Real Estate Gallery
Market Transitioning; Sellers Beware PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:11

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

All good things come to an end, and there is every indication that the hot Central County housing market that dominated the beginning of 2014 is finally cooling.

Inventory of available homes has doubled since March, while sales have dipped 20 percent from July highs. While partly a normal seasonal adjustment, it’s a more dramatic shift than last year at this time. In fact, housing inventory has not been this high since March, 2012, the actual beginning of the current seller’s market.

While still not a buyer’s market, we’re definitely entering a transitional period and everyone looking to buy or sell over the next few months is going to have to learn the new rules. Especially sellers.

In an escalating market, sellers are able to take previous sale prices for comparable homes and hit the market priced a bit higher. If multiple offers ensue, prices get pushed upward even more.

It’s different, however, in a transitional market such as the one we’re entering. Sellers should put homes on the market no higher than previous sales, in fact, with increasing inventory, it’s better to go on the market a hair under previous prices. With more homes to choose from, properties perceived as being priced too high will be ignored and consequently languish.

Transitions like this are difficult for sellers to understand. Over the next few months, count on many new sellers pricing their homes too high, anticipating a market that has already packed its bags for the winter.

Consequently, average Days on the Market (DOM) will likely increase in coming months. Properties that get the most attention will be those that are well prepared, marketed excellently and priced competitively. Read “BELOW” previous sales.

As with any transition, some will get it right away and others will never get the memo. Everett M. Rogers in his landmark work, “Diffusion of Innovations,” proposed categories for every transition: Innovators (2.5 percent), Early Adopters (13.5 percent), Early Majority (34 percent), Late Majority (34 percent) and Laggards (16 percent).*

In this new market, Innovators are already pricing their homes lower, while Early Adopters will read this and immediately understand what to do. Look for the Early Majority to begin pricing lower in the coming months, while the rest will set their prices too high… and never understand why they don’t sell.

Whether you like it or not, the new reality is here. Those that comprehend will be the ones that sell.

*en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Rogers

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


 
Minimize Damage from Apartment Water Leak PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:10

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

What do you do if a pipe in your apartment springs a leak and the maintenance crew cannot get there right away?

You can minimize damage from an uncontrolled water leak in your apartment, even before the maintenance person arrives. Here are steps to follow:

• Review your apartment’s lease and information packet today. These papers include instructions on contacting leasing management or maintenance in an emergency.

• In emergencies such as water leaks, apartment communities normally specify that maintenance will be on site within 24 hours, and often much sooner. Take note of their exact time frames.

• Familiarize yourself with the apartment’s water shutoff valves. You will at least have shutoffs under the sink (for the hot and cold water) and behind/beside the toilet. There also should be a shutoff for the water heater (if it’s inside your apartment).

• If a water leak occurs, locate the source of the leak as quickly as possible. Close the nearest shutoff valve, if possible. Put a bucket underneath the leak and use towels to sop up any spilled water.

• Contact the leasing office or the maintenance number immediately. Describe the problem, its location and the time that the leak occurred.

• If it’s after hours (and these emergencies always seem to happen after hours), the on-call maintenance person should call you back, usually within an hour, to provide further instructions.

What if there’s no shutoff for the pipe that’s leaking? The most important thing is to try and minimize the water damage until the water can be shut off (sometimes the shutoff is located elsewhere in the apartment building and can only be accessed by maintenance). Keep a bucket under the area and empty it before it gets too full.

What if maintenance takes days to address the leak? Keep a record of dates and times of the calls you made, and when the repair was made. Meantime, if maintenance can’t get to the building for some reason –such as a snowstorm – ask the on-call person if the shutoff is accessible so that you can stop the water from flowing in.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Mortgage Rates Hold Steady PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:09

Average fixed mortgage rates held largely steady for the third straight week amid light economic reports, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.10 percent, unchanged from a week earlier.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.24 percent last week, down from 3.25 percent the week before.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.97 percent, unchanged from the prior week.

 

 
Preserve the Harvest for Winter Meals and Holiday Gifts PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:06

091114reBy Melinda Myers • Special to the Times

The cucumbers have filled the vegetable drawer, you’ve run out of cabbage recipes and your family is refusing to eat one more BLT. Or maybe you just couldn’t resist that special deal on a bushel of tomatoes, potatoes or apples at the farmer’s market. So what is a gardener or shopper to do with all that produce?

