Real Estate Gallery
Is What You See What You Get? PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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 PDF  | 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 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:01
Home Sales • 04-10-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:00
Lack of Communication Sours Buying Experience PDF  | 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

Drafty Windows Cause a Costly Nuisance PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:36

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Drafty, leaky windows have a number of causes — from warped or old frames to single-pane windows and more — but completely replacing the windows and frames can be quite costly.

Check with your utility company for an energy audit kit. A basic kit can determine that hot or cool air is escaping the house, while more detailed audits can determine where that air is escaping.

Another way is to simply bring in a window replacement contractor to inspect the front-room windows, determine what’s wrong and present an estimate for the cost of repair or replacement. This is the costliest option, so be certain the problem is severe enough to warrant window and/or frame replacement. Consider getting two or three estimates from different contractors to compare prices.

In the long term, investing in new, higher-quality windows can save a lot in heating and air conditioning costs, and help make the front room more comfortable year-round.

In the short term, you’ll want to take some inexpensive measures to prevent drafts and, in the summer, cool air from escaping.

If you’ve performed an energy audit or have been able to figure out just where outside air is blowing through, you can lessen the problem. Air entering under the sash can be blocked by placing a length of foam weatherstripping along the underside, where the sash meets the frame. Thinner weatherstripping can be installed vertically along the frame to prevent drafts from entering between the window and the frame.

Install double-paneled curtains on all the windows of the room. In the winter, these provide an extra buffer between drafts and you. In the summer, these solid curtains can be pulled shut when the sun is shining into the room, to help keep the room cool.

These short-term measures can save some energy, but to really make that room comfortable, take a serious look at replacing the windows, particularly if they’re old or the frame or sash is visibly warped.

Home Tip: Take a tour of your home and make note of as many improvement or maintenance tasks that you can find. Then, create a schedule to tackle a few of them at a time.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Move Up PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:34

Fixed mortgage rates moved up a bit last week, applying additional pressure for those local markets that are already feeling an affordability pinch.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.40 percent, up from  4.32 percent a week earlier.

Fifteen-year mortgage rates averaged 3.42 percent, up from 3.32 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 3.10 percent, up from 3.02 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.44 percent, down from 2.49 percent.


Earwig Worries; Lemons Drop PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:28

040314reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have a climbing rose that is attached to a brick chimney in front of our house. The first bloom is spectacular and then the earwigs arrive. I have tried setting out rolled-up newspaper tubes and tin cans of salad oil, but they haven’t worked. Would copper tape or strips of copper sheeting work like they do for snails?

A: Copper tape or any other copper product is ineffective on earwigs.

Snails and slugs move about on a large fleshy foot, secreting a wet, slimy or mucus trail. Their forward progress is stopped by electrolysis when they come in contact with the copper. They eventually die from copper poisoning, as it is absorbed into their body.

On the other hand, an earwig is an insect with six legs. Their body parts are dry, so they don’t absorb any of the copper.

For a long time, tubes of newspaper were the only organic control for earwigs, but things have changed. Sluggo Plus (not just plain Sluggo) and Bonide Slug Magic are two widely available organic baits for snails, slugs and earwigs, along with sowbugs.

These baits are safe to use in vegetable gardens and are safe to apply in those areas where pets and kids roam.

Q: Why does the small fruits on my lemon tree drop off? They get to be the size of a marble, turn black and fall. I water it weekly and it gets approximately six hours of sunlight. My neighbor’s lemons are not having any problems, just mine. What should I be doing to correct the problem?

A: Your problem is a bit puzzling. Irregular watering is the primary reason why citrus drops its immature fruits. This is typically seen with container plants but not necessarily with those planted in the ground.

Watering is made up of two components, volume and frequency. Weekly watering is certainly sufficient for those planted in the ground, unless the temperatures are above 90°F, but it’s insufficient for those in containers.

Container plants are watered daily or every other day through the summer and fall. So, your problem is then the volume of water being applied.

While drip irrigation is very popular, I’m concerned that it may not be supplying enough water. I suggest you water by hand this year and build a six-inch-high watering basin around the lemon. It should be filled up twice every time you water. I’d also increase the frequency to twice a week during warm spells.

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 • 04-03-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:18
Home Sales • 04-03-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:17


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