sales and REO’s (real estate owned by the bank). We’ve seen some stinky places, trashed out places, places that seem they are sliding down a hill, places below BART tracks, places backing up to freeways or super busy streets. We’ve seen small houses, and smaller houses. But through it all he’s realized the side-benefits of buying now include some potentially amazing prices, terrific interest rates, and the First Time Buyer $8,000 tax credit!

Writing an offer is often a great time for some Real Estate 101. Sharing an occasional personal story can make the process easier. Asking if the newbie Buyer knows what escrow is/does leads to a story if he/she is not sure of the answer. The answer is simple enough…an escrow holder is a neutral third party that acts only when receiving agreeing and concurrent instructions given in writing by the principals in the transaction. No agreement, everything stops.

Here’s my story about escrow:

When I was growing up my family moved more than the norm. I went to 3 different schools in 4th grade and it wasn’t because I was kicked out of each one. Rather, my dad received numerous promotions and job transfers with the company he worked for over the course of decades, eventually retiring at the ripe old age of 49 (you read that right).

As the oldest of 4 squirrelly kids (the other 3 were boys), I was often aware that family dynamics were changing. Typical of those times, our parents didn’t speak too openly about anything in front of their kids. And much of what they did say was unexplained. Example: THE TALK about s-e-x. Ooops, I digress.

Yet there would come the moment when they’d announce we were moving – again. And they’d say “We’re in escrow.” Okay, whatever. I thought we lived in Costa Mesa, or Daly City, or La Jolla, or San Rafael, or Newport Beach. But I guess we were in Escrow. And the only thing I could relate that to was some place I’d heard of – Fresno. So I assumed Escrow must be a town or city near Fresno, and that was where we were moving to. Escrow. Again. And we were in it. Again. But we never moved to Escrow or Fresno. And for that, my friends, I remain very grateful.

Alameda real estate this week….
It was a banner week for east end home inventory. Three houses went for sale on Windsor. And the number of ‘new’ listings has been something we’ve been waiting for. 16 new, not counting Thomsen’s Garden Center that came on the market a couple of weeks ago and another was withdrawn and reinserted as new. Some properties are selling in very short order.

To make it easy to contrast and compare here are the three Windsor properties:
2951 Windsor
3042 Windsor
2919 Windsor

Active listings 170, 164 last report
Pending listings 82, 74 last report

Highest priced new listing there were 2 higher, but they were re-inserts
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday tour 11 with 2 repeats

New 18

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 6

Pending 11

Sold 4

Expired 0

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

Alameda real estate awards this week....remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Got me a Makeover

Cute, Charming

Get me a Facelift

Bang for the Buck

Out of Rehab

Have a great weekend!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 7th, 2009

Open doors, open houses, open minds

(I took this week’s photo several years ago at a Victorian duplex I had listed. It sold in short order. The preserved hardware was exquisite! For me the symbolism is good…am I opening doors or closing them? With the barrage of media blasts about all things lousy, I find I need to be super selective about what I let into my mental house!)

I have loads of stuff to share this week. We’ll start with a continuation of the door theme. Below is an edited excerpt from an email communication about three weeks ago I wrote to a client whose condo will come on the market in the next week or so. Tim said I could share this. His brother had some input about open houses and how he thought they were important.

Many of you know I am not a fan of repetitive open houses. And many of you know that I call a spade a spade. Open houses are a chance for an agent to set up shop for a couple of hours in a property with the sole intent of trying to find business off those who come through. And that’s fine. But it’s important to realize that over 80% of real estate shopping and property screening is done online these days. I wrote:

I am constantly shocked and dismayed by how few agents use virtual tours, lots of still photos, a floor plan, and then create (read buy) a single-property website that makes for one stop shopping. I even do it for fixer properties! Get the info out there! Better than weekend open houses, let the people attend an open house 24/7 from their desks at work or home (we know it happens all day long), then get the info, then do their drive-by (even that can be virtual via Google), and then call their agent for a private showing. Consumers love it and appreciate it. And for properties located in gated communities, the other residents don’t get upset by having spectators wandering around the site, with no control over where they are going and not knowing if they are a guest or stranger. After all, the owners paid for those gates for a reason. It has seemed to obvious to me how important it is to honor owners’ spaces ever since I started the biz 23 years ago.

