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Question of the Week • 06-13-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 14:32

 

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Adopt-A-Pet • 06-13-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 14:46

 

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La Honda Music Camp Celebrates 51st Anniversary | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 13:52


By Marvin Bowerman
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Hayward La Honda Music Camp celebrates its 51st anniversary this summer as it looks forward to welcoming in grades 6 through12 to a challenging and fun experience devoted to developing fine musicianship.


Up to 300 participants will have the opportunity of studying under music directors from Bay Area colleges, universities and schools in a residential camp that runs from July 28 to Aug. 4.


Camp highlights include Band (concert band and wind ensemble), Full Orchestra and String Orchestra, Small Ensembles (all combinations), Jazz Bands (five levels), Jazz Improvisation (three levels), Jazz Piano, Vocal Majors, Music Theory, Vocal Music (all-camp chorus, jazz choir), Master Classes (all instruments), Conducting, Composition, Latin Jazz and Electronic Music.


Recreational activities will include arts and crafts, swimming, equestrianism, canoeing, softball, archery, climbing tower, dances, zip line and hiking.


Regular online tuition is $725. Certain discounts and some scholarships will be available for families with financial need.


For full information or registration visit lahondamusiccamp.org, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call 510-537-4871. The camp is a non-profit organization.

 


 
Appraisers Struggle To Keep Pace with Market | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 08:53



By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum


 

 

 

A few years ago, flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Entebbe, Uganda we crossed over Africa’s massive Lake Victoria. Skies were clear with the exception of a large, solitary black cloud hovering over a corner of the lake.


It seemed odd, but, having seen storm clouds before, I didn’t think much of it until the Kenyan seated beside me, in his rich accent, asked, “You know what that cloud is, don’t you?” My blank look signaled to him I had no clue, so he explained. “That’s a swarm…” he stated, “…of Tsetse flies.”


I spotted a similar cloud in Castro Valley last weekend… of buyers.


Just a few short months ago, potential homeowners were able to visit long lists of homes; and, while poking in closets and opening drawers, ask, “So how far under asking price can we go on this one?”


Those days are now just a faint memory of the way things were — completely overshadowed by the new reality.


Pulling up properties for one of my buyers last weekend, I expected to come up with a list of about 20 possibilities. I was shocked to find… three. As we visited all of them, we noticed similarities: all had prices higher than any of the local comparable sales, each had open houses, an offer deadline was specified for every one and there were vast amounts of cars jockeying for parking spaces in front of them all.


Inside, the numbers of buyer wannabies reminded me of the lines for food samples at Costco on a Saturday afternoon.


As explained in previous articles, we’re firmly in a seller’s market with limited inventory and swarms of buyers. Following the laws of supply and demand, prices are going up as multiple offers pound in on almost everything. Way up. So much so that appraisers are having an extremely difficult time keeping up with the new reality.


As a result, we’re seeing record numbers of appraisals coming in low. It’s a tricky situation: appraisers, with memories of the last market boom, are reticent to get blamed for signing off on higher prices.


On the other hand, the market has turned and higher prices are the new reality. In fact, appraisers with consistently low valuations are actually keeping the market from growing as quickly as it could.


It’s a catch 22 scenario and, until we get some kind of resolution, this new real estate reality is giving everyone involved massive headaches.


Next Week – Appraisals Part 2 – Record Numbers Of Low Appraisals Spawning

 

 

New Buying Strategies

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 www.ccmgtoday.com

 


 
Adopt-A-Pet • 05-23-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 12:32

 

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Question of the Week • 05-23-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 12:26

 

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Banks Busy Sniffing Out Mortgage Fraud | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 11:38


Real Estate Reality



By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum



Back in the “good old days” when money flowed freely and all you had to do to get a loan was to pass the mirror test, lender fraud was rampant.


While there is plenty of blame to go around, and none-stated-income loans being the chief culprits, extra credit goes to loan applicants who, due to ethnicity and a poor command of the English language, couldn’t even read the loan documents. They had to rely on others who were all too often willing to bend things a bit to make the loan work.


The good news: Those days are gone. And, many of the perpetrators are actually in jail — enjoying a well-earned break from the business of generating less-then-honest loan applications.


The bad news: It’s made loans substantially more difficult to obtain and process.


