Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rental market is booming in the Bay Area!

Having a listing in Rockridge not only yields phone calls from potential buyers but phone calls from potential renters. I have had a dozen or so calls regarding my listings in Rockridge asking if there was a possibility of renting the house just in case it doesn't sell. Rockridge is a hot spot in Oakland where there is beautifully designed homes, great schools, BART and walking to restaurants so this area remains competitive for renters and buyers.

A friend of mine looking to rent in Oakland told me there was a mass flock of potential renters all vying for the same houses. Numerous applicants for each place they were looking to rent and even with superb jobs and great referrals they are having a tough time finding a place.  The rental market is strong throughout the Bay Area including the South Bay which is boasting a 12% increase in rents. In the East Bay, there has been an increase of about 10% depending on the area.

So why is this happening especially since it is such a good time to buy with record low interest rates? The bottom line is it’s still hard to get a loan. Banks are holding on tight to their money and making lending a back-bending challenge. With the job numbers still down, and the ever increasing financial issues happening around the globe, it looks as though banks are still nervous about the economy and still unwilling to loosen up on lending restrictions. The job market is actually increasing in the Bay Area which is another reason for the competitive rental market.

Monday, November 07, 2011

FHA offers PowerSaver loans!

Homeowners considering energy-saving improvements like duct sealing, replacement doors, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels may want to check into the Federal Housing Administration's new PowerSaver loans. The program offers qualified borrowers up to $25,000 for energy-efficient improvements at rates of 5-7%.

For more information on the program, visit:

by Gina Odom

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Pop Up Restaurant in Rockridge.....or Should I say Pop Up Chef!!

That's right Rockridge has a new pop up restaurant starring guest chefs! How cool is this going to be? Every two weeks there will be a new chef, new menu, new type of food. I love it! The restaurant will be opening by Oliveto (watch out Gourmet Ghetto....Rockridge is on the culinary rise)! Chefs apply online and everything is provided for you including staff, cashier, and booze. The chef just needs to bring his or her ingredients. First up is the Oakland Fire Department as they will be cooking for a fundraiser from Nov. 4-6th and then followed by a grandmother from Mexico. Oh yum...homemade Mexican food. Can't wait!

Check out their website:

written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

346 51st Street, Oakland

PRICE REDUCED & SQUARE FOOTAGE ADDED to this ultra-cool and hip new condo in Lower Rockridge at 346 51st Street in Oakland. The builders went above and beyond when they rebuilt this structure. They truly thought of everything including wiring the house with Smart Phone Technology, building a separate storage space for each unit, and an extra 270 sq.ft. studio space equipped with a dry sauna, cold plunge shower and had it hard wired to play music from your unit or you can bring in your IPOD and plug in for great surround sound.  A great space to use as a yoga studio or exercise room, you could also use it entertain by turning it into a FAB bar space serving delicious cocktails while your guests enjoy the incredible landscaping by Berkeley Gardens. And of course, the landscaping has an irrigation system in place so no need to pull out the old hose to water. Optional private yard available for unit.


Included in this smartly designed unit with a spacious, open and inviting floor plan, Eco-friendly features including engineered Brazilian hardwood floors were installed throughout. What is that you ask? Put simply they are engineered on the bottom and on the top they are Brazilian hardwood. Basically trees were saved in the production of these floors so you can rest easy knowing that you helped the environment.

The CeaserStone counter tops in the kitchen are more durable, stronger and consistent than granite. They work well with the chic design and new stainless steel appliances.  The kitchen opens up to your very own deck where you can BBQ or just enjoy the serenity of your backyard.

The top floor of this unit rocks this Dwell Magazine like dwelling, because the top floor has a bedroom with partial views from each window. After being up there, I thought it would be best used as a office space. Being that I work from home many days during the week I am always seeking out that place that has an ultra great room for an office and this is it. The dual pane windows keep it quiet and you can literally see the city on a clear day. It's just perfect.

