The Piedmont Perspective

Vol. 296 -“Candy-Coated Popcorn, Peanuts and a Prize . . “

What’s New?

Did you feel the chill in the air this week as the fog descended and fall made its presence known? BRRR . . .

I pulled out a heavy black overcoat and threw it on prior to heading out my door to the Educate Our State luncheon in San Francisco, where I anticipated the weather would be colder still (it was).  That dusty coat has been idly sitting at the back of my closet for months, thanks to our glorious California sunshine and fantastic autumn temperatures. (Hey, it’s already snowing in other parts of the country.  Give thanks.)

Here’s the thing, I’m a gal who’s all about the pockets and whenever I put on a jacket, I usually find a nice surprise (or two) tucked away, that has been long forgotten. On Wednesday, it was a handyman’s business card (always useful), a fabulous lipstick (ohhh-la-la), and a twenty dollar bill.  Eureka!

“Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize . . . that’s what you get in Cracker Jacks”.

Don’t you love these kind of surprises? (Yes, I do.)

On the other hand, there are those kind of surprises that are far less welcome.  Fortunately, with respect to Real Estate, many of these “glitches,” such as poor inspections or ambiguous easements, can be somewhat anticipated AND corrected before they turn into ugly negotiating issues down the road. (Don’t wait for the Buyer to conduct inspections once in contract.  Do these pro-actively!)

However, some surprises aren’t so quickly accommodated or rectified.  This week, Brady Thomas, of LaSalle Financial, popped by The GRUBB Co’s Tuesday morning office meeting to give us a little POP QUIZ on personal credit scores, the significance of them to you – the borrower – and how they are established and managed over time . . .

(Think of these as your own personal, grown-up SAT’S!)

  • A full 35% of your credit score is established through your PAYMENT HISTORY – Not your debt and NOT your income.  In other words, how promptly you pay your bills each month is the MOST important factor for establishing good credit.
  • Your debt carried forward is the next most important criteria for determining one’s credit score.  This factor makes up 30% of the score and just to keep things simple, 30% is the allowable debt ratio that one may carry forward month-to-month as well.  This doesn’t mean one’s TOTAL, overall debt, but the balance of each line, individually. (Feel better?) Not surprisingly, lenders prefer to see manageable debt – not maxed out credit cards. (Car loans, *student loans, and mortgage loans don’t apply to this equation, which falls under a different category.)
  • The length of your credit makes up 15% of your credit score. It’s why mortgage brokers advise you to hold onto rarely used, dormant accounts, as opposed to canceling them altogether. (I haven’t stepped foot in a Bloomingdale’s for years.) Just securely tuck the cards away and ignore them. On the other hand, if you live in a largely “All Cash” world (as many people do who are less familiar with the concept of living beyond their means?!?) you unfortunately, won’t have established enough credit to actually qualify for a loan – even with a fair amount of savings in the bank. (Yes, it makes no sense, but there you have it.)  Open a VISA and pay it down completely each month.  You’ll need at least three months of established credit history to qualify for a loan.
  • 10% of your Credit Score is based on the “types of credit” you carry (Visa and AMX cards carry more weight than The GAP card for example – no offense to The GAP; I love Athleta.)
  • And finally, the last 10% of your credit score is based on recent inquiries (yes, each “pull” of your credit score dings you ever so slightly, but not as much as you might think). If you don’t comparison shop your mortgage lender beyond a rate comparison, you should be fine.

*It’s important to note that if you have any outstanding Student Loans, that debt stays on your credit history FOREVER (!)even if you have declared bankruptcy in the past.  In short, if you have paid to play, you’ll get NO free pass from the Federal Government – it’s time to pay.

And for those of you just wondering:  a “Perfect Credit Score” is 840 points; 760 is considered “excellent;” 720 is “on par;” a score below 700 becomes much more difficult and costly to the borrower; and lastly, a score below 640 doesn’t stand a chance of finding legitimate funds anywhere in the banking world. (How’s your relationship with with your mother?)

So there you have it.  Your Credit Score might not be the most exciting topic on which I’ve ever spoken, but it’s likely to have the biggest impact on your ability to borrow throughout your lifetime.  Protect your credit score, nurture it, and honor it, the way you would your children. On second thought, protect your credit history MORE; your children will have to find their own way eventually.  In fact, maybe it’s time for them to establish their own credit and get on with it.

Now where’d I put that twenty dollar bill?  I’m going to need it to pay for parking  in SF . . .

(For more information on credit clarification, click here)

What’s Coming?

Brenda Schaefer and Karen Starr will look at offers on this very chic 2+bdrm/1bth home in Piedmont at 38 Portsmouth Road on Wednesday, October 30 and should have many.  Located just steps to top- rated k-12 schools and Witter Field, and close to Trader Joe’s’ and the Saturday Farmers Market, this stylish home features an eat-in kitchen with built in hutch, large master bedroom and updated bath, private patio off the kitchen offering ample room for entertaining, and sunny and spacious workshop in the garden.  Open Sunday -2-4:30pm.  List Price: $795,000.  www.grubbco.com

Liz Behrens 111 MacKinnon Place in Piedmont is the hottest ticket in town.  This spacious, light-filled home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac and offers vistas from every room. Featuring formal living and dining rooms, kitchen opening to a west-facing deck, cozy den, master bedroom suite, lower level  family room, and large level garden; this Traditional 1940’s home, close to schools, parks and play fields, also offers fantastic potential! Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  List price: $1,248,000.  www.grubbco.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

The Piedmont Plug!

A Great Public Education isn’t Free!  Every year I speak to the annual Piedmont Giving Campaign, which supports and supplements our fantastic Piedmont Schools.  This year, the goal is to raise $1,600,000 dollars of badly needed funds to help offset the shortfalls brought about by continuing budget cuts in Sacramento.

If you haven’t yet made your contribution, please take a moment to do so now at: www.piedmontgivingcampaign.com   This isn’t just a gift to our children, it’s a gift to the future.  AND if that still doesn’t move you, remember this: great schools equate to great property values!  Our rock solid Piedmont property values are directly tied to the health and well being of our much-coveted public schools.

At the Educate Our State luncheon on Wednesday, Delaine Easton, Superintendent for ALL of California’s public schools from 1995-2003, quoted her father in her impassioned speech: “If a turtle is sitting on a fencepost, it didn’t get there alone.”  Her point being, that none of us arrives without help.  If you have been fortunate enough to reach some measure of success, you’ve certainly had help along the way, and more often than not, it was through the guidance and instruction of a caring Teacher.

Let’s affirm our kids future with a show of tangible support and make sure that California education is once again the envy of every other state.  And if you’d like to contribute to Educate Our State as well, you can help fuel the dream of quality education for EVERY child in California.

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol 295 – Collaboration is the Key!

What’s New?

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed, having come down with a bad case of vertigo and distracted myself with marathon TV, waiting impatiently to regain my equilibrium (I’m now caught up on EVERY serial program ever made).  Frankly, I think one should never walk into walls unless there are massive quantities of tequila involved, and I retired those days LONG ago (gratefully)!

As I fumbled through the channels in the wee hours of the morning, I came across Broadway Idiot; the documentary on Green Day’s journey to “The Great White Way.”  This engaging and honest film charts the band’s collaboration (specifically, Billie Joe Armstrong’s collaboration) with director and playwright, Michael Mayer, and orchestrator, Tom Kitt, to adapt Green Day’s highly acclaimed album, American Idiot, into a full-fledged rock opera for the Broadway stage.

Given the top-notch talent of everyone involved in the project from actors, to set designers, it isn’t surprising that the successful adaptation received two Tony Awards in 2010 and a Grammy for Best Show Album in 2011; impressive accomplishments from one of our most gifted native sons, AND a fantastic result. That’s not a bad day’s work (or two or three . . .)

BUT what really resonated with me (since I’m not a rock star) was the willingness of Billie Joe to trust others to have a vision as equally valid as his own and to believe that this talented team would serve his objectives with respect to the songs. Even in my semi-conscious, spinning state, the lessons of collaboration came through loud and clear.   Now that’s a lesson we can all use, no matter our trade or vocation.

