Real Estate Gallery
Foundation Issues May Scuttle a Sale | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


Viewing a home recently, a buyer walked into the living room, then walked out. They turned around, went back in and, moments later, walked out. Puzzled after seeing this a third time, I asked, “Everything OK?” Their response:

“Is it just me, or does this room slant?”

It wasn’t just them. The room was indeed sloping, as was the entire rear of the home. With radar up, I quickly found traces of repaired wall cracks. A visit outside revealed noticeable fissures in the foundation. The buyer’s conclusion?

“We’re outta here.”

Every home is built on a foundation which must be in good condition to provide stability to the rest of the dwelling.

We’ve all viewed footage of homes falling down hills or becoming otherwise uninhabitable due to underpinning issues. Just because a room slants, however, does not necessarily indicate foundation problems. Everything settles over time, and some homes simply settle on one side more than the other.

How do you know what’s what? Living in California comes with the caveat that all-things-under can move. Recent earthquakes remind that we’re only one shaker away from potentially serious issues.

I just visited a 1950’s home that had weathered all previous quakes (including Loma Prieta) with no issues, yet the recent, sudden jolt in the North Bay produced serious cracks in the walls throughout the home.

Water is also problematic. If not correctly controlled, flowing water can undermine foundations causing a loss of integrity. Excessive moisture content can also create soil instability which in turn can cause movement, especially after prolonged drought conditions.

Since much of our local soil is ‘expansive’ (high clay content causing expansion when wet and shrinkage when dry), this is a real concern. With a potential El Niño on the horizon, homeowners should pay careful attention to the flow of water around and under their properties. Start by ensuring water is diverted away from the house.

How do you tell if a home has only settled or has actual foundation problems? Hire a certified foundation inspector. A soils engineer may also be required to get a complete understanding of any issues at hand.

Be aware — foundation repairs can be very expensive. Additionally, if things go wrong at the bottom, issues usually appear above as well. Band-Aid fixes above will only mask the real issues — fix the foundation first, then deal with resultant issues in the remainder of the home.

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

Choose the Right Moving Company for You | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 14:00

082715re2By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

There have been occasional news reports about movers that charge home-owners much more than the original quote. While this isn’t always the case, a little caution goes a long way.

As with any contractor job, you should get multiple quotes from several different moving companies — at least three.

A flat rate or blind estimate made over the phone should not be accepted; the moving company should send a representative to your home to find out exactly how much furniture, boxes and other items are being moved, what items need special attention and so on. You should get a quote in writing, and don’t agree to it before you’ve gotten estimates from the other companies.

To find out how well a moving company does its job, you have a number of options today. The Better Business Bureau is a fair starting point — you can read complaints about the company, as well as whether they’ve been resolved.

For national companies, look at websites like, which posts reader complaints and attempts to resolve or at least get an explanation about an issue from the companies involved.

You can also check review sites like While these don’t usually have an area where companies can respond to complaints or disputes, you can get a general feel for the company and how it conducts business by the number and types of reviews.

Once you’ve selected a moving company, be sure to read all the fine print before signing a moving agreement. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable, particularly about extra costs that are mentioned in the agreement.

Home Tip: Consider purchasing relocation insurance during a move to cover potential accidents or damage to items while they’re in transit.

© 2015 King Features Synd., Inc.

Long-term Rates Remain Below Four Percent | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 13:59

Last week’s average fixed mortgage rates were largely unchanged from the previous week amid little movement in financial markets. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has averaged below four percent for the fifth consecutive week.

Last week it averaged 3.93 percent, down from 3.94 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.10 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages last week averaged 3.15 percent, down from 3.17 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were mixed. The five-year hybrid ARM averaged 2.94 percent, up from 2.93 percent, and the one-year ARM averaged 2.62 percent, unchanged from the previous week.


Grubs Riddle Turnip Crop; Roses Fade Away; Photinia Burned | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 13:54

082715reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My spring crop of turnips were disappointing. They were wormy and the leaves were riddled with holes, but I couldn’t see any bugs. What can I do to prevent the worms and holy leaves with the fall crop?

A: The biggest pest with root crops like turnips, beets, onions, carrots, radishes and other crops are soil grubs and maggots. By the time you see the damage, it’s usually too late to do anything.

Your controls need to be applied early on as a preventative. So, I’d treat the soil with beneficial nematodes.

Beneficial nematodes are an environmentally safe solution to soil pests in vegetable gardens along with being kind to earthworms. They’re available at your favorite garden center and can be applied at the time you sow the seeds or shortly there after.

I’d apply them with a watering can or bucket when the sun is not directly on the soil surface in the early morning or evening.

Nematodes travel throughout the soil, hunting and seeking out grubs and maggots. They’ll remain active until the food source is exhausted.

