Real Estate Gallery
Transaction Coordinators Keep Sales on Track | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:26

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

It’s no secret the internet has changed all things real estate. Anyone watching over the past 10 years will have seen dramatic shifts in the way real estate operates.

While some changes are good, there’s a dark side: compounding nuances and levels of difficulties have become part of the new landscape, making it increasingly difficult to stay on top of everything.

Lenders are much more difficult to work with, frequently throwing in last-minute conditions and terms that must be handled immediately. Realtor forms are constantly changing to keep abreast of governmental policies and regulations that change at a whim. Client expectations have dramatically increased as a result of the internet’s transparency.

As a result, the possibilities of transaction mistakes and/or delays in closing have increased exponentially, exposing everyone to potential losses of time and money. As the levels of transaction difficulties increase, so does the potential for litigation.

Realtors used to be able to fully service clients, including showing homes, running listings, answering calls, fielding questions, meeting inspectors, interfacing with lenders, handling queries from title companies, expediting deliveries and much more.

In the past few years, however, the speed of business has markedly increased along with ever-increasing levels of transactional difficulty. It’s no longer acceptable to get responses to clients and lenders a few days from now or even within 24 hours. With the new levels of interconnectivity, expectations have risen and immediate responses are not only anticipated, in many cases they are critical to the survival and successful completion of a transaction.

This is simply not possible if a Realtor is out in the field with clients, in a meeting hammering out contract details or even taking a day off. Consequently, Realtors have discovered they no longer have the ability to service their clients in a fully professional way, and manage transactions in real time. As a result, most major real estate companies in the Bay Area have concluded that it is in the client’s best interest to include a Transaction Coordinator in every transaction.

These coordinators do nothing but handle transaction details all day long every day. They are not in the field meeting inspectors or driving buyers from home to home; they do not handle sales calls or hunt down lost keys.

Working from a business office with landlines and hi-speed internet access, they interface with lenders, title companies, inspectors and more; and, more importantly, do so from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every business day — the exact same hours the other entities are also in their offices.

Most Realtors now use Transaction Coordinators, and it’s a welcome change for all. In the same way we hire professional inspectors, appraisers, title companies and more to alleviate risk, now we hire professional Transaction Coordinators as well.

Ideally, there’s a coordinator on each side of the transaction. Having trained professionals working the inside of transactions helps keep everything on track, and the possibility of potential litigation to a minimum. It’s the new reality and a very welcome change.

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.


 
Got Ants? Avoid Exterior Spraying | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:23

111314reIf you find a trail of ants in your kitchen, you’re not alone. They’re the most common household pest problem in California and the one Bay Area residents are most likely to attack with pesticide sprays –  chemicals that end up in our local waterways.

Recent scientific studies show that broadcast spraying of pesticides around the perimeter of buildings is the primary cause of the widespread toxicity found in suburban and urban creeks. Rain and over-watering carry pesticide residues from hard surfaces around buildings into gutters and storm drains. Even average usage can severely pollute local creeks and the Bay.

But ants can be stopped without using commercial pesticides. Switching to less-toxic strategies is one of the most effective ways to protect the environment and make it less likely the ants will re-invade, since ant-friendly conditions are eliminated.

The best approach to ant management is to try to keep them outdoors:

• Store food in containers that seal tightly or in the refrigerator when you notice ant activity.

• Keep countertops and floors clean and dry and fix leaking faucets and pipes (ants need food and water).

• Identify and caulk cracks where ants are entering the house. Weather-strip doors and windows.

Ant baits are particularly useful because they are a combination of food and insecticide — ant baits work as ants carry the bait back to their colony and other ants, limiting exposure to people, pets and the environment.

For more information visit baywise.org.

— Bay Area Stormwater Management Agency Association

CAPTION: Keep countertops clean and dry.


 
Keep Impatiens Blooming Indoors; Lawn Dead, Now What? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:20

111314re2By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: This summer I planted three New Guniea impatiens in pots and grew them in partial shade. They’re doing well. Will they survive the winter or should I bring them inside?

A: New Guniea impatiens will not survive the winter months outside because of the cold. They can be grown indoors; however, your biggest challenge is to keep them blooming and prevent the growth from getting leggy.

Both of these issues are related to the low-light condition found in most homes. This may or may not be an issue depending on you’re overall plan.

