A Family’s Love Letter To Their Home

Houses are homes when the people living inside of them create the atmosphere of contentment. Homes are bastions of peace and love when the owners imbue four walls with great memories. We were delighted when one of our clients, who is selling their home on 1827 Capistrano Avenue in Berkeley, wrote a “love” letter about their family home.  On the market soon for $1.125 million, this home is not just about the bedroom count and floor plan. The spirit of how well loved and lived in this home is becomes apparent in this letter and we look forward to finding a buyer who can feel the special energy of this home.     Portal To the Sierra And A Sanctuary For the Soul In Berkeley I believe that houses have souls, that they absorb the stories of former owners in the wood and paint.  This house has a good soul, and our family’s 13 years here have been memorable.  Listen closely enough and you will hear the joy of our daughters’ births, first steps, midnight visits from the tooth faeries, nightly improvised good night stories told of a fictional girl, Solana, as the kids drift to sleep, spontaneous dance parties, raucous Thanksgivings, lemonade stands, fiddle concerts put on by the kids to collect money for refugees, and many a rainbow chalk hopscotch drawn from one end of the block to the other.   We will miss working in the back office, gazing into a wall of coastal oaks and a redwood that was planted years ago by a previous owner.  The morning sun streams through the front windows of the house and the skylights, and lying on the master bed, every morning treated to the sight of squirrels frolicking among the branches.  On hot days, three sets of French Doors open from the dining room and both plus rooms, and the side deck transformed into a playground sanctuary for the kids.  We strung up lights on the Pittosporum on the side deck, which lit up like fireflies during dinner parties.  We love the backyard, particularly on starry nights, when everyone sits around a fire under the oak, making s’mores.  I always felt it was a portal to the Sierra, because it felt like we were transported.   The kids relished the deluge of water from their bathroom shower, and the deep tub, which when they were little, accommodated both kids and one adult.  There is so much to love in this house! The vaulted wooden ceilings in the spacious master bedroom, and plus rooms, which were designed by an architect who once lived here, the accessibility into the house, convenience of the layout, hardwood floors, skylights, decks, and the proximity to Solano Ave, which hosts the yearly Solano Stroll. The Stroll is one of the largest East Bay food, music and art festivals, and home to countless Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Thai restaurants that dot the street like sprinkles on an Iscream ice cream cone (the kids favorite).  But what makes this house so very, very special to us is what one cannot easily see.   You cannot see the strong sense of community that exists here, which we witnessed from the first day when our neighbors across the creek, who arrived with wine and bread in hand and smiles on their faces, graciously welcomed us; or the yearly surprise packages left for the kids at the front door by the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus (a.k.a. our lovely neighbor just to the west), or know that many a late night, I would be lying in bed, only to receive a late text photo from another neighbor of his backyard fire, inviting me to come over with my guitar, and a drink or two, after the kids were asleep, and join him and several other neighbors in a spontaneous jam by the fire (many of the people on the block are amazing musicians).  Every Wednesday night was designated “Sushi Night” in our house, and the kids would delight in knocking on various neighbors’ doors to distribute a portion.  The spontaneous giving of food is invariably reciprocated.  You cannot see the murals (a labor of love) that my 80 year-old mother, the artist extraordinaire, painted across the walls of our first child’s room when she was an infant.   The yearly block party is hands down the best in Berkeley, as we have a master smoker of meats, who takes it as a personal challenge to surprise the block with his latest BBQ masterpiece, the music runs late, everyone pitches in to rent a jumpy house for the littles, and the block elders, provide all of us an oral history of the block.  Halloweens are magical, thanks in part, perhaps in whole, to our neighbors who construct haunted houses, complete with strobe lights, plastic body parts emerging from the soil, fog, and eerie music…and an outdoor bar offering juice to the young, and other kinds of spirits to the old.  Many of the houses throw open their doors to serve food, and we stopped counting the hundreds of pieces of candy we distribute to the throngs, which have only increased over the years.  With many of our neighbors we celebrate all the special occasions—graduations, birthdays, new jobs, an Oscar nomination (true story)—as well as are there for each other in more challenging times.  On full moons, our kids in their pajamas gather a few of their block friends for what we call “Full Moon Walks,” around the block before bedtime, and they delight in playing hide-n-seek by the moonlight.  The Capistrano Creek that runs in back of the house all the way up and down the block serves as a natural playground; and Old Stoneface Park and Indian Rock, which is the community’s choice for viewing sunsets, all provide a sacred place for the kids to connect with nature.  Yes, this house has a good soul, it is so very special to us and so is this community that you may […] Read More

