Real Estate Gallery
Bubble, Balloon, Burst… Bunk | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:46

real-estate-reality-header

Any hope the market will slow has been erased as of late with the continued lack of inventory and relentless flow of buyers trying to score a transaction.

Although there are many factors contributing to the trickle of listings, the effect is singular: Buyers are pushing prices upward with multiple offers on almost every home that appears.

With the continued upward movement comes a siren song echoed repeatedly throughout the Bay Area: “This is a bubble… It’s going to crash… The current market cannot sustain itself.”

Bunk, I say.

To be sure, there are neighborhoods that are dipping and bobbing like a drunken sailor on a storm-ridden deck. This goes without saying — the Bay Area has as many micro-housing markets as we have micro-climate zones. On the whole, however, values are soaring upward.

Students of real estate understand that markets move in 10-year cycles. Follow the trends over the past 50 years and you’ll see an ebb and flow of values in almost perfect symmetry.

Values head upward, adjusting and counter-adjusting as they go, peaking in the middle and then wending back down to begin the cycle anew. Each time, however, the bottom is higher than the previous cycle resulting in a steady overall gain over the years.

Then came 2004. As the Fed relaxed lending guidelines, prices shot through the roof as loans became available to those who should never have received them. With constraint thrown to the wind, a feeding frenzy ensued, pushing prices ever higher.

Built on fraudulent lender practices and junk loans, in 2006, the wheels came off the bus and the whole thing came tumbling down.

The resulting financial catastrophe did something not seen in the previous 80 years: It disrupted the 10-year real estate cycle. The result was a one-time five-year cycle beginning with boom and ending with a bust. And here is the key: With banks returning to normal pre-2004 lending practices, it is reasonable to assume that we should also see a return to the standard real estate cycle as well.

If that’s true, and I believe it is, we are currently in year three of a cycle that began near the beginning of 2012. I believe we can expect the market to continue to increase for at least two more years — although perhaps not at the same rate we’ve seen these past three years, but increase just the same.

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.


 
Always Air Out the Indoors | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:03

042315re2By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Forum

Opening windows is the main component of airing out a house, but there are a number of reasons why older folks (and many younger ones) see it as an essential step in keeping a house healthy.

In the early 20th century, airing homes was considered a crucial health component, as it was believed that fresh air would reduce the incidence of flu and other serious illnesses.

Modern research has found some validity in this: The exchange of air keeps mold from growing, while a change in temperature can make it tougher for bacteria to live on surfaces around the house. Letting in sunlight also can make it tougher for molds and bacteria to survive.

Most of all, though, airing does get rid of the stale smell and makes your home an overall nicer place to live. Here are a few tips on getting the most out of airing:

• Get rid of clutter: Boxes, clothes, papers and so on, particularly on windowsills and beside beds and furniture, collect dust and impede airflow.

• Open the windows when you first wake up: This is a habit I noticed while visiting friends in Europe, and it makes a lot of sense. Once you’re dressed and leaving for work, shut the windows again.

• Or, air your home once a week while cleaning: Open all the windows and doors, dust and vacuum thoroughly, and change or air bedding (turn down the bed covers for a couple of hours, and shake out the comforter).

Even if it’s chilly, windy or cloudy outside, as long as it’s not pouring down rain, you can open the windows for about an hour to allow a fresh exchange of air.

Tip: If allergies are keeping you from throwing open the windows on warm days, talk to an air-quality consultant (or an HVAC contractor) about the best way to keep the indoor air fresh — such as changing air filters frequently.

© 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Plant Popular Alstroemerias Higher | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:01

042315reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I’d like some advice on how to grow Alstroemeria. So far, I’ve had mixed results; most die. The ones that survive don’t bloom much and they grow tall and leggy. They are planted in a sunny location and I keep them moist. I’m also not sure on how and when to prune them. What must I do to be more successful?

A: Alstroemerias are native to South America where they’re grown as a wildflower. Today, they are a major cut flower worldwide and are now being included in perennials and cutting gardens.

Alstroemeria enjoy a sunny location with regular applications of fertilizer. They like to be kept moist but the soil must drain adequately. With our clay soil, you need to generously amend the soil with homemade compost, soil conditioner or other organic matter to improve the drainage.

Alstroemerias have many fleshy stems and roots, so it’s critical that the original root ball is placed high out of the ground — a half inch is sufficient. They usually struggle or die when planted too deep. This may be the key to solving your poor results.

It will also be necessary to add mulch around the plants when the temperatures are 80°F or higher. The foliage will turn an ugly yellow and look terrible when the plants go dry in-between waterings. When this occurs, cut the entire plant down to about four to eight inches and increase the frequency of your waterings.

To keep the plants from getting too leggy, prune in the early spring before the flush of growth and again after each blooming period.

