Friday, December 24, 2010

Now that We Live Here, Here's Why We Like Piedmont--

Was visiting a couple of days ago with clients who moved to Piedmont in 2007. Out of the blue, he said,

"You know, all this [renovation] stuff with the house has been fine, but we had no idea how great this move would be for our lifestyle. Compared to [living in Oakland and our kids going to private school with friends all over the area], it's all so easy. They walk to school. They walk to friends' houses. I catch the bus a couple blocks away to the Financial District. Our friends elsewhere have to have logistics meetings every night to organize for the next day."

That's essentially what you said, right?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And If You Don't Want to Rent Out but Want a Housesitter---

A mature client has a friend who does longer term housesitting (1 month to 8 months) in the East Bay Hills in high-end homes. She knows the ropes, from security systems to feeding complicated pets to touching base with neighbors. Email me if you'd like her contact info---

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thinking about Renting?

Friends who sold their beautifully maintained home in town a year or so ago are looking for a Piedmont rental--let me know if you have what they'd love to rent sometime in the spring:

-About 2500sf
-About 4 bedrooms/2+ baths
-$4500 max.
-They'd love a long-term arrangement with a young one about to start school.

Trying to Make It Real Compared to What---

Like my family, you all probably decided to move to Piedmont after looking at Berkeley, Montclair, Lafayette/Moraga/Orinda, and Mill Valley/Marin County. I hear it all the time with my new buyer clients: "I should let you know that we're also looking in ....." or better yet, "do you know a great agent who could help us take a look in .....?" (I have tried and true agent contacts in each of these areas.)

But the Piedmont pride nevertheless shines through. I while ago I pulled together a factsheet comparing 2000 census and API schools data on Piedmont and the Lamorinda towns, and over the years I've expanded it to discuss proximity to Chronicle 100 restaurants, and so on.

Over the break, I took a moment to check on updated info from the American Community Survey ('05-'09 data) and to take a detailed look at the Mill Valley vs. Piedmont choice--Konrad grew up in Mill Valley, went to Tam High, and still has lots of friends there, so particularly given the Inverness house, I probably spend four times as much time in Mill Valley as I do through the tunnel these days.

Let me know if you'd like either of the factsheets to pass on to friends and family. If you're looking for what we've got, it's a pretty clear choice!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cost Vs. Value Report Again Available

Once again, the Realtor magazine/Remodeling magazine annual report is available. If you want to know how much added value (at resale) you can expect from that new deck, added bedroom, or remodeled bathroom, the report can give you some insight.

Eleven of the improvements generate a greater than 100% return when compared to the cost (though the returns don't reflect ongoing comfort improvements or efficiency savings, such as fewer drafts and lower utility bills from window replacements). Last year's review, with a slightly different project mix, included only seven with ratios over 100%, though back in the mid-00s, the ratios were consistently above 100% in the Bay Area. Throughout the decade, the Bay Area's cost vs. value ratios have been consistently higher than those across the Pacific region, and across the nation.

"Best" investments (meaning ratios over 100%) include: attic bedroom, basement, bathroom, minor (not major) kitchen remodels; garage door, entry door and window replacements; and deck additions (wood better than composite, though I've got to say that with most of Montclair's 30- and 40-year old decks carrying high dry rot inspection price tags, a composite deck is sounding awfully good to me....). Least effective investments include master suite additions, sun room remodels and backup generator installations.

Which leads me to say, all real estate is local. There's no question in my mind that the sale value of a Piedmont home with a master suite will be much higher than a home of comparable size without a master suite (and I ran the numbers not long ago for a client). Our buyers "expect" a master suite and are willing to pay for it (or conversely, some will skip past a home without one, and of course value buyers willing to live without a master suite will be pleased with their cost savings). Likewise, a bedroom addition in Piedmont often comes with a new foundation and second garage space expense attached--it may make little sense without also considering the needs of your family, tax bill considerations, and emotional attachments to neighborhoods. In that case, you might get exactly the arrangement you want for your remaining years in your home, at, say, 60 cents to the dollar of cost paid, after resale is reflected.

So don't hesitate to invite me over to look at plans or add my two cents to your discussions. And don't forget, you need a remodel without a permit like you need a hole in the head.

A Useful Guide to Small Claims Court

I've only considered going to small claims court once in my real estate career: Nice young clients were in contract to sell their 600 sf condo in 2005 to a young man who apparently was trying to buy the home with pretty much no money down. At the closing table, he was short--he and his agent assumed he could use part of a credit from the seller against his first month of mortgage interest and the our side knew that wasn't legal. Given that another unit had just gone into contract at a figure a few thousand less than ours, I knew that we'd be up a creek if the transaction failed. So I covered the shortfall out of my paycheck (small condo--small paycheck), and figured it would be a slam dunk in small claims court. Well, that was more than five years ago and I've missed my chance.

This month's CA Assoc. of Realtors magazine has a nice primer on small claims court, however; you can find it on the web, or email me and I'll send you the PDF of the issue. The article starts on p. 18.

Lots of Home Care and Maintenance Tips--JMC Inspections

If you're on Facebook, link up with JMC Building Inspections, owned by John McComas--he just sent me a link and his Facebook page is a nice walking encyclopedia of tips, videos (how to check your deck for safety), and upcoming events. When John does my client's home inspections, I pay for him to also do an energy audit of the home as he's one of the few inspectors who is also a state-certified auditor.