Real Estate Gallery
What Do I Do with All My Stuff, Part 1 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 13:05

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

As spring approaches, many homeowners are considering selling.

During meetings with Realtors, they get answers to questions about price, commission, timing and property preparation. One overarching question, however, remains…

What do I do with my stuff?

To effectively sell a home, it should be de-cluttered — you want buyers looking at your home, not examining your belongings. It’s one of the reasons we recommend staging. Get professional help to make your property look like a model home, enhancing its potential for a quick sale and maximum price.

While some manage their belongings in a neat, effective manner, they’re the minority. Most folks have lots of “stuff” that’s accumulated over the years. The thought of dealing with it can be paralyzing.

Here are some tips to help you mobilize:

1. Start by planning your move.

Determine how you’ll be moving and plan backwards. Some enjoy the luxury of hiring professional movers to do everything from packing, transporting and unpacking on the other end. Most, however, pack themselves and either rent a truck or hire a company to move things they’ve already packed.

2. Choose a “box” strategy.

There are many options for packing. While some like hitting local stores for free boxes, we don’t recommend this.

It’s important to have the majority of your belongings in same-sized boxes or containers designed for moving. Different-sized boxes can shift or even collapse in transit, causing damage. Same-sized moving boxes are actually not that expensive and are available in many places, including Home Depot.

Consider renting containers from companies such as They’ll deliver them and then pick them up from your new location once you’ve arrived and unpacked. Costs are quite reasonable — and remember that one broken valuable can quickly erase any “savings” you might have obtained from “free” boxes.

3. Start NOW.

Even if you plan on moving in a few months, start now. You’ll need to pack anyway — best to begin as soon as possible so as not to get overwhelmed at the end.

Pick one area — a cabinet, bedroom, corner of the garage, a wall of family pictures — grab a container and begin.

One box at a time, one area at a time. Focus on that area until it’s done, then move to the next. Prioritize. Leave important documents and items you use every day until the very end; you don’t want to go digging for something that’s already packed.

Look for “What Do I Do with All My Stuff, Part 2” next week.

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

Rates Hit New Lows in Early 2015 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 13:04

Average fixed mortgage rates fell again last week amid declining bond yields and oil prices. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to its lowest level since May 2013, averaging 3.63 percent, down from 3.66 percent a week earlier.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.93 percent, which was down from the week before when it averaged 2.98 percent.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.83 percent last week, down from 2.90 percent, and one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.37 percent, unchanged from last week.


No Stud Finder? No Problem | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 13:03

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

If you don’t want to shell out $20 or more for a one-time picture-hanging project, you can learn to locate wall studs without help. And, if you still can’t locate the studs, or just want the extra assurance, you can go ahead and buy a stud finder (preferably one that also has a built-in laser level, which is very convenient).

Studs are usually spaced about 16 inches apart. This varies, however. Above doors and windows, studs may be doubled or tripled up to support a heavier load. But along a wall, they’re pretty evenly spaced apart. That’s helpful to know once you’ve located a stud, because you have an idea of how much space is open on either side.

Studs are always located in specific areas: in each corner of a room, on either side of the window frame and on either side of the doorframe. They also are typically next to light switches and outlets (a couple inches to the left or right) because electricians often attach the fixture’s box to the side of a stud. However, once in awhile, an outlet is just set into the drywall.

You can combine a couple of low-tech methods to locate the rough position of wall studs. The first is to simply tap the wall and listen. First tap on the location of a known stud (the corner, for example). Then tap the wall a few inches to the right or left. You should hear a hollow sound away from the stud. The area of the wall that has a stud should sound solid.

The second method is to measure 16 inches from the known stud. Tap the wall at the end of the tape; if it sounds solid rather than hollow, you know you’re at another stud.

Once you’ve got a general location for the studs, you can measure and mark the spots where you want to hang pictures.

Home Tip: Trying to arrange several pictures on a single wall? Trace the outline of each frame onto blank paper, cut them out, and arrange the outlines on the wall to figure out the layout ahead of time.

© 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.

Replace Rusting Roses; Fruit Trees Fail | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 12:59

012915reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I’m looking to replace several older rose bushes this year. Which roses are more resistant to rust, mold, etc.?

A: Rust, mildew and black spot are the primary fungus diseases that plague Bay Area roses. These diseases attack the majority of the Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda varieties.

The very popular Floral Carpet Roses, which is a landscape rose, are not effected.

Those varieties introduced since the year 2000 are far more disease resistant than older varieties; but none are completely disease free.

