Introducing Lisa Hedrick To the Berkeley Hills Realty Team

Berkeley Hills Realty is proud to announce the addition of Lisa Hedrick to our real estate team. Lisa brings many years of investment property expertise to our brokerage, and we welcome her passion for helping buyers and sellers in Berkeley and the East Bay area. Read More

Introducing the Newest Agent at Berkeley Hills Realty:

Meital Amrami Glowing referrals from Meital Amrami’s client-friends quickly gave her a thriving real estate business. It is easy to see why. Meital lights up when speaking about her clients’ successes: “We got it! We got it! I love seeing them so excited and jumping up and down… It is such a good feeling.” In a competitive market with up to 30 offers on a single house, Meital often sealed the deal for her clients by presenting a clean contract, settling on the right price, and using the kind of savvy negotiating skills one tends to acquire from growing up in a family of nine siblings.   Meital, who speaks both Hebrew and English fluently, lived in Tel Aviv for 24 years. She served in the Israeli Navy as an officer for 3 years and was recognized for her social skills, responsibility, commitment, and integrity as a leading commander. After moving to the United States, Meital graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in Animal Science and Biology. After graduating, she moved to Arizona. Meital planned to become a veterinarian, but when she was introduced to real estate she knew she’d found her true calling.   Though Meital now focuses on high-end homes, she started her career by specializing in distressed REO properties. The resulting immersion in home construction knowledge eventually led her to become an investor herself. She has since purchased several “fixer-upper” properties and renovated them completely, paying attention to the tiniest details. Meital’s eye for beauty, detail, and elegant design is sharpened by her lifelong passion for sculpting and sketching. It has become second nature for her to find and market exceptional homes for the most discriminating clients: “I am very available to my clients. I become psychologist, friend— everything!”   Meital and her husband Tomer spent a year in San Francisco before making Berkeley their home last year. Why the East Bay? “I love the nature, the weather, the serenity… and the people are amazingly kind, laid-back, and full of positive energy.” When Meital is not working to find, improve, or sell a home, she is enjoying her own Berkeley oasis. She loves serving gourmet Middle Eastern food and playing with Noam, her 13-month-old son; Bella, a Chihuahua/pug mix; and Sam, a bassett hound. Meital is warm, high-energy, highly recommended, and experienced: “I have gained extensive business skills while working with investors and I look forward to putting those skills to work for my clients in the San Francisco Bay Area.”   Meital Amrami DRE# 01922024 [email protected]   Office: 510.524.9888 x59 Vm: 510.524.1700 x59 Cell: 415.837.8224 Read More

Happy Birthday, Tracy!

  Today, Berkeley Hills Realty agents and staff are hacking Berkeley Hills co-owner Tracy Sichterman’s blog to wish her a very Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday, Tracy! What’s so great about Tracy Sichterman? Here’s what BHR agents and staff have to say:   “I can’t sum her up in just One Good Thing. Tracy has an infectious energy and excitement for her work, and is the curator of the coolest shoe collection in real estate.” Rebecca Nemeth “Thoughts About Tracy: She is so smart, yet so kind and considerate… a very nice combination. She is so successful, yet so modest and humble… a very nice combination. She is so inspiring, yet so supportive and encouraging… a very nice combination. She is the key to the entire office, no combination required!” Tom Knight “Great source for info! My go-to tech girl!” Terese Ashman “Happy Birthday Tracy. Among the many things I admire about you is your positive attitude and the great ability of always being able to say good things about everyone.” Love, Maya Trilling “Tracy is wonderful because she is the most generous, truly optimistic person I have ever met. She glows with the energy of an overachiever that has made it and wants to share it all with the world! Happy Birthday to the best “boss” a person could have!” Carina Stanley, Office Manager “Happy birthday to one inspirational, hard- working, sophisticated, unselfish, and classy bike-riding emotional creature. May your year be full of love, laughter, and a great cocktail. Cheers!” Krista Miller “Happy Birthday Tracy. It has been a pleasure working with you for the last 1.5 year. You are not only a beautiful person but also a fabulous supportive person in the office to us all. I am amazed at how much you do for everyone. Thanks for being you.” Xoxo, Mamood Mokhtari “Tracy: The best great thing about Tracy is Tracy. Top to bottom, a complete package! And inside too!” Xoxo, Nancy Mueller “One great thing about Tracy Sichterman is her infectious gracious smile and her kindness to all who come her way…” Happy Birthday from Feri Niroomand & Negar Souza “Tracy is very whole. And by that I mean that she very naturally possesses abilities (qualities) that are a tricky balance in one person. She is kind but has boundaries, smart but accessible, careful but willing to take risks, energetic and optimistic but not crazy (I think!). And most of all for me anyway, she is a really positive force, always. She is encouraging, substantive, always available and yet not judgemental. I am sure she must have privately had some dark moments in the past year or two given the economy, but bless her heart she turns it into sunshine every time. And it’s real, the kind that warms you and gets you through.” Romney O’Connell Happy Birthday, Tracy! Thank you for making Berkeley Hills Realty such an amazing place to work!   For more information about Berkeley Hills Realty, call 510-524-9888,   email [email protected] or visit us at Read More