As I said, now we take the properties to the world, literally, and it’s their choice to click on it or not. But the game of ‘let ’em come to us’ is over. Yet the same principle has remained constant. IN all markets, good or bad, all momentum (or lack of) starts with PRICE. Get it right and get it right early on. If it’s not right…adjust it to the point the private showings start, and then offers (or lack thereof) will reflect what the market thinks.’

Financing subjects:
-Check out some details involving national efforts for preventing foreclosures, including incentives for loan officers who successfully modify a loan gone bad.
-What up with jumbo loans?

City subjects:
-Want to see the published list for salaries of city employees?
-Want to see the list of city jobs cut on Wednesday?
-Want to get accurate news in a timely manner about A-town? Please check out The Island . I’ve traded emails with the writer who has a journalism background, a deep concern about Alameda, and does an amazing job of fact gathering and checking. A couple of months ago I mentioned in an email to her that I was disappointed that the salaries of city employees (ruled as public info last year) had yet to be published for Alameda. Low and behold, the first list showed up last Friday on The Island. I’ve been really impressed. I decided to subscribe and paid the $25 for the daily notice I get about the blog update. It is fair, not vicious, and much needed. I’ve put the blog in the sidebar as one of my favorites and because of it, I’ve been able to share the info regarding city employee salaries and the job cuts with you.

Great neighborhood event of the week, month, year: Dear friends (and clients) of mine invited me and a few dozen of their friends and neighbors to Soup Night last Monday evening. It was low-key, awesome, and delicious! And they’ve been refining and expanding it over the past year. They got the idea from an article that appeared in Sunset Magazine a couple of years ago and went for it! 3 soups, some condiments, simple drinks…2 hours on a Monday. What a way to create and cherish friendships….in a time that really demands reaching out to each other. Yea for D&M!

Great FREE entertainment: Concerts at the Cove start up Friday night at 5:30. I’ve been a huge fan of these events for years. Ride your bike, walk over, even drive! This year it’s all starting a month early and tonight features a classical quartet. It should be excellent.

Alameda real estate this week:

Active listings 164, 159 last report
Pending listings 74, 60 last report

Highest priced new listing
(well, highest but not new…took a rest and price came down)
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday tour 14 with 4 repeats

New 16

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 6

Pending 11

Sold 5

Expired 8

Withdrawn/cancelled 3

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Winner, Bang for the Buck

Cute, charming (tie!)
Cute, charming

Get me to Rehab
Get me to Rehab both of these have units that need to be rebuilt.

Have a really nice weekend. After the wonderful and gentle rainy days we had, this weekend may feel like summer – it sure did on Thursday!

Carry on! Marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 30th, 2009

Surprise! A French bakery….in my own home!

(Home-baked croissants right out of my antique home oven.)

Many of my clients have heard me say time and again, with respect to real estate transactions, save the surprises for birthdays – we do what we can to keep them out of real estate.

Our kids knew from way back that Carl and I weren’t into Hallmark holidays. We would probably have been considered extremists since we carried that thought into creating ‘special days’ instead of birthdays. That meant that anytime, for any reason, even more than once per year, we could celebrate the goodness of each other, anytime, anyway. A real surprise sometimes. And there were times when the kids chose the day they wanted to have as their Special Day.

There were some interesting side effects and side benefits of this. First, invitations wouldn’t mention birthday. It was a gift of a party for friends. Second, the mentality that many kids carry with them for months prior to their birthday of ‘me, me, me!’ shifted into planning and thinking about what he or she wanted to do for the friends. Third, a Special Day was calmer and avoided the hype, unmet expectations, tears, and grabbing of presents. Fourth, parents would ask if it was a birthday party, and we could all say ‘no!’ with a bit of an explanation. I think we even said ‘no gifts’ on the invitations – just come and have some fun. (They may have thought of us as looney or psychological child abusers but the kids turned out better than okay!)

The most unexpected and lovely side benefit was this. Guests would come to the door, and often hand a host or hostess gift to the Special Day kid. Talk about surprised! This was completely unexpected by all of us! The guests and honoree learned what host gifts were, how to offer them, and then proceed with the activity. Such gifts were simple, inexpensive, and well-thought out. It was so sweet! And we didn’t have over-tired kids at the end of the day because they were in the moment the whole time.

So in our family, we tried to have gifts from the heart and not because of guilt or commercial pressures. That’s just we way we were, and I continue to be.

