Real Estate Gallery
Patterns Change for First-time Buyers | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:21

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

In what amounts to a fundamental rethinking about the purpose of home ownership, buying patterns are changing in the post-recession recovery.

Prior to the bust and meltdown, many buyers purchased their primary homes with the specific intent of holding for a short period of time, selling as soon as it made sense, making a quick profit and… lather, rinse, repeat.

That is no longer the case. Leslie Parker, a consumer housing specialist with REALTOR.com, informs, “People are buying homes they are going to stay in 15, 20, 30 years.” She adds, “Before (the recession) you saw more of a chess game, where people would buy a home and then they would move a couple years later, and then they would move again.”

It’s a critical readjustment in the way homeowners view their homes and a shift in a healthy direction. Prior to the meltdown, many purchased homes with the idea of using them as ATM machines. As market values climbed and equity increased, they’d either refinance or get a line of credit. In either case, they’d pull cash out for any number of uses, some utilizing their windfall as down payments on investment properties, hoping they would also begin to increase in value.

A second group, once they had a specific percentage of equity, were selling their homes and, using the equity bonanza as a new down payment, were leveraging larger and larger homes.

Loans available at that time were allowing minimal down payments, and, with adjustable ARM loans making initial monthly mortgage payments extremely low, they were able to move up dramatically in a short period of time.

Both groups got caught when the market collapsed and home values quickly plummeted below the amounts owed on loans.

And now none other than economist Karl “Chip” Case (a name synonymous with home prices as the co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index) is weighing in. His advice to first-time homebuyers? “Be sure you can afford the house and don’t expect a quick profit,” he insists. “If you’re not buying it for the long haul, don’t buy because there’s a good chance you’ll have to sit through some down cycles.”

Our advice? Never forget the fundamental objective for buying a home. While it may be a good investment, a way to lower taxes or any other good reason, the most important purpose of all… is to have a home.

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 Group at www.ccmgtoday.com.


 
Replace Shingles for Short-term Solution | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:18

071714re2By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

If you’ve noticed a couple of areas where the asphalt shingles on your roof were chipped or lifted a little, but mostly intact, you can get away with patching it.

The repair may last only a couple of seasons, but it can protect your roof in the short term.

To patch a shingle, take a spare shingle of the same material and cut it to the size of the damaged area. Remove any dangling or jutting pieces from the damaged section. Tack the new piece of shingle into place using roofing cement.

Shingles that are torn or buckled, missing, or areas with several damaged shingles will benefit more from replacement than patching. Purchase replacement shingles at the home-improvement store, along with repair tools and supplies, including roofing cement, tack hammer or roofing-nail gun, pry bar and spare roofing nails.

Check out the YouTube video titled “Replacing a Damaged Roof Shingle” for a quick-and-dirty primer on replacing shingles.

As you can see, the shingles above the damaged area need to be lifted slightly (be careful not to break them) so the roofing nails holding the damaged shingle in place can be removed. Once the nails are removed, loosen and slide the damaged shingle downward and out.

Slide the replacement shingle into the same spot. If holding the shingle in place is difficult, put a couple dots of roofing cement on the underside just to hold it in place while you secure it.

Work your way back up, putting new roofing nails near the same spots that you removed the old ones from. Re-secure the loosened shingles above with new nails.

As always, remember that safety comes first when working up on the roof. Always have a partner helping to steady the ladder, and use a safety line. Move along the roof in a crouch, rather than standing up, which could cause you to lose your balance.

If you don’t feel confident in working at that height, contact a professional roofer to handle the repair. The National Roofing Contractors Association can provide advice and guidance in finding a contractor.

Home Tip: In the spring or fall, check the weather forecast before starting roofing repairs: The materials need several days of dry, warm weather to cure completely.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Budworms Spoil Green Gardener’s Geraniums | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:16

071714reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I don’t really have a green thumb so I planted geraniums because I was told they were easy to grow and pest free. Well, that’s a bunch of bunk! My geraniums have green worms on them. They go right to the buds and feast on them. In addition, they’re destroying the future flowers by tunnelling into the buds. What should I do?

A: Geraniums are a perfect choice for new gardeners. They provide lots of color all summer and are mostly trouble free; however, they are susceptible to a worm or caterpillar called budworm.

They’re not a problem every year and it’s unfortunate that your gardening experience has been spoiled. Besides geraniums, you will find budworms on petunias, pelargoniums and flowering tobacco plants.

The worm is the larva stage of a moth. The adult budworm moth lays eggs on the leaves and flowers of a geranium, generally in the late evening. Upon hatching, the larvae or worms tunnel their way through the plant, damaging the flower(s). Most of their activity takes place at dusk and stops at sunrise. The worms are small, around a quarter of an inch, but can grow to be half an inch or more before pupating.

The pupa stage is the hibernation stage they go into before turning into a moth. It takes about a month for them to mature and there can be two to three infestations per season.

Because of their small size and ability to “match” the color of their host plant, budworms can be hard to find. The early warning signs are that the plants stop flowering, or the flowers are riddled with holes. In addition, you may notice small holes in the stems and/or black droppings.