A Toast To The Newest Agent At Berkeley Hills Realty: Janesta Downey

Since earning her real estate license in 2004, Janesta Downey has demonstrated a knack for taking on challenges and creating positive results. Can she find the perfect home for a group of nuns in West Oakland? Yes, she can! In fact, she did. As a result of the friendships formed during that transaction she became fundraiser, board member, and general cheerleader for St. Martin de Porres School in Oakland. “You’ll hear a lot about this school from me,” she warns, “I believe education is the key to overcoming so many social challenges.” Janesta has a solid history of turning her passions into her daily routine. Her love of meeting the needs of her clients created 20 successful years in computer industry corporate sales. Her love of wine-tasting and California helped her make the move from the East coast to the East Bay– “The best place in the world!”– after she earned her B.S. in Business Management from Rivier College and B.S. in Social Sciences from University of New Hampshire. She recently teamed up with former co-workers to shape, a blog for exploring and reviewing wines. You’ll often find her whipping up a meal for friends and, occasionally, for her son and daughter. “They both work in the Bay Area,” she declares with a hint of triumph. You can be sure the Greek chicken she’s preparing for them tonight will be accompanied with the perfect wine. The pairing of an agent with the right brokerage is essential to success. What draws Janesta to Berkeley Hills Realty? “It is such a nurturing group with a reputation for ethical business practices. When you tell the truth your life is so much simpler. I seek out people who share the same commitment to trustworthiness and kindness.” For her clients, Janesta’s consulting and listening skills make the difference: “I believe people tell you exactly what they need. If you are talking too much you miss it.” Janesta is strong enough to support clients during periods of high emotion while being analytical and thorough about the details. These skills coupled with support from a welcoming brokerage make Janesta Downey and Berkeley Hills Realty the perfect pairing for your real estate needs. Janesta Downey   DRE # 01402391 [email protected] Office: 510.524.9888 x57 Vm: 510.524.1700 x57 Cell: 510.301.5323 About The East Bay Specialists Berkeley Hills Realty has long been recognized as one of the market leaders in East Bay real estate. Founded as Berkeley Realty, the firm has more than fifty years of experience with residential properties in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Piedmont, El Cerrito, and Emeryville. We are proud of our excellent reputation throughout the East Bay community and among our colleagues in real estate. At Berkeley Hills Realty, we strive to promote that reputation through specialized service and local expertise. With small-town ethics and a big world view, we combine digital push with personal pull to advance in the market without losing sight of the individual. Berkeley Hills Realty is locally owned by two longtime agents. We are committed to nurturing a successful partnership with our clients, our associates, our staff members, and our real estate colleagues throughout the East Bay. Our associates are a select group of less than twenty-five agents. Our ongoing mission is to ensure the client’s best interests are of the utmost importance. That mission includes a dedicated effort to place the best and most polished tools available into the hands of our associates. With highly competitive commission earnings and exceptional support services, we take great care of our agents so that they can take great care of their clients. For more information, call 510-524-9888, or email [email protected] 1714 Solano Ave., Berkeley CA 94708  ·  510.524.9888  · Read More

