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January 2017 Housing Market Report for Berkeley and Oakland

The East Bay housing market is pulling out of the “holiday inventory slump”, but is gearing up for the annual “after Super Bowl” jump as sellers start preparing for the spring home market. Sellers have historically found that if they put their homes on the market before March, they have a better chance of getting traffic and offers from the pent up demand of buyers looking for available inventory after a shortage that began in late November.   Take a look at the Altos Research data for Oakland to see that inventory was on the decline starting in the fall. Even with the decline of inventory, the sales prices have remained basically flat over the last few months. According to Trulia, the average sales price in Berkeley is at $1,000,500 with an 8% increase in prices year over year. In Oakland, the median sales price is $625,000, a 14% year over year gain.  The Altos Research chart shows that inventory in Oakland has dropped, but days on the market are rising during the last few months, as more desirable properties quickly left the market, while other properties have stayed on the market longer, looking for buyers. In fact, 482 homes are currently in the pre-foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned stages of the foreclosure process. Here is how the Berkeley market is behaving according to the Altos Research data that tracks real time data: Again, you can see that Berkeley inventory has been steadily declining since November. With so few homes on the market in Berkeley, the price fluctuated with the sale of lower end homes, but the median price has held at $1 million.   In looking at the surrounding cities of El Cerrito, Albany, Piedmont and Emeryville, which on average,  realized a 15% increase in values, year over year, the entire region has relatively low inventory as we head out of the holidays and into the spring market.   In general, our ears on the street are hearing that there is going to be a shift in the market as sellers are considering leaving the East Bay, which will free up inventory for buyers. Check out our blog post next week as we dive into the factors that we believe will bring a change to the 2017 spring market.   Read More

Gem of the East Bay-Tilden Park

Located high in the hills of North Berkeley lies Tilden Park, popularly considered “the Jewel of the East Bay.” Hiking trails with names like Seaview or Skyline wind past creeks, mineral springs, and green meadows, up to the sweeping panorama offered at Inspiration Point. The numerous vistas in Tilden Park inspire and delight and provide respite from the busy city life below.   Encompassing the Tilden Nature Area, most of the park’s 2,077 acres serve as tranquil shelters for native plants and wildlife. Rangers here are serious about preserving this magnificent habitat—they even close South Park Drive to automobile traffic to protect migrating California newts who make their annual trip from dry land to streams and ponds to breed, from the end of October to the end March each year. The attention to preservation results in an abundance of natural beauty. Local residents and visitors alike enjoy the wide variety of recreational activities, including steam trains, a golf course, and an antique merry-go-round.   In an effort that started during the Great Depression, the park is part of a 100,000 acre park system with 1,100 miles of trails, preserved for and by the residents of Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. Many of the roads, buildings, trails and dam were created by the CCC and WPA in the 1930’s and add a historic aspect to this beautiful park.   We recently went on a short hike through Tilden Park to see the flowing waterfall from the runoff from Anza Lake. On the way to the waterfall, we passed under majestic Coastal Redwoods and saw many trees still with vibrant fall foliage. The sound of cascading water coming down the stream in the quiet morning belies the fact that we were only a few miles from the homes and businesses in the area.   Learn more about Tilden Park and the expanse of the East Bay regional park system, the largest in the USA, by watching this insightful and educational video  created by the  East Bay Regional Park District.   Do you enjoy biking, hiking, rollerblading, walking and running? Here is a link to all the interpark regional trails.   One of our favorite things to do during the holidays is bring our children and friends to Tilden Park to ride the  Herschell Spillman Merry Go Round which has been in the park for 60 years. It boasts four rows of hand hewn horses, cats, dogs, chariots and more! The merry go round is located at the intersection of Central Park Drive and Lake Anza Road. During the holidays, the Merry Go Round is decorated with festive lights , Santa greets children and refreshments are available.  The Merry Go Round is open each night until 8:30 through the holidays.   If you are ready to explore and discover the park and all the trails, take part in the 2017 Trails Challenge. To complete the challenge, hike five of the trails – or 26.2 miles of trails – by December 1st, and submit a trail log to receive a commemorative pin, while supplies last. As in past challenges, the honor system applies.  Beginning Tuesday, January 3 you can obtain a free Trails Challenge t-shirt and/or a printed copy of the Guidebook, while supplies last, at select Visitor Centers.   Tilden Park and the entire East Bay park system are treasures to our area. If you are considering a move to this area, we highly suggest you visit! And if you would like information about the neighborhoods and homes for sale in the area, please contact us directly, we would be glad to share our knowledge! Happy Holidays! Read More

