Real Estate Gallery
‘Inclusionary Zoning’ Ruffles Some Feathers | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:41

High-income residents push back on affordable-housing mandates

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Reacting against recent federal and state governmental attempts to mandate low-income housing, many normal-to-high-income residents are beginning to push back in frustration.

It’s no secret the current market is wonderful for sellers. However, there’s a dark side to the bliss: With prices continuing upward, affordable housing is quickly moving in the direction of the Dodo bird.

The Federal government, coupled with state housing authorities, has been grappling with the issue for a while now, especially focusing on environs like San Francisco. And many, watching the governmental intervention, are viewing the results with less than enthusiasm.

Benjamin Powell and Edward Stringham of Reason* explain, “One of the most popular (governmental) responses has been ‘inclusionary zoning’ ordinances that mandate developers sell a certain percentage of the homes they build at below-market prices to make them affordable for people with lower incomes.”

While this may be a lofty goal, it’s not admired by many who’ve worked hard to qualify for the high incomes and lofty down payments required to buy into any given development at current market rates.

It’s also preventing one Alameda County land owner I know from selling their property because developers, saddled with mandates for building a set percentage of low-income units, cannot make the project financially feasible.

The rental market is affected as well. A well-known San Francisco-based radio host recently pelted the airwaves with frustration at the fact that he was being forced out of San Francisco by skyrocketing rates. He asked, “How is it right that, even with a talk show host salary, increasing rents are forcing me to leave my apartment where I can walk to work, and relocate to the East Bay… while people are allowed to remain in my complex solely because they are low income?”

It’s a valid question. This is a hardworking professional who is not angry at the free market increasing his rents. He applauds the market economy system and the rights of landlords to raise rents as they choose to meet market demands. His infuriation comes from the fact that some are being isolated from the free market system by governmental intervention and are allowed to remain in his building at extremely low rents… while he has to leave. He asks: “How is that fair to me?”

It’s a valid question, and one you can be sure is going to be asked more and more in the days ahead.

* “Do Affordable Housing Mandates Work?”

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

Drywall Repair: You Can Do It | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:38

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

A large area of damaged drywall — a dent or crack, say — can be a bit daunting, but you can probably replace that section yourself.

You’ll need to buy a piece of wallboard that is a few inches bigger on all sides than the damaged area. You’ll also need a utility knife (box cutter), a wallboard saw, a sturdy scrap of plywood or 1-by-1 piece of wood, wood screws, drywall screws, an electric drill, drywall tape, drywall putty (or joint compound), a putty knife and fine-grit sandpaper.

If the wallboard caved in, the impact probably occurred between two studs. You’ll find this out when you begin to remove the damaged section.

Use a pencil and straight ruler to mark a cutting line along the top, sides and, if needed, bottom of the damaged area. Make the area as perfect a square or rectangle as possible, which will make the repair much easier.

Using the utility knife, slice along the lines, then follow with the drywall saw to cut all the way through. Be very careful sawing next to the studs, as electrical and plumbing lines sometimes run along these boards. Use the utility knife or angle the saw to slice drywall that’s flush against a stud.

Carefully pull away the damaged wallboard. If part of the damaged area is attached to the stud, tug gently on the attached wallboard to reveal the screw, and then either remove the screw or carefully knock out the drywall from underneath it.

Measure the new, square hole, and cut the replacement wallboard to those dimensions. Make sure the new drywall fits — it doesn’t have to be perfectly snug, but should be pretty close.

Now, even if part of the new wallboard will be secured to a stud, you’ll still need to add a backing to the unsecured side of the patch, especially if it’s a really big hole. The 1-by-1 scrap wood comes into play here. Measure and cut it so that it extends an inch or so past the top and bottom of the hole. Place it behind the hole, located about the center of the biggest gap between the studs. Use your electric drill to secure it with a wood screw, top and bottom.

With the backing in place, put the new wallboard up with a helper holding it steady. Use drywall or wood screws to attach the wallboard to the backing boards and to the stud (near the original screw location but not at it).

Now, to cover it up: Place drywall tape along the edges of the new patch. Using a wide putty knife, apply drywall putty or joint compound over the tape, feathering the edges out to better blend with the surrounding wall.

Let the compound dry for at least the recommended time, then sand the compound smooth. Additional drying time may be needed before you paint over the repair area, and I recommend priming the area first.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Citrus in Containers Requires More Water | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:36

041714reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: We have orange and lemon trees that have been in 5-gallon pots for several years. They are not doing well. Is it okay to repot them now, or is there a better time?

A: Citrus can be transplanted just about any time of the year. It is best done when the temperatures are on the mild to cool side.

