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Question of the Week • 04-04-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:51

 

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Location, Leadership and Luck | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:36


From the Boulevard...


By Thomas E. Lorentzen



“Luck that differs greatly from art

creates many things that are like it.”

—Ion of Chios



 

Castro Valley continues to benefit from the geographic and demographic evolution of the Bay Area, as well as from local leadership and some luck as well.


As referenced in prior articles, our town was once on the outskirts of the Bay Area – sort of an outpost. Now, however, we are not only closer to the center, but have developed a cynosure of our own.


After nearly two years of work we are now nearing completion of the redevelopment project along CV Boulevard from Redwood Road to San Miguel Avenue. It has been controversial, inconvenient and costly to businesses impacted by construction work.


From an observation standpoint, it looks like some did not survive. Yet, once completed, it will hopefully augment the quality of the appearance of our town, as well as our sense of pride.


Given the death knell of redevelopment agencies in the state, we are one of the last to have sufficient funding to see the project through to completion. Several years ago we had a similar experience, qualifying for the very last round of funds to be applied to the development of our library from a state bond measure. Luck, it appears, is on our side. Not a bad thing to have.


We also continue to build upon the quality of our town – with very positive community resources and practices.


Among things that are very good about our town are:  the high quality of our school district; the efficiency and effectiveness of our sanitation district (not to be underestimated in terms of value); a wonderful state-of-the art library (reference above); an excellent performing arts center; a new Eden Hospital nearing completion; a remodeled Castro Village; an increase of good dining locations; continuation of an entertainment tradition with the Chabot Theater; solid performances at the Chanticleers Theater; a talented community of artists; a local BART station and police sub-station; and the recreational beauty and activities at Lake Chabot.



We also have our own unique weather pattern in our valley, making our weather one of the best not only in the Bay Area, but even the nation.


There are other things as well, but what they add up to is that the location of Castro Valley continues to add value to our town, and, we also seem to have luck going for us (obtaining funding at the final end of state library bond and redevelopment funding process).



Yet, luck does not happen in a vacuum.


There are obviously many individuals and families who play a leadership role in our town who not only help to make positive things happen, but perpetuate and maintain them as well.



More often than not, we don’t know who they are or recognize them. That is also because they don’t seem to seek recognition or credit – they just do it because it is the right thing for our community.


In this sense, our town is also lumpy with leadership and talent.  Perhaps that might be a good way to end this column – with gratitude, for our town is lumpy with quiet leadership, luck and the location where we live. With the foundation that has been set and the motions now underway it appears that the best may be yet to come. We may be one of the best-kept secrets in the Bay Area.  Shhhh!


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.

 



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Bankers Balk at Short Sale Rentbacks | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:05


Real Estate Reality


By Carl Medford, CRS

Special to the Forum


Seems like a win-win: homeowners, unable to make their loan payments, short sell their homes to investors who, in turn, rent the properties back to them so they don’t have to move.

Kids get to stay in the same schools, sellers don’t have to find a rental, the new rent payments are usually lower than existing mortgage payments they couldn’t afford… sounds like a good idea, right?


Problem is, in most cases, it’s illegal.


There’ve been numerous short-sale scams over the years and banks who choose to cooperate in a short sale want to make sure they’re not party to any dubious behavior.


At the heart of the issue are investors who’ve purchased short sales, then immediately flipped them for a profit. In fact, until just recently, Realtors, due to insurance regulations, weren’t allowed to represent investors in short-sale purchases.


If an investor can buy a short sale, flip it and profit from it, then the bank short-sold the property too low. Since banks lose money on short sales, they want assurances that their losses won’t line investor’s pockets at the bank’s expense. If anyone benefits from a short sale, it should be another homeowner, not an investor.


Lenders also don’t want previous owners benefitting in any way. Banks figure that if they’re taking it in the chops for the seller’s inability to make loan payments they actually promised they’d pay by signing a promissory note, then a seller shouldn’t benefit in any way other than getting out from under the debt.


