Real Estate Gallery
Savvy Stagers Add a Splash of Color | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:10

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

It’s a scene frequently repeated: While visiting with prospective sellers, somewhere between the tour of the home and the customary chitchat, the inevitable comment is made. “Well,” they say, “I guess we’ll have to paint everything white.”

“Not exactly,” I hear myself saying. “In fact, color is back in.”

Color is amazing — it’s long been known that color can significantly affect emotions, moods and feelings. It has other effects as well — ever wonder why many restaurant interiors have varying shades of red?  It’s believed the color accentuates your appetite.

I’ve personally noticed the effect color has on people when showing homes — I can predict with certainty the reactions of prospective buyers when they walk into rooms painted in CalTrans Orange, Barney Purple or varying shades of fluorescent pink or green.

New home builders know that color has a positive effect on buyers — it’s why model homes are filled with vibrant shades, not only on walls, but in the furniture and accents as well. Savvy home stagers understand this and, even if the walls are white, will bring as many tasteful splashes of color into a room as possible.

There are a few important things to know about color if you are planning to sell your home:

1. Avoid yellows. While shades such as canary yellow will definitely brighten a room, it’s the most difficult color for your eyes to process. It’s also almost impossible to make yellow look good in the listing photos — cameras do not like yellow.

2. Avoid pinks and purples. While many like these colors, they tend to polarize — you either love them or hate them, which is why you’ll typically never see these hues used in model homes.

3. Use bold colors in moderation. Red is great — just don’t use it to paint your entire family room! Instead, paint only one wall as an accent. The same applies to shades of dark brown, grey or even black.

4. Tans and greys are in. Many designers recommend these colors for walls instead of white.

5. Use white for accents and trim. Contrast colored walls with off-white trim (casings, baseboards, etc.) with a color such as Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee — not stark white.

Our recommendation? Don’t go it alone. Hire a professional stager to help you with color. Correct colors and beautiful staging can make your home sizzle — and be the key to a quick and successful sale.

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

Time to Air Out Those Musty Closets | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:08

082114reBy Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Dampness is the primary cause of mustiness and odors in closets, but how that dampness gets into the closets and how you can get rid of it takes a few steps.

First, the way closets are configured often contributes to the problem. They generally are recessed back into the wall, and are closed off by doors. Both of these things impede airflow and allow for stagnant, humid air in these spaces.

Standard air fresheners don’t help if there’s very little airflow in the closet.

What you can do, immediately, to improve the situation is to open the closet doors and remove everything: clothes, boxes, baskets, toys… all of it. Set up a fan on a side table so that it blows air directly into the closet. Let the closet air out this way for 24 hours.

Then refill the closet — but with half as much clothing and other stuff as before. Cluttered, overstuffed closets can cause that musty odor to come back in no time, because all that junk is blocking any airflow.

While the fans are running, hunt for possible moisture problems in the house. Go into the attic with a flashlight and look for any possible leaks, while smelling for mustiness or mold. If your home has a basement, inspect it as well.

Check all the ceilings: Are there any light-brown, circular areas visible? These are water stains, caused by either a leak in the roof or a leaking pipe.

If you smell mustiness and mold but can’t find what’s causing it, or if you see water stains on the ceiling or walls but can’t locate a source, call a contractor who specializes in moisture problems.

Be sure to mention mustiness in the closets to the contractor, if they don’t ask first. Eliminating sources of humidity or leaks will be most important, but if the closets’ problem continues, even after you declutter them, talk with the contractor about ways to improve airflow in these spaces.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Lower | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:07

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to its 2014 low last week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly nationwide survey.

It averaged 4.12 percent, down from 4.14 percent the week before.

Fifteen-year mortgages were also down, averaging 3.24 percent, down from 3.27 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed. The five-year hybrid ARM edged down from 2.98 percent to 2.97 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.36 percent, up from 2.35.


Home Sales Sluggish in July, But Prices Continue to Climb | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:06

Alameda County home sales dipped last month, the result of continued constrained supply, the decline in affordability, and a still-tight mortgage market.

A total of 1,785 new and resale houses and condos sold in the county last month, down 4.6 percent from July last year, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, a real estate information service.

“The Bay Area housing market is still in transition, still dealing with the remnants of the Great Recession,” said John Karevoll, DataQuick analyst. “There still seems to be a bit of buyer and seller reticence.”

The median price paid for a home in Alameda County in July was $585,000, up 12.5 percent from $520,000 a year ago.

The median sale price for the entire nine-county Bay Area was $617,000 last month. It had peaked at $665,000 in June and July of 2007, then dropped to a low of $290,000 in March 2009.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $2,394.


Homeownership Fair Coming in September | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:06

Chabot College will host a free Homeownership Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, a resource for anyone interested in purchasing a home whether re-entering the market or a first-timer.

Exhibitors will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Workshop sessions will be held throughout the day on wealth development, what is a Realtor, how to get your offer  accepted, and down payment assistance programs.

Chabot College is located at 25555 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward.