Living Large with Less

by Rebecca Nemeth Anyone who’s looked for their first home in Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, or Kensington (or wants to downsize into something more manageable) has noticed that we have homes in an array of sizes. While most homes here begin at 900 square feet and go up from there (typically up to about 3,000 square feet), we do have a few that are teensy. I’ve seen a few as small as 500 square feet. Why would someone build something so small? Sure, its possible that people just had less “stuff” in 1920 than they have now, but have you noticed that even smaller “tiny houses” are getting increasingly popular now? The historic precedent – Why Albany has some Relatively Tiny HomesIn Albany, for example, the city subdivided some lots into parcels of 3,800 or 3,300 square feet, and even as small as 2,500 square feet. Fortunately builders like Charles MacGregor took on building nice quality homes on these small scale lots in the 1920′s and 1930′s. This allowed people who were probably then “blue collar” homeowners to afford a nicely built home with details like dining room built-in cabinetry, curved archways, recessed niches, and beautiful fireplaces. The layouts follow a typical Craftsman style, with logical layouts that don’t waste space, and that integrate the kitchen, living room, and dining room into more open public spaces than Victorian homes did. These single story homes were usually 850 to 1,000 square feet, huge compared to today’s 65 (yes, 65) to 500 square foot Tiny Homes. Urban planners and environmentalists will tell you, small is beautiful. Here are a few reasons why. Smaller homes make it easier to have strong, interconnected communities. Smaller homes can be built closer together, on smaller lots (such as the semi-urban lots that are common in Albany and Berkeley), making it easier to support something like Albany and Berkeley’s Solano Avenue, an old school type of Main Street with locally-owned businesses, and an array of city parks. You’ll find many neighborhood shopping districts and parks like these throughout the 1920′s era parts of the East Bay. Smaller homes make it easier to have good public transit. Because more people can live closer together, the community can support an excellent, robust public transit network with features like our BART trains and AC Transit buses. Smaller homes are better for the environment. From an energy conservation standpoint, smaller homes use fewer resources to build, require less energy to heat and cool, and the owners will be using furniture and items that serve double or even triple purpose (so they’re buying less furniture, etc.). Smaller homes are easier and more affordable to build yourself (vs. a larger new home).Plans for many smaller homes are readily available online, especially if you’re interested in the micro-size Tiny Homes that have become more popular in recent years. Cheap building plans, designs with an eye to energy efficiency and easy of use, fewer materials needed, and fewer “man” hours needed to build a home = a less expensive home. Smaller homes more affordable to own. A smaller home = a smaller purchase price. That means you may be able to pay all cash and not have a mortgage, or have a very small mortgage. A smaller purchase price = smaller property taxes. And smaller homes also = smaller utility bills. Every heating and lighting dollar can go into usable space instead of that huge atrium or “living room” people don’t actually live in. Smaller homes may be the best fit for the available empty lots and suit what city building codes will allow. In our area, any lot that could be built on in conventional ways has been built on. But you may find some smaller lots, or some that would accommodate a smaller home in part of the lot. Also, most cities limit the amount of living space you’re allowed to have relative to the size of a lot (for example, in Albany that ratio is 55% of the lot size). Many cities also have set-back requirements, which state how far from a house must be from the lot line or the neighbor’s house. For more information check out these articles and blogs on Tiny Homes. Many include plans for building your own tiny house. Yahoo article on “Five Tiny Homes You’ll Love”: House blog: Green Cabins: House Design: Texas Houses: Read More