Since properly stored vegetables will hold their flavor and nutritional value longer than those left in a plastic bag or set on the sunny kitchen counter, consider preserving some for the long winter ahead using one of several methods.

Storage orchard racks and slatted crates placed in a cool, dark location have long been used to store squash, onions and potatoes. The stackable nature or drawers provide ample storage space, so fruits and vegetables do not touch.  Keeping stored fruit separated prevents rot from spreading from one fruit to the next. Plus, the slatted sides allow airflow to extend storage longevity.

Those in colder climates can store their carrots and parsnips right in the garden. Once the soil gets a bit crunchy, cover them with straw or evergreen boughs for easier digging in winter. Then dig as needed or harvest during the first winter thaw. If this isn’t possible or not your style, try out a root vegetable storage bin. The root crops are layered in sand or sawdust and placed in a cool, dark location. Just remove and use as needed.

Drying is one of the oldest food preservation techniques. Most of us have grabbed a few bundles of herbs to hang and dry. Expand your drying endeavors to include fruits and vegetables. The goal is to quickly remove moisture without cooking the food. You can make your own dehydrator or purchase one. Research has shown that blanching vegetables and fruit before drying helps destroy harmful bacteria. Blanching involves a steam or boiling water bath followed by a cold water bath. Timing varies with the fruit or vegetable you are preparing.

Another ancient food preservation technique, fermentation, is experiencing a comeback. Cultures around the world have fermented fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. Unique flavors, storage options and health benefits have many gardeners revisiting this tradition. Fermenting cucumbers into pickles, cabbage into sauerkraut, and berries into preserves are just a few options. The ingredients can be as simple as water, salt, and spices. All you need is a vessel, vegetables and fermenting culture. You can jump-start your efforts with a fermentation crock kit (gardeners.com) which includes the crock, cover and weights to make sure your veggies stay safely submerged in water.

Or quickly lock in the flavor and nutrition of your fruits and vegetables with freezing. You’ll need airtight containers or bags that are durable, don’t leak and won’t become brittle in cold temperatures. Some produce does not freeze well and others may need to be blanched before they are packed in the freezer bag or container. But frozen items can easily be retrieved from the freezer and included in your winter meals.

Canning is a bit more involved, but can be lots of fun. This process preserves the food and keeps it safe by preventing the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeast and mold. The sealed jars keep the flavor in and bad microorganisms out. So gather your produce, jars, pressure cooker, canner and friends to create tomato sauce, salsa, jams and jellies to enjoy or give as gifts.

Whatever method you choose, do a bit of research before you start. You’ll have greater success and a lot more fun. The National Center for Home Food Preservation website, http://nchfp.uga.edu, provides all the basic information for storage and food preservation.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Visit her website at www.melindamyers.com.

CAPTION: Fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique that is making a comeback.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GARDENER'S SUPPLY COMPANY


 
Open Homes • 09-11-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:05
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Home Sales • 09-11-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:04
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Napa Quake Sends a Wake-up Call PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:43

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Forum

The recent earthquake in Northern California’s wine country vividly reminds us that California isn’t called the “Rock ‘n Roll State” for nothing.

Although the ground under us is always moving to some degree, a larger magnitude quake serves to shake us up and revisit the fundamentals of living in an earthquake zone.* Here are 5 things to do after a shaker:

1. Always check your home after a quake. A quick visual inspection will reveal any issues. Look for new cracks in the walls or ceilings. Check the gas meter to ensure all the connections are OK. If you smell gas, turn of the main gas supply immediately and call PG&E. Turn off all plumbing fixtures and check the water meter — if the needle is moving, you likely have hidden leaks. The water district can verify.

2. Reexamine any home you are purchasing. If you are in contract, make sure your property inspector checks for recent damage. If inspections have already been completed, ask for a supplemental inspection. Any new issues related to an earthquake will need to be factored into any existing contract.

3. If selling, get a property inspection upfront. If your home is going on the market after a recent temblor, it’s a good idea to provide a current Property Inspection Report so prospective buyers can see that there is no related damage.

4. Consider earthquake insurance. Ironically, because of its high cost and deductible, it’s estimated that less than 10 percent of Bay Area homeowners carry earthquake insurance. If you are concerned about the prospects of rebuilding your home after a major quake, and since standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover quake-related damage, a supplemental policy is worth considering.

5. If your home is damaged, use licensed contractors only. Newscast updates state that the inventory of Napa-area properties where significant damage has been discovered is growing daily. Another expanding list is scam artists hoping to cash in on unsuspecting property owners.

