Real Estate Gallery
Follow These Top 5 Buyer Tips for 2016 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


With 2016 off and running, many prospective homebuyers are sitting on their hands. Falling into five broad categories:

1. They tried purchasing a home in 2015, but were burned by countless multiple offer scenarios and ever increasing prices.

2. They have been keeping an eye on interest rates and are unsure when to take the plunge.

3. They cannot seem to find a home that works for them due to the extreme shortage of inventory.

4. They are currently priced out of the market and are scrambling to get (i) more funds for a down payment, (ii) qualify for a higher mortgage or (iii) try to find someone to provide gift funds or co-sign with them.

5. They are waiting, believing that prices will soon adjust downwards.

While I understand categories 1-4, I’m concerned about #5 — every indicator I’ve read shows steady price increases for the next year. I watched similar buyers a few years ago with the same sentiments. Unfortunately, because they waited, many squandered any opportunity they may have had of securing a home locally.

For those who really want to get a home in 2016, here are my Top 5 Tips:

1. Start NOW. The day after Super Bowl Sunday usually signifies the beginning of the buying season as buyers get off their couches and hit the pavement. If you start immediately, you will miss some of the rush.

2. Get an agent who has sold a lot of homes in the current market. You need the best experience you can find on your side.

3. Get your financing in order. Have a pre-approval ready to go and make sure you have your down payment in the bank. Count on up to 3 percent of the purchase price for closing costs over and above your down payment. If you are going to need gift funds from a family member, arrange them now and get a gift letter signed.

4. Don’t be fussy. In a market such as this, the goal is to get a home at all, not get the home of your dreams.

5. Consider new homes. In some communities, inventory is currently available. You will pay a premium, but may stand a much higher chance of getting a home. Make sure you take your Realtor with you on the first visit.

While it’s a tough market for sure, if you are diligent, 2016 could be your year.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at

Mortgage Rates Fall for Fourth Straight Week | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:49

Mortgage rates moved lower last week for the fourth consecutive week as the Fed held interest rates steady.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.79 percent, down from 3.81 percent the week before. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 3.66 percent.

Fifteen-year loan rates averaged 3.07 percent, down from 3.10 percent.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.90 percent last week, down from 2.91 percent. A year ago, the five-year ARM averaged 2.86 percent.


Junsay Installed as President of Asian Real Estate Group | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:47

020416re2Commercial and residential real estate broker Josefina Junsay of Alameda, a longtime East Bay resident, was installed as 2016 president of the Asian Real Estate Association of the East Bay last month.

Junsay is a broker associate with Realty One Group BMC Associates.

Other officers installed during the Jan. 8 ceremonies included Vice President Frankie Hartwell, Treasurer Mary Geong, Secretary Michell Li and Public Relations Officer Tina Diep.

A certificate of Special Congressional Recognition was presented to the new officers and Board of Directors for their dedication to the East Bay Community from Congresswoman Barbara Lee .

The Asian Real Estate Association of the East Bay, a non-profit organization that works to expand the expertise of its members, can be reached at 510-938-5732 or online at www.


Do You Have Termite Troubles? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:44

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Inspecting your home for termite infestation on a regular basis can make a big difference in the amount you’d have to pay to eradicate them.

Most homeowners aren’t able to decisively confirm that a termite infestation exists, but there are telltale signs to watch for:

• Dirt tunnels on the house’s masonry foundation and on pipes traveling through the foundation.

• Crumbly areas inside masonry cracks or holes.

• Small dirt-like formations inside cracks or holes.

• In wooden areas of the house, especially those close to the ground, look for rotten or decayed spots. Use a pocketknife to poke into the spot; if it penetrates a half-inch or more, you might have a termite problem.

If you notice any of these suspicious signs, contact an exterminator to do a more thorough inspection of your house and start treating for termites. Be sure to get a written estimate of the work to be done before allowing the exterminator to start treatment.

How do you prevent termites? In addition to scheduling a professional inspection and preventive treatment once a year, keep moisture from affecting the house — particularly at the foundation.

Don’t allow standing water near the foundation. If that’s a problem, improve drainage away from the area. Trim back hedges and plants to about 1 foot from the foundation so pests can’t work their way into the house from them. Fill and seal cracks in outside masonry.

© 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.