Therefore, the banks insist that the seller cannot stay in the property under any circumstance. After all, if they can remain for a substantially lower monthly financial output, then that’s a benefit, right?


For this reason, buyers and sellers involved in short sales must sign an Arms Length Affidavit. It typically includes the following dialogue:


“There is no agreement, whether oral, written, or implied, between the seller and the Buyer and/or their respective agents that would allow the seller to remain in the property as tenant or to regain ownership of the property at any time after the consummation of this sale transaction.”


No signature, no sale.


What are the ramifications for violating the affidavit? Potential legal action. And, in our opinion, short sales have enough troubles of their own without the possibility of future litigation.


Our recommendation? Sell and move. Don’t swap one set of troubles for another.

 


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

 


 
Important Reasons To $ave | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:02


By Jason Alderman
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



After four years of coping with a stagnant economy, probably the last thing you want to hear is how important it is to sock away money for a rainy day – you already know that.


Those who struggle with long-term unemployment or under-employment often simply don’t have spare cash available to save. Others, worn out by years of being frugal, just want to buy things again.


Even as we wait for economic recovery it’s still good to remember – or perhaps learn for the first time – why saving is so vital:


You could lose your job or see your wages cut. Most financial experts recommend having at least six to nine months’ income saved for emergencies, but even $500 could help bail you out of a sticky situation.


Medical care, retirement and college tuition far outpace inflation. In fact, the average college graduate now carries $25,000 in outstanding loans – debt that can’t be discharged through bankruptcy and has no statute of limitations.


If you’re approaching or in retirement, your net worth has probably been hammered by plummeting home and retirement account values in recent years.


If nothing else, you can teach your children good financial habits that will serve them well during hard times.


So where can you learn sound savings habits?


One great resource is America Saves (www.americasaves.org), a national campaign sponsored by more than 1,000 non-profit, government and corporate organizations. Their goal is to encourage people from all income levels to save money and build personal wealth using their free financial tools, savings services, advice and other resources, including:


•A Personal Wealth Estimator that helps you calculate your current net worth and estimate your future net worth.


•Monthly Savings Messages from national financial experts on topics such as money management, investment basics, building wealth through home ownership, saving during tax time and getting out of debt.


•Tips for saving money on everything from groceries to utilities to insurance premiums.

•Links to numerous websites offering financial education.

Here are some good ways to start saving that first $500:

•Direct deposit part or all of your federal tax refund into a savings account or savings bond.

•Avoid overdraft and late fees by regularly monitoring your bank and credit card accounts.

•Brown-bag it to work more often. If you saved $5 a week, you’d be half-way there.

•Kick bad habits. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day might cost $2,000-plus a year.

•If you have low-deductible homeowners, renters or auto insurance, consider raising the deductible to $500 or $1,000. Many save 15 to 30 percent or more on their premiums.



Saving can be a tough habit to start, but once you’re hooked, you’ll never go back.

 


Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.

 


 
Why Easter Sunday Falls on a Different Day Each Year | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:24


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Though Easter is an annual festival observed throughout the Christian world, the date for Easter shifts every year within the Gregorian Calendar, the standard international calendar which regulates the ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

The current Gregorian ecclesiastical rules that determine the date of Easter trace back to 325 AD at the First Council of Nicaea convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine. At that time the Roman world used the Julian Calendar, put in place by Julius Caesar.


The Council decided to keep Easter on a Sunday, the same Sunday throughout the world. To fix incontrovertibly the date for Easter, and to make it determinable indefinitely in advance, the Council constructed special tables to compute the date. Nonetheless, different means of calculations continued in use throughout the Christian world.


In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII completed a reconstruction of the Julian calendar and produced new Easter tables. One major difference between the Julian and Gregorian Calendar is the “leap year rule.”


Universal adoption of the Gregorian calendar occurred slowly. By the 1700s, most of western Europe had adopted it. The Eastern Christian churches still determine the Easter dates using the older Julian Calendar method.


