Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sellers Minimize Surprises when Selling

Properties seem to be sitting on the market longer and also taking longer to close escrow once they are in contract. There are many reasons why this is happening.  If a property is sitting on the market without interest, it’s probably because it is not priced right and doesn’t show well.  You may want to consider a price reduction.  The value of what you think your home is worth may not be the same as the actual market value.  If the escrow is taking longer than expected, there may be issues with the loan. An FHA loan can take longer to close than if a conventional loan due to the paperwork involved and the appraisal process. FHA follows stricter guidelines than a conventional loan and this often can lead to a slower process of closing the deal if anything comes up that must be addressed. 

In addition to lending, buyers are savvier than ever.  With less competition they have more bargaining power than ever.  Often times, buyers will get into contract and then during the inspection contingency discover issues with the house that have not been addressed and rightfully so they want to renegotiate terms.  This negotiation process may take longer than in the past. 

The best decision a seller can make is to provide as many inspection reports as possible before taking offers. By doing this, the seller will minimize surprises during the transaction and it will allow you Realtor to price your property appropriately.  Your house will most likely get in offer faster than if you don’t provide reports. 
Reports can vary in price.  A typical fee for a pest report is approximately $250, a home inspection is about $400 and a roof inspection is about $150. The pest report will help you to determine if you should get a foundation report and if so that can cost up to $500. It’s also important to make sure you use a reputable company and your Realtor should be able to refer you to reputable inspectors and contractors
Don’t let the buyer determine the price of your house. By being prepared, you will minimize surprises and have a smoother transaction.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"If you don't own a home, buy one." John Paulson

You may have heard successful hedge fund manager John Paulson's recent comments regarding inflation.  He told a standing room only crowd at New York's University Club that double digit inflation is on its way.  With regards to real estate, Mr. Paulson suggested, "If you don’t own a home, buy one.  If you own one home, buy another one, and if you own two homes buy a third and lend your relatives the money to buy a home.” 

In an inflationary environment, a fixed mortgage becomes less of a burden as wages and consumer prices increase.  The loan is essentially paid back with less valuable dollars than were originally borrowed.  Whether or not Mr. Paulson's prediction regarding inflation holds true is yet to be seen, but his track record is impressive.  Locking in a 30 year fixed rate loan at today's rates and paying it back in future, cheaper dollars sounds wise to me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jerry Garcia's Nacasio home for Sale!

Located up in rural Marin County, the grand estate in Nicasio is asking just shy of $4 million dollars. Sitting on 11 acres and has 300 degree views of Mt. Tan and the Berkeley skyline, was reported to be the last place Jerry owned before his passing in 1995.

The home's features include 7000 square feet of living space, with an additional 1500 Sq.Ft. artist's studio in the back. Designed with a Mediterranean flare, palm trees that surround the property, a  luxurious swimming pool & spa, gourmet kitchen, grand stair case and an au-pair quarters, Jerry lived in style in one of the most breath-taking areas of Northern California.
 Hidden in the rolling valley and hills of Nicasio, the property is somewhat remote and offers complete privacy. Surrounded by open space, the estate is self sufficient, with a deep well for water and large propane tanks for gas with a massive vegetable garden.                                              

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is HAFA?

The HAFA program is a government-subsidized Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program for distressed homeowners to sell their homes to avoid foreclosure. Under HAFA, a participating lender will pre-approve the terms of a short sale and give the borrower at least 4 months to market and sell their home using a licensed real estate professional.

The eligibility requirements are:

• Property must be a borrower’s primary residence

• Loan must be a first trust deed originated before 2009

• Loan must be delinquent or default must be reasonably foreseeable.

• Current unpaid principle balance must be $729,750 or less for single-family home (or higher amounts 2 to 4 units); and

• Borrower must be eligible for, but unable to complete, a loan modification under the home affordable program (HAMP).

The effective dates for the HAFA program April 5th to Dec. 31, 2012. You can find a list of participating lenders at

Friday, July 16, 2010

Buyers have been given a gift of time...

Everyone thought that when the federal government stopped buying mortgage-back securities in March of this past year that interest rates would go up. I even blogged about way back and told buyers that it would happen...but it didn't! So the big question is WHY?  Well, you have our friends in Europe to thank!

With Greece in debt not to mention a few other countries in Europe, spending has decreased and on top of it, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund has to provide a loan of 1 trillion dollars to help these countries pay off their debt. As a result, the Euro has dropped in value from 1.59 against the dollar to 1.22. As a result, investors are ditching the Euro and buying United States Treasuries.

