Berkeley, CA Real Estate News

By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
About two months ago, I wrote a blog saying the Berkeley/Oakland real estate market had started off with a bang.  Well, the bang has become an explosion!  Nearly everything coming on the market is now getting multiple offers ... and going over asking price.   Some points in fact: Properties in Oakland that have sold in the last month are selling on average for 2.4% over asking.  In Berkeley, it’s crazy.  Properties in Berkeley are selling on average for 12% over asking!  Not only that, but the average sale price for this last month is way above what we had in April: In Oakland, the average sale price for the last month was $462,404 versus April’s $312,710.  In Berkeley, the average sale price is now $749,025 versus $635,066.  (This is a relatively small time period, yet the direction is...
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By Arlene Baxter, Listing/Buying agent, Historic to Green, 2012 REALTOR of the Year, Berkeley Association Berkeley CA & environs
(Red Oak Realty)
Thanks to the citizens of Berkeley, CA, who brought in their lifeless laptops, tired TVs and moribund monitors to the Berkeley Association of REALTORS (BAR) for our Earth Day e-cycling event. This is the third year that I've organized the event for BAR, and this year we collected a record amount of equipment, cables, and related gear.  This year we partnered with a local eco-center and computer repair business, GreenCitizen, who were celebrating their first year in Berkeley. Before the event I met with their manager, Ryan McCarter. “GreenCitizen hopes to pair the convenience of recycling with the educational and environmental awareness surrounding the electronic items we hold dear.  We are happy that the Berkeley Association of REALTORS® (BAR) wishes to share in this experience of respo...
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By Arlene Baxter, Listing/Buying agent, Historic to Green, 2012 REALTOR of the Year, Berkeley Association Berkeley CA & environs
(Red Oak Realty)
Beautiful weather, grateful neighbors, happy elected officials and Kosher macaroons and brownies all contributed to a "feel good" spring gathering in my neighborhood. We assembled at the corner of Hopkins and The Alameda in Berkeley, CA today to celebrate the re-opening of a newly updated, expanded and revitalized North Berkeley Library. Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds were all on hand to cut the ribbon to officially open the newly restored library. Capitelli reminded the crowd that Northbrae, the neighborhood where the library is located, was designated one of the Top 10 neighborhoods in the US last year. "It's the people like you," Capitelli said as he gestured to the crowd gathered in front of the library "that make this...
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By Arlene Baxter, Listing/Buying agent, Historic to Green, 2012 REALTOR of the Year, Berkeley Association Berkeley CA & environs
(Red Oak Realty)
 Many buyers are approaching their home search the way I like to approach food: “Life is short; east dessert first.” But when getting ready to buy a home, you need to start with the nutritious part. By that I mean you need to start with the basics, even though that may not seem nearly as much fun as starting by looking at homes. This spring market is already much more competitive than this time last year. If buyers want to take advantage of the still-low rates and discounted prices, and succeed in acquiring a home appropriate to their needs and budget, they need to start not by driving around, but by sitting down with a trusted advisor. Your REALTOR can recommend loan professionals who are experienced with local transactions, and are a good match for your situation and personal style. L...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
The 2012 home buying season in Berkeley/Oakland has started off with a bang... as in on your marks, get set, GO!  There are more Buyers ready to buy.  And more Buyers offering on the same house ... as in “Multiple Offers.”  While a lot of real estate agents are bemoaning the lack of “inventory” or homes for sale, there actually have been more homes sold or go into contract in both Berkeley and Oakland since the first of this year – compared to last year. Fortunately for Sellers, more active Buyers translates into a turnaround in prices compared to last year.  A quick look at Berkeley home sale stats, for instance, shows the average sale price in Berkeley to be $635,066, or 4.5% above the asking price.  Compare this to last year – when the sold price was $620,988, or slightly under the ...
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By Arlene Baxter, Listing/Buying agent, Historic to Green, 2012 REALTOR of the Year, Berkeley Association Berkeley CA & environs
(Red Oak Realty)
Last year, even with gorgeous interest rates and discounted prices, it was tough to get home buyers off the fence. Getting a “bargain” became more importaa bit more willing to paynt than getting a good home. If the first two months of 2012 are a true indication, buyers this year seem to acknowledge that these phenomenal rates won't last forever and nor will these low prices. Buyers seem ready to buy this year! It seems the majority of buyers, especially the younger professionals, want to be near amenities: cafes, restaurants, bookstores, transportation. Mostly coffee! I so wish I’d patented my “latté factor,” rating properties by coffee strength. Along came Walkscore, a website that ranks location by proximity to amenities. The higher the score the better, and the closer to coffee! Gone...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
Interestingly, although home prices in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood of Berkeley are typically above those of the Berkeley Hills, in the last six months, they have reversed themselves a bit.  Enough so that the average sale price in Thousand Oaks is a bit below that of Berkeley Hills.  (Basically Thousand Oaks is the 94707 zip code, Berkeley Hills is the 94708 zip code.) Specifically, the average home price for Thousand Oaks over the last six months was $762,232 (when you take out a $2.5M sale, which was an aberration).  This compares to $795,282 for the same time last year, or a small drop of about 4% for average home prices.  Home prices for the Berkeley Hills averaged $786,808 for the last six months, versus $761,554 the same time last year, or a slight bump up of 3.3%.  These Berke...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
Last year, real estate prices in most Berkeley/Oakland neighborhoods dipped again by about 5%.  This is very likely the result of continued high unemployment in the East Bay, an increasing number of short sales and overall cautiousness on the part of Buyers.  This year, however, there are signs of an Early Spring in real estate in the East Bay (as in better times ahead.) More Buyers seem to be coming out of hibernation – perhaps with the fear that the deflated prices won’t last forever and extra low interest rates are now hovering around 4%.  Stagers, painters and inspectors are getting booked weeks in advance – a sign more people are buying and getting ready to list.  According to a recent article in the SF Chronicle, this is backed up by economists of Bay Area California who expect “m...