The color of the larvae can differ from brown to green with yellow stripes.  The coloration is determined by the type of plant the larvae are feeding on, but usually they are green.

Budworms are not that difficult to control as there are several organic solutions to the problem.

During the day, budworms cluster around the base of the plant for shelter. They emerge to feast on the plant during the early evening hours, making this the best time to remove them manually.

Organic sprays include Spinosad and Baccillus Thuringiensis. Spinosad will give you immediate control. Baccillus Thuringiensis, also know as BT, is often recommended but it takes several days of feeding before a fatal case of the stomach flu kills the worms.

Going forward, you need to be diligent in checking your plants when watering for any signs of a new infestation. If budworms are found, you can then apply a repeat application of your control. This is also an excellant time to prune and shape the plants.

I would then follow up with a feeding to force more lateral growth, making your plants fuller.

Your gernaniums should be back in bloom in mid August to early September.

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: Holes in flowers and/or leaves is a sign of budworms.


 
Open Homes • 07-17-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:10
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Home Sales • 07-17-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:09
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Hopeful Renters Try Desperate Tactics | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:16

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Finding a rental in Central Alameda County has been rough for a while now, and, if anything, it’s getting tougher.

You might even say things are moving to the level of desperation. Many hoping to score a rental are being jolted by the level of competition they’re encountering and the ends they need to go to nail down an address to call home.

With many losing their homes during the foreclosure crisis and thousands more moving here to capitalize on our booming economy, rental needs have soared.

It’s been shocking to some landlords as well. Friends of ours, after rehabbing a home previously occupied by a long-time tenant, posted it on craigslist and were amazed to receive many replies in the first 20 minutes. A short time later, they were sifting through approximately 20 applications. Needless to say, they didn’t see that coming.

Sorting through the numerous submissions, they were surprised by a second fact: many applicants were offering more per month than the advertised price.

Historically, landlords have posted rental amounts only to have prospective tenants bargain them down. Currently, the opposite is happening as rental wannabes are doing whatever they can to move themselves to the top of the pack. This includes offering more per month, increasing the damage deposit and so on. It’s a scenario identical to the multiple offers sellers have been getting in the resale market.

I was recently amazed at the level of competition as I helped an out-of-state couple relocate. They perused online ads, talked to property managers and then texted open house addresses and times for me to visit and take videos. These were typically two-hour windows on a weekday afternoon or evening.

Every home I visited featured the same characteristics: (1) difficulty finding parking, (2) hordes of people going through and (3) everyone trying to convince the onsite property manager they were the tenants of choice. We scored a home, but it wasn’t easy.

Needless to say, rents are jumping as competition increases. Rates in some areas have more than doubled in the past few years. Have dogs or want to smoke? Good luck. One property manager told me, “If they have dogs, we won’t consider them.”

With this amount of competition, make sure your application is as clean and complete as possible. Landlords are in a position to be very picky, and many are currently exercising that right to the max.

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.


 
Water-damaged Carpet Needs Quick Attention | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:13

071014re2By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Q: My apartment’s window air-conditioning unit dripped water from the front left corner for several days before I realized it, and the carpet underneath is soaking wet. How can I dry it quickly?

A: First off, since you live in an apartment, contact the landlord or management office right away. They should be informed of any damage that has occurred, as soon as it happens.

If the leaky air-conditioning unit belongs to the landlord or management company, then responsibility for the cost of the repair may belong to them. Many communities will send out a maintenance person or repair contractor to fix or replace both the leaky A/C unit and the damaged section of carpet.

If the A/C unit belongs to you, then you may be responsible for some or all of the repair cost. Some communities will make the repair anyway, so that the apartment meets their standards, and you’ll have to negotiate with them about the cost or forfeit some of your security deposit.

You also can offer to do the repair yourself or hire a repair contractor yourself, at your cost. The landlord or management will want to check on the final result.

So, what needs to be repaired? You’ll need to stop the A/C unit from leaking immediately. Shut it off, take it out of the window if possible (have a helper assist you with the lift) and set it in a plastic tub to let the condensed water drain out.

Remove and clean the air filter and look for an external drain hose, if the unit has one, that might have come loose. Check the window for any swelling or damage to the wood, which can occur if a leak continues for some time.

If the unit cools well, the problem may simply be that it is tilted too far forward, so that condensation runs inside along the bottom of the unit rather than dripping outside. Try placing the unit back into the window so that it has a slight tilt — about 5 degrees — up and out. Put a catch bucket underneath the leak area and turn the unit on for an hour or so, checking to see if condensation still comes inside. If this doesn’t fix it, you may need to repair or replace the unit.

Next, the carpet. Blot the area with towels as soon as possible to remove excess water.

Since it’s been soaking for several days, you (or the repair person) need to dry the area all the way down to the underlayment and flooring.

Remove furniture from the area — clear that half of the room completely, or the whole room if possible.

Starting at the nearest corner, pull back the carpet, followed by the padding. Note where the water stains have reached. If the flooring underneath is wet, you need to dry that immediately.