BUT! When an unexpected box showed up yesterday, ‘perishable’ written on it, I couldn’t remember what I had ordered. That’s because I didn’t order it.

Evan and Erin had shipped ready-to-be-baked croissants in honor of (and well ahead) of Mother’s Day. So I set six of the 15 in the box, out to rise at room temperature for nine hours, then baked them up tonight. Sutter (up from down under in New Zealand) and I enjoyed some of them tonight. The smell! The taste! Glorious! So thanks E&E for the surprise gift and one that was designed to be shared. Wish you were here!

And to Sutter, I’m so glad you choose to come a few days before and stay a few days after the annual meeting you have in Boston. The gift of your presence and time when you fly to San Diego for a visit with E&E, and then you and Evan driving to Irvine to visit your Grandfather and his wife before you fly back to Oakland, is priceless. And your local friends enjoy the hours you set aside for them so you can catch up. And I love the process cleaning the house so all is hopefully nice for you here. Really. I really do. What a great family. How blessed we all are!

Alameda real estate this week….
My client closed on her sweet home at 538 Haight today. It’s a nifty one bedroom bungalow with a small yard with southern exposure.

My clients at 31 Oak Park have an accepted offer on their home as of Tuesday.

Active listings 159, 160 last report
Pending listings 60, 83 last report
You’ll see there are quite a number of closed sales this week.

Tuesday tour
12, with 3 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 12 (some have been on the market previously and not sold)

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 10

Pending 7

Sold 17

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 5

Real estate awards this week….(remember this is only my perspective!)

Winner I really liked the light in this HBI home and the slightly raised backyard along the lagoon path.

Get me to rehab major work here. May need to be all cash offer.

Bank for the buck, Got me a makeover In Ballena Bay, but not on the water.

Cute, Get me a facelift needs work but a cute bungalow

The rain is coming again! Good! Have a nice weekend!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 23rd, 2009

That’s a lot of daffodils

Today’s blog photo was taken a couple of Saturdays ago when a group of 6 of us took a day trip to Daffodil Hill. Our friend and tour guide, Jim, had told us about a flower farm that goes into full daffodil bloom for just a couple of weeks in early spring and off we went.

It was a gorgeous day and the spectators were out in force up there. A touring motorcycle group had their sparkling wheels all lined up. I especially liked this mega luxurious three wheel job. We stopped in Sutter Creek, to have a light morning bite (yummy super-airy cinnamon rolls!), and picked up sandwiches for a picnic, which Jim supplemented with various side dishes and drinks, much to our delight and surprise!

After our walk through the flower farm, we drove to the town of Volcano. We found a cute store, featuring all manner of pies.

Then we had our picnic at Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park took a self-guided short hike/walk which Betsy and I ended up doing backwards (not the walking part; we started at the end by mistake).

Then it was time to head home….a lovely day!

Alameda real estate this week…

Webster House Auction….continued from last week. Mr. Evan Schumacher wondered what happened with The Webster House auction (announced in last week’s post). The bottom line on the auction of the Webster House (Bed and Breakfast Inn) at 1238 Versailles, is that there was no bottom line. No sale. There were far fewer people than I expected there would be and most were just curious, not bidders. There may have been 3 people interested in bidding but even they didn’t seem too interested due to the lack of interest!

But here is why there was no sale. Auction was set to start at 1pm. By 1:20pm one of the Real Estate Auction people had people move towards the sidewalk, gather round, and he announced that “This has never happened before to us. I won’t give details but I just got off the phone with the Seller and she has decided not to sell it.” Well, that is no surprise to those of us who have watched this over the years….One person who called me to find out what happened at the auction immediately said “There weren’t enough people to give her the attention she wanted!” The agent had also verbally relayed some representations the owner had made regarding parking and in no uncertain terms 3 local licensed real estate brokers AND a former B&B owner in town said that info was bogus.

I think the auction company may be rethinking their interview process and doing some fact checking before they jump into a gig like this that ‘includes’ the biz, which is virtually impossible to substantiate a value for, as noted by a couple who had previously had contact with the owner and walked away from the ‘deal’. They were also there as interested bystanders.

If this market, plus 23 years of working around Alameda, has taught me anything, a property that has been on the market for years usually has one big reason for not selling. And that is the seller. And that takes care of every possible reason the seller gives as to why the joint ain’t sold.