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By Pacita Dimacali, Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA
(Alain Pinel)
Berkeley CA Real estate sales 2011 compared to 2010: Trends for foreclosures and short salesBerkeley CA seems to hold it own, with very few distressed properties compared to some of the neighboring cities like Oakland CA and Alameda CA both of whom show an increase in distressed properties from 2010 to 2011.Distressed Properties (short sales and foreclosures)Whereas Berkeley’s distressed properties average less than 20% of total sales the last couple of years. Type Sale 2011 2010 Regular Sales 501 473 Short Sales 56 (9% of total) 31 (5.6% of total) REO (bank-owned) 59 (9.6% of total) 51 (9.2% of total) Total Sales 616 555   This chart shows the percent of bank owned properties (stripes) compared to regular sales (shaded) during each time period.  Median List and Sold PriceAnd in the spi...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
Financial guru Peter Lynch of Fidelity Magellan fame used to say that the way to pick a winning stock was to walk around your neighborhood stores and see what was selling.  The same could be said for Berkeley/Oakland real estate.  Amid the gloom of hard times and increasing foreclosures, there are some bright spots on the East Bay real estate horizon...signs of optimism among the “folks.” There’s a certain energy on College Avenue outside my office that wasn’t there last year.  Home buyers seem more ready to “buy” than to just get a “deal.”  More houses in our area are getting multiple offers. And lo and behold, recent stats are starting to signal a turn themselves.  As Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” fame pointed out the other day on the Today Show, auto sales are up.  The stock market is up...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
"The real estate market will improve in 2012...gradually."  So says Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of REALTORS®, at a recent conference. According to Yun, tight mortgage credit conditions and consumer confidence have been holding us back.  Nevertheless, he said, there is a pent-up demand for housing that can’t go unsatisfied forever.  The gradual increase in real estate sales will track the gradual increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which is expected to come in at 1.8% this year and grow to 2.2% next year. Interest rates are expected to rise slightly, according to Yun.  From their present all time lows of 4%, they will likely reach 4.5% by mid-2012. Ok, real estate is slowly starting to turn the corner.  We won’t be having a blow out party, but we’re ma...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
The recent news from the National Association of REALTORS® sounded a pessimistic note amid our struggling real estate recovery.  Pending home sales in the U.S. fell 4.6% last month from August levels.  Of course, Berkeley being Berkeley, we are not following national traditions – even in real estate.  In fact, in the last quarter (ended September 30), half of all sales in Berkeley had multiple offers and sold over asking! Secondly, in representing a Buyer recently who was trying to buy a house in Elmwood/Claremont, I was in a bidding war with eight others.  The house ultimately sold $150,000 above asking.  While prices are not back to the high times of 2007, it does portend increasing sale prices in the Elmwood/Claremont neighborhood of Berkeley.  In fact, upon further examination, pric...
