Real Estate Gallery
Virtual Tours Take Market to New Level PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:38

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Looking to differentiate itself from other real estate companies, Seattle-based tech-oriented Redfin has announced that, in partnership with tech firm Matterport, they will start including 3-D Virtual Tours on all of their listings.

While the concept of 3-D tours is not new, Matterport’s proprietary 3-D camera and accompanying software elevates the technology to a new level.

Since most prospective homebuyers find homes online and develop opinions long before they visit actual homes, enlightened real estate agents realize that the better a home shows online, the more visitors they can hope to get through the front door.

Multiple Listing Services (such as BayEast Association of Realtors, serving Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) have responded by increasing the number and size of pictures agents can post online to 30. Still, there’s a perceived need for more, which is why many agents also hire professional photographers to take quality pictures and produce virtual tours.

Traditional virtual tours allow rotating panoramic views of individual areas of a home. The new enhanced 3-D tours allow viewers to start at any point in the home and “walk through” the listing, rotating at will from anywhere in any room.

While there have been similar products in the past, the interface was clunky and production was labor intensive. Matterport’s new camera and software improves the viewing process and dramatically simplifies the production.

Redfin has started posting 3-D tours on its Seattle listings and plans on rolling the feature out in all of its 29 markets in the coming months. Many other brokerages across the country have ponied up for the new technology and are including 3-D tours on their listings too.

Matterport is also not the only provider — other companies are jumping on the bandwagon, which will push costs down and make the technology readily available. It’s a win for prospective buyers, making it even easier to experience homes without ever going through a front door.

While a game-changer for buyers, it’s going to impact sellers as well. Not every listing agent will be using the new technology, meaning interested sellers will need to check when interviewing prospective listing agents. Redfin, historically focusing on buyers, is hoping it can capture a larger market share of listings by implementing the new technology.

As for those listings with limited or poor quality pictures? We’re hoping this new technology will raise the bar… for good.

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

Prepare Your Home and Family for an Earthquake PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:34

082814re2You can’t predict the future, but you can feel more confident in your ability to face unforeseen emergencies such as Sunday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake if you prepare your home and family ahead of time.

“In the event of an emergency, a well-thought-out emergency plan can eliminate stress, limit confusion and save a great deal of wasted time,” says Tim MacWelch, author of the book, “Outdoor Life: Prepare for Anything.”

Luckily, there is a lot of overlap in the supplies and preparations you need to make for many disasters. To be better prepared for anything, MacWelch recommends taking the following actions:

• Create up-to-date contact information cards for each family member.

• Develop communication strategies to keep in touch, even if phones are out-of-service.

• Plan how you will assist or care for family who have mobility or medical issues, communication difficulties or special needs.

• Maintain, inspect and rotate emergency supplies, such as nonperishable food, water, first aid, lighting and communication equipment. Periodically pull out all of your emergency supplies. Take inventory, check expiration dates, use older items and replace them with new supplies. Make sure you end up with more items than you started with.

• Maintain specialized supplies for infants, young children and sick or elderly members of your family.

• Create a plan and keep supplies for the care of pets

• Have the tools and the knowledge to shut off your utilities.

• Develop basic self-sufficiency skills in the event you have to seek shelter in a place without utilities. Create a supply kit that includes drinking water, no-cook foods like protein bars and peanut butter, first-aid supplies, flashlights, digital backups of important documents and cash.

• Create an evacuation plan, in case you have to leave your home.

• Learn basic safety skills, such as first aid, CPR and fire prevention.

• Get the family ready by conducting emergency drills. For example, you can perform a classic fire drill by evacuating your home at an unexpected time. Have everyone low-crawl out of the house and meet at a planned spot outside the home. Round out the exercise with stop, drop and roll each time you have a fire drill.

More information about MacWelch’s “Prepare for Anything” can be found at

— StatePoint

Make Your Own Boric Acid Ant Bait PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:31

082814reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I’d like to use a Boric Acid bait to control the intermittent ant problem in my kitchen. The directions on the Boric Acid says to broadcast it as is; however, a person I spoke to said to mix it with granulated sugar and then place the mixture in a jar lid on the counter. Which method is the most effective?

A: With the dry conditions, ants are coming indoors much earlier than normal in search of water. Boric Acid is a pretty good answer for controlling ants, although it sounds dangerous.

The EPA considers Boric Acid to have a low toxicity risk for humans and other mammals. It’s not known to cause cancer, birth defects or allergies. Boric Acid works best against the small and usually black or reddish/black-colored sugar ants. It’s an odorless, white powder that can be combined with mint jelly, honey, peanut butter and corn syrup, along with sugar.