March 2017 Housing Market Update for Oakland/Berkeley

The housing story in the East Bay for March continues to be one of low inventory, high demand and houses selling for more than asking price.   Berkeley: A bright spot in the Berkeley housing market for buyers? According to Altos Research, the Market Action Index for Berkeley is showing that demand is tapering down to show a sizzling seller’s market and not a RED HOT seller’s market as it appeared on their charts in July 2016. However, reports of homes getting forty offers, with sales vs list price hitting 20-25% over asking is still occurring in the Berkeley market. Good news? A few more properties ARE coming on the market, pushing inventory levels up to around 30. Oakland: Just as is the case in Berkeley, Oakland hit a high for market activity last July. We are bouncing out of the low in December to steadily increasing inventory, which provides more options for buyers in the market as we head into spring. However, average days on the market are plummeting, starting at 83 in December and falling to 50 as of March 5th, according to the real time data by Altos Research. This means buyers are definitely out making offers and scooping up homes. According to the Trulia Trend Report for Berkeley, median sales price is holding relatively steady at $1 million for the median price (although recent reports of listings going for over asking price have not appeared yet on the charts) and sales are down, which is due to lack of inventory, not buyer demand. Oakland is following a similar trend line with the median price at $600k (a 10% increase year over year) and sales falling as inventory falls. The inclement weather the Bay Area has been experiencing for the past few months may have hampered potential sellers from placing their homes on the market. With Spring approaching in a few weeks and warmer weather ahead, there may be a jump in more homes on the market. Patience is key and revisiting homes that have sat on the market the longest could be a strategic play for buyers, as those homes have not gotten the multiple offers other homes have experienced driving up the purchase price by thousands of dollars.   For homeowners considering selling soon, we have found that thoughtful staging and creating a great story around the home for marketing, draws the best offers, even in a hot market where many sellers think just putting a sign in the yard is enough. Berkeley Hills Realty is available to provide buyers in depth information about the surrounding towns and cities of the East Bay and can offer complimentary comparative market analysis reports for your home. Read More