The repair or maintenance person will determine if the carpet is salvageable. Cost-conscious apartments will try to dry the carpet and flooring and at most replace the padding. If this is the direction taken, check the carpet frequently after the repair and make sure you don’t smell mildew or mold. If mold sets in, the entire carpet will probably need to be replaced.

Home Tip: Water spills on carpet should be blotted up with paper or cloth towels as soon as possible to keep them from reaching the padding underneath.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.


 
Blossom End Rot Zaps Zukes | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 14:03

071014re1By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My zucchini is shriveling up. I’ve looked on the web and found similar looking issues for a problem called blossom end rot. The article suggested that the problem is caused by the lack of calcium. Do you think making up gallons of nonfat dry milk and “watering” the plants will solve my problem?

A: Blossom end rot is a problem with many summer vegetables. With cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash, the fruit form and then quickly shrivel and rot. The vegetables never mature.

With tomatoes, peppers and sometimes eggplants, tan to brown blotches form on the maturing fruit. These blotches are found on the lower section of the blossom end of the fruits. Nevertheless, they do reach maturity and are edible even with the flaws.

The lack of calcium is one of the causes of blossom end rot; however, watering with any type of milk product is not going to work.

As part of your soil preparation next year, you would add calcium in the form of Dolimite, Agricultural or Oyster Shell Lime but not Hydrated Lime. The size of the vegetable garden will determine the quantity.

Bonide Rot Stop or a similar product is a liquid copper that can be applied during flowering. That being said, calcium products will not yield satisfactory results unless you correct the major reason for blossom end rot — irregular watering.

Watering with a preset schedule from April though September doesn’t work. Our temperatures are always in flux; hence, we need to vary the frequency on a weekly schedule.

There is no problem with watering more often when it’s very warm. Our problem is watering less often when it’s cool.

There is no set formula because every yard is different thus every garden is water differently.

Irregular watering comes from the changes in temperature which affect the rate moisture is withdrawn from the soil. The soil preparation, exposure to the afternoon sun, the type of distribution system and the utilization of mulch all affect how often we water.

Now, the one constant in all cases is the volume of water necessary to wet the entire root system. It’s just how often we apply the moisture that needs to change.

Another problem that complicates things are plant groupings. Deep-rooted vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants should be separated from the shallow-rooted varieties, such as peppers and squash as they will need to be watered more frequently.

While the answer to the problem is easy, finding the right balance in your yard will take some trial and error.

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: Water zucchini more when it’s very warm and less when it’s cool. This will help prevent blossom end rot.


 
Little Change in Mortgage Rates | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 13:58

Fixed mortgage rates were lower last week than at the same time last year, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly nationwide survey.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.12 percent last week, down from 4.14 percent the week before. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.29 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 3.22 percent, unchanged from the previous week.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were also unchanged at 2.98 percent.

One-year ARMs averaged 2.38 percent last week, down from 2.40 percent.

 

 
Open Homes • 07-10-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 13:55
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Home Sales • 07-10-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 13:55
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Mobile Home Market Hits High Gear | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 July 2014 15:41

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Forum

In an emerging trend, some buyers, unable to purchase regular properties, are turning to another option to get a roof over their heads. And they are doing it in record numbers. Instead of buying regular homes, they’re snatching up mobile homes.

“Mobile homes” have changed over the years. The iconic 12-foot wide structures (24-foot double-wide) filling mobile home parks across the country for years and appearing in countless movies have finally grown up.

In reality, newer mobile homes aren’t mobile at all — they’re typically manufactured homes trucked to a given location in modules, assembled on foundations and resemble any home you’d find on a regular street. They’re beautiful inside and out.

There’s one significant difference, however. “Mobile homes,” while a viable residential alternative, are not technically classified as real estate.

Investopedia.com defines real estate as “Land plus anything permanently fixed to it, including buildings, sheds and other items attached to the structure.” If you buy a mobile home and have it installed on property you own, that’s one thing.

In the Bay Area, however, if your unit is in a mobile home park, you own the structure but not the land underneath. Residents of mobile home parks in Alameda County pay “space rent” for the spot on which their unit is situated. This rent, depending on location, varies from a low of $375/month to over $1,200/month. In most cases, you pay utilities on top of this amount.

Since it’s usually the land under any home that appreciates in value, owning a mobile home is like owning a car. (In fact, mobile homes used to be licensed thorough the DMV.) It’s an asset that depreciates in value instead of appreciating.

While this may be OK for some, it’s this simple fact that keeps the masses from buying mobile homes: while providing a roof over your head, it’s not an investment with good future prospects. Banks recognize this fact and only a select few provide mobile home loans.

For those with no other options, mobile homes are growing in popularity. In fact, a recent surge in sales peaked this past March with 33 pending sales — the highest number in 10 years.* Whereas 5 years ago, 190 units were for sale in Alameda County and you almost couldn’t give one away, currently that number is 17.

Looking for a mobile home? In reality, you may have a hard time finding one.

*Data from Trendgraphix.

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.


 

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