Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Boosting Valuations When it Comes to Selling

On Thursday, Bloomberg’s online news service confirmed what we had been hearing in more general terms: “Sales of previously owned U.S. homes climbed more than forecast in May…and prices jumped, indicating more progress for residential real estate.” Agents here in Berkeley would also not have been surprised at the national surge in selling prices “by the most since October 2005”. If you were already inclined to sell your own Bay Area home, it looks more and more as if this summer will be a propitious time to jump on the opportunity. 

As Realtors gear up to maximize the market’s improvement, homeowners are also weighing some of the more popular alternatives for boosting valuations when it comes to selling — 
  • Prospective homebuyers are increasingly energy savvy, so when new appliances need to be updated prior to sale, the more energy-efficient they are, the more worth highlighting they will be. Us "Green-Minded" real estate agents know how to emphasize a property’s ‘green’ attributes.  
  • If you have an attic or a basement that is currently serving little purpose, conversion can pay off. Basements are often the more affordable option since they call for little structural remodeling. Conversions can be into a games room, office, or utility area. Attics are often best converted to bedrooms or office space (or at least staged to suggest the possibility
  • Landscaping including features like decks can be a huge selling point. If you are prepared to engage in a little DIY, adding a deck can be among the most cost-effective of improvements. According to HGTV, the cost of a professionally built deck starts at about $15 per square foot, with more elaborate installations featuring costly hardwoods or composite materials running closer to $35.  

Even if you do not intend to sell, a little extra money invested in your home may be a dollar-wise idea. Thoughtful investments can enrich your own living experience AND attract higher prices when the time comes to move on. If you’re looking for a real estate agent call me today to go over other improvement ideas.

By Gina Odom, Realtor : 415.307.1423

Monday, April 8, 2013

Planning for a Panic-Free "Relocating Moment."

One element that needs careful attention is the people part. It’s too easy to lose touch with those who relocating timetable. With a little preparation and imagination, it’s possible to turn events like garage sales and going-away parties into really fun celebrations.  I had a friend who hosted their going away party with a garage sale. She was able to make a few extra bucks as well as saying goodbye to her loved ones.

People are important in your life, so decide early how to announce to family and friends your
Another good idea is to assemble key belongings in a box that will accompany you: important documents like passports and birth certificates, jewelry, or other prized possessions. 

Most household moving veterans agree that the single most vital step is securing a dependable moving company. Price is important — but so is hiring a group that will guard your belongings safely during your relocation. Scrupulous interviewing and checking out the reputation of mover candidates will more than pay off in reduced stress come moving day. And even if you are an eternal optimist, get adequate insurance: relocating does inevitably involve unforeseeable risk.

‘The moment’ when your relocating is in full swing can be one when you are able to enjoy the anticipation of a new and exciting chapter in your household’s history. If you have sold your East Bay home already – congrats! And if you are just beginning the process, do give me a call — I’d love to put my resources to work for you!   

written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day On Broadway with St. Martin de Porres School

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
–Nelson Mandela

Krista Miller and Tracy Sichterman plot their winning bids at St. Martin de Porres School's Fundraiser as Father Aidan McAleenan, Steve Burke, and Frederica (Flicka!) von Stade Gorman lead the live auction.

Nobody on the Berkeley Hills Realty team was surprised to get the invitation to St. Martin de Porres School’s fundraiser “St. Patrick’s Day on Broadway.” When agent Janesta Downey  joined Berkeley Hills Realty she warned us: “You’ll hear a lot about this school from me.”

Janesta’s relationship with St. Martin de Porres School began when she found “the perfect home for a group of nuns in West Oakland… As a result of the friendships formed during that transaction she became fundraiser, board member, and general cheerleader for St. Martin de Porres.”

Tracy Sichterman, Krista Miller, and Janesta Downey represented Berkeley Hills Realty at the event. The representatives suffered deeply— braving Flood Mansion to endure gourmet buffet stations, fine wines, and the presence and performance of mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Anything for the kids.  