Foreclosure inventory increasing? The same Mr. Schumacher forwarded this article which addresses the end of the foreclosure moratorium and what may happen next.

NEW LISTING! I put a new listing on the market on Wednesday. It’s in Point Richmond, and has been the home to dear family friends for decades. It’s on the bay complete with non-stop views, comes with direct beach access (ownership of said portion of beach verified by a property survey), and offers a diverse floor plan. Check it out at The photos and virtual and video tour (button on upper right of virtual tour) are terrific. If you know anybody looking for San Francisco Bay bayfront property….share the info!

This week has seen a big spike in private showings of listings. Good weather? Spectator sport? Serious buyers? We’ll see if there is a spike in pending sales and closings the next month.

Active listings 160, 164 last report
Pending listings 83, 82 last report

Tuesday tour 9 with 3 repeats

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 12

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 10

Pending 11

Sold 8

Expired 7 (some may be showing up as new)

Withdrawn/Cancelled 4

Real estate awards this week...remember this is my perspective only!


Get me a facelift

I’m around this weekend, doing some serious spring cleaning after some serious construction and repairs around here the past 3+ weeks. We’ve had an engineered seismic shearwalling, strapping, and bolting project going on around and under the front (unbuilt-out) half of the building . Insulation has been added around the same perimeter and under the floors. The front doors have been refinished. All the ceiling tiles downstairs have been replaced (water damage from flooding caused by a hot water handle that broke off into my hand a couple of months ago, shooting up steady stream of hot water for about 30 minutes that found its way downstairs into the ceiling, onto the carpet in the hallway, and onto the laundry vinyl). A new sewer ejector pump was installed this week, as the old one was not shutting off and overheating the motor . And my washer door was replaced which solved the small amounts of mystery water in the laundry room . The downstairs is a dust covered, boot printed, hand printed, dirt tracked in, yucky mess. Sutter comes in from New Zealand the beginning of the week and she deserves an immaculate place to stay! The nice news is the windows got cleaned inside and outside this week, and the carpets get done Friday. Yippee! Almost there.

That’s a wrap! Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 16th, 2009

There’s a lot of wind around the halls of City Hall…(oh no, not another rant)

(This week’s photo was a rare opportunity to see the U.S., California, and Alameda flags (at City Hall), whipping straight out against a gorgeous blue sky. The already cold day was made a lot colder due to the wind chill, as I rode my bike on the broker tour into a headwind along the length of Shoreline Drive. I figured the breeze was a solid 25 knots: a value judgment based on a few years of sailing and flying. Weather reports noted surface winds around the bay, bridges, and beaches to be upwards of 50 mph that day. Nifty!)

City Hall and what’s inside and around those halls….

Tuesday, April 7th:The Mif Albright Par 3 Golf Course: I attended the City Council meeting to offer support for re-opening the 9 hole par 3 Mif Albright golf course, which has been closed down for several months and allowed to lay fallow. It’s part of the Alameda Chuck Corica Golf Complex. The room was packed with citizens of all ages; young kids, middle and high school student golfers (among them regional, state, and national level talents), seniors who play the game but don’t want the commitment of 18 holes, and everybody who practices the ‘short’ game. It’s fun, easy, well-paced, and very inexpensive!

There is a lot of concern and confusion about how the place has been managed in past years by the city and most recently under the Recreation and Parks Department. Then there’s the city’s accounting system which doesn’t seem too transparent. The argument has been that the place doesn’t make any money. The fact is that the money it has made (about 500K per year for the past 10 years) has been immediately shuttled into the city coffers resulting in a lack of proper golf course capital improvements (like course drainage, updating restrooms, the driving range rolled carpet, etc.) just to keep it at par (get it? par?). Anyway, it’s been turned over to Kemper Golf, a professional management company that has a one year contract. And there is a noticeable improvement around there.

But Kemper wasn’t hired to run the Mif. And they don’t want it. They think Alameda is primed to be a fancy golf place. And most of the users say ‘not so much.’ But a big group of locals want the Mif back and a plan devised by a local gentleman may just help that happen. Open the Mif and run it as a non-profit. There are ways to do it. And it can pay for itself as long as the city is not allowed to touch the money. The plan is now in front of the City Council and interim City Manager. It will be fun to see how this wonderful coming together of the citizens turns out!