If your home is insured, insurance companies can help find approved contractors. If not, you’re on your own and susceptible to potential fraud. Make sure you verify any potential contractor with the state licensing board at www.cslb.ca.gov. Report any unlicensed individuals who contact you.

This is an awesome place to live, but paradise has a dark underbelly. If you live in the “zone,” learn how to respond when you feel the earth move under your feet.

*See “Earthquakes And Your Home: 5 Critical Things You Need To Understand” at www.bit.ly/r7Nhsj (case sensitive).

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.


 
Quickly Rid Attic of Squirrels PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:40

090414re3By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Forum

Like other rodents, squirrels that set up house in your attic can damage insulation and electrical wiring, so getting rid of them is a priority.

Take a close look at your home’s eaves and soffits to find out all the points of entry. It’s likely that some small damage occurred underneath the eaves, and the squirrels exploited it. They will still be using this new “front door” they created.

Head back into the attic and hunt for nests or other signs of squirrels. Nests often are built using insulation — sometimes in the insulation — along the outer edges of the attic. Also, locate the entry point and other points of entry and mark them with chalk or tape.

Block up all entry points except one.

Purchase a live trap with a one-way door. Set it in the attic at the one remaining entry point. Do this at midday, when the squirrels are more likely to be out looking for food. If you’re not sure that they’re outside, set a live trap near the nesting spot, with a little bait inside (like peanut butter).

Once trapped, take the squirrel(s) to a new area, away from other houses but not too far from their original roaming area.

Once done, block the remaining entry point and then repair all damaged areas. Additionally, have an electrician go over the attic wiring to make sure it hasn’t been damaged.

Home Tip: Don’t block attic vents to prevent squirrel infestation; instead, install a sturdy mesh cover to keep rodents out while allowing crucial airflow in.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Feed Petunias Regularly PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:37

090414reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I’ve cut back my Petunia plants because they were getting awfully scraggily looking. They are planted in a container, growing in full sun and I water daily. So, I’m at a loss as to why the leaves are a yellowish color. Are they getting too much water, not enough, or is something else going on?

A: It’s not unusual for Petunias to get leggy. To limit the legginess, trim them after every blooming cycle or as necessary.

When you do cut them back, reduce the size of the plants by 50 percent. This will force the lateral shoots and keep the plants compact.

I don’t think the yellow leaves are a watering problem. It is normal to water container plants daily when the temperatures are over 75°F. However, the water must drain out the bottom of the containers. You should empty the saucers of any water; better yet, remove them completely.

Instead, I’m inclined to think that your problem is a nutrient issue. When the leaf color begins to fade, I’d suspect a nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is the element that makes plants green.

Seasonal color in containers requires more fertilizer than those in the ground. Nutrients, especially nitrogen, leach out of the soil with every watering. You must fertilize regularly, otherwise the plants get hungry.

One way around this is to fertilize with a time-release plant food like Osmocote. A little bit of nutrients is released with every watering and it is only applied twice during the growing season.

Now is a good time to trim/prune/cut back summer annuals that are getting leggy. There is plenty of time for them to re-bloom before the season changes.

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.


 
Join Arbor Day Foundation This Month PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:36

090414re2Everyone in California who joins the Arbor Day Foundation in September will receive 10 free Arizona cypress trees as part of the Foundation’s Trees for America program.

The program encourages the planting of trees that will benefit the environment and improve the quality-of-life. With one million members, the Arbor Day Foundation is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees.

“Arizona cypress trees can be used as an ornamental tree, as a windbreak or privacy screen or as a living Christmas tree in your landscape,” said Matt Harris of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting between Oct. 15 and Dec. 10. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge. Planting instructions are enclosed with each shipment of trees.

New members of the Arbor Day Foundation will also receive The Tree Book, which includes information about tree planting and care.

To receive the free Arizona cypress trees, send a $10 membership contribution to Ten Arizona Cypresses, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410, by Sept. 30, 2014, or join online at arborday.org/september.

 

 
Mortgage Rates Remain Low PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:32

Average fixed mortgage rates were largely unchanged over the Labor Day weekend amid mixed news on the housing front heading.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.10 percent, unchanged from the week before. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.51 percent.

The 15-year rate last week averaged 3.25 percent, up from 3.23 percent.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) rose slightly. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.97 percent, up from 2.95 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.39 percent, up from 2.38 percent.

 
Open Homes • 09-04-14 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:31
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