If protecting them from the cold is your main objective, then it’s not a big deal. All you need to do is keep them watered. Keep in mind that you’ll need to move them into a heated room, so a garage is not suitable.

They’ll grow more compactly in cooler rooms kept under 75°F.

In late March, you would then move them back outside, cut back the growth and feed them.

I prefer Osmocote, as you’ll only need to reapply the nutrients every four months; but there are plenty of other excellent options.

To keep them blooming indoors, you’ll need a location that receives at least four hours of indirect or direct sunlight. This can be challenging during the winter months.

The Agro Sunlight from Hydro Farms is a grow light that can help resolve this problem. It’s available at many independent garden centers.

New Guinea’s should survive outside as long as the nighttime temperatures stay above 40°F, but I’d moved them inside by Thanksgiving to be on the safe side.

Ultimately, it’s a judgment call on your part. For me, it’s not worth all the trouble to overwinter them.

Q: My lawn is dead from the lack of water since I did not water it all summer. Is there anything I can do to help it come back this winter? It’s really crunchy and brown with lots of bare spots.

A: Once a grass has turned brown from lack of water, there isn’t a magic solution one can do to revive it other than to start over.

Now, there are many seasonal grasses that turn brown or go dormant during the summer months but they still require some moisture. They’ll green up in the fall.

Once a grass gets to the straw color and crunchy, it’s past the revival point.

Reseeding a lawn now is not an option as the grass seed germinates poorly with the short days and cool nights. You’ll need to wait until next March.

Another option is to replant with a water-wise lawn substitute in the spring. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center can suggest some ornamental plants.

Also, the EBMUD book “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” is a fabulous resource of water-wise, attractive plants with great pictures.

Keep in mind, that they will require watering during the summer months but don’t require as much as a lawn, and less when established.

It’s not advisable to do nothing as your property value will suffer.

One of the lessons learned from previous droughts is the cost to replace a lawn, trees, and shrubs is not off set from not watering your 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 Facebook.com/Buzz-Bertolero.

CAPTION: To keep impatiens blooming indoors, place them in a location that receives at least four hours of indirect or direct sunlight.


 
Mortgage Rates Move Higher | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:19

Fixed mortgage rates moved higher last week for the second consecutive week amid better-than-expected economic data. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage also rose above 4 percent for the first time in three weeks, averaging 4.02 percent, up from the previous week when it averaged 3.98 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.16 percent.

Fifteen-year fixed rates averaged 3.21 percent, up from 3.13 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) also rose last week.

The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.97 percent, up from 2.94 percent and the one-year ARM averaged 2.45 percent, up from 2.43 percent.

 

 
Open Homes • 11-13-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:19
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Home Sales • 11-13-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:18
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Five New Strategies for a Cooling Market | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:17

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

While the market was sizzling, it was a classic case of “Buyer Take It or Leave It” — if you didn’t like a seller’s demands, good luck finding another who might work with you.

That’s all changing as the market transitions away from a dominant seller’s market. While there are still multiple offers and sharp, well-prepared properties are selling quickly, average turnover is now weeks instead of days.

It’s good news for buyers, many of whom have become seriously jaded by the red-hot market of recent months. While still not in control and driving the current market, homeowner wannabes finally have a real shot at getting a home that meets their needs.

Since we’re entering a transitional market, the rules of engagement are slowly changing. Here are 5 new strategies for Buyers:

1. Do not give up!

We’re finally entering a season where you have a real shot at getting a home — this is not the time to fold your tent and go home.

2. Do not assume offer deadlines and/or multiple offers.

Offer deadlines are actually starting to disappear — along with multiple offers. Make sure your Realtor checks with the listing agent for clarification before writing your offer. With no deadline, there’s nothing to stop you from submitting a good offer the moment a property hits the market — you might be able to preempt others.

3. Do not assume offers will be over list price.

I’ve seen properties close higher than listing price — yet there was only one offer. Check to see if there are other offers; if not, you have room to actually negotiate.

4. Do not assume you can submit low-ball offers.

That market isn’t here yet, and might not be for a long time. Have your agent run the comps,* then offer a fair market price (or slightly lower). Since some sellers haven’t yet received the memo that the market is turning, their list price may or may not be in tune with reality — previous sales prices are going to be critical in helping you determine reasonable offer prices.

5.Do not simply roll over.