You would think that being on 51st Street might be too noisy? Not in this unit. The builders (of course) went above and beyond the city requirement for sound proofing. Once you shut that front door it's like you are in your own little oasis. The location is prime, walking distance to BART, steps away from college Ave and/or Temescal. Hey and have you heard of the new plans for Safeway! It's going to be super cool...just wait!

written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Berkeley Hills Realty

I just recently made the move to Berkeley Hills Realty and couldn't be more thrilled. There is not an agent out there who wants to move brokerages as it can cost time and money and both of those things I value! But, I also value integrity, compassion, and honesty and I found all of those at Berkeley Hills Realty. In the rough world of real estate, it is nice to be an a hub where Realtors practice what they preach and personal integrity is expected. Berkeley Hills Realty provides an honest, caring environment that they offer to their agents and also their clients. It's a breath of fresh air in a time of big business without morals.

Recently, Berkeley Hills Realty (BHR) brought on a listing at 5899 Lawton Ave in Oakland. Living and working in Rockridge, they made me the go-to gal for this listing. I was ecstatic to put together a marketing plan that would yield multiple offers. BHR encouraged my marketing plan and with their amazing office staff provided me with the tools necessary to implement my plan effectively. It was important to me when making my move to a new brokerage that I found an office that would provide me with the best tools so in turn I can provide my clients with the best. BHR is this place.

We door-knocked the neighborhood the morning of the first open house to let the neighbors know of the new listed home, we mailed out just listed postcards in Rockridge, created a a four page colored brochure highlighting the features of the property and created a pamphlet about the neighborhood of Rockridge which allowed potential buyers a take home tool to see where the house was located and the amenities nearby. In addition to traditional advertisement, we used social media to advertise the house to the fullest and created fun and tech-savvy ways like "checking-in" on Facebook while at the open house. If the person "checked-in" then they were entered into a drawing for a local's favorite restaurant - Oilveto. In addition to the savvy marketing plan, a thorough disclosure package was created to alleviate any unknowns to the buyer.

The turnout was great with about 60 groups through on the first open house and we were ecstatic about results. It pays to have good representation - both by your Realtor and by the brokerage they work for!

By: Gina Odom, Realtor

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Calculate your commuter cost with this great tool!

I met with some first time home buyers the other day and their biggest concern was how much would it cost if I had to commute from this area. In my serach to find them an answer other than “google it for distance,” I found a great tool that could help estimate their costs as well as distance.  It’s a commute calculator at Cost2Drive.com.

The site asks users where they are going and what car they drive, and calculates how much it will cost to get there, how long it will take, and how big the carbon footprint of their trip will be. For longer trips, the site also allows users to compare the costs of flying vs. driving.

written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rockridge Rocks!

We have a new listing coming on at 5899 Lawton Ave in the Rockrdige district of Oakland. The house is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath modern home which features concrete floors, new counter tops made from recycled material, new paint & fixtures. The floor plan is ideal with the master bedroom on the bottom floor leading to the backyard, and two bedrooms opposite of each other upstairs. There is a bathroom conveniently located on both levels. Not only is this house fantastic but the location is incredible and just a few steps from College Ave.

College Ave runs through Rockridge, Elmwood and Central Berkeley. The part of the College Ave located in Rockridge has some of my favorite shops and restaurants. From Lawton (3 minute walk),  turn right and head North on College, you will pass by many cute shops and restaurants. At Market Hall you can find 8 unique shops including my favorite wine shop, Paul Marcus Wines and my favorite butcher, Sun Farms. Not only can you get some shopping done for the dinner party that evening, but you can also grab a bite to eat at Oliveto either downstairs for a casual experience or upstairs for a fine dining experience.

At the corner of Keith and College, you can also find BART, public transportation that runs throughout the East Bay. The district of  Rockridge is centrally located with easy access to all freeways including, Hwy 24, Hwy 13, Hwy 580 coupled with the BART stop makes Rockridge ideal for commuters.

Further South, you will find additional dining and shops including a few of my favorite wine bars/restaurants. Both TOAST, a restaurant with small plates and an incredible wine bars (make sure you try Andrew lane Wines) and Wood Tavern where you will find incredible American cuisine and a forever changing menu is worth the short walk.  Afterwards, head over to Tara's Organic Ice Cream shop where you will find unique flavors like plum-ginger, pumpkin or lavender. It's definitely worth crossing the street.

In addition to the fabulous shopping and dining in Rockridge, it is home to one of my favorite parks, Lake Temescal. Here, you can enjoy an afternoon of laying under the trees, hiking around the lake, fishing, or taking a swim. A few friends from my mommy group and I met here the other day with our babies and had a lovely picnic. It was nice to get outside and completely forget that I was in the hustle and bustle of a major city.