Why Flood Mansion? “In the aftermath of the Great Quake of 1906, Maud Flood’s monumental home on Nob Hill was destroyed by fire. …James Leary Flood reassured his wife, saying, 'I will build you a house of marble on a hill of granite.'" He then built Flood Mansion. St. Martin de Porres School aims to build that kind of firm foundation-- in the form of a quality education-- for the children of downtown Oakland, West Oakland, and Northwest Oakland. "The students who attend St. Martin de Porres School generally live along the San Pablo Avenue corridor from the Port of Oakland on the West to the Southern border of Berkeley."

Visit The St. Martin de Porres School website for more information about the school. Even if you missed the fundraiser this year, you can still donate to the school here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Friday Nights at Oakland Museum of California


Oakland Museum of California has created a perfect, family-friendly Friday night event.

You can choose which part of the event to participate in based on your own mood and whims:

Feeling creative? Join the Customizer-in-Residence Open Studio series.

Hungry? Visit the Off the Grid gourmet food trucks. We tried empanadas from the El Porteño food truck. Impossibly, these empanadas taste even better than they smell.

Need a drink? Visit the cash bar for a selection of wine, beer, and a few mixed drinks.

Wanna dance? Each Friday features a different musician and/or dance lesson. Friday, March 8, featured salsa lessons from Serena Wong of Salsa Vale Todo, DJ JuanLove, and live music from Edgardo Cambón with his 5tet LatTiDo. We missed the dance lessons (see empanadas) so we brought our own shameless brand of enthusiastic non-salsa to the dance floor.

Wanna laugh? Sit on the steps and watch people non-salsa.

Wanna see some art? The museum exhibits are half-off during the event.

This fun, family-friendly event happens every Friday.
Visit Friday Nights @ OMCA website for more information and go check it out!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Berkeley Hills Realty Gets Colorful at The Color Run!

from l to r: Cathie Kosel (standing in for Nancy Mueller),
Krista Miller, Tracy Sichterman, Andrew Kosel,
Monica Alicia Bland, Negar Souza, Carina Stanley,
Rebecca Nemeth, Tom Knight
Berkeley Hills Realty organized “Team Kindness” for this month's San Francisco Color Run. (It was Krista’s idea!)

How to do The Color Run in  three steps:
1. Put on white t-shirts and start to run (or walk) a 5K.
2. Laugh through the color stations at each kilometer while getting doused with color.
3. Dance Dance DANCE! Shake your colorful self at the finish festival and concert.
(Optional/mandatory) Go to restaurant in the Bay Area without changing your clothes. 
Our choice: Montero’s on Solano.

What we know now that we didn’t know then: Go early. The traffic on the way is fierce but the parking lots are well-staffed and organized once you arrive.

We had a great time getting colorful!

To see more photos of the event, visit the Berkeley Hills Realty Facebook page.

A team that plays together stays together. When you are ready to find the perfect home base or put your home on the market, call us at Berkeley Hills Realty. We will “color outside the lines” and work as team to make sure we take care of your needs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Berkeley Home Sales Prospects: Anything But “Calm”!

Last weekEast Bay home sellers saw more than the usual number of reasons to look forward to this spring's home selling season. It looked like the opposite of the lengthy real estate “Perfect Storm” that caused free-fall across the national landscape. 

Signs pointed to the possibility that we may be headed into the opposite market conditions. Webster’s Dictionary says the opposite of ‘storm’ is ‘calm’ – but I don’t think you would call Berkeley home sales outlook a “Perfect Calm.”  Far from it!  

