buying smart in this market

I am currently trying to find several buyers homes. The challenge is that new listing inventory is down by 12%, so there is heavy competition. Buyers are frustrated: few homes are available, and determining the appropriate offer price is particularly challenging. When trying to determine the right offer price with few sales, looking at comparable data often won't cut it as our inventory is unique and sold data captures history, not the future, of value. This means that you have to analyze the market condition, the property condition, how much you love a home and the level of interest among other parties.

I strongly discourage buyers to write offers when they have a very low chance of being the winning bid. The first thing to understand as a buyer is listing price often has no correlation to real value. A seller can price a home at $1 to create an auction-like frenzy. In fact, the more offers a seller receives, the higher their price may go.

How does that affect you? When the next homeowner prices their property, the comps and competitive market dynamics will lead to a higher price.  You have just contributed to a market increase.

Last year I had several clients who did not want to adjust their search parameters to better meet their budget. They felt there was a chance (although slim) they could find that rare property that fit all of their requirements . That rare property didn’t show up, prices continued to increase, and they were priced out of the market.

The bottom line is the Oakland and Berkeley marketplace is very unique, no two homes are alike. Don’t  buy something that you do not want, but be sure to balance market realities with your expectations. See the chart below regarding the current inventory.

This chart illustrates what many buyers feel

How Important Are Trees and Landscaping?

I was reflecting on some of my past listings that had that magic factor, the homes that had more than a half dozen offers and here is one common thread, the outdoor space was often thoughtfully maintained and improved - a place that many buyers would want to seek refuge in .  Mature trees have many benefits, they provide cleaner air, shade, a picturesque outlook, privacy from neighbors, and sound when the wind sweeps through the leaves.  San Francisco magazine did an Oakland issue last year, as so many SF residents are migrating to the Oakland marketplace.  One of the main reasons - we have backyards! Guido_TREE

My client Cassidy is the Vice President for Tree Sculpture,  If you have valuable and/or large trees you may want hire an arborist to maintain and keep them healthy.

Cassidy sent this information over to me as he understands how valuable trees and landscaping is for homeowners:

Due to the prolonged drought, trees throughout our region are under extraordinary stress. As a result, many tree species are much more susceptible to breakage and failure… especially with the winds and rains associated with winter.  Knowing what signs to look for and performing proper preventive care will reduce potential hazards and help to preserve the health and beauty of your highly valued trees.

To learn how to identify 6 potential hazards and 5 actions to take to preserve your trees, please visit:

Walkable Neighborhoods

Many of today's buyers are willing to pay a premium to live in a walkable community.  Here are the median prices of some sought-after neighborhoods in Oakland and Berkeley. Keep in mind, with charts like this, one outlier property that sold very high or very low can skew the median prices.  To truly understand what a home's value is, one must analyze property condition, disclosures,  inventory levels and property interest. Additionally, I was aiming for neighborhoods where the median price was about 1 million bucks and this is why these neighborhoods were chosen.  What are your thoughts about prices these days?  

This data was collected in mid-December

Majestic Metal

The other day I was showing my daughter's friend from Ann Arbor, Michigan around Downtown San Francisco and Oakland. As we crossed the Bay Bridge into Oakland, I was pointing out the cranes at the Port.  I love the lines of these majestic metal creatures and how they are a landmark to our city! Photo credit:

Below is Jack London Square with the cranes in the background.

Photo credit: Deidre Joyner

Outdoor Space

California has such great weather, practically year-round.  An outdoor space can be a magical addition that many buyers will consider a big plus!  See the before and after photos below of a property I sold a couple years ago and the transformation of their outdoor space. BY_Before








Yummy Oakland Real Estate

Many who are familiar with the Oakmore Highlands area of Oakland have often admired this property.  Four parcels were combined to make this a prime lot with scrumptious views.  With level garden areas, a pool, an observation deck and mature trees, this 1936 Mediterranean home is spectacular!  Extensive remodeling was performed to provide modern amenities while keeping with the vintage aesthetic.  4 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, 5,641 sq ft.  Currently listed at $3,290,000.  (Source: Carol Brown's listing from Grubb Co.).
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Marketing and the Inspiration Behind It!

I am listening to Pandora loving the bass in my headphones while I am working on my newest listing.  I get motivation from some of the most random things.  If something catches my eye, I like to see how I can I incorporate it into my art.  Yep, I said it, art.  Yes, I am a licensed, full-time and top producing Realtor, but I take every property that I list and I look at it as a unique specimen and try to showcase it as if it were something fit for the Smithsonian. Yesterday's inspiration started by looking at an online ad for Kaiser that had shiny gold font.  I texted my graphic artist, Jenn, and asked her if we could use a gold font that would look metallic in print.  She said that could be difficult for the materials that I needed.  Then magically, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed and saw this “Thank You Fans” post from the Oakland Athletics and I screenshot it.  I emailed Jenn and said, this is the inspiration!  I requested that the word Rockridge be in bold with an image behind it.