Not willing to be burned again, banks have undergone a steep learning curve. But learn they have. In fact, if anything, they’ve over compensated.


Left to deal with the chaos caused by fraudulent loan applications and consequential collapses, they are going about things very differently than they used to. In the past few years, they’ve worked hard to find potential fraudsters and weed out problems before they hand out a loan. And, if they suspect any foul play, loan applications instantly go from full speed ahead to dead in the water.


It used to be that banks performed only a few fraud checks on a small sampling of loans. Not only have they increased the number and types of checks they perform, they now examine every single loan in detail. According to David Montoya, inspector general at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, increased scrutiny is the only option they have. “If we let the money go out the door,” he declares, “We’re pretty much chasing the wind.”


So, scrutinize they do. Drawing on extensive web-based databases, they look for information ranging from whether or not you are currently employed, what your salary might be, where you actually live and more. They search for judgments, liens, other properties you might own and the like.


The IRS is even getting into the act by electronically wiring your past tax returns directly to potential lenders.


Bottom line: Don’t try to embellish incomes or hide extra expenses. With so many methods for sniffing out incorrect info, if you try, banks are making sure that the only one ending up burned… will be you.

 


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 www.ccmgtoday.com

 


 
A Rod and the Hayward P.D. | Print |  E-mail
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Tuesday, 22 May 2012 14:43



By Thomas E. Lorentzen


 


“Character calls forth character.”

Goethe

 

We do not know what fosters the alchemy of art, but we do know an act of art when it appears.


This is what happened in the life of a Hayward policeman named Rod Pierce (also an acclaimed athlete at Hayward High and Chabot College).


He was a person who had earned the admiration and respect of his family, friends and his professional peers at the Hayward Police Department.  His life was recently ended in a tragic accident on Crow Canyon Road at the age of 45.


After the accident medical professionals at Eden Hospital tried to perform miracles to save his life, but they were in vain. In the immediate days after the accident, the honored men and women of the Hayward Police Department stood vigil at the hospital, displaying artistic hues of loyalty, love and respect for their fallen colleague.  The palpability of their emotions, often hidden behind the necessary mask of their difficult profession, was poignant in the expressions upon their faces, the sincerity of their hugs, and the poetry of their conversations.


What was displayed from within the chemistry of this tragedy – of the loss of Rod Pierce – a fine man, father and professional law enforcement officer, was a form of true art. The display from these men and women, and the Pierce and Bolar families, were beyond our humble means to record and reveal. What was done, however, was to add new depth to the meaning of the word “dignity.” They also synchronized the terms of “loyalty” and “duty” with the word “beauty.”


As a long-time family friend I was privileged to be among the many to stand vigil out of respect and appreciation for the character and life of Rod Pierce. The best that we can do is to display the loyalty deserved by him and his family, recognizing that this is all that can be done within the emptiness that orchestrates an inner sense of deep loss.


Within the cadence of these motions and the fog of tears resides the clarity of vision of the essence of the character that Rod possessed and that he had artistically developed.


It is also from which he had earned the respect and love of all of those who knew him and worked with him.  He was a true “A-Rod” and his personal family as well as his family of officers at the Hayward Police Department reconfirmed that fact in how they addressed this tragedy.  They also revealed that they are made of the same strain of character that adorned Rod.


The “A” that is applied in this composition regarding Rod and his families is not restricted to that of a grade, for it is also about the “art of life,” which is most tested from within the realm of tragedy.


Rod and his personal family as well as his professional family provide the truest example possible of what we should all strive to be in life. With his passing, he passed to many others the trueness of the art of life and the richness it provides to those who stay the course.


As a man, father, husband, and a police officer he earned an A in life, making him the real A-Rod. It is also what resides with-in his band of brothers and sisters in the Hayward Police Department. In passing, he passed to many others the essence of the art of life.

 


Tom Lorentzen lives in Castro Valley. He fomerly served on the board of the Institute of Museum & Library Services and the Advisory Board to Southern Oregon University, and has served three Presidential Administrations.



 
Be Rattlesnake Safe When Outdoors | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 15:46

 

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Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike only when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room, they will retreat.


By Carol Singleton
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Now that warm weather has returned, humans are not the only species coming out to enjoy the sun. Snakes, too, can be found basking in the sun’s rays.


