Thursday, February 25, 2010

2009 and 2010 Tax Credits---

Well, I've been tracking down receipts for the energy-efficient double-paned low-e windows we installed during our remodel last year. And I came across a nice list of home-related tax credits available for doing the right thing, courtesy of the National Association of Realtors. See the list below:

Visit for more articles like this.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ready to Renovate?

Click here for the National Kitchen and Bath Association list of trends for 2010. The highlights seem quite conservative, meaning nothing flashy and new: nickel fixtures, gas ranges, tile flooring, stone countertops. Undercounter drawer-style dishwashers, and undercounter refrigerators make the grade; I've been surprised at how affordable the latter can be!

Meanwhile, Winans Construction announced their selection as National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) regional contractor of the year, based on an Alameda renovation. Congrats!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Where's My Stuff?

Well, after you've been broken into is not the time to ask.

Check out Know Your Stuff from the Insurance Institute. Yes it will take a while to fill out, but if the worst occurs, you'll be all set to file a claim and move on with your life.

Allstate has an iPhone app along the same lines here; I recently saw an ad for an app specifically for auto accidents--photograph the damage, fill in the form, and you're off!

Data--You want Data?

Lots of real estate agents are great at talk, but less great at data (a balance of the two is generally optimal!).

Know that as you begin to organize for a purchase or sale, I'll be forwarding research to you from time to time: Everything from Wells Fargo's synthetic housing market report (email me for a copy) to Clarus Market Metrics reports on trends in your area of interest--by zip, city, size or type of home, etc. (ditto for a copy).

I get this material because of my relationships in the financial and housing policy fields (see more about my background here), and I read this stuff regularly to keep my finger on the pulse of the local market. All that in addition to visiting properties during Monday and Thursday brokers' tours, and touching base with realtors with pending listings--those often are the most up to date indicator of changing demand or pricing.

In fact, know that recent sales of attractive properties (meaning good location, good mix of amenities, not too many steps or too many floors, not too dramatic in style) are very often selling with multiple offers (and therefore often over the asking price).

It's all about getting you the big picture, so you are comfortable and confident as you make your offer!

Selling a Long-Held Home---

You probably remember that Dewey Watson and I have a nice brochure on strategies to save on capital gains taxes as you sell your home (email me for a copy, and see this link for an IRS site on this topic). I was reminded of another strategy when getting together with the local major donor team of my alma mater (at Mt. Holyoke, it really is an alma mater rather than an almo pater).

Alumnae have been donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale of their homes to the College, furthering their charitable goals while reducing capital gains taxes. So if you anticipate $500,000 in capital gains after accounting for your purchase price and transaction costs ("basis"), and after your $500,000 (married) or $250,000 (single) capital gains exclusion, you could donate say 30% of the sale price to a favorite charity and further reduce your capital gains tax bill. Here is an article about donating real estate proceeds from the Boston Globe. As always, you need to consult with your tax advisor on these tax-saving strategies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Calling All Sellers!

Maybe you're thinking about selling in the next couple of years, but here's why you should consider selling now:

On the selling side, there's very strong demand for well-priced properties. A three-bedroom mid-century home on Requa just garnered 12 offers (the young families are likely battling the move-down buyers looking for level living) and a contemporary home on Maxwelton with four bedrooms upstairs is hearing at least four offers this afternoon. Both homes will sell with fewer than the "standard" 14 days on market. Together with a three-bedroom home on York that went pending late last year with three offers, they demonstrate that as always, buyers are anxious to move to Piedmont. The story is different now though--we have half as many properties as usual hitting the market through the year, and the mid-market $1 million to $1.5 million homes are particularly hard to find these days.

On the buyer side, interest rates remain near historic lows, and many buyