Friday, December 14, 2007

Quick Trips around the Bay

This holiday season, take some time out to have a little adventure with your family and enjoy all that the Bay Area has to offer. If you are here in the East Bay, plan some day trips to get out and enjoy something new. Set a destination and let the day unfold!

*Take the ferry to Pier 39 and be a tourist for the day. Stroll from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 39, grab some chocolate, have some lunch, stare at the sea lions, watch the cable car turnaround and just relax. For a quick virtual visit, check out the live sea lion webcam!

*The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation is a fascinating for young and old alike. Located in Downtown San Jose, current exhibits include the eye-popping Body World display on anatomy and the progressive Green By Design displays. Make it more fun by taking BART to CalTrain or the Santa Clara VTA Train.

*Head north to visit the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa and re-discover the local genius behind Peanuts. Exhibits look at the history of the comic strip, its influence, and the art of cartooning. Save some time to go next door to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, also built by longtime hockey enthusiast Schultz, for some wintry athleticism.

*Another fun day trip, though a bit further, would be to take the Amtrak train up to Sacramento to visit the California State Railroad Museum, a fascinating way to take in California history. Located in Old Sacramento, there is also a great deal of other state history around, as well as great shopping and restaurants. And, taking a relaxing train trip to get there is the way to go.

No matter where you choose to spend your holidays, have a great time enjoying this amazing region!

(Charlie Brown picture courtesy of

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Methods of Holding Title

Okay, students, time once again for a little Real Estate 101. Today's topic is methods of holding title. Many people begin by wondering, "What does holding title mean?" Well, when you own a house, there are many ways to own it, or, in other words, many ways to have the title in your name.

If only it was as simple as owning an iPod or even a car. But, there are many important issues at stake in how a home is owned, such as division of ownership or what happens to the property after an owner dies. Holding title is a very complicated issue, so remember that this is a just a brief overview.

A married couple usually owns their home as either Community Property or Community Property with Right of Survivorship. In both cases, the couple owns equal shares in the "community property" and cannot be divided by creditors. When it comes to survivorship, the home will automatically become the sole property of the surviving spouse under the Right of Survivorship arrangement. Without Right of Survivorship, each spouse can leave their share to someone else (in which case title would be held as a Tenancy in Common).

So, what is a Tenancy in Common, then? When a property is held as a Tenancy in Common, there can be any number of owners with equal or unequal interests. For instance, three people could own a home, with one person owning 50% and the other two owning 25% each. Each person can sell their share as they please, or will it to someone after their death. Any new owner would simply become a new member of the Tenancy in Common arrangement. Some married couples even choose to hold title this way.

Finally, there is Joint Tenancy, which allows any number of owners as long as all the ownership interests are equal. If there are three owners, they each own 33.33% interest. If one person sells their share, the property then becomes a Tenancy in Common. But, if one of the owners dies, they cannot will their share to someone because Joint Tenancy has Right of Survivorship. The interest of the deceased owner is shared between the remaining owners. So, if one of the three owners dies, the surviving two owners would then have a 50% interest each.

Now, remember, this is a just an overview. There are many twists and turns on the path to choosing the right method of holding title for your home. You can get great information on this topic and others from Placer Title, an escrow and title company that is terrific to work with. If you have questions about holding title, please let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 or

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Little Perspective on Today's Market

I just returned from a two-day real estate seminar that I regularly attend (presented by Buffini & Company), and wanted to share some of the statistics and information on the real estate market that were discussed.

Newspapers and the cable news networks continue to talk about the foreclosure mess. And, it is indeed a mess, but the singular focus on this story is distracting from some other fascinating numbers and stories. So, this is a healthy reminder to have a little perspective on the market, and to look past the alarmist reports out of the media.

Did you know that as of July 2007, right before the subprime problems began to emerge, that about 97% of all mortgages were current? And that about 30% of all real estate was owned free and clear, unencumbered by mortgage obligations? The real surprise is that those numbers have not changed all that much in the intervening months. As of November 30th, 95.1% of all mortgages are current.

Various forecasts predict that about 20-30 billion dollars are going to have to be written off because of foreclosures on subprime loans. That sounds terrible, but given that there are almost 10 trillion dollars in mortgages out there, that is less than 1 percent of all mortgages being affected by the subprime fallout.

It is a very complicated economic situation, so it is important to have some perspective on the big picture. But, keep in mind that the market is simply correcting itself. There are and will continue to be some negative results for some individuals and a ripple effect through some sectors of the economy. Yet, interest rates are terrific right now, There are some hot deals and motivated buyers out there, and it is a great time to invest in real estate for the future.

Next week, I will be mailing out to my regular clients a detailed look at the 2007 real estate market and a look ahead to 2008. If you would like information on the market from a trusted advisor, please let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or