You might consider the following new introductions for 2015: Neil Diamond, a pink with white stripes hybrid tea; Doris Day, a golden yellow floribunda; or Anna’s Promise, a bicolor golden tan and pink blush with a copper reverse grandiflora.

There are a number of factors that contribute to rust, mildew and black spot on roses.

Mild nighttime temperatures and moisture on the foliage after the sun goes down is the key to all of these diseases. In addition, removing all the debris around the bushes after pruning is recommended to eliminate the over-wintering fungal spores.

With the spring rains, rust, mildew and black spot are an area-wide concern. You need to apply your fungicides prior to the problem occurring.

With roses, the infection occurs 12 to 18 days before the problem shows up on the foliage.

While there are plenty of rose disease controls available, there are no products that will eradicate the problem; hence, they return when the right conditions occur.

Fortunately, we have several systemic fungicides that can be applied ahead of time that will protect the foliage for six weeks. Bonide System Drench and Bayer All In One for Roses are two such products. They are best applied when the new growth is at least an inch long and rain is in the long-range forecast.

If you’re an organic gardener, these products are not for you.

After the rainy season concludes, watering the foliage in the late afternoons or those areas with an afternoon marine influence will prolong the problems into the summer and fall months.

Q: My apricot and plum trees suddenly stopped producing. The trees have been quite productive; however, they were a big disappointment last year. How do I correct things this year?

A: Apricots and plums produce fruit on the second-year wood. If the trees are pruned too severely, the fruiting spurs are removed. This probably is the number-one reason why deciduous fruit trees fail to set fruit.

There are other reasons but they really don’t apply to your trees.

Generally, you should remove 15 to 25 percent of the growth each year. The fruiting spurs are easy to detect. Those branches with buds clustered in a grouping of three or more are the fruiting buds. These stems are a darker color than the one-year old growth, which is a much lighter color and has a single bud.

The good news is that the tree’s productivity will return once the pruning technique changes.

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

Open Homes • 01-29-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 12:59
Home Sales • 01-29-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 January 2015 12:58
Overcome Obstacles to Homeownership | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:33

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

A young couple recently lamented their inability to buy a home. “We can’t find the money for the down payment,” they said.

They’re not alone — many believe homeownership is out of reach. Truth is, getting that first home is closer than many wannabes realize. The key?

Effective financial planning.

Media constantly bombards us with new vehicles, beautiful clothes, restaurants, cruises, credit cards and more. Unfortunately, unless you have a substantial income, those “needs” can prevent you from getting a home.

Here are 10 things that can form a financial blockade to home-ownership.

1. Credit cards: Only have a couple and never buy more than you can pay off at the end of each month.

2. Expensive rental: Rent the smallest property you can — while cramped, you’ll save money every month over larger, more expensive rentals. Keep telling yourself, “This is temporary.”

3. Fancy car: A basic, older car will get you where you need to go. Resist the urge to saddle up to a new ride with a high payment.

4. Wardrobe: Many want expensive clothes, shoes and accessories so they feel good about themselves and their image. Some even view shopping as a recreational pastime. Think about how nice that new house will look on you and give the mall a pass.

5. Media: Your flatscreen only 46”? Tablet an iPad 2? Old phone? Do you have the 1,000 channel package plus premium channels from Comcast? Thinking of upgrading your video game system? Stick with the basics — how many channels do you really watch, anyway? And, your old phone still answers calls, right?

6. Dining out: It may be convenient, fun and more but… it’s mongo expensive. Buy some candles and stay at home — your waistline will stay slim while your savings account gets fat.

7. Gym memberships: Walking is underrated and there are tons of exercise videos on YouTube.

8. Vacations: Although it’s wonderful to be away, many vacation bills linger long after the trip is over. The ultimate destination is not Paris or Puerto Vallarta — it’s a new home.

9. Gifts: Simple gifts often mean more than the lavish ones — pay cash and keep the amounts small.

10. Start small: Many insist on a single-family home — be willing to start with a townhouse or condo.

Think lean and mean — learn to make tough choices. Start saving now and the future rewards will be great.

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 Decline for Third Consecutive Week | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:32

Average fixed mortgage rates fell last week for the third consecutive week as bond yields continued to drop despite a strong employment report. Averaging 3.66 percent, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was at its lowest level since the week ending May 23, 2013 when it averaged 3.59 percent.

This also marks the first time the 15-year fixed rate mortgage has fallen below 3 percent since the week ending May 30, 2013. It averaged 2.98 percent, down from 3.05 percent the week before.

ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) were also down last week.

The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.90 percent, down from 2.98, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.37 percent, down from 2.39 percent.