Thank You Fans
Thank You Fans

My girl Jenn did some mind reading and I gave input and voila!...

that Rockridge life
that Rockridge life

For the image behind "Rockridge" Jenn took a screenshot from the Red Oak Rockridge video:

With all of the all of the template marketing and over used adjectives out there, what will make your home stand out? 

Truly, you never know what draws someone in.

Preparing a property for sale and what is important...

It’s funny how people meet; Josh and Traci stumbled upon my blog years ago and hired me to be their buyer's agent. I am honored that we retained a friendly and working relationship as I am now their agent on the listing side. Six years ago I saw 12 Eastwood Court on Broker's Tour and I immediately called Traci and Josh.  This home was quite unusual as it had a very usable, sunny backyard.  The home felt very happy and I wanted to get their take on it.  That night we went for a visit, and after comparing and contrasting this property to other homes in Montclair and Lincoln Heights, they decided to make an offer and succeeded with multiple offers on the table.  For Traci, it was all about the true chef's kitchen.

Many improvements were made over the last six years of their ownership, and as they recently prepared for the sale their home the one thing that was a bit overwhelming and dated was the lava rock fireplace; see the before and after photos below…

Eastwood living room before

BEFORE (Source: East Bay Regional Data)

12 Eastwood 27


With the average age of today's homebuyers being 38, it was important to style the home with a breath of fresh air and I am thrilled how this property shows.  This is a home that one can simply move right into and be happy!

I was very happy to partner with professionals that helped us take this property to the next level; Visual Jill ( acclaimed local designers, and Peter Lyons, professional photographer.

Open this Sunday, September 21, from 2pm-4pm.   Please visit for more details and photos.

North Oceanview Berkeley - Business is Booming!

 The map above is interactive. If you do not see the markers, move the map around.

Last year I had the opportunity to sell a house in the north Ocean View neighborhood of Berkeley, 1468 10th Street. My clients were looking for a home that needed some love and had a big backyard.  We knew there were rumors of a Whole Foods coming to Gilman Street in the fall of 2014 and that Stella Nonnajust opened up around the corner, but I am excited to see more fun spots trickle in. Westbrae Biergarten, Philz Coffeeand Doughnut Dolly are just 3 of the new spots to open their doors. There is also great access to 4th St and the Bart.  Berkeley real estate has always been in high demand and I would not say any neighborhood is a bargain, however north Ocean View is a place that be considered and seen. Check out the map and press below!  


Buying a piece of history

1335 Delaware
1335 Delaware

A few weeks ago I helped my clients close escrow on a home that had been in the same family for the past 58 years.  After searching for move-in ready homes, my “beat down by the market” clients decided to utilize their resources, (the wife is an architect and the brother is a contractor). So they purchased a fixer upper home in a prime Berkeley neighborhood.  There will not be the immediate gratification of being able to move in and hang the television and art, and they may not get to restore everything at once , but they are making an immediate sacrifice to get into a great neighborhood and ultimately own a home that will be tailored for them.

I will help them after close of escrow and will stay in touch to see the progress, but thus far the process has been serendipitous.  These folks finally landed their Berkeley fixer after a very lengthy search - 2 years total with me being their 3rd Realtor. I was afraid this home would go to a buyer with an all cash, contingent-free offer. After consulting with their lender, we both felt that this was not a situation where we should waive all contingencies (feel free to contact me about contingencies and the various risk associated with writing offers).  After much deliberation, a decision was made to not submit an offer.  The offer date was on a Wednesday, so Thursday morning I called the listing agent to find out any inside scoop, so I could debrief my clients.  Much to my surprise, I was told that although there were cash offers, the seller was in the middle of negotiating multiple counter offers with 2 buyers that had contingencies in place and needed loans to fund the purchase.  I felt horrible that my clients may have lost out on an opportunity, so I immediately called them and explained the situation. Within 2 hours, I had submitted an offer on their behalf and by the end of the day theirs was the winner!

Above is a photograph that the sellers provided to their listing agent from 1959.  It is precious to see the first transformation, as this photo was taken before a second floor addition was made. I look forward to providing photos of the next phase of construction!

Bathroom Simple

Because of my bathroom remodel gone wrong  in 1999, I am a big advocate for do it right the first time.  When I purchased my home the entire place was in need of major repair, this was a major fixer. It needed 35 foundation piers, a French drain system, new roof, bathrooms, kitchen, paint, hardwood floor refinishing and that does not touch the landscaping, fencing and lighting.  At the time of the purchase I was completely overwhelmed with a 2 ½  year old and an 8 month old.  I picked out tiles and fixtures based upon cost and the desire to just have a clean space.  Of course I immediately hated the room when it was complete and despised when people had to use the bathroom, frankly I was embarrassed.  I am suppose to have great taste, what happened?!  Last year my husband and I decided to gut the space and start over.  We have a very different aesthetic, and to add to the complexity, I wanted to avoid anything Made in China. We designed it together and agreed on everything pictured.  Our home was built in 1951 and I wanted a modern, simple look that would blend with the home. At some point, I may add art, but I would rather have flowers, art and accessories add color.  I wanted a neutral space that I would not get tired of.