Cervantes Named Vice President of Hispanic Realtor Organization | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:43

020416re3Castro Valley Realtor Jose Cervantes has been named vice president of the Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).

Cervantes is an affiliated agent in the the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office at 21060 Redwood Road. He will be installed next week at the chapter’s 2016 kick-off event in Oakland.

A 15-year real estate veteran, Cervantes holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from U.C. Berkeley where he majored in architecture. Having worked in architecture for 12 years, he brings a unique perspective to his real estate business. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Languishing Lime Slowly Strangles Itself | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:41

By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have an old lime planted in a container that constantly has limes on it, but the leaves are yellow. Is it okay to feed it while it has fruit on it? In addition, when is the best time to repot it since it’s been in the same pot for eight years and I don’t want to shock it?

A: It’s never a problem to feed citrus while it has fruit maturing on the plant. Citrus food is the most popular choice and it’s applied monthly, March through October.

After the rainy season concludes, be sure to  water it the day before and immediately after applying any fertilizer. Personally, I prefer to feed with Osmocote. It’s a time-released fertilizer that releases a little bit of nutrients every time you water and you only need to reapply it every four months.

Eight years is a long time to be in the same container. There is probably very little soil left, so you’re left with a mass of roots that is slowly strangling itself. Citrus, along with many other plants in containers, should be repotted every 36 months. It’s usually done between mid February through April.

You could move it to a larger pot or keep it in the same size pot indefinitely by root pruning it.

To root prune, you’ll need to physically pull the plant out of the existing container. With a serrated knife, or pruning saw, trim off two to three inches off the sides of the root ball and three to six inches off the bottom. I know this sounds harsh but it will not damage the plant.

Next, add fresh soil to the container and replant.

When transplanting to another pot, you again use a serrated knife and slice the root ball, separating some of the roots. You need to disrupt the circular pattern and allow the roots to spread out into the new soil.

This would also be an ideal time to add Soil Moist crystals to the new soil. Soil Moist is a polymer for plants that hydrates with water. The plant roots attach to them and use it as a back-up reservoir. This helps in extending the days between watering.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers. Send questions by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Open Homes • 02-04-16 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:40
Home Sales • 02-04-16 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 13:40
Stock Market Shivers Fail To Spook Housing Market | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


Last week, my phone started ringing more than normal. It seems the recent stock market volatility had a number of people worried about the impact it might have on the real estate market.

Potential buyers were wondering if they should wait before buying, and seller wannabes were wondering if this would hamper their chances of selling their home.

In all cases, the answer was the same — a resounding, “No.”

Many remember October 15, 1987, and are understandably nervous when the stock market shows significant negative gains in any one day.

Called “Black Monday,” the Dow saw a percentage decline of 22.61percent in a single day. It lost again on September 29, 2008 when the index fell 778 points, almost 7 percent. October 15, 2008 saw an almost 8-percent correction. The day after 911 saw a 7.1-percent dip. And so on.

Tom Huddleston, Jr. of Fortune states, “Fears over China’s struggling economy, slumping commodity prices and uncertainty regarding the timing of the Fed’s highly anticipated interest-rate increase have all combined to form the perfect storm to knock U.S. stocks down from record-high levels attained earlier this summer.”

While everyone on Wall Street has an extreme case of the shivers, how does this affect Main Street and the housing market?

While the stock markets and real estate markets sometimes march together, they also frequently operate at odds with each other. In fact, while the stock market has been going through its negative machinations this past few weeks, the Bay Area real estate market has been surging upward.

Whereas buyers sat on their hands through much of the fall, they are now back out looking in increasing numbers. And very much like last January, there is almost no inventory for them to see, so they have been flooding open houses like ants to a 4th of July picnic. Multiple offers are back, and we’re off to the races once again.

Truth be known, the stock market has had a fairly stress-free ride for the past few years, and record gains have been the result. While no one likes to see money vanishing into thin air, it’s a much anticipated market correction.

Keep in mind, serious investors all understand that the stock market is a long-term proposition, so most will ride it out. Recent losses also do not constitute a “crash.” As for the housing market? Looks like it’s business as usual to me.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at

Fix Damaged, Chipped Bathroom Tile | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016 16:13

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

If you need to replace cracked and chipped tile in the bathroom, especially those shaped to fit around the base of the toilet, it takes a bit of practice.

