Real Estate Gallery
Recent Realtor Murder Highlights Hazards | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:42

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

When you think of hazardous jobs, many come to mind… firefighter, test pilot, navy seal… but not — until recently — Realtor.

That changed this past Sept. 30, as 49-year-old real estate agent Beverly Carter of Arkansas lost her life while showing a home.

Found in a shallow grave about 20 miles northeast of Little Rock, Carter’s body was unearthed on Oct. 1, ending speculation as to her whereabouts. Police have a person in custody, stating it was a crime of opportunity. The family is devastated, as is the real estate community in Little Rock and across America.

It’s not the first such incident: every year real estate professionals are assaulted, raped and killed while performing real estate related duties.

Andrea Brambila, Associate Editor for Inman News states, “The number of real estate professionals killed on the job has risen, and while homicides are down, other causes of death like falls and deaths in traffic accidents are on the rise.”*

Brambila clarifies, “In 2012 (latest year for which figures are available), there were 50 workplace fatalities in the real estate industry subcategory, which includes landlords, real estate agents and brokers, and others who work in brokerage offices, and those who conduct activities related to real estate, such as property managers and appraisers.”

The year 2010 saw the highest number of fatalities, 63, with the largest percentage resulting from assaults and violent acts. The average between 2003 and 2012 was lower at 51 per year. While it’s true some deaths resulted from falls, slips and trips, and other occupational hazards, the overall numbers are concerning.

Ironically, the recent Realtor murder in Arkansas occurred in September, the month designated “Realtor Safety Month” by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The tragedy has provided a wake-up call for the real estate community.

Individual agents, accustomed to showing houses to strangers who contact them for a showing, are grappling with ways to ensure their personal safety. It’s not just a problem with female agents. Male Realtors have also been robbed, assaulted and murdered while meeting prospective buyers at a home or holding an open house.

NAR’s president elect Chris Polychron has promised safety will be a priority once he takes office.

“We’re not going to let it die, I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s sad that it took a tragic death of one of our own to run the red flag up.”

*According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at

Fixed Mortgage Rates Hover Near 2014 Lows | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:41

Average fixed mortgage rates changed very little last week,  with the 30-year mortgage averaging 4.01 percent, down from the previous week when it averaged 4.02 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 3.20 percent, down from 3.21 percent a week earlier.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed last week. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 3.02 percent, up from 2.97 percent, and the one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.43 percent, down from 2.45 percent.


Blankets Provide Plant Protection | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:39

112014reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: How might we protect our new lemon trees from the cold weather. Would it be a good idea to completely wrap the plants with burlap or plastic or would this kill them?

A: No, wrapping plants like an Egyptian mummy for the winter is not recommended for winter cold protection.

Instead, I’d protect cold-sensitive plants, like all types of citrus, bougainvillea, hibiscus and others, by first spraying them with Bonide Wilt Stop or Cloud Cover and then temporarily cover them when the temperatures fall below 40°F for those plants in the ground and/or in containers.

If we have had no significant rain within the last two weeks, water your plants, especially those in containers under any type of cover. This is a point many gardeners miss and explains why plants in containers suffer more damage than those in the ground.

The cold or freezing temperatures pulls or removes moisture from plant tissue. It is a desiccant.

Our coldest nighttime temperatures are just before sunrise. After sunrise, how long the temperatures stay at or below freezing determines the damage. Thus, it’s recommended to water those rain-protected plants every three to four weeks during the winter months.

Bonide Wilt Stop or Cloud Cover puts a protective barrier between the foliage and the cold. One application now with a follow up application in January is recommended.

It’s not unusual to have a cold spell in March. When cold or freezing temperatures are in the forecast, move and cluster container plants under a patio covering or the eaves of the house. I’d place them next to a heated wall when possible to use the escaping heat.

Next, add some mini lights to help warm the air and then cover them with an Easy Gardner Plant Blanket or similar product to trap the warmer air.

With those plants in the ground, cover the plants with a plant blanket.

Plastic sheeting is not recommended unless you tent each plant so the plastic doesn’t touch the foliage, as the cold travels through the plastic and causes damage.