Everything is changing — Contingency Periods, “as-is” stipulations, Requests for Repairs — it’s all negotiable. Don’t give up conditions unwittingly. Find a seasoned Realtor who understands the new rules and, very possibly, you might enter this Holiday Season with Thanksgiving… for your new home!

*CMA — Comparative Market Analysis

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.


 
Keep Warm, Keep Safe | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:12

As the weather turns chilly, your reliance on heating equipment will increase. The Electrical Safety Foundation International wants you to be aware of the risks associated with heating equipment and follow a few simple steps to help reduce your risk of a home fire.

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths, responsible for an estimated 490 in 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The leading factors contributing to ignition in home heating equipment fires were failure to clean the device, the heat source being too close to combustibles, and a mechanical failure or malfunction of the equipment.

With proper installation, use and maintenance, you can reduce your risk of property loss, injury or death resulting from the use of heating equipment.

With the increased use of heating equipment, carbon monoxide incidents are also more frequent in colder months. Gas-fueled heating devices were the primary heating source responsible for nonfire carbon monoxide poisonings. Carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible and potentially deadly. Be sure to continue testing your carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms each month to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

More Safe Heating Tips

• All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.

• Make sure you use only equipment that displays a label indicating it has undergone independent testing by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

• Have a qualified professional install heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

• Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, be sure to remove snow or fallen leaves around the outlet to the outside to ensure proper venting of exhaust.

• Have your heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

For additional electrical safety information throughout the year, visit www.esfi.org.


 
Ripen Green Tomatoes; Mushroom Malaise | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:00

110614reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: We have lots of medium-sized green tomatoes but they don’t seem to be ripening. They’re on a balcony that faces east but gets some southerly exposure until early afternoon. With the days getting shorter, how might we get them to ripen before a frost kills the plants?

A: Some of are best tomatoes of the season come very late in the year. So, it’s not that unusual for the vines to be loaded with green tomatoes as cold weather approaches.

A simple ripening chamber, that is any shallow cardboard or plastic box with a removable lid, is an easy method to ripen tomatoes off the vine.

The container is lined with a two-inch layer of newspaper with the largest tomatoes placed inside, on the bottom, without touching one another as rotting can occur. A second layer separated by another two-inch layer of newspaper can be added, but no more. The containers are then stored in a cool, dry location like a garage.

Tomatoes give off ethylene gas during ripening. This naturally occurring gas causes them to turn red or ripen over time. I’d check each container every four to five days and remove the red tomatoes.

You can wait until frost warnings are posted or you might try a few today to test the technique out, to assure yourself that it works.

Another method has you wrapping each tomato individually before placing them in the container. It certainly works, but it requires you to unwrap each one to find the ripe ones.

Whichever method you select, I guarantee that you’ll be enjoying homegrown tomatoes long after the plants have died.

Q: I have a problem with mushrooms springing up in my lawn whenever it rains. I’m concerned that some kid walking by is going to be poisoned by eating one and sue me. Is there a treatment that will stop them from returning? I couldn’t find a weed killer for mushrooms at the local hardware store.

A: Weed killers or herbicides are used to control unwanted vegetation or plants. Mushrooms or toadstools are not plants but a fungus; hence, herbicides are ineffective in controlling or killing them.

Mushrooms thrive in moist soils but shrivel up during dry periods regardless of the season. They don’t necessarily die. Instead, they leave spores, that reproduce and grow new structures when moisture and the right conditions return.

Practically speaking, there is nothing you can do to prevent or eradicate mushrooms beforehand. Fungicides control the existing mushrooms, but they will not eradicate the problem or prevent them from returning.

Every year, we hear of cases were people are poisoned from eating wild mushrooms they have collected. I can’t recall any cases involving individuals or domestic animals dying or being poisoned from eating mushrooms found in a lawn.

While there is always a possibility, the probability is very slim of your need to be concerned about a liability issue.

Instead, when the mushrooms appear, I would kick them over and rake the debris up.

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 Rebound, Remain Below 4% | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 14:57

Average fixed mortgage rates moved higher across the board last week, rebounding from the lowest rates of the year.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.98 percent, up from the previous week when it averaged 3.92 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.10 percent.

Fifteen-year rates averaged 3.13 percent, up from 3.08 percent.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) were also up last week. The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid ARM averaged 2.94 percent, up from 2.91, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.43 percent, up from 2.41 percent.


 
Open Homes • 11-06-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 14:56
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Home Sales • 11-06-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 14:55
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