OCTOBER 2014

My beloved step-mother, Lillian, says that you should never walk around barefooted. I will try to remember that.

As you may recall, I spent three weeks in August walking around Manhattan, wearing shoes of course, logging in between 12,000 and 17,000 steps a day. I love to walk and Manhattan is a great place to do that. I was in all my element. I enjoyed great weather, great walking and hanging out with wonderful friends and family. What I haven't told you until this very minute, is that on the very last hour of the very last day of my vacation, as I was preparing to get up from the couch, grab my carry-on and roll it the mile or so up to Penn Station, I bumped and seriously damaged, or maybe broke, the fourth toe on my left foot. I guess that you would call it my ring toe. I laughed because crying would have ruined my eye makeup and more importantly my mood, which had been excellent for the entire time I was there.

Without missing a beat, I gathered my things and caught a cab to Newark Airport. I was very sad that I couldn’t to say good-bye to the Manhattan skyline I love so much by once again using “The Highline” as my highway. At the airport I quickly changed my flight to get on an earlier one. No point sitting around in pain for a few extra hours. Failing to snag a wheelchair, I hobbled to the gate explaining to anyone who I would listen that I had just broken my toe. The sympathy and stories were almost worth the break. Once on the plane I had three seats to myself, yes, three actual seats The ability to put my foot up along with a bag of ice supplied by a sympathetic flight attendant and of course a Xanax made my trip fly by.

I have never been much of a flip-flopper. Fortunately, with the encouragement of my client, now friend, Thomas, I had recently bought a pair and had actually been practicing walking in them.

September was an exciting month with Eva's third birthday, the presentation and then sale of 827 Indian Rock and a couple of dinner parties at my house all with me hobbling in pain, and then not so much, in flip flops.

But wait, I want to tell you one more thing. You know how once you bite your lip or the inside of your mouth you are destined to do it over and over again. I am sure you have all noted how odd and annoying that is. I suspect that you know what happened next. But I will tell you anyway, just in case.

Last Friday morning just as I finished telling my Pilates teacher how happy I was that that my toe had healed and I could get back into my walking sandals and begin feeding my pedometer masses of steps each day, I bumped my littlest toe the one next to my ring toe, on a piece of furniture that should not have been where it was. I don’t know if it is broken. It doesn’t matter. I know the drill.

I am quite convinced of two things: I will survive and that I am likely to bump it again soon. Such is life. Now laugh!

Come and see my toes and more importantly, my splendid new listing at 927 Ramona in Albany. It is a terrific two bedroom home with an office, and an enclosed sunroom (think TV, computer or play room) a divine remodeled kitchen and bath, and a super, lush green yard with a sprinkler system, a long driveway for off street parking and garage and workshop whose future use will be known only to the buyer. It is listed at $799,000 and I will be there for the next two Sundays from 2-4:30.

 

 

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The Internet's Dirty Scores
 
 

The Internet has completely changed real estate. Information about cities, neighborhoods and homes has created a fire hose of data. There’s almost too much information to make sense of.

To help solve this problem, several services offer “scores,” like Walk Score for location and GreatSchools for schools.  It’s not a new concept - FICO has been with us since 1958 - but the scope has grown widely.

However, some scores are less reliable than they might seem. For example, take Zillow’s Zestimate. How accurate is it? According to a recent Washington Post article, “Our research shows that, on average, those Zestimates are within 5% of the actual value of a home just half of the time.”

And the San Francisco region is even worse. Zillow publishes this information right on their site. As of late August, San Francisco region Zestimates are within 5% of the sale price just 21.5% of the time. On median there is a 10.8% error. Zillow gives itself 2 out of 4 stars for accuracy.

Low scores based on unreliable data are nothing but dirt.

Now Revaluate is going beyond the Zestimate to create an overall livability score with sub-scores for safety, environment, cost of living and a “Quality of Life Summary.” How accurate is it? Teke Wiggin writing for Inman News was surprised to find that an apartment that he liked living in has a score of 41. The property is “…below the livability threshold and has serious alert issues. Proceed with caution and investigate all alerts thoroughly.”

Our appetite for information is universal and unquenchable. But are we getting the facts we need, or is there too much junk food data processed with too many secret ingredients? Will the day come when we can order up our next home by entering beds, baths, maximum Zestimate and minimum Revaluation score? Certainly this information can inform your investigation. But how would you feel if an unreliable algorithm determined that your house is unlivable and worth half its value?