Plan Prior to Planting; ‘Invisible Bugs’ Devour Salvia | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:01

082114re2By Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My house has no backyard landscaping but the front is planted. Can you give me some ideas on where to start; and is this the time to plant or should I wait until next spring?

A: The Fall planting season starts with Labor Day Weekend. It’s an excellent time to plan and plant. Although, it’s a short season that ends with the conclusion of daylight savings time on the first Sunday in November. This is also when the growing season typically ends with the shorter days and longer nights.

Depending on when the new plants are installed, you may not see much new growth, but their roots will get established over the winter months; so, with spring, the plants will take off.

The first thing to consider is not the plants but the hardscape, that’s walkways, patios, decks, retaining walls, location of a storage shed, etc.

Next, decide if you want any special areas, such as a vegetable garden, flower and/or rose garden, children’s play area, etc. In addition, tree placement is an important consideration for shading on the southwest side of the house on hot summer days.

Next comes the landscape plan which incorporates all those ideas and adds a plant list to it.

EBMUD’s “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” book is an excellent reference for plants that are water wise. All too often, the term “drought-tolerant plants” is used without realizing that those plants are not very attractive during the hot summer months.

The term “water wise” is better suited as you get plants that are attractive and use less water.

Armed with this information and pictures of the area, you can then consult your local nursery professional at your favorite garden center or landscape designer to develop a plant pallet.

And, finally, the last item is the irrigation plan. This project requires that you spend some time sorting through all the options. Most of them are judgment calls on your part.

A backyard design is, in many ways, more important than the front as this is where most of your time is spent. It also provides the biggest return on your investment in the enjoyment factor. A front yard is for friends, family and drive-bys.

Note: EBMUD’s “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” book is available at many garden centers, bookstores and online at It contains over 500 color photos along with a description of each species that grows well in our Bay Area climate.

Q: My purple salvia is being eaten alive by something but I don’t see any bugs. What can I safely use to solve this problem.

A: When plants are being devoured by “invisible bugs,” the primary suspects are snails, slugs and earwigs.

You don’t see them because they feed at night and retreat to a cool, damp, shady location during the day.

I would use Sluggo Plus or Bonide Bug and Slug Killer. These both are safe bait for use on edibles and non-edible 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

CAPTION: The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s book “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates” is a great resource for helping you choose water-wise, drought-tolerant plants for your landscape.

Open Homes • 08-21-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:00
Home Sales • 08-21-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:59
Zillow Gobbles Up Market Share, Part 2 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:53

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

It’s a great advertisement… mom and dad are searching for homes online — she’s local and he’s overseas, but they’re collaborating online with Zillow’s interactive website to find the perfect home.

They finally agree on a property, the purchase is made and, when the wife and child open the front door to their new digs, dad, an active serviceman, is magically waiting in the living room.

I’m a softy and, as the storybook ending unfolded, tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. Suddenly, however, a small voice inside disrupted the moment by yelling, “Hey… where’s the Realtor?”

Truth is, none of this would have been possible without a “boots-on-the-ground” real estate agent. The fact that a Realtor was nowhere visible in this ad is, in my opinion, indicative of the new world order as Zillow wants it. From where I sit, that’s problematic.

Zillow and other comparable online real estate information sites (Trulia, provide real estate information free to consumers packaged in user-friendly interfaces formatted for portable devices.

Not only can you search for homes on your device, you can get auto-alerts for new listings, estimates for home values, tax records, previous sales, trends for cities and so on.

Zillow wants their website to be a one-stop-shop for all things Real Estate, and the fact they just paid $3.5 billion to obtain Trulia signifies how serious they are about dominating the ether. Problem is, they don’t have any agents.

To actually get into a home, obtain accurate market values and write an offer, you need… an agent. Truthfully, Realtors can do everything Zillow does… only better. After all, they’re the ones obtaining the listings and posting them on the MLS, which in turn feeds the data to online portals.

MLS autofeeds go out instantly, not like delayed feeds to online services. And, if you think Zillow’s Zestimate is a real Comparitive Market Analysis (CMA) that provides an accurate assessment of a home’s value… guess again.*

While online real estate portals are all about data, Realtors are about people. They’re the ones holding buyers’ hands through the market’s foibles and assisting sellers prepare homes for the market. They’re not algorithms; they’re friends, coaches, facilitators, guides and mentors. They’re Real Estate Professionals. They’re the ones who get it done and who, at the end of a transaction, hand you the keys and say, “Welcome home.”

*For more on Zestimates, go to

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

Brighten, Beautify Your Bathroom | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:50

081414re2Beautifying your bathroom sounds exciting but oftentimes renovation plans begin with good intentions and end up a long, costly nightmare.

The national average cost for a bathroom remodel is over $10,000 according to the Cost Guide from That’s a hefty investment but one that can easily be reduced with a simple refresh of the space instead.

Here are some cost-effective updates you can make to your bathroom in as little as a weekend.

