Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Buying a House in Oakland: Another Reason, Zoolights!

If you are thinking about buying a house in Oakland, another reason to consider is ZooLights at the Oakland Zoo. Last night my wife, youngest daughter, and some friends went out to the Oakland Zoo to experience the Zoo Lights display, which they put on every year for the Winter Holidays.  We had a great time, even though there was a bit of drizzle it did not dampen our enthusiasm but rather kept the crowds away and we had lots of space to enjoy the lights.  The kids rode on some of the rides (the carousel, the cars and planes) and all of us took the train ride on a brightly and festively lit engine. We ate in the cafe, pizza hot and chocolate, visited with Santa, checked out the gift shop and were generally impressed with the display.  Do other zoos do this?

The city of Oakland often gets a bad rap. The bad reputation comes from some select areas of the city where crime really is overboard. Oakland, by the way, in terms of area is a huge city. The facts that tend to get overlooked are ones like: did you know that Oakland has more park land than any other city in the United States? or that it has more artists per capita than aywhere in the United States besides Manhattan?  Hmmm, stats like this make me think it ani't that bad a place. In fact its a great town! If you are buying a home in Oakland you will want to experience all the good things it has to offer:  parks, music, restaurants, art (check out the Crucible), museums and more.  There is a ton to explore including Zoo Lights. Here are some pictures I took with my phone last night.

For more information about buying a home in Oakland, or selling a home for that matter please check out my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mortgage Update

This post is compliments of Sheila Schultz, a wonderful loan agent in the East Bay

"ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END..." Or so the popular saying goes. And last week, the Fed reiterated once again that their Mortgage Backed Security (MBS) purchase program...the program that has helped keep home loan rates low for much of the last year...will end on March 31, 2010 as previously stated. Here's the lowdown on what this means, and all the latest news impacting home loan rates and the markets.

Last Wednesday during their regularly scheduled meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve kept the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. But history has shown that when the Fed has left rates too low for an extended period of time, there is a price to be paid, via higher inflation. Yet if the accommodation is removed too early, it can derail an already fragile recovery. The Fed continues to walk this tightrope, trying to get it "just right."

Along with this decision, the Fed emphasized and reminded that their MBS purchase program will still end on their already revised deadline date of March 31, 2010. Why is this significant? Let's look at the numbers from last week to get an idea. The Fed purchased $16B in MBS in the latest week bringing the year-to-date total to $1.087T. This means there is $163B left to purchase before March 31, which in turn means the Fed will purchase about $11.5B on average each week through the end of the buying program. This is less than half of what the Fed was buying regularly throughout 2009 and a 1/3 less than what the Fed has been buying in recent weeks.

So why does this point to higher rates around the corner? When there is lots of supply and diminishing demand, the price of that item will subsequently go down - it's Economics 101. So, when Bond prices start to decrease from the diminishing demand of the Fed's purchases, home loan rates will naturally be likely to increase.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buying a Home in South Berkely: Neighborhood News

On November 24th, the United States Postal Service held a community meeting to discuss their proposal to close the Park Station Post Office at 2900 Sacramento Street (at Russell). Unfortunately, due to the lack of notice and the proximity to the Thanksgiving Holiday, the turnout was very low. At this meeting, Councilmember Moore encouraged the Postal Service to hold another meeting to give the community an opportunity to voice their concerns. The USPS agreed and is holding this community meeting on Thursday, January 7th, 2010 from 5:30pm-7:00pm at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Park Station Post Office serves a great deal of seniors and other residents that find it difficult to use an alternate post office location, so it is extremely important to the surrounding community. If this is something that you are interested in, please notify your neighbors and/or post flyers. I have attached a flyer for your use. Thanks so much and please help to save our neighborhood post office!

For more information about buying a home in South Berkeley or in other parts of the East Bay, please visit my website:   http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Buying a home in South Berkeley: Neighborhood News

San Pablo Neighborhood Council Holiday Party

If you are thinking about buying a home in South Berkeley you might want to know that The San Pablo Neighborhood Council is ready to party. They are inviting the neighborhood to join them for their Holiday Party on Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 6:30pm to 8:30pm. There will be music and fun, bring your favorite holiday dish or a snack to share. The Art Room at San Pablo Park is the place.