You’ll be looking for a two-percent mixture of Boric Acid to the attractant. Sugar and water is a better attractant than a dry mixture. One cup of sugar and four teaspoons of Boric Acid in three cups of water should give you the necessary two-percent solution.

The mixture is heated to just before the boiling point and then let cooled. Hot water is necessary to make the Boric Acid soluble. The pot is then sanitized in a dishwasher.

For solid food baits, mix one teaspoon of Boric Acid with one cup of the solid to make a two-percent solution.

There are many types of receptacles available for the ant bait stations. You can use shallow jar lids, a baby food jar with holes punched in the top, bottle caps, two-inch lengths of drinking straws or trays of tin foil.

With the sugar-water solution, you can pour it directly into the lids or trays or over cotton balls that are then placed at the bottom of the bait station. Don’t worry, the ants will find their way into the container.

If you see a line of ants in your kitchen, place the bait directly in the line. And, don’t skimp on the number of bait stations you set out. If you don’t know where they’re coming from, place the bait stations along windowsills or in countertop corners.

The bait is changed every few days. Even though they have a low toxicity, common sense dictates that you keep them out of the reach of pets and children.  Also, clearly label and store any leftover bait in the garage.

And, finally, don’t expect the ants to disappear overnight. Boric Acid is a slow-acting stomach poison, that each ant takes back to the colony and shares with only a few other ants. In a few days, you’ll notice a reduction in the number of ants near the bait, but it could take three to four weeks to completely eradicate the colony causing your problems.

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

CAPTION: After mixing one cup of sugar and four teaspoons of Boric Acid in three cups of water, heat the mixture to just below the boiling point and let it cool.

Open Homes • 08-28-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:30
Home Sales • 08-28-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:29
Savvy Stagers Add a Splash of Color PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:10

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

It’s a scene frequently repeated: While visiting with prospective sellers, somewhere between the tour of the home and the customary chitchat, the inevitable comment is made. “Well,” they say, “I guess we’ll have to paint everything white.”

“Not exactly,” I hear myself saying. “In fact, color is back in.”

Color is amazing — it’s long been known that color can significantly affect emotions, moods and feelings. It has other effects as well — ever wonder why many restaurant interiors have varying shades of red?  It’s believed the color accentuates your appetite.

I’ve personally noticed the effect color has on people when showing homes — I can predict with certainty the reactions of prospective buyers when they walk into rooms painted in CalTrans Orange, Barney Purple or varying shades of fluorescent pink or green.

New home builders know that color has a positive effect on buyers — it’s why model homes are filled with vibrant shades, not only on walls, but in the furniture and accents as well. Savvy home stagers understand this and, even if the walls are white, will bring as many tasteful splashes of color into a room as possible.

There are a few important things to know about color if you are planning to sell your home:

1. Avoid yellows. While shades such as canary yellow will definitely brighten a room, it’s the most difficult color for your eyes to process. It’s also almost impossible to make yellow look good in the listing photos — cameras do not like yellow.

2. Avoid pinks and purples. While many like these colors, they tend to polarize — you either love them or hate them, which is why you’ll typically never see these hues used in model homes.

3. Use bold colors in moderation. Red is great — just don’t use it to paint your entire family room! Instead, paint only one wall as an accent. The same applies to shades of dark brown, grey or even black.

4. Tans and greys are in. Many designers recommend these colors for walls instead of white.

5. Use white for accents and trim. Contrast colored walls with off-white trim (casings, baseboards, etc.) with a color such as Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee — not stark white.

Our recommendation? Don’t go it alone. Hire a professional stager to help you with color. Correct colors and beautiful staging can make your home sizzle — and be the key to a quick and successful sale.

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

Time to Air Out Those Musty Closets PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:08

082114reBy Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Dampness is the primary cause of mustiness and odors in closets, but how that dampness gets into the closets and how you can get rid of it takes a few steps.

First, the way closets are configured often contributes to the problem. They generally are recessed back into the wall, and are closed off by doors. Both of these things impede airflow and allow for stagnant, humid air in these spaces.

Standard air fresheners don’t help if there’s very little airflow in the closet.

What you can do, immediately, to improve the situation is to open the closet doors and remove everything: clothes, boxes, baskets, toys… all of it. Set up a fan on a side table so that it blows air directly into the closet. Let the closet air out this way for 24 hours.

Then refill the closet — but with half as much clothing and other stuff as before. Cluttered, overstuffed closets can cause that musty odor to come back in no time, because all that junk is blocking any airflow.