Enhance Walls with Color and Pattern

You don’t need to re-paint an entire room to alter its overall appearance. Adding a color or design to just one wall in the bathroom can revive the whole space.

Have some fun with an accent wall — yellows and golds will warm it up, greens and blues are calming; and if you want bold color, Radiant Orchid, Pantone’s 2014 color of the year, is a bright hue that will really pop. Striped patterns are also a great option — they’re modern and on-trend, plus provide an easy fix for smaller areas.

You can use the direction of the stripes to make the space seem larger: horizontal stripes will make it look wider, whereas vertical stripes will elongate walls and give the illusion of a higher ceiling.

Make a Statement with the Mirror

To add character to your bathroom with minimal effort, install a unique, eye-catching mirror. Framed styles are a great option, but they can be pricey. However, a little ingenuity can deliver the look you want for a fraction of the cost.

Check out a local flea market or thrift store to see if you can find a distinctive picture frame that could be transformed into a mirror. To make it really stand out, look for finds with unconventional shapes, finishes or colors.

Declutter and Organize

Shelf liner, in addition to its traditional uses in kitchens and closets, can be both fun and functional for the bath. Start by cleaning out the space, including cabinets, drawers, the sink top, under the sink and any other storage areas. Then cut and install a non-adhesive shelf liner. They are available in an array of colors and prints to complement various color schemes or styles.

Brighten up the Space with new light fixtures

Lighting in any room of the house can affect the way the overall design of the room is received. When done right, fixtures fit in seamlessly; when done wrong, they stick out and distract from other decor.

The bathroom light is a great opportunity to inject flair and style into your space with ease – plus provide the illumination you need to get ready for the day.

Switch out older ceiling lights with trendy lanterns or an inexpensive, vintage chandelier. For vanities, try sconces with unexpected shades or use tall tabletop lamps instead of wall-mounted styles for added pizzazz.

Pull the Room Together with Accessories

Accessories are a perfect — and inexpensive — way to add unexpected texture, color and design to a bathroom. Look for options that complement your style to add personality and bring the whole room together. And, don’t forget behind the shower curtain – although bath mats often serve the utilitarian purpose of providing a skid-resistant surface for safer footing, they can add a touch of style, too.


CAPTION: Don’t ignore the bathroom’s old appearance over the fear of high renovation costs. A few easy-to-do (and inexpensive) changes can go a long way in transforming your bathroom’s style from drab to fab.

Peppers Drop Blossoms; Walnut Woes | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:46

081414reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My pepper plants are thriving in a half oak barrel, but the blossoms are shriveling up and dropping off. They get watered every other day or every day, depending on how hot it gets. They’re fertilized monthly and get five hours of sunlight daily. What is causing the blossom drop?

A: Blossoms drop on pepper plants, particularly chili peppers, is becoming more and more of an issue. The number-one reason peppers fail to flower and/or the blossoms shrivel up and drop off is temperature.

Much like tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, like warm days and warm nights to produce. Peppers fail to set fruit when the nighttime temperature is below 55°F or on very warm nights. The latter rarely occurs.

In addition, overly cool conditions, especially early in the season, can prevent buds from forming; hence, May is the ideal month to plant peppers.

With temperature issues, location, location, location is critical for both in-the-ground plantings or those in containers. Five hours of direct sunlight is a borderline situation for success. Six hours or more is generally required and preferably in the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest.

Peppers are problematical to grow along the coast or any area that gets an afternoon marine influence. The further inland you move increases the success ratio. It’s not unusual to have mild periods during the summer months, as our temperatures do vary weekly.

Other reasons why peppers fail to set fruit could be that they’re going dry between waterings which causes excessive nitrogen levels and promotes lots of vegetation at the expense of the blossoms and fruit.

Monthly feeding for containers is okay but may be too much for those in the ground.

Peppers are self-pollinating but poor air circulation can lead to pollination problems, especially if they’re right next to a solid wall. Moving them would easily solve this problem.

In addition, pepper blossoms are even more sensitive to the temperature during pollination. So, I think the answer to your problem is to move the barrel to a sunnier location.

Q: I’d like to know if I can dig up and relocate a small two-year-old, ground-squirrel-planted walnut tree. Will it produce nuts?

A: Seedling walnuts can be successfully transplanted when they’re dormant between December and February; however, producing edible nuts is a whole other issue.

The walnut/seed is the result of two unknown parents that have cross-pollinated. The odds of a seedling walnut producing an edible crop are very unpredictable. Your chances are higher with a black walnut versus an English walnut.

English walnut varieties are the desired variety for consumption. They are typically budded onto a black walnut rootstock. You’ll have to wait an unknown period of years to see what develops. This is why commercial fruit and nut trees are grafted, or budded, for predictable offspring.

Another negative is that a mature walnut is much too large for today’s typical garden. So, while they can be transplanted, it’s very likely you’ll be disappointed with two very large unproductive trees.

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

CAPTION: Pepper plants need six hours or more of direct sunlight, preferrable in the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest.

Open Homes • 08-14-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:45


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