If you are buying a house in South Berekely or for that matter in any neighborhood a good practice is to meet the people that live in the area, talk to them, ask them why they live there and what they like and don't like about the neighborhood. Find out about crime, friendliness etc. Talking to nighbors is, in my opinion, the best way to learn about a neighborhood.

The Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Boosters Association/P.A.L. is hosting a holiday turkey basket distribution to selected needy families. Volunteers will meet on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 6:30 a.m., in front of the Police Department to help assemble 250 food baskets. The gift of giving starts with you!

For more information, contact Jen Louis via Email or phone at 981-5990 X4212.

The Berkeley Fire and Police Departments along with the United States Marines Toys for Tots Foundation, needs your help in providing donations for the Toys for Tots Program. Collection barrels have been placed in all fire stations and each station will collect toys until December 25, 2009. New and unwrapped toys collected before December 19 will be used for the Toys for Tots program. Toys collected from December 19 to December 25 will be distributed to homeless shelters assisting families.

Toys will be distributed on Saturday, December 19 at the Public Safety Building by the Berkeley Police Department to families that have pre-registered through the Toys for Tots program. Registration ends December 16, 2009.

For other information and toy barrel pick up, please contact Firefighter Tony Hall via Email or Lieutenant John Tarascio, via Email or at 510-981-5520.

For more information about buying a home in South Berkeley or buying or selling a home anywhere in the East Bay please visit my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This is a repost of a city of Berekley Official Press Release:

Berkeley, California (Tuesday, December 15, 2009) - The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Homicide Detail is asking for the community’s help in closing its only remaining unsolved homicide for 2009.

At 11:29 p.m. on May 4, 2009, the BPD Communication Center received multiple calls from residents reporting shots fired in Southwest Berkeley. Officers responded to the 1300 block of 67th Street where they found the shooting victim, Maurice Robertson, 18, of Berkeley, lying in the rear yard of a residence. The Berkeley Fire Department Paramedics responded and pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

Detectives are looking to speak with someone they consider “a person of interest” who was seen by witnesses near the crime scene prior to the shooting. That person is described as:

Black male, 16-19 years old
5'08" to 5'10" in height,
Wearing an orange Northface-style windbreaker

On May 21, 2009 the City of Berkeley offered a $15,000 reward and Bay Area Crime Stoppers offered an additional $2,000 reward, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for Robertson’s murder.

Detectives are asking for the community’s help in catching those responsible for this crime. Anyone with information can contact the BPD Homicide Detail at (51) 981-5741 (office) or (510) 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). If callers wish to remain anonymous they are asked to call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Berkeley, Oakland Real Estate Market

Below I've gathered information that gives you an overview of the Berkely, Oakland Real Estate Market

Sold properties Median Price $726k down from $762k in Nov 2008
Sold units 43 up from 25 in Nov 2008
Current for sale properties Median price $699k same in Nov 2008
Units for sale 131 down from 159 in Nov 2008
Months supply of inventory at 1.7 down from 3.3 in Nov 2008
Days on Market at 65 up from 37 in Nov 2008


Sold properties Median Price $254k up from $200k in Nov 2008
Sold units 220 same from 219 in Nov 2008
Current for sale properties Median price $235k from $188k in Nov 2008
Units for sale 870 down from 1934 in Nov 2008
Months supply of inventory at 1.8 down from 6.2 in Nov 2008
Days on Market at 39 down from 61 in Nov 2008
Median price in Nov 2007 was $400k

While we don't know what the future has in store, we can anticipate further bumps on the road to recovery in the Berkeley, Oakland Real Estate Market. The end of the government incentive for first time home buyers (due to expire April 30th), an increase in interest rates (look for the Fed to begin raising rates in March) and inflation are all on the horizon and indicate that many buyers will be losing buying power, and other potential buyers may drop out of the market place altogether as they see their chances of getting what they want diminishing.  Sellers should take heed and think seriously about getting their house on the market before spring arrives when there will be more competition from other sellers and probably a smaller pool of buyers who will be competing on their property.