Once you begin to explore Rockridge and pick your own favorites, you will see why this district is such a hot spot and why so many want to live here. Real estate values have held strong through this rough economy and the community just keeps getting better!

By Gina Odom, Realtor: ginaodom@gmail.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eat Real Food Festival at Jack London Square this Weekend!

The third annual Eat Real Food Festival is making a stop at Jack London Square this weekend. Beginning Friday and going through Sunday, the festival will host approximately 60 food trucks, 30 craft vendors, artisan producers and culinary instructors for our delight.

The entry is FREE and the food typically costs less than $5 a pop. It's a fun and affordable way to venture out and try new food. In addition, there will be plenty of demonstrations given by the various culinary instructors who will be present.

East Real Festival
1-8 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Jack London Square, Oakland. Free. All transactions are cash only. eatrealfest.com
Gina Odom at www.eastbayspecialist.com

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another chance for energy deductions

If you have made energy improvements to a commercial building in the last few years but didn't take the federal tax deductions given by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, this may be your lucky year! According to a new IRS Revenue procedure makes it possible for those owners to take deductions for qualifying energy improvements made in earlier tax years without the need to file an amended tax return. Talk to you accountant regarding this adjustment and take advantage of the possible credit.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Sewer Lateral Ordinance coming to the East Bay

New sewer lateral ordinance coming to Oakland, Piedmont, and Stege Sanitary District which includes Kensington and El Cerrito.

A PSL (private sewer line) is the pipe that connects the the plumbing in the home or business to the sanitary sewer main. Basically, it’s where all your waste goes. Old sewer lines crack overtime which allows rainwater and groundwater to infiltrate the sewer system. This excess water in the system can overwhelm waste water treatment facilities causing untreated water be released into the Bay. This would be an effort to help fix the PSLs which in turn will help untreated waste water entering the Bay.  Unfortunately, this problem will be forced onto the new homeowner or a homeowner who is doing a remodel worth $100,000 or more. In addition, this will also affect homeowner who is changing their meter size.

I understand the “idea” behind this new ordinance but much more needs to be done. What about all the homes that do not sell? This issue seems to be a rather large burden on our environment and it should be addressed on a larger effort than just the sale of homes.

The implementation of the ordinance will be rolled out in August for The city of Emeryville and Piedmont. The Stege Sanitary District which includes Kensington, El Cerrito and a portion of Richmond known as Richmond Annex will roll out in October followed by the City of Oakland in December.

For additional information of the ordinance, go to:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

5707 Ayala Ave, Oakland in the Rockridge District

I stopped by 5707 Ayala Ave on tour today. This property is still on the market after 43 days which is not the norm in the desirable Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. The average price point for a 3 bedroom, 1 bath home in Rockridge is roughly around $799K depending on square footage & if the house has "good bones." After two price drops, this house is now a great deal at $675K. This house has beautiful hardwood floors, ample space, and boasts architectural details throughout. There is a lovely deck outside and an detached garage that could easily be turned into an office space. The drawbacks of the property are the shared driveway and that it is by the freeway. However, once inside you do not hear the freeway noise and it's shielded by lovely foliage that makes you actually feel rather remote.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

3 Orchard Lane, Berkeley, CA.

On tour today I saw a beautifully restored craftsman above the U.C. Stadium in Berkeley. If you are looking for a retreat that boasts incredible views, sunny patios, flourishing gardens and ample space this is the place for you.
Nestled amongst the oak trees off the Arlington, you will find a beautiful home that has 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths with a master bedroom that opens onto your private deck with panoramic views. Enjoy a book and a glass of wine by one of the five fireplaces throughout the home.  The outdoor space has several different areas to entertain and there is a short path down the hill that leads you to the hustle and bustle of campus life in Berkeley. Listed at $1,045,000.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What a Buyer can expect to Pay to Close the Deal:

Down Payment & Closing Costs:

Saving for a down payment on a home can be one of the most challenging tasks a young family faces in the quest for home ownership. Creating a down payment savings plan and sticking to it will help potential buyers reach their goal of home ownership faster.

How much is required: The down payment is usually expressed as a percentage of the overall purchase price of the home, and varies depending on the lender, on your credit score and the type of financing and amount of money being lent.