December East Bay Housing Market Report

The good news for the East Bay housing market is that prices are holding and 2017 looks to be a great year ahead. Currently, there is very little inventory available across the region, which seasonally occurs. As you may be aware, the Federal Reserve raised the interest rates again and hinted at two more increases in 2017. This could have an impact on the market, as more buyer’s consider getting into the market to take advantage of a fixed rate mortgage to hedge against future rate increases.   According to Altos Research, which tracks real time data, inventory in Berkeley has been falling steadily since October and now is hovering around 50 available properties on the market. In Oakland, inventory is also dropping with 343 properties available while days on the market is rising.   The median price for a home in Berkeley is $1.2 million, which has been rising steadily since last January. In Oakland, the median price is $603,000, a $40,000 average drop since it’s high in October.   Interesting to note in Oakland, a four bedroom home has risen by 10.7% year over year to $935k, but the price of a three bedroom home has dropped 1.9% to $660k. Whereas in Berkeley, a three bedroom home has jumped 22.7% year over year to $1.2 million and the price of a four bedroom home has increased slightly by 6.3% to $1.45 million. In nearby Albany, a four bedroom home jumped by 154% year over year to $1.85 million. (Since Albany is a small city, a large home sale could skew the statistics. There is currently only four homes on the market there.)   In El Cerrito, where the median price of a home is $886,400, the median price has been rising steadily since April with a peak of $900k in November. There are currently about 21 homes on the market.   As we head into 2017, we foresee an increase in interest rates which will motivate buyers to purchase before the rates go up further. It is likely that this will effect the lower tier of the market more than the upper tier.  We see continued competition for buyers in homes under one million with an expectation that competitive offers will drive prices up another 3 – 5%.  The market for homes over two million, however, may continue to slow due to perceived difficulty in accessing home equity for a move-up purchase, and due to a slowing of foreign investment.  The upper market may experience prolonged marketing periods and softening sales. Happy Holidays and if you are in the market for a home, contact us and we can ensure you are ready to go when sellers start to put their homes on the market in January. And sellers, if you are ready to list, we can help you get ready for a strong buyer’s market in early 2017! Read More

November Housing Market Update for Berkeley, Oakland

The housing market in the East Bay is experiencing a usual Fall slowdown in terms of sales, but prices are still holding strong. In Berkeley, the price increased 25% year over year for three bedroom homes to $1.2 million according to the monthly Trulia housing market report. Interesting to note, the median price of a three bedroom home five years ago was $619,000.  Two bedroom homes have increased 11.1% to $852,750 an almost 50% increase from five years ago showing that home values are holding strong as we move away from the recession. According to Altos Research, which tracks real time real estate data, the average days on the market have increased since May, but are hovering at 35 days, which still points to a seller’s market and prices are still on the upswing since January. The Oakland market is cooling down in terms of homes sold, according to Trulia’s Market Update report. Altos Research shows the average days on the market for homes in Oakland are starting to linger longer on the market in the past 30 days and inventory of homes have increased for most of the year, from 172 in January  to 369 properties as of November 7. With more properties on the market selling a little less quickly, sale prices are softening slightly. In general, the median price of a three bedroom home has increased year over year 8.4% to $689,000 from 
$635,500 last fall. Five years ago, three bedroom homes in Oakland were selling for just $250,000. For two bedroom homes, the median price is $545,000 which have increased 6.9% over the past year. El Cerrito has seen a consistent upswing in its median home price to $800,000. For one bedroom homes in El Cerrito, the price increased 38% year over year according to the Trulia Market Report. Some pundits say that the softening market may be due to global and financial uncertainties.  With the election results in, we hope the market can find its balance once again. Read More

