Real Estate Gallery
Should You Make Your Home Your Castle? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


Visiting Seattle recently, my wife and I decided to check out some homes

Interested in properties with water views, we quickly located one perched on a hill with stunning vistas of Puget Sound. Looking at the interior pictures, it was drop-dead gorgeous with custom cabinets, upscale surfaces, a home theater, sauna and more.

Upon visiting, however, we discovered that the façade came complete with a round tower on one corner and roof lines crowned with embattlements. Talking to a neighbor, they echoed our thoughts: “It’s a beautiful home inside,” they said, “But who wants to live in a castle?”

Who indeed. At 141 days on the market, it appears the castle-seeking crowd is a small group indeed.

In reality, anything out of the ordinary is usually a tough sale. Like Disneyland — it’s fun to visit, but most people wouldn’t want to live there. It’s an important rule to remember when fixing up your home — just because your “renovations” tickle your fancy, if they are a bit eccentric from accepted norms, you may have a tough sale on your hands when it comes time to market your chateau.

For those individuals, however, who love living a bit differently than the rest of us, here are some suggestions that might fit the bill:

• 1117 Third Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI: If music is your primary love, this home comes complete with a massive 2,300-piece pipe organ that inhabits more than a third of the home. Hate it when a garage punk-rock band fires up down the street? Open all the windows and doors of this home and blast them into submission with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor… your neighbors will love you.

• 4949 Allan Road, Bethesda, MD: Covered in polyurethane foam, with oval windows and 30-foot-tall ceilings, this home resembles a mushroom gone bad. Ironically, it’s called the Mushroom House, but has also been nicknamed the Smurf House and Flintstone’s House.

• 8530 Hedges Place, Los Angeles (City), CA: Tree house strike your fancy? Built in 1961 as a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright and complete with a Eucalyptus tree growing inside, this glass, wood and stone structure seamlessly integrates into the environment.

Whatever your tastes, if you plan on selling quickly, stay on the “normal” side with any upgrades. Do something weird and you may end up living there longer than you planned.

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

Check Heating Unit Before Winter Hits | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 14:16

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

While most homeowners don’t have their heating systems checked every year — or for several years, for that matter — they should try to schedule a maintenance checkup at least every other year.

A licensed air conditioning and heating professional can check the entire system, including ducting and vents, point out potential trouble spots and ensure the unit is working efficiently.

In between maintenance checks, homeowners can do some of their own maintenance to keep the heating system in top shape for winter. Fall is the best time to do this, before you need the heat. Here are some tips:

• Change the air filter, even if it is relatively clean and was changed on schedule last winter. Once you start using the heating system regularly, replace the filter monthly.

• Open vents and registers, check for debris and vacuum out dust and dirt. This not only keeps warm air flowing freely, it helps reduce allergies from dust and pollen.

• Clean the blower and motor housing. Often accessible behind the air filter, make sure these two important parts of the heater are free of dust and dirt. Wipe with a clean rag. If the housing is covered with a film of dirt, wipe with a rag dampened in soapy water to clean. Don’t use solvents or harsh chemicals on these parts.

• If your heater is a natural gas unit, make sure the pilot light is working efficiently. Turn the burner control to OFF and wait three minutes for the pilot light assembly to cool. Open the pilot light access panel. Turn the burner control to PILOT and light the pilot light (you may need to depress the control while lighting). The pilot light should relight fairly quickly and burn with a clean blue flame.

That’s basically all a homeowner needs to do between professional maintenance checks. It may not seem like much, but simply inspecting and cleaning the heating unit each year can go a long way toward preventing unexpected repair bills.

Home Tip: It’s important to locate the shutoff valve for your home’s gas system in the event of a leak or a severe earthquake. It’s typically near the meter.

© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.

Mortgage Rates Show Little Change | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 14:15

Average fixed mortgage rates were largely unchanged last week despite ongoing global growth concerns that put downward pressure on Treasury yields.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.85 percent, down from the previous week when it averaged 3.86 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.19 percent.

Fifteen-year loans averaged 3.07 percent, down from 3.08 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were unchanged from last week, the five-year hybrid ARM remaing at 2.91 percent and the one-year ARM remaining at 2.53 percent


Mislabeled Cherry Tree Grows Plums; Tuberoses Stay Put | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 14:12

By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q; Our yard is sometimes visited by deer as we live next to a creek. One night, a deer ate the foliage of a recently planted cherry tree. I’ve started using a dried-blood-based deer repellent around the trees and it’s been effective in the past, plus it’s also a mild fertilizer. Now, the new growth from the base has bore some fruit but they were plums. Are cherry trees grafted onto a plum root stock? Is it possible that we purchased an incorrectly labeled tree?