Some of the signs:
  • - Falling Inventory. Per the NAR’s Existing Home Sales Report, there’s a nation-wide shortage of total inventory. By the end of January, it had fallen another 4.9%: lowest in seven years. Raw unsold inventory hasn’t been this low in 14 years!
  • - Rising Demand. Per last week’s National Association of Home Builders’ News and Alerts bulletin, “housing demand continues to return.”  NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, pointing to buyer traffic that is up 40% over a year ago, states flatly, “We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.”
  • - Buyer Attitude. Also last week, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index showed a rebound from January. The ‘Present Situation’ index rose sharply (from 56.2 to 63.3). This remains the only less-than-stellar point of contention, I think one area could be a tipoff to gathering strength: the proportion of those expecting their income to rise is now growing, those expecting the opposite, falling.
If this spring turns out to be the opposite of a Perfect Storm for Berkeley home sales, will conditions improve further? Should sellers wait? The falling inventory measure might suggest otherwise. If the NAR’s appraisal is correct, now that these trends are consolidating, “…it would seem likely more inventory would come to market.”
written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Friday, March 1, 2013

Introducing the Newest Agent at Berkeley Hills Realty:

Meital Amrami
Glowing referrals from Meital Amrami’s client-friends quickly gave her a thriving real estate business. It is easy to see why. Meital lights up when speaking about her clients’ successes: “We got it! We got it! I love seeing them so excited and jumping up and down… It is such a good feeling.” In a competitive market with up to 30 offers on a single house, Meital often sealed the deal for her clients by presenting a clean contract, settling on the right price, and using the kind of savvy negotiating skills one tends to acquire from growing up in a family of nine siblings.
Meital, who speaks both Hebrew and English fluently, lived in Tel Aviv for 24 years. She served in the Israeli Navy as an officer for 3 years and was recognized for her social skills, responsibility, commitment, and integrity as a leading commander.  After moving to the United States, Meital graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in Animal Science and Biology. After graduating, she moved to Arizona. Meital planned to become a veterinarian, but when she was introduced to real estate she knew she’d found her true calling.
Though Meital now focuses on high-end homes, she started her career by specializing in distressed REO properties. The resulting immersion in home construction knowledge eventually led her to become an investor herself. She has since purchased several “fixer-upper” properties and renovated them completely, paying attention to the tiniest details. Meital’s eye for beauty, detail, and elegant design is sharpened by her lifelong passion for sculpting and sketching. It has become second nature for her to find and market exceptional homes for the most discriminating clients: “I am very available to my clients. I become psychologist, friend— everything!”
Meital and her husband Tomer spent a year in San Francisco before making Berkeley their home last year. Why the East Bay? “I love the nature, the weather, the serenity... and the people are amazingly kind, laid-back, and full of positive energy.” When Meital is not working to find, improve, or sell a home, she is enjoying her own Berkeley oasis. She loves serving gourmet Middle Eastern food and playing with Noam, her 13-month-old son; Bella, a Chihuahua/pug mix; and Sam, a bassett hound. Meital is warm, high-energy, highly recommended, and experienced: “I have gained extensive business skills while working with investors and I look forward to putting those skills to work for my clients in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Meital Amrami
DRE# 01922024
Office: 510.524.9888 x59
Vm: 510.524.1700 x59
Cell: 415.837.8224

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Berkeley Home Sellers Think 'Staging'

We all know the feeling – the one where guests are due and you haven’t had time to clean the house.  You shove all the…well… stuff into the back bedroom and shut the door (you’d lock it if you could).  Now imagine that feeling times 10.  If you are trying to sell your home this spring, and you have rooms full of that…well…stuff -- you’re in for exactly that.  

You can prevent it all with just a touch of the staging approach for your Berkeley home.  Not everyone has $5,000 or more to spend on professional staging, but then again, you can’t offer your home in “lived in” condition and expect to have buyers racing to write you their high-priced offers. There are many staging companies that can work within your budget as well, so, if you only have a few thousand to work with that is better than nothing. And often times, a stager or Realtor can incorporate your stuff to save on costs.

Real estate is in large part an emotional selling proposition – beyond their basic housing requirements, buyers want to see themselves living a better life in their new East Bay home. The quickest and easiest way to make that possible is to simply get rid of that same stuff! 

Here’s an easy example: while a messy home office – one stuffed with papers and files – will cause many potential buyers to think too cramped for me, a well-staged home office helps them imagine their own paperwork in control. To achieve a look that’s clean and simple, box up your files and clean out the dust bunnies.  If you have allowed extra furniture to accumulate (like that folding table in the corner that holds last year’s tax records), go ahead and de-accumulate it!

