Thursday, November 1, 2007

From Granite to Soapstone--A Look at Countertops

Granite countertops have been all the rage in real estate and interior design the last few years. You would recognize its speckled brown look, and granite is a terrific material for countertops, but there are many types of stone available for use as countertops.

Countertops have become one of the first details that homebuyers look for when selecting a new home. If you are considering new countertops for your home--either for your own use and enjoyment or for prepping your home for sale--I would recommend looking at the many varieties of granite and stone available. The old fashioned tile and grout countertops just won't cut it in today's market (and that grout was always so hard to clean!).

The appeal of granite is its diverse array of colors and patterns and the durability and strength. Granite also tends to be quite bacteria-resistant and stain-repellent, but you have to make sure to take care of it correctly. But since almost everyone has the now-traditional granite counters, what other stones are there to consider?

Marble can add a lot of sophistication to a room but it isn't recommended for kitchens, and the elegance of limestone is appealing to many. I have been seeing more and more soapstone counters, which usually comes in dark solid colors and is even more non-porous than granite. No matter what you choose, a single-unit countertop is generally preferable to small tiles.

The key is to find a look and functionality that works best for your kitchen and design. Majesty Marble & Granite in Pennsylvania has a terrific Q&A website on the basics of stone countertops. There are so many options and suppliers now, so let me know if you have any questions. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghost Busting Tips

In all seriousness, and in the spirit of Halloween, it is time to share some ghost busting tips. As a real estate agent, we have to deal with all aspects of homes and the needs of homeowners. And, sometimes, a homeowner might believe that their home might be inhabited by a spirit. A few years back, I had to research some methods for ridding a home of ghosts, and thought I would share them with you as a treat on this Halloween day.

First, of all make sure that you have a ghost. Rule out all possible explanations for those drafty corners and squeaky doors. This means, call a handyman or contractor first..not a ghost buster.

The easiest way, according to ghost experts, is to speak to the ghost. Supposedly, ghosts are present due to unresolved issues from their corporeal life. Speak to them--even shout to them--that what they are looking for is gone, that what they need is taken care of, that it is time to move on. You might feel silly speaking into thin air, but it is supposed to be the most effective method.

Other tricks of the trade include using holy water, garlic, incense, hazelnuts, tricky mirrors and more. Of course, you can always welcome the ghost as well. Maybe you've got Casper the Friendly Ghost hanging around, which might be kinda fun. Or, an innocent poltergeist could be great for livening up a party.

A couple of websites to check out if you want more information are Hollow Hill or, the website for the Bay Area's own ghost hunter (who was also very entertaining on KFOG this morning). And, if you seriously have a ghost problem, let me know. As I always say, I'm happy to help. Even with ghosts! I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Tax Advantages of Home Ownership

We all know that real estate and home ownership can be a terrific investment, and one reason for that is because there are many tax advantages to home ownership. So while you are building equity for the future, you can also get some nice tax savings in the present. A nice trade-off for all the hard work you put into it, right?

The big one is writing off your mortgage interest. At the beginning of your mortgage term, most of your payment goes towards the interest, so this is a significant amount when April 15th rolls around. You can also deduct the cost of your real estate and property taxes from your income.

Did you refinance? You might be able to deduct the points you paid. Also, if you paid extra points to lower your initial interest rate, those might be eligible for a deduction.

Then there is the capital gains for your primary residence. You can deduct up to $250,000 of your profits when you sell your home if you lived in it for at least 2 of the previous 5 years before the sale. Plus, you can get $500,000 if you are married.

In addition to these biggies, there are all sorts of nooks-and-crannies in the real estate tax codes, like reducing your taxable gain with receipts for home improvements, deductions for home offices, and more. Always consult with a tax professional who knows the ins-and-outs of real estate taxes. If you need a referral or just have a question, please let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or