Real Estate Gallery
Overcome Obstacles to Homeownership PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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? PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:26
Home Sales • 01-22-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:25
Drug Lab or Dream Home? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 15 January 2015 15:28

Illegal drugs can permeate sheetrock and insulation

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Opening the front door of a home recently, I was bombarded by a stench reminiscent of 1,000 overflowing cat boxes. The buyers got a whiff as well and immediately said, “We’re done here.”

Just as well. In reality, the smell probably had nothing to do with cats — more likely it was the result of a meth lab that had been in the home.

Properties where drugs are manufactured are a serious issue, and can literally be the house next door. In addition to potential safety issues, as evidenced by recent meth lab explosions, there can also be long-term effects for an unsuspecting buyer. This applies to homes used to manufacture other types of drugs as well.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, illegal drugs can permeate sheetrock, insulation and other surfaces and can trigger issues ranging from respiratory illnesses to neurological damage.

The two most common instigators are methamphetamine and marijuana, although other drugs can cause problems as well. All of which brings up a very serious question: “How can you tell if the home you are interested in has been used to manufacture drugs?”

1. Use your nose. If a home smells like cat urine, it could have been used to manufacture meth. If it smells like marijuana, they may not just be smoking it — it’s possible they could be growing it as well.

2. Use your eyes. If you can see marijuana plants… that’s a clue. The visual indicators of meth manufacturing include stripped-out lithium batteries, chemical stains on plumbing fixtures, propane tanks with fittings that have turned blue or large amounts of paint thinner, lighter fluid, drain cleaners or cold tablet containers.

3. Use external resources. Check the DEA’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register at Talk to local police about suspected locations or homes that have a history. Neighbors can also be a good resource — go door to door.

4. Use a test kit. Meth test kits are available for about $50 and provide lab-verified results as to whether or not meth is present. If the test is affirmative, additional tests can be conducted to ascertain the levels of contamination.

Although sellers are supposed to disclose potential drug contamination, owners willing to use a property for drug manufacturing are probably not going to correctly disclose. If you are concerned, perform due diligence. Drugs are bad enough without the effects of their manufacturing coming home to stay.

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

Rates Start the New Year at New Lows PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 15 January 2015 15:22

Average fixed mortgage rates started 2015 by diving to their lowest level since May 23, 2013, when the 30-year fixed averaged 3.59 percent.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.73 percent, down from the previous week when it averaged 3.87 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgage rates averaged 3.05 percent last week, down from 3.15 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were also down. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.98 percent, down from 3.01 and the one-year ARM averaged 2.39 percent, down from 2.40 percent.

Open Homes • 01-15-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 15 January 2015 15:21
Home Sales • 01-15-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 15 January 2015 15:21
Market Prediction: Mellow PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 January 2015 16:26

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Forum

Although the Central Alameda County housing market remained strong through the end of 2014, there’s no doubt it’s tapered off from its peak in the late summer months.

With the spectacular gains of 2014 effectively putting the brakes on the flow of buyers entering the market, we’re seeing (1) fewer multiple offers, (2) longer average days on the market and (3) the spread between listing and selling prices diminishing almost 50 percent.

Consequently, many believe the market will mellow in 2015 and become more neutral.

It’s certainly good news for buyers, countless numbers of whom were kept out of the market in 2014 by rampant multiple offers and spiking prices. Even more, however, I believe it’s the signal many prospective sellers have been waiting for to finally place their homes on the market.

Numerous homeowners sat on the sidelines through 2013 and 2014 watching the market prices spike upwards, inducing a supply and demand shortfall that further escalated market gains. Since it appears we may be at or near the top, there’s no need for these potential sellers to sit tight any longer. Initial pre-listing numbers seem to indicate that we will have a healthy flow of homes to the market starting in the early spring.

For those considering putting their homes on the market in the near future, we have three key recommendations:

1. Take the time and effort to properly prepare your home.

As the market starts slowing, those properties deemed “nicer” usually sell quickly while ill-prepared homes languish. The only real solution is for less-than-ideal properties to hit the market at bargain-basement prices. While this will certainly get a less desirable home sold, it also means less in the seller’s pockets. To maximize returns, we recommend you wisely invest to boost your home’s selling potential.

2. Make sure your Realtor provides maximum marketing.

Since today’s buyers are scouring the internet for homes, they’ll start by visiting those that sizzle online. Staging and professional pictures really make a difference — make sure your listing agent provides top-notch marketing.

3. Price ahead of the market.

Resist the temptation to price higher than previous sales in your neighborhood — you should actually be pricing a hair under comparable sales.

It’s called “The 3 Ps” — Preparation, Promotion and Pricing. Those sellers that pay attention to all three will be the ones to reap a sale. Those that don’t… may have a long year.

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



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