Several hours before you begin, water the plants so the rootball is wet. Once out of the pots, slice the rootball in four to five locations to disrupt the circular pattern of the roots. Next, trim off two to three inches of the matted roots at the bottom.

The rootball is then placed in the new container, filled with fresh potting soil. The top of the root ball should be within an inch and a half of the brim of the container. This allows sufficient space for water when watering.

Citrus in containers and plants in general are watered more often than those in the ground. Exposure and temperature is the key to the frequency.

Citrus in containers will drop their fruit when they’re about the size of a marble from irregular watering. With temperatures in the mid-80s with afternoon sun, every other day should be sufficient. When it gets warmer, I’d then go to a daily watering schedule.

Unlike those planted in the ground, citrus in containers have perfect drainage; hence, water stress develops quicker. This results in fruit drop before any leaves discolor.

Next year, you’ll be watering daily, as the containers will have many more roots and less soil.

Water stress shows up differently with citrus planted in the ground. The fruit, instead of dropping off, mature but are very dry. You can correct this by increasing the volume of water with a good-size watering basin that is filled up several times.

The foliage will turn a yellow color when nutrients are depleted. To keep the foliage lush and green, you need to provide nutrients throughout the growing season.

Citrus food applied monthly is one answer. But I prefer Osmocote to replace the nutrients that are draining out when watering. Osmocote is a time-released fertilizer. It releases a little bit of nutrients with every watering and is reapplied every four months.

With a little effort, you can turn these ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.

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 • 04-17-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:35
Home Sales • 04-17-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:26
Is What You See What You Get? | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:12

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

A casual glance at Central County listings will reveal some very nice homes. The online pictures are designed to get you in the front door; and, the better they are, the more likely you’ll visit.

Savvy realtors understand this and pay professional photographers to “enhance” their listings so they sizzle online.

As anyone who’s actually visited some of these homes can attest, online pix don’t always tell the whole story.

Frequently the pictures posted on the internet are a great representation of the actual home. In other cases, not so much. It’s like looking at the menu at a drive through, ordering a burger based on the shiny picture and then, upon unwrapping it, discovering that what’s in your hand looks only vaguely similar to what was on the sign.

I’ve seen buyers wander around a home and say things like, “It looked much bigger in the pictures.” One client said, “Boy, those pictures put a lot of lipstick on this pig.”

I have a few recommendations:

1. Never write an offer until you’ve actually seen the home.

This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many buyers, attempting to get a home in the current hot market, are willing to write based solely on what they see online.

2. Pay attention to what is not in the pictures.

I showed a gorgeous home last week — with no exterior shots posted on the MLS. Therefore, we didn’t know about the liquor store right next door until we actually showed up. Additionally, if there are no pictures of specific rooms such as the kitchen, that’s a clue.

3. Always perform due diligence.

Don’t be wooed by the pictures. Ask for inspection reports, disclosures and permits. Far too frequently, upgrades that look fantastic in pictures were done without permits by someone looking to quickly improve the property for a fast sale.

If permits are not provided, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to visit local building departments to verify.

So, what are the rules?

While it’s not acceptable for photographers to Photoshop-in green lawns and other features that simply don’t exist, there are no regulations governing the use of wide-angle lenses, panoramic shots and the like. Professional photographers understand this and will work hard to make sure their pictures look as good as possible. It’s then up to the buyer to make sure that what you think you see… is what you really get.

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

Faulty Faucet Causes Homeowner Headache | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:05

041014re2By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Q: We self-installed a kitchen faucet last year, an expensive single-lever unit with a faucet that curves up several inches high so that there’s plenty of room for pots and pans underneath. For several weeks, now, whenever I turn off the water, a thin stream of water continues trickling out of the faucet for several minutes. I make sure to push the lever all the way down when I turn it off, but that doesn’t fix it. How do we repair this?

A: If you saved the manufacturer instructions or warranty card, dig that paper out and look for a customer service phone number.

The most likely problem with the faucet is a faulty cartridge. In a unit that was only purchased about a year ago, that part should be covered in the faucet’s warranty.

Contacting the manufacturer through the number given on the manual or warranty card will connect you with a troubleshooting department that can walk you through additional steps to determine whether a replacement cartridge is needed.

If you can’t find those documents, go to the manufacturer’s website and look up the faucet model — a manual may be available online along with a contact number. Or, if it’s out of warranty but you have the receipt, contact the store where you bought the faucet; some home-improvement stores have policies in place for many of their items, particularly pricier ones.