For more information about buying or selling a home in the East Bay please check out my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/
For a consultation or home valuation feel free to email bill@billfletcherhomes.com or call 510-368-2854 (cell)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Buying a Home in South Berkeley: Neighborhood Update

If you are buying a home in South Berkeley you'll want to know whats going on in the various neighborhoods.  One of the more active nieghborhood groups is WANA (West Alcatraz Neighborhood Association).  This group has over the past 18 months or so intiated monthly happy hours at Cafe Vino on 66th and Sacramento, supported local cafes and restaurants, held a block party. The group also sponsors twice a month neighborhood cleanup days, a once a month meeting for parents of young children at a local park, holds periodic association meetings, has a web networking tool at http://www.bigtent.com/, has sponsored traffic control signage by having children paint "Slow Down" and "Caution, Children Playing" signs for drivers, has been in touch constantly with the city of Berkeley in an effort to make buying a home in South Berkeley a desireable option for young families and more.  On Thursday, December 17th they are holding the annual holiday get together at the community room in the apartment building at 1499 Alcatraz at 6:00PM. When you are thinking about buying a home in South Berkeley and wanting to check out different neighborhoods, this neighborhood association should be on your list of groups to contact.

The End of Stepped-Up Basis: Real Estate Tax info

The End of Stepped-Up Basis

This report is pulled from: http://registeredrep.com/mag/finance_end_steppedup_basis/ and reposted for your information

In 2010, when the estate tax is scheduled to “go away” at least for one year, it is replaced with an insidious carry-over basis system. Tracking tax-basis information for clients will require careful record keeping and revisions in estate-planning documents. Despite the overall negative impact of the changes, clients can still benefit with proper record keeping.
If a client dies before 2010, the basis of his assets for income tax purposes is stepped up to their value for federal estate tax purposes. These values are usually determined as of the date of your customer's death, but with an option to value assets six months after death. (The six-month option can be used only if it reduces both the gross estate value and estate taxes.)
So if your customer has an account with an aggregate, adjusted cost basis of $100,000, but a federal estate tax value of $1 million, the basis of the assets for heirs becomes $1 million. Heirs like this because their capital gains tax is lessened when they sell the property, and the person from whom they received the property never paid the capital gains tax ahead of death. (But dying is quite a price to pay to avoid capital gains taxes!)
All this changes in 2010. Heirs lose the advantageous step up in cost basis. In the above example, the heirs' cost basis will also be $100,000 — a horrific result.
We had this same system in 1976, and it was repealed in 1978 because it was too complex and unworkable. People died without basis information.
Those negatives aside, here's one benefit to the changes. For certain estates that qualify, the basis of assets passed to a nonspouse can be increased by the executor of an estate by up to $1.3 million (and that number is adjusted for inflation).
Applying this principle to our example would mean the executor could potentially adjust the basis by $1.3 million, so the heir's cost basis of $100,000 can be stepped up to $1 million. You cannot adjust cost basis higher than the value of the assets on the date of death, so there will be circumstances in which the $1.3 million cannot be fully utilized. Conversely, there will be cases in which the $1.3 million will not be enough to avoid the negative impact of the tax law because the value of the assets on the date of death is much higher than $1.3 million.
There is another wrinkle to this. Property left to a surviving spouse in a manner that qualifies (and there are very strict rules) gets a basis adjustment of up to $3 million (separate from the $1.3 million). This means the total adjustments can be $4.3 million. Under the right circumstances, the spouse could be allocated the entire $4.3 million basis adjustment, drastically reducing capital gains taxes.
However, qualifying for this significant basis adjustment could be negated because of current language contained in many estate plans. This can happen especially when gifts are made in trust for spouses, as opposed to outright gifts. In order to secure these increases to cost basis, estate-planning documents must be updated. This is something you can encourage clients to do now with the help of their estate-planning experts. Meanwhile, secure accurate cost-basis information on all your clients' assets. They may need it come 2010.
Roy M. Adams is worldwide head of the Trusts and Estates Practice Group at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in New York. In addition to his law practice, he lectures extensively on estate planning and has authored several professional texts including “Contemporary Estate Planning: A Definitive Guide to Planning and Practice.”

Please visit my website:  http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Berkeley Neighborhood Update: James Kenney Park Meeting

This is a copy of an Official City of Berkeley Press Release

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, December 09, 2009) -
The City of Berkeley plans to apply for grants to improve James Kenney Park and Community Center. All interested park users are invited to attend this meeting to comment on park improvement needs. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, at James Kenney Community Center, Community Room, 1720 Eighth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710. Refreshments will be provided. Please come join the discussion!

