Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heritage Turkey's? Find the history of your home.

Have you heard of a Heritage Turkey*? Heritage Turkeys are raised free-range on pasture and forage, they develop much stronger legs, thighs, and breasts than industrially-produced turkeys, which have mostly breast meat. The resulting meat from these Heritage birds is very firm and dark in color, as well as being succulent, rich and flavorful. They also come with a sort of "birth certificate" that tells you the entire history of where the bird is from.

Wouldn't it be great if your house came with such a certificate?

Understanding the history of your house is not just about particular dates and people, its also about historical trends and patterns. Which ethnic group settled in your area? When did they arrive? Where did they come from? What local resources were available for construction? What were the prevailing architectural trends of the time? Answering these and many other questions will provide important context before you begin compiling the particular history of your ho use.

Other questions to answer before you get started:
Where is my property located?
When was the property developed and the house built?
Who was the original owner and/or occupant of the property?
Who were the successive owners and/or occupants of the property?
Who was the architect/builder?
How has the property changed over time, and how has the house been altered?
Were the original or successive owners and/or occupants noteworthy?
What was the role of the property in the context of the history and development of the neighbourhood and/or the city in which it is located?

Sources for answers
Neighbourhood and community sources
Look at your deed or tax bill
Talk to previous owners, neighbors, and long-time residents
Visit the local library
Talk to your city's historical society
Consult the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committe
Your local archives
Directories, atlases and maps
Assessment rolls
Building permits
Architectural drawings
Pictures and photographs
Land records
Census records

Good luck!

*Heritage Turkeys can be purchased locally from the Pasta Shop on 4th Street in Berkeley, as well as other locations throughout the Bay Area.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

America's Safest Cities


Six cities in the state of California -- more than any other state -- are among the top 25 safest cities in America, according to the 13th annual Safest City Award.

California's "safest" cities are Mission Viejo (#3), Irvine (#7), Thousand Oaks (#11), Lake Forest (#15), Simi Valley (#17), and Chino Hills (#21).

Brick, NJ, was named "America's Safest City."

The Safest City Award is based on a city's rate for six basic crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. All cities with populations of 75,000 or more that reported crime data to the FBI for the six crime categories were included in the rankings. In this year's survey, 371 cities were considered for the award.

So what if Bay Area cities weren't on the top 10? We still have the best restaurants, recreation, and entertainment a city could offer!

Does that drip keep you up at night?

The past decade has proven an increasing demand for water in our homes, industry, and agriculture, resulting in water shortages in many parts of the United States.

In certain parts of Texas homeowners can only water their lawn on Thursday's between 5pm and 10pm.

One can only assume that this upward trend will continue and this, together with the effects of global warming and the climatic uncertainties of the future, increase the need to conserve and carefully manage our water supplies.

Fast facts about the water in your your home:
-Older toilets use 3.7-7 gallons per flush
-Dishwashers use 8-14 gallons per cycle
-Top-loading washing machines use 45 gallons/load
-A dripping faucet wastes 15-21 gallons per day

-US water users withdraw enough water to fill a line of Olympic-size swimming pools reaching around the world EVERY DAY (300 billion gallons)

-Although our planet is 71 percent water, humans depend on a mere .65 percent of the water for survival – much of which is polluted.

-About a quarter of the nation’s largest industrial plants and water treatment facilities are in serious violation of pollution standards at any one time.

-An estimated 7 million Americans are made sick annually by contaminated tap water; in some rare cases this results in death. (Bay Area water is some of the safest in the nation)

How can you help conserve?
EBMUD offers a variety of conservation resources such as landscaping, toilet and washing machine rebates. For more information visit

Please also visit

Monday, November 06, 2006

Payback for remodeling?

"Help! If I remodel my kitchen will I recoup the cost when I sell?"

The “Cost vs. Value Report” is published each year by Remodeling Magazine and gives you a city-by-city guide on what 25 common remodeling projects will pay back at resale in 60 U.S. markets.

The project with the highest resale potential in the Bay Area? Replacing wooden windows, which costs about $13,578 with a resale value of $17,384, a 128% recoup-rate. Next was a minor kitchen remodel, with 126.2% recovered. Nationally, the average percent recouped for windows is 85.3% and 85.2% for the kitchen.

The least resale potential for the Bay Area? Adding a sunroom. Just don't even bother. Perhaps a fogroom would make more sense.

Are you thinking about a remodeling project? Be sure to consider your own needs and desires as well as those of the home’s future inhabitants. “Keeping up with the Joneses can be a savvy investment move,” said Stacey Moncrieff, editor, REALTOR Magazine. “But ultimately, the best reason for a remodel is to enjoy it.”

To view the entire report, contact me. I will be in the kitchen, remodeling.