The usual statement, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical rules. The full moon involved is not the astronomical Full Moon but an ecclesiastical moon (determined from tables) that keeps, more or less, in step with the astronomical Moon.


The result is that Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25. The Gregorian dates for the ecclesiastical full moon come from the Gregorian tables. 


Therefore, the civil date of Easter depends upon which tables - Gregorian or pre-Gregorian - are used. The western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Christian churches use the Gregorian tables; many eastern (Orthodox) Christian churches use the older tables based on the Julian Calendar.


In a congress held in 1923, the eastern churches adopted a modified Gregorian Calendar and decided to set the date of Easter according to the astronomical Full Moon for the meridian of Jerusalem. However, a variety of practices remain among the eastern churches.


Inevitably, then, the date of Easter occasionally differs from a date that depends on the astronomical Full Moon and vernal equinox. In some cases this difference may occur in some parts of the world and not in others because two dates separated by the International Date Line are always simultaneously in progress on the Earth.


Source: U.S. Naval Observatory

 

 


 
He is Risen | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:29


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According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Easter Sunday (also Resurrection Sunday). The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to have occurred between AD 26 and 36.


Easter also marks the end of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The last week of the Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Easter is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday.



 
Question of the Week • 03-28-12 | Print |  E-mail
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Friday, 30 March 2012 14:47

 

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The Meaning of Different Customs Observed During Easter | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:34


04042012TMODC


Easter is a day that is honored by nearly all of contemporary Christianity and is used to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The meaning of many different customs observed during Easter Sunday have been buried with time. Their origins lie in pre-Christian religions and Christianity. All in some way or another are a “salute to spring,” marking rebirth.


The white Easter lily captures the glory of the holiday. The word “Easter” is named after Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. A festival was held in her honor every year at the vernal equinox.


People celebrate the holiday according to their beliefs and their religious denominations.


Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day that Jesus Christ died and Easter Sunday as the day that He was resurrected. Protestant settlers brought the custom of a sunrise service, a religious gathering at dawn, to the United States.


On Easter Sunday, children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has left them baskets of candy.


He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house. Neighborhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who finds the most eggs wins a prize.


The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit. Long ago, he was called the “Easter Hare.” Hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births so they became a symbol of fertility.


The custom of an Easter egg hunt began because children believed that hares laid eggs in the grass.


The Romans believed that “All life comes from an egg.” Christians consider eggs to be “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Eggs represent the new life that returns to nature during Spring. Early Christians used red colored eggs to symbolize Resurrection.

 


 
Repair Vents To Protect Your Home’s ‘Envelope’ | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 30 March 2012 14:27


By Samantha Mazzotta

Special to the Forum



Q:


Recently, I found that sparrows had built a nest, not just under the eaves of my house but inside the crawlspace under the roof. I had pest control remove the nest, and now I plan to seal up any gaps or openings under the eaves or leading into the attic. How best do I go about this?


A:


You don’t want to seal up every opening in the attic and crawlspace area, as many of the openings play an important role in maintaining the health of your home.


The spaces between the exterior and interior living area of a house — attics, crawlspaces, the gaps between the outside wall and the interior framing and drywall — make up what’s known as a home’s “envelope.” Airflow into and out of this envelope is as important as the other components you’ll often find inside, such as insulation.


Home plans provide for open vents spaced around the exterior of the house, which allow air to flow naturally into and out of the envelope.


This constantly moving air keeps the space between your living area and the outside of the house from getting too hot or too cold, and, more importantly, keeps moisture from becoming a problem. Excess humidity within the envelope can, over time, cause some very expensive problems, including mold.


Of course, you don’t want pests using these vents to move into your home, because they, too, can cause quite a bit of damage.


To protect the crawlspace and health of your home, notate all of the openings and vents in the eaves and soffits, the crawlspace and attic, and the basement or lower crawlspace. Note whether a vent is in place. Is there just an opening with no protective vent, or does the opening look like a damaged area rather than an intentionally placed opening?