Berkeley-Oakland Calendar of Events for March 2017

What: Sail Upon The “High Seas” of Sausalito on a Tall Ship! When: Recurring tours Thurs-Sun March 1-16, 2017 Where: Jack London Square, 1 Broadway and Water Street, Oakland Cost: Tours are a $5 donation and charters run from $42-$79 Take a three hour tour of San Francisco Bay aboard an historical tall ship.  The ships, Lady Washington, the official tall ship of Washington State and her companion vessel Hawaiian Chieftain, offer education programs to students K-12, vessel tours, and public sailing. To book your education program or to buy sailing tickets call the office at 800-200-5239 and see the sailing schedule. What: 58th White Elephant Sale When: March 4 & 5, Saturday & Sunday Where: 33 Lancaster Street, Oakland Cost: Free Organized and presented by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, sale proceeds benefit the Oakland Museum of California. White Elephant Sale Website What: First Free Wednesday at the UC Botanical Garden When: Wednesday, March 1 Where: 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley Cost: Free The 34-acre UC Botanical Garden is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, with over 10,000 types of plants including many rare and endangered species.  Organized geographically, the Garden features 9 regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants.  The Garden was established in 1890 and its living collections are invaluable resources for international research and conservation. UC Botanical Garden Website   What: First Free Thursday at the Berkeley Art Museum When: Thursday, March 2 Where: 2155 Center St, Berkeley Cost: Free The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is the visual arts center of the university. Our mission is to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film, engaging audiences from the UC Berkeley campus, the Bay Area, and beyond. Each year BAMPFA presents more than twenty art exhibitions, 450 film programs, and dozens of performances, as well as lectures, symposia, and tours. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive   What: $5 First Friday at the Chabot Space and Science Center This month the Center is featuring Animation and Storytelling When: Friday, March 3 6-10 pm Where: 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland Cost: $5.00 Chabot Space and Science Center Website   What: North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto Wine Walk When: Saturday March 9th  5-8 pm Where: Along Shattuck Avenue and Vine, Berkeley Cost: $25 Ticket  Link   Sample local small production wines (along with some craft beers and mead) and enjoy small bites at 20 participating businesses along Shattuck Ave. & Vine St.Local and regional wineries are paired with participating neighborhood shops – hosting businesses will have a variety of special tastings think chocolate, gelato, nuts, soups, cheese, and other sweet and savory bites.   What: “Jack of All Trades” Indie Craft & Antique Market When: Saturday, March 11 Where: Jack London Square, Oakland Cost: Free This eclectic market event features a curated mix of nearly 100 local makers, indie designers, antiquers, collectors, artists, start-ups and more. Jack of All Trades Website   What: Playdate For The Imagination When: Saturday, March 11th (10am – 8pm) Screenings and workshops begin at 10am, doors open at 9:30am *$5.00 admission for adults and children after 5pm for festival screening only. Exhibits will close at normal hours. Sunday, March 12th (10am – 5pm) Screenings and workshops begin at 10am, doors open at 9:30am Where: Chabot Space & Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland Chabot Space & Science Center and the Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival have joined forces to present the 9th annual Playdate for the Imagination™ where education and imagination collide. In its 9th year, the festival continues to delight and inspire Bay Area families with a full weekend of events and special programs that include internationally celebrated family-friendly films, special presentations from Award-Winning Pixar filmmakers, hands-on animation workshops and more. This year’s theme of science, technology, engineering, art and math, STEAM, will be featured in the films and with the hands-on programs offered in the Center. SATURDAY AND SUNDAY FILM FESTIVAL TICKETS BAICFF is an annual Playdate for the Imagination™ where education and imagination collide. The festival offers families a cinematic view of the world’s varied cultures and traditions. The films inspire curiosity and conversation, and allow children to experience a wide range of cultural perspectives. Cost Guest Adult: $25 / Youth: $14 (includes admission to the center) 2 Day Weekend Pass: Adult $35 / Youth: $20 Member Adult: $15 / Youth: $7 (includes admission to the center) 2 Day Weekend Pass: Adult $21 / Youth: $10   What: St. Patrick’s Day When: Friday, March 17 from 6-9PM Where: Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley Cost: $38-$48 Chef Alaun will prepare traditional Irish fare including roasted salmon with dill sauce, corned beef and cabbage, mixed greens with assorted dressings, Irish colcannon and buttered seasonal vegetables. For dessert, treat yourself to sticky pudding cake with caramelized apples & whiskey toffee sauce. Wear something green, everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!   What: Free Acting Class at the Berkeley Repertory When: Sunday March 26 Where: 2025 Addison St., Berkeley Cost: Free Berkeley Repertory Theater Website Read More