Without comparing the sale of a home to an award-winning Broadway show (although it’s not a stretch to say that most home sales involve a fair amount of drama) the need to trust others is often the case with Sellers as well, whenever they invite a REALTOR into their homes to offer up a marketing plan.  No matter the number of years one has lived in their home, or one’s level of willingness, collaboration is always going to be a large part of the process. For some, this means surrendering almost entirely, while for others, the process may take much longer before they develop enough faith to finally let go . . . (I get it.)

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in my clients’ shoes as I helped my aging parents (now both in their eighties) explore the very real possibility of selling their condominium in Sonoma next spring; a move brought on by their desire to pare down and simplify their lives (and say goodbye to stairs).

“The objective is to sell their home for as much money as they can get and as quickly as possible,” I said (duh), “How do you propose to do that and what is the timing you suggest?”

Not surprisingly, the accommodating Realtors my folks had identified, suggested many of the same steps I recommend to my clients as well: inspect, repair, paint, stage, prep, and when possible, move out, in order to make showings as easy as possible . . .  They arrived with sales comps in hand, spoke clearly about the market realities in Sonoma, and followed up with a detailed marketing plan and calendar of events (thank you, much appreciated).

In black and white, this all sounds fairly straightforward, but it rarely ever is. The fact is, people tend to be emotionally connected to their homes and giving them over to others . . . is quite honestly, a difficult task indeed. How can a third-party opinion matter more than your own? (It doesn’t; it simply serves as a reality check and a spring board.)

But here are the steps my parent’s are taking today, and what you should consider as well – IF a sale is in your future:

1.) They are beginning the process NOW, in order to sell in the Spring of 2014. (Don’t wait until after the New Year to connect with your Realtor. It’s never too soon.)
2.) They are preparing their house and garden, purging closets, and donating items they no longer use or need. They are planting for spring blooms (by “they”, I mean my mom) to coordinate with the timing of the listing and repairing any red flags that come up during the course of inspections.
3.) They are visiting nearby Sunday Opens to get a better sense of the existing competition and Buyer expectations. (How are other homes presented in the neighborhood?)
4.) They are tracking the sales of “like-kind” properties to better align themselves with a realistic sale’s outcome. (What was the final sales price and level of activity?)
5.) The are working locally! (A move I wholeheartedly encouraged and applaud).  Having visited several opens, they have a keen sense of who their “market specialists” are and who can deliver the best result.

Listen, we’ve all got a friend, a cousin, or a family member with a Real Estate license, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will be your best choice come the time to sell (or buy) your home. Working locally, is the single, smartest choice you can make, which is why with respect to my parents, I am more than happy to consult from the sidelines and hand over the reigns to others I trust implicitly.  In other words, collaboration is the key.

In short, surround yourself with those whose vision you can trust, AND then trust the process.  You’re much more likely to end up with a fantastic result.  (Hey, we can’t all win Tony Awards or a Grammy, but the outcome should still be noteworthy, no matter the journey.) No need to walk into walls when there’s so much well-intentioned help to be had.

How can I help you?

What’s Coming?

 

Brenda Schaefer and Karen Starr have just listed a very chic 2+bdrm/1bth home in Piedmont at  38 Portsmouth Road.  Located just steps to top- rated k-12 schools and Witter Field, and close to Trader Joe’s’ and the Saturday Farmers Market, this stylish home features an eat-in kitchen with built in hutch, large master bedroom and updated bath, private patio off the kitchen offering ample room for entertaining, and sunny and spacious workshop in the garden.  Open Sunday -2-4:30pm.
List Price: $795,000.  www.grubbco.com

Liz Behrens brings 111 MacKinnon Place in Piedmont to the market this weekend.  This spacious, light-filled home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac and offers vistas from every room. Featuring formal living and dining rooms, kitchen opening to a west-facing deck, cozy den, master bedroom suite, lower level  family room, and large level garden; this Traditional 1940’s home, close to schools, parks and play fields, also offers fantastic potential! Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.

List price: $1,248,000.  www.grubbco.com

 

Looking for nearly all-level living?  Anian Tunney brings 85 Sandringham in Piedmont to the market again this weekend.  This ultra-glamorous 4bdrm/4.5bth Ranch style home offers spacious living with serene open views and features an updated kitchen, formal dining room, light- filled living room, beautiful master suite w/sitting room and amazing walk-in closet. Downstairs, you’ll find an equally impressive space as well. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.

List Price:  $1,849,000. www.grubbco.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Fun!

Off the Grid takes place every Friday next to the Okland Museum of California on 10th Street; a family-friendly take on a festive night market.

Sample the best in Bay Area curbside cuisine from gourmet Off the Grid food trucks, savor California beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages around the Koi Pond at the Blue Oak café beer garden, and get down with live music and dance lessons. Get creative at family-friendly drop-in workshops, and enjoy special guest performers and events.  And from 5-9:00pm, it’s half price admission for adults to the museum, and FREE for those under 18!

What a great way for you and your family to spend an evening together experiencing the best Oakland has to offer.

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 294 – Double Fault

What’s New?

I spent last Monday realizing my worst nightmare. (Okay, there’s a bit of hyperbole here, but just the same . . .)  Having been talked into participating in the annual PHS Booster’s Tennis & Golf Tournament at the fabulous Claremont Country Club in Oakland, I was certain I would prove to be the weakest link on my team.  Regrettably, that was true.

I love tennis, I grew up playing tennis, and I used to play it well, but not last Monday (in truth, I haven’t played well in years). Last Monday, I let anxiety and self-induced stress get the best of me and performed rather poorly. Double Fault. (Boo-hoo, first-world problems.) It wasn’t until the third and fourth rounds that I actually redeemed myself enough to win back some much needed points (although it helped immensely to have a PHS tennis coach as my double’s partner in the last two rounds – Ringer!).

If I’m being totally honest (and why not?) “match play” has never been my forte, even when I was at my best. (Who performs well when they’re in the midst of a panic attack?) As all of us have learned at one time or another, ANXIETY, and STRESS rarely work in anyone’s favor – regardless of the forum.

Not surprisingly, there is a bit of anxiety, and stress that have crept into our markets as of late as our representatives in Washington DC struggle to pass a budget and avoid defaulting on the National Debt Ceiling. (Really? Let’s suspend Congress’ pay until they can reach an accord. Then, we’d very likely see some REAL movement.)  With predictions of dire, global reverberations, it’s an easy jump to project catastrophic, economic, world-wide consequences. Please don’t panic.  Unfortunately, we seem to be at the juncture far too often. (I suspect that’s NOT how most of us operate at home with respect to managing our own finances.)

Although I have no answers as to how the gridlock will ultimately play out in our nation’s capital, I can politely suggest that if you are currently in escrow, funding might well be delayed until the offices of Social Security and the IRS are up and running. While several major banks are relaxing income requirements until after the close of escrow, many are NOT, so it IS imperative to ask the questions upfront: “Will there be a delay in funding and if so, for how long?”  For Jumbo borrowers (loans above $625,500) stricter guidelines remain largely in place.  In such a circumstance, CASH really IS KING –  as are reliable lenders who can deliver  funding in a timely fashion.

BTW – a missed financial deadline, given the current market conditions, isn’t the Buyers’ fault, NOR is it the agent’s fault, NOR is it the mortgage originator’s fault (let’s play fair); it’s simply circumstances beyond our control. While the wait for funds may be difficult to bear, (especially if you need these funds to close on the next property) it is unlikely that a Buyer in second position will fare any better. Unless there is an “ALL CASH” offer at the ready, starting over, is still starting over.

Better to work with the party currently in contract, than to begin again. NO ONE likes delays, especially the Buyers, who may very well have to pay extra to maintain their “loan lock,” OR risk paying higher interest rates a week or two down the road when the loan finally funds. In short, delays costs both sides time and money and both parties are likely to share the pain in equal parts. Put another way, we are all in this together.  (Understood?)

Assuming reasonable minds will come together, the backlog of requests will soon be filled, and loans will undoubtedly get funded as we return to “business as usual” in Washington.  In the meantime, if we give everyone a bit more time, our expectations will better align with the current market realities. Note to both Buyers and Sellers: this isn’t the time to be punitive or impatient. Renegotiate price and terms ONLY if warranted, but DO amend – in writing (!) – any extensions to the timelines or changes to the contract.

