OAK NOTES from Grace Bishop
Feb 2019


For many homeowners, a complete kitchen remodel is outside the budget. However, there are many cost-effective and worthwhile upgrades that can be done without breaking the bank. 

If you can afford to hire a professional to do the work, we highly recommend it. However, we also know that many of you are extremely talented and resourceful when it comes to home-based projects. Below are just a few ideas to consider if you’re thinking about making changes to your kitchen with a limited budget.

Consider brightening up your kitchen cabinets, especially if they are dark and worn. Lighter colors make a room look bigger and brighter. Often a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference. Just make sure you prep completely. Proper prep work is just as important as the paint job itself. A thorough cleaning with trisodium phosphate (TSP) will remove a good amount of grease and grime, which allows the finish to adhere well.

Before painting, consider adding crown or panel molding to your cabinets for an upgraded look and feel. It’s not as difficult as one might think. Once you get a feel for a miter saw (rentable from most larger rental yards, Berkeley residents might check the Tool Lending Library), you might find yourself adding molding to your bathrooms and more. 
Depending on the look you’re going for, replacing a few cabinet doors with glass-paned alternatives can also dress your kitchen up. Replacing cabinet knobs and drawer pulls is another inexpensive and easy refresh. Guests might think you’ve put in brand new cabinetry once you’re done!

Kitchen countertops tend to take a lot of abuse and often need replacing or a refresh. It’s easy to get creative with low cost and do-it-yourself options, some of which we’ll share with you.

If your current countertop is laminate, you can update it without having to remove the existing counters. Consider painting or resurfacing (granite-look countertop paint might be an option). Even chalkboard paint with a clear protective finish can be made to look like stone. Just make sure you sand and prep properly. There are plenty of online guides to help walk you through the process. We’ve also seen some pretty cool wall sticker tiles that could also work if applied skillfully. Make sure you seal everything with a clear protective top coat to waterproof and maintain durability. 

Another new trend for do-it-yourselfers is concrete, which can be applied on top of existing counters. Both affordable and durable, this option requires some prep and maintenance (sealing and waxing), but once in place it can update the whole look and feel of your kitchen. Other current trends include using pennies, pebbles, stones, and glass - just about anything that can be placed inside a frame and covered with epoxy.

Using repurposed wood, sanding down an existing wood countertop and applying a new stain or finish might be the option that works best for you. It’s also possible to install new tile by adhering it to a board and screwing it to your existing countertop. Quartz might also be an option, but you'd have to hire someone to install it. Adding a backsplash also affords a more finished look.

Since the kitchen is an active workspace, floors tend to take a beating. It’s important to consider the ease of ongoing care and maintenance. Porous materials require well-maintained sealing to minimize stains, hardwood is susceptible to water damage and some stone flooring may chip easily. 

Consider performing any deferred maintenance on your kitchen flooring, it will pay out in the long run. If you’re looking for a completely new option, it doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor. Wood is often a preferred choice because of its resilience, warmth and softness, but there are plenty of other less expensive laminate options which offer elasticity as well. Be sure to consider the cost of the material and balance that with the ease and efficiency of installation. Some flooring can be laid over your existing floors, saving the cost of removal (this is more often true if the original material is concrete or vinyl).

For another affordable option, consider painting your floor. Surprisingly some tile and older, worn wood flooring can be beautifully refurbished with a proper paint job. Once again, preparation is key, so are paint and sealant choices.Take the time to do the research, then execute the project carefully and you can transform that old, ugly tile or worn wood into something serviceable, attractive and on trend.

Perhaps not the least expensive upgrade option, but if you’re considering adding value in the eye of a home buyer, the quality of appliances should be a consideration. Talk to us to find out what buyers are currently looking for. Does it have to be stainless? Do Sub-Zero refrigerators still evoke oohs and aahs? Or can you just replace a tired old fridge with something mid-range and see a better return on your investment? There are many factors at play, be sure to consult with us before you replace your appliances if you plan to market your home soon. 

You will need a licensed electrician to make these upgrades. Installing pendants or a new statement fixture can make a space feel more welcoming and luxurious. Brightening up a kitchen area can be done by installing recessed or track lighting. Under cabinet lights are effective for illuminating the workspace. Work with your kitchen layout and plan for lighting options that will brighten the space, and make it feel spacious and more inviting.

