Real Estate Gallery
‘A Tale of Two Markets’ | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:12

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Heading into the Holiday Season, the market is continuing to morph and change. If Charles Dickens were writing on the subject, he’d entitle his tome, “A Tale of Two Markets.”

Typically the slowest time of the year, homes that are well prepared, effectively marketed and priced correctly are still flying off the market. 

On the other hand, properties that are less attractive, have potential issues or are incorrectly priced are moving ... nowhere.

Since there are still many buyers out there, it’s these less desirable properties that present the greatest opportunity. And the greatest challenge. Truthfully, while the housing market has cooled from its mid-summer highs, it’s still hot enough to generate a substantial number of sales. Therefore, if a house is not pending within a few weeks, it’s safe to say, “Something is wrong.”

It could be a number of things.

The first obvious place to check is the price. Even if it’s nice, there are higher numbers of properly priced homes out there than a few months ago. Additionally, today’s buyers are sufficiently well educated to know when homes are overvalued: rather than offering less, they typically choose to ignore them instead.

The second issue is usually property condition. Six months ago, just about any property could garner an offer simply because there were no other choices. Today, however, that is no longer true.

Many of today’s buyers simply do not have the imagination to see a home as it could be. Instead, they gaze at dingy bathrooms and outdated kitchens and then head for the front door. It’s even worse if the home has serious issues.

A third reason a home may have racked extensive days on the market is a transaction that’s fallen apart. Whether the result of a failed loan or condition issues, the Days On The Market counter (DOM) kicks in again once a property reemerges on the market.

Since it shows days from the first day it was listed, these numbers can suddenly be quite large. Some buyers tend to ignore homes like this, thinking that they may have a high DOM number because of reason one or two above.

Whatever the cause, high DOM homes represent the best opportunity for buyers getting blown out in multiple offer situations. They are worth another look – hiding behind that 1950’s kitchen and retro bathroom might be pure gold ... waiting for its chance to shine.

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

Fixed Mortgage Rates Dip | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:11

Average fixed mortgage rates were down slightly last week with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipping to 3.99 percent, down from 4.01 percent the week before, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly nationwide survey. A year ago, it averaged 4.22 percent.

Fifteen-year rates averaged 3.17 percent, down from 3.20.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 3.01 percent, down from 3.02 percent, and one-year ARMs averaged 2.44 percent, up from 2.43.


Control Hillside Weeds with Corn Gluten; Dormant Spray Timing Changed | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:09

112714reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have a hillside covered with cotoneaster. It’s filling in nicely and is currently weed-free. I’d like to avoid weeding it next spring. The slope is pretty steep, so weed cloth and/or mulch is somewhat problematic. Is there a safe, environmentally friendly, pre-emergent available?

A: There are pre-emergent herbicides that you can apply to control the unwanted vegetation. They’re used to prevent weed seeds from germinating, and they’re applied over the top of rooted plants without damaging them.

Concern Weed Prevention Plus is a natural or organic, pre-emergent herbicide. It uses corn gluten as the active ingredient and is used to control annual grasses and some broadleaf weeds. You’ll find a complete list of the weed species it would control on the label.

Concern Weed Prevention Plus is a granular material that is broadcast over the hillside with a handheld broadcast spreader. You’ll need to apply 15 to 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet with a second application in mid February. This may be an issue because of the slope.

Bonide Maze is a more convenient liquid option of corn gluten. Maze was introduced this year and is available in a quart “Ready to Spray” applicator, also known as an RTS product that treats 1,000 square feet.

You’ll need to evenly apply both of these products over the area, so it’s critical that you divide the area into blocks of a 1,000 square feet.

Also available is Monterey Impede which is not an organic solution. However, it’s very effective in controlling a broader spectrum of weed seeds than corn gluten.

Impede is a liquid pre-emergent herbicide that is applied with a hose end or tank sprayer at the rate of three ounces of the concentrate per 1,000 square feet.

A chemical barrier is established by watering afterwards to control the weed seeds. One application should last the entire rainy season.

In non-irrigated areas, it’s applied before a significant rain storm.