As for me, was I really hoping to play tennis as well as Sharapova, or on a more modest scale, as well as my dedicated tennis friends who play religiously? (A girl can dream.) The reality is that age, injuries, and lack of practice have ALL taken their toll on my disappearing tennis game (we all have to work with life’s limitations). If I really want to play better, I have only to commit the time and effort and put in the work!

The truth is, it takes practice and repetition to maintain consistency.  Next time, I will either politely decline the invitation, OR better yet, decide to enjoy the day for what it is – an opportunity to socialize with my peers, get a little exercise, and have fun while supporting the Boosters.  And truly, if my greatest nightmare is that “I will play tennis poorly,” than I really need to rethink my priorities (Ya think?)

Hey, maybe it’s time to take up golf . . .

(A BIG thank you to my incredibly kind team captain, Nick Levinson.  Now there’s a guy who’s got game . . .)

What’s Coming?

Gene Boomer brings a dramatic 4bdrm/3.5bth Mediterranean to the market at 5652 LaSalle Avenue in Oakland. Situated on a picturesque plateau on the Piedmont side of Montclair, this spacious home features curved walls and archways, and distinctive decorative iron railings and custom iron light fixtures throughout. With sophisticated detailing, rustic pecan flooring, grand foyer, terrace, library, chef’s kitchen, inviting family room, separate office down, and grand master suite with BIG walk-in closet, this custom home is truly unique. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. List Price: $1,775,000.

Anian Tunney brings 85 Sandringham in Piedmont to the market this week.  This nearly level and ultra-glamorous 4bdrm/4.5bth Ranch style home offers spacious living with serene open views and features an updated kitchen, formal dining room, light- filled living room, beautiful master suite w/sitting room and amazing walk-in closet. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  List Price:  $1,849,000. www.grubbco.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Pending?

Matt Heafey’s listing at 201 Mountain Avenue quickly went pending with FIVE ALL CASH offers and has landed WELL above its asking (List price: $949,000).  All-level living opportunities in Piedmont are rare and prove over and over again to be highly desirable, but it’s the number of ALL CASH offers in this scenario that was really surprising (not a single Buyer was taking out a loan)!

(Note: while CASH IS KING, as in this example, is doesn’t secure a discount in our highly-coveted marketplace.  It merely provides a competitive spot at the table.)

The Fixer opportunity at 968 Rose Avenue, listed by Dana Cohen,  experienced double digit requests for disclosure packages (40 at last count) and with eight offers from which to choose, it too, went pending WELL above its list price of $598,000.  If ever there were an argument for aggressive listing, this is it.

Congratulations to the winning bidders on both these fantastic opportunities.

The Piedmont Plug!

I haven’t plugged the Piedmont Center for the Arts in awhile but from art to opera, to symphony concerts, to local theater productions, to the Annual Beer Fest, to lectures, there’s so much to enjoy about this small town center that’s become a MAJOR draw.  For a complete guide of upcoming activities, go to Piedmont Center for the Arts: info@piedmontcenterforthearts.org

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

 

Vol. 293 – It’s My Party, I Can Cry if I Want to…

What’s New?

Thankfully the BIG BASH is behind me.  Can I just say, “I’m bushed!”

Every few years I decide to open my home and my garden to clients and friends, AND clients who have become friends, AND friends who have become clients, AND potentially new clients, AND . . . (well, you get the picture). It’s both an opportunity to personally thank my network for all their unwavering support, and a reminder that I still exist!  This year, I specifically targeted families with young children as I had decided to rent a GIANT move screen for a private showing of Pixar’s, “The Incredibles” at my first ever – Camp Gardner Starlight Cinema.

Unfortunately, I had picked a weekend jammed packed with other conflicting events here in town, including a tri-school fundraising party, so the “no’s” were coming fast and furious with barely a “yes” among the crowd.

“Nobody likes me,” I complained to my twin sister over the phone, “I don’t think anyone’s coming to my party and I’m waaay too old to feel like I’m not one of the ‘popular kids’ in school . . .”  (Really?  Someone call this girl a whaaambulance.)

Jill politely listened to my high-octane neurosis for a few moments and then compassionately (but firmly) said: “Drop the rock, get out of your way, trust the process, and have faith in the outcome . . .  it will be fine; it always is.” (Jill’s ALL about tough love.  Maybe she should consider a career in Real Estate?)

Mind you, this isn’t just good advice from one sister to another, it’s good advice for life – and as it so happens, it’s really good advice for Real Estate  – in particular.

In what is, truly a unique marketplace; one where sustained disappointments are often part of the drama (believe me, multiple bidding wars aren’t the norm in Dallas, Texas) TRUSTING in the process and believing that everything will work out in the end, can be very difficult to master.  Or as another friend so eloquently put it, “If it’s for you, it won’t get by you.” (Okay, I LOVE that kind of faith and certainty.)

Whether you are “Zen” enough to truly embrace such a philosophy is another matter altogether (admittedly, I’m often NOT), but I have learned that when I let go of expectations, it takes a tremendous amount of anxiety OUT of the equation and opens up a whole new world of possibilities. (What a relief.)

AND although the market has definitely favored Sellers as of late, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Sellers are immune to feelings of anxiety as a result. In fact, I might argue that Sellers actually often exhibit MORE anxiety than do Buyers, especially if they lost a great deal of equity in their homes over the past several years and are now counting on this much improved marketplace to make them whole once again. (Depending on their level of debt, this may or may not be possible.)

The truth is, that while Buyers tend to feel gratitude for their agent’s guidance – no matter the outcome – Sellers can, and often do, feel far more conflicted as they struggle to let go of “the dream”, even when the result has positively outperformed their  expectations. (Drop the rock.)

“Trust the process – everything will be fine; it always is.”

As it turns out, my anxiety-producing shin-dig ended up being far better attended than the RSVP’s would have lead me to believe, and WAY more fun than I had possibly imagined (Whew, I’m still recovering). It was a joy to host friends, neighbors, and colleagues in my home for a change and to share what turned out to be a truly magical evening under the stars. In a word, it was simply “Incredible.”

Thank you to those of you who came and to  my faithful sister Jill, not only for her emotional guidance, but for all the physical help by way of cooking, cleaning, serving . . . (I owe you MORE than one.)

Maybe I’ll make this an annual event (that’s just crazy talk) but whatever the function, whatever the challenge, I will ABSOLUTELY try to have more faith in the outcome.  Isn’t it just easier that way?

How can I help you?

What’s Coming?

 

Dana Cohen brings a charming 2+bdrm/2bth Bungalow to the market this weekend at 968 Rose Avenue in Piedmont. Just a few blocks to Piedmont Avenue shops and Beach Elementary School, this sweet opportunity is full of potential, but does require renovation.  Featuring formal living and dining rooms, picture window, fireplace, built-ins, eat-in kitchen, refinished hardwood floors and private rear gardens, brick patio and level lawn for play, it also sits on a very large lot! List price: $598,000. Open Sunday , 2-4:00pm and Monday for Broker’s Tour, 10am-1pm.

Paris in Piedmont –  179 Estates Avenue in Piedmont. Anian Tunney’s listing offers refined elegance and exquisite architecture in this stunning 4bdrm/4.5bth home.  Featuring formal living and dining rooms, dramatic circular staircase and foyer, unobstructed San Francisco Bay views, BIG rumpus downstairs, extra large master suite and stunning grounds.  In a word, it’s breathtaking!  List price: $3,495,000.  Shown by appointment only!  www.grubbco.com

Still available –  Matt Heafey’s lovely listing, located in the heart of Piedmont at 224 Mountain Avenue, is the quintessential Brown Shingle Craftsmen and features 5bdrms/4.5bths, plus a guest suite above the three-car garage.  Highlights include: spacious formal rooms, crisp wainscoting, box-beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, gourmet eat-in kitchen with stainless steel appliances, sunny deck with lovely vistas, and a lower level with a large play room, wine cellar, and French doors out to a lush garden oasis.  Handcrafted attention to detail makes this meticulous home truly special. List price: $3,495,000.  Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. www.224Mountain.com

Matt Heafey holds 201 Mountain Avenue open again this weekend. Centrally located and directly across the street from the footpath to the center of town, this 2bdrm/2bth home is the perfect property for down-sizing empty-nesters, or newcomers to the Piedmont  marketplace.  All-level living, open and spacious great room with fireplace, hardwood floors, abundant storage, a dumbwaiter from the garage to the chef’s kitchen, and level access to the rear patio and garden, makes for very easy living in this stylish, rare and updated find.  Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  List price: $949,000.  www.201MountainAve.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Pending?