November 2013 Market Update

Above is a photograph of a home that I recently helped my buyers get into contract. Listed by R. Kriss

As we head into Thanksgiving week, we are seeing fewer new listings on the market. Having 3 homes go pending over the last two weeks this is my summary of the market:

  1. Homes in prime neighborhoods with good light and layout that are priced competitively are still going pending with multiple offers, often over the asking price.
  2. I do not recommend shopping for homes at or above your budget ceiling.
  3. Remember list price does not necessarily equate to the ultimate sold price, I have seen properties receive offers over the asking price that the seller declines. The seller has the right to decline any offer and I have seen sellers hold out for a specific price. Asking price can mean the starting price of an "auction", it can be too high or it can be just right. It is best to work with your agent to get a better sense of value.
  4. I am still seeing "move-in" ready properties needing approximately $25,000 of repairs that the buyers are taking on.
  5. Your lenders role is huge!  With many cash offers still in play, to compete your lender needs to have a solid reputation of closing deals with a hyper-local appraisal management company behind them.  This marketplace is still competitive.
To better understand this market as you are actively shopping in it, here is your homework:
Make a list of homes that you loved, (not like, but really felt a strong adoration for). Track the list price and sold price and  find out if there were major repairs needed or flaws with the property.  This way you can really understand the market.  Unless your budget is limitless, you will have to compromise on room count, neighborhood, upgrades or repairs. (Your agent can help you with this) Happy Shopping!

Camping in Rockridge Anyone?

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of a retro kitchen that was featured this year's Rockridge Kitchen Tour.  That same family is doing something very cool in their backyard! Check out these pics... Diana and Craig are looking to make their oversized level and lush backyard into mod B&B.

This 1956 Airstream trailer is currently being restored and will become part of a Backyard B&B next year!
This 1956 Airstream trailer is currently being restored and will become part of a Backyard B&B next year!
They have also restored this beautiful 1951 Spartanette trailer.
They have also restored this beautiful 1951 Spartanette trailer.

Refinancing and Divorce

Unfortunately, some couples need to figure out what to do with their home and mortgage when splitting up.  I recently spoke with Lara Blake at LaSalle Financial Services, ( about this and below are some of her suggestions to alleviate headaches in the future. Please note, this is general information, not legal advice. Each person should discuss their particular situation with their legal and financial advisors.

Here is what Lara had to say:

I usually have a few refis each year that coordinate the timing of the close of the refinance with the dissolution of the marriage.  That way the spouse that signs the quite claim has not relinquished ownership without also being released from the obligation of the loan.  Plus, they don’t have to worry about the ex making late payments that will prevent them from rebuilding a new life and buying a new home for themselves, or with someone new in the future.

As difficult as it may be to consider the prospect of a mortgage while finalizing divorce it is very important to consider the ramifications of not doing so – especially to the party that is going to quit claim off title.

As long as the departing borrower remains on the loan, any subsequent late or derogatory mortgage payments by the spouse that remains in the property, will be reflected on their future credit report(s).

It is optimal if couples can work together through the process in a cooperative manner and initiate the process that will refinance the loan into the spouse’s name (who will retain ownership and possession of the property), so that once the departing spouse sign’s the quit claim, the refinance can close.  This prevents the spouse who will relinquish ownership from the property, from remaining bound to the loan.  In addition, it will protect their credit should the spouse who retains ownership make any late payments or even default on the loan.

If the spouse that retains ownership, makes late payments and the departing spouse has not refinanced off the loan, those late payments (by their ex) will quite possibly prevent them from being able to qualify for a loan in their own name.

Many couples that work through divorce mediation, time the refinance so that it closes (taking the departing spouse off the loan and title) within days of the departing spouse signing the quite claim deed relinquishing their interest/ownership in the home. Refinancing is the tool which qualifies the spouse that will remain in possession while removing the departing spouse from the loan, while title records ownership into the name spouse that will retain ownership through the close of the refinance.

Sneak Peek of 2013 Rockridge Kitchen Tour!

This past January, I dropped my daughter, Nia off at her friend's home for a sleepover and was totally inspired by this reinvented mid-century modernist kitchen.  The entire project was inspired by the 1956 Kelvinator side-x-side 'Foodarama' (literally it's name) Fridge.  Later I came to find out that this is one of the kitchens that will be featured in the 2013 Rockridge Kitchen Tour. Owners Diana and Craig used Architect was Struther Dias in San leandro: for the project.  

Here is a shot of fridge that was the beginning of it all.

A vintage ad of the Foodarama



They kept the original overall layout of the kitchen


All the appliances are period as are all light fixtures, telephones, tea pots,  drawer pulls and kitchenette(chair/table)