Introducing Our Two New Agents: Gina Odom & Krista Miller

By Eliza Sarasohn Berkeley Hills Realty is delighted to welcome two stellar agents to the fold: Gina Odom and Krista Miller. “Both Gina and Krista practice kindness first and real estate second — an important asset in today’s complex and emotional market,” says Berkeley Hills co-owner Tracy Sichterman. “Krista brings a professionalism infused with both kindness and determination, not to mention an energizing aptitude for new technologies and social media.” Adds Bill McDowell, Berkeley Hills co-owner, “Gina has great intuition, grounded in an extensive knowledge about everything real estate. She knows how houses are built and she understands the nuances of our market.” Gina Odom Entrepreneurial Spirit, Insider Know-How Gina Odom has an inborn knack for real estate; she’s been assessing properties practically all her life. “My family owns a construction business; I’ve been looking at blueprints since I was a little girl,” says Odom. After learning the ins and outs of the family business, Odom realized that “I didn’t want to wear a tool belt — I wanted to work with people.” That, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit led Odom to real estate, an industry in which her deep knowledge of home construction has served her well over the past eight years. “I know how to manage a contracting project from start to finish, how to estimate drywall, how to spot a cracked foundation,” Odom says. “I can tell my clients how much it’s going to cost to knock out a wall, or when they should advocate for a second opinion on a project.” Along with sound construction, Odom also appreciates the fine art of the deal. “True negotiation — finding common ground for both the buyer and seller — is an art,” says Odom. “I’m a natural problem solver. I love sitting down with the other agent and finding out how to make it happen.” When she’s not helping her clients buy and sell properties, Gina enjoys soaking up the best the Bay Area has to offer: surfing, cycling in the East Bay hills, and camping with her husband and infant daughter. She invites prospective clients to get to know her on her blog and website Krista Miller Tech and People Savvy With her MFA in painting, Krista Miller began her career as a fine artist, designer and art teacher, showing at galleries around the Bay Area. But in 2004, Miller shifted her artist’s eye to real estate. “Being an artist and designer, I have a real attention to detail — I’m focused on color, space and organization,” says Miller. “This sensibility naturally lends itself to helping my clients envision themselves in their homes, or if they’re selling, I can help them stage and creatively market the home to appeal to the right buyer.” Her teaching background affords Miller a keen sense of people along with an enduring patience and clear communication style that’s won her a devoted clientele. “I’m a hand holder — I love working with first time home buyers,” Miller explains. “I’m happy to explain the process from top to bottom and I can sympathize, because I recently picked up our family, sold our old home and bought a new one.” Miller now lives in Albany with her husband and her “two adorable curly haired girls.” “I like working in residential and I think I end up attracting a lot of families as clients, because that’s the stage I’m in. Having my own young kids, I understand the importance of safety and stability in a neighborhood, and I know about local school districts and kid-friendly play spaces.” Miller brings tech savvy and innovative marketing skills to Berkeley Hills Realty. She runs her own real estate blog,, and loves cooking up outside-the-box approaches to spread the word on her properties, often incorporating social media and video. “My relationships don’t end when the transaction is over,” says Miller. “The people that I end up working with often become my friends.” When Krista isn’t at work she can often be found running along the Bay trails, eating Scharffenberger chocolate, or laughing with her family until her stomach can no longer bear it. About The East Bay Specialists Berkeley Hills Realty has long been recognized as one of the market leaders in East Bay real estate. Founded as Berkeley Realty, our firm has more than fifty years of experience with residential properties in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Piedmont, El Cerrito, and Emeryville. We are proud of our excellent reputation throughout the East Bay community and among our colleagues in real estate. At Berkeley Hills Realty, we strive to promote that reputation through specialized service and local expertise. With small-business ethics and a big worldview, we engage the latest advances without losing sight of the individual. 1714 Solano Ave., Berkeley CA 94708 · 510.524.9888 · Read More

Berkeley Hills Realty’s Famous Baby

Our very own real estate agent/momma, Gina Odom, made headlines yesterday as her baby girl had a brush (and cuddle) with greatness. President Barack Obama touched down at San Francisco International Airport for a brief fundraiser at The W Hotel. He was greeted by a select welcome committee which included Berkeley Hills Realty’s agents Gina Odom and Tracy Sichterman. Our agents stepped out of the spotlight as Gina’s baby, Josie, clearly stole the show. President Obama offered to take the crying baby saying, “Let me try, I’ve got a reputation for being pretty good at this.” Known as being a “baby-whisperer” The President held the baby sweetly to his shoulder for a moment– creating a memory to last a lifetime. Learn more about Gina on her blog:   Read More

Feri Niroomand and Negar Souza join Berkeley Hills Realty

BERKELEY, CA – January 2011 – Feri Niroomand and Negar Souza, a dynamic mother-daughter real estate team, have joined the prestigious firm of Berkeley Hills Realty. They will be serving buyers and sellers in the East Bay and beyond. “We’re delighted that Feri and Negar have joined us,” says Berkeley Hills co-owner Tracy Sichterman. “Feri brings wisdom and years of experience to the job, and Negar has enthusiasm and cool technical skills. It’s an impressive combination. Plus, they’re fun to be around.” In a quarter-century working in the real estate business, Feri Niroomand has developed first-class listening and negotiating skills. “I always encourage my clients to explore their ideas about what a house will do for them,” she says, “and I keep their interests in my heart.” Feri grew up in Tehran and moved to the United States at 18. A UC Berkeley graduate, she has a master’s degree in fine arts, and brings an artist’s sensibility to her professional real estate skills. Feri describes herself as very friendly and straightforward. Somewhat unusually, she works in both residential and commercial real estate. “I recognize that these are very different,” she says, “but I find it exciting to work in both fields.” Feri spent two decades at Red Oak Realty, where she was a top producer in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and won the manager’s award in 2007 and 2008. But in recent years, she’s wanted to work in a smaller environment. “Berkeley Hills is intimate and cozy” says Feri, “and its owners offer a lot of personal support. Being here feels like family.” Speaking of family, Feri is making the move to the Solano Avenue firm along with her daughter, Negar Souza. “I’ve been active in real estate for five years,” says Negar, “but I was actually born into the business.” As the daughter of a real estate agent, she saw nothing odd about spending her childhood weekends at open houses, and she grew up learning the ropes. “I used to go with my mom on tours, even during the week. I was the kid tagging along.” Says Feri with a laugh, “My daughter was handing out the flyers at open houses at the age of four.” Negar, who grew up in the East Bay, shares her mother’s academic and artistic leanings. She is a San Francisco State grad where she studied interior design. She never wanted to just decorate homes, however. “I wanted to help people decide where to live,” she says. “I wanted to decorate houses and stage them—to be involved with everything. Real estate is in my blood, so I always looked at it as something exciting that I wanted to do.” Negar shares her mother’s enthusiasm about the move to Solano Avenue. “Berkeley Hills has the respect of the community, and it’s staffed with agents I’ve admired,” she says. “The place has a great feeling of camaraderie, and Bill and Tracy have been very welcoming.” Negar will always be the younger member of the mother-daughter team, but that has its advantages. In addition to youthful energy, she’s comfortable with new technology and adept at social media. But mother and daughter both believe in the power of face to face, human contact. They’re also good at teamwork. It’s in their genes. Contact information:Feri Niroomand (cell) 510-409-9111Negar Souza (cell) [email protected] Berkeley Hills Realty has long been recognized as one of the market leaders in East Bay real estate. Founded as Berkeley Realty, the firm has more than fifty years of experience with residential properties in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Piedmont, El Cerrito, and Emeryville. For more information, call 510-524-9888 or visit the firm’s web site at Read More

