Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vacant Home Targeted -- Realtor Responds

Tonight's excitement: I am representing buyers in the purchase of a home at the end of my street. 9:18 p.m. the buyer informs me that he has been to the property and noticed some suspicious things; a previously locked gas meter hatch is now open, there are some triangular glass cuts near a kitchen window lock, and a bedroom closet window is left ajar. I immediately call the police. Responsive men-in-blue arrive in minutes and I hand over keys to the property. I stand back, way back (more like several houses back), until they confirm that the coast is clear. Then, I take inventory while they dust for prints. Nothing appears taken, no proof of bad guys inside the house... so the incident is just reported as a "suspicious event." No harm, but a bit of adrenaline pumping anyhow.

Break-ins at vacant listings are on the Realtor radar as a growing concern. Best tip of the day: The officers recommended that real estate agents visit the station and register the address of any home that is not occupied. You can also leave a key at the station, but this is not required. This helps them keep an active look out for suspicious activity. Tomorrow I plan to do this for all my listings. This service is also available to any vacationing or otherwise absent resident. Be safe and let's all look out for each other.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Berkeley Association of Realtors spreads the love & takes out the trash

The Love: Next Wednesday, the Berkeley Association of Realtors, Community Funds Committee will award $32,000.00 in grants to 21 local organizations from The Youth Arts & Education Fund and The Workforce Housing & Homeless Fund. The Realtor volunteers of the Community Funds Committe worked hard to invite applicants, screen grantees and arrange next Wednesdays event. The agents at Berkeley Hills Realty are active and regular supporter of these two programs.

The Trash:

FREE Office Electronics Recycling Day @ BAR

When: Friday, April 23, 10am-3pm

Where: BAR Office, MLK & Cedar

In the basement, in the hall
We've got printers, big and small,
TV's, cell phones, chords galore;
Laptops lurking. Such a chore
to recycle. Ah, but NO!
On this Friday, you should go
To the BAR with your old stuff!
Recycling's FREE! Is that enough
For you to get motivated
Knowing that it's all donated?
Green Council's there from 10 to 3!
Think how happy you will be
to have given stuff away
and helped us celebrate Earth Day!
Thank you Arlene Baxter, Berkeley Hills Realty for all your hardwork in organizing this and other Green Council events (and for penning the poem.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Daily Californian: Berkeley's Housing Market Faces Foreclosures

The Daily Californian :: Berkeley's Housing Market Faces Foreclosures

By Leah Moskovic

Foreclosure rarely occurs at the top of the housing market, but on Monday a revamped North Berkeley Mediterranean-style home priced at over $2 million in 2008 will be headed to foreclosure auction.

Although Berkeley's high-end real estate market has been resistant to symptoms of the national housing slump since 2005, sales at a loss for the lender and foreclosures such as this one are now slightly more prevalent, even as buyers have been creeping cautiously back into the market as of late 2009 and the Bay Area is expected to slowly stabilize.

"We'll see a little bit of both-stabilization and foreclosures," said Anne Van Dyke, a broker associate with The Grubb Company, an East Bay real estate agency. "Some people are coming onto the market while others can't afford to stay in their houses. People are feeling a little tenuous."

Since 2008, instances in which a borrower cannot pay the mortgage loan on his or her property and a lender sells the property at a moderate loss have increased in Berkeley as a final effort to avoid foreclosure, according to Bill McDowell, co-owner of Berkeley Hills Realty.

Property values in the Berkeley, Albany and Rockridge housing markets-which are the strongest in Alameda County-have declined 5 percent per year from their highest point in 2005, McDowell said.

"Since the market has gone down, people are reluctant to sell for less than what they think their house is worth," McDowell said, adding that because of this, it is difficult for buyers to purchase better homes, when five years ago they could put a down payment on a new house using a type of interim financing that is no longer available.

The federal reserve has kept interest rates "extremeley low" in an effort to support housing credits for first-time buyers and foster housing stability, according to Robert Helsley, UC Berkeley Professor and Chair in Real Estate Development at the Haas School of Business.

"We expect to see the markets stabilize, the foreclosures to go down, the real estate owned by banks to go down, and for prices to slowly firm up," Helsley said. "But we don't expect dramatic returns. Activity will remain pretty low-particularly price appreciation-for the next while."

Barbara Norkus, broker and owner of Capri Real Estate Services, said the entry-level, first-time buyer market in Berkeley has been bouncing back slowly since January.

At the bottom of the market, the Berkeley Housing Authority-a rental assistance program-has been met with more demand for services to low-income families since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, according to Rachel Gonzales-Levine, a management analyst for the authority.

"Anecdotally, we have more and more families that are housed in properties facing foreclosure calling us with lots of questions," Gonzales-Levine said. "They want to know if they have to move and what laws are applicable to them."