Berkeley, CA Real Estate News

By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
I've recently come across the phenomenon of "lock bumping" (also known as "key bumping") as a method used by thieves to break into locks. At our friendly, local locksmith, they even had handouts about lock bumping and what you can do about it. A quick internet search demonstrated, however, that it might be more urban legend than widespread problem.Lock bumping is real, but the question is how prevalent is it. But, you are probably wondering first what the heck lock bumping is. It is a method that allows a lockpicker to easily crack nearly all common door locks. They just figure what caliber of key a lock takes, and then get a "bump key" or "999 key", which is locksmith lingo for a key with all the notches cut to the maximum depth of 9. The lockpicker inserts the key and taps it in a cer...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
The media is full of information and reports and statistics and projections and forecasts about the real estate market. And, it can get a little confusing. Is it a crisis or a correction? A meltdown or a slowdown? Is it a good time to buy or a bad time to sell? And, when will we hit "the bottom"?I just returned from another terrific 2-day real estate seminar with Brian Buffini, and thought I would simply share some of my favorite statistics from the event and let you decide where the real estate market is.  (you fellow Buffini members will already know most of this, of course!)*About 1-2% of all homes are in foreclosure. Numbers are higher for certain areas (like nearby Stockton). And 30% of all homes are free and clear of any loans.*The market is currently down about 13%, but it went u...
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By Keith Rockmael
(Intero Real Estate Services)
Is it going to come down to a choice between eating or driving? Is that what are future holds? If it does, it looks like the driving contingent may win (or in other words many others will lose…or starve). That’s a distorted overview of last weeks’s EcoNow presentation that highlighted the current and future state of biofuel. Actually we like the term that one of the speakers Eric Holt-Giménez used - “agrofuels” rather than “biofuels” because “bio” means “life” which certainly doesn’t represent these alt fuels. The event held in Berkeley (where else?) gave Tad Patzek, Professor of Geoengineering at UC Berkeley, Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at UC Berkeley, Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, and Judith Mayer, Project C...
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By Diane Verducci
(Pacific Union)
Zillow has just published a report on the home values for Berkeley- Their headline: Zillow Buzz: Berkeley home values increased by 5 percent. Check it out. Keep in mind this company has some serious legal problems for undervaluing property in some locations. In reading through this report, it is published by zip code and I question the accuracy. Past clients have used Zillow as a benchmark for pricing, only to be defeated when submitting an offer; others have used this site for evaluating their property when listing, only to find Zillow greatly undervalued the property. Let's move on…. Our Berkeley market is strong. We don't have many short sales or foreclosures and there are price ranges that are definitely more active than some. Here are some statistics: Berkeley, since January 1, 200...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
So, you've made an offer on a home and it has been accepted. Congratulations! Within the escrow period, there is the inspection contingency period for you to look into all of the nooks and crannies of the house to make sure it is the perfect home for you. And, if you do find any significant faults, the inspection contingency provides the ability to pull out of the contract.Now, you probably aren't an expert in foundations or furnaces or termites, so you have to get the experts in to inspect your home. But, what should you expect to inspect? Of course, every home is different in size, history, style and more, but this is a general list to set you on the right path to a successful completion of your inspection contingency period.General Home-A look at all of the basic systems in the house...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
With all of the seismic changes happening in the mortgage markets, one aspect to keep in mind is PMI, aka Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI is when you buy insurance to cover your lender (not you) because you are taking out a loan deemed to be riskier than most.PMI is usually needed on loans for more than 80% of a home's assessed value, which account for many mortgages in the Bay Area. So, if you are putting less than 20% down on your home purchase, you will most likely need PMI.How much is PMI? Generally, it costs one-half of one percent of the total loan. So, if your loan is for $500,000, your annual PMI will probably be around $2500 annually, or about $210 per month. That is a lot of money to add to your monthly budget, and it is not always tax deductible.Because of the major shifts in...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Why haven't I blogged in two weeks? Because I'm so busy with my clients! They say the market is busting, but I am not seeing too much evidence of that in our market. This just goes to show you that the real estate market is truly a neighborhood-by-neighborhood market.Here in Berkeley, Rockridge, and other parts of Oakland, there continues to be a consistent number of homes available for sale. And, buyers are starting to come out of the woodwork due to interest rates that are both low and sane and some great deals that are out there. So, what does this say about the market in our neighborhoods? Here are some tips for both buyers and sellers.SELLERS:*Be Patient. At the top of market, sometimes homes were barely on the market before they received multiple offers over asking price. Now, dea...