While the fans are running, hunt for possible moisture problems in the house. Go into the attic with a flashlight and look for any possible leaks, while smelling for mustiness or mold. If your home has a basement, inspect it as well.

Check all the ceilings: Are there any light-brown, circular areas visible? These are water stains, caused by either a leak in the roof or a leaking pipe.

If you smell mustiness and mold but can’t find what’s causing it, or if you see water stains on the ceiling or walls but can’t locate a source, call a contractor who specializes in moisture problems.

Be sure to mention mustiness in the closets to the contractor, if they don’t ask first. Eliminating sources of humidity or leaks will be most important, but if the closets’ problem continues, even after you declutter them, talk with the contractor about ways to improve airflow in these spaces.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Lower PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:07

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to its 2014 low last week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly nationwide survey.

It averaged 4.12 percent, down from 4.14 percent the week before.

Fifteen-year mortgages were also down, averaging 3.24 percent, down from 3.27 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed. The five-year hybrid ARM edged down from 2.98 percent to 2.97 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.36 percent, up from 2.35.


Home Sales Sluggish in July, But Prices Continue to Climb PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:06

Alameda County home sales dipped last month, the result of continued constrained supply, the decline in affordability, and a still-tight mortgage market.

A total of 1,785 new and resale houses and condos sold in the county last month, down 4.6 percent from July last year, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, a real estate information service.

“The Bay Area housing market is still in transition, still dealing with the remnants of the Great Recession,” said John Karevoll, DataQuick analyst. “There still seems to be a bit of buyer and seller reticence.”

The median price paid for a home in Alameda County in July was $585,000, up 12.5 percent from $520,000 a year ago.

The median sale price for the entire nine-county Bay Area was $617,000 last month. It had peaked at $665,000 in June and July of 2007, then dropped to a low of $290,000 in March 2009.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $2,394.


Homeownership Fair Coming in September PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:06

Chabot College will host a free Homeownership Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, a resource for anyone interested in purchasing a home whether re-entering the market or a first-timer.

Exhibitors will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Workshop sessions will be held throughout the day on wealth development, what is a Realtor, how to get your offer  accepted, and down payment assistance programs.

Chabot College is located at 25555 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward.


Plan Prior to Planting; ‘Invisible Bugs’ Devour Salvia PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:01

082114re2By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My house has no backyard landscaping but the front is planted. Can you give me some ideas on where to start; and is this the time to plant or should I wait until next spring?

A: The Fall planting season starts with Labor Day Weekend. It’s an excellent time to plan and plant. Although, it’s a short season that ends with the conclusion of daylight savings time on the first Sunday in November. This is also when the growing season typically ends with the shorter days and longer nights.

Depending on when the new plants are installed, you may not see much new growth, but their roots will get established over the winter months; so, with spring, the plants will take off.

The first thing to consider is not the plants but the hardscape, that’s walkways, patios, decks, retaining walls, location of a storage shed, etc.

Next, decide if you want any special areas, such as a vegetable garden, flower and/or rose garden, children’s play area, etc. In addition, tree placement is an important consideration for shading on the southwest side of the house on hot summer days.

Next comes the landscape plan which incorporates all those ideas and adds a plant list to it.

EBMUD’s “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” book is an excellent reference for plants that are water wise. All too often, the term “drought-tolerant plants” is used without realizing that those plants are not very attractive during the hot summer months.

The term “water wise” is better suited as you get plants that are attractive and use less water.

Armed with this information and pictures of the area, you can then consult your local nursery professional at your favorite garden center or landscape designer to develop a plant pallet.

And, finally, the last item is the irrigation plan. This project requires that you spend some time sorting through all the options. Most of them are judgment calls on your part.

A backyard design is, in many ways, more important than the front as this is where most of your time is spent. It also provides the biggest return on your investment in the enjoyment factor. A front yard is for friends, family and drive-bys.

Note: EBMUD’s “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” book is available at many garden centers, bookstores and online at It contains over 500 color photos along with a description of each species that grows well in our Bay Area climate.

Q: My purple salvia is being eaten alive by something but I don’t see any bugs. What can I safely use to solve this problem.

A: When plants are being devoured by “invisible bugs,” the primary suspects are snails, slugs and earwigs.

You don’t see them because they feed at night and retreat to a cool, damp, shady location during the day.

I would use Sluggo Plus or Bonide Bug and Slug Killer. These both are safe bait for use on edibles and non-edible plants.

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

CAPTION: The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s book “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” is a great resource for helping you choose water-wise, drought-tolerant plants for your landscape.

Open Homes • 08-21-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:00


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