Here’s a quick note I received just yesterday from Roger Smith of LaSalle Financial (GRUBB’s lending arm) that bears passing along . . .

The question has come up: “Will the government shutdown effect our closings?” The answer is: “Quite possibly.”

Conforming and high-balance conforming loans will be less affected, but unfortunately for Jumbo loans, part of the underwriting process is the confirmation of one’s Social Security numbers through the Social Security Administration (95% closed) and verification of tax returns through the IRS (97% closed)!

Neither of these government offices will likely be providing the documents as requested, so it IS very possible that Jumbo lenders will hold up funding until they can verify that requirement. However, conforming loans should be able to move forward without this information.  (As a reminder, the conforming loan limit is $417,000; High-balance conforming: is up to $625.500; and Jumbo loans are anything above $625.500.)

If you are currently in escrow, please check the status of your loan with your lender and if things appear to be held up, you may need to ask for an extension on your loan contingency.

Timely information Roger.  Thanks very much.  Roger Smith can be reached at : 877-580-4441.

The Piedmont Plug!

I haven’t “plugged” a business in awhile, but I’ve got two REALLY GREAT shout-outs this week that really made my party sing . . .

The first is the caterer, ANTONIK’S BBQ.  Like all great finds, I discovered this Filipino cuisine at the Alameda Flea Market (coming up this Sunday) and with one bite of their marinated pork skewer, I was sold. (Seriously, what’s not to love about meat on a stick?)  This is a family affair, so Jay, his wife, and his mother all showed up and cooked their hearts out and it was DELICIOUS. You can reach Jay at: (510) 455-6611.  You’ll not only get your money’s worth, but you will have very satisfied friends.

The second is Fun Flicks.  For a reasonable fee, they not only supplied the blow-up screen and projector, but sent along Shawn; my own personal “movie concierge,” who stayed the entire evening and ran the popcorn machine, in addition to setting up the movie (part of the “package” deal and worth every cent!)  At the end of the evening, Shawn took it all down, loaded it in the truck and couldn’t have been nicer. Very professional!

Now go have your own party and consider both of these fantastic resources. (And invite me; it’s more fun being a guest.)

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 292 – Say What?

 What’s New?

There’s rarely a week that goes by when a Buyer, Seller, or an acquaintance doesn’t contact me in panic about the undervalued bank appraisal they just received on their refinance or equity loan.

I know exactly how you feel . . .

Bank appraisers are like meter maids – they have a penchant for ruining your day.

Cliff and I have been considering a kitchen remodel for years, so when our friendly, local banker asked us if we would like to increase our current equity line (now that home values have improved considerably), I jumped at the chance.  Who knows when banks will tighten the flow of funds once again?

“We don’t actually have to spend the money,” I explained to my reticent husband, but if we DO decide to move forward, we know the dollars will be available to us.” (Of course, I’m hoping we spend the money; I need a new kitchen, like yesterday.)

Moreover, IF we should decide to sell when our youngest heads off to college, the kitchen will need a sizeable face-lift anyway (I know these things.). Why not enjoy the benefits of a new and improved kitchen while we still live in the home?

Having successfully persuaded my husband (sort of), I gathered our tax returns and obediently handed them over to Wells Fargo.  Since we already have an equity line in place, expanding it, was simply a matter of confirming our income and ordering a new appraisal.

“Congratulations,” Patty said a few short weeks later, you and Cliff have been approved for the additional dollars.”

“That’s great,” I responded, “So where did our house appraise?”

That’s when the bomb went off . . .  Say what?

Never mind my short-lived joy at having been approved for the larger loan and the fact that I would soon be meeting our architect to finalize plans, I was admittedly upset at the appraiser’s failure to understand the true quantitative value of our home.  I’m not referring to its “market value,”  I am talking about its actual WORTH!  And because I am a REALTOR by trade, I had even arrived with comps in hand to help the appraiser along.  Clearly, she had ignored my informative prompts.

I get it, banks are conservative by nature with respect to equity lines (and probably should be) and our house is difficult to accurately appraise. While it’s not GRAND by Piedmont standards, it is fairly unique; offering 4 bedrooms/3 new bathrooms, beautiful gardens on expansive grounds, a picture worthy gazebo, a swimming pool, a separate cottage & office, and a batting cage! (What’s not to love?) AND given that a similar style home in the center of town had just set a new sales bar, I assumed the appraiser would be equally impressed. That certainly wasn’t the case – not by a long shot. Based on that sale, her appraisal was at least half a million dollars off . . . or more. (Ouch.)

Here’s the thing, appraisals are just one person’s opinion of value; they actually tell us nothing about what the market will bear, OR where the house will sell.  In reality, the appraisal (anemic as it was) did exactly what it needed to do – it got us the funds to (potentially? absolutely!) remodel the kitchen, so what’s my BEEF? Who cares what the appraisal says today when Cliff and I don’t have plans to sell the house for several years to come?

Okay, here it is (although I’m loathe to admit it) like many homeowners, I have a fair amount of EGO wrapped up in my house. (Do tell?) I don’t just sell homes, I am passionate about them, and about mine in particular, which has evolved into something I believe is truly special. (Sound familiar?) AND to be blunt, I have worked my fingers to the bone on our home. I don’t just hire gardeners, I am the gardener.  Don’t I deserve a little validation; some tangible proof that my vision has paid off?  Is it really too much to expect that the appraiser get it right? (Evidentially, it is.)

So I am throwing a party instead and inviting my  colleagues, neighbors, clients, and friends to join me. (What are friends for anyway if not to mend your bruised ego?)  I have rented a LARGE movie screen, hired a caterer, and am putting my son and a few of his buddies to work as we participate in an evening of “Starlight Cinema.”  If all goes well, I will happily make this evening an annual event.

AND I am going to try to remember that Cliff and I bought our current home because we imagined gatherings just like this, along with family thanksgiving dinners, elegant Passovers, and fun-filled Fourth-of-July festivities; not because of its “appraised” value (our homes aren’t meant to fill in a balance sheet).  I will recall that we bought our home for the lovely community it offered, for the high-ranking schools, and for its unlimited potential.  Perhaps one day, we will even see a garden wedding there??? (It could happen.)

What an out-0f-area appraiser thinks about our home’s value should be of absolutely NO value to me whatsoever – beyond the loan approval. Still, I’m not inviting that appraiser to my party.

She can go ruin someone else’s day.

What’s Coming?

Paris in Piedmont –  Anian Tunney has been on a roll as of late and this week she brings yet another fantastic property to the market at 179 Estates Avenue in Piedmont. Offering refined elegance and exquisite
architecture, this 4bdrm/4.5bth home with a distinct Parisian flair, features formal living and dining room, dramatic circular staircase and foyer, unobstructed San Francisco Bay views, BIG rumpus downstairs, extra large master suite and stunning grounds.  In a word, it’s breathtaking!  List price: $3,495,000.  Shown by appointment only!  www.grubbco.com

 

Didn’t make it last week to Matt Heafey’s perfect Piedmont listing?  No worries, here is a second opportunity to see this beautiful home.  Located in the center of town, 224 Mountain Avenue, is the quintessential Brown Shingle Craftsmen and features 5bdrms/4.5bths, plus a guest suite above the three-car garage!  Spacious formal rooms are highlighted by box beam ceilings, crisp wainscoting hardwood floors, and a fireplace in the living room w/adjacent reading room. A gourmet eat-in kitchen with dual sinks, island, and stainless steel appliances opens to a sunny deck with lovely vistas. The lower level offers a large play room, wine cellar, and French doors out to a lush garden oasis.  Handcrafted attention to detail makes this meticulous home truly special.  (Run, don’t walk!)  List price: $3,495,000.  Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. www.224Mountain.com

 

Matt Heafey brings 201 Mountain Avenue to the market this weekend.  Centrally located and directly across the street from the footpath to the center of town, this 2bdrm/2bth home is the perfect property for down-sizing empty-nesters, or newcomers to the Piedmont  marketplace.  All-level living, open and spacious great room with fireplace, hardwood floors, abundant storage, a dumbwaiter from the garage to the chef’s kitchen featuring stainless steel appliances, and level access to the rear patio and garden, makes for very easy living in this stylish, rare and updated find.  Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  List price: $949,000.  www.201MountainAve.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Pending?

