Real Estate Gallery
Not All Realtors Are Created Equal PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32

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Rummaging through listings, I encountered a property that had been on the market a while. With only one picture, little information provided and no open houses, I was curious.

I tried calling the owner for a showing, but the phone number provided belonged to the listing agent who never answered their phone or returned calls. After a period of trying, I gained access and, while viewing the home, couldn’t help asking the seller a burning question: “How did you select your listing agent?” I queried. “It’s my cousin,” she replied.

I’ve often been puzzled with how sellers select listing agents. Some listings sparkle with beautiful staging, gorgeous pictures, virtual tours, open houses, fully prepared disclosure packages (including reports), stunning flyers and a significant online presence. Others… not so much.

Since it’s a proven fact that the better a home is prepared and marketed, the higher the possibility of multiple offers and the best possible price and terms, why then do some sellers chose agents who don’t do any of these things?

While it’s a given that some sellers simply want their homes on the market as fast as possible and cannot be bothered with property prep, staging and the like, I’ve concluded some sellers really don’t understand their options.

Some go with longtime family friends — not because they are the best agent available, but simply because they know them. Others go with relatives out of obligation.

My opinion? When selling your primary asset, you need to take the time to interview a range of full-time professionals to see what options are available.

Although it may be difficult telling a friend or relative who happens to be a Realtor that you’ve chosen someone else, you may be the better for it in the end. Because an agent sold you the home 20 years ago does not make them the best option to sell it now.

Not all Realtors are created equal, and you need to interview a decent number to find the one offering top-notch services and who is a match for your personality. Plus, if it’s not going well, it is difficult to fire a relative or friend.

At the end of the day, selling a home is a business decision. Take time to search for the best Realtor you can find. You only get one chance to do this right… make it count.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.


 
Mortgage Rates Seesaw Higher PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 08:35

Fixed mortgage rates reversed course last week and moved to their highest level this year amid ongoing volatility in bond markets.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent, up from 4.04 percent a week earlier.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 3.25 percent, up from 3.20 percent.

The five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.96 percent last week, up from 2.93 percent, and the one-year Treasury-indexed ARM remained unchanged at 2.50 percent.

 

 
Lower Your Monthly Mortgage Payments PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 08:33

If you are a homeowner who is current on your mortgage and looking to lower your interest rate, you may be able to take advantage of a long standing federal program to save hundreds of dollars on your monthly  payments or shorten your mortgage term and save money in the long run.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is a unique program that helps certain homeowners refinance their mortgage to a more affordable monthly payment and at better terms.

With HARP now extended through December 2016, home-owners across the country have more time to take advantage of this program to save money every month.

If you purchased a home before June 2009, have little or no equity in your home but are current on your mortgage payment (meaning no 30-day-plus late payments in the last six months and no more than one in the past 12 months), and the loan is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, you may be eligible to refinance your mortgage through HARP.

More than 3.3 million Americans have taken advantage of HARP since 2009, saving them $200 on average per month. Here’s how you can take advantage of this program:

• Gather your basic financial information before you contact your mortgage company. You’ll need: Your latest mortgage statements, including information on a second mortgage (if applicable); and your current income details (paystub or income tax return).

• Find out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your loan. In order to qualify for HARP, your loan must be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Contact your mortgage company or visit www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup or https://ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup/.

If your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, ask your lender if it is an approved HARP lender. Be prepared to provide the information necessary to verify your current source of income. If your lender is not an approved HARP lender, find out who is near you on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac websites.

• Go through the application, approval and closing process. If your lender determines you qualify for HARP, they will guide you through the process.

HARP has no appraisal requirements or loan-to-value limits, so you can apply regardless of how far your home may have fallen in value. Without this program, qualifying for refinancing can be virtually impossible for homeowners who are underwater.

Remember, the opportunity to get a HARP refinance expires December 31, 2016 and there is still time to take advantage of low mortgage rates.

Make 2015 the year you take the step to save money on your home loan. Call your lender to apply now and begin to save.