Buying a Condo in Emeryville: Market Update

If you are thinking about buying a condo in Emeryville the charts below  should provide you with some useful information about where the market is trending.  The line on the chart is a polynomial trend line.  At this point you can see that the median sales price is still in decline.
Click on chart to enlarge

The Chart below repersents how long it is taking to sell a condo in Emeryville.  The bars represent the averaage number of days on market it takes to sell an Emerville condo.

  Click on Chart to enlarge

For those who are buying a condo in Emeryville you might also be interested in the months supply of inventory which has shrunk since last November and should begin to drive prices back up a bit and the last chart which indicates the difference in average for sale or list price and the price a property actually sold for.

The red bar represent the price a condo was listed at and the green bar represents the price it actually sold for.  The trend in both situations is downward indicating that right now is a great time for those buying a condo in Emeryville and probably not such a good time to sell.   In gerneral the for sale price has been lower than the sold price except for November 2009 where the sold price was far below the original list. My read is that November was an anomoly but we'll see if the trend continues as we move through the winter.

Plese visit my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Monday, December 7, 2009

FHA Mortgage Loans: Changes coming

The following report is provided courtesy of the California Association of Realtors:

Testifying before the Housing Financial Services Committee yesterday, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan announced possible policy changes for Federal Housing Administration’s, FHA Mortgage Loans.

Rising defaults on FHA mortgage loans have led to the FHA’s cash reserves falling below federally mandated levels. FHA officials hope that policy changes will ensure borrowers have a stronger equity position and are less likely to default.

Proposed changes include:
· Raising the minimum credit scores requirements: Currently borrowers with FICO scores as low as 500 may qualify for an FHA-insured loan. The new minimum credit score has yet to be determined.

· Increasing down payment requirements: FHA borrowers currently can put down as little as 3.5 percent. A proposed change would raise that amount to a minimum of 5 percent.

· Limiting the amount sellers can provide as concessions: The agency is considering lowering the maximum permissible level to 3 percent from its current 6 percent limit.

· Raising up-front insurance premiums: Agency staff is reviewing whether to increase the monthly insurance premiums charged to borrowers, which come on top of insurance paid up front. The current up-front premium is set at 1.75 percent of the value of the loan. The FHA may decide to increase that premium. The amount has yet to be determined.

According to Donovan, the rules will not be finalized until the FHA determines how to craft them in a way that weeds out the most problematic borrowers while ensuring that qualified borrowers will not be inadvertently shut out, thereby derailing the housing market's recovery.

Fore more information about the changes to FHA mortgage loans please visit the following:

Wall Street Journal: FHA Considers Ways to Boost Its Reserves

Washington Post: HUD chief defend efforts to aid borrowers

Homes for Sale in the Richmond Annex: Market update

If you are looking at homes for sale in the Richmond Annex either as a buyer or a seller the following graphs should privide you with some timely and useful information.  The first Chart shows the monthly median sold price from November of 2008 to November of 2009.

This shows an enormous increase in the past year of the median price in the Richmond Annex.  Prices have basically doubled, an indication that homes for sale in the Richmond Annex are currently a hot commodity.

The following chart reflects the months supply of inventory.  Usually when we see the amount of available properties decrease we see the prices rise.  This is certianly the case in the Richmond Annex.

This chart indicates that we have a month and a half 's supply of inventory.  Typically anything less than 7 months supply is considered a "sellers' market." And even though the inventory was low in November of 2008 we were experiencing a financial meltdown of the economy at that time and properties were generally not being offered for sale. 
If you are looking at Homes for Sale in the Richmond Annex either as a buyer or a seller I woudn't wait too long.  The public will catch on pretty quickly and competition will go up both for buyers as more want to get into a desireable area but moreso for sellers as more properties come on the market, particularly in the Spring when government incentives will end and mortgage prices will begin to rise.