3 Reasons To Visit Lake Merritt for Runners, Parents and Photographers

So you’re thinking to yourself, “What should I do today where I can get great exercise and do some people watching while I am at it?”  Or you think to yourself, “My kids need to get out today and I want to go somewhere that is fun for them and not too draining on me.” Or you may think, “I want to take some beautiful photos and my teen wants to get some great Instagram shots. Where should I go?” The answer to all of them is..Lake Merritt in Oakland! Running/Walking/Strolling Lake Merritt is exactly a 5k all the way around, 3.2 miles and a 45 minute walk. If you are jogging at a normal pace, you can do it in 30 minutes, which is a perfect work out. Best part? You get to see natural beauty, as well as other people enjoying their time along the way. If you park at 7th and Oak street, parking is free and you can add a few blocks of warm up time to your routine. You can also park at 22nd Street near Kaiser Plaza for $12, which puts you two blocks from the lake and running path and you can run to the lake and check out the Cathedral Christ of the Light church for its beautiful architecture.   Children’s FairyLand If you are a parent of a child under the age of 10, you may have heard of Children’s FairyLand. This is Oakland’s answer to where you can take your kids and have fun in a “throwback” park that caters to young children. Arguably the centerpiece of Fairyland is the children’s theater on the southern end and the 61-year-old puppet theater to the north – which still uses marionettes that were costumed by Frank Oz‘s mother, and hosts the oldest continuously run puppet show in the nation. Insta-Good Photos So your teenager won’t go out with you in public, but if you tell them there is a great place for them to take selfies, Tumblr photos, and “Instagood” photos, they just may go with you to Lake Merritt. And if YOU enjoy taking photos of local wildlife, including a myriad of birds, as well as reflection photos, this will be a great day for you both. Check out Instagram using the hashtag #LakeMerrittOakland for ideas for photos or take your camera and let life unfold in front of you for photos that capture life. For you garden/flower/landscape nuts, there are no less than five different gardens at Lake Merritt. Check out the Bonsai Garden, the Rhododendron Garden, Torii Gate Garden, Vireya Garden, and the Sensory Garden for fantastic photo opportunities.   The Future– Slated for construction is the Lake Merritt to Bay Trail (LM2BT) Connection which will close a key gap between the San Francisco Bay Trail and Lake Merritt trail systems. It will provide a safe ADA-accessible Class I multi-use pathway that connects BART, AC Transit, and Chinatown to the Oakland Estuary, Amtrak Capitol Corridor, Jack London Square, and the Brooklyn Basin Development for commuters and recreational users.  This will be another place to run, discover with your children and photograph!   Learn more about Lake Merritt’s history and an interesting story about its “Necklace of Lights” featuring 126 lamp posts first lit in 1925. Berkeley Hills Realty Realtors love their community and would love to share more about it with you if you are considering a move. Contact us at (510) 524-9888 for your home buying or selling desires!     Read More