Although most snakes in the state are harmless, the Department of Fish and Game reminds the public to steer clear of the venomous rattlesnake and know what to do if one strikes.


All of California is snake country. You don’t even have to be in the great outdoors to discover a snake. They can be found in your garden and sometimes even your garage, but there is no need to panic.


Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, including keeping the rodent population under control.


Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike only when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room, they will retreat.


Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.


On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.


The potential of running into a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors, but there are precautions that can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten.



 

Is it a rattlesnake?

Anyone who ventures outdoors this time of year should know how to identify California’s only native venomous snake - the rattlesnake. There are several species including the northern Pacific rattlesnake (), and the western diamondback in Northern California, and several others found in Southern California.


A rattlesnake is a heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed snake with one or more rattles on the tail. It has a triangular-shaped head, much broader at the back than at the front, and a distinct “neck” region. The rattlesnake also has openings between the nostrils and eyes. They have a series of dark and light bands near the tail, just before the rattles which are different from the markings on the rest of the body.


Rattles may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and are not always developed on the young.

 


Do’s and don’ts

Rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas. They have been found in urban areas, on  riverbanks and lakeside parks and at golf courses. Startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively. The following safety precautions should be followed to reduce the likelihood of startling a rattlesnake:


•Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.

•Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.

•When hiking, stick to well-used trails.

•Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.

•Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.

•Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.

•Shake out sleeping bags before use.

Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.

•Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.

•Do not handle a freshly killed snake, as it can still inject venom.

Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

 


In the event of a snake bite

Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a cell phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency, and make sure that family or friends know where you are going and when you will be checking in.

Try to stay calm. Wash the bite area gently with soap and water. Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling. Immobilize the affected area. Transport safely to the nearest medical facility.


Don’t apply a tourniquet.

Don’t pack the bite area in ice.

Don’t cut the wound with a knife or razor.

Don’t use your mouth to suck out the venom.

Don’t let the victim drink alcohol.

 


Carol Singleton is a communications specialist with the California Department of Fish and Game.



 
Adopt-A-Pet • 05-16-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:35

 

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Question of the Week • 05-16-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:30

 

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Inventory Drastically Drops 69 Percent | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:02

 

Real Estate Reality

 


By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum



It’s no secret that the Central County housing market has radically switched in the past few months so that we are now firmly ensconced… in a seller’s market.

 

 

While it’s true that there are still some listings out there moldering away, they typically represent either seriously distressed homes or those owned by normal folks with what I call, “misplaced optimism.” In fact, if your home has been on the market a number of months, it’s more than likely priced too high, even for the current market.

 

 

In contrast, nice, well-priced homes are flying off the market faster than flapjacks off the griddle at a logging convention. So much so that current inventory is a staggering 69 percent* lower than this time last year. In many Bay Area neighborhoods, sales are outpacing replacement inventory causing a serious housing shortage — there simply aren’t enough listings to meet the demand. And, as everyone knows, when demand outpaces supply, prices have nowhere to go but up. And therein lays the quandary.

 

 

While many sellers know that it’s a great time to sell, they’ve also been listening to news sources suggesting that Bay Area homeowners may actually see price increases of up to 10 percent over the next year. “Why sell now,” they reason, “if we can hold out until the end of the year and score an extra 10 percent?” It’s a valid thought; and, while completely speculative, it’s a sentiment that’s actually gaining some grassroots momentum. After all, if your home is currently worth $400,000, and postponing a sale for 9 to 12 months could reap an extra $40,000, it might be worth the wait. Or not. No one knows.

 

 

Although gaining ground, the economy still isn’t out of the woods. France’s recent elections could be signaling the demise of the Euro Zone. We’re in an election year and there is tremendous uncertainty as to how the outcome will affect local housing markets. And then there is the Facebook factor: With its impending IPO, some hopeful local owners are waiting for the resulting cash to hit the housing market — confident they’ll score big.

 

Whatever the future holds, the current reality is certain. We need your house and we need it now! Buyers are standing by and, if you prepare it carefully and price it right… multiple offers are almost certain to ensue. You can wait and speculate, or go for a sure thing… now.

 

 

*Data provided by Terradatum.

 

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 www.ccmgtoday.com



 
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