The Fall Market continues to bring fantastic results. Eight homes are currently pending in town at an average sales price of $1,666,000, which factors out to $531.51 per square foot.

What’s Fun?

It’s a weekend of fun, beginning with the FallFest 5k Walk/Run to support the Wellness Center, serving Piedmont High School and Millennium kids.  Bring the whole family, and start the day with a lovely stroll through town.  Indian Summer makes this the perfect start to any weekend.

On Sunday, grab the kids and celebrate the 15th Annual Piedmont Harvest Festival down at the Community Center. There’s a scarecrow auction, a carnival for the young ones, a homegrown contest (think jams, pies, tomatoes . . .) and a full-on produce market., courtesy of Village Market.  It’s loads of down home fun.  Yeehaw!

Finally, it’s time once again for the Highlander Classic Golf and Tennis Tournament. This annual event takes place on Monday, October 7 at the Claremont Country Club at 5295 Broadway Terrace in Oakland and features lunch, tennis, or best-ball golf, followed by cocktails, awards, and a stellar silent auction.

This low-key tournament is all in good fun and supports PHS Athletics, so everyone is welcome, no matter your level of play.  I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the day or a prettier place to spend it!

To find out more or to register, contact:  ktlally@comcast.net

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 291 – Pretty is as Pretty Does!

What’s New?

Piedmont’s first home game started off with a resounding win, with a 44-16 victory over Albany. Our younger son Tristan is a receiver for the varsity team which means that Cliff and I attend every game, loudly cheering him, and his teammates on. (Okay, I’m the one screaming wildly; Cliff quietly keeps stats on the sidelines.) On our way to the stands last week, I bumped into my friend, Terri, who was wearing her son’s jersey and looking rather proud.

“Isn’t it sweet?” she exclaimed, “My younger son asked me to wear his number and even though it smells like ‘boy,’ (meaning it hadn’t been washed in a week) I’m going to wear it anyway.” (Yes, it was sweet) and she wasn’t the only mom I noticed in purple and white that evening.

I have to admit that the social politics of the jersey is a new aspect of the evening for us mothers of Varsity sons. In my day, it was the letterman’s jacket; I suppose it’s the same idea now.

No, my son hadn’t asked me. Instead, at the end of the game I spied a bevy of young ladies lined up in Piedmont jerseys, including an absolutely stunning girl wearing the number 23 – I hadn’t a clue who she was, but I was determined to find out. The next morning, I put on my investigative hat and casually approached Tristan after breakfast.

“Hey Tris, I couldn’t help noticing that several mothers were wearing their sons’ jerseys last night,” I said. “You know, I would happily wear yours if you would like.” (Hmmm?)

“No offense, Mom,” Tristan casually responded as he unloaded the dishwasher, “but did you SEE the girl wearing my jersey? I went for the gold.” (Gee, now why would that offend?)

For my own piece of mind, I’m going to assume that she’s as lovely on the inside (pretty is as pretty does).

Understanding what’s on the inside of a house is crucial to any home purchase as well. I recently helped a well-intentioned young couple get into contract on a very pretty “flipped” home in Montclair (that’s a home that was purchase under market value and quickly renovated to turn a profit) only to discover that when we began the investigations on the property, the house wasn’t nearly as “pretty” as it had seemed at first glance.

The supposedly zero pest certificate wasn’t, as our inspector quickly uncovered an active beetle infestation requiring tenting, rotted joists under the driveway, and a broken sewer pipe that was emptying into the crawl space below (yuck) – and that wasn’t the worst of it . . .

“This was a grow house,” the engineer bluntly said. “There’s all kind of discarded paraphernalia and trash under the house, but that’s not your biggest concern. With respect to the structure, there are yards of dirt piled against the rear wall which is completely rotted as a result. I can’t begin to tell you how much damage there is until we remove the soil . . . and FYI, you can no longer take dirt to the dump without having it tested first for contamination,” he warned. “At the risk of killing the deal, I wouldn’t walk, I’d run.” (‘Nuf said.)

Although this house had seemed like a good deal at first glance, the costs to remedy the defects were quickly adding up to well beyond what this young couple could afford. There were so many red flags, it wasn’t even worth negotiating; it was simply time to cancel the escrow, refund the Buyer’s good-faith money, and find another house. (Better luck next time.)

In my practice, “due diligence” isn’t optional, it’s mandatory on every home purchase, and this story is the perfect example of why. Although the prospective Buyers had spent close to a thousand dollars on home, pest, and engineering inspections, in the end, their due diligence had saved them TENS of THOUSANDS in hidden costs and uncovered a home that was nothing like it appeared to be on the surface. Given that homes are incredibly expensive to own and maintain, it’s money well spent – don’t you agree?

Finally, understand that even if you are willing to overlook a home’s significant defects (you may, and people often do), the next Buyer is unlikely to be as forgiving. Remember that with every home purchase, you are not just a prospective Buyer; you are a prospective Seller down the road. If you are getting a very good deal AND you have the money in reserves to address the issues either now, or in the near future, it may make very good cents to take on these added expenses. On the other hand, if you are buying what you believe to be a fully “renovated” home, you’ll want to make sure that it is, in fact, fairly worry-free. OR, as we were all taught: “Beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Word on the street is that last week’s young model displaying my son’s jersey, isn’t just “pretty,” she’s also a very sweet and bright girl. What can I say, Tristan has very good taste in women.

Here’s where I salvage my pride and take credit for that.

What’s Coming?

 

Anian Tunney has just listed a magnificent Noble Newsom estate at 150 Requa Road in Piedmont. This exquisite 5bdrm/5+bth home (circa 1938) has been lovingly restored and the attention to detail throughout is simply breathtaking – as our the bay and city views! Perfectly situated and offering wonderful scale and proportion, this dramatic and elegant home features grand foyer, formal living and dining rooms, elegant study, large wine cellar, 3-car garage and too many attributes to encapsulate in this brief description. In short, it’s simply stunning! Showings by appointment only and 24-hours notice required. List price: $7,400,000. www.grubbco.com

 

Matt Heafey has a fantastic new Piedmont listing debuting this week. Located in the center of town at 224 Mountain Avenue, this quintessential Brown Shingle Craftsmen features 5bdrms/4.5bths, plus a guest suite above the three-car garage! Spacious formal rooms are highlighted by box beam ceilings, crisp wainscoting hardwood floors, and a fireplace in the living room w/adjacent reading room. A gourmet eat-in kitchen with dual sinks, island, and stainless steel appliances opens to a sunny deck with lovely vistas. The lower level offers a large play room, wine cellar and French doors out to a lush garden oasis. Handcrafted attention to detail makes this meticulous home truly special. (Run, don’t walk!) List price: $3,495,000. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. www.224Mountain.com

 

Jeff Robarts brings on a thoughtfully updated Mid-Century at 27 Arroyo Avenue in Piedmont. This home is the perfect blend of space, style and location and offers 3 bdrms/2bths, sunny open floor plan, all-level living, designer finishes, easy flow from kitchen to the back patio, lawn & garden, and convenient access to Piedmont Avenue shops and restaurants. I expect it will find an eager audience very quickly. List price: $995,000. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. www.grubbco.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing. For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing, please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Pending?

The Fall Market continues to bring fantastic results. The stylish home at 211 Crocker Avenue in Piedmont quickly went pending with four offers and is now in contract well above asking. (List price: $2,200,000)

What’s Fun?

It’s time once again for the Highlander Classic Golf and Tennis Tournament. This annual event takes place on Monday, October 7 at the Claremont Country Club at 5295 Broadway Terrace in Oakland and features lunch, tennis, or best-ball golf, followed by cocktails, awards, and a stellar silent auction.

This low-key tournament is all in good fun and supports PHS Athletics, so everyone is welcome, no matter your level of play. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the day or a prettier place to spend it!

