Berkeley, CA Real Estate News

By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Time to look at the Greening of America once again from a real estate point of view. I get the sense that a lot of people really want to get started on making their homes and lives MORE green, but don't know how to move beyond basic recycling and/or using public transportation. So, time for a crash course on where you can look for guidance to jump-start the greening of your home and life. You'll be making the world a better place, and quite possibly saving yourself some money in the long run.First, the City of Berkeley provides an up-to-date list of companies that provide green and energy consulting. Peruse this list to see all of the options that are out there, such as green home interior design products from EcoHome Improvement and green building specialists Build It Green. Visit the ...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Granite countertops have been all the rage in real estate and interior design the last few years. You would recognize its speckled brown look, and granite is a terrific material for countertops, but there are many types of stone available for use as countertops.Countertops have become one of the first details that homebuyers look for when selecting a new home. If you are considering new countertops for your home--either for your own use and enjoyment or for prepping your home for sale--I would recommend looking at the many varieties of granite and stone available. The old fashioned tile and grout countertops just won't cut it in today's market (and that grout was always so hard to clean!).The appeal of granite is its diverse array of colors and patterns and the durability and strength. ...
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By Lisa Cartolano
(Alain Pinel Realtors)
Recently I was asked about condo conversions in Berkeley, CA and here is some information that may prove to be helpful.The question that was posed to me is if a friend and I purchase a duplex together can we convert it to condos so we can have single ownership of our half?In Berkeley there is a Condo Conversion Ordinance (CCO) that limits the number of condo conversions because by changing the nature of the real estate commodity to a separately owned condo it removes available rental units in the marketplace.This information from the City of Berkeley Plannind Deparment website outlines how the City regulates condo conversion in Berkeley:Subdivision of rental housing is subject to specific conditions.Controlling the rate at which the number of new condominium units may enter the housing ...
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By Keith Rockmael
(Intero Real Estate Services)
It wasn’t exactly the Oscars or even the mostly defunct Bammies but the solarati rolled down the green carpet for the First Annual City Solar Awards to pick up their awards (not sure what they are called) for Bay Area cities with the largest number of Solar Homes and Businesses. Before the festivities, the crowd dined on veggie hors d'œuvres and solar powered wine (but alas no organic beer) and pulled Green from their pockets to bid on silent auction sustainable items like a solar water pump and Solio solar cell phone and Ipod charger. The ceremonies, minus the paparazzi (except us taking shots), concluded in snappy un-Oscar like fashion with various local municipalities garnering their awards. Sebastopol snagged the small city award for total number of solar systems (326) which way im...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
 Two weeks from tonight, I will be handing out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. So, it is time to start getting ready for Halloween. See, we don't have to talk real estate 24 hours a day! I thought I'd share some pumpkin carving tips and ideas, and direct you to the terrific website--Extreme Pumpkins!First you have to get your pumpkins, of course. Think about the design you want to do, then spend some time finding appropriately shaped pumpkins. Or, consider some other gourds. Or maybe even...a watermelon?!?You are going to need a blade to do the carving with, and your blade should be thin, strong and flexible. A big kitchen knife is not usually your best option, and neither are the cheapo carving kits at the supermarket. Try a boning knife, or a handheld jigsaw if you have it....
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Did you know that Berkeley has designated over 300 buildings as architecturally important? That is a lot! I wanted to make a smaller list of some my favorites--some that are on the list and some that may be there someday.The Fish House--This elaborate Victorian was built in 1889 and is covered in shingles that resemble fish scales. A real beauty! Picture courtesy of Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).The Elmwood Pharmacy--A great old fashioned five & dime with a soda counter. A step back in time on the north end of Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood.The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts--It used to be St. John's Presbyterian, but know it is a great local stage. The photo is how it used to look (courtesy of BAHA).The Bancroft Hotel--This used to be the College Women's Club fo...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Throughout the mortgage industry mess of the last few months, I've been wondering what former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has to say about all this.  For years and years, through Clinton and Bush, his word had been gold.  But I couldn't help thinking that some of the policies he put into place led to the current situation--of lenders giving to people who weren't qualified and consumers accepting loans they couldn't handle or couldn't understand.Well, Greenspan weighs in today as part of an interview that will be airing on 60 Minutes this Sunday night.The Associated Press reports...."Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledges he failed to see early on that an explosion of mortgages to people with questionable credit histories could pose a danger to the economy.In an upco...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
 Berkeley's RECO GuidelinesAs we all know, Berkeley is always ahead of the curve on many socio-political trends, especially on environmental issues. So, if you are selling a home in Berkeley, make sure you are in compliance with the City of Berkeley's RECO guidelines.RECO stands for Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance, and the guidelines apply to all homes and apartment buildings being sold or transferred. It is the seller's responsibility to get the property in compliance and provide proof to the city. For the full rundown on Berkeley's RECO requirements, please visit the RECO website.The compliance guidelines are fairly reasonable and will save money for the occupants in the long run. The requirements include such items as installing CFL lightbulbs, enhanced insulation, weathers...