For more information on East Bay Real Estate please visit my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Buying a Home in South Berkeley: Neighborhood Update

Well there is some good news to residents an to those thinking of buying a home in South Berkeley.  A long standing problem has finally been addressed by the city.   The house at 1610 Oregon Street is going to be shut down, boarded up for a year and the owner and residents evicted.  The history of this property goes back at least 30 years and had long been known as a "drug house." But last spring when there was a shooting on the 1500 block of Oregon and two children were hit, fed up residents put pressure on the city to clean up the neighborhood. If you're planning on buying a home in South Berkeley you want to be aware of what is going on in your prospective neighborhood.  Fewer drug dealers is generally considered a good thing.  I've been a resident of South Berkeley since 2001 and in that short time have seen a tremendous improvement in quality of life. Cafes, restaurants, and an influx of young families who are buying a home in South Berkeley are changing the dynamics of this area.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto Real Estate Market Update

The Gourmet Ghetto area of North Berkeley has long been a popular place to live.  Easily acessible to two BART stations, The University of California and some of the finest eateries anywhere such as Chez Panisse.  This Gormet Ghetto Real Estate Market update is mostly comprised of graphs that indicate a confused market but one in which houses to buy have become a scarcity over the past year. The median home price has declined since November of 2008 but seems to have stabalized and has begun to trend upwards a bit.  The lack of inventory has become the real story.  As soon as a property comes on the market the many buyers who want to live in this area are bidding the prices upwards.


The red bar represents the price the homes were listed at or the 'For Sale' price.  The green bar represents the price that Gourmet Ghetto homes actually sold for.  Each pair of bars represents a separate month.  there were no sales for example in December, February or March


This chart represent how long it took on average to sell a house.  The smaller the bar the quicker the Gormet Ghetto Homes sold. You can see that buyers bought Gourmet Ghetto homes 77% faster this November as opposed to a year ago.


This chart represent each months supply of inventory or how long it takes for the properties for sale to be cleared off the market.  The higher the bar the more properties there are to choose from.  Anything over 7 months supply has been considered a buyers market.  Anything under 7 months supply has traditionally been considered a sellers market. This chart shows that compared with November of 08 this year has 50% less to select from.  Even a year ago the number still indicated a sellers market.  Right now if you were going to sell a home in the Gourmet Ghetto it would most likely sell pretty quickly.  If you were going to buy a home in North Berkeley's Gormet Ghetto you would most likely be facing competition from other buyers.
 Advice:  look for properties listed a a price below what you can afford.  These are the properties that you most likely can afford!
For more information on Gourmet Ghetto Home buying and selling or other real estate information in the East Bay please check out my webssite: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/
For questions, comments, home valuations or other real estate wervices please feel free to email me: mailto:call.bill@redoakrealty.com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

South Berkeley Real Estate Market Update: Houses 94703 Zip Code

This chart reflects the Months Supply of Housing Inventory in South Berkeley zip code 94703 from November of 2008 through November of 2009.  The trend line shows a decline throughout the year (54%) and a leveling off during the past two months .  This indicates a scarcity of housing stock in South Berkeley which in a supply and demand economy should put upward pressure on prices and indicate a rise in prices in the months to come.
Click on Chart to Enlarge

Click On Chart to Enlarge

The above chart shows the changes over the past year in For Sale Pices vs Sold Prices in South Berkeley Homes.  While we are seeing a sharp decline as measured from November of 2008.  Beginnng in April of 2009 we are seeing an increase in home prices and in most months the Sold price is higher than the List or For Sale Price.  This indicates that in many instances there are multiple offers on properties which is putting an upward pressure on prices and indicating that the bottom of the South Berkeley Homes market in this zip code (94703) may have been reached last March.

For more information on South Berkeley Homes and other East Bay Real Estate information  please visit my website: http://www.billfletcherhomes.com/

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

East Bay Real Estate: South Berkeley Neighborhood News

this report is taken directly from SF Gateway.

Sweets and pie: Jennifer Millar of Sweet Adeline Bakeshop and Tom Schnetz of Flora and Dona Thomas are teaming up on a new Berkeley project. The pair has taken over the former Spud's pizza space (3290 Adeline St.) to open Addie's Pizza Pie in February or March. Millar says the plans are to make thin-crust New York style pizza and frozen custard, popular in the East and Midwest.

"It's like soft serve, but better," says Millar, adding that no one around here is making the dessert.

As for the pizzas, she says they'll make eight signature pies a day and a few seasonal ones. The pizza will be sold by the slice or the pie. Customers will also be able to build their own. Millar says there will be salad offerings as well.