Be Prepared!

by arlene on November 15, 2017

The unprecedented damage caused by the North Bay fires has shaken assumptions about what is a “safe” area.  As we recover from the grief, as well as face the phenomenal physical damage, I hope this tragedy will serve as the most compelling wake-up call possible. Gentle readers, please make sure you take action now to make a plan with your family should fire or another natural disaster strike near your home.

*Do you have a neighborhood emergency preparedness group? If not, consider being the household that starts it up, and then keeps it going.

*Most of us, and many who lost their homes, assume that it will be an earthquake we must plan for. The speed of the fire devastation underscores the need to do advance planning of what crucial items you would take with you if required to evacuate quickly. An emergency kit with basics needs to be already packed and ready to go, and ideally you have one in your car at all times. At a bare minimum, keep copies of your most important legal documents in multiple places outside of your home. Some cash, comfortable walking shoes and socks, underwear, prescription drugs and extra glasses need to be stored in your car, and make sure you have supplies for your pets.

*Take the time to sit down with your partner or family members and develop an evacuation plan. Customize your list of key items that would keep you healthy and with some degree of comfort if a disaster hit here. You’ve all seen the coverage of families who now have only the clothes they were wearing in the middle of the night. Think about that…I’m forcing myself to plan what I would do quickly if forced to flee in the dark, without warning.

Here is one sample evacuation packing list from the City of Berkeley, with good information about emergency evacuation. It includes sobering, but important reading.

*Once your “go bags” are ready, let this be a further reminder to prepare a cache of supplies:  food, water and other basic supplies needed to survey at least a week, and ideally two weeks, without normal services being available. The experience of Puerto Rico should encourage us to be prepared for an extended period without outside help.

And then, I urge you to evaluate the physical preparation for our homes.

*Have you had brush and tree limbs trimmed away from your home? Be sure to keep your roof and gutters clean of debris as well.

*Have you done earthquake retrofitting within the past five years? If not, and you would like references for reputable contractors to do that work, or to add updates to existing retrofitting, please give me a call or send me a message.

In this time of so many forms of disasters in our world, I am comforted by the outpouring of kindness and generosity we are seeing as well.  Our office just donated $11,115 to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, thanks to conributions from me, my colleagues and our clients. Thank you!

Let there be some small positive impacts of these latest tragedies. Let’s all be more prepared. And let’s be reminded to tell our friends and family how much we love them–often.


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10700 Lochard 16 small (1)I recently had one of the hottest listings possible, so I thought I’d share some information from behind the scenes. The listing was 10700 Lochard (see link below), unusual in being a small house in a neighborhood of much larger homes. It had a large lot–over 1/4 acre–and a huge amount of character. As you know if you’ve been tracking real estate in this market, we are not so much selling property as selling lifestyles. This little house inspired a great outpouring of love, and conjured images of a lifestyle of growing ones own food, with hiking trails just outside the front door.

I was reminded just how key is the role a good listing agent can play in determining the outcome for their client. When representing a seller I have a fiduciary responsibility to represent their best interests, and on offer days I savor my role in getting them absolutely top dollar. I like to think that I’m generally a fairly modest person, but I am truly proud of the skill I have developed over many years for negotiating offers substantially higher than the original offer price. In this case we priced the property at $598K, which in hindsight was too conservative. But it is summer, several properties had failed to receive offers just before we needed to price this listing, and the property is located a long way from any amenities. I kidded that I was marketing to folks who wanted a high Hike Score, not WalkScore!

