Monday, September 29, 2008

Real Estate is like the San Francisco 49ers

I love the 49ers. I've been a Niner's girl for a long time. Each week I watch with hope, excitement, and anticipation...anticipation for that almighty touchdown. Of course, most weeks they don't come through.

But look at the history of can be categorized in cycles: some weeks you are up, some you are down. Some seasons you are up, some seasons you are down.

The ultimate goal for football players is to reach the light, the great Oz, the Super Bowl. Each year the niners get better, then they falter. Then they get better. Then they falter. But soon, they will be back at the Super Bowl. (Come now, ye of little faith!) How could they not? They were the first team to win a record 5 Super Bowls.

Housing and economic cycles are also characterized by long periods of ups and downs. Today the dow closed 777 points down. Home resales are down. Average sales prices are down. Foreclosures are up. The Niners stink (did I say that?).

Catch my drift?

The Dow has historical drops every seven years. Most real estate agents suggest you hold your real estate seven years. The Niners? Well, clearly they are overdue.

"What the hell is Krista talking about" you say? Right now the future appears dismal for many homeowners and Niner's fans alike. Fear, concern and doubt plague most who read the headlines. Just like I have hope for the Niners, I have hope for Bay Area real estate. My advice to you is to hold on tight. Afraid? Stop reading the headlines and start talking to professionals. In trouble? Keep fighting.
The good news? The Niner's can't get much worse.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grand Opening of Five Fields Sports Complex @ Gilman

Five years ago five cities came together to address the challenge of a shortage of sports fields in the region. The cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville came up with this: Develop a regional sports complex at the intersection of I-80 and Gilman Street in northwest Berkeley.

Earlier this month the leaders and politicians of each of these five cities cut the ribbon at the new $7 million sports complex.

Officially named the Tom Bates Regional Sports Facility, the complex includes conservation features and will include two lighted synthetic fields, built to accommodate soccer, rugby, and lacrosse and three non-lighted grass fields that can be used for baseball.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ode to the stock market cloud

The stock market went bonkers today.

I hope you aren't flipping assets.

How does someone who is looking to buy or sell a house decipher what is happening on Wall Street? How will all of this turmoil affect them? Sure, it could, and probably will, mean lower interest rates, but any benefit on the housing market could be shadowed by higher unemployment and a lengthy recession if the credit crisis continues to shake down the economy.

Although the short-term consequences of an unstable stock market are real and uncomfortable, it is time to stop focusing on external noise and start focusing on what counts. I know, it sounds easy. But if Google can launch in a down market, then it is time to put on your boots and start kicking.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bailout of Freddie Mae & Mac

Rates dropped today about a quarter point, and are the lowest we have seen in 4 months. But just because money is cheaper, it still isn't easy to get a loan.

This article best articulates what all of this means:

Struggling homeowners worry about credit score

Aye aye aye. It's a sign of the times. Over the last year and a half, the mortgage market has undergone more changes than in any comparable period since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The current housing market malaise has some homeowners up in arms. With the threat of losing their house on their shoulders, the idea of burning their credit is unnerving.

Just how do Morgage Lates, Short Sales, Foreclosures and Bankruptcies affect your credit?

Vince Wirthman of 1st Western Home Loans in Berkeley gave me the following information:

Mortgage Late Payments:
1. Credit score can drop 100 - 180 points.
2. Other credit interest rates could be affected (credit cards, equity lines).
3. No new mortgage for 12 - 24 months, depending on the circumstances.

Short Sale (Preforeclosure sale):
1. Credit score can drop 180 - 250 points.
2. Other credit interest rates could be affected.
3. No new mortgage for a minimum of 2 years, depending on the circumstances.

1. Credit score can drop 180 - 250 points.
2. Other credit interest rates could be affected.
3. No new mortgage for 3 - 7 years, depending on the circumstances.
4. Will need a minimum of 680 credit score and 10% down on next purchase.

1. Credit score can drop 200 - 300 points.
2. Other credit interest rates could be affected.
3. No new mortgage for 2 - 4 years, depending on the circumstances and type of bankruptcy.

Vince can be reached at (510) 527-2840.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Are you being greenwashed?

Everywhere you turn, it's green this, green that. I feel like my skin is turning green! But just how green are the products you are using?

I recently met with Becky Hatt, an Interior Designer with HAUS, an interior design and architecture firm which specializes in green building. "Companies are starting to capitalize on all of the hype surrounding the green movement," said Becky, "just how green are some of the products these companies are producing and what are their environmental practices? Perhaps the material is green, but was child labor used to manufacture it?"

"Bamboo, which is probably the most popular green material on the market, is readily available and is completely renewable. Just be sure the manufacturer didn't chop down another forest to grow their bamboo."

The industry has coined this "greenwashing."

When I sat down with Becky, she showed me some of the newest green options available in flooring, many of which are completely affordable. You can hear what Becky had to say by clicking below:

Becky has these tips on how you can avoid becoming greenwashed:

1. Look for wood floors with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certification.

2. Bamboo is not the only solution: there is an amazing array of wood materials from sustainable sources.

3. Working with a professional who can really assess your needs, whether it is a designer or one of the great local environmental building centers, can help you achieve a great, sustainable solution.

You can reach Becky at:

Becky Hatt
architecture + interiors

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A call you will have to make

You have the keys to your new house. The power is turned on, everything is moved in. Still haven't turned on your phone? Perhaps you shouldn't...

I don't think it will be long before landlines become a part of the landfills.

Today, 14% of American adults are using their cell phone as their primary phone line, no landline required. And with the onset of VOIP, voice over internet, routing calls over the internet couldn't be easier. In fact, 1:7 adults use VOIP as their primary landline supplement or replacement.

Vonage, AT&T, and Verizon all have plans available at around $25/mo, and TMobile has even introduced their version of VOIP for around $10/mo, but only if you are a subscriber.

So the pricing is reasonable, but what are the cons?

Well, as you know, cell phone reception in many parts of the East Bay is...well...non-existent. I can't tell you how many times I am on the 80 fwy @ Gilman, and for a split second, my phone cuts out. Thanks, AT&T.

VOIP requires electricity; if the power goes out, you have no phone service. In addition, it also requires a broadband connection. If your connection isn't great, then neither will the clarity of your calls.

I have VOIP at my house. It is pretty cool, but if I haven't retrieved the messages on my VM, then I can't fax. This is annoying when you are running a business from home. On the flip side, not only can I access these same messages remotely, but I receive an email when there is a message. Love it!

So before killing your landline, check cell phone reception in your 'hood and investigate your broadband. Is it worth the change? That is a call you will have to make.