New subject: City Managers – Speaking (writing) of the interim City Manager, our new one took over from the old one in the past month. What strikes me is how the term interim means a two year contract. That’s a lot of interim. But so far, I think Ann Marie Gallant can call a spade a spade and may have a fighting chance of getting the town into shape midst these challenging times.

Too bad about the last one. More than a few have thought she resigned before she could get fired. What’s up with her resigning and she gets 6 months of severance pay? The City Council that was in place when they hired her negotiated that contract. Buh bye Debra Kurita. Good luck.

New subject: Trash it – Back to the City Council meeting I attended. I didn’t have to speak about the Mif. Others said all there was to be said. But I found myself in front of the council addressing a topic that had touched me recently and they just happened to have it on the agenda. Trash. Garbage. Recycling. I don’t know about you, but we don’t put nearly as much garbage into our gray bins (remember we have apartments here), and thus continue to pay for that which we do not use. I am aware there are ‘health’ minimums about what size bins you have to provide per unit. But the construct doesn’t make sense. We pay for bins that don’t get used!

It seems the concept of recycling is catching on. But with the downturn in the economy, big money right now is not in the commodities associated with recycling and ACI is having a tough time selling all the recycled materials it collects. So Alameda chipped in 800K to ACI (the money was a set-aside somewhere for something like this I guess) to help offset their losses, and then the council voted to extend the contract with them until 2022!

Something was mentioned during the city staff presentation about prevailing wages and the Teamsters – in the same sentence – and my ears perked up. ACI was pitching all the small cities they serve to get them to give them money, with the implication being that we get better service from a smaller provider and we got everything we asked for as citizens when we signed our last contract with ACI. Not only did I point out to the council that we pay for basic service we don’t use, I wondered if they did some type of online survey to the payers, if the list of services that seemed so important the last go-round, might look a bit different now! I also asked what kind of prevailing wage the Teamsters got. The two concepts of prevailing wage and Teamsters don’t mesh to me.

I asked the council, in this day and time, since we were about to gvie ACI 800 grand, just what were the Teamsters giving up to the cause? Ooh, ahh, subject off limits? People around me in the audience had been muttering during the presentations from our Public Works Director Matt Naclerio, and the rep from ACI. So I took the bait and asked.

I also voiced my concern about extending a contract so far out, noting that a lot can happen in a short time these days, and a contract so long doesn’t give the users/payers much flexibility.

Here’s what I think about that…this council will be long gone by the time the absurdity of this length contract becomes obvious. It’s no different than the previous councils that chose to ignore the union contract obligations they approved for the city fire and police that have now resulted in unfunded liabilities to the tune today about $67,000.000+ !

Once the public comment portion of the meeting was closed (there were two of us who spoke and the other is a great guy I know with generations of sanitation engineers in his family, as he pointed out), Marie Gilmore kind of answered my question. ACI has a ‘follow me’ type of Teamster relationship. That means that whatever the bigger group of local Teamsters does, the smaller group follows them, no questions asked. A city employee sitting next to me agreed that we clearly had to apply for jobs with ACI. It apparently has a perfect pay system for its employees, untouched by the economy.

And this week, I found out from a local property manager, that along with the package the council approved for ACI, there was a clause that requires owners to pay for services for their tenants in 5+ unit buildings. No longer can tenants have their own bills. Sure the costs get passed on to the tenants. The upside is there are fewer bins getting dragged to the street curbs. The downside is that tenants will not be as concerned about the expense if it doesn’t come out of their own pockets. We’ve always included garbage and recyling in our rents…but…there must be more money in it for ACI to want that change. There is simply no other obvious reason for it.

New subject: Will Sun Cal get the Point (get it? Alameda Point or the point the people may be trying to make?) – Did you get a robo-call from Mayor Johnson and the brochure about 3 weeks ago with her picture on it endorsing the Sun Cal (never mentioned directly in the call or brochure) ballot proposal? Tell me it ain’t so Madame Mayor. It is such a blatant shove of a proposal down the citizens throats and makes it appear you are in bed with the developer!

Today’s Alameda Sun had some excellent comments, letters, an editorial, and a report of how the Sun Cal signature gatherers are attempting to hit the hot buttons of citizens by saying the ballot measure will get the toxic mess the Navy left behind at the base cleaned up. No mention of Measure A being eliminated from their Alameda Point plan, or the density of the housing.

