Friday, October 5, 2007

Oakland's New Seismic Retrofit Incentive Program

If you are an Oakland homeowner, you simply must consider taking advantage of Oakland's new seismic retrofitting incentive program. And, if you are buying a home in Oakland, there is no reason not to retrofit your home. The City of Oakland is making it very easy and very affordable for you to save your home in the next earthquake.

First, the permitting process for retrofitting has been made cheap and simple. There is now just a flat fee of $250 . This includes the cost of the permit and sending an inspector out to approve your plans. Previously, this could have cost you an extra couple of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of your project. But, now it is $250 whether it is a simple bracing or a major seismic retrofit project.

Also, to make things simple, the City is providing a set of pre-approved basic plans that can be used or altered for most homes in Oakland. This will save you even more money, because you will not have to spend as much on engineers and architects.

Finally, and here is the biggie, you can get a rebate of up to $5000 on your seismic retrofitting when you buy a home in Oakland. If you submit your $250 permit application in the first 60 days after recording the property transfer, you can qualify for this rebate. You then have 180 days to get your retrofit plan approved, and another year to complete the work. At that point, you can be reimbursed half of your city transfer taxes, up to $5000. (What makes this deal even better, is that you probably only paid half of the city transfer tax as part of your purchase).

So, I urge all Oakland homeowners to look into this great new program. Spending some time and money now on this matter, could make your life a lot easier (and save you tens of thousands in repairs), when the next Big One hits. Find out more from the City of Oakland's website.

If you live in Berkeley, that city also has a very good incentive program. If you have any questions about seismic retrofitting and civic incentive programs, just let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


From time to time, I like to write about the green movement and how it applies to real estate and home design. So, today I want to point you in the direction of a fabulous

Ecofabulous is run by Zem Joaquin (and what a great name is that?), a design professional with a background in green technologies and philosophies. She is also the "green editor" at House & Garden Magazine. And, in the current issue of H&G, they take a look at Zem's own ecofabulous home here in the Bay Area, which she has fashioned into a green dream home without compromising aesthetics or quality.

Here are some great tips that can gleaned from her greening:

*Buy a classic house with "great bones" that you can work with.

*Retain as much original flooring and construction as possible, so as not to create waste for landfills.

*Use as many reclaimed and recycled materials as possible. She used a cork flooring made from a winery's unused materials!

*Use vintage and antique design pieces instead of newly manufactured pieces.

*Use use non-VOC, non-toxic paints and finishes.

Read Zem's blog entry and link to the House & Garden article here at the Ecofabulous website. If you would like more information or guidance on greening your own home, please let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

*Photos courtesy of Ecofabulous and House & Garden.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Buyer's Market=Seller's in Mourning

So the market seems to be settling down somewhat. The last few months have been a bit crazy. And, as I've said before, the market is not plummeting or caving is simply correcting itself. A lot of questionable practices led us to where we are now. And, where are we now? It looks more and more like a buyer's market every day. So, where does that leave the sellers?

On this point, I would like to defer to the wisdom of real estate guru Joe Niego, one of the top presenters with Buffini & Company (the real estate coaching service I use, as many of you know). Joe says that sellers are currently going through the classic five stages of mourning.

Many sellers bought real estate in the last 5 to 10 years, saw their neighbors real estate profits go through the roof, and expected the same will happen for them. In fact, many of them think they fairly deserve it. Unfortunately, the market dictates price, and that leads to sellers in mourning, as Joe says.

So what are the five stage of mourning you might expect to go through if you are getting ready to sell your home?

  1. Denial--"This won't happen to my amazing house"
  2. Anger--"Why aren't I getting top dollar, like my neighbor did last year?"
  3. Frustration--"But I want and deserve a threefold profit...make it happen!"
  4. Disappointment--"It is what it is, but I'm not happy about it"
  5. Acceptance--"The market dictates price, and this is the price someone is willing to spend on my home."

This is also a very strong reminder of the emotional part of selling your home. It is not just a gigantic financial transaction, it is also your home. No wonder emotions can take control. If you are looking for assistance in better understanding the financial and emotional sides of selling a home, please let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Listing--4262 Gilbert

Well, I just got back from Russia (...more on that later...), and have a new listing on the market. This is a beautiful Cape Cod-style farmhouse near Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. It is on the rear lot behind another home, so it is very private. The address is 4262 Gilbert Street.

The home features 3 bedrooms and 1+ baths, and has tons of storage. With over 1800 square feet, this place is very spacious. The upstairs bedrooms feel as if they are floating in the trees that surround that house. The living room and dining room feature these very unique Venetian-style plaster walls. The kitchen has been updated with new butcherblock counters and ceramic tile floors. Plus, there is a very convenient utility room (for laundry and more storage) between the kitchen and the lush backyard. The backyard even has a treehouse and a work shed.

Such a fine home so close to Piedmont Avenue won't last long. If you would like more information or would like to arrange a tour of the home, please let me know. And, there will be an open house on Sunday, October 7 from 1-5pm. Or visit the property website. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or