November Calendar of Events

Berkeley Events: 7th Annual East Bay Jewel Ball Location: Claremont Club & Spa – 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley CA Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 The American Cancer Society’s presents a Great Gatsby themed Gala. Price: $300 Per ticket/$3500 per table. Website: http://www.acsjewelball.org Holiday Boot Camp Cooking Class in Berkeley: Everything But the Bird Date: Sat, November 5, 2016 Time: 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM Where: Rocket Restaurant Resource – 2940 Seventh Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 Price $130 What will you be cooking? Sourdough, Fennel and Sweet Sausage Stuffing Fresh Cranberry Ginger Chutney Cream of Chestnut Soup Sweet and Russet Potato Gratin Gingerbread Cake with Molasses Cream Website: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2595105 Social Media Business Strategies Date: Tuesday Nov 8, 2016 Time: 2:00 pm Cost: Free Where: Berkeley Public Library – 2090 Kittredge St. (at Shattuck) Berkeley, CA 94704 Presented by the Alameda County Small Business Development Center this seminar will help entrepreneurs use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter to increase visibility and develop customer loyalty.= Website: www.acsbdc.org 14th Annual Bay Area Firkin Festival When: November 19th from 11:30am-4:30pm, Where: Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse What: 16 local breweries will be pouring their finest, freshest and strangest cask-conditioned ales, a phenomenon that doesn’t happen often. Breweries will be competing for Best Firkin with never-before-tasted brews, created specially for this event, and attendees will be among the first people in the world to taste them! Cost: $30.00 Website: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2706329 Berkeley Half Marathon When: November 20th Where: Experience a running tour of our exceptional city starting with iconic Telegraph Avenue, tracing through UC Berkeley Campus, winding through the serene residential streets of North Berkeley, cruising along the waterfront near the Berkeley Marina and much more. Half Marathon at 8:00AM @ Milvia St. at Kittredge St., Berkeley, California 94704 10K Start at 9:00AM @ Page St and 4th St, Berkeley, California 94710 5K Race Start at 9:15AM @ Milvia St. at Kittredge St., Berkeley, California 94704 Choose your distance: The Half Marathon (13.1 miles), the 10K (6.2 miles) and the 5K (3.1 miles). All offer rewarding and fun experiences for runners of all types. Website: http://berkeleyhalfmarathon.com/the-races/ Oakland Events: “Jack of All Trades” Indie Craft & Antique Market Location: Jack London Square Date: November 12 Time: 11 am- 5 pm The every 2nd Saturday market features: What: 95+ local vendors (makers, artists, antiques, start-ups and more!) DIY Workshops: over half a dozen workshops from “make your own terrarium” to “make your own leather belts” Local Eats: Not only is Jack London Square home to some of the best restaurants on the water, but the market also features local food startups and food trucks. Live Entertainment: free local bands and musical performances, magicians, and street dancers. Bay Area Bead Extravaganza: When: Saturday November 12 Where: Oakland Marriott City Center What:  Jewelry makers, designers, shoppers…get set for two days of inspiration, creativity, shopping and fun! Price: $10 The Bay Area Bead Extravaganza, the largest bead event in the West, is two days of inspiration, classes/demos, creativity, and shopping fun. Browse 130 booths of unique jewelry-making treasures. For makers there are beads, components & supplies (handmade, upcycled, natural material, stones, glass, metal, and pearls) Classes are November 11th. Website:  https://www.beadextravaganza.com Black Friday 5K Fun Run When: Fri, November 25 Time: 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM Where: See Jane Run, 5817 College Avenue. Oakland Cost: Free Join us at our Rockridge location for a free 5K adventure run with T-shirt giveaway (limited to first 100 to register), goody bags, prizes, raffles, food and drinks. Organizers will send you on a team adventure through Rockridge/Oakland, gathering goodies, shooting pictures, running / walking stairs, meeting cool people and just having a great running adventure. This is a free event and open to all. Grab your friends and come run off some of that turkey with us. This is open to all levels, genders, ages and abilities. Walkers are welcome. Piedmont Turkey Trot When:  November 24 Time: 8:30 a.m Where: Piedmont High School. 800 Magnolia Ave., Piedmont Cost: $15-25 Website: piedmontturkeytrot.com Gear up before your big dinner with a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) course through some of Piedmont’s most beautiful streets. Meet in front of Piedmont High School bright and early and then run, jog, walk, or stroll with family, friends, and neighbors. Plus, the race benefits the PHS Cross Country and Track Teams.   Albany Plant natives on historic Cerrito Creek at Albany Hill Rain has come — hooray! Let’s get plants into soil so roots get down before summer’s drought. Help wildlife, control erosion — and learn about the exciting history of Native American settlements, Spanish land grants, dynamite making — even a train robbery! All ages welcome. Snacks, tools, and gloves provided. Wear closed-toed shoes with good traction and clothes that can get dirty. Dress in layers, prepared for changing weather. Meet at 10 AM at Creekside Park, S. end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito (3499 Santa Clara). Short walk from AC Transit 72 or 25 or El Cerrito Plaza BART. Heavy rain moves to Sun.Nov. 13, or Sat. Nov. 19 if that is rained out. Click here for full schedule. Alameda County Community Food Bank Food Drive Starting on November 19, the Food Bank needs your help kick starting one of their biggest food drives of the year at Safeway stores across Alameda County. Donate food or consider volunteering to distribute. In 2015, 15,000 volunteers were instrumental in helping the Food Bank distribute more than 30 million pounds of food throughout the County. Want to make a bigger impact? Organize a Food Drive! It’s easy, it’s fun and it helps our community! There is a shortage of donated food and the Food Bank needs your help. Consider a Food Drive at your work, school, church or with your community group. Go to http://www.accfb.org/volunteering/ for more information. Berkeley Hills Realty is organizing a food drive! We are a drop off center, so folks can bring by non-perishable food items to our food drive for the Alameda County Community […] Read More