A: Yes, your cherry tree is budded onto a different rootstock but not plum. Cherry trees are budded on to a wild cherry rootstock called Mazzard. Mazzard is best suited for sweet and tart cherries but not sour or pie cherry varieties planted in clay soil.

Plums are budded on to Myroblolan Seedling rootstock, as it is also adaptable to clay soil and root-knot nematode resistant.

You also should have noticed a difference in the size of the leaves between the original tree and the new shoots from the base. Cherries have large leaves while plum leaves are noticeably smaller. Hence, your tree was mislabeled and I’d replant a new cherry tree.

Blood Meal is an old-time, organic fertilizer and deer repellent. It’s placed in mesh bags and hung in the tree(s) at the nose height of the deer(s). The repellent effect is usually lost when placed only on the ground since it’s the smell that drives the animal away.

In addition, you might ring the tree with chicken wire to form a cage, keeping the deer at a safe distance.

100815reQ: I’ve purchased a couple of potted Tuberoses. I’m not sure if I want to transplant them in the ground or just repot them so that I can move them indoors during the winter. What do you suggest?

A: Tuberoses are a bulb that go dormant every year so it’s not necessary to bring them indoors. They will survive outdoors either in the ground or in a container.

For right now, I’d leave them in their current containers and enjoy the wonderful fragrance.

The old flowers are cut off after they fade at the base of the plant. Then, fertilize with bulb food. Also, withhold water when the foliage starts to discolor.

Once the foliage is brown and dry, remove it by pulling it out of the soil and top dress the pot(s) with organic compost.

In February/March, you can decide what to do with them as the plants will be emerging from their dormancy. If you leave them as container plants, be sure to place them in an area where they will receive moisture. The plants send up new foliage in the spring and bloom in the early summer.

Tuberoses will live happily in a pot for several years, but will eventually need to be divided to be either planted in the ground or separated into additional pots.

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

Open Homes • 10-08-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 12:12
Home Sales • 10-08-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 12:11
Millennials Differ on Home Ownership | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


Owning a home has always been recognized as part of the American Dream, but for Millennials, property ownership is at its lowest level since the Census bureau started tracking the numbers in 1984.

While the Baby Boomer generation has dominated for years, it’s projected that 2015 will be the year Millennial numbers finally surpass Boomers.

In contrast to Boomers, however, a statement recently released by Andrew Woo, Data Scientist at Apartment List, states that only 34.6 percent of Millennials own a home. Additionally, of the 6,000 millennials renters surveyed, 74 percent plan to buy a home, but expect to wait until after 2018 to do so.

RisMedia* summarizes the report’s key findings:

• 74 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home in the future.  Only 9 percent of millennials expect to always rent, and 17 percent are unsure

• While a large proportion of millennials plan to buy, only 25 percent expect to do so in the next two years and the majority (53 percent) plan to buy after 2018.

• Renters over age 35 plan to purchase much sooner than millennials, with 50 percent planning to do so within the next two years

• Within millennials, it was found that older millennials (age 25 to 34) plan to buy sooner than younger millennials (age 18 to 24) by a large margin: 54 percent of older millennials plan to buy within the next 3 years, versus only 37 percent for younger millennials

• Marital status correlates strongly with timing to buy: 52 percent of married millennials plan to buy within the next 3 years versus only 41 percent for unmarried millennials.

• Older, married millennials expect to buy the soonest, with 58 percent planning to own within the next 3 years, which is nearly twice the rate of younger, unmarried millennials (30 percent)

• Homeownership aspirations are strongly tied to education levels: more than 77 percent of millennial renters who have a college degree (2-year degrees, 4-year degrees and technical degrees) plan to buy homes, versus 67 percent for those with high school / GED degrees, and 63 percent for those who did not complete high school.

• Millennials with graduate degrees have lower plans to buy than those with 2- or 4-year degrees (72 percent vs 77 percent) This outcome may be driven by the burden of student debt.

One thing is clear: millennials think and act totally different than their Boomer counterparts and, as they come of age, their impact on the housing market will be felt for years to come.


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

Save Time, Money on Your Next Improvement Project | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:37

100115fhi1When you began shopping for your home, you may have envisioned white picket fences, the perfect kitchen, and decorations mirroring those from your favorite glossy magazines.

Soon, you realized your taste and budget weren’t on the same page. However, every home can be a glorious fixer-upper as you add appealing features — especially if you know some tricks to save time and money on home improvements.