Q: We’re having a problem with a yellow rose. We have had it for about three months and the flower color quickly fades to a reddish-pink color and then to a washed out, to white. It’s been fertilized once and we water it several times per week, depending on how hot it is.  How do we prevent the color from fading?

A: Color fading with roses is something we have no control over. It’s  very typical during the summer months with the extended hours of daylight and warm temperatures.

Ideally, roses hold their color the best with short days and long nights; hence, early spring and late fall is when their color is the most intense.

Right now, I’d continue to feed your roses monthly with Dr. Earth Rose Food and water them frequently through the end of October. You’ll be rewarded with long stems and excellent flower color through the end of the year.

I wouldn’t be concerned about the crummy looking foliage once the rainy season begins.

Q: While we were gone on a extended vacation, our gardener decided to fertilize a hedge of Photinia and he burned the plants. Will they recover? It looks very sad right now.

A: The good news is, yes, your plants will recover from the fertilizer burn. However, you need to be very patient as it doesn’t happen overnight.

Right now, I’d do nothing other than remove the burnt/brown leaves as best as you can. New growth will develop off the remaining stems and branches in the upcoming weeks.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to 360 Civic Drive, Suite D, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 and on Facebook at

CAPTION: Continue to feed roses once a month through the end of October and be rewarded with excellent flower color and long stems through the end of the year.

Open Homes • 08-27-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 13:54
Home Sales • 08-27-15 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 13:53
Bundle of Joy Hampers Happiness | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


With the arrival of yet another grandchild, it’s safe to report that my happiness index has bumped up a notch or two.

It’s even higher for my wife, who, as she visits the latest arrival, is bombarding my phone with pictures. While babies produce happiness in grandparents, the opposite can be true for new parents, according to a study by Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskylä.

A newborn’s arrival changes everything. Most parents-to-be understand that things will be different, yet cannot fully comprehend the depth of change that will actually occur.

Reporting the study’s findings, the Max Planck Society reveals, “It is rarely discussed that parents often experience a considerable loss of happiness after the birth of a first child. The new study shows that for mothers and fathers… the drop in life satisfaction during the year following the first birth is even larger than that caused by unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner.”

As someone who has personally seen many new family members arrive, I’ll vouch for these findings. Continuing, the research states: “After the first child, mothers and fathers reported a loss of well-being that averaged to 1.4 units on the happiness scale.” The bliss of the arrival is quickly tempered by sleepless nights, new odors permeating everything, anxiety about making mistakes and consequential stress between the new parents.

To be fair to babies, however, they’re not the only stressors that might potentially reduce happiness. Adding a spouse, a new career, a change in habits or even an illness will escalate tension. High on the list?

Buying a home.

In many ways, a home purchase is like birthing a baby. There’s the preparation time while you gather funds and secure the loan. Finding the right property takes time and finalizing the deal is frequently like going through labor.

There’s the proud day escrow closes and you finally open the door of your very own home. Then comes the reality that you are now in charge of bill paying, decorating decisions, ongoing maintenance, and even costly repairs.

Like new parents, many first-time homebuyers are surprised to discover anxiety increasing and happiness decreasing after they’ve finally landed their new digs. But, like having a baby, things eventually settle down. Routines emerge, new skills are learned, decisions are made and the comfort level increases. And, also like having a baby, finally, one day, happiness… comes home.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at

The Importance of Investing in our Street Trees | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 20:28

By Dan Lambe • Special to the Times

Autumn will soon be upon us, the time of year, we take comfort in the crisp evenings and enjoy the splendor of autumn color.

Walking or driving through town is a delight for the senses. This benefit of trees — this experience — provides warm feelings and emotions, and creates fond memories that are priceless.

We all have fond memories of traveling along a boulevard lined with grand street trees that formed a welcoming natural archway of tree canopy above. As the leaves begin to show glorious color, let’s pause to ask ourselves: Are we investing enough time and money in our street trees?

Street trees — those trees planted between the sidewalk and the road — are perhaps the most valuable city trees, and it is vitally important that local communities manage them well. Street trees are a valuable community asset. The most visible swath of any community forest is its street trees.

We all have experienced a neighborhood with abundant, well-cared-for street trees, and the benefits they provide — higher property values, decreased energy costs, cleaner air and water, reduced stormwater runoff, and more beautiful environments… all because of trees.

Before 1976, when Tree City USA was launched by the Arbor Day Foundation, community forestry across our nation was haphazard at best. But today, over 140 million Americans live in the more than 3,400 cities and towns that benefit from the Tree City USA program.

“Given a limited budget, the most effective expenditure of funds to improve a street would probably be on trees,” wrote Allan Jacobs, a professor of city and regional planning at U.C. Berkeley, in his book “Great Streets.”

U.S. Forest Service scientists have found that for every dollar spent on planting and caring for a street tree, the benefits that it provides are as much as five times that investment.