Newly purchased plants will always be more compact and bushy than those in the ground as they are treated with a growth inhibitor. Over the past several years, there have been several new series of Alstroemerias introduced that are a genetic dwarf plant. These plants stay naturally short which makes them excellent in containers.

Also, the spent flowers and/or seed pods need to be removed often for repeat blooms.

Alstroemerias have two types of growth. The first to appear is what I call the grassy growth; it doesn’t produce any flowers. This growth is shorter and thinner than the flower stems that come up later. If you have too much of this grassy growth, you can just thin it out by pulling it up — not all of them, of course.

If you look carefully at a plant that has flowers, you will see that the flower stems are taller, thicker and have more space between the nodes. The nodes are the place where little leaves come out and, of course, they have flowers. Remove the flowers by either cutting them off with a pair of scissors or pruning shears or by pulling the flower stem straight up.

Snails and slugs pose the biggest pest problems; so, bait monthly, March through October.

In conclusion, I’d improve the drainage with more organic matter, raise the plants so they are not buried, and mulch.

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.


 
Mortgage Rates Remain Near 2015 Lows | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 14:48

Average fixed mortgage rates were largely unchanged last week amid a light week of economic news.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.67 percent, up from the previous week when it averaged 3.66 percent.

Fifteen-year fixed rates averaged 2.94 percent last week, up from 2.93 percent.

The five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.88 percent last week, up from 2.83 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.46 percent, unchanged from a week earlier.

 
Open Homes • 04-23-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 14:47
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Home Sales • 04-23-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 14:46
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Overbidding Practices Prompt Questions of Corruption | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:46

real-estate-reality-header

I received a call recently from someone concerned about the legality of current multiple offer practices. An offer had been made over asking price and been accepted by the seller. As a part of the offer, the buyer had to declare that if the appraisal came in lower than the offered price, they would make up the difference.

I was asked, “Is this not corruption and bribery? And, is it legal?”

In a market polarized to one extreme or the other, practices adjust to benefit the group presently favored. Since we’re currently in a rabid seller’s market, homeowners can dictate almost anything they want since they have a commodity in high demand yet with limited inventory.

If a buyer offers a high price to win a bidding war, the seller wants assurance that they will actually receive the full amount being offered. If a purchaser offers $500,000 and has an 80 percent loan, then the bank will lend $400,000 and the buyer brings in the remaining balance of $100,000.

If, however, the property appraises low — let’s say $480,000, then the bank will only lend 80 percent of the appraised value -— $384,000. When the buyer brings in their $100,000, they are suddenly short $16,000 of the accepted contract price. What happens to this difference?

In a slower market, a seller might be willing to renegotiate the price down to the appraised value of $480,000. In the current superheated maelstrom, however, sellers are insisting that the buyer not only make up the difference, they’re demanding that the purchaser wannabes write this into their offer.

This means, in our example, that the buyer needs to bring $116,000 to the transaction to make it work.

“Is this not corruption or bribery?”

Not at all. It’s a free market system adapting to benefit the group with the upper hand — in this case, the sellers.

“Is it legal?”

Absolutely — as long as everything is done aboveboard and in writing.

Some buyers in the past have offered extremely high prices to beat out competition knowing that the property will not appraise and that the price will have to be lowered. Current sellers are savvy to that game and are nipping it in the bud.

Want a home and are willing to offer way over “asking price” to get it? Just be prepared to pay the difference if the appraiser’s opinion of value is not as enthusiastic as yours.

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.


 
Manage Your Home from Your Phone | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2015 14:03

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Home automation is becoming all the rage, but many homeowners balk at rigging up remotely controlled thermostats or security systems because they’re concerned about the cost or about locking into contracts.

And some DIYers don’t want automation, but they do want to bring a little order into the chaos of home maintenance and improvement.

Fortunately, the explosion of mobile apps is making life a bit easier… and at an affordable price.

Here are some of the latest connected devices that aim to make home management, automation and security easier:

• BrightNest: This home maintenance app for iOS (think iPhones and iPads) and Android platforms helps you set up a maintenance schedule and offers helpful tips on cleaning and maintenance. Free. (brightnest.com, App Store or Google Play)

• Cozi Family: Need to assign chores to the kids or split up home-maintenance tasks? This app can do that. It also syncs with everyone’s device from a single account and has a simple interface. Free. (www.cozi.com, App Store or Google Play)

• HomeZada: This desktop software allows you to make an inventory of all your home’s systems for free. And, for $59 a year, it gives you maintenance reminders and instructions, a calendar, a remodeling budget tool and more (www.homezada.com).

• Nest: While this startup company’s physical products include a “learning thermostat” and a smoke/CO detector, both of which can be controlled remotely, it’s also partnering with other tech firms to connect systems in and outside your home — from your car to your fitness wristband and more. Products can be found online or at home-improvement stores, and start at $99 for the smoke/CO detector (nest.com).