To find out more or to register, contact: ktlally@comcast.net

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 290 – Fall Into Action!

 What’s New?

“Does she or doesn’t she?” (She does.)  I’m not giving away any trade secrets here, but let’s just admit that women of a certain age (uh, that would be me) require a little more maintenance than when when we were younger. Gone are the days when I could casually over indulge, then hit the gym and quickly work off whatever regrettable sins in which I’d participated  . . . like ice cream. (Really, who can say no to gelato?) In truth, no matter what age, or what phase of life, a little care and upkeep are hard to argue.

Not surprisingly, that’s true of our homes as well. While often, it’s the threat of an impending sale that finally gets homeowners into action, there’s no law that says we have to wait.  In fact, we shouldn’t. Given that our homes are usually, our single most valuable asset, whether or not you’ll be selling your property in the near future, or hanging onto it for years to come, it’s time to take stock of your surroundings and start prepping for whatever lies ahead.

That may entail a large scale project, such as a remodeled bathroom, updated kitchen, or new landscape, OR it may just involve fresh paint and a thorough cleaning of the cobwebs, but either way, ongoing maintenance is a MUST for all homeowners. If you’re not willing to keep up your house and grounds, may I politely encourage you to rent instead? (Despite the incentives, homeownership ISN’T for everyone.)  Unfortunately, it takes just a few short months for a property to begin to look neglected and fall into disrepair. DON’T let that happen to yours.

So here are a few items to put on your  Fall “To Do” list  before the winter rains hit and the weather cools considerably. (You’re welcome, you can thank me later.)

1.) Furnaces should have an annual replacement of their filters.  Any good plumbing/HVAC company will do this task for a reasonable fee, OR save the dollars and head down to your friendly ACE Hardware or local Home Depot (albeit, less friendly) and replace the filters yourself. (Remember to take the old one with you as there are many sizes from which to choose.)

2.) The leaves are definitely dropping, which means a good deal of debris is probably accumulating on your roof.  If so, it’s time to get out the ladder and clear those gutters. My own sweet house sits under several magnificent Redwoods, so my boys get to do this job several times each year. (Nothing says “happy homecoming” like “son, I need a favor . . .” as I hand him the blower at Thanksgiving.)

3.) Daylight savings is right around the corner so it’s going to get dark earlier and earlier (boo hoo). Take a peak outside and see what light bulbs need replacing and then REPLACE THEM (Okay, maybe I meant that one for Cliff.)  Ditto for smoke and CO2 detector batteries. BTW – not every house currently has a CO2 detector, but they are now a “point of sale” ordinance when one goes to sell, so it’s not a bad idea to get on board now.  Moreover your family will be much better protected. (Note, the law requires one per floor.)

4) Fall is a great time to mulch and to trim dormant trees (wait on cutting back the shrubs until late February).  It’s also a terrific time to add new plants and bulbs to the garden, allowing winter rains to establish nice deep roots. You’ll be thrilled come the Spring.

5.) Put away or cover all garden furniture, turn off the sprinklers once the rains begin, and for those of you with pools, shut down the pool heater until next spring (let’s get through the heat waves first).

6.) Do you use your fireplace a great deal in the winter?  If the answer is yes, hire a chimney sweep to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection to make sure the mortar is tight and the spark arrestor is in place. (This isn’t a do it yourself chore; aside from it being rather messy, it takes a trained eye.)  AND don’t stack the wood against the house; this only invites termites into your home. (Not good.)

7.) Finally, if your kids have just stocked up on new clothes for school, now is a great time to pass along those things they have outgrown or never wear (especially winter coats).  Take them down to the center of town (the drop off is behind the pool) and donate them to “Dress Best for Less,” which not only benefits our schools, but helps purge your closets in the process. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Okay, that’s my Fall list for getting into action (now if I could just hit the gym).  What’s yours?  Send me your suggestions and I’ll share them in the coming weeks. (Doesn’t it feel good to check these items off your list?  Yes, it does.)

What’s Coming?

Can I brag just a little and say that of the twelve homes currently listed in Piedmont, the GRUBB Co. represents seven of them (and we are equally well represented in Berkeley/Kensignton too).  If you’re not yet working with a GRUBB Co. agent, the question you need to ask yourself is why not?

Here are  just a few of this week’s opportunities . . .

 

Anian Tunney has just listed a magnificent Noble Newsom estate at 150 Requa Road in Piedmont. This exquisite 5bdrm/5+bth home (circa 1938) has been lovingly restored and the attention to detail throughout is simply breathtaking – as our the bay and city views!  Perfectly situated and offering wonderful scale and proportion, this dramatic and elegant home features grand foyer, formal living and dining rooms, elegant study, large wine cellar, 3-car garage and too many attributes to encapsulate in this brief description. In short, it’s simply stunning! Showings by appointment only and 24-hours notice required! List price: $7,400,000.  www.grubbco.com

 

Mindy Scott has just listed 160 LaSalle Avenue in Piedmont. Recalling days of yore, this spectacular Newsom & Newsom Mediterranean (circa 1926) offers grand scale, tiled entry, elegant architectural details, extraordinary & original iron fixtures throughout, and spacious formal rooms all opening to an inviting brick patio and spacious gardens; a classic floor plan for comfortable living and gracious entertaining with tremendous bonus spaces down. List price: $3,795,000.  www.grubbco.com

 

Tami Bobb brings 330 Gravatt Drive in Berkeley to the market this week. With spectacular, unobstructed San Francisco and Golden Gate views, this 3bdrm/2.5bth quality Craftsman offers superior details that include coved ceilings, beautiful hardwood floors, gourmet kitchen, Arizona flat stone patio and level lawn.  Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. List price: $1,150,000. www.grubbco.com

These are just a few of the many homes available for viewing.  For a complete guide to the Sunday Open Ad Review, or for a private showing,  please email me and I will happily accommodate your needs.

What’s Pending?

The stunning Mediterranean on King Avenue went pending in the space of just one short week. (List price: $4,900,000!)  It’s great to see such viable action in the high-end market of Piedmont.

How can I help you?

What’s Fun?

The Annual Camp Augusta Gala!

It’s my final push for this fun cowboy event.  Perhaps the only city to lay claim to its own summer camp, it is important to note that Camp Augusta receives NO public funds from our tax dollars or the Piedmont city budget.  As such, we rely on the generosity and support of the camp community (that’s you) to reach the goal of a new kitchen in time for next year’s campers!

There are still a few spots available for walk-ins. Please join us tomorrow evening at the Claremont Country Club, beginning at 6:30pm for music, dining, live and silent auction and camp songs.  Tickets are $150 at the door and you need be no more dressed up than blue jeans and cowboy boots. – it’s my kinda casual fun.  Yee haw!

For more information about the gala or to see renderings of the new kitchen, go to: www.campaugusta.org

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 289 – There’s No Place Like Home (or Desk)!

What’s New?

I am back at my desk after two and half weeks of being displaced and I couldn’t be happier.  The GRUBB Co. had decided to do a little end-of- summer remodeling, which meant that several agents were politely shown the door (including me).  Hmmm . . .  what had been billed as a few days, turned into a few weeks, and then some.

Unfortunately, those of us dependent on our hard drives and desk tops would have to make do some other way. (I leaned on the girls in our escrow and marketing departments, thank you very much) Such is the course of renovation; it’s never as easy as we might wish or as seamless as we were lead to believe.

No matter the inconvenience, it’s worth it! I actually enjoy the process of renovation and rejuvenation  – and the purging that goes along with it. It gives one the opportunity to design a space to fit their needs – not someone else’s and divest themselves of unnecessary “stuff.”

Currently, I have my sights set on a kitchen renovation at “Casa Gardner” that encompasses some well placed French Doors, a butler’s pantry (never mind that I don’t have a butler), carrera marble countertops, and new skylights that let in the sun. (Now if I can just get my husband, Cliff, on board).

I’ve discovered that with property values on the rise and with the return of confidence in the marketplace, banks seem to be much friendlier about issuing and expanding credit lines to qualified  homeowners (the operative word here is “qualified”).
“How much do you need?” my personal banker, Patty Edmonds at Wells Fargo, asked me?  (Gee, what a difference a few years make!)

I’m not sure, but can I have it just in case?