With limited time and budget, you may not know where to begin. Here are four home improvement tips to help get you started.

Wall Repair

You’ve decided the ugly bathroom mirror needs a makeover, but when you remove it from the wall, some of the drywall paper comes off too.

For larger wall repairs, remember to prime twice. Cut away any loose paper, apply a thin coat of primer, followed by three coats of spackle or compound — sanding between each layer for a smooth finish.

Apply primer again to prevent “flashing,” or a dulling in the finish, and paint the area with your desired wall color. For a quick bathroom update, consider framing the mirror instead of removing it.

Boxed Storage

Large retailers offer stylish storage solutions for minimal cost. The downside, besides having to assemble things yourself, is the lack of stability these units provide.

Have a little peace of mind with a simple fix — before screwing the pieces together, simply add a small amount of Elmer’s Wood Glue. The bond will hold strong, even as your screws loosen over time.

Fill in the Gaps

Your trim and baseboards can take quite a beating over the years. Moving furniture, kicking off your shoes, or playing with toys can lead to dents and gouges.

Apply wood filler to damaged trim to quickly bring them back to life. Not sure when it’s ready to sand? Color Change Wood Filler changes color when it’s dry, taking the guesswork out of the drying time. Finally, apply a fresh coat of paint or stain.

Tile Transformation

Tile adds a touch of luxury to your kitchen or bath, but can be an eyesore if it starts looking dingy.

For an easy refresh, pick up grout cleaner from your local hardware store or simply sprinkle baking soda onto the grout. Pour a little vinegar over it before scrubbing. Use an old toothbrush and some elbow grease, and your old grout will look new in no time.

If you need to replace the caulking around your tub or base of your backsplash, apply painter’s tape on the base and wall to ensure you’ll get a straight, clean line.

Home improvement doesn’t have to be daunting. Tackling small, effective projects can provide a large impact while requiring little time, money and expertise.


Switching to LEDs Becomes More Affordable | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:33

100115fhi3The use of LED bulbs in homes is on the rise nationwide, and with good reason. Not only are they more energy efficient than their traditional counterparts, LEDs are becoming more affordable upfront.

Indeed, of the United States’ four billion residential light bulb sockets, less than 10 percent are filled with LED lighting; but by 2020, more than 50 percent will be LED, according to industry estimates.

This year alone, the consumer lighting market is anticipated to more than double with LED, while traditional CFL bulb usage is expected to decrease.

LED is not a new technology and has been on the market for years. So what is driving this sudden consumer shift? New light bulb designs are making these cost-efficient bulbs more convenient, attractive and affordable. In fact, certain designs retail as low as under $10 for a three-pack of bulbs and they fit in more sockets and fixtures than their general-purpose CFL bulb counterparts.

To learn more about innovations in LED lighting or to find out how much you stand to save making the simple swap, visit


CAPTION: You don’t need to be a skilled handyman to make an important, planet-friendly home upgrade that will save your family time and money for years to come. Trade in your traditional light bulbs for a more modern variety.

Get House Ready for the Winter | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:30

Fall officially began last week, and although the East Bay will still have a few more hot days, winter is right around the corner. So use the good weather to take care of this fall maintenance list:

Porch, Deck, Patio

• Reset exterior light timers.

• Put away outdoor furniture and grilling equipment.

• Repair cracks in concrete walkways and replace loose bricks.

• If the deck has been stained within the past three years, apply clear water-repellent sealer containing a preservative.

Roof and Gutters

• Look for loose, damaged or missing shingles, tiles or shakes. Loss of the colored granules on asphalt shingles is a sign of aging.

• Clean gutters and check for leaky seams, unsecured hangers and improper drainage of downspouts. Make sure they direct runoff water away from the foundation for a minimum of 3 feet.

• Check the flashing around the chimney or where a roof meets a wall.

• Check the chimney of loose mortar and caulk. Have the chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional.

Exterior Walls

• Check for missing or loose siding.

• Caulk joints and minor cracks.

• Look for deteriorating finishes. Minor problems can be patched to preserve the wood.


• Trim broken or diseased limbs on trees. Look for possible splitting of heavy limbs from tree trunks.

• Rake and compost leaves and garden debris. Discard diseased foliage in the garbage.

Windows and Doors

• Check for air leaks. Add weather stripping as needed.

• Clean and lubricate window channels for smooth sliding.

Heating System

• Clean permanent furnace filters, replace disposable filters. Do this monthly during the heating season.


• Look for signs of roof or flashing leaks on rafters and insulation.

• Check vent openings for nest or other blockages.