4 Tips For Homeowners To Prep For Storms Hitting the East Bay

Since the beginning of 2017, East Bay residents have been seeing more rain than they have since 1997, the last time Northern California saw epic flooding and rainfall totals. Of course, the good news is that drought worries won’t beleaguer the area for the rest of the year, but getting through the slew of incoming storms may be easier with a few helpful tips. But first, how much rain HAVE we gotten? Take a look.   Downtown Oakland Oakland Airport Berkeley Rainfall to date: 24.40 Rainfall to date: 18.96 Rainfall to date: 19.69 % of Normal: 150 % of Normal: 117 % of Normal: 108 Rainfall last year: 13.63 Rainfall last year: 5.34 Rainfall last year: 10.56 % of Normal: 84 % of Normal: 33 % of Normal: 58 Rainfall normal: 16.23 Rainfall normal: 16.23 Rainfall normal: 18.29 Total Season Norm: 24.29 Total Season Norm: 24.29 Total Season Norm: 27.62 (Season to date is July 1-to February 14, 2017) Source:   Many “prepare your home for winter” articles tell you to clean your gutters to avoid leaks in your roof, hire an arborist to clean up your trees before they potentially fall or branches break causing damage, and make sure you have flashlights,  candles and a radio  All great tips during normal winter storms, but here are a few when the going gets tough.   Check For Drainage Does your yard drain properly? For those of you who have replaced your lawn with a hardscape solution during the drought — such as rock or decomposed granite, you should be aware that the drainage pattern in your yard may have changed.  (Water that once percolated through spongy grass will now flow.) Some landscape experts advise homeowners to place 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in beds and areas where water will drain or collect. If ponding becomes a problem, consider increasing the percentage of your yard that can absorb rainwater. Changes to the landscape may also have changed your property’s grading. Consulting an irrigation and drainage specialist can short-circuit any serious problems a heavy storm might cause.   With enough rain, groundwater can invade below-grade spaces such as basements and garages even with good drainage systems in place. To protect these spaces, it is recommended that you install a sump pump. If you already have a sump pump, make sure it’s been recently serviced by a plumber.   Watch Your Downspouts With the torrential amount of rain we have been experiencing, you may not have noticed that your downspouts are becoming full of detritus from your roof and overhanging foliage. If you have not owned your home since the last epic El Nino event, your downspouts may be causing water to back up into the gutters, causing roofing issues and may be leading to water seeping into your foundation as the water is released to the base of your home, which can go into your basement, if you have one.   In Case of Emergency Place disaster supply kits — such as those from FEMA, the California Department of Water Resources and the Auto Club —  in your home and car. FEMA, the National Weather Service, the California Department of Water Resources and the Auto Club are just a few of many organizations that list the important things to have on hand in a flood emergency. If you live in a high flood prone area, ensure that stored emergency repair materials, such as sandbags, heavy plastic sheeting, and straw-waddle tubing, are in a safe dry place.   Be A Good Neighbor As we are learning from other hard hit California communities, such as Ben Lomond,  Oroville and Marysville, this past week, if something is happening in your neighborhood, check on your neighbors. Power outages due to high winds or localized flooding can be very disturbing to people and having a friendly neighbor pop in to just see how things are, can make all the difference.   We hope that you will remain vigilant and safe during the winter storms we are experiencing. We are beyond fortunate, here in the East Bay, that our community has weathered many storm events and have avoided much of the flooding and landslides that are occurring around the Bay Area since the beginning of the year. It’s a wonderful place to call home! Read More

February 2017 East Bay Housing Market Update

Now that the Patriots won the Super Bowl and the parades and hoopla are over, it is time for many would be homebuyers to start buckling down and looking at their options for homes in the East Bay. Either relocating from other places around the country to the North Bay Area for jobs or a lifestyle change, buyers are coming into the market and days on the market for homes in Oakland and Berkeley are dipping slightly. Sellers, according to Berkeley Hills Realty Realtor Krista Miller, are still aware of the high demand and rising prices for homes in good neighborhoods and are pricing their homes accordingly. “The East Bay is still a hot market and until we are further into the spring selling cycle, sellers can wait to get their price for their home.” According to Trulia, the election combined with the rise in mortgage interest rates, did not hamper the Oakland or Berkeley housing market. From November 2016 until February 1, 2017 prices on single family homes continued their uphill climb. The median price of a three bedroom home in Oakland in November was $689,000. Three months later, the median price jumped 7% to $737,500. In Berkeley, the median price of a three bedroom home in November was $1.2 million and held steady in February at $1,227,500.     Average days on the market continues to fall for Oakland from 90 days in December to 64 in February and in Berkeley days on market hit a yearly high of 61 days on the market and dropped to 40 this month. “Inventory continues to be tight. This is good news for sellers who are looking for their asking price. I would suggest sellers getting their homes listed within the next few weeks as inventory will most likely rise and prices drop as we head into the spring buying market,” stated Berkeley Hills Realty Broker, Tracy Sichterman. If you would like to discuss what your home is worth and steps to preparing and listing your home, please contact us today. Read More