All that being said, you may be too late. We have had enough moisture with the earlier rains so that the seeds are now germinating. If so, you’re going to need to use some other method of controlling the weeds and wait until next fall to apply a pre-emergent.

Q: I had problems with my fruit trees last year, and I attribute it to not applying a dormant spray. So, when is the proper time to spray my peach, plum and apricot trees.

A: It used to be that dormant spray was applied in January, after the holidays, but that has changed.

A fall or early-winter application is now being recommended for peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots.

Copper Spray is the primary dormant spray applied now and again in February for peach leaf curl, shot hole fungus and other over-wintering diseases.

In addition, it’s not necessary to wait until January to do your winter pruning, as a fall pruning is also being suggested.

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 best time to spread a pre-emergent weed control product is in the fall just prior to the first rains of the season.

Practice Safety in HolidayDecorating and Entertaining | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:07

Lights, candles, action! It’s the holiday season again. Brightly lighted decorations, elaborate meals and large gatherings are all part of traditional holiday celebrations.

Unfortunately, these seasonal traditions also cause hundreds of home fires each year.

Christmas tree lights and candles are just two of the holiday traditions that increase the likelihood of a fire starting in your home. There are about three times as many cooking-related fires on Thanksgiving Day and almost twice as many on Christmas Day as there are on non-holidays. It only takes a single distracted or careless action to turn a family get-together into a tragedy.

Homeowners can help keep their homes and their families safe during the holiday season by understanding the dangers and taking some simple, commonsense precautions.

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

• Supervise items on the stovetop. Fifty-eight percent of kitchen fires involve ranges; homes with electric cooktops have a higher risk of fire than homes with gas cooktops.

• Keep flammable items — potholders, packaging, wrapping, wooden utensils, loose clothing — away from the stovetop.

• Don’t let lack of sleep or alcohol consumption affect your ability to concentrate on preparing the meal.

Holiday Decorating

• Keep all decorations away from heat sources like radiators, portable heaters, and fireplaces.

• Use flameless candles.

• If you do use traditional candles, burn them in sturdy candleholders, well away from drapes and other flammable materials. Never leave them unattended and never allow them to burn down to less than one inch in length.

Christmas Trees

• Keep live trees well watered to reduce the chance of a fire.

• Check wiring on lights for breaks and wear, replace worn strings and don’t exceed manufacturer guidelines for connecting multiple strands of lights.

• Don’t leave tree lights plugged in when you are away from home or asleep.

For more fire prevention tips, visit

Open Homes • 11-27-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:06
Home Sales • 11-27-14 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:05
Recent Realtor Murder Highlights Hazards | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:42

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

When you think of hazardous jobs, many come to mind… firefighter, test pilot, navy seal… but not — until recently — Realtor.

That changed this past Sept. 30, as 49-year-old real estate agent Beverly Carter of Arkansas lost her life while showing a home.

Found in a shallow grave about 20 miles northeast of Little Rock, Carter’s body was unearthed on Oct. 1, ending speculation as to her whereabouts. Police have a person in custody, stating it was a crime of opportunity. The family is devastated, as is the real estate community in Little Rock and across America.

It’s not the first such incident: every year real estate professionals are assaulted, raped and killed while performing real estate related duties.

Andrea Brambila, Associate Editor for Inman News states, “The number of real estate professionals killed on the job has risen, and while homicides are down, other causes of death like falls and deaths in traffic accidents are on the rise.”*

Brambila clarifies, “In 2012 (latest year for which figures are available), there were 50 workplace fatalities in the real estate industry subcategory, which includes landlords, real estate agents and brokers, and others who work in brokerage offices, and those who conduct activities related to real estate, such as property managers and appraisers.”

The year 2010 saw the highest number of fatalities, 63, with the largest percentage resulting from assaults and violent acts. The average between 2003 and 2012 was lower at 51 per year. While it’s true some deaths resulted from falls, slips and trips, and other occupational hazards, the overall numbers are concerning.

Ironically, the recent Realtor murder in Arkansas occurred in September, the month designated “Realtor Safety Month” by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The tragedy has provided a wake-up call for the real estate community.

