Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekend Fun

We not only get to work in the incredible East Bay, but we also get to live and play here. So, I like to chime in with some fun things to do in the East Bay from time to time. This weekend, lets visit some Hollywood History right here in the East Bay.

Did you know that the silent film industry was based here in Fremont from 1913 to 1916? The area was called Niles back then, though. "Bronco Billy" Anderson and George Spoor, already silent film veterans, came to Niles in 1912 and ended up opening up the Niles Essanay Film Production company. Anywhere from two to five "one-reelers" were shot at the studio and the surrounding neighborhoods each week. In 1914, they even got Charlie Chaplin on a contract. When Chaplin's popularity exploded, the new studios down in Hollywood snapped him up for big money, and by the beginning of 1916, the Niles Essanay studio was shuttered.

But it wasn't shuttered forver! You can still visit the museum, tour the grounds, and watch silent films every weekend. This Saturday night, you can go see Underground, directed by the great Josef von Sternberg and a collection of short films, including Harold Lloyd's I Do. It is such a deal and it only costs 5 buck each. And, what a great trip for kids and grandparents.

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is located at 37417 Niles Blvd in Fremont. It is a terrific trip back in time. Have a fun weekend!

(photos courtesy of the Niles Essanay Film Museum website)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Greenspan Weighs In

Throughout the mortgage industry mess of the last few months, I've been wondering what former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has to say about all this. For years and years, through Clinton and Bush, his word had been gold. But I couldn't help thinking that some of the policies he put into place led to the current situation--of lenders giving to people who weren't qualified and consumers accepting loans they couldn't handle or couldn't understand.

Well, Greenspan weighs in today as part of an interview that will be airing on 60 Minutes this Sunday night.

The Associated Press reports....

"Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledges he failed to see early on that an explosion of mortgages to people with questionable credit histories could pose a danger to the economy.

In an upcoming interview, Greenspan said he was aware of "subprime" lending practices where homebuyers got very low initial rates only to see them later jacked up, causing severe payment shock. But he said he didn't initially realize the harm they could do.

"While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late," he said in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview to be broadcast Sunday. "I really didn't get it until very late in 2005 and 2006," Greenspan said.

An excerpt of the interview was released Thursday."

To read the whole article, click here. What do you the good folks of the Bay Area think about this?

Fun fact--Greenspan's wife is NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

(Photos courtesy of AP and Harry Walker)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More Berkeley Real Estate Regulations

Nearly every town has its own unique real estate regulations to abide by, and last week I wrote about Berkeley's RECO--Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance--guidelines that require properties to be energy efficient. Well, there is more where that came from! What other issues do you need to be aware of when participating in a real estate transaction in Berkeley?

Seismic Upgrades and Transfer Tax: The City of Berkeley has imposed a transfer tax equal to 1.5% of the sale price. But, the good news is, up to one third of the tax (0.5% of the sale price) may be rebated to pay for the seismic strengthening of the structure.

Rent Control: Berkeley has strict rent control regulations, so make sure you follow them when buying or selling a home with renters. Renters need 24-hour notice before any inspections or open houses. New owners can do "owner move-in evictions" if it is for the primary homeowner and immediate qualifying family members, but renters must be evicted properly and they may be eligible for moving and related costs reimbursement.

Creek Protection: Berkeley has a beautiful and intricate network of creeks, and homes bordering the creeks have strict guidelines for protection of the creeks. Make sure to contact the City of Berkeley to see if your property is effected by this regulation.

Sewer Lateral: Berkeley also has regulations to make sure that the sewer lateral connecting the home to the city sewer system is in good working order. I've blogged about this before, so read all about it right here.

These can be kind of tricky. If you would like more information about these and other regulations affecting real estate transactions in Berkeley, please let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x62 or

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Curb Appeal

A few years ago, no one ever seemed to talk about "curb appeal," but now it comes up all the time with my buyers and sellers. Thanks HGTV! In case you don't know, curb appeal is how appealing your home looks on the street. Does its appearance invite you in with a warm embrace, or would it be a perfect place to film a horror movie?

Here are a few basic tips to help maintain your home's curb appeal:

*Every time you mow your lawn, change the cutting direction. If you are showing your home, mow it in one direction, then once again to ensure even cutting and to provide an attractive square design.

*Keep your front door freshly painted, and regularly clean the door's handle, hinges and other hardware to keep it shiny.

*When painting your home, consider the exterior build. One-story or rancher type homes should have a paint design that accentuates vertical elements. Conversely, multi-story homes should emphasize horizontal elements.

*Keep the front of your home clutter free. Arrange any lawn furniture you might have, and keep lawn tools put away in the garage or a shed.

*In planning your landscaping, avoid trees and bushes that might drop a lot of leaves, and think color and fragrance.

These are just a few simple tips that can be used for almost any home. If you would like to discuss ideas for your own home, please let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or