The Easy Gardner Plant Blanket doesn’t require any additional work. The dual layer sheeting can be laid right on the plants. Easy on and then easy off when the really cold temperatures pass.

All covering should be removed during daylight hours.

And, finally, it is inevitable that with all the above precautions it will not be sufficient for those very, very cold nights. Once every 10 to 15 years, we will get a killing frost, and one is due soon.

Q: When is the earliest I can prune my fruit trees? I have an apple, apricot and cherry tree?

A: You can start now to prune deciduous fruit trees. Pruning in the fall is being recommended for apricots and others to avoid problems with moist and wet conditions with new pruning wounds.

Although, I might wait on the apple if the leaves have not started to drop. It makes it easier to prune when you can see the structure of the tree.

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

CAPTION: When overnight temperatures drop below 40°F, cover in-ground plants with a plant blanket. Remove it during the day.

Home Sales Edge Higher as Prices Level Off | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:12

The Bay Area housing market posted another modest uptick in sales during October but activity remained below average as cash purchases continued to taper off and buyers faced a limited inventory as well as affordability and mortgage availability challenges.

In Alameda County, 1,619 new and resale houses were sold last month, up 5.2 percent from a year ago, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, a real estate information service.

The median price paid for a home in the county was $555,500, up 5.8 percent from $525,000 in October of 2013.

The typical monthly mortgage payment in the nine-county Bay Area was $2,307 in October.


Open Homes • 11-20-14 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:11
Home Sales • 11-20-14 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:11
Transaction Coordinators Keep Sales on Track | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:26

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

It’s no secret the internet has changed all things real estate. Anyone watching over the past 10 years will have seen dramatic shifts in the way real estate operates.

While some changes are good, there’s a dark side: compounding nuances and levels of difficulties have become part of the new landscape, making it increasingly difficult to stay on top of everything.

Lenders are much more difficult to work with, frequently throwing in last-minute conditions and terms that must be handled immediately. Realtor forms are constantly changing to keep abreast of governmental policies and regulations that change at a whim. Client expectations have dramatically increased as a result of the internet’s transparency.

As a result, the possibilities of transaction mistakes and/or delays in closing have increased exponentially, exposing everyone to potential losses of time and money. As the levels of transaction difficulties increase, so does the potential for litigation.

Realtors used to be able to fully service clients, including showing homes, running listings, answering calls, fielding questions, meeting inspectors, interfacing with lenders, handling queries from title companies, expediting deliveries and much more.

In the past few years, however, the speed of business has markedly increased along with ever-increasing levels of transactional difficulty. It’s no longer acceptable to get responses to clients and lenders a few days from now or even within 24 hours. With the new levels of interconnectivity, expectations have risen and immediate responses are not only anticipated, in many cases they are critical to the survival and successful completion of a transaction.

This is simply not possible if a Realtor is out in the field with clients, in a meeting hammering out contract details or even taking a day off. Consequently, Realtors have discovered they no longer have the ability to service their clients in a fully professional way, and manage transactions in real time. As a result, most major real estate companies in the Bay Area have concluded that it is in the client’s best interest to include a Transaction Coordinator in every transaction.

These coordinators do nothing but handle transaction details all day long every day. They are not in the field meeting inspectors or driving buyers from home to home; they do not handle sales calls or hunt down lost keys.

Working from a business office with landlines and hi-speed internet access, they interface with lenders, title companies, inspectors and more; and, more importantly, do so from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every business day — the exact same hours the other entities are also in their offices.

Most Realtors now use Transaction Coordinators, and it’s a welcome change for all. In the same way we hire professional inspectors, appraisers, title companies and more to alleviate risk, now we hire professional Transaction Coordinators as well.

Ideally, there’s a coordinator on each side of the transaction. Having trained professionals working the inside of transactions helps keep everything on track, and the possibility of potential litigation to a minimum. It’s the new reality and a very welcome change.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at

Got Ants? Avoid Exterior Spraying | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:23

111314reIf you find a trail of ants in your kitchen, you’re not alone. They’re the most common household pest problem in California and the one Bay Area residents are most likely to attack with pesticide sprays –  chemicals that end up in our local waterways.

