Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something to be thankful for

Have you heard that the holidays are upon us? Chances are you have. Thursday is Thanksgiving and here in the Bay Area, despite falling home prices and falling leaves, the weather is still warm. At 9am this morning my daughter and I left for our daily walk to her daycare wearing only light jackets. Later that morning my sister called to tell me that it was snowing in Boise, where she lives-the first snowfall of the year. I listened with envy, wishing I was also dancing in the snow.

Thanksgiving in my family is very small, just my husband, my daughter, and me. Years ago my husband and I decided that Thanksgiving would be about us. Sometimes family can be...well...a little much so each year we leave our home and leave our family and head to the mountains. South Lake Tahoe is our destination and each year we stay at the same little hotel a few blocks from Heavenly. Some years there is snow, some years there isn't. Some years we ski, some years we hike. But what is consistent is the dinner. Every year our Thanksgiving feast is at LewMarNels, a lovely restaurant near the water. The staff never changes, and neither does the food. But this is what we like about it. They offer a 5 course meal complete with fondue, soup, salad, choice of entree, and dessert. Each year we fill up our stomachs so much that it hurts to laugh.

This tradition is one that we look forward to every year. Not only does this form of family community remind us how lucky we are to have each other, but how thankful we are.

Despite these economic times, I know there is something that we can all be thankful for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Berkeley bungalow cute as a button

Broker's Tour today didn't produce much. Inventory is down, WAY down. Perhaps people are wanting a place to live to cook their turkey's. I don't blame them!

But I did see something worth mentioning: 2705 Mathews in West Berkeley. This 1 bedroom Craftsman bungalow is located on a wonderful tree-lined street in Berkeley's Left Bank. It has been remodeled with nice touches, has a sweet back yard, and original charm and details. Close to shopping, restaurants, and the new West Berkeley Bowl (, I think this great condo-alternative is priced close to where it should be, $439,000.

Hooray! A new Berkeley Bowl is on its way!

Berkeley Bowl is back in the news. Not because John G. was banned, and not because nuts are flying off of the shelves, but because Berkeley Bowl Marketplace has just given birth, well, almost.

This second store, expected to open early 2009 will be a full-service, one-of-a-kind, green, environmentally friendly, and sustainable marketplace at the corner of 9th Street and Heinz Avenue in the mixed-use neighborhood of West Berkeley. The Project includes construction of two buildings: (i) a grocery marketplace with retail, administrative offices, and associated storage space over an underground parking garage, and (ii) a prepared food service area with limited seating and a community room.

(information provided via

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Conforming Loan Limits set for 2009

Word on the street is that the new loan limits have arrived for 2009! (I know you just can't contain yourselves!)

For Alameda and Contra Costa Counties:

1 unit-$625,500
2 units-$800,775
3 units-$967,950
4 units-$1,202,925

Now go buy a house!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hello Berkeley: Are sellers giving up?

Today is Thursday. Each Thursday, fellow agents and I shuffle into our cars and drive around Berkeley, Kensington, Albany, El Cerrito, Emeryville and Oakland to check out all of the new listings. Today we saw 9 houses. That is down by 50%. To entice agents to view a house, most will provide food and tasty treats; one house offered a new Prius to the agent who brought an offer.

Are people afraid to sell? I can't really tell you how many people are out there who may be afraid to sell, but what I can tell you is that the numbers are down.

I did a little research and found that in these surrounding East Bay areas that there are currently 1916 active listings (1678 of which are in Oakland alone).

Since the beginning of the year some interesting things have happened:

Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington and Emeryville: Year-to-Date

Active: 252
Expired: 294
Price Change: 23
Pending: 108
Sold: 812
Withdrawn: 242

Now let's add in Oakland: Year-to-Date

Active: 1664
Expired: 2281
Price Change: 107
Sold: 2139
Withdrawn: 1925

Its safe to say that nearly 40% of our listings were expired or cancelled and only 28% have sold. So of course sellers are nervous; only those who really need to sell are looking to put their house on the market.

Sure, we still have multiple offers: in fact, one house in the Claremont Hills just had 20 offers. Sellers, don't be afraid! That is at least 19 other buyers immediately available in the Claremont Hills.

(data courtesy of EBRDI MLS)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mountain House, the highest underwater town

Highest underwater town? Huh?

Mountain House, California. Mountain House is located about 60 miles east of San Francisco. It is a master planned community designed to promote community, family and lifestyle. But there is something of real interest here: despite being 59 feet above sea level, most of the community is underwater.