Now purchase what you need to install proper vent covers to enable airflow but discourage pests. Also, take time to repair any exterior damage before interior damage becomes a problem.


Even with protective measures in place, you still need to inspect the area at least twice a year, typically spring and fall, for evidence of animals or other pests trying to make your home their home.


Home Tip: What’s the difference between eaves and soffits? Eaves sit at the edge of a sloped roof; soffits are the flat underside of a roof’s overhang between the exterior wall and the eaves.

© 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

 




 
Spotlight on Castro Valley Adult and Career Education | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 30 March 2012 14:23


By Paula Evans
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Learning never ends! It’s important to realize that learning doesn’t stop when we leave high school or college, but continues throughout life.


Scientists and doctors believe that keeping your brain stimulated can lead to a longer life, which is an awesome outcome! Longer life aside, it is always nice to learn something new as the benefits are many. Check out this short list of ideas to be a learning-for-life person:


(1) Enroll in adult education courses.* (2) Read a book. (3) Visit a museum. (4) Visit a foreign country or travel. (5) Ask Questions. (6) Try something new. (7) Visit the elderly. (8) Watch educational TV. (9) Learn a new skill. (10)  Develop a new hobby or interest.


*Castro Valley Adult’s Spring Summer schedule of classes is out and once again boasts a new lineup of extraordinary community interest classes – see for yourself:

The Memory Academy II, 1:30-4 p.m.

Thursdays, April 19-June 14


The Memory Academy I, 1:30-4 p.m.

Thursdays, July 5-Aug 9


Social Media for Beginners, 10 a.m.-Noon Saturday, May 12 or July 14


Bonsai Basic, Mondays, 7-9 p.m. April 16-June 25


Bonsai Intermediate, Mondays, 7-9 p.m.  April 16-June 25


Bonsai Advanced, Mondays, 7-9 p.m. April 16-June 25


Cupcakes, Cupcakes Everywhere! Saturday, April 28 – 10 a.m.-Noon



Indian Cooking: Exotic Rice Dishes

Saturday, Aug 4 – 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.


Whole Foods cooking Class – Cooking with Anti-Inflammatory Whole Foods, Saturday, May 19–Noon-3:30 p.m.



Herbal Remedies for Everyday Health, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, June 26-July 10


Chess Introduction, 9-10:30 p.m. Saturdays, April 28-June 2


Guitar Beginning, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, April 19-June 14


Digital Photography I – Concept, Capture, Print and Archive, 10 a.m.-Noon

Saturdays, May 5-June 2  or July 14-Aug 4


Estate and Trust Planning-Overview,

Thursday, May 3 – 6:30-8:30 p.m.


Estates and Trust Planning – Living Trusts, Thursday, July 12 – 6:30-8:30 p.m.


Eco Bead Making Class, 7-8:30 p.m.

Wednesdays, April 25-May 23


Lose Weight with Self-Hypnosis,

9:30-11:15 a.m. Saturdays, May 5-May 19 or July 14-July 28



 

Get motivated. Get inspired. Get going! Register for a community interest class today!  For complete details on these courses and more, visit www.cvadult.org, or stop by 4430 Alma Ave., Castro Valley, or call 510-886-1000.

 




 
Appraisal Issues Dash Seller’s Dreams | Print |  E-mail
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Friday, 30 March 2012 14:12


Real Estate Reality


By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum

With the market as hot and volatile as Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano, sellers are sensing they have a window of opportunity. As reported previously, this spring’s market is off to its strongest start in years. Contrast tons of buyers with limited inventory and the result is multiple offers everywhere. We’re also back to standing in line to view certain listings.


While easy to understand seller’s hopes of cashing in with the current market, those looking for sudden windfalls need to understand market mechanics. Many, seeing hordes of buyers, have priced their properties above market averages and watched in glee as multiple offers pounded prices up even more.