Are interests rates are staying low, the lowest we have ever seen them (4.84%). Guess what though, it can stay like this forever! And the new prediction by most, is that you will start to see the rate creep up by the end of the year. Lock in a 30 year fix right now for high fours/low fives.... it's basically FREE MONEY for the feds!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Berkeley Energy Cash Incentives - Must apply July 21!!

The City of Berkeley is offering cash incentives to improve the energy efficiency of Berkeley homes, apartment buildings or businesses. Applications for this City Rebate Program should be submitted before July 21. Funding provided by the US Dept. of Energy is available for all types of buildings and income levels.

Rebates Up to $8,500 for single-family & duplex homes
Rebates Up to $30,000 for commercial & multifamily properties

For more information and to apply visit: or Call 510-981-7438

Learn about how to qualify by attending a Public Workshop:

6:00-8:00 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

West Berkeley Senior Center

1900 Sixth Street, Berkeley

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Get Involved with Rebuilding Together!

Get involved…Rehab a home for a Senior in need!
Rebuilding Together is a national organization that believes in revitalizing communities and helping low income seniors and people with disabilities remain in their homes by completing critical repair needs that create a safe space for them to live. In April, the East Bay-North Chapter rehabbed 22 single family homes and 8 non-profit facilities throughout Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany & Richmond. This organization not only helps individuals and non-profits but helps the community around them by giving a face lift to that “dreary” house on the street.

Easy Bay-North Chapter:

San Francisco Chapter:

Waterfront Movie Flicks at Jack London Square (Free)!

July 8–October 28: Waterfront Flicks

Jack London Square kicks off its seasonal Waterfront Flicks series with Julie & Julia. Watch the movie under the stars, with preshow entertainment including trivia contests and talent shows. The rest of the line-up Star Trek (7/22), Monsters vs. Aliens (8/12), Quantum of Solace (8/26), Dreamgirls (9/9), Land of the Lost (9/23), Fame (10/14), and Twilight (10/28). Market Lawn at Jack London Square, Broadway and First Street, Oakland, 8 p.m., free, (510) 645-9363,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't let mold into your home!

Read an interesting article (yes, I find this stuff interesting) on mold today and how it is most prolific in warm, damp weather and the high indoor moisture levels can and poor ventilation can also cause mold growth. Basements and storage areas and two areas that tend to have the most mold growth.  Beware of mold! It is nasty and I have heard cases where it has gotten into people's lungs and as a result they have a hard time breathing, sometimes gain asthma and become really sick. No beuno! If you think you have mold, you can get it tested to find out what type of mold you are dealing with. The pic to the right is black mold and this is the nastiest of the bunch!

 Below are some quick tips regarding mold. 

Quick Tips:
  • Avoid resting long-term storage directly against walls.
  • Place storage boxes on pallets.
  • Keep basement windows slightly open during mild, dry weather.
  • Maintain air circulation in all areas, particularly basements and storage areas.
  • Filter fresh air changes to help keep spores from building up. 
For additional information on mold and other home issues go to

Monday, June 21, 2010

Berkeley Offering Cash Incentives to Increase Energy Efficiency

The City of Berkeley will be offering cash incentives to increase the energy efficiency
of your home, apartment building or business.

Funding is available for all types of buildings and income levels, helping you save money, improve building comfort, safety and durability as well as reduce your carbon footprint. Rebates, provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, will be available starting July 6, 2010 and will cover:

  • Up to $8,500 for single-family and duplex homes (including rebates through PG&E)
  • Up to $30,000 for commercial and multi-family properties
Presentations will be available on the city website at  or call 510-981-7438. You can also subscribe to receive email updates as more information becomes available.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HOMEOWNERS BEWARE: Foreclosure Rescue Scams are on the Rise!

With a recent rise in foreclosures,  foreclosure-related scams are on the rise. Beware!!

Below are red flags to foreclosure rescue scams:
  • Asks for money upfront before providing any service.
  • Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer or a Realtor.
  • Asks for mortgage payments to be made directly to his or her company.
  • Requires payments only in the form of cash.
  • Advises you to transfer your property deed or title to his or her company.
  • Offers to fill out paperwork for you.
  • Asks for something to be done immediately and without delay.
  • Encourages you to lease your house and to buy it back to you over time.
  • Offers to buy your house for a fixed price that is not set by a reputable Broker/Realtor.
  • Asks for you to give power of attorney.
  • Asks for signatures on a grant deed or deed of trust.
  • Fails to provide copies of signed documents.
Ligitimate Resources:

If you are at risk of a foreclosure or already have received a foreclosure notice, you should contact your lender immediately. Your next call should be to your Realtor. Find out all possible solutions for your situation.