Introducing Our Two New Agents – Mary Gray and Mykah Larkins

Two top-notch agents, Mary Gray and Mykah Larkins, have joined Berkeley Hills Realty. They are not only longtime business partners, they’re related: Mary is Mykah’s aunt. “Mary and Mykah combine the wisdom of age and the enthusiasm of youth,” says Berkeley Hills Realty co-owner Tracy Sichterman. “They make a great a team.” Mary Gray: on Being of Service Mary grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to the Bay Area in 1979 to work as a hospice nurse before switching to real estate. She worked with Mason McDuffie and Marvin Gardens, acquiring a list of loyal clients, especially around El Cerrito, where she lives. In her real estate work, Mary uses the same intuitive skills that served her as a nurse. “I’m good at walking in other people’s shoes,” she says, “especially in times of stress and transition.” Mary says she is also good at “listening below the surface,” by which she means hearing what her clients tell her while intuiting their deeper hopes and wishes. Mary, who is in her early sixties, is especially fond of the elderly. “When I was little, my mother and I lived with my grandparents,” she says. “The old ladies on the block taught me to play canasta before I was five, and I appreciated their wisdom and beauty.” She loves to hike and read, Mary says, “but relationships are what interest me most-and will remain so forever.”Mykah Larkins: Learning from the Best Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1970, Larkins forged her connection to the East Bay when she moved in with her aunt in 1986. Mary Gray was an agent with Mason McDuffie then, and would become her mentor and business partner. When Larkins decided to go into real estate in 2003, her aunt was there to help. “I would get a stager, pick the colors, and do all the preparation work,” she says, “but Mary had been through many markets and she knew exactly what was needed.” At the time, the real estate market was booming. “Mary started training me at a time when the seller’s market was amping up,” says Larkins. “In the beginning, a house would typically get a few offers and sell for $20,000 over the asking price. But pretty soon houses would get 16 offers and go for $150,000 over the asking price.” The pace was frenetic. “We got houses ready in three weeks, put them on the market for two weeks, and have them close escrow three weeks later,” says Larkins. “Six to seven weeks from start to finish, and you were done.” But during all that time, Gray was preparing her niece for the slowdown she knew was sure to come. “In a down market, those houses will just sit around,” Gray warned her. “You can struggle to set the right price, do all the same preparation work, and a house might still take three months to sell.” Says Larkins: “Way back then, Mary was already training me for the market we’re currently in.” Larkins is a great communicator, and she knows the East Bay intimately. “I live and work and play right here in the El Cerrito-Albany-Berkeley area,” she says. “My entire life is here. My children go to school here, and I’m on the PTA; I know the community really well.” Two Heads are Better than One Mary and Mykah—sometimes called the “M & M team”—think of real estate as not just a business, but also a service. “A house is most people’s greatest asset and buying or selling it is hard on them,” says Mary. “It’s a privilege to help somebody through the process.” The women also form something of a mutual admiration society. “Mykah is smart and creative,” says Mary. “We’re very good together.” Both women are detail oriented, and committed to helping their clients accomplish what they want. “We’re going to sell your house, or find you one,” says Mykah. “Either way, we’re going to get the job done.” To contact Mary Gray and Mykah Larkins: Mary Gray: 510-524-9888 x40; [email protected] Mykah Larkins: 510-524-9888 x40, 510-520-6692 (cell); [email protected] Read More
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