That isn’t to say that one should always tap out the built-up equity on their home in order to make improvements, but given recent sales – especially on “turn key” properties – it’s a smart time to invest in what is very likely, your single largest asset.  Since the cost of a new kitchen far exceeds the spare change in my coin jar, my choices are to live with the kitchen AS IS (perish the thought), or borrow against the equity to renovate (I vote for the latter).

Keep in mind this avenue works only IF you have a fair amount of equity in your home, BUT if you do,  it may be very worthwhile to consider updating and replacing outdated bathrooms and kitchens at this point in the game.

Why?

Because Buyers like them and will bid aggressively for designer bathrooms and kitchens. If there is an adjacent family room, so much the better. I am convinced that one property I represented in Oakland earlier this year saw an additional $200,000 on the sale price after a $40,000 upgrade in bathrooms. (That’s not a bad return on investment.) Here in Piedmont, we have seen homes go as much as $500,000 -$600,000 OVER the listing price when the house was “camera ready,” exceeding everyone’s expectations, especially the Sellers.  (WOW!)

But we’re not selling our home for a few years yet.

Excellent, so why wait until you do?  Chances are, I am going to show up and encourage you to “update” if a move is on the horizon and improvements haven’t yet been accomplished.  Why not enjoy the kitchen and bathrooms while you still own and live in the house? Why give the new owners all the pleasure?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  “Oh, Patty  . . . “

What’s Coming?

 

Katherine Cooper’s stunning Crocker Highland listing at 934 Wawona Avenue features glorious architecture and scale. This beautifully updated 4+bdrm/2+bth English Traditional offers a fabulous front terrace overlooking lovely gardens to the Bay and beyond, formal living and dining rooms, and grand proportions throughout. Sheltered from view, yet close to Lakeshore shops, restaurants and the Saturday Farmer’s Market, this beautiful home has been modernized with restrained taste and care.  A double garage in back makes for easy access. List price: $1,425,000. Shown by appointment only!  www.934Wawona.com

 

Hope Broderick has just listed 969 Warfield Avenue in Oakland.  This 3+bdrm/2+bth Grand Lake Beauty offers renovated kitchen and bathrooms, 2-car garage, chic urban design, and an in-law with separate entrance. Close to Lakeshore Avenue shops and restaurants, it’s not only a special home, it’s a great value! List price: $739,000. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  www.grubbco.com

Looking for a short-term Piedmont rental? 11 Abott Way features 5bdrms/3+bths, and stunning Bridge and Bay views.  With an exercise room, full basement, four decks, tree house w/hammock, new hot tub, and even a chicken coop (fresh eggs), this quiet home at the end of a very private cul-de-sac, can be delivered with, or without, some furnishings and will be available in October.  For more information, contact Chere Hickock at (469) 576-3988.

What’s Pending?

We are three-quarters of the way through the 2013 calendar year,  so how are we doing?  (I’m glad you asked.)

Surprisingly well!

Per the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) 87 homes have transferred ownership to date (private, off-market sales are not listed on the MLS so may not be reflected there).  That’s slightly down from last year when 97 homes had sold in Piedmont by September 1, 2012, BUT on the flip side, home sale prices are significantly UP!

Last year’s average sale came in at approximately $1,413,000, while this year’s average factors out at $1,630,000.  That’s great news for the market overall and for Piedmont city coffers specifically that rely heavily on transfer taxes to meet our budget.

Considering Selling your home? For my Top Ten List, click here.

How can I help you?

What’s Fun?

Swing on a Star…Together We Can Go Far!
George Mark Children’s House Gala

George Mark Children’s House – the award-winning pediatric palliative care center founded by Oakland Children’s Hospital, Dr. Kathy Hull and Dr. Barbara Beach – will hold its tenth annual Gala on Saturday, September 21, from 5:00 -10:00pm.

Held on the lovely George Mark Campus in the San Leandro Hills, the evening includes a musical jazz combo, gourmet dinner under a tent, live and silent auction items, and much more.

Auction items include a one-week stay in a Whistler ski resort penthouse, a trip to the induction ceremony at the Football Hall of Fame, a vacation home in Provence, France, special wines, gourmet dinners, and many other high-end goods and services.

Your care and support helps raise funds for children and their families at a very critical time in their lives.

To register, visit: www.GeorgeMark.org, or call: 510.346.4624.

This event sells out every year so don’t wait!

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .

Vol. 288 – What’s In It for Me?

What’s New?

“You have four seconds to capture someone’s attention on your Home Page,” Bettyanne somberly informed me during our marketing meeting last week. I had asked Bettyanne, who is not only a friend, and a marketing maverick, but a previous client, to meet with me one-on-one to help clarify my next steps with respect to an ‘Internet presence,’ and taking my business to the next level, and what she had to share was eye-opening (to say the very least . . .).

“You’ve done a great job of telling people who you are,” she said, but what consumers really want to know is: “What’s in it for me?’  You can have all the knowledge and experience in the world, but if you don’t answer that simple question, they’ll move on to someone else. “The simple truth is,” Bettyanne continued, “Buyers and Sellers want to know what you can, and will, do for them!(Light bulb moment!)

Flashback to “Field of Dreams,” (one of my all-time favorite movies ever) when Kevin Costner’s exasperated character, Ray Canseca, having done everything that was asked of him by the mystery voice, and with his family’s farm clearly on the line, finally asks with real exasperation (and a little embarrassment), “What’s in it for me?'” (Spoiler alert: mending his relationship with his long deceased father is in it for him – “If you build it, he will come!”)

Of course, anyone in sales understands the “WIIFM” premise at their very core, but I think Bettyanne’s relevant point is that rather than qualify who I am, the more critical component of our work together, may be discovering who you are and taking my lead from there.

Do you seek collaboration or would you prefer to hand over the reins and have me run the show? Do you need constant updating and reassurance or is the onslaught of emails and texts unsettling and distracting?  Do you actively engage or would you prefer to get through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible, without much involvement?

So after years of writing, commenting, and sharing my thoughts on real estate and the market in general – both through good and challenging timesit’s now time for me to ask you for your help in answering this simple question:

“What’s in it for you?”

So whether we have previously worked together, or you have bought or sold real estate with someone else (I promise I won’t hold it against you), I need to know what exactly you are looking for in your agent, what you need, and what may have been missing in your last real estate dealings once the papers were signed and you moved into your new home? In other words: “How can I better improve your experience?”

So put your thinking caps on, find your inner voice and give me your unedited opinion. (I really want to know.) You’ll not only be helping me rethink my personal ‘Home Page,’ but my overall practice and how I can better serve you and meet your needs moving forward. (“If you build it, they will come.”)

So . . . What’s in it for you? Let’s start with a free latte at Mulberry’s Market for your trouble and a $100 gift certificate to Wood Tavern on College Avenue for very the best advice I receive.  I really appreciate your time and your thoughts.

What’s Coming?

Katherine Cooper brings 934 Wawona Avenue in Crocker Highlands to the market (circa 1925).  With glorious architecture and scale, this beautifully updated 4+bdrm/2+bth English Traditional, features a fabulous front terrace overlooking lovely gardens to the Bay and beyond, formal living and dining rooms, and grand proportions throughout. Discretely sheltered from view, yet close to Lakeshore shops, restaurants and the Saturday Farmer’s Market, this beautiful home has been  modernized with restrained taste and care.  A double garage in back makes for easy access.  List price: $1,425,000. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm. www.934Wawona.com

 

Hope Broderick has just listed 930 Underhills Road in Crocker Highlands.  This 3bdrm/2bth light-filled Tudor offers updated kitchen and bathrooms, grand living room and lovely level gardens. List price: $859,000. Open Sunday, 2-4:30pm.  www.grubbco.com

Looking for a short-term Piedmont rental? 11 Abott Way features 5bdrms/3+bths, and stunning Bridge and Bay views.  With an exercise room, full basement, four decks, tree house w/hammock, new hot tub, and even a chicken coop (fresh eggs), this quiet home at the end of a very private cul-de-sac, can be delivered with, or without, some furnishings and will be available in October.  For more information, contact Chere Hickock at (469) 576-3988.

What’s Pending?