The need for effective community tree care and management is more important today than ever due to greater threats of drought, storms and insects.

In this increasingly challenging time, proper pruning, careful selection, and proactive planting, replacement and maintenance of our street trees is paramount to the continued success of our nation’s urban and community trees.

The overall care and management of our street trees has proven time and again to be an excellent investment with high returns. Investments in our urban and community forest are worthy of the strong support of our elected and appointed officials, of the community at large, and of each and every one of us.

Dan Lambe is president of the Arbor Day Foundation.

Magnolia Suffers from Severe Drought; Junipers Make Mulch | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 20:13

082015reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: My saucer magnolia has turned all brown. The water was off during the last heat spell and I was unable to get out to water it. Is my tree really dead or will it come back if it’s watered several times a week? If I cut it down, will it come back from the roots?

A: I’m not sure what the status is with your magnolia. Besides the leaves, the permitter or outer growth was also damaged, but I am not sure how far back the dieback extends.

The function of roots is to pump water and nutrients throughout the plant. Plants then release the moisture into the air through a process called transpiration.

Water stress occurs when an insufficient amount of water is available to keep a plant hydrated. It always shows up on the outer most portion of a plant leaf and then proceeds inward. The leaves first wilt and then turn brown.

If caught early enough, only a portion of the leaves are burnt; otherwise, all the foliage turns brown and gets crispy.

Next, the stems, twigs and branches that support the leaves are affected, again starting at the furthest point and working inward towards the base. The roots push the moisture as far as it can go and the tissue beyond that point dies.

With a brown plant, the dead growth will snap off while the viable stems are still flexible.

I’d scratch the bark on the stems at different points to see if they’re green; if so, you’re okay.

Next, prune off all the dead growth above these points. The growing season is over for Saucer Magnolias, so I wouldn’t expect any new growth this year.

I would continue to water it but only if enough of the plant is alive. The burnt leaves will drop off and a new set will emerge in the spring.It should be fed in March to encourage the new growth.

As a last resort, cut the plant off at the ground and wait to see what happens next spring. You might be surprised but I’d be prepared to replace it with a new plant if nothing happens by Mothers Day.

Q: Can the dried juniper needles be used as mulch around rose bushes?

A: Sure, you can use juniper needles as mulch; however, they can be very prickly so I would wear gloves when working around the bushes.

You can also use the natural debris from pines, cedars, redwood  and oak trees for mulch as long as it’s not diseased.

I’d use this material as my base and then cover it with a commercial product to give it a cleaner look. A three-inch layer of mulch is recommended and it should extend beyond the drip line as roses have a wide-spreading root system.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to 360 Civic Drive, Suite D, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 and on Facebook at

CAPTION: The signs of water stress always shows up on the outer most portion of a plant leaf and then proceeds inward.

Open Homes • 08-20-15 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 20:13
Home Sales • 08-20-15 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 20:10
Agent’s Vacation Nixes House Bid | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:32


August is in full swing and many are enjoying hard-earned vacations. Unfortunately, a Realtor’s fun-in-the-sun can spell doom for clients if a backup plan is not in place.

At a recent open house, a buyer expressed interest in the listing and assured the listing agent they’d be submitting an offer. “We’ll watch for it,” the agent stated, reminding the buyer of the offer deadline and important information.

The deadline approached, and as it did, offers trickled in. Absent, however, was any offer from that specific buyer. It’s not uncommon — frequently, buyers visiting open houses suggest they might write an offer, but fail to execute for any number of reasons.

This one, however, had felt different. Sure enough, minutes before the deadline, the offer arrived. Unfortunately, it was illegible and all the documentation the agent had asked accompany the offer was missing.

Frequently, to help buyer agents write the best possible offers, listing agents provide comprehensive instructions for agents on the Multiple Listing Service, detailing what they’d like to see in any offer. They provide disclosures and reports up front and ask the buyers to sign a receipt indicating that they’ve read what’s been provided. A preapproval letter is critical, along with verification of funds for the down payment and closing costs.

In this case, all of this was missing. An email was sent to their agent asking that the requested documentation be provided so that the offer they’d submitted could be seriously considered along with the rest. The agent’s response?

“That’s the best I could do from Mexico.”

As it turned out, their agent had not accessed the MLS, but rather viewed the property on from their phone. They therefore did not access any of the required documents or instructions. They’d sent the offer documents to their buyers via hotel fax, had them sign and in turn fax again to the listing agent. Net result? Offer not accepted.

Since vacations are a necessary part of life, we recommend you check with your agent before they leave to see whom they’ve designated to work with you in their absence. If you’re working with a team, someone else on the team will be covering.

If your agent works solo, hopefully they’ve partnered with a fellow agent. If the house of your dreams pops up while your agent is out-of-town, you want to make sure your hopes and prospects didn’t leave town with them.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a certified general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at



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