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)



Deidre's Fave's

What's up!  I have been MIA and I apologize.  You have been keeping me very busy and I am so blessed and grateful to have sold 2 dozen homes thus far in 2013, keep it coming!
Here are few local businesses that I want to pump!

salt and pepper bagel filled with lox, capers, cream cheese and red onions

3838 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
I am pretty addicted to the Classic closed face bagel with lox, capers, red onion, cream cheese on a salt and pepper bagel.  They are Montreal- Style Wood-Fired bagels that are hand rolled, boiled in honey water, and then roasted in a wood-burning oven. 

Stop in at Doughnut Dolly and Esqueleto, they are neighbors

Doughnut Dolly 

482 B 49th Street at Telegraph on "Alley 49"

The Doughnut Dolly Naughty Cream Donuts are ridiculously good.  I have brought them to my office to give to the staff and I have heard comments such as, "that is the best thing that I have eaten".  This is the creation of a Chez Panisse alum's baby, Hannah. She wakes in the middle of the night to bake fresh donuts and then has several fillings available and fills them to order. 

Lauren Wolf inside her super cute boutique in Temescal Alley

482 49th Street , Suite A Oakland, CA 94609
Esqueleto is Jewelry Designer, Lauren Wolf's shop that features her designs as well as many other creative artists' work.  She has a mix of fine jewelry, chunky statement pieces, beautiful art, all in an uber dreamy store.  I walk in and want to buy armful's of stuff.

vintage numbers, why is there never a J

5640 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618
Maison d'Etre is a Rockridge staple and is always one of my faves to find both new and vintage treasures.  I keep hoping I'll walk in one day and find a vintage bronze or enamel letter J for my home.  Owners Patty and Fred curate a unique mix of coffee beans, candles, jewelry, pajamas - basically a really cool place to pick up a gift.

Jack London Kitchen & Bath

2500 Embarcadero St. Unit F - Oakland, CA 94606
I set out with a goal to renovate my bathroom without products made in China. Everyone said it would be impossible.  I was lucky enough to find Brianna Dukes at Jack London Kitchen & Bath.  I found a cool tub and vanity, toilet and linen cabinet all made responsibly in the US. I also found  faucets from Germany, a medicine cabinet made in Switzerland and received a good discount on my order.  Brianna was available to help me with measurements, suggestions and recommendations.

Art Deco inspired rare peridot and diamond ring designed and crafted by Jeff Sahadi

4206 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
My favorite Jeweler is J Sahadi on Piedmont Ave.  I have been going to Jeff for repairs for years.  I absolutely love Jeff and when you look at his hands, you will immediately recognize that he is a true artisan.  He creates handmade, exquisite pieces that are sure to be heirlooms.  I have a few of his treasures, but think this rare, peridot, deco inspired ring is the business.

Saturday Brunch @ Grand Lake Kitchen

Grand Lake Kitchen

576 Grand Ave

I am loving Grand Lake Kitchen, I have had 2 meals there and both were fresh and delicious.  Try the, Breakfast Sando - fried eggs, country ham, jack cheese, avocado on ciabatta or the Savory French Toast - rye bread, 2 poached eggs, wild mushrooms, parmesan, arugula and herb oil.

coming next week!

I am finding that many house hunters are looking for walkability over house size.  Next Sunday, my new listing in Rockridge will open, located blocks away from some of the best food in Oakland!

You could live near all of this!
You could live near all of this!

428 63rd Street, Oakland


A picture is worth a 1000 words

3707 Kansas FLOWER

In a world where people want to see homes in their pajamas in bed, property photography needs to be stellar to grab a buyer's attention.  I love working with my photographer, Peter; he totally gets me.  On every photo session, I explain to Peter what I am trying to exude to potential buyers.  A house is more than the rooms and the staged furniture, it is about setting the stage and giving a vibe.  This photo was captured last week at 3707 Kansas Street in the Laurel District of Oakland - a sweet, sunny bungalow studded with fruit tree- love the bee on the citrus blossom.

I am back - February 2013 Oakland and Berkeley Real Estate Update

Sorry for the lengthy lapse in posts!  I have been very busy helping clients! Over the past few months, East Bay real estate has been a whirlwind.  The combination of low interest rates, high rents, and a surge in desire for homeownership has once again created a sellers market.  Prices in communities of Oakland and Berkeley are still not at the peak prices of 2005 through 2007, but they are up from the steep decline of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The biggest equity gains in Oakland have happened in the the walkable areas such as Rockridge and Crocker Highlands. (See the stats for these neighborhoods at the end of this post.)  As more buyers migrate to the sunny side of the Bay from San Francisco,  a higher demand is placed on a home with an easy walk to coffee, restaurants and public transportation.  Lifestyle can often trump home size in importance.

For buyers it is important to consider that interest rates will likely rise as the economy improves. This historic window of "cheap" money will not last forever.  As a buyer, if you plan to keep your new home for a long time, you can count on keeping that fixed rate, low interest loan and will maximize the savings.  I suggest that my buyers consider purchasing a home that will fit their needs for a minimum of 7 years.

Is now still a good time to buy even when buyers must compete, and prices can go substantially over the original asking price?  My answer is yes. Consider this. A listing price is a marketing tool. Many sellers decide to price their homes under its expected sale price to gain maximum exposure during the period the home is marketed to the public. Using this tactic often means that a seller with a home that might be worth $800,000 will price it at $720,000.  When a buyer offers $80K over the asking price, their offer is actually spot on in regard to value. But stopping there does not take the competition into consideration. With multiple buyers offering to buy the same property, it is often necessary to bid even higher than fair market value to win the home. What a buyer should factor into the equation while they ponder what price to offer is,  the record low interest rates. At a 3.75% interest rate on an offer of $811,000 and a buyer just might beat the competition by offering a few thousand dollars more. For example, the monthly payment with a 20% down payment, (not including property taxes and insurance) would be $3004.69.

What's the risk in waiting? Using the same example, if the interest rates rise to 5%, (still a great rate!), your monthly payment would be $3482.90. That equals a $480 per month increase for the same loan. It equates to an additional $5760 per year and $40,320 over a seven year time span. If you decided that you wanted to keep your payment down to the $3000 per month range and interest rates went up to 5%, your buying power would equate to a purchase price of $700,000 as opposed to $811,000- decreasing by over $100K. The risk here is that there is no guarantee that home prices will decrease accordingly by 7%.

A final factor to consider is whether you will  benefit from a tax deduction.  For example, if you make $100,000 annually and pay $30,000 in mortgage interest, you will be able to deduct that cost from your income for a substantial savings. (Please consult your tax adviser for the exact tax saving).

Ultimately home ownership is a personal choice, and a big investment. As you consider whether buying a home at this time  is right for you realize the numbers are now showing that the current market is in a sweet spot. The prediction moving forward is that prices and interest rates are on the rise...