Here’s the summary of how it played out by the numbers:

  • Packets of disclosures sent out: 60. Yes, that’s too many! That confirms the price was too low.
  • Offers received: 27. Yes, that’s too many!
  • Dream sales price: Originally $700K for my sellers, $750K once we saw the response. I increased my target to $800K. But never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted the final result.
  • Offers received over $900K: originally 4
  • Largest increase from original offer price: $130K
  • Highest offer received: $1,015,000. But with contingencies, and a longer escrow period
  • Selling price: $990K, with a 15-day close of escrow. No contingencies.
  • Sales percentage over list: 65.5%

Here’s the look behind the curtain: in the end two parties vied to become the successful buyers, and ended up with a difference of less than $10K (both were non-contingent but with loans). One offer started in the mid $800K range, the other in the low $900′s. But each of their agents shared the deep passion their buyers had for this property. And here’s the key factor: they were agents I knew and trusted, and they stayed in close communication with me throughout the day that offers were heard. Two other high offers did not get that opportunity. Why not? They were submitted by agents whom I either did not know, or whom had been less than gracious in their representation of their buyers. The highest offer was over $1M, but with both loan and appraisal contingencies, and from an agent and loan broker with whom I had no experience. Having those contingencies signalled that the buyer wanted an out. There was no love letter, unlike with the other offers. To me that signaled a lack of passion, and the sale of this home was all about passion! There was too much risk to justify the relatively small increase in price.

The offers that ended up in first and second place each increased their offer price substantially from how they were originally written. Not always is that an option. Time and time again I find it works best to allow buyers to show their motivation, especially if they are allowed to choose their offer price, rather than having the seller formally counter and ask for a specific price improvement. Having the buyers feel empowered is key! And the other major factor: treating other agents with the utmost courtesy. My strong reputation is the greatest asset I bring to both buyers and sellers, and it makes a much greater difference than most clients can ever know. The Golden Rule is still Golden!

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Seasonal Shifts: Normal…and Crazy-Making!

July 27, 2017

Dear Neighbors and Friends, It’s easy to forget that in fact every year, even during very active markets, real estate experiences seasonality. There is a significant difference in behavior between the early spring with its characteristic very low inventory, and the summer, when generally buyers have more choices, and more fatigue. You would think that […]

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New for 2017: CA Law for Low Use Water Fixtures

January 11, 2017

California now leads the nation with standards that could save over 10 billion gallons of water in the first year and eventually over 100 billion gallons of water per year according to the California Energy Commission. Effective January 1, 2017, new water conservation regulations took effect for interior water fixtures in almost all single family […]

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After the Election: Emotional and Economic reactions in the Real Estate Market

December 8, 2016

Last Saturday I enjoyed being a guest on Protect Your Assets, a radio show on KNBR 680 AM. The host, David Hollander, is my financial advisor and producer of the show that airs each Saturday morning from 8 – 9 am. This was my third appearance on the show, and still I was amazed at […]

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The East Bay Autumn Market: Does it become more vibrant like the leaves, or cool with the weather?

October 24, 2016

  I love this time of year, with the transition to autumn and the turning of colors. And I’m one who really looks forward to celebrating Halloween. I suspect there will be some especially scary politician costumes this Halloween–or are they out there already?! I want to share a bit of  what it looks like behind-the-scenes as […]

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Berkeley Mid-Century Modern

June 19, 2016

It’s my pleasure to be representing 183 Fairlawn Drive. This Chalet-style home with its clean lines and inviting interior offers a peaceful retreat in the hills. And yet you are close to all of the wonderful amenities of Berkeley: its great neighborhoods, Lawrence Hall of Science, LBL, the UC Campus and Tilden Park. A bus stop is […]

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Behind the Scenes: the Real Value I Bring as a Realtor

May 16, 2016

I’m always fascinated to hear what people assume it’s like to be a Realtor. These past couple of weeks I’ve had several “back story” situations that I think would surprise most consumers about what are our most key duties, and how much difference an agent makes in the outcome of a deal. And so gentle […]

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800 Shattuck — The Pratt-Thomas House

April 3, 2016

The Pratt-Thomas House at 800 Shattuck Avenue is available for the first time in almost 50 years. The first of three neighboring homes designed by John Hudson Thomas for John Pratt in 1911, this is where Thomas himself lived for several years after its completion. This may be one of the most photographed homes in […]

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Sometime just asking the question can hurt you–Changes in the Insurance Industry

April 1, 2016

After the spring rains came additional things falling: trees. This is a good time to re-evaluate your insurance, and be sure that you know what would be your coverage in case a tree fell either on your property, or one of your trees fell on your neighbor.  Do you have a deductible that is so high […]

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