Until the day that real estate truly become plug and play, consider us as your authoritative and local experts on market values. What do you need to dig up? Send an email for help.



Market Update: September
 

In August, as the summer winds down, buyer and seller activity tends to slow. Thus, it is expected that the number of closed transactions in September drops as well. This year, sales activity was flat versus last year. This was partially driven by a decrease in affordability. In fact, prices increased again in September, up 7%, but these increases are slowing. With more properties on the market and fewer transactions, properties are closing closer to list price, at 5.8% above list. As we make our way through the fall selling season, we expect numbers in October to reflect stronger activity.



Mortgage Update

Due to enormous slack in the labor sector, there is little threat of inflation. As a result, the Fed will likely refrain from tightening their benchmark short-term interest rates anytime soon. That's good news for the prospects of relatively steady, to perhaps fractionally lower, mortgage interest rates.

U.S. treasuries are still in favor as a safe haven for global investors, a positive factor for continued low interest rates. New rules approved September 3rd by the Fed and other regulatory agencies requiring U.S. banks to meet new liquidity standards by January will lend buying support to these treasury auctions as well.

Rate watchers are still focused on the stock market. Higher stock prices will tend to push mortgage rates higher while weaker stock prices will probably prove supportive of the prospects for steady to fractionally lower mortgage interest rates. If stocks sell off from current record highs, we will likely see a trend towards lower rates through the fall.

COMMERCE | MORTGAGEIf you have any questions about getting preapproved for a purchase loan or about refinancing, please contact Faramarz Moeen-Ziai at Commerce | Mortgage - fmz@bocm.com | 510-250-8725




4 Steps to Prepare for Fall
 
Image Courtesy of Cody 
 

Fall is here. It's time for fireplaces, smoky air, maybe the switch to pinot noir and yes, a little pre-winter home maintenance. Here are some simple tips to keep things under control.

  1. Walk the line! Just walk a lap around your house looking for any open or damaged vents. This will help keep unwanted (and potentially costly) critters from entering your home’s crawl spaces. 
  2. Switch to filters. Changing your furnace filters can reduce fire danger, capture more allergens and allow your furnace to operate more efficiently. Most filters are available at your local hardware store for under $20. Just pull out your existing filter to get the model number.
  3. Raid your refrigerator. Vacuuming off dirty refrigerator coils helps to reduce fire danger and can significantly improve the efficiency of the appliance.
  4. Remember that volcano science project? Pour a half-cup of baking soda and a half-cup of white vinegar down your drain. Wait 10 minutes and follow it up with boiling water. It's an eco-friendly way to prevent calls to your plumber, as well as awkward party moments.

And that's it, just 4 simple tasks that will save you money - and hopefully allow more time for the fireplace and pinot.




Our Green Remodel in Berkeley
 
 Image Courtesy of Whistle Photography
 

Red Oak Realty recently spent six months completely remodeling its office in Berkeley. As we are a green-certified company, we wanted to be sure the work was as environmentally conscious as possible. We used locally sourced and recycled materials, including the floor. We also put forth great effort toward maximizing electrical efficiencies wherever possible: nearly all lighting is low-wattage LEDs, and the entire space is compliant with the new Title 24 energy standards.

Please explore the space in our interactive brochure, and peruse the photos on Flickr. Better yet, stop by for a visit! The office is located at 1891 Solano in Berkeley.




Restaurant Review: Townie
 
Image Courtesy of Berkeleyside 
 

Berkeley has a cool new restaurant/bar to try. It’s Townie, located in the old Caffe Venezia space on University. The food has some serious cred: Chef Dana Ryan worked at State Bird Provisions and RN74 in San Francisco, as well as Gather in Berkeley. You’ll find friendly dishes with a twist, like a grilled Caesar salad and a pork belly banh mi. The drinks are worth the trip alone. Crafted by head bartender (and Hotsy Totsy alumna) Diana Krell, consider the Fleur De Lis with gin, orange bitters, lime, cucumber and Prosecco. Wrap it all up in a smartly designed dining room with brick and raw wood and you’ve got a new dining destination in Berkeley. Townie; 1799 University; 510.356.4903, open 4pm-12am Tue-Sun.




? Red Oak Realty 2014






BARBARA HENDRICKSON
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1891 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707
6450 Moraga Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
www.redokrealty.com