7 Reasons Why Now Is The Time To Sell In The East Bay

As we all know inventory of existing and new homes in the Bay Area has been at historic lows, which has benefitted homeowners as price appreciation has risen steadily over the past six years, especially in the East Bay. However, a rise in interest rates, thanks to the Federal Reserve, combined with a shaky political atmosphere, combined with homeowners thinking now may be the time to cash out is almost certain to increase housing inventory for 2017. For prospective sellers that means that if you were planning to sell your home this spring, it’s time to get a move on! Here are seven reasons why now may be the time to sell in the East Bay. 1. Low inventory Inventory of homes in both Oakland and Berkeley dipped steeply in the fall and while Oakland still has a few new homes for sale, according to predictive analytics provided by Altos Research, Berkeley is currently seeing a spike of new inventory over the past two weeks. Are sellers already racing to put their homes on the market to take advantage of pent up buyer demand? We think so. 2.  Equity is on Your Side When the housing bubble burst, home values plummeted, sending many mortgages underwater. Thankfully, the tide has turned: According to CoreLogic, only 8% of homes with a mortgage had negative equity in 2016. If you’re not sure where your equity stands, ask one of our Realtors to run a free comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine an approximate value for your home.  Most likely, your home has appreciated significantly if you have owned it for more than five years. 3. Home Price Appreciation “With the kind of home price appreciation the East Bay has experienced in the past ten years, with many owners realizing over 40-50% gain in value, I am hearing that sellers are thinking it’s time to cash in their chips and move out of the area”, stated Tracy Sichterman, Berkeley Hills Realty. Homes in Oakland which at the bottom of the market in 2009 were selling for $300k are now valued at over $600k and are owned by sellers who can now sell their homes and buy a home outright in many markets in the US. For sellers in Berkeley who purchased their homes at the median price of $555k in 2009, they have experienced a 50% price appreciation now that the median price of a home is at $1.1 million. “Many Northern Californians are deciding to go to housing markets that have much of the vibrancy that they have enjoyed in the past, but can be found elsewhere for half the price of housing in the Bay Area such as Denver, Seattle, Austin and Portland and they can put money in the bank, too,” Sichterman pointed out. 4. Buyer urgency Buyers have consistently been challenged with rising home prices, lack of inventory, multiple offers and now rising interest rates. The buyers in the market right now are ready to go and are out searching intently, meaning days on the market are still under 45 for most homes that are priced well. The Fed has all but promised more interest rate increases in 2017. “Mortgage rates going up is a bit of euphoria and optimism over [Trump’s] promise to lower taxes, increase infrastructure spending and drive 4% economic growth,” says Nela Richardson, Chief Economist at Redfin. Buyers who are stretching to meet debt-to-income ratios won’t be able to wait, putting them in a “hurry and buy” in 2017. 5. Spring Market, Busy Market In the Bay Area, most homes are sold at the best price in the spring, between mid- February and early June. Capitalizing on this market to get the best price for your home is just a smart move. 6. Transfer Base Taxes Have you ever said to yourself, ”I can’t sell my house because my property tax base is so low, I don’t want to lose it”? Are you over the age of 55 or disabled? Did you know you can transfer your property tax with you to your new home? Proposition 60 allows transfers of base year values within the same county (intracounty). Proposition 90 allows transfers from one county to another county in California (intercounty) and it is the discretion of each county to authorize such transfers. Locally, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara County are counties that accept the tax transfer if you are 55 years of age or older. Proposition 110 provides transfer of property tax if you are disabled. These three Propositions were put in place to help seniors avoid being trapped in a home because they could not afford to move due to higher property taxes on a new home. By taking the base tax of a primary residence with them, older homeowners can make the move with less financial hurdles. thus also making move up homes available to new home buyers. Here is more information about Propositions 60-90-110: 7. Washington’s New Administration The likely political changes as a result of the Trump administration could have an impact on both buyers and sellers. “Trump basically made his campaign oriented around uncertainty,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia. Sellers who don’t want to wait to see “how it all turns out” may decide now is the time to cash out, which will place more inventory on the market, which will lower prices. f you would like to have one of our agents run a CMA on your home and discuss the market activity in your neighborhood, please contact us today! Read More