It is here where the average homeowner is $122,000 underwater; some homeowners are underwater as much as a half million dollars. It is here where 90% of homeowners owe more than their house is worth, making this the highest percentage in the country. It is here where new homes are still being built and sold.

What? New homes are still being built AND sold? Houses here start at $200,000 and go up to $600,000.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Albany/Berkeley: Restaurant on Solano Ave., with outdoor seating!

Great things are happening on Solano Avenue. Despite these trying economic times, there are some businesses that are managing to hang on, and others that have decided to brave the rapids.

Rendez-Vous Cafe Bistro touts itself as "delicious affordable french cuisine." Affordable indeed. It hasn't been opened long, but I have driven by several times at night and the place is packed.
Here is the COOL part...there is outside seating! WHAT??? you say? Yes, you heard me. This is a rarity on Solano Ave.- only a couple of places have outdoor seating.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fabulous homes on tour today, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito

Not much on tour today, but I did come across some very sweet treats.

1022 Evelyn, Albany

Originally listed for $599,500, this house has a SUPER new price, $535,000. 2beds, 1bath, beautiful hardwood floors. Albany schools, walk to Solano. I don't think it will last at this price.

7302 Gladys, El Cerrito

This super cute, 3bed home is fully updated with bay views and a master suite with bath. I think the agent mentioned that it will be open this weekend, with offers on the following Tuesday. This house is a really great value, and in a great neighborhood. $519,000

415 Santa Fe, Kensington

This charming 2bed house is located near Kensignton Circle, where El Cerrito, Albany, Kensington and Berkeley meet. Walk to Kensington Pub, Semifreddis, Trader Joes and BART. $599,000. No pictures are available at this time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Move over Joe the Plumber- Starbucks has a better Joe

Starbucks Offers Free Coffee to Voters on Election Day

Move over Joe-the-Plumber. This election just got a better Joe.

What if we all cared enough to vote? Not just 54% of us, but 100% of us? What if we cared as much on Nov. 5th as we care on Nov. 4th? What if we cared all of the time the way we do some of the time?

Would our world be a better place?

Starbucks thinks so.

So come into Starbucks on Nov. 4th, tell them you voted, and they will proudly give you a tall cup of brewed coffee. Free. No questions asked.You and Starbucks. It's bigger than coffee.
Please do your part and VOTE...if not for the coffee, then do it because you care.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Berkeley Burglars Kicking in Doors in the Hills


Berkeley, California (Friday, October 24, 2008) - City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Property Crimes detectives are alerting the community about a series of daytime burglaries that have been plaguing the North Berkeley Hills in the past two months.

I have clients and friends in the hills. They know people who's homes have been burglarized. They are scared themselves.

Gone are the days of leaving our doors unlocked during the day. Gone are the days of leaving windows open while you head out to run a few errands. Gone are the days of feeling completely and utterly safe in your home.

The burglar or burglars have been focusing on homes during daytime hours and making off with laptops, electronic equipment, jewelry and bikes. The suspect or suspects have been primarily kicking doors in order to get into the houses, however not exclusively.

According to the Berkeley Police Department, most burglaries are "crimes of opportunity." But kicking in a door does not signify a crime of opportunity. Here are some things that you can do to try and prevent a burglary from occuring in your home:

1) Keep your doors locked and windows shut at all times
2) Track down who has keys to your house and closely monitor who you give them to
3) Install an alarm system
4) Start a neighborhood watch (we just did this in my neighborhood)
5) Keep all entrances well lit
6) Ask to see ID of all utility workers
7) Do not open your door to solicitors, unless they have a permit from the city
8) Insure any items of value
9) Inform neighbors if you will be out of town
10)Report any suspicious activity to your local police department

BPD is asking for the community’s help with stopping this series. Community members in Berkeley are urged to call BPD at 981-5900 if they note suspicious people or activity in their neighborhood. (Non-emergency dispatch line)

For Crimes in Progress please call 911 or (510) 981-5911 from your cell phone.

BPD is a partner of Bay Area Crime Stoppers. (BACS) BACS offers up to $2,000 cash in reward money to those who offer information that detectives determine is helpful to any felony investigation. Anyone with information can call 1-800-222-TIPS. All Bay Area Crime Stoppers calls are completely confidential.

How safe do you feel neighborhood?