Friday, January 11, 2008

"Corner Unit in a Circular Building"

Okay, time for a few laughs on a Friday. One thing I love about being a Realtor is seeing all the ridiculous wording to describe less-than-attractive properties. You know the ones...the listings that describe a house as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and it turns out to be the most ordinary house on the block...or worse!

Well, the New Yorker makes fun of these listings in their weekly "Shouts and Murmurs" humor column. Here is the first hilarious fake listing to get you started:

"RARELY AVAILABLE corner unit in circular building. Dramatic floor-to-ceiling walls. Breathtaking, massively proportioned mortgage. This one won’t last: moisture-drenched BR was formerly home to one of New York’s oldest families of termites. Original mold throughout. Architect-designed, carpenter-built, and painter-painted, this 400 sq. ft. jewel box has been lovingly overpriced at $2.8M. Specious!"

Click over to The New Yorker website to read all about the 100% glass building, the Superfund site, the non-existent building, and one listing that is "Incmprhnsble!" Have a great weekend!

(Illustration courtesy of

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Basics of California Real Estate Withholding

January means tax season is upon us, and there is one aspect of real estate than can be quite confusing when it comes to filing your taxes. That is the California Real Estate Withholding requirements. Legally, sellers of real estate owe taxes on the sale, but it is a complicated process involving many parties. Here is an overview of the basics, in case you need it.

California Real Estate Withholding is a pre-payment of California state income tax (remember, the proceeds of a sale are considered income). A seller can elect to have 3.33% of the total sale price withheld or 9.3% of the gain on the sale.

Now, there are exceptions and exemptions, such as if the house is the seller's primary residence or if it is a foreclosure or a bank-owned sale. But, always consult with a tax expert before assuming your property is exempt.

So, this is where it gets a little tricky. Even though it is the seller's proceeds that are being withheld, it is the buyer's responsibility to do the withholding. And, even though it is the buyer's responsibility, this task usually falls to the escrow officer to make sure it happens smoothly.

At the close of escrow, the seller should receive Form 593 from the escrow officer, and this is submitted with the year-end California state tax return. Think of it like you might think of your income taxes. Your employer withholds taxes, and if you overpaid at the end of the year you will get a tax refund. So even though a chunk of your proceeds will automatically go to the state, you might get a refund if your total tax liability for the year was overpaid.

This overview has been incredibly brief. If you have more questions, check out the state franchise tax board's website, where it has just updated the information on California Real Estate Withholding. Or, just let me know if you have any questions. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Feng Shui Your Way into 2008

Want to start the year off in a peaceful, calming manner? Who doesn't after several weeks of hectic holidays? Implementing some basic tips from the school of Feng Shui is a great way to begin 2008 surrounded by harmony.

I'm sure you have heard of Feng Shui, so you probably know that it is far too complicated to cover in a simple blog entry. But I would like to share some basic tricks that almost anyone can do in a home or office. To begin, Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese art used to create harmonious environments, providing positive energy, invigorating vitality, and peace of mind.

--Welcome your guests with a wind chime at your front door and a blue or black doormat.

--In the bedroom, Place your bed to give you the widest view of the room. Avoid large mirrors, and do not place your bed in alignment with the door.

--Bare walls are a no-no. Hang artwork on the wall in a diagonal or staggered pattern. Highlight the room with the colors of love--pink, white and red. Include healthy plants in your rooms, but avoid dried or fake foliage.

--Remember, less is more. Avoid clutter, and keep counters and shelves clean and organized.

There is a lot to learn about Feng Shui, and every space requires a different approach. There are a number of tremendous resources out there. While I'm no expert in Feng Shui, it is a fascinating field and I would happy to explore it more with you, whether you are preparing to sell your home or just want to make it a more peaceful environment.

PS. In Chinese, "Feng" means wind and "Shui" means water.