The market hasn’t slowed down much, in spite of August, AND even with interest rates on the rise. The sweet little home at 151 Lake Avenue in Piedmont went pending with eight offers and is now in contract well above its list price.  (List price: $698,000) www.grubbco.com

What’s Fun?

Last Call ! Don’t forget to secure your tickets for the annual  CAMP AUGUSTA GALA on September 14, 2013.  There will be dinner, drinks, live music and an auction starting at 6:30 pm, and all of it benefits the camp our kids so dearly love.

Once again, we will be poolside at the Claremont Country Club in Rockridge. So throw on your casual cowboy duds and amble on down.  It’s sure to be a good time for a very worthy cause. Although a gift to the city of Piedmont, Camp August receives NO public funds and depends entirely on private donations and camp tuition.

Celebrating the Jewish holidays?  I’m with you. Come after sundown and we’ll have a great time.

Tickets are $150 a piece and can be ordered at: www.campaugusta.org

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .
See you next week

Vol. 287 – The Dog Days of Summer

What’s New?

The summer is winding down, school is back in session, and dotted around town are U-Haul and Budget Rental Vans packed to the gills for those that are college bound. (Okay, my neighbors are actually headed to http://www.burningman.combefore their son enters his senior year in upstate New York). The fall season lies just ahead. Can you feel it?  My driveway is covered with shedding pine needles and the air is RIPE with possibility . . .

I think a pro golfer said it best in an interview on NPR last weekend when asked why anyone would choose to play the difficult (and humiliating) sport of golf;”There’s always the opportunity for redemption on every hole , he stated, “golf is ALL about the possibilities . . .” and as an aside, he added, “ANYONE can eventually get a hole-in-one.” (Okay, that’s just salt in the wound.)

I’m not sure my husband would agree, having never achieved that elusive hole-in-one, but with respect to Real Estate,virtually every home offers potential and promise. And as any home-related website will show you, our homes don’t just house our possessions, they house our dreams as well (check out Houzz or Pinterest  for true inspiration and “follow” me), which is why BILLIONS are spent in the home industries year after year. Thus, it’s no surprise that the health of our economy is, in no small, part, directly tied to the robust nature of the housing market as a whole. And Buyers agree . . .

“Let’s just get it done,” one Buyer emphatically said. “We’re done writing offers.”

Now you’re talkin’ (I couldn’t agree more).

Quickly followed by: “But make sure we don’t overpay!”

Got it, but “overpaying” may be more difficult to measure. In a quickly escalating marketplace, where homes are selling well, well, WELL (!) above the asking price, purchasing a home in today’s world, can be rather daunting, as each new sale lifts the floor – especially if this is your first foray into the home buying world. No wonder even well-qualified Buyers can vacillate between stepping up and stepping off.  Who can blame them?

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you slice it) there is a premium to be paid for living the “California lifestyle” –  and for good reason. (While we’re on the subject of golf, have I mentioned that I visited my son in North Dakota this summer, where he was mowing lawns at the Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora 5 days a week?  I’ll venture that home values in that area are QUITE a bit less.)  Here’s the skinny: you’re NOT overpaying, you are paying what the market will bear.

Some of you will choose to wait it out (rather than move to North Dakota) and that’s a reasonable course of action. No worries, as long as you understand that rising interest rates directly offset your purchasing power, so waiting for prices to drop AS interest rates rise may actually cost you MORE in the long run. Focus on the cost to own, NOT the price to purchase and you should be fine.

Will the market correct at some point in the future?

Undoubtedly so. If history teaches us anything in the ways of economics, it’s that ALL markets are cyclical.  However, it also shows us that housing prices continue to trend UP over time. (Just ask your parents what they paid for their first home and how much they stretched to buy it.) Then remember that buying a home is a long-term proposition. Understanding whether you bought at the top or at the bottom of the market is largely a matter of hindsight, history, and  good luck (as is hitting a hole-in-one).

“When can we expect the market to correct?”

AHHH, that’s the $64,000 question. (I honestly wish I knew.) The last housing bubble ran for several years before finally adjusting, but irrespective of the historical patterns, we can only ever work in the market in which we are currently in. (Cliff and I have bought at both the height and the bottom of the markets and in the long run, it truthfully, hasn’t made much of a difference on our journey.) If you want and need a home in today’s world, it will require a leap of faith, a belief in home ownership, and a good understanding about the current dynamics of the marketplace.

With interest rates still in your favor, and with the Fall Market about to increase the available inventory, buying a home now is often more affordable than renting one. So whether it’s a fixer or a turn-key property you desire, a better golf game , or a college journey that lies ahead, it’s all about the possibilities . . .  Fore!

How can I help you?

What’s Coming?

Dana Cohen has just listed a charming 2+bdrm/1bth Craftsman bungalow at 151 Lake Avenue. Located just a few blocks from Piedmont Avenue shops, restaurants, and the theatre, and right around the corner from Beach elementary, this home offers authentic period details throughout, generous formal rooms, tons of natural light, an updated bath, a plus room perfect for an office or playroom, and private backyard with level lawn and gardens. Open Sunday from 2-4:30. List price: $698,000. 151Lake.com

 

Anian Tunney has just listed in Piedmont.  Known as the “McCool” house (circa 1907) this 3bdrm/3++bth early century jewel offers an inviting front porch, elegant parlor with new double paned windows, gleaming hardwood floors, formal dining room with built-in china cabinet, newly updated eat-in kitchen with granite counter tops and convenient deck for evening cookouts, large two-car garage with an adjacent work room, plus extensive bonus space downstairs.  List price: $1,195,000. www.grubbco.com

 

 

21 LaSalle Avenue, Piedmont

Mindy Scott has listed 21 La Salle Avenue in Piedmont. With nearly an acre of land, this Mid-Century enjoys seclusion at the end of a private driveway. Featuring soaring ceilings in the living and dining rooms, open kitchen with adjacent family room, inviting pool amidst charming gardens and 3+bdrms/2+bths, it’s not only very secure, it’s also very special! Just steps to Hampton Field. List price: $2,750,000.  www.grubbco.com

Looking for a short-term Piedmont rental? 11 Abott Way features 5bdrms/3+bths, and stunning Bridge and Bay views.  With an exercise room, full basement, four decks, treehouse w/hammock, new hot tub, and even a chicken coop (fresh eggs), this quiet home at the end of a very private cul-de-sac, can be delivered with, or without, some furnishings and will be available in October.  For more information, contact Chere Hickock at (469) 576-3988.

What’s Pending?

Interest rates are definitely rising with expectations that they won’t be returning to previous historical lows.  So those of you who are already in contract, you were ahead of the curve and very wise indeed. And for those of you still waiting, let’s find you a home post haste!

The dreamy home and garden at 215 San Carlos Avenue in Central Piedmont went pending WELL above its list price, with several offers (List price: $1,995,000). This house showed beautifully – both inside and out – offered a great location, and had little to no direct competition, which is why it also had a fantastic result. (It didn’t hurt that The GRUBB Co. represented the Sellers either and did a fantastic job!)

What’s Fun?

Don’t forget to secure your tickets for the annual  CAMP AUGUSTA GALA on September 14, 2013.  There will be dinner, drinks, live music and an auction starting at 6:30 pm, and all of it benefits the camp our kids so dearly love.

Once again, we will be poolside at the Claremont Country Club in Rockridge. So throw on your casual cowboy duds and amble on down.  It’s sure to be a good time for a very worthy cause. Although a gift to the city of Piedmont, Camp August receives NO public funds and depends entirely on private donations and camp tuition.

Celebrating the Jewish holidays?  I’m with you. Come after sundown and we’ll have a great time.

Tickets are $150 a piece and can be ordered at: www.campaugusta.org

Building Community, One Family at a Time . . .
See you next week.

Julie Gardner (DRE# 01431765) is a Piedmont, California Realtor affiliated with The Grubb Company. Julie is a member of The Oakland Board of Realtors, The California Association of Realtors, The National Association of Realtors and she is a designated "Luxury Home Specialist." She offers personal attention, care, answers, vision, and experience to motivated buyers and sellers who thrive in a collaborative relationship. Her weekly newsletter, "The Piedmont Perspective," has earned rave reviews with its friendly flair and high-quality information about the Piedmont real estate market. Call Julie today at (510) 326-0840 if you are considering moving to Piedmont or any other city in the East Bay.