Individual agents, accustomed to showing houses to strangers who contact them for a showing, are grappling with ways to ensure their personal safety. It’s not just a problem with female agents. Male Realtors have also been robbed, assaulted and murdered while meeting prospective buyers at a home or holding an open house.

NAR’s president elect Chris Polychron has promised safety will be a priority once he takes office.

“We’re not going to let it die, I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s sad that it took a tragic death of one of our own to run the red flag up.”

*According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Fixed Mortgage Rates Hover Near 2014 Lows | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:41

Average fixed mortgage rates changed very little last week,  with the 30-year mortgage averaging 4.01 percent, down from the previous week when it averaged 4.02 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 3.20 percent, down from 3.21 percent a week earlier.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed last week. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 3.02 percent, up from 2.97 percent, and the one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.43 percent, down from 2.45 percent.


Blankets Provide Plant Protection | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:39

112014reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: How might we protect our new lemon trees from the cold weather. Would it be a good idea to completely wrap the plants with burlap or plastic or would this kill them?

A: No, wrapping plants like an Egyptian mummy for the winter is not recommended for winter cold protection.

Instead, I’d protect cold-sensitive plants, like all types of citrus, bougainvillea, hibiscus and others, by first spraying them with Bonide Wilt Stop or Cloud Cover and then temporarily cover them when the temperatures fall below 40°F for those plants in the ground and/or in containers.

If we have had no significant rain within the last two weeks, water your plants, especially those in containers under any type of cover. This is a point many gardeners miss and explains why plants in containers suffer more damage than those in the ground.

The cold or freezing temperatures pulls or removes moisture from plant tissue. It is a desiccant.

Our coldest nighttime temperatures are just before sunrise. After sunrise, how long the temperatures stay at or below freezing determines the damage. Thus, it’s recommended to water those rain-protected plants every three to four weeks during the winter months.

Bonide Wilt Stop or Cloud Cover puts a protective barrier between the foliage and the cold. One application now with a follow up application in January is recommended.

It’s not unusual to have a cold spell in March. When cold or freezing temperatures are in the forecast, move and cluster container plants under a patio covering or the eaves of the house. I’d place them next to a heated wall when possible to use the escaping heat.

Next, add some mini lights to help warm the air and then cover them with an Easy Gardner Plant Blanket or similar product to trap the warmer air.

With those plants in the ground, cover the plants with a plant blanket.

Plastic sheeting is not recommended unless you tent each plant so the plastic doesn’t touch the foliage, as the cold travels through the plastic and causes damage.

The Easy Gardner Plant Blanket doesn’t require any additional work. The dual layer sheeting can be laid right on the plants. Easy on and then easy off when the really cold temperatures pass.

All covering should be removed during daylight hours.

And, finally, it is inevitable that with all the above precautions it will not be sufficient for those very, very cold nights. Once every 10 to 15 years, we will get a killing frost, and one is due soon.

Q: When is the earliest I can prune my fruit trees? I have an apple, apricot and cherry tree?

A: You can start now to prune deciduous fruit trees. Pruning in the fall is being recommended for apricots and others to avoid problems with moist and wet conditions with new pruning wounds.

Although, I might wait on the apple if the leaves have not started to drop. It makes it easier to prune when you can see the structure of the tree.

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: When overnight temperatures drop below 40°F, cover in-ground plants with a plant blanket. Remove it during the day.

Home Sales Edge Higher as Prices Level Off | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:12

The Bay Area housing market posted another modest uptick in sales during October but activity remained below average as cash purchases continued to taper off and buyers faced a limited inventory as well as affordability and mortgage availability challenges.

In Alameda County, 1,619 new and resale houses were sold last month, up 5.2 percent from a year ago, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, a real estate information service.

The median price paid for a home in the county was $555,500, up 5.8 percent from $525,000 in October of 2013.

The typical monthly mortgage payment in the nine-county Bay Area was $2,307 in October.


Open Homes • 11-20-14 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:11
Home Sales • 11-20-14 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 21 November 2014 15:11


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