Homeowners also make seek the advice of a reputable housing, financial or credit counseling, or attorney. Homeowners may visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Http://

Monday, March 29, 2010

First time home buyers eligible for "double dip" up to $18K!

 First time home buyers who are in contract by 4/30/2010 CAN qualify for as much as $18,000 in tax credits from California and the Federal Government! There is a small window of opporunity for first time buyers to benefit from both programs. For the federal incentive of up to $8,000, buyers must be in contract by April 30th and close by June 30th. The California credit covers closings on homes on or after May 1st thus, leaving short window to double dip. Of course, for the state of California the credit is given on the first-come, first serve basis.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Common Selling Mistakes!

Mistake #1 – Incorrect Pricing

Every seller naturally wants to get the most money for his or her product. The most common mistake that causes sellers to get less than they hope for, however, is listing too high. Listings reach the greatest proportion of potential buyers shortly after they reach the market. If a property is dismissed as being overpriced early on, it can result in later price reductions. Overpriced properties tend to take an unusually long time to sell, and they end up being sold at a lower price than they likely would have had they been priced properly in the first place.

Mistake #2 -- Mistaking Re-finance Appraisals for Market Value

Re-finance appraisals can be very encouraging for homeowners, leading them to assume that the appraisal is the amount that they should expect to receive for their property. Lenders often estimate the value of your property higher than it actually is, however, in order to encourage re-financing. The market value of your home could actually be (and often is) lower. Your best bet is to ask your Realtor® for the most recent information regarding property sales in your community. This will give you an up-to-date and factually accurate estimate of your property value.

Mistake #3 -- Failing to "Showcase"

In spite of how frequently this mistake is addressed and how simple it is to avoid, its prevalence is still widespread. When attempting to sell your home to prospective buyers, do not forget to make your home look as pleasant as possible. Make necessary repairs. Clean. Make sure everything functions and looks presentable, and remove as many possessions as you can prior to showing. A poorly kept home, or one with too much clutter, will make it dramatically more difficult for buyers to become emotionally interested in your property.

Mistake #4 - Trying to "Hard Sell" While Showing

Buying a house is always an emotional and difficult decision. As a result, you should try to allow prospective buyers to comfortably examine your property. Don't try haggling or forcefully selling. Instead, be friendly and hospitable. Pointing out any unnoticed amenities and being receptive to questions is advisable, but this is not the time for negotiation and salesmanship.

Mistake #5 - Trying to Sell to Lookers

A prospective buyer who shows interest because of a For Sale sign or an open house ad may not really be interested in your property. Often, buyers who are not accompanied by a Realtor® are 6-9 months away from buying, and are more interested in seeing what is out there than in actually making a purchase. They may still have to sell their house, or may not be able to afford a house yet. They may still even be unsure as to whether or not they want to relocate.

Your Realtor® should be able to distinguish realistic potential buyers from mere lookers. Realtors® should usually find out a prospective buyer's savings, credit rating, and purchasing power in general. If your Realtor® fails to find out this pertinent information, you should do some investigating and questioning on your own. This will help you avoid wasting valuable time marketing to the wrong people. If you have to do this work yourself, consider finding a new Realtor®.

Mistake #6 -- Being Ignorant of Your Rights & Responsibilities

It is extremely important that you are well-informed of the details of your real estate contract. Real estate contracts are legally binding documents, and they can often be complex and confusing. Not being aware of the terms in your contract could cost you thousands for repairs and inspections. Know what you are responsible for before signing any contract. Can the property be sold "as is"? How will deed restrictions and local zoning laws affect your transaction? Not knowing the answers to these kinds of questions could end up costing you a considerable amount of money.

Mistake #7 - Signing a Contract with No Escape

Hopefully you will have taken the time to choose the best Realtor® for you. But sometimes, as we all know, circumstances change. Perhaps you misjudged your Realtor®, or perhaps the Realtor® has other priorities on his or her mind. In any case, you should have the right to fire your agent. Also, you should have the right to select another agent of your choosing. Many real estate companies will simply replace an agent with another one, without consulting you. Be sure to have control over your situation before signing a real estate contract.