At a home-improvement store, grab a few extra tiles of the same type as your replacement tiles, along with a tile cutter and a scoring tool. Practice cutting tiles in half, then in quarters, working to get a smooth break by first scoring along the cutting line (drawn with a pencil) then making the final cuts with the tile cutter.

Next, practice cutting tiles to shape. For an arc, you may need to score deeper — repeating along the cutting line a few times — and then score down the middle of the arc before cutting.

Working from a template can make things a bit easier. If the chipped tiles haven’t been removed, place as many of them back in place as possible. Trace the outline of the tile on a piece of paper, and use that as the template.

Now let’s look at fixing the damage. This repair works best if just a few tiles are damaged. If the damage is extensive, consider redoing the entire floor.

To replace the damaged tiles, tap a chisel gently along the edges to loosen the grout and then try to lift the tile. If it’s stuck, place the chisel edge in the center of the tile and tap it with a hammer until the tile cracks. Then, pry out the pieces, being careful not to mar the surrounding undamaged tiles.

Once the damaged tiles are up, brush away the debris. This is a good time to inspect the underlayment (the flooring underneath the tile, often a plywood sheet) for water stains, swelling or other damage. Contact a flooring professional if you detect a problem.

Replace the damaged tiles with new ones that closely match the old ones. (Take one of the removed tiles to the home-improvement store to match them.) Make sure to buy a few extra, in case your initial cutting efforts don’t work. Score and cut the new tiles to fit the spaces left by the old tiles.

Working one tile at a time, coat the bottom with a thin layer of grout or tile adhesive. Press the tile into place, as close to the toilet base as possible.

Once they’re set, apply grout generously to the spaces between each tile (about a 1/8 inch gap), using a wide putty knife to work in the tight area. Wipe away excess with a damp (not wet) cloth and let the tiles set for at least 24 hours.

To finish, scrub tiles with a lint-free cloth, soap and water to remove the hazy layer of excess grout. Dry completely, then apply a thin bead of silicone caulk between the toilet base and the edges of the tiles.

© 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.

Bougainvillea Suffers from Frost; Feed Roses | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016 15:56

012816reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q; My potato vine and bougainvillea suffered from frost in the recent cold spells. Most of the leaves have fallen off, so they look terrible. Is there anything I can do now to help them grow back?

A: It’s not unusual for potato vines and bougainvillea to be damaged from frost and freezing temperatures during the winter. The cold will burn the leaves and/or kill the plants.

Cold acts as a desiccant, pulling moisture from the plant tissue while a freeze causes the cell walls to rupture. As a result of these damaged cell walls, the plant defrosts too quickly, killing leaves and stems.

Cold injury is more likely to occur the longer the temperature stays below 32°F after the sun rises.

Right now, the recommendation is to do nothing. There is the possiblity of more cold temperatures going forward. Instead, I’d wait until the danger of frost is over which is around March 15.

You could also scratch the bark to see if it’s green. This would indicate that the plant is still alive. Personally, I’d still wait longer until you see some new growth developing.

At this time, I’d prune off all the dead growth and fertilizer with Dr Earth Organic All Purpose plant food to encourage the new growth.

Q: After pruning my roses, is there any special winter fertilizer I should feed my bushes?

A: There is no special winter fertilizer for roses. With the advent of the rose care products from Bayer or Bonide, you can now combine a fertilizer along with an insect and/or disease control in a single application for the first feeding.

Depending on what you choose to use, you should wait until March to apply it. The other option is to apply rose food starting after the President Day holiday and repeating it monthly through October.

For container roses, I prefer Osmocote, as it’s a time released product that releases a little bit of nutrients with every watering and is reapplied every four months.

You would then treat for aphids and other insect problems along with rust, mildew and black spot separately.

Hence, there are many correct answers as to what to do and use.

Q: I have a fast-growing privet tree on a fence line. When I moved here five years ago, it was a manageable 12 feet, but now it has grown to over 20 feet high with a 10-inch trunk. Is there something I can use to contain it?

A: There are no practical ways to stunt the growth of a privet tree other than manually trimming the canopy.

You can severely shear it back before the flush of spring growth, and repeat the pruning as necessary to keep it at a desired height.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to 360 Civic Drive, Suite D, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 and on Facebook at

CAPTION: Bougainvillea is susceptible to frost damage when temperatures stay below 32°F after the sun rises.

Open Homes • 01-28-16 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016 15:55


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