A fresh coat of paint can work wonders! If you have plans to sell your home in the near future, it’s important to know which colors are currently fashionable among buyers. Consult with us to make sure that the choices you make add value and cachet to your home. Everyone loves a bright, cheerful kitchen, it’s the heart of the home, after all. We’d love to help you create an efficient culinary workspace where folks like to gather, socialize and enjoy each other. With so many possibilities, a kitchen refresh could be a realistic and rewarding project to undertake.


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Few homes tend to sell in January; it is one of the least active months of the year. As a result, we should be careful to draw too many conclusions regarding the overall health and pace of the market with so little data. That said, the number of homes that sold in January was about flat compared to last year - only a 1% decline. Prices increased slightly by 3% to a median of $715,000. However, the percent difference in list price versus sales price has been declining for several months, possibly due to lower buyer demand and a wave of inventory that hit the market in the latter half of 2018. Whatever the cause, homes sold an average of just 2% over list, falling by 5.2 percentage points compared to last year. 
Based upon historical trends, we expect few properties to change hands in February. We will need to wait until March and April in order to get a true sense of the market’s pace. We suggest that you continue to watch these metrics closely as they will be an important tool in a shifting market.


The stock and bond markets have both realized modest gains lately with the main driver of investor sentiment appearing to be news centering on the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Expectations for a deal with China before a March 1 trade deadline were diminished after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow stated trade negotiators had "miles to go before we sleep." Kudlow was not only paraphrasing poet Robert Frost, but also Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross who had commented earlier in late January about being "miles and miles" from an agreement. 

In housing, CoreLogic released their Home Price Index (HPI) and HPI Forecast for December 2018 this past Tuesday showing home prices increased year-over-year by 4.7%, the slowest price growth rate since August 2012. Month-over-month, home prices increased by 0.1%. After gazing into a crystal ball, the CoreLogic HPI Forecast predicts home prices will increase by 4.6% on a year-over-year basis from December 2018 to December 2019. The net-net of this news has been to continue to keep the FED in check as rates have stayed at lower levels than they were in late 2018. It’s still a great time to refinance a mortgage that was originated in 2018 as you can probably do it at zero cost. To find out about your eligibility for a no-cost refinance, please contact Faramarz Moeen-Ziai at Commerce Home Mortgage – fmz@commercemtg.com / 510.542.2061 


February's page features a panorama of Oakland shot from above the Temescal district. Temescal is a vibrant neighborhood leading the Oakland renaissance, full of innovative and diverse people who are creating small independent, thoughtfully-curated shops, restaurants and services. Emerging arts and culture in the community are celebrated throughout the year, evidenced by the multiple murals, decorated utility boxes, the mosaiced trash receptacles, beloved Temescal Art Center, weekly farmers’ market and the popular annual Temescal Street Fair.
This image is one of 12 featured in Red Oak Realty’s 2019 "The East Bay From Above” calendar. We’ll include more about each month’s aerial photograph throughout the year. Call or email for a complimentary copy of the 2019 calendar.

It happened one Friday, the hunger pains of lunch begged the question of what's good to eat? Located just next door to Red Oak's Oakland office, the rumbling rumors of delicious sandwiches led me to the 5/4 Quarter Charcuterie in Montclair. This modest, clean small location features a butcher-style meat case with housemade sausages, various meats and a relatively limited sandwich board. Hearing that there was a spot in Montclair Village that rivals a popular Temescal location for a fried chicken sandwich, an order was placed enthusiastically. This simple sandwich on an uber fresh, soft Acme roll, flavorful chicken and a crunchy slaw was ready within 5-10 minutes with no line! The staff was incredibly friendly and the owner stopped to introduce himself. The French fries are sinful, they taste like the double-fried variety that one would enjoy on a European vacation. Tip: pay the few dollars extra to upgrade your sandwich so that it comes with the fries. If you like sausage, try the Toulouse, it has a nice flavor and is as delicious as the protein in a little gem salad with watermelon radishes. Highly recommended - support this small local business that offers upgraded, delicious hot sandwiches with super fresh ingredients. 
The Fifth Quarter Charcuterie is located at 6464 Moraga Avenue in Oakland. (510) 452-2887. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 6:00pm and Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Closed on Mondays.

Grace Bishop
Realtor | #01245471