Mistake #8 - Limited Marketing

There are two obvious marketing tools that nearly every seller uses: open houses and classified ads. Unfortunately, these two tools are rather ineffective. Less than 1% of homes are sold at open houses, and less than 3% are sold because of classified ads. In fact, Realtors® often use open houses solely to attract future prospects, not to sell that particular house. Does your Realtor® have a website? There are very few successful real estate professionals who don’t, and for good reason.

Your Realtor® should employ a wide variety of marketing techniques and should be committed to selling your property; he or she should be available for every phone call from a prospective buyer. Most calls are received, and open houses are scheduled, during business hours, so make sure that your Realtor® is working on selling your home during these hours (many Realtors® work part-time).

Mistake #9 - Choosing the Wrong Realtor®

Selling your home could be the most important financial transaction in your lifetime. As a result, it is extremely important that you select a Realtor® who is a good match for you. Experienced real estate agents often cost the same as brand new agents. Chances are that the experienced agent will be able to bring you a higher price in less time and with fewer hassles.

Take your time when selecting a real estate agent. Interview several; ask them key questions. If you want to make your selling experience the best it can be, it is crucial that you select the best agent for you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Help.... We need inventory!

Do you know anyone who is looking to sell this year? If so, I would love to speak with them. We, in the Bay area are in a strange predicament, the market has definitely changed but we still live in a area where everybody would love to own their own home. What we are seeing in places like Rockridge, Crocker Highlands and Areas of Berkeley have experienced a bit of an adjustment in price of about 10%-12%. However, there is little inventory and a ton of buyers. Because of this, we are also seeing multiple offers on homes that are priced right and show well.

Other places that are a in a more transitional area including North Oakland, South Berkeley and certain parts of East Oakland have seen some major price adjustments yet for homes under $500k there has been some major competition with as many offers of 5-15 total on a home. More than ever, it's important that your home shows well and that can be accomplished with home staging and/or working with a Realtor like myself who can help you rearrange your own furniture to make your home sparkle. You we be amazed what a fresh coat of paint can do for a home.

If you or someone you know, are considering selling, please have them contact me. I can help create a strategy that will get them top dollar in the time they want.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mortgage Protection Program Extended.

C.A.R.'s Housing Affordability Fund Mortgage Protection Program has been extended through December 31, 2010 or until funds are exhausted. Under the program, first time home buyers who lost their job due to lay-offs may be eligible to recieve up to $1500 a month, for up to 6 months, to help make their mortgage payments. An addition, a qualified co-buyer can recieve up to $750 a month for up to 6 months.

For additional information go to:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Could medical marijuana be the next big business….Oakland seems to think so.

Don’t know much about growing pot? Need a medical marijuana card but don’t know how to obtain one? Need growing equipment? Oakland is opening the largest one-stop shop marijuana cultivation center in a warehouse near the Oakland airport igrow will only sell supplies for the marijuana cultivation and not seedlings. In fact, there are only for dispensaries in Oakland who are able to sell seedlings. Currently, igrow has over 1500 followers on twitter.

Last year by a landslide vote, Oakland became the first city to tax proceeds on medical marijuana. The measure that was passed imposes a 1.8 percent gross receipts tax on the four licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Oakland. These facilities would have to pay about $18 in taxes for every 1,000 in marijuana sales which will help with the city’s deficit problem.

To read more about igrow go to:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Temescal District... still holding strong!

The Temescal district made the Wall Street Journal in December. It doesn't suprise me! Temescal has been up and coming for many years now. There is a certain charm and unpretentious vibe in the Temescal area of Oakland. It's nestled below Rockridge and has easy access to all the freeways. The district is home to a few of my favority spots as well.  If you want the best strawberry shortcake in town then you must go to BakeSale Bettys. If you are looking for a great deal on wine of a fun evening of wine tasting then you must stop at The Wine Mine. I have also become a big fan of the the taqueria La Calaca Loca. You can get a quick bite to eat while being entertained by the decor. And last and but certainly not least, is Genova Delicatessan where you can find a great sandwich. There always seems to to be a wait but the lines move fast and it's worth the wait.

As for real estate, Single family Homes prices in Temescal range from  $450,000 to $650,000 and condos in the same area range from $300,000 to $500,00.

For more about Temescal, below is a link to the article in the Wall Street Journal: