Real Estate Gallery
Central County Enters a Transitional Market | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:49

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

Recently visiting a local friend, he commented, “I’m not seeing as many open house signs as we did in the summer — they used to be everywhere, now they’re appearing few and far between.”

He’s right — the market is “transitioning.”

Although we’d typically expect to see a slowdown at this time of year, we’re also seeing a transition from a red-hot seller’s market to a slower transitional market.

Real estate markets go through cycles and, while they may be hot or cold for a while, they eventually turn and head the other direction. The time period where a market shifts from one type to another is called a transitional market.

When a market is either a “sellers” or “buyers” market, everyone understands the rules. In a seller’s market, prices are increasing, competition to buy any given home is tight and sellers can expect to receive multiple offers with few contingencies and other beneficial terms. A buyer’s market is the opposite: Buyers are in control and can make offers on any number of houses and can therefore dictate terms and prices to the sellers.

Transitional markets are different: Whether it’s transitioning from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market or vice versa, the rules are all in flux and vary from one property to another.

Hallmarks of a transitional market are:

(1)Power Shifts. As the market transitions, power shifts dramatically from one side to the other. While sellers have been in control for the last couple of years, expect this to begin to change.

(2)Negotiation Ability Increases. When a market is either a buyer’s or seller’s market, negotiation is almost non-existent. That changes, however, as market transitions, and negotiations reach their greatest potential in the MIDDLE of a market transition.

(3)Uncertainty and Anxiety Increase. No one knows what is really going on, and they typically react in fear and/or uncertainty.

(4)Rules of Engagement Change. Everything changes — pricing strategies, contingency time periods, terms (eg. “AS-IS”, Requests for Repairs, who pays HOA fees, etc.) and more. Negotiation strategies also shift: “Take it or leave it” goes away and is replaced with real dialogue.

(5)“Fair Market Values” Emerge. Prices more closely reflect real or “fair” market values — gaps between previous sales prices decrease dramatically.

While still very strong, expect market changes as we head towards 2015. One thing is certain: This year, we’re cooling off for winter.

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

Wood Floors and Water Do Not Mix | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:47

By Samantha Mazzotta • Special to the Times

Q: While I was away on a business trip, my roommate decided to buy a couple of floor plants and put the containers directly onto the hardwood floor with nothing under them. By the time I got back, a couple of waterings later, water had run out of the pots and across the floor. Now there are two big water rings where the base of each vase was, and water stains along the path that the leaking water flowed. Can these be fixed, or does my roommate need to pay for repairs?

A: If the standing water around the vases hasn’t buckled the wood, you should be able to deal with the stains without too much effort.

Make sure the entire floor is dry, particularly where the vases stood. You may want to borrow a dehumidifier from a friend for a few days to encourage the drying process. In some cases where water damage is minor, the water marks may disappear or diminish dramatically once the wood has dried completely.

If once the wood has dried, a white water stain is still evident, then water likely stained the floor’s finish. This is easier to deal with. Heat up a clothes iron (use a “no steam” setting and empty out all the water from the holding tank). Place a dry, lint-free white cloth over the stained area. Rub the iron over the cloth for two or three seconds, then lift the cloth away to check the spot.

Another method for white stains is to drench a super-fine steel wool pad with lemon oil, then gently rub the white marks with the pad to buff out the stain without scratching the finish.

However, if the stains are dark, then water likely penetrated through the finish and into the hardwood itself. This is more complex, particularly if your floor was installed in the past few years.

Older hardwood floors seem to handle water staining and refinishing better. Newer floors not only don’t handle water so well, but also have to be cleaned or repaired more carefully. Contact a flooring professional if you’re not sure.

To get to this type of stain, you will need to sand away the finish — being careful not to sand the wood itself — and then try to lighten the stain.

The most common recommendation is to carefully apply a 50-50 solution of water and bleach, or a professional wood bleach, directly to the stain using an old toothbrush. Use only a small amount (you may want to test it on one of the less-conspicuous stains), blot up any excess and let dry. Repeat until the color matches the rest of the wood again, then let it dry for a couple of days before gently sanding, applying wood stain (if necessary) to finish matching the surrounding floor, and refinishing the damaged spots.

As to who should pay for the repair, I’ll leave that to you and the roommate to figure out. At the very least, this should be a lesson that water and wood floors don’t mix.

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Back Near 2014 Lows | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:46

Average fixed mortgage rates fell back last week to near their lows for 2014, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.12 percent, down from the previous week when they averaged 4.19 percent.

The 15-year rate averaged 3.30 percent, down from 3.36 percent.

Five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 3.05 percent this week, edging down from 3.06 percent, and one-year  ARMs averaged 2.42 percent, unchanged from the week before.


The Lost Art of Budding, Grafting; Ready for Rhubarb? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:42

101614reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: I have a dwarf mandarin orange tree that is seven years old and has never produced any fruit. Instead of destroying the tree outright, I would like to experiment by budding or grafting it from my Eureka lemon. What method would you recommend and when is the most appropriate time to do so?

A: Budding and grafting is a lost art today but it is a viable solution.

Citrus can be both budded and grafted but budding is preferred. Citrus is budded in the spring, March–April, and in October using a side shield bud.

In October, you gather the bud or scion wood from the Eureka lemon several days before the budding and store it in your refrigerator.

In the spring, wait until the bark easily separates from the rest of the tissue and the scion wood is gathered in February and stored in a refrigerator in plastic bags. To avoid condensation on scion wood, leave the plastic bag open.

Citrus is best grafted in March–April using a bark, whip or side graft. The best graft is determined by the caliper stock/branches you’re grafting to. You’d use a whip graft for an eighth- to a quarter-of-an-inch caliper stock, a side graft for a quarter-inch to one-and-a-half-inch caliper branch and bark graft on one-and-a-half-inch and larger caliper branches.

Here are a couple of links that go into more detail: and

Q: When is the best time of the year to plant rhubarb? Does it grow best in the sun or the shade, and will it need to be supported with a stake or trellis?

A: Rhubarb could be planted year round but you have a difficult time finding it after Memorial Day.

Rhubarb grows in a clump so it doesn’t need any type of support. It’s planted as a root division as those started from seeds are disappointing. It’s widely available either from bare root division or already growing in gallon cans, January through May.

Dig a good size hole for each plant, 12 to 18 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep with the native soil being amended generously with organic matter.

For the average family of four, three to four plants will be plenty.

You should pick a sunny location; however, the leaves may burn when the temperatures are over 90°F when planted in the afternoon sun. The plants are spaced three feet apart or they can be grown in containers.

In the first year after planting, allow the stalks to grow and do not harvest; pick a small crop the second year.

Rhubarb is fed monthly with Dr.  Earth Azalea, Camellia, and Rhododendron Food to encourage the new growth. The clumps are divided every four years or when the diameter of the stalks start to thin, usually during the winter months.

Also, only the stems are edible as the leaves are poisonous to consume but okay to handle.

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: Remember, only the stems of rhubarb are edible; the leaves are poisonous to consume but okay to handle.

Open Homes • 10-16-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:42
Home Sales • 10-16-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:41
The ‘Jetsons’ Have Arrived | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:06

By Carl Medford, CRS • Special to the Times

While showing a ’90s-era home recently, the young buyers pointed to a massive niche in the family room and asked, “What’s that for?” I replied, “The TV.” Their blank looks telegraphed that they had no clue what I meant. “That’s odd,” they said. “The TV is supposed to fit on the wall.”

It’s amazing how things have changed in just a few short years.

I grew up with the Jetsons and Star Trek. The first time I saw a Motorola StarTAC cellphone, I wanted to flip it open and say, “Beam me up, Scotty!” For many, however, Jetson’s Rosie the Robot scores the highest points for “Futuristic device most consumers want today.”

While flying cars, food replicators and transporters have yet to appear, looking back at both shows, it’s amazing to see how many concepts have made it from the minds of the series’ creators into the mainstream of consumer electronics.

Recently, Lowes surveyed American’s attitudes and experiences with home automation.* The data reveals that “70 percent of Americans wish they could control something in their home from their mobile device without getting out of bed; 50 percent of Americans prefer DIY solutions when it comes to smart homes.”

Kevin Meagher, Lowe’s vice president and general manager, Smart Home explains, “In general, Americans feel positively toward products that will make their homes safer, more energy efficient and easier to manage.” He clarifies, “It is added evidence that the smart home and Internet of Things are here to stay.”

While the basic technology to build and operate Smart Homes has been in existence for years, it’s the advent of the internet and user-friendly interfaces for smart devices that has finally brought the technology home in a practical and affordable way.

In the survey, 62 percent ranked security and home monitoring as the key reason to install the technology; 40 percent agreed that cutting costs on energy bills was a benefit, while overall convenience came third at 35 percent. Think “controlling lights, heaters and the coffee machine from the comfort of your bed.” Additionally, the ability to remotely lock doors, turn off lights and control heat while away from home has tremendous appeal.

