What to Inspect When You’re Inspecting

Tips On Home Inspections

All home inspection should be done by an ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) certified inspector. These guys will look at everything from the foundation to the roof. They’ll inspect the electrical, plumbing, roof condition, foundation and everything in between. An inspection can cost anywhere from $585 to $ 650, depending on the size of the home.

Pest inspection of termites or beetles and all water damage. Approximately $235

Sewer – buyers are responsible for sewer lines until they hit the city main. For $75 your inspector can take a video camera into the pipe to check the condition of the pipes.

When to Get a Second Opinion:

Pest/Termite Inspections:

Recently a seller supplied an inspection report that had been done by an out-of-area pest inspection company. The report stated that there was no pest damage to the seller’s property.

I encouraged my buyers to get a second opinion.  My clients employed a highly respected local company to do another inspection. The local company found $6500 worth of pest damage. Ultimately, I was able to negotiate a $6500 credit for this discrepancy.

Sometimes home inspectors will call for a second inspection. It could be for anything from electrical wiring follow up to having a structural engineer come to look at the foundation.

Anytime that this is suggested it is recommended that you have professionals look before removing your inspection contingency. (An inspection contingency is a period of time during an escrow that a buyer is allowed to investigate the condition of a home and neighborhood.)

 Jason - Harry Clark 

Jason - Harry Clark 

what's behind there
what's behind there

If Your Walls Could Talk

I absolutely love what Joyce did during her kitchen remodel.  After renovating the kitchen and restoring the walls, she decided to create a "picture" of the history of  her 1910 home. In the photo below you can see various wallpapers and plaster layered under the paint. A nice rectangle was evenly measured to create a custom work of art.  Genius!

history of a home
history of a home

Shower Pans and Real Estate Transactions

This happened last year.... I woke up abruptly at 2 am worried about the shower pan at a Montclair property my client was purchasing.  In the disclosure reports the seller noted that a licensed contractor replaced the shower pan prior to listing the home.  Yes, that’s a good thing but, since no one lived in the house since the replacement, the new shower pan had never been tested. Inspection reports often call for the replacement of leaky shower pans.  To test one, the inspector stops the drain, runs water a few inches high, and then inspects the crawl space, garage, or room below it, (if there is not a nice finished room below). After tossing and turning from 2 am on, I left my home early the next day with towels in hand to test the shower pan.  I put several towels in the shower drain and ran the shower until the water rose several inches high.  I then went downstairs to the garage below the bathroom and waited.  No water, great!  The next day, I stopped by the house and the ceiling below the shower was soaking wet, we had a problem.  I immediately called the listing agent, who in turn called the licensed contractor who had replaced the shower.  We negotiated with the seller, and the shower pan was completely replaced for my buyer.

What happened? It turned out that when the contractor initially replaced the pan, he was trying to preserve the marble walls and did not bring the waterproofing membrane up high enough on the wall.  When he replaced the shower pan for the second time, the original marble walls could not be saved and also had to be replaced.  This situation could have been messy, but the agent representing the sellers was helpful and cooperative.  He even sent me photos of the shower reconstruction progress.  Below is a picture of the shower pan replacement in progress and the black paper is the water proofing membrane that was needed.

 Shower replacement in progress

Shower replacement in progress

An Opportunity to Give Back - Fountain to Vessel

Oakland resident Karlya Benjamin has a vision of honoring the past and empowering the future.  She feels that our elderly have so much to tell and who better to listen than our youth.  Additionally, too often our seniors crave visitors.  If you or  your teenager have the desire to reach out and volunteer for a few hours, read a few of the details below and email me at deidrejoyner@gmail.com.

Who: We, a group of parents and teens in a project called, “Honoring the Past, Empowering the Future”

What: We will go to 3 facilities to share and interact with seniors for 1-1½ hours.  There are 2 facilities and two dates so far.

Where: November 21 – 10:30 -11:30 – North Berkeley Senior Center

November 22nd – Center for Elders Independence, Berkeley – 10:00 – 11:00 am

Why: To keep us (especially teens) connected to the elderly and as human beings.    By sharing with each other, we are able to appreciate the elderly as an incredible wealth of knowledge, history and strength.  A lot has happened in the last 80-90 years and they’ve seen it and were a part of it.  In turn, the elderly are able to see the young as possibilities to empower create and shape the world and as vessels to carry forward the knowledge of the past.

12 month Oakland and Berkeley Real Estate Market Recap

We are now in our Fall real estate season.  Homeowners who have waited all summer to list their properties and are now trying to sell, before winter. .  I am seeing “cream-puff” properties, (homes that have it all: vintage details in tact, great flow, structurally sound, lush landscaping, stable neighborhoods and are priced right) sell quickly.  Other homes that need work, are over-priced and that are not presented well to the market seem to sit on the market.Buyers can be very cautious about neighborhood, property condition and their future space needs. Beyond that unless a buyer has all cash, a home needs to appraise.  An appraiser is an independent person who analyzes a property, neighborhood and recently sold homes to determine if a home is worth the purchase price.  They are the eyes to the bank who is providing the loan to the buyer. As a seller it can be difficult realizing your home is not worth what it was 1,2,or 5 years ago, but you have to price it carefully to gain the attention it deserves.  Speaking of pricing and analyzing comparable sold data, Red Oak has proprietary data for our clients.  My sellers are also able to study custom graphs scrutinize number of units sold, median pricing, average days on market and more.  What makes the data available to me different from my competitors is: neighborhoods are broken down into real neighborhoods, not just zip codes. I can access data on various square footage, bathroom count, select time or just one Thomas Brother Map Code. The possibilities are endless. Red Oak as a company scored a great coup, with the addition of Aman Daro, our Director of  Media.  I am fortunate enough to partner with him on all of my listings.  See my Bay Area recap on the next page, but please call or email me with your questions, I am happy to chat with you about your property.   - Deidre 510.693.4253


Are you up for a short sale?