I’ve now heard the rep from Sun Cal do the pitch three times in various meetings. At the first one, a Chamber of Commerce committee (of which I am a member) meeting, I was the only one to ask about Sun Cal’s financial backing. Admitting that some of their other projects were heavily backed by Lehman Brothers (oops, say buh bye to them), he said the Alameda Point project is financially sound.

Okay, here’s the deal. Yesterday I had the chance to chat for a few minutes with a recently laid off finance guy who did big ‘deals’ with OPM (other people’s money) in providing financing for those ‘deals’. I’ve come to know John because over the years we have volunteered in various high school classrooms in which teachers have incorporated a program called the UrbanPlan into their advance placement Economics and Government curriculum. And so it was yesterday when we met up at Miramonte High School in Moraga. Check out this video, mostly filmed here in Alameda, to see what I’ve been privileged to be part of for the past 6 years. John is in several scenes, as well as Mike Corbitt, the guy in charge of all the leasing at Alameda Towne Centre. I asked John what he knew and thought about Sun Cal. He didn’t have much positive to say about its strength and/or its ability to perform.

Here’s another aspect that hits me. I don’t like to be told I’ve got a ‘take it or leave it’ choice. And that’s exactly what Sun Cal is asking this town to do by taking their plan to the voters in the form of a ‘take it or leave it’,’ yea or nay’ measure they are trying to get on the November ballot. As I’ve been saying when asked, think about what South Shore could have been and what the town got. Thank goodness the town rejected the orignal size of the Community of Harbor Bay Isle.

I’ve also been saying for quite some time “Government is not designed to move quickly. If we see it (on any level) pushing through something too fast, that is the sign to put the brakes on and slow it down.”

New subject: Fire fighters and police officers – did you know that of approximately 106 total staff of the Fire Department only about 6 live in Alameda? I think between 24-27 are on staff at any time. I asked that question of our Fire Chief who gave a presentation at last week’s HBR office meeting. I was thinking about how many of those employees care about the quality of our parks and schools if they don’t use them. Others gasped their concern about who will be working here in an emergency? There is apparently a program that gives fire deparment members who live in one town but are employed in another, the ability to work in their town in an emergency, if they can’t get to their job. Oh, now I remember. We’re an ISLAND! How many will be able to get here, or yet, how many live here and work in other towns (I bet that number isn’t huge).

The question of what is the total effective pay of the job, plus overtime, plus life time health benefits for the firefighter and his/her spouse (yes!), plus the fact that retirement can come at a fairly early age also came up. That bullet was dodged pretty well since management can’t talk about union business in detail. I expect those city employee pay packages will be put out into the public in the near future, since it has been ruled public information in the courts. So far nobody’s had the guts to do it here yet.

Well, this writing was a surprise to me. I sat down with nothing in my head. But a lot sure popped out. Sorry for the length.

Alameda real estate this week…

If you are looking for an interesting time about 1pm tomorrow, Friday, go to 1238 Versailles, the Webster House (bed and breakfast, kind of). It’s been grossly overpriced for years. Sotheby’s just took it off the market, failing miserably in their attempt to bring prestige to the place at 1.7M+. A real estate auction house has put it on the market last Sat for 595K. I’ve spoke to that agent twice, last Saturday. They get it low and expect to drive it up. Any bets on the selling price? If the reserve figure (not published or known, but I did ask) is not achieved, it will go short. They are accepting the normal contract Realtors use. It will be a live auction. The place is just funky. I’ll be there to watch!

Check out this article in the New York Times. A neighbor emailed it to me and then I also found it in one of my online trade journals. It’s close to home (Piedmont and Orinda) and really supports my long-time feelings about open houses, of which many of you are familiar because we’ve had ‘the talk’.

Active listings 164, 158 last report
Pending listings 82, 76 last report
Note: there was a large jump in new listings in the past 2 days, thus they were not on this past Tues Tour.

Tuesday Tour 10 with 1 repeat

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

New 15

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 10

Pending 11

Sold 3

Expired (some show up as new) 5

Withdrawn/cancelled (some show up as new) 4

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective
Get me a facelift

Got me a makeover

That’s a wrap. Enjoy the weather over the weekend! ‘They say it’s heatin’ up!

Carry on! Marilyn