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By Brett Weinstein
(Realty Advocates)
Assuming you have $250,000 for a downpayment (not including closing costs), it is less expensive to buy this $1,050,000 fourplex to owner-occupy than it is to buy a comparable single family home. How? Compare 2334 Curtis Street in Berkeley, a multi-unit residential income property to a 2 -3 Bedroom/2 Ba single family home in the same neighborhood, in roughly the same move-in condition, that would cost you approx. $625,000 today. Read how at Realty Advocates' Blog
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
As most people are now realizing, this is a terrific buyer's market--possibly the best buyer's market in over a decade. With home prices staying steady and even going down in parts of the Bay Area, now is a great time for first time homebuyers to to make a reasonable entry into the real estate market.But, many first time homebuyers have nervous jitters, and that is very understandable. Not only is buying your first home a huge undertaking, but the media has everyone on edge about the stability of the real market. So, what do you do if you know that now is a good time to buy, but you are still a bit wary? This is the perfect situation to consider a "lease option."A lease option is when you a rent a property with the option to purchase it a set price at some time in the future. The upside...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Yesterday, I blogged about getting ready for tax season by helping you decide whether to hire a CPA or do it yourself. Today, I'll provide some tips on getting yourself organized to make your work go smoothly. Of course, everyone's tax situation is different, but these are some basics to get you started. If you have specific questions, contact a tax professional or contact me for a referral.First, gather your W-2 and 1099 forms sent to you from your employers, of course. Then, if you have any investments or bank accounts, you will need your 1099-B (for stock transactions), 1099-DIV (for stock dividend payments), 1099-INT (for interest on bank accounts and CDs), and 1099-R (for IRA distributions).Now, you will need paperwork to support your home expenses. Remember that money spent on re...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Each month, I send my regular clients a selection of tips and advice on real estate, home ownership, finances and other life issues. This month, we focus on getting ready for tax season. Today in the blog, I will look at whether you should hire a CPA or do your taxes yourself and tomorrow I'll blog about some of the paperwork you will need. (And, we'll get back to real estate next week!)Every year, many of us struggle to select the best method of preparing and filing our tax returns. It is never too soon to start thinking about the upcoming tax deadline. In fact, the sooner you make your tax preparation plans, the better organized you will be and the more likely you are to prevent any mistakes or costly accidental omissions. But, do you ever wonder if it better to do your taxes on your...
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By Nate Ellis, "Mr Danke Schoen"
(HomeWay.tv - Keller Williams Realty East Bay 925-337-8489)
So you are looking to buy a home in Berkeley.  In this eddition of Golden Nuggets we will take a look at Down Payment Assistance and First Time Home Buyer programs in the Alameda County, CA City of Berkeley.  There is $67,000 in Down Payment Assistance available for the purchase of your New Home.  The funds may be in the form of grants, gifts and silent seconds with affordable housing covenants and/or equity share restrictions.  Funds may come from the City, County, State, or other Agencies and Non-Profits.Summary: The City of Berkeley does not currently have a Down Payment Assistance Program or First Time Home Buyer program available directly through them.  Assistance may be available from County, State and other resources.The State of California offers up to an additional 6% in assist...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Want to start the year off in a peaceful, calming manner? Who doesn't after several weeks of hectic holidays? Implementing some basic tips from the school of Feng Shui is a great way to begin 2008 surrounded by harmony.I'm sure you have heard of Feng Shui, so you probably know that it is far too complicated to cover in a simple blog entry. But I would like to share some basic tricks that almost anyone can do in a home or office. To begin, Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese art used to create harmonious environments, providing positive energy, invigorating vitality, and peace of mind.--Welcome your guests with a wind chime at your front door and a blue or black doormat.--In the bedroom, Place your bed to give you the widest view of the room. Avoid large mirrors, and do not place your bed in...