For more information, visit www.HARP.gov

— StatePoint


 
Peaches Look Pekid; Roses Ruined? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 08:28

072315reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: We have a 30-year-old dwarf peach tree that usually produces good  peaches, but it looks like we’ll harvest less than a dozen this year. In addition, a lot of sap has been leaking out from the trunk.  Is this due to the drought conditions, or is the tree dying?

A: One can build a case that a 30-year-old fruit tree is getting toward the end of its life cycle; but, with the proper care, it’s not finished yet.

Nutrients and watching the watering are the key components of a longer life.

The sap from the trunk on any fruit tree is not a good thing. It usually indicates borers. Borers are a secondary insect that attacks trees under stress — eventually killing them.

The larval stage of the insect bores into the crown and trunk of the tree and mines the cambial layer. An annual feeding with Dr Earth All-Purpose Fertilizer or a similar product in the spring helps fight them off by promoting tree vigor.

In May and mid June, spray the trunk and crown area with an insecticide as this is when the adults emerge and lay eggs. I’d ask the nursery professional at your favorite garden center for a recommendation.

The insecticide is not likely to kill the larvae within the tree, instead it protects against any new infestation.

Mature peach trees are not to be watered frequently during the summer months. Once every three to four weeks is sufficient as long as there is a large watering basin around them.

The basin should be six to eight inches tall, extend from the trunk to beyond the drip line and filled up several times when watering. After Labor Day, water them one more time during the fall as they’re in the beginning stages of dormancy.

The poor crop this year could be due to the unseasonably warm January and February. Peaches take a varying amount of hours of winter chill to set fruit. It varies depending on the variety.

So, why was this an issue this year?

Without any foliage, the ground under the tree on the south, southwest side warmed up much faster than normal. This forced the tree out of dormancy early and interfered with the fruit set.

With the return to a normal winter, the problem should not reoccur next year.

Q: My rose bush was flattened when my neighbor’s tree fell on it. I now have shoots coming up from the root area. Will they continue to produce beautiful flowers as in the past?

A: Most roses are budded on to another rose or rootstock so they’re not growing on their own root. These shoots from the rootstock will produce a cherry red color flower with seven to nine petals.

However, there is a small chance that part of the desirable rose survived but you’re going to have to wait and see.

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 Facebook.com/Buzz-Bertolero.


 
Open Homes • 07-23-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 24 July 2015 21:39
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Home Sales • 07-23-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 24 July 2015 21:27
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The Year of the Cancelled Deal PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32

real-estate-reality-header

With property values soaring, buyers are facing ever-increasing challenges in landing a deal on a home.

Margins are stretched to the limit as homeowner wannabes are scrambling to find additional funds for escalating down payments. Personal finances are being scrutinized to eke out any extra percentage points in debt-to-income ratios. Relatives are being queried to secure additional funds, open house visits are up and many are repeatedly writing offers — all in the hopes of finally landing a slice of the American dream of home ownership.

You would think, then, that once buyers get an offer accepted, they would do anything to get through escrow and to the closing table. And you would be wrong: the number of contracts being cancelled is actually going up. Way up!

Call it “buyer’s remorse,” “cold feet,” “morning after regrets” — no matter the name, the effect is the same. Once the dust settles and buyers realize they have a contract, the questions begin. “Did I pay too much?” “Did I give away too much to get a deal?” “Is the ‘as-is’ contract going to come back and bite me?” “Can I afford the payments?” “Do I really like the house or did I just get caught up in the frenzy of a bidding war?”

While the above questions are very real and need answers, sometimes the problem is more concrete.

I had a transaction fall apart because down payment money promised by a relative was suddenly withdrawn after the contract was signed.

Other deals have failed due to property condition issues revealed during inspections. Many have appraisals coming in significantly lower than the contract price. Yet others have discovered that trains run close by or the home is under a flight path for an airport.