Staging of any kind may not be your first choice for how to spend an afternoon, but selling your home is a business transaction, and when you approach the process confident that a little elbow grease will go a long way, your pocketbook will register the difference. 

If you are, in fact, preparing for this spring’s selling season, contact me to discuss practical strategies for economically handling the repairs, remodeling, and staging that will speed the sale of your home.

written by Gina Odom, Realtor

Monday, February 4, 2013

Catch "The Wild Bride" at Berkeley Rep!

Go see the magic happen.
The fairytale unfolds at Berkeley Repertory Theatre until February 17.

The Wild Bride at Berkeley Repertory Theatre is a high-energy, self-described “feminist fairytale" that follows a young girl from her accidental sale to the devil through the many crossroads of her life.Three actors perform the life stages of the title role—The Girl, The Wild, and The Woman. One actor plays both Father and Prince. A fifth actor plays the Devil.

The show features a killer soundscape. The ever-present band with core musicians Damon Daunno and Ian Ross balances being fabulous yet non-intrusive while rocking (or blues-ing) out to Stu Barker’s compositions. Carl Gross’s writing creates both full-on silliness and many moments of what I call “horraughter,”which is an acute involuntarily sound—somewhere between gasp and guffaw—that escapes when one sees or hears something horrible that is also, somehow, hilarious.

Audrey Brisson as The Girl harbors more than the allotted amount of spectacular per square inch. Her from-the-toes-and-gut vocal delivery of “The Crossroads”; her chilling embodiment of The Girl’s anquish; and her deft support, in her turn, of the other performers seem central to the success of the production. She is (fortunately? unfortunately?) so convincing as a young girl that the audience gasps with shock and discomfort when the devil holds her tiny body like a guitar and strums her pelvis.

Patrycja Kujawska as The Wild displays a “How is that even possible?” level of talent and is responsible for a remarkably heartrending moment when she displays her skill as a violinist just before the ability to play is taken from her. Even as one forcefully rejects the fairytale’s depiction of physical disability as loss of virtue, the moment emerges as a poignant rendering of potential being abruptly and violently stunted. As The Wild, Kujawska’s wolf-cub playfulness is endearing and her every movement is so precise and skilful that I observed many audience members nodding in appreciation of the magic she made by, say, standing up after being seated.

Etta Murfitt’s Woman is a force, but it is Murfitt’s choreography that creates the most deliciously haunting images: the visual fugue of girls dancing while the conversation between Father and Devil thunders on; The Woman’s tripartite "community of self" slow-dancing with the prince; and the repetitive, cycling, debilitating “fallback” dance of war. There is just enough “too much”in the movements Murfitt designs.

Stuart Godwin’s Prince leaps joyfully into hearts and other loving openings as he portrays a man navigating through a lifetime of love-- from the unabashed goofiness of new love to the challenge of loving when half the bright is gone. As The Father, Godwin moves seamlessly into improvisation that delights the participating audience.

Andrew Durand’s Devil somehow reminded me of the following: Humbert Humbert from Nobokov’s Lolita; Robert Westenberg’s wolf from Into the Woods; and--from Glee, forgive me --Kurt Hummel’s smile. In order to make fun of gospel singers’ vocal embellishments during the The Devil's churchy-sounding moments, Durand deploys his own solid singing voice as a weapon. He does not fail to entertain. Durand’s devil reads as more playful and demanding than seductive and is immensely likeable when he isn’t being abominable.

Emma Rice's direction enables The Wild Bride’s tumble of movements and sets to read as “hot damn” instead of “hot mess." This play is a stunning testament to the magic of theater. Where else can you explore what good can come of a leafless ladder tree, a mirror, two chairs, a disco ball, a broom, an oversized portrait, a few buckets of fire, a thumping good cluster of musicians, a small group of talented actors, a spot-on technical staff, and a grove of royal lightbulb pears?

Go see the magic happen.
The fairytale unfolds at Berkeley Repertory Theatreuntil February 17.