Do You Shut Registers in Spare Rooms? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:30

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

In the guidelines for newer, high-efficiency forced-air furnaces, HVAC experts recommend against arbitrarily shutting off registers in unused rooms.

There are a number of reasons for this. Newer furnaces are configured to heat your entire home’s square footage in the most efficient way possible. If you start shutting off registers, that setup no longer works, as the parameters of the system have been changed.

Shutting off several registers can affect the blower motor in particular, according to the Energy Vanguard ( blog post “Can You Save Money by Closing HVAC Vents in Unused Rooms.”

Newer systems feature both registers and air return ducts in each room. If you shut off the register, the air return is affected as well, increasing air pressure and forcing the blower to work harder to circulate warm air back into the house.

Air ducts in newer systems also are not normally sealed, the blog notes. So, when the return air pressure goes up, air begins to escape from the duct system itself, forcing the blower to work harder to draw enough air to heat.

Low airflow over other components of a high-efficiency system can cause problems, too. The heating coils actually can get too hot, as can the heat exchanger, increasing the risk that it could crack — releasing exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide, into your home.

So, does that mean heating registers should never, ever be shut? While Energy Vanguard notes that one or two temporarily closed registers shouldn’t negatively affect the system, it’s better to ask your HVAC contractor than to wonder.

What if you’re not sure if you have a high-efficiency system? What if you have an older heating system, or a zoned system? Then, it’s time to schedule a checkup with a heating and air-conditioning professional who can tell you the best way to manage your particular heating system.

© 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.

County Home Sales and Prices Rise at Year End | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:29

Home buying in the Bay Area picked up steam late in 2014, with December posting strong month-over-month and year-over-year sales gains.

In Alameda County, a total of 1,545 new and resale houses and condos sold in December,  up 9.6 percent over December 2013, according to CoreLogic DataQuick.

The median price paid for a home in Alameda County was $555,000, up  5.7 percent over a year ago.

The Bay Area median sale price peaked at $665,000 in June and July 2007 and dropped to a post-boom low of $290,000 in March 2009.

“The Bay Area’s residential real estate market ended 2014 on a cautiously optimistic note, with moderate year-over-year increases in both median price and sales counts,” said DataQuick analyst John Karevoll. “We know that there is a significant amount of pent-up demand lying in wait, and there is a good chance the market could see a surge this spring and summer as more homes are put up for sale.”

The typical monthly mortgage payment for Bay Area home buyers in December 2014 was $2,264.


Sunken Roses Need a Boost; Recondition Soil | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:26


By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have 15 roses in raised containers that have sunk nearly a foot, so I need to add more soil. My thoughts are to prune the roses and then extract them from the boxes. I’m planning on keeping the bushes in water while adding fresh soil to the planters and then replanting them. Is this going to work?

A: This is a very workable solution. With 15 roses to prune, move and then replant, you can take your time and spread it out over several weekends instead of completing it all at once.

It is not necessary to keep the roses in water for days on end. You could remove the bushes from the planters with soil on their roots or bare root them.

The roses, with a root ball intact, can be grouped together, moistened and then loosely covered with a tarp and protected from the afternoon sun. The plants can even be stacked on top of one another. This would also work with other ornamental plants in containers.

Another option is to bare root these plants by washing the soil off the roots. They are then laid vertically on a flat surface, which could be on dirt or even a sidewalk or driveway.

Next, cover the roots with moistened potting soil and a tarp. Again, they can be stacked in a pile. If the bushes are under an overhang, the tarp isn’t necessary.

A second option would be to group the bare root roses into several empty containers and temporarily fill them with soil. Roses can be transplanted anytime though February. Also, It’s not necessary to replenish every bit of soil. Roses can be stored in this fashion for four to six weeks.

These options give you the flexibility to proceed at a leisurely pace and deal with any weather delays.

Q: I live in a condo with little ground for planting, so my gardening is done in containers. I want to replant several of my pots. Is it possible to recondition the existing soil or should I start over with new soil?

A: It’s not uncommon for gardeners to reuse the same container soil over and over. But, it is recommended to replenish the soil by adding new organic matter.

You could add potting soil, soil conditioner or compost along with several handfuls of Dr Earth, Organic #7 All Purpose Fertilizer or similar product.

With several containers, you may wish to dump all the soil into a pile on a tarp and remove any debris from previous planting. All the ingredients can then be mixed at once, otherwise it’s done one pot at a time.

This is usually done when your ready to plant your new plants. The one exception is if you’re planting tomatoes. Tomatoes should be planted in fresh soil every two years to avoid problems with Verticillium Wilt.

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

Open Homes • 01-22-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:26


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