Things to Do in the East Bay – February 2017

What a rainy and wet 2017 we have had, but it looks as if our concerns for a drought have been waylaid for at least the time being! Some fun things to do in February are to enjoy the spaces and places that are fun to see when there has been plenty of water in the area. Also, it’s Lunar New Year where there are plenty of ways to celebrate the advent of the Year of the Rooster in the East Bay. Here is our list of ideas for fun in the East Bay and interesting things to do in our beautiful community!       What: Celebrate Valentine’s Day All Month With Berkeley Hills When: All of February! What: Berkeley Hills Realty’s friends and past clients, Abraham and Bonnee Elterman, recently opened (January 14th) a coffee shop next to their popular frozen yogurt sundae shop called, As You Wish.  The new location was formerly the real estate office of a long time Albany resident, Hal Hoffman and is called Hal’s Office Coffee. (read about the opening)   Bonnee is offering 25% off to Berkeley Hills clients for the month of February.  Stop by our office for a coupon this month and get 25% off at As You Wish or at Hal’s Office!   Outdoor Activities   What: Sunday Stroll at Redwood Regional Park When: Sunday February 5th 10 am- 2 pm Where: The Skyline Serpentine Prairie in Redwood Regional Park, Oakland Wake up and walk into nature. Enjoy the lush green hills and forest on this 3-mile diverse loop from prairie to redwoods and back. Explore the natural wonders within this beautiful park.   What: Salamandering! When: Sunday February 5th 9:30-11:30 am Where: Sunol Regional Wilderness It’s salamander season! Cool, moist, muddy days make for perfect salamander weather! Families will gently search for salamanders with worm-like bodies, golden eyes and bumpy skins! Drop-in, meet at Wilderness Room. $5/vehicle. Wear clothes and shoes that can get muddy, dress for weather. May be handling live animals.   What: Love the Beach Clean Up When: Sunday February 12 10:30-noon ‘ Where: Crab Cove Visitor Center, Alameda Make the shoreline your Valentine and show it some love by lending a hand to volunteer to pick up the trash to beautify the shoreline. Bring your own gloves and bucket or borrow ours. Meet at the Crab Cove Visitor Center. For more information, call: (510) 544-3187.   Entertainment   What: Lunar New Year Celebration- Berkeley When: Saturday February 4 Where: Corner and Delaware and Fourth Street in Berkeley Celebrate the year of the rooster of the Lunar calendar! Delaware at Fourth Street in front of Sur La Table and the Fourth Street Flower stand. This event has charmed its’ fans for 9 years now. A great event for families and children. 12-3 pm Candy Give-aways. 12-1 pm Martial Arts Demonstrations. 1-2 pm Lion Dance by the famous performers at Kei Lun. 2-3:30pm Store Blessing & Parade.   What: Lunar New Year Celebration Where: Oakland Asian Cultural Center When: Saturday February 4 from 11 am- 3 pm. Come and celebrate Lunar New Year at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center! There will be cultural performances such as Chinese dance, traditional music, lion dancing, and many more! There will be activities for kids such as arts and crafts, book readings, and balloon animals! Also, there will be a demonstration by Jimmy Zhang on the art of food and fruit carving. Admission is free.   What: Black History Month – Frankye Kelly When: February 4 at 8 pm Where: California Jazz Conservatory, 2087 Addison St, Berkeley Frankye Kelly, a well known local jazz singer and teacher,  pays tribute to some of the great African American jazz and blues singers from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Cost: $15   What: OMCA Lunar New Year When: Sunday February 12 from 12 pm- 4:30 pm Where: Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. This 16th annual event welcomes the Year of the Rooster with an array of Asian traditions in arts, crafts, food, demonstrations, live music, dance, martial arts and more. Cost: $15.95 adults, $10.95 students/seniors, $6.95 ages 9-17, children under 8 FREE. 510-318-8459.   SF Beer Week: The Bay Area’s annual craft beer extravaganza includes special beer releases, festivals, meet-the-brewer opportunities, beer dinners, tastings, demonstrations and more. Find out what is happening in Oakland, Berkeley and the East Bay between Feb. 10-19.   Valentine’s Day Offerings   What: Chocolate & Wine Cruise Sip wine and sample chocolates from local chocolatiers during a two-hour cruise on the bay. Must be 21 or older. 1-3 p.m. Feb. 11. Pier 40, 89 King St., San Francisco. $50. Read More