If the manufacturer (or the store) agrees that it’s a cartridge issue and is covered, they will send you a replacement cartridge. A new set of O-rings also should be included; if not, you’ll want to purchase the correct-size rings for your faucet model at the home-improvement store.

The beauty of a cartridge faucet is that, compared to older valve-type faucets, replacement is a breeze. You don’t have to struggle with re-seating the valve stem — praying that you haven’t ground the re-seating tool around too far. Instead, you just pop in the new cartridge and replace the faucet seals. You shouldn’t have to worry about servicing that faucet again for several years.

There are a number of online videos that detail the replacement of a kitchen faucet cartridge, which should help you with the repair.

Home Tip: Purchase a set of O-rings or seals for each type of faucet in your home, and tape the bag of replacements to the side or back of each sink cabinet so you have them on hand.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Mortgage Rates Tick Up a Bit | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:04

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.41 percent last week, up from  4.40 percent the week before.

The 15-year rate averaged 3.47 percent, with an average 0.6 point up from 3.42 percent.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 3.12 percent, up from 3.10 percent; and one-year ARMs averaged 2.45 percent, up from 2.44 percent.

Raspberry Shortcake Thrives in Containers | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:01

041014reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: What type of berries will grow in containers? I have a small back yard with limited space.

A: You’re not as limited as you might think, as all the popular berries can be adapted to a container.

Blueberries, by far, are the easiest to grow. A couple of plants will yield a decent number of berries with a minimal amount of effort.

They like a bright, sunny location that is protected from the mid- and late-afternoon sun. A 20- to 24-inch pot should be large enough.

To avoid a pollination problem, select a self-pollinating variety such as Sunshine Blue or Bountiful Blue.

Strawberries are next on the list. Strawberry jars are popular, but I don’t feel they produce enough to be considered. They are best grown in rectangular planters that are a foot wide by a foot deep and of any length.

The everbearing types are the best for containers as they produce few runners, and have multiple crops of berries per year.

The containers should run north to south so each side of the plants get an equal amount of sun. While they can endure the heat of the day’s sun, they also will survive in partial shade.

Because of the heavy production, the plants wear themselves out and should be replanted with new ones every three years.

Raspberry Shortcake is a revolutionary, thornless, dwarf raspberry for those decks, patios and balconies that receive hot afternoon sun. It has an endearing compact growth habit that thrives in a container. Don’t be fooled by its pint-sized appearance, it produces full-size, super-sweet raspberries. Unlike the other cane berries, this raspberry requires no trellising or staking.

Raspberry Shortcake starts producing fruit mid-summer on the second-year canes. You’re more likely to find it at your favorite independent garden center.

Generally speaking, berries will need to be watered frequently and I would fertilize with Osmocote twice during the growing season. Osmocote is a time-released fertilizer that provides a little bit of nutrients every time you water.

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 • 04-10-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:01
Home Sales • 04-10-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:00
Lack of Communication Sours Buying Experience | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:37

By Carl Medford, CRSSpecial to the Times

You’d think with the abundance of interaction methodologies currently available, communication would be easier than ever. Not only do we have the ever-present standby, the phone, we have emails, texting, Twitter, Facebook, FaceTime and more.

Problem is, the person on the other end has to respond. And, as many trying to buy a home have discovered, good communication is not as prevalent as you’d hope.

For buyer agents to effectively show any home, communication with the listing agent is critical. Instructions for accessing the home need to be provided. Open house dates and times, offer deadlines and instructions for writing offers should also be readily available. Listing agents who post this information on the MLS are a tremendous benefit to everyone — especially their seller.

Homes that get shown the most are typically the ones that get the most offers, and agents that take the time and effort to effectively communicate to prospective buyers are setting the stage for a successful showings and sale. So, why don’t all agents communicate?

I have to confess: This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve lost count of how many calls have gone unanswered and unreturned over the past few months alone. I send out many emails and frequently get no response. Which brings up an interesting question: Why not? After all, the job of any listing agent is to effectively represent the seller in selling their home. In my mind, effective communication should be at the core of their job.

Just this past week alone, I’ve made a number of calls to listing agents who’ve insisted on being the point of contact for their listings — and, frequently, they’ve not responded. If they don’t answer their phones or emails, we can’t see the home.

How is this representing the seller in any positive way? One agent in particular gave only their office number and no instructions of any kind. I called on a Friday afternoon about showing the home and was told, via answering machine, that calls would be returned… on Monday.

I’m concerned for sellers represented by agents who don’t communicate. After all, you only get one chance to sell your home and you need a responsive representative. And, in the meantime, buyers are getting more and more frustrated. It’s hard enough buying a home in this crazy market without having to deal with the insult of no communication as well.

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



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