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By Brett Weinstein
(Realty Advocates)
Oscar Myer Weiner Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Myer weiner, that is what I truly want to be, ee, ee, oh, if I was an Oscar Myer weiner, then everyone would be in love with me.   Are you old enough to remember the advertising jingle “I wish I was an Oscar Myer weiner”? This comes to mind when thinking about putting a house on the market right now, the first week following the Labor Day weekend. This is the traditional start of the Fall real estate season, when the market wakes up after its two month (July and August) holiday. But there is a big cloud hanging over the market, in the form of low consumer confidence and the still-lingering effects of the sub-prime mortgage collapse. Many neighborhoods have experienced near-zero sales in July and August, so the backlog of unsold houses will jo...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
You might be wondering if you need to stage your house to help sell it. I can tell you right now that you do indeed need to stage your house. You might be thinking, "Hey, she hasn't even seen my lovely home. What does she know?" I know that you need to stage it. Let me tell you why.You are trying to sell your house, not your home.While I am sure your home is lovely, but it is your home and it is full of your personal taste, furniture, and memories. To sell your house, you need to present it as a showplace, cleared of its past and ready for the future--ready for new ideas and new adventures.Buyers want to see a house that is light, airy and open--a blank slate for them to envision their futures. They want to see new furniture, new designs, and they want to see as much o...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
The Return of the Loan Contingency?In the East Bay's go-go-market of the last few years, loan approvals happened without a second thought. And, since buyers have to be competitive in that market climate, they often dropped the loan contingency from their offers.  Well, now we know the credit market is tightening up--especially with American Home Mortgage and others like them closing their doors--and loans won't be so easy to come by. I think this means we'll start seeing the return of the loan contingency here in the East Bay. Buyers are going to have to cover themselves, as in the past, when it comes to getting their loans funded. Firms like AHM stopped funding new loans last week, and then closed their doors. What happened to buyers who were ready to close escrow last week, but their ...
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By Mary Smartt, Smartt Moves with Mary Smartt
(Lawton Associates / www.LawtonAssociates.com)
Alrighty, enough talk about real estate....time to take a break and have some fun this weekend! The East Bay always has so much to do that it can be hard to decide! Here are some of my picks for fun in the East Bay this weekend:The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival makes its annual trek to Berkeley for a week of screenings at the Berkeley Rep. Highlights include the magical drama AVIVA MY LOVE and the romantic comedy GORGEOUS! Lyle Lovett and His Large Band take the stage with kd lang at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord. What a great combo!Get some exercise and remember Oakland's historic "work holiday"--a citywide general strike that led to over 100,000 workers walking out on their jobs in 1946--the last general strike in US history. The walk starts in Downtown Oakland at Broadway ...
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By Mike Mueller
(Tech and Social Media Consultant)
Today we're teaching a beginning blog class to the wonderful agents of Keller Williams in Berkeley, CAWe're at 1288 9th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710This is beginning blogging.  A beginners guide or introduction to blogging.Today we'll learn How to post on ActiveRain, How to post on Blogger,Other blogging platforms,How to format, How to add a picture, How to publish.Oh, and we're learning how to create links and how those links work.Please welcome these new bloggers, they've taken the time and the initiative to learn the power of blogging to better serve their clients.
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By Andy Kaufman, East Bay Sales & Investments
(Better Homes & Gardens Mason McDuffie Real Estate)
The city of Berkeley got a nice financial boost late last month when local developer Patrick Kennedy sold 7 of his mixed use apartment buildings in the city.  Mayor Tom Bates said that the transfer tax will probably make up the entire $2 million budget deficit that the city was facing.   Kennedy has been known to purposely place his buildings near BART stations and major AC transit bus lines in order to reduce tenants' dependence on automobiles.  He was also the first developer in Berkeley to incorporate hydraulic lifts in order to double the parking capacity in his buildings garages and the first to have open space on his buildings' rooftops.  During the past 10 years, he has built more low-income units than anyone else in Berkeley   One would think that this would earn him points in a...
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By Brian Boguess, REINetworks
(REINetworks)
http://realestate.meetup.com/604/The San Francisco Real Estate Round Table is an affiliate of a brand new eCommerce company. REINetworks, the leading real estate investors web portal, where members connect w/ others, research property & raise capital. Members collabarate & share their knowledge & experience, gain valuable education by consulting w/ leading industry service providers, attend seminars on topics such as: 1031 exchange, Self Directed IRA's, Tax Strategy Classes, etc. & network w/ other like-minded investors. Members are able to research 1000's of investment properties & land deals nationwide. Subscribers can distribute & even list their projects for sale directly to other buyers. REINetworks members' even have access to private equity, 1031 exchange money and other funding ...
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By Andy Kaufman, East Bay Sales & Investments
(Better Homes & Gardens Mason McDuffie Real Estate)
Hey Berkeley residents, you're invited to the Berkeley Measure G Climate Action Kick-Off being held this Saturday from 10am-12pm.   Last year, Berkeley residents issued a call to action on global warming by voting overwhelmingly in support of Measure G. Measure G sets an aggressive goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley by 80 percent by 2050 and directs the Mayor to develop a community-based climate action plan by year-end 2007.     All are welcome… it’s free, open to the public, and ADA accessible.  At the event you'll hear concrete ideas and resources for reducing your emissions, take a pledge to do your part to meet our community’s emissions reduction goals, brainstorm ideas on how we can meet our Measure G greenhouse gas reduction targets, and take home free stuff lik...
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By John Nazareno
(John Nazareno)
An REO is real estate owned by the bank, and many investors consider an REO property to be money just waiting to happen. An REO is different from a foreclosure property in that the bank has already tried to sell it at a foreclosure auction and has had no luck getting bids. Because the property was not bid on, the bank then became the owner of the property. Naturally, the bank does not want to keep the REO any longer than possible, and this makes it a great opportunity for an investor. Not every REO is a good deal, but when you look at an REO you’ll commonly find that there is a lot of money to be made. So, is this a foreclosure? Technically speaking, the home was foreclosed on because the owner of the home failed to make their scheduled payments. The bank set up and went through a publi...
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