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By Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA
(Alain Pinel Realtors)
CALIFORNIA SHAKEOUT AND BERKELEY QUAKES Today was the California ShakeOut.  This is a day where we are asked to "Duck, Cover and Hold" to practice what we should do when the big one hits. According to the California ShakeOut website, 8.6 million people participated in the drill.  That happened at 10:20 am this morning and went very well.  Then at a little after 2PM there was a 4.0 quake 2 miles ESE of Berkeley and 5.1 miles deep.  Mother Nature wasn't through with us.  We were surprised with a second quake at 8:16pm.  According to the USGS the quake was 3.8 magnitude at a depth of 6 miles and was 1 mile East of Berkeley. OH NO!  NOT ANOTHER ONE! This has been an exciting day for us in the Bay Area.  Both of these quakes are considered small, however since they were so close to us, we g...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
Time was when a prestige neighborhood in the Berkeley or Oakland hills was the destination of choice for people looking for a house.  Well, get out of your car and put on your walking shoes, because now the determining factor is becoming how “close to coffee” you are.  Or to put it another way, what’s your “Walk Score"?   I was working with a young couple determined to buy their first house in Berkeley.  They have unilaterally eschewed the “Hills” as being too far away from everything.  And we are focused on homes within 10 blocks of coffee.  That would be the “flats” or bungalow neighborhoods of Berkeley, where houses and lots are smaller, neighbors ... and coffee are closer.  (That translates into Walk Scores of 80’s and 90’s versus 40’s for the Berkeley Hills.)  I’ll bet Alfred Peet ...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
No kidding.  I had a reporter ask me the other day why now is a a good time to buy a house in the Bay Area.  In thinking about “real” reasons, here’s what I figured out.  In fact, you can save 12% if you do buy a house now.  Here’s how.  With interest rates at their all time rock bottom low of 4.01% (versus February of just this year when they were 5.06%), buying a house now would give you a savings of over 12% in your mortgage payment.  Given that every financial pundit expects interest rates to go back to 5% --if not 6% -- within the next year or so, that means if you do buy a Bay Area house now, you would be able to lock in a payment that’s 12% less than if you waited.  This would be similar to getting an automatic price appreciation of 12% -- something unheard of in these times.  At...
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By Pacita Dimacali, Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA
(Alain Pinel)
BERKELEY REAL ESTATE MARKET:  PREDICTABLE? Berkeley has always had its fans --- and not just students and faculty – but also people who thrive in the city’s diversity,  education and culture-rich environment. While reviewing Berkeley’s trends from August 2010 through August 2011, I was surprised to see that there are no significant changes as there were in neighboring cities like Oakland and Alameda. Instead, Berkeley seemed to follow the traditional or view of a normal market: more active during the summer with more listings and more sales, then tapering off towards the Fall and completely slowing down in the winter. Homes for sale and homes sold  These trends are reflected in the number of properties for sale by month, and again in the number sold per month. For sale properties peaked...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
If you read the headlines these days, it’s hard to figure out what’s happening in real estate: "Home Prices Plummet,” “Mortgage Rates at All Time Lows.”  That may be true, depending on where you’re coming from.  But  according to Bay Area Real Estate Economist Carol Rodoni, the worst is over for the Bay Area.   And my “woman on the street” view bears this out.  In general, there’s more activity: more buyers are out looking and more buyers are ready to buy a Berkeley/Oakland home.  People are starting to think about trading up.  There is a sort of cautious optimism, if you will.  And, interestingly enough, about 80% of my transactions this year have had multiple offers ... and bids over asking. Overall, prices are about the same as a year ago.  In Berkeley, the average sold price for the...
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By Barbara Reynolds, Buyers Agent, Listing Agent, Luxury Homes, Invest
(McGuire Real Estate)
This past Saturday marked the big day for the first annual McGuire Neighborhood Garage Sale in Berkeley and Oakland.  McGuire Real Estate provided all the signs, advertising, marker pens and supplies.  And over 40 homes opened their garages throughout Berkeley and Oakland – from Alvarado to Webster Street.  Never has it been more truly said, "One man’s junk is another man’s treasure." All locations had treasure hunters from all over the East Bay area scavenging through Barbie dolls, old toys, antiques, clothes and nick knacks.  Perhaps the biggest winners of all were the Berkeley and Oakland schools.  For every garage participating under the McGuire banner, McGuire Real Estate pledged a donation to the local Berkeley and Oakland schools.  Next fall, plans are for bigger and better with ...
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By Pacita Dimacali, Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA
(Alain Pinel)
Sunday evening we felt like going out for a bite to eat. Didn’t want to go to the same old haunts and wanted to experiment. Decided to go to Berkeley/Oakland’s College Avenue. Walked up and down and stopped at what looked like a hole-in-the-wall. The young girl sitting outside invited us in, and swore that the food is great. A customer who was waiting for his party agreed. So we went in, and were promptly seated. Perfect timing! Less than two minutes later, there was a loooonnnnnggggg line of people outside. Hmm...obviously a popular place to eat. We’ve never been to this place. Didn’t know what to expect The place is small and can probably accommodate only about 60 people. Very narrow place, with more seating in the second floor. The staff was busy, busy, busy but super-friendly. Short...
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By Arlene Baxter, Listing/Buying agent, Historic to Green, 2012 REALTOR of the Year, Berkeley Association Berkeley CA & environs
(Red Oak Realty)
Despite national and state-wide news to the contrary, our extended Berkeley area market feels quite active, with lots of new buyers hoping to take advantage of record low mortgage rates. We continue to suffer primarily from a dearth of desirable inventory. The most attractively presented, well-located homes continue to attract multiple offers. All-cash offers seem to have tapered off as one would expect with the low rates, but we still hear of one or two each week, usually in one of the multiple-offer scenarios. An all-cash offer still is tremendously attractive to a seller! This was the second week of the new fall season, with a reasonable number of properties to see. Of the 88 properties on tour, most were new, with only four coming back with price reductions. Tour covers Albany (7 pr...
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