Berkeley Home Sellers Think ‘Staging’

We all know the feeling – the one where guests are due and you haven’t had time to clean the house. You shove all the…well… stuff into the back bedroom and shut the door (you’d lock it if you could). Now imagine that feeling times 10. If you are trying to sell your home this spring, and you have rooms full of that…well…stuff — you’re in for exactly that. You can prevent it all with just a touch of the staging approach for your Berkeley home. Not everyone has $5,000 or more to spend on professional staging, but then again, you can’t offer your home in “lived in” condition and expect to have buyers racing to write you their high-priced offers. There are many staging companies that can work within your budget as well, so, if you only have a few thousand to work with that is better than nothing. And often times, a stager or Realtor can incorporate your stuff to save on costs. Real estate is in large part an emotional selling proposition – beyond their basic housing requirements, buyers want to see themselves living a better life in their new East Bay home. The quickest and easiest way to make that possible is to simply get rid of that same stuff! Here’s an easy example: while a messy home office – one stuffed with papers and files – will cause many potential buyers to think too cramped for me, a well-staged home office helps them imagine their own paperwork in control. To achieve a look that’s clean and simple, box up your files and clean out the dust bunnies. If you have allowed extra furniture to accumulate (like that folding table in the corner that holds last year’s tax records), go ahead and de-accumulate it! Staging of any kind may not be your first choice for how to spend an afternoon, but selling your home is a business transaction, and when you approach the process confident that a little elbow grease will go a long way, your pocketbook will register the difference. If you are, in fact, preparing for this spring’s selling season, contact me to discuss practical strategies for economically handling the repairs, remodeling, and staging that will speed the sale of your home. written by Gina Odom, Realtor Read More

Catch “The Wild Bride” at Berkeley Rep!