Currently, you can obtain an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% down, a conventional loan with 10% down, a Veteran’s Administrative (VA) loan with nothing down. It has been predicted that these limits will change and it’s always best to speak to a lender regarding current requirements.

Private Mortgage Insurance: Typically, if your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price, lenders will require you to carry PMI, or private mortgage insurance. This insurance protects the lender in case of loan default, and usually involves an up-front payment at closing, as well as a monthly premium. However, once you have paid off 20% of the loan, you can request the policy be canceled. Some lenders cancel the premium automatically, while others require you to make a request in writing.

Earnest money or Good Faith Deposit: Buyers are usually required to deposit earnest money with the seller when they make an offer. If the offer is accepted, the earnest money is then credited towards the down payment. The amount varies widely depending on the seller and local custom, but in the East Bay it typically is 3% of the purchase price and will clear your account within three days after acceptance of offer.

Don't forget closing costs: In addition to the down payment, you will also need to save for additional fees associated with the loan. Known as closing costs, these charges cover items such as title insurance, documentary stamps, loan origination fees, the survey, attorney's fees, etc. When you submit your loan application, lenders are required to supply you with a good faith estimate of your closing costs.

Some buyers are surprised by the amount of the closing costs, which can easily run into the thousands of dollars. Depending on the situation, some closing costs can be negotiated with the seller and your Realtor would be the best person to speak to regarding a credit towards closing costs.

Gifts: If you are having trouble saving enough money, many lenders will allow you to use gift funds for the down payment as well as for related closing costs. The gift may come from family, friends or other sources, but remember that lenders usually require a "gift letter" stating the gift doesn't have to be repaid. In addition, some lenders will also require you to pay at least a portion of the down payment with your own cash. Ask a lender about their policies regarding gifts to help with your down payment or closing costs.

You’re not done yet!

Inspection Contingency Period & Appraisal: After your offer has been accepted, escrow has been opened and your good faith deposit has been cashed, you will not have to deal with the costs associated with inspections. Depending on what inspection you will need to obtain, they can cost anywhere from $200-$1000. They will need to be paid at time of inspection and will need to be completed before your inspection contingency period is up. Your Realtor can help guide you in what will be the best inspections to obtain depending on the property. In addition to inspection costs, your lender will order an appraisal which will be paid with your closing costs. They typically run about $400 but that price should be confirmed with your lender.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Save on your Heating Bill!

With ever-rising energy costs, it makes sense to review the following tips and try and manage your heating bill. In addition, your helping the environment!
  • Check for home air leaks. You may be able to save up to 10% on your bill by reducing leaks. On a windy day, run a lighter or smoke stick around windows to see where the air is coming in and you can caulk, seal or weather strip the area. 
  • Insulate your home. Most of the times it's as easy as going to Home Depot and indoor installation and putting it up in the attic. You can also hire someone for minimal cost to do this for you.
  • Close fireplace dampers. Chimneys are designed for smoke to escape which means air is escaping too.
  • Maintain your heating a cooling system. Make sure these systems receive professional maintenance each year. If it's time for a new system, look into energy-efficient systems and you may get a tax credit for installing one.
  • Use kitchen, bath and ventilating fans wisely. Those fans suck up the air including the hot air. After using it, turn it off immediately.
  • Turn off energy users when not in use and unplug those items as well. Individually they might not add up to a lot but together it can cost you. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

New sewer lateral ordinance for Emeryville, Oakland, & Piedmont - Effective Spring 2011.

Important DATE Change to the Sewer Lateral Requirement for Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont
 - Implementation to begin Spring of 2011
 - New DATE will be posted on www.berkeleyaor.com as soon as announced

A court order now requires the cities of Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont to require homeowners to fix or upgrade their sewer lines when a home is sold or upgraded.  The East Bay Municipal Utility District ("EBMUD") Wastewater Control Ordinance will require property owners in certain areas of the EBMUD wastewater service area to obtain a compliance certificate that shows their private sewer laterals ("PSL's") are without defects and have proper connections. The private sewer lateral program requirements for property owners will be phased in throughout 2011.

The cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley and the Stege Sanitary District (which serves Kensington, the City of El Cerrito and a portion of the City of Richmond) have local private sewer lateral ordinances already in effect.