The chart above illustrates the active conforming, (regular sales) and short sales by zip code in Oakland and Berkeley as of three days ago.  Short sales are here and we are all affected by them.  You as a seller might owe more than your home is currently worth and need to sell your property due to a life change; you could be a home-buyer and are in love with a property that is being sold as a short sale; or if there are multiple properties being sold as short sales in your neighborhood, (they are often being sold slightly under market price) and are affecting your home's value.  To learn more about short sales email me at,  deidre@redoakrealty.com.


What's Going On Out There

This chart shows Montclair market data from the first quarter of 1997 through the second quarter of 2011.  As you can see, sales and selling prices are trending down. As I was writing this blog post, I got word that my favorite property from last Thursday's Broker's Tour went pending in less than a week.  A cool mid century home on Saroni was built in 1950 and and renovated  to tug on the heart strings of any mid-century modern purist.  Click here to view the project. This home was in pristine condition, was tastefully renovated to enhance the property, (no Home Depot cookie cutter finishes here), is level and has a sunny backyard.  Additionally it was priced correctly, hence it is under contract.

Click on the link to view a cool video of the  Montclair district of Oakland.


Before and After in Oakland

Every buyer has a wish list as they venture out and start their house hunt.  My Crocker Highland buyers wanted a home in original condition.  They wanted to embrace the vintage details of  a 1920's or 1930's property and enhance it to blend with their modern edge.

All of the original gum wood was preserved.  The hardwood floors were refinished with a water based matte finish to open up the space.  The wall paper was removed and the plastered walls were hand restored.

North West Oakland, Time to Visit


If you follow my blog, you know what a foodie I am.  I love exploring new taste treats in Oakland and Berkeley.  A coworker told me about the new storefront for James and the Giant Cupcake. Eurydice Manning opened her concept in 2008, but realized her dream of opening her own shop, when her North Oakland location opened for business, just last week.

My Daughter, Nia has already made a special request for these cupcakes in lieu of a birthday cake for her next special day. Here you can also order gluten free and vegan varieties.

A thriving retail corridor, the area along the Oakland Berkeley border at San Pablo has been growing and is part of the Walk Score Renaissance that Oakland has experienced. This week Walk Score announced that Oakland ranked number ten in the nation’s most walkable cities.  In the past ten years, walk-ability has become more important to Oakland families and is part of the reason that home prices have remained relatively stable in our neighborhoods. Click here to read the article.

While I was there, I happened along the Actual Café, which is, as the name states, (with tongue firmly in cheek,) an ACTUAL Café, not a cyber one.  The owners invite you to unplug, kick up your feet and stay a while. There is a wonderful bike rack, free WiFi and they sell seriously local coffee, McLaughlin Coffee that is roasted a few blocks away in Emeryville.

A Verb for Keeping Warm is one of those Etsy-esque artisan knitting shops whose purveyors have a penchant for doing things by hand.  I discovered knitting classes and yarn dyed by hand right on the premises.

I love exploring my City, and it’s always a great time to support local business.  Consider a stroll in your very walkable Oakland!

How Graphs Can Help Buyers

Often times people know what they want, but have no idea what it costs. I would love to live in Upper Rockridge for $600,000, but I know that is not feasible. A client came to me looking to buy a home in three specific neighborhoods - Rockridge, Claremont and Crocker Highlands.

He came to me with no real knowledge of the market or what these neighborhoods typically sell for. So as a way to help familiarize him with the market and the prices that these neighborhoods typically command, I had these graphs made for him. After he reviewed them, he was able to determine if these neighborhoods would in fact fit in his budget.

Below are some samples of the graphs I prepared for him: (Elmwood, Crocker Highlands, Claremont 1st quarter 2008 - April  2011)

Tonight on Piedmont Ave


Amy Perl's (http://www.amyperl.com/) latest photo art work and Craig Erickson's (tmdwblog.blogspot.com) awesome illustrations on wood + resin art work will be on display. Fivetenburger (delicious food!), as well as super cool crafters Hoof and Horn (hoofandhorn.tumblr.com), A Boy Named Coy (aboynamedcoy.com), and Cougar Horse (http://cougarhorse.com/) will be open with their custom clothing designs, and some great artisans' work!


TONIGHT - Thursday, June 16


6:30ish - 10 pm


Amy Perl Photography Studio and Dana and Reed from Cougar Horse Boutique

4456 Piedmont Ave (near the Oakland Cemetery)


It should be a fun time!

This is in conjunction with Piedmont Avenue's first monthly THIRD THURSDAY ART WALK.

Some of Amy Perl's work:



Modern Landscaping

A few years ago, Liz and Eric sold their small house in Temescal and were able to buy a large home in Redwood Heights. This neighborhood is sometimes overlooked, but it's a great place to live. Plus, your money goes a lot farther compared to others. Liz and Eric's home in Redwood Heights was built in the 1970s, and they've renovated it to give a nod to mid-century design.

They also opened up the entrance to the backyard with these great double doors. It opens up the kitchen, brings in natural light and frames the gorgeous landscaped backyard.

What I like the most about their landscaping (besides that they designed it themselves) is the various focal points.  The water feature, the private corner spa area, the deck, variety of foliage and the grass.