Whatever the reason, because margins have become so tight and competition so fierce, almost anything can disrupt a transaction. In most cases, sellers are unwilling to negotiate because they know other offers are waiting in the wings.

Some buyers, once the contract is signed, realize that they have given up far too much in the process of getting a home — while they may have a new roof over their heads, they would be in serious financial trouble if that roof actually sprang a leak.

So it turns out that getting an offer accepted isn’t the end-all we’ve assumed it was. Getting the deal actually closed… now that’s the ticket.

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 www.ccmgtoday.com.


 
Try Eco-Friendly Pest Control in the Garden PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 July 2015 14:07

071615reBy Melinda Myers • Special to the Times

Spots on tomatoes, holes in hosta leaves and wilting stems mean insects and diseases have moved into the garden. Don’t let these intruders reduce the beauty and productivity of your landscape. Work in concert with nature to prevent and control these pests and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest and landscape filled with beautiful blooms.

Monitor: Take regular walks through the landscape. Not only is it good exercise, but it will improve your mood and you’ll discover problems earlier when they are easier to control. Look for discolored leaves, spots, holes and wilting.  Inspect the underside of the leaves and along the stems to uncover the cause of the problem.

Identify: Once you discover a problem, identify the culprit. Your local extension service, garden center or reliable internet resource can help. Once identified, you can plan the best way to manage the culprit.

Invite Good Guys: Toads, lady beetles and birds help control many garden pests. Attract them to the garden by planting herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects, adding a house for the toads, and birdbath for songbirds. Avoid using pesticides and learn to tolerate a bit of damage.  A few aphids or caterpillars will bring in the ladybeetles, lacewings, birds and toads that are looking for a meal.

Clean up: Many insects and diseases can be managed and prevented with a bit of garden cleanup.  A strong blast of water from the garden hose will dislodge aphids and mites, reducing their damage to a tolerable level. Or knock leaf-eating beetles and other larger insects off the plants and into a can of soapy water.

Pick off discolored leaves, prune off diseased stems and destroy. Be sure to disinfect tools with 70% alcohol or one part bleach to nine parts water solution between cuts. This will reduce the risk of spreading the disease when pruning infected plants.

Adjust care: Reduce the spread and risk of further problems by adjusting your maintenance strategies. Avoid overhead and nighttime watering that can increase the risk of disease. Use an organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) which encourages slow steady growth that is less susceptible to insect and disease attacks.

Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or woodchips. This will keep roots cool and moist during drought, improve the soil as they decompose, and also prevent soil borne diseases from splashing onto and infecting the plants.

Non-chemical Controls: If the problems continue, try some non-chemical options for insects. A yellow bowl filled with soapy water can attract aphids, a shallow can filled with beer and sunk in the ground will manage slugs, and crumpled paper under a flower pot for earwigs are just a few ways to trap and kill these pests.

Or cover the plants with floating row covers. These fabrics allow air, light and water through, but prevent insects like bean beetles and cabbage worms from reaching and damaging the plants.

Organic products: Organic products like insecticidal soap, Neem, horticulture oil and Bacillus thuringiensis can be used to control specific pests. And even though these are organic, they are designed to kill insects or disease organisms, so be sure to read and follow label directions carefully.

Take Note: Make notes on the problems and solutions in this season’s garden. Refer to these next year to help you do a better job of monitoring and managing garden pests. And when shopping for new plants, select the right plant for the location and choose resistant varieties whenever possible.

Gardening expert, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books.

CAPTION: Floating row covers prevent insects from reaching and damaging young plants.


 
Use a Soil Surfactant; Weeping Cherry Tree Needs a Trim PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 July 2015 13:58

071615re1By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have several fruit trees — orange, cherry and  plum — planted on a slope. They all have a basin but the water seems to run out before it sinks into the ground. How can I get the water to penetrate faster?

A: Watering basins are a must today with the ongoing water restrictions. With plants planted on a slope, they should be six to eight inches high on the downside to form a sufficient watering basin. A soil surfactant such as EZ Wet from Grow More will aid or increase the percolation rate and prevent erosion and water run off.