• Notion: This home-sensor system goes beyond the standard security system. It senses pretty much anything you want it to, whether it’s an open garage door, an almost-empty propane tank or a window being lifted. The system sends a message to your smartphone. Sensors along with a necessary Wi-Fi bridge are available online and start at $129 (getnotion.com).

© 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Redwoods Require More Water | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2015 13:59

041615reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have a group of established redwood trees planted on a slope. I thought they were being watered by a natural spring but I’ve come to find out it was from a neighbor’s leaking water line that now has been repaired. Since then, four trees have died. How do I go about saving the rest?

A: Redwoods are not a drought-tolerant tree like a pine, cedar, deodar and other conifers. They’re also shallow-rooted and suffer from water stress with the hot afternoon sun beating on the soil.

In their natural habitat, the needles catch moisture from the marine influence. The moisture then drips slowly down to cool and moisten the roots under the canopy of the trees. Hence, they need to be irrigated frequently once the rainy season concludes.

Stand-alone trees, those with no vegetation growing under them, often struggle while those planted in a vegetative ground cover thrive. Established trees on drip irrigation suffer more than those watered by conventional sprinklers.

The whole idea behind watering is to get the entire root system wet. The root system of a redwood is found under the canopy of the tree. A common mistake made when watering redwoods is that the volume of water is insufficient, infrequent and not uniformly distributed around the tree.

When using a drip system, there is a lack of understanding on how to make it work efficiently. First off, a drip system distributes water at a gallon per hour while a conventional system provides water at a gallon per minute.

A drip system needs to run 45 minutes to an hour to provide the necessary volume to get the roots wet. In addition, you’ll need a dedicated water line for drip irrigation.

A huge conflict develops when a drip system and conventional sprinklers share the same line. The volume of water plants receive is either too much or not enough.

The second issue has to do with the number of emitters around the trees. Keep in mind that the originally installed emitters will need to be repositioned every couple of years and additional emitters need to be added so water is available throughout the root zone of each tree.

There is a misconception that if you puddle water in one spot, all the roots will benefit. The water absorbing roots are not located at the tree trunk but out toward the drip line of each tree.

Redwoods produce a lot of natural litter or mulch to help with the moisture retention. It also insulates the roots from the hot sun, especially those trees where the lower branches have been removed. A two- to three-inch mulch layer under the canopy and beyond is recommended. It’s not necessary to mulch the base of the trees.

In addition, your gardening service should be discouraged from removing this valuable covering. When the temperatures are over 80°F, I would be watering weekly.

In summary, water and mulch are the keys to keeping your trees healthy.

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 • 04-16-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2015 13:58
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Home Sales • 04-16-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2015 13:57
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Home Warranties Rise to the Rescue | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:46

real-estate-reality-header

It’s a typical scenario — homebuyers, plunking down substantial amounts of hard-earned shekels to buy a home, are usually unprepared for unwelcome surprises that may arise after the deal has closed.

Whether it’s a dishwasher that suddenly quits, pipes that spring a leak or a heater that turns cold, nothing makes the “new-home” glow burn off faster than having a substantive issue strike soon after closing.

As reality sets in and buyers are confronted with problems they didn’t plan on and don’t have the money to cover, excitement can turn to despair.

Enter the Home Warranty.

Designed to be the first line of defense after a transaction has closed, savvy sellers have discovered that it’s in their best interest to provide buyers with a Home Warranty. After all, sellers want to sell their home and leave — they don’t want to field calls about issues that may erupt after the sale.

Home warranties provide sellers with peace of mind, knowing that it will cover a large number of issues should they arise.

Ranging in cost from approximately $400-$500, a basic home warranty will cover many potential issues that could show up during the first year of ownership. Many companies offer the option of renewing the warranty for continuing years at the buyer’s expense.

If an issue arises, call the warranty company to discuss whether or not your issue is covered. If the item is included in your policy, a certified technician will be sent out to do a field assessment.

Most companies charge a visit fee of approximately $60, payable whether or not the issue is actually covered. If the tech agrees that the offending item is included in the policy, any additional fees to rectify the problem are paid by the warranty company. There is usually no limit to the number of visits in one year.

Problems arise when new home owners discover that a specific problem they may have discovered is not included in their warranty. Normal policies deal with the basic operating systems of a home (plumbing, electrical, heating, built-in appliances, etc.) but do not cover aesthetic or structural issues. Some also cover pest control. Optional coverage can be purchased to cover air conditioning, pools, refrigerators and more.

Read the fine print: It’s very important that buyers carefully read the warranty that is provided; and, if they want additional coverage, they can purchase it themselves.

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.


 

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