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By Michael Greenslade
(Better Homes & Gardens | Mason-McDuffie Real Estate)
This is one of my favorite places.  Believe it or not this is Berkeley California and not Normandy France.  This was originally an apartment complex designed by William Raymond Yelland for Col. Jack Thornburg (A Student at U.C. Berkeley) after World War i.The original concept would have been to have had a layer of retail shoppes and restaurants beneath this complex.  The city did not permit mixed use developement at that time and that portion of this was scrapped. I think that it would have been a wonderful place to stroll and meander throughout and dine in a street cafe. This complex has gone condominium.  I hope to represent one of these someday.  I also wouldn't mind picking up a unit just for bragging rights.Enjoy the pictures.  Give comments please!
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Said to be an 833 billion dollar industry in 2006 and is planned to be the next big job boom since the dot com era, Clean-tech industries is coming to the East Bay to what's named the "Green Corridor".  Future job numbers are estimated to reach 40 million jobs and a 4.5 Trillion dollar industry by 2030. Oakland, Richmond, Emeryville and Berkeley Mayors gathered with the Chancellor of U.C. Berkeley, Robert Brigeneau, at his private residence to help inspire a collective approach for the wave of Green Construction, Green Conservation and Green Programs in the East Bay...For the rest of this article please visit Green Mortgage GroupGreen Corridor
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By Brian LeBars
(Vintage Mortgage Group)
An article in the East Bay Business Times gained my attention when I read the title. Four Mayors from Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville and Richmond have joined forces and have gained attention of many. They have vowed to be at the forefront of environmental innovation.  The East Bay "GREEN Corridor" partnership will be a collaborative effort to lead business in environmental innovation, emerging GREEN business and industry, GREEN jobs and renewable energy. Mayor Ron Dellums vowed $200,000 for GREEN development and training this year. What a great initiative on so many levels. This will bring a variety of jobs to the area to support the local economies and intern help the slowed housing market; it's amazing how everything is connected. GREEN industries are the way of the future and I applau...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Every town has obscure laws that can be confusing, and one to be aware of in Berkeley is the "Golden Duplex" rule. If you are buying a duplex with tenants in Berkeley, or if you are a tenant in a duplex that is being sold, it would be wise to find out if your duplex qualifies as a "golden duplex."Strictly speaking, a Golden Duplex must meet two criteria. First, back in 1979, one of the two units must have been occupied by the owner at that time. Second, one of the units must now be occupied by the current property owner. The property is allowed to have changed owners (and tenants) during this time, but if these two criteria are met, then the property is a Golden Duplex.Why is this important to know? Because properties that qualify as Golden Duplexes are generally exempt from Berkeley's ...
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Imagine your garden with a beautifully designed solar sculpture that also powers your landscape and security lighting.  Envision solar roof tiles that blend into your existing roof maintaining your homes curb appeal.  Picture warm, soft interior light provided by LED light bulbs that use less than 10% of your current electricity, are fully dimmable and contain no mercury (as compared to Compact Fluorescent Lights). It is possible to make your home both green and beautiful with these and many other products.   In the past, green products focused on reducing environmental impact, but paid little if any attention to aesthetics.  Today, green manufacturers offer a range of beautiful products-eco-kitchen countertops of recycled glass, fine cabinetry crafted from beautiful and sustainable wo...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
As the market continues to correct itself after these turbulent months, most houses are taking longer to sell. It is a good time to remember that in most cases, it is the market, not the marketing.Many sellers are still in denial that their house won't cause a bidding war. They still think that they can list their house higher than the market will bear, and that they will get offers over the asking price. This is becoming a rare occasion, limited to the nicest homes in the best neighborhoods.Buyers are also becoming more fickle. They know they have the upper-hand in most negotiations, due to the amount of inventory on the market and the slowing market activity. Many buyers are taking their time, making sure they have good financing, implementing all contingencies, and doing lots of insp...
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What if... What if you could lower your energy bill, help the environment, and it wouldn't cost you any money up front? Would you be interested?If you're one of the lucky home owners in Berkley, CA you are about to make history as a GREEN Home Owner.  Berkley is set to become the first city in the NATION to help thousands of residents generate solar power with NO upfront costs. The city council of Berkeley will vote November 6th on a plan for the city to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property. (WHAT WILL THIS MEAN TO THE RESALE OF A BERKELEY HOME WITH THIS PARCEL TAX?)  Officials state that the tax would be the same or less than what they would save on their electric bill. Officials in San Francisco, Sant...
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