Random Acts Of #REKindess: Stories From Inman Connect in NYC

Last week, Berkeley Hills Broker, Tracy Sichterman and Berkeley Hills Realtor, Krista Miller traveled to New York City for the annual Inman Connect Conference held each January near Times Square. The event draws Realtors from all over the world to learn about tools, trends and new ideas surrounding real estate technology. The conference creator, Brad Inman, has been putting on the “show” for over twenty years.   Beyond tech tools, the conference brought up the concept of bravery and courage for our work and our lives.  Last week was a tumultuous time with the inauguration and the marches, especially in New York City. We want to share two stories that happened “on the streets of New York” that not only show courage, but also #REKindness.   The first story was related to us by the broker of a very courageous and kind Realtor from Canada. The Realtor, James McCloskey and his broker were walking down the street in Times Square and James noticed a homeless man shivering on the street. He bent down and asked the man if he needed help. The man said he could use a few bucks to get through the night. James said, “How can I help you get off this street? Do you have any family that you can stay with?” The man responded that he had a sister in North Carolina. James offered to call the man’s sister right then and see if she would take him in. The man gave James her phone number. He had to call three times since it was in the middle of the night and she had no idea whose cell phone number it was who was trying to reach her. She finally answered and James introduced himself to the man’s sister and told her where her brother was. James then said, “If I can get him on a plane to you, will you pick him up from the airport and help him?” The sister, understandably, was very surprised, but agreed that “Yes, if you can get him here, I will find him the help he needs.”  So, James told the homeless man that he was calling the airlines to purchase a one way ticket to North Carolina and his sister was going to help him. The man was shocked by the kindness of a stranger and hugged James and tears streamed down his face as James called the airline, got the man’s information for the ticket and gave him some money for a taxi to get him to the airport that night. James’s broker, stood there with a mixed bag of emotions. He was touched by the show of incredible kindness, he was taken aback that this man, covered in the slime and smell of the streets was hugging his friend while James hugged wholeheartedly back and that he was actually helping to change this man’s life right in front of his eyes. We had a chance to hug James ourselves and tell him thank you for his kindness and confirming our belief in humanity that one person, who takes the time and shows courage to reach out can affect not just one person’s life, but everyone who is also touched by the example.   The second story of kindness, which happened the night prior to meeting our new friend James,  occured again near Times Square. Brad Inman was leading us and a small group of conference attendees to a real estate industry event sponsored by Zillow. In the group was the CEO of Better Homes and Gardens, Sherry Chris. Brad and Sherry are icons in the real estate industry and any company would relish their presence at their event. When we came to the door of the party, a Zillow staff person told us that the party was already at capacity and he could not allow all of us into the event. He looked at Brad and Sherry and invited them to come up while the rest of us waited on the street. Both Brad and Sherry, almost simultaneously, refused the offer and instead encouraged the staffer to allow us to go in their place. This happened in front of over two dozen Realtors waiting in line. They wanted us, as Realtors and marketers, to have an opportunity to meet new people to grow our businesses and to enjoy ourselves and did not want to be put above anyone else.  We hardly had time to thank them for their selflessness before we were whisked upstairs to a party on a skydeck overlooking the entire New York skyline. We were grateful to be in the party, out of the 25 degree weather on the streets below and mostly feeling that we had just witnessed something that embodied why the real estate industry is a relationship business. Thank you to Brad, Sherry and James who reminded us what kindness looks like in action and that it only takes a moment to uplift and inspire others. Read More
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