Crawl Space

• Check for rotting floor joists and rim boards.

• Remove vegetation and other debris.


It’s Not Always Just About the Money | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:28

100115fhi2When you’re calculating the potential return on investment of any home improvement project, you need to consider more than just the cost.

In addition to resale value, your return on investment (ROI) calculations should also take into account the emotional satisfaction of a project, how it will affect your enjoyment of your home, and its impact on the house’s livability.

Some projects definitely return more of their investment at the time of resale. Other projects may really boost your enjoyment of your home, but be problematic when you one day want to sell.

While some improvements you do because you have to — such as replacing the roof — a few home improvements positively affect resale value, increase a home’s livability and elevate your enjoyment. These are the projects that you also do because you want to.

Here are a handful of home improvements that meet all the criteria for a great investment, not only when you sell but while you’re living in the home:


In the realm of home improvements, adding skylights is one of the least expensive upgrades you can choose for the functionality and appearance benefits they provide. You get a healthy nudge in resale value plus significant emotional and aesthetic benefits.

Skylights, which are particularly popular in kitchens and baths, admit more natural light into a home — which is always appealing to buyers — so when you’re selling, rooms with skylights will appear bigger, airy and more inviting. While you’re still living in the home, you’ll reap the psychological and health benefits of more natural light and ventilation.

Opt for Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights, and you can use the skylight not only for natural light but to provide passive ventilation that improves indoor air quality.

You’ll enjoy the skylights even more since they come with a programmable touch-pad remote to operate not only the skylights but also energy-efficiency-boosting accessories like blinds in designer colors and patterns. What’s more, solar-powered skylights and blinds, along with installation costs, are eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit.

Kitchen Remodel

A minor kitchen remodel of around $20,000 returns nearly 80 percent of your investment when you sell your home, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

Upgrading your kitchen can also be deeply satisfying emotionally, giving you a chance to express your creativity while achieving gains in usability at the same time.

In practical terms, new kitchen appliances tend to be more feature-rich, usable and energy-efficient than older models. The same is true of kitchen faucets, which can allow you to waste less water or even thwart the spread of germs. New cabinets and countertops expand storage and work space while redefining the entire look of the kitchen.

Bath Remodel

Bathrooms help sell homes, and remodeling yours can recoup 70 percent of the investment cost when you sell your home, according to Remodeling Magazine.

Since bathrooms are far more important than their practical purpose, an improved bathroom can realign how you feel about your living space.

A soaking tub, great shower experience, fresh finishes and even fresh paint can all deliver more positive feelings about your bathroom.

What’s more, replacing older faucets and fixtures can actually give you the satisfaction of reducing your water bill.

Newer toilets, showerheads and faucets use less water to deliver the same quality of experience as older, less efficient models. Curbing water waste can save you money — and that’s something anyone can feel good about!

Just as you would never take a job based only on the salary, you should never undertake a home improvement solely on its monetary value. Instead, consider all the elements of ROI — from cash to emotion — before deciding how to spend your home improvement dollars.


CAPTION: Brighten and freshen your rooms with more natural light and fresh air. Energy Star-qualified fresh air skylights and blinds are operated by remote control and they close automatically in case of rain. The skylights, blinds and installation costs are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

Fall Is the Season for Improvements | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:26

100115fhi4The rituals of fall include sending kids back to school, raking leaves and cheering on the hometown football team.

In addition, a new fall tradition has emerged for America’s nearly 74 million homeowners — home improvement.

This fall promises to be particularly popular for home projects. Lower gas prices are boosting people’s discretionary income and Metrostudy’s latest Residential Remodeling Index points to a continued rise in activity.

Like many trends, there isn’t one particular reason fall has emerged as a popular time for home improvement, several factors play a role.

Energy efficiency

With colder weather on the horizon, homeowners shudder at the thought of higher heating costs. They upgrade windows, layer in more insulation, service or replace old furnaces and, in some cases, do all of the above.

The weather is nice

Home improvement projects can be hard and even grueling work, particularly for DIYers. Lower temperatures and humidity create a much more comfortable environment for getting things done (and rhetorically keeping your cool when obstacles inevitably arrive).

Holiday entertaining

Everyone wants their home to sparkle when they welcome family and friends during the holidays. Completing a home improvement project during the fall sets up a big reveal when the holidays roll around.

Falling prices

Fall is an excellent time to save money by finding great deals on home improvement supplies and service. Year-end sales begin and discounts can be steep. Retailers often have discounts to clear inventory before the New Year. Also, contractors are busiest during the warmer months — their business cools as the weather does.




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