Thursday, October 18, 2007

Time to Organize your Home

A lot of us start to cocoon in the fall as the temperature cools and sun sets earlier and earlier. This is a perfect time to tackle those organization projects around the house. Less is more, and a clutter-free life makes for a happier life. Here are some tips for quickly getting yourself organized:

--Pretend You are Moving. Do you really need 20 rolls of duct tape and 4 different kitchen tongs and that stained sweater that doesn't really fit anymore. Get rid of what you just aren't using or don't need.

--2 Year Rule. If you haven't really used it in 2 years, you probably aren't going to use it ever again. Out it goes!

--Get Rid of those piles! You don't need to keep every piece of paper that enters your house. Most things can be found on the internet or the local library. Use those resources regularly and lighten the load on your house. Pay your bills online. Recycle junk mail as it arrives

--One Room at a Time. This doesn't have to happen this weekend. Think of this as a long term project that will keep you busy through the fall. Set a goal for yourself--declutter the house before guests arrive for the holiday.

--Recycle & Donate. Don't contribute to the land fill problem. Donate usable goods to local non-profit groups, and recycle as many things as you can.

Remember...less stuff equals less cleaning, less worrying, less dust...and more time and more space. Get organized and stay organized!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2 Weeks to Halloween

Two weeks from tonight, I will be handing out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. So, it is time to start getting ready for Halloween. See, we don't have to talk real estate 24 hours a day! I thought I'd share some pumpkin carving tips and ideas, and direct you to the terrific website--Extreme Pumpkins!

First you have to get your pumpkins, of course. Think about the design you want to do, then spend some time finding appropriately shaped pumpkins. Or, consider some other gourds. Or maybe even...a watermelon?!?

You are going to need a blade to do the carving with, and your blade should be thin, strong and flexible. A big kitchen knife is not usually your best option, and neither are the cheapo carving kits at the supermarket. Try a boning knife, or a handheld jigsaw if you have it. Make sure to secure the pumpkin so the knife doesn't slip, and do the work in a place where you can get really messy. And, if it is a complicated design, do a practice pumpkin first.

I like to carve the eyes and mouth into the top of the pumpkin, using the stem as a funny, scary nose. You might want to try a stencil, and the Extreme Pumpkins website has some great ones to download.

And, here some of the great winners from last year's pumpkin contest at Extreme Pumpkins . I love the Tiki pumpkin! If you need a pumpkin fast, check out the annual pumpkin patch at Piedmont Avenue and Pleasant Valley in Oakland, but if you have time for a day trip, check out the pumpkin farms in Bolinas, Fairfield or Half Moon Bay.

(All photos courtesy of --Extreme Pumpkins)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Berkeley Landmarks

Did you know that Berkeley has designated over 300 buildings as architecturally important? That is a lot! I wanted to make a smaller list of some my favorites--some that are on the list and some that may be there someday.

The Fish House--This elaborate Victorian was built in 1889 and is covered in shingles that resemble fish scales. A real beauty! Picture courtesy of Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA).

The Elmwood Pharmacy--A great old fashioned five & dime with a soda counter. A step back in time on the north end of Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood.

The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts--It used to be St. John's Presbyterian, but know it is a great local stage. The photo is how it used to look (courtesy of BAHA).

The Bancroft Hotel--This used to be the College Women's Club for UC Berkeley, but now it is a cool hotel. And, I'm going there this Saturday for my nephew's wedding!

Amoeba Music--The incredible music and DVD store got its start on Telegraph by the campus, and has spread to the Haight and Hollywood. Some of the best browsing and terrific fun design.

Berkeley Rose Garden--This beautiful amphitheatre was part of the Civic Works Administration in the 30s and continues to inspire to this day. Photo courtesy of BAHA.

There are so many to list, and so many great architects have worked in Berkeley, like Julia Morgan and Olmstead. What are some of your favorites? Research other designated landmarks at the Berkeley Heritage website.

The Steps of a Foreclosure

After last week's post about short sales, it begs the question about what the difference is between a short sale and a foreclosure. And, with all the media attention to the rise in foreclosures, especially here in the Bay Area, I thought it would be helpful to look at the steps of a foreclosure.

Now, bear in mind that the foreclosure process is very complicated and varies quite a bit in every situation. This is just a rough overview of a typical foreclosure in California.

One main difference between a short sale and a foreclosure is that a short sale is initiated by the homeowner, usually in an attempt to avoid the foreclosure process. A foreclosure is started by your lender because you haven't made good on your promise to pay them back. Remember when you got that home loan? The security for the loan was the home. So, if you don't make your home loan payments on a regular basis, they have the right to "foreclose," or take the home since they aren't getting their money back.

The first step in the process (other than NOT making your payments, of course) is the Notice of Default. The good news here is that the lender must give you 90 days at this point to make good on your debt. They also must publish the Notice of Default (usually in the classifieds of a local newspaper) and file the Notice with the county recorder's office.

If the 90 day period passes, and you have not caught up in your payments or made other arrangements, that triggers the Notice of Sale. This legally allows the lender to sell the house, and it gets harder and harder for you to get caught up on your payments. The lender can sell the house 21 days after the Notice of Sale.

If the lender makes any missteps along the way of the process, it has to start over from the beginning. And, due to negotiations that may happen between you and your lender, this whole process could actually take anywhere from 4 months to 48 months. Like I said above, every foreclosure is unique and complicated.

Should you be worried about the wave of foreclosures? Probably not too much, unless you are in a bad loan situation and can't make your payments. While the San Francisco Chronicle and other media are talking about the rising number of foreclosures (And they are indeed going up), here is a bit of perspective on foreclosures. In the month of September there were 157 foreclosures in Alameda County, but the other day there about 4900 properties for sale in Alameda County. So, barely 3% of that is foreclosures, which is not very significant.

I said it before and I'll say it again, foreclosures are complicated and every one is different. If you have questions about the foreclosure process, or maybe about buying a foreclosure property, let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or