Newsflash: many homes going into escrow at escalated prices WILL NOT appraise at those inflated values. The reason is simple: We’ve been in a declining market. Due to the first-time homebuyer credit, we hit a peak in April, 2010; and, once the credit expired, we’ve seen prices eroding slowly every since. Appraisers have grown used to the declining market; and, in the past 12 months, appraisals have been, overall, at or close to contract values.

Appraisers use past sold prices to come up with current valuations. In a market suddenly spiking upward, they have no comparable sales to justify the abrupt price increases.

Consequently, many appraisals are suddenly coming in “under” the accepted contract price. In other words, appraisers are providing evaluations based on the market that has been, not the market as it’s suddenly become. While totally understandable, it’s bringing a new wave of frustration into the market as deals are falling apart everywhere due to low appraisals.

“This is a difficult issue to deal with,” explains John Petrocelli of Prudential. “Sellers, anticipating low appraisals, are beginning to demand that offers be written with the appraisal contingency removed. This might be OK with cash offers or conventional loans accompanied by huge down payments, but simply doesn’t work with 20 percent or less down or those with FHA or VA loans.”

If an appraisal comes in low, there are few options: lower the price, increase the deposit or cancel the deal. In addition, many buyers are refusing to pay more than the appraised value. And if it’s an FHA transaction, the appraisal, no matter the value, remains in effect for six months — placing a long-term stigma on the property.

Suddenly, it’s “Seller beware.” Not a pretty picture; but, as of today, it’s the current real estate reality.

 

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

 


 
Tax Help for Caring for an Aging Parent | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 13:03


By Jim Miller
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM


It’s always good to have a variety of social activities in your life. Getting together with friends, going to the movies, having someone over for coffee, or simply enjoying conversations with other people, all add up to improved health benefits?

Socializing can be a challenge for people who live alone and no longer drive or have health issues that limit their ability to get out of the house. Non-socialization can affect your mind and body.


Many seniors enjoy spending some time alone but after a while an isolated, stay-at-home lifestyle can lead to depression and declining health.


Older adults who stay connected socially are more likely to retain their memories and cognitive abilities later in life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.


We need a variety of brain stimulation, including social activity, to keep our minds sharp. This is especially true later in life, when aging takes its toll on memory and other complex neurological processes.


Researchers analyzed data over several years of 1,667 adults older who were 60 years old and older. They looked at the likelihood of participants engaging in social activities with friends and family, joining clubs, and going to social engagements. The study also examined cognitive ability, memory acuity as people socialized more often.


While we often “feel” better after a good visit with family or friends, this study concluded that we may actually be improving our health with social activities.


Older adults who were less socially active had both cognitive and physical limitations. The results are stunning; the socially active group had healthier brain scans, and seemed to be better protected from aging over time.


As scientists gain ground in unlocking the mysteries of aging and neurology, we understand that we have some control over our cognitive and physical health.


So besides eating well and exercising, socialize and your health will benefit. You will not only enjoy the company of people around you, you will keep your brain stimulated.

 

 

 

Tips for Better Brain Health


Be active, both physically and mentally. Read every day, walk every day.


Avoid sitting home alone day after day. If you can’t get out due to health restrictions, invite people to come and visit. Sometimes people need to be “invited” because they don’t want to drop by unannounced.


Prioritize having a social life no matter where you live or how you feel. You don’t have to have numerous social events on the calendar. Any time that you are with other people is a social event. Looking forward to getting together with friends and family is part of the fun.


Be a planner. Every day plan some activity that will allow you to talk to other people – in person if possible. If you have the mobility, go to a shopping mall and chat with people who work in the store. Shopping, even window shopping, is a good way to strike up a conversation about products and items in front of you.


Try new ways of meeting people. Join a book club, a card group, church choir or volunteer at a local hospital, shelter or food pantry. Anything you can think of that gets you out of the house and enjoying the world around you is a benefit to healthy aging.

 


Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Visit www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com for more articles and tips for healthy aging.

 

 

 

 
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