Go see the magic happen. The fairytale unfolds at Berkeley Repertory Theatre until February 17. The Wild Bride at Berkeley Repertory Theatre is a high-energy, self-described “feminist fairytale” that follows a young girl from her accidental sale to the devil through the many crossroads of her life.Three actors perform the life stages of the title role—The Girl, The Wild, and The Woman. One actor plays both Father and Prince. A fifth actor plays the Devil. The show features a killer soundscape. The ever-present band with core musicians Damon Daunno and Ian Ross balances being fabulous yet non-intrusive while rocking (or blues-ing) out to Stu Barker’s compositions. Carl Gross’s writing creates both full-on silliness and many moments of what I call “horraughter,”which is an acute involuntarily sound—somewhere between gasp and guffaw—that escapes when one sees or hears something horrible that is also, somehow, hilarious. Audrey Brisson as The Girl harbors more than the allotted amount of spectacular per square inch. Her from-the-toes-and-gut vocal delivery of “The Crossroads”; her chilling embodiment of The Girl’s anquish; and her deft support, in her turn, of the other performers seem central to the success of the production. She is (fortunately? unfortunately?) so convincing as a young girl that the audience gasps with shock and discomfort when the devil holds her tiny body like a guitar and strums her pelvis. Patrycja Kujawska as The Wild displays a “How is that even possible?” level of talent and is responsible for a remarkably heartrending moment when she displays her skill as a violinist just before the ability to play is taken from her. Even as one forcefully rejects the fairytale’s depiction of physical disability as loss of virtue, the moment emerges as a poignant rendering of potential being abruptly and violently stunted. As The Wild, Kujawska’s wolf-cub playfulness is endearing and her every movement is so precise and skillful that I observed many audience members nodding in appreciation of the magic she made by, say, standing up after being seated. Etta Murfitt’s Woman is a force, but it is Murfitt’s choreography that creates the most deliciously haunting images: the visual fugue of girls dancing while the conversation between Father and Devil thunders on; The Woman’s tripartite “community of self” slow-dancing with the prince; and the repetitive, cycling, debilitating “fallback” dance of war. There is just enough “too much”in the movements Murfitt designs. Stuart Godwin’s Prince leaps joyfully into hearts and other loving openings as he portrays a man navigating through a lifetime of love– from the unabashed goofiness of new love to the challenge of loving when half the bright is gone. As The Father, Godwin moves seamlessly into improvisation that delights the participating audience. Andrew Durand’s Devil somehow reminded me of the following: Humbert Humbert from Nobokov’s Lolita; Robert Westenberg’s wolf from Into the Woods; and–from Glee, forgive me –Kurt Hummel’s smile. In order to make fun of gospel singers’ vocal embellishments during the The Devil’s churchy-sounding moments, Durand deploys his own solid singing voice as a weapon. He does not fail to entertain. Durand’s devil reads as more playful and demanding than seductive and is immensely likable when he isn’t being abominable. Emma Rice’s direction enables The Wild Bride’s tumble of movements and sets to read as “hot damn” instead of “hot mess.” This play is a stunning testament to the magic of theater. Where else can you explore what good can come of a leafless ladder tree, a mirror, two chairs, a disco ball, a broom, an oversized portrait, a few buckets of fire, a thumping good cluster of musicians, a small group of talented actors, a spot-on technical staff, and a grove of royal lightbulb pears? Go see the magic happen. The fairytale unfolds at Berkeley Repertory Theatre until February 17. Read More

Berkeley Urban Legends

  Today, I am trying to write a Berkeley urban legend and get the attention of Snopes.com.I think I have it: The year was 2012, the month was April. The perfect Berkeley Bungalow glistened despite the heavy rain. She was beautiful inside and out. Her hearth was warm and, despite her good looks and obviously lavish upbringing, she promised to be low maintenance.     “A buyer came and fell in love. He was told to move along because the match was unlikely. She (the bungalow) was too pretty and his pockets were bare– with merely $100K to put down. There will be competition he was told. Others will woo her. Others will have cash.     The storm let up. The others went out to play. He stayed with his beloved house and submitted his offer. Remarkably, it was the only offer. Now she belongs to him.” A little too unbelievable I know, maybe I will rework it and add back a little competition…. Tip to Buyers: It is a great time to buy, but talk to a local Realtor who can help prepare you for the inevitable competition. With low inventory, Multiple offers are the “new” new-normal. For fun, click here to read some actual Berkeley urban legends. Read More
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