Since many are now installing Smart Home features, it won’t be long before this technology will factor into the sales of homes. When it comes time to sell, it may be that sellers who’ve installed convenience technology have been really… smart.

*Cost, Confidence and Convenience: Lowe’s Survey Reveals Americans’ Attitudes On the Smart 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 Association at

Alameda County Property Taxes Due Next Month | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:05

More than 428,000 property tax bills for 2014-15 — amounting to $3.06 billion — are being mailed this month by County Tax Collector, Donald White.

The secured roll taxes due are payable by two installments. The first is due on Nov. 1 and is delinquent at 5 p.m. on Dec. 10, after which a 10 percent penalty attaches. The second installment is due on Feb. 1.  Both installments may be paid when the first installment is due.

There are several payment options:

•by mail or in person at the Tax Collector’s Office, 1221 Oak St., in Oakland, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

•by credit card, available 24 hours a day by telephone at 510-272-6800, online at, or mobile property app at

•by Echeck, available 24 hours a day online at

•by the kiosk in the Tax Collector’s lobby area on Oak Street, allowing taxpayers who visit the office to make payments via credit card or Echeck

Payment by mail, telephone or online is recommended to avoid delay at the cashier’s window.

Real property owners who don’t receive a tax bill by Nov. 16 should contact the Tax Collector’s Office by calling 510-272-6800, writing to the office, or downloading an internet copy at

Tax bills received for property no longer owned should be forwarded to the new owner or returned to the Tax Collector’s Office.


Mortgage Rates End Up Mixed | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:04

Average fixed mortgage rates were flat to slightly down last week amid positive data on GDP, but mixed housing reports.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.19 percent, down from the previous week when it averaged 4.20 percent. Fifteen-year loans averaged 3.36 percent, unchanged from the week before.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were down last week. The five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.06 percent, down from 3.08 percent.


Keep Persimmon Canopy in Shape; Hillside Needs Ground Cover | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:01

100914reBy Buzz Bertolero • The Dirt Gardener

Q: The fruit on my mature Hachiya persimmon tree is very high in the tree on long branches. I’d like to pick the fruit early before the squirrels and other critters get them, but I need to get the tree back down to a reasonable size to reach the fruit. How far back can it be pruned and when is the best time to do so?

A: December through February is the traditional time to prune a persimmon. This is when it’s dormant; but you could start now.

It’s too early to harvest the fruit as they aren’t mature until they turn a bright orange color. However, if they’re rock hard, they will continue to ripen at room temperature.

Persimmons are typically a slow grower. Once established, they do not require much pruning; hence, they only need to be shaped annually.

You always want to remove the dead wood and the rubbing and crossing branches in the tree’s canopy. Reducing the stem length of the branches keeps the canopy in shape and controls the height.

It’s a judgment call on your part as to how far to cut them back. You will see a reduction in next year’s crop as a result of bringing the canopy down to a manageable size.

Next summer, it may be necessary to thin the new shoots if too many develop from the pruning points. You want the new branches to be evenly spaced out.

One last point: Persimmons are fertilized with a balanced fertilizer in the fall of the year and not in the spring. Fertilizing in the spring is the primary cause of fruit drop.

Q: Can you recommend a suitable ground cover for a dry hillside — one that is drought tolerant, fast growing, spreading as wide as possible but not a climber? A little color would be nice, but not essential. I don’t know if such a plant exists. I would appreciate your ideas on anything that comes close.

A: You’ll be surprised to know that you have many choices when it comes to planting a dry hillside. One of my favorite is Grevillea Lanigera Mt Tamborthica, Wooly Grevillea. It’s drought tolerant or water wise, spreads to six feet and grows only 12 to 18 inches tall.

From February to April, it has cream-colored flowers that attract hummingbirds. You might also consider creeping manzanitas, cotoneaster, or creeping rosemary. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center is an excellent resource for additional choices.

The biggest concern I have with hillside planting is soil erosion which will eventually bury the plants, causing them to struggle and die. You can minimize this problem during the non-rainy season with drip irrigation but the winter rains could present some issues.

Each spring, inspect the crown area around each plant and remove the excess soil.

Don’t expect much new growth this year, as the growing season is concluding.

Planting ornamentals now will establish a good root structure for next spring’s flush of growth.

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: Wait to harvest persimmon until they turn a bright orange color.

Open Homes • 10-09-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:00
Home Sales • 10-09-14 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 13:59


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