Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why get a pest report?

So many new buyers ask me why they need a pest report. It's simple. Houses are made from wood and pests like to eat wood. So here are some telltale signs of termite infestation. If you find a pile of what appears to be insect wings you might have a termite colony nearby. An infestation can be found anywhere there are wood-bearing structures inside or outside including window sills, door jams, crawl spaces and attics. Termites shed their wings once they colonize and can often be mistaken for flying ants. However, the most obvious sign of termites are termite mud tubes. Termites will often create tubes or tunnels so they can move around. Look for these where your home meets the soil. You also may find mud build-up around the exterior of your home. And if you find softening of wood, you might have termites. Wood that falls apart, flakes, or turns to dust can be a sign of termites. You can tap on your wood to see if it sounds hollow and if it does, this could indicate termites. These are all signs that you need to do a termite inspection. It's important to do your due diligence before buying. And if you are selling, why not obatin a report so you can minimize any surprises during escrow? A pest report starts anywhere from $275 and can go up to $900 depending on the size of the home.

written by Gina Odom

Berkeley Urban Legends

Today, I am trying to write a Berkeley urban legend and get the attention of  I think I have it: 
The year was 2012, the month was April.  The perfect Berkeley Bungalow glistened despite the heavy rain. She was beautiful inside and out.  Her hearth was warm and, despite her good looks and obviously lavish upbringing, she promised to be low maintenance.   
A buyer came and fell in love.  He was told to move along because the match was unlikely.  She (the bungalow) was too pretty and his pockets were bare-- with merely $100K to put down.  There will be competition he was told.  Others will woo her.  Others will have cash. 
The storm let up.  The others went out to play.  He stayed with his beloved house and submitted his offer.  Remarkably, it was the only offer.  Now she belongs to him.
A little too unbelievable I know, maybe I will rework it and add back a little competition….
Tip to Buyers:  It is a great time to buy, but talk to a local Realtor who can help prepare you for the inevitable competition.  With low inventory, Multiple offers are the “new” new-normal.

For fun, click here to read some actual Berkeley urban legends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Absobloominglutely! Spring Flowers and Gardens in the Bay Area and Beyond

Plant life is a big part of life in the San Francisco Bay Area this spring.

From backyard labors-of-love casually tossing their scents and shadows onto neighborhood sidewalks to professionally cultivated affairs that are worth every penny spent to see them—there’s some sprouting satisfaction for you whether you are a casual bloom-gawker or a serious gardener.

Here are a few places in the Bay Area and beyond where you can find lush greens to celebrate the new spring season:

If you have a great yard space and are looking for garden inspiration, this is the event for you. The show offers how-to sessions, innovative products, and all things green-themed for the green-thumbed. Wednesday, March 21, through Sunday, March 25. Click the link above for tickets and directions.

Daffodil Hill Volcano, CA

If you are lucky, one of the resident peacocks might fan by for a cameo appearance while you are sharpening your shutterbug talents among the over 300,000(!) blooms of Daffodil Hill. Patience, flower lover—as of this writing, Daffodil Hill is under snow. All signs point to a big bloom soon, though. The local Chamber of Commerce’s best guess for the bloom is the end of the first week in April. No entrance fee. Free parking. Before you buckle up the whole crew, call (209) 296-7048 to confirm that the park is open when you plan to visit. You’ll be rewarded with the cheeriest snapshots in your album and the kind of memories that come from beautiful afternoons with people you love.

To protect the new fruits, vegetables, and flowers he cultivated, Luther Burbank locked his plant seeds in a safe, searched the pockets of his workers, and discouraged visitors. Now, the doors to his house, gardens, and a greenhouse are thrown open for the inquiring public during tour season, beginning this year on April 1. Take the docent-led tour to get the most out of your visit.

Pick-Your-Own Farms, Various Locations

Until your own backyard garden springs to life, you can collect fruits and vegetables at pick-your-own farms across Northern California.

Bridges over sun-dappled creeks, adequately spooky trees, and stepping stones create a quiet, lovely place to reflect and be inspired if you are on your own or walking hand-in-hand with your partner. If, with the other hand, you are holding the sticky little paw of someone significantly smaller and decidedly less mellow, you also happen to be steps away from a child-friendly zoo and amusement park. For a small parking and entrance fee, the world is yours.

Some Bay Area plant-destinations are so well-known that locals only need to be reminded, usually by out-of-town guests, to make the annual effort to see and support them--Berkeley Rose Garden and San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers are two of the most-loved and most-visited.

Whether you find the perfect plant in your own backyard, across one bridge, or a day-trip away, have fun taking in the beauty of our Northern California plants and flowers.

*For a list of Bay Area public gardens visit

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Magical Motoring: California’s Very Best Road Trip

Part 1
by Tom Knight

San Francisco is a worldwide tourist destination, but I wonder how many Bay Area residents who routinely watch “California’s Gold” with Huell Howser or “Bay Area Backroads” with Doug McConnell on TV are aware that they live at the beginning of the most profoundly beautiful and historic road in the entire state: Highway 4. Truly, this must be one of the best kept secrets for those who enjoy a great road trip. An entire book could be written just on the several hundred miles which is absolutely the most diverse and fascinating cross-section of California’s geography and history. You could drive it in a day, but if you took a week you would never be bored. Here’s why…

Going from West to East, the road begins in Hercules where one sees lots of new homes and lots of eucalyptus trees. The trees are reminders of the past, when they were planted to protect the public from inadvertent explosions from Hercules Power Company, maker of explosives for both World Wars. Also present is a rail line, now owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, but once carrying passengers on the silver streamliner “Santa Fe Super Chief” from Richmond to Chicago. The brightly colored red and yellow “war bonnet” d├ęcor of the locomotives was a sight to see.

Immediately leaving the shores of San Pablo Bay, the road rises rapidly and winds over the rolling hills of the coast range, still grazed by cattle as it has been continuously for more than a century and a half. You might catch glimpses of old barns or ranch homes surrounded by tall palms or sycamores. Soon you pass the environs of Martinez with the beautifully maintained John Muir house on the left and a spectacularly large and rusty railroad trestle (still in use) on the right, spanning Alhambra Creek. Not long after that the striking view of Mt. Diablo comes into view on the right, the top of which is a landmark for the legal description of real estate throughout most of California. At 3,864 feet elevation and with no other mountains nearby, it is said to possess a view from the summit on a clear day of more of the earth’s surface than any other place on earth. The nearby Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve was once the site of California’s largest coal mining operations.

Passing through Concord and just before rising over Willow Pass to the Pittsburg/Antioch area, one may notice the bunkers, raised mounds of earth and concrete, which are the reminders of explosives stored by the U. S. Navy during World War ll. Few people may know that this was the location of a great tragedy during the war, when a massive explosion occurred killing 320 men and injuring another 390, mostly African-American, who were loading ships bound for the Pacific Theater. The area on the waterfront was called Port Chicago, now the site of a historic marker commemorating the service and sacrifice of these young men. Immediately following the Port Chicago Disaster, the largest mutiny ever to take place in the U. S. Navy eventually resulted in the desegregation of military services in the U. S.

Descending the highway from the summit of Willow Pass, one views the heavily industrialized area along the Pittsburg waterfront, a reminder of the economic power of the Bay Area. Next is Antioch and the gateway to the Delta, a place forgotten by time, the repository of memories past, place of pears and parties, floods and ferries, fishing and follies, crawdads and Chinese, a place bypassed and unknown by most travelers passing by on the distant busy interstate highways which surround it.