Recent scientific studies show that broadcast spraying of pesticides around the perimeter of buildings is the primary cause of the widespread toxicity found in suburban and urban creeks. Rain and over-watering carry pesticide residues from hard surfaces around buildings into gutters and storm drains. Even average usage can severely pollute local creeks and the Bay.

But ants can be stopped without using commercial pesticides. Switching to less-toxic strategies is one of the most effective ways to protect the environment and make it less likely the ants will re-invade, since ant-friendly conditions are eliminated.

The best approach to ant management is to try to keep them outdoors:

• Store food in containers that seal tightly or in the refrigerator when you notice ant activity.

• Keep countertops and floors clean and dry and fix leaking faucets and pipes (ants need food and water).

• Identify and caulk cracks where ants are entering the house. Weather-strip doors and windows.

Ant baits are particularly useful because they are a combination of food and insecticide — ant baits work as ants carry the bait back to their colony and other ants, limiting exposure to people, pets and the environment.

For more information visit

— Bay Area Stormwater Management Agency Association

CAPTION: Keep countertops clean and dry.

Keep Impatiens Blooming Indoors; Lawn Dead, Now What? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:20

111314re2By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: This summer I planted three New Guniea impatiens in pots and grew them in partial shade. They’re doing well. Will they survive the winter or should I bring them inside?

A: New Guniea impatiens will not survive the winter months outside because of the cold. They can be grown indoors; however, your biggest challenge is to keep them blooming and prevent the growth from getting leggy.

Both of these issues are related to the low-light condition found in most homes. This may or may not be an issue depending on you’re overall plan.

If protecting them from the cold is your main objective, then it’s not a big deal. All you need to do is keep them watered. Keep in mind that you’ll need to move them into a heated room, so a garage is not suitable.

They’ll grow more compactly in cooler rooms kept under 75°F.

In late March, you would then move them back outside, cut back the growth and feed them.

I prefer Osmocote, as you’ll only need to reapply the nutrients every four months; but there are plenty of other excellent options.

To keep them blooming indoors, you’ll need a location that receives at least four hours of indirect or direct sunlight. This can be challenging during the winter months.

The Agro Sunlight from Hydro Farms is a grow light that can help resolve this problem. It’s available at many independent garden centers.

New Guinea’s should survive outside as long as the nighttime temperatures stay above 40°F, but I’d moved them inside by Thanksgiving to be on the safe side.

Ultimately, it’s a judgment call on your part. For me, it’s not worth all the trouble to overwinter them.

Q: My lawn is dead from the lack of water since I did not water it all summer. Is there anything I can do to help it come back this winter? It’s really crunchy and brown with lots of bare spots.

A: Once a grass has turned brown from lack of water, there isn’t a magic solution one can do to revive it other than to start over.

Now, there are many seasonal grasses that turn brown or go dormant during the summer months but they still require some moisture. They’ll green up in the fall.

Once a grass gets to the straw color and crunchy, it’s past the revival point.

Reseeding a lawn now is not an option as the grass seed germinates poorly with the short days and cool nights. You’ll need to wait until next March.

Another option is to replant with a water-wise lawn substitute in the spring. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center can suggest some ornamental plants.

Also, the EBMUD book “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” is a fabulous resource of water-wise, attractive plants with great pictures.

Keep in mind, that they will require watering during the summer months but don’t require as much as a lawn, and less when established.

It’s not advisable to do nothing as your property value will suffer.

One of the lessons learned from previous droughts is the cost to replace a lawn, trees, and shrubs is not off set from not watering your plants.

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

CAPTION: To keep impatiens blooming indoors, place them in a location that receives at least four hours of indirect or direct sunlight.

Mortgage Rates Move Higher | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:19

Fixed mortgage rates moved higher last week for the second consecutive week amid better-than-expected economic data. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage also rose above 4 percent for the first time in three weeks, averaging 4.02 percent, up from the previous week when it averaged 3.98 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.16 percent.

Fifteen-year fixed rates averaged 3.21 percent, up from 3.13 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) also rose last week.

The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.97 percent, up from 2.94 percent and the one-year ARM averaged 2.45 percent, up from 2.43 percent.


Open Homes • 11-13-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:19
Home Sales • 11-13-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:18


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