EZ Wet makes water better at its job. It reduces water’s surface tension so it penetrates directly into the root zone, hydrating the plant more effectively. It’s applied directly to the watering basin of trees and shrubs.

For moisture retention, I’d spread a three-inch layer of mulch in the basin and beyond.

The cherry and plum are watered every three weeks while the orange is watered more frequently. Instead of using an irrigation system, hand water your trees to make every drop count.

The other application is with containers of Japanese maples, citrus, roses, camellias, and other ornamental plants as it prevents the water from rolling around the root ball and down and out the sides of the container.

Soil surfactants are not new as they have been around for decades. They were widely used in the previous drought periods.

EZ Wet  should be applied every other month through November.

Q: My six-year-old weeping cherry tree is in need of pruning. The flowing branches are nearly to the ground. When is it safe to cut back or shorten these branches?

A: Flowering cherry or any other flowering tree can be pruned now, but the traditional time is earlier in the year after they finish flowering.

Before pruning, I’d step back and determine all the viewing points of the tree, especially those from inside the house. Frequently, these inside viewing areas are overlooked — missing an opportunity to bring more of the outside, inside.

The view from the driveway is also overlooked.

Today, the vast majority of homeowners enter and exit a house through the garage and not the front door. Thus, the driveway and not the curbside is the primary point from where the front yard is viewed.

All these observations are helpful in deciding how you’re going to prune the weeping cherry tree.

You can raise the canopy by cutting the branches in a straight line after picking a point up off the ground. However, this may be too formal looking for the rest of the landscape or from the critical viewing points.

Another option is to vary the lengths of the branches. You can soften the look by blending the vertical lines into the background.

Also, it is helpful to have a partner when pruning. One individual does the trimming while the other identifies where the branches are to be pruned.

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 Facebook.com/Buzz-Bertolero.

CAPTION: The traditional time to prune a flowering tree is early in the year after they finish flowering.


 
Open Homes • 07-16-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 July 2015 13:58
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Home Sales • 07-16-15 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 July 2015 13:57
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Moving? Top 5 Things Not to Forget PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32

real-estate-reality-header

You’re in escrow and the days are counting down to moving day.

While most can handle the actual “moving” part, many forget the little details that can ensure that your relocation is successful. Miss any of these Top 5, and you may end up with some unintended aggravation.

1. Update your address

Whether you visit your local post office or go to the USPS website, make sure the U.S. Postal Service knows your new address. Do it as early as possible so that the transition will be a smooth one. Tell your postman as well — they can help make sure everything ends up in the right place.

For key accounts, don’t wait for the post office notification to alert them — be proactive and visit their websites to change your information right at the source. Banks, vendors, services, publications and more — let them know where you are going. The sooner they know, the better.

2. Prep your new home

Make sure your home is ready to move into. Change the locks, hire a cleaning company to deep clean, shampoo any carpets and, if you see any hints of unwanted critters, have an exterminator do an inspection and any necessary treatment to rid your new digs of any unwelcome “guests.”

3. Change your utilities

Most cities have sections on their city websites that identify local utility companies. PG&E, water, trash and internet are the big ones. Don’t leave it too late — you may end up driving somewhere to use a restroom.

While you are getting your new utilities lined up, make sure you get the existing ones turned off at the right time.

4. Stop existing services

Do you currently have a landscaper, pool serviceman, pest control company or other service provider? Don’t forget to tell them you are moving — you don’t want to pay them for servicing a home you no longer inhabit.

5. Declutter your belongings

Moving can be a wonderful time to thin out the amount of stuff you own. You are going to pay to move everything — make sure the value of goods you are transporting is more than the cost to move it. Consider getting rid of things you haven’t used for a long time.

Plan carefully. If you do it right, not only will you show up at your new home with your belongings… your internet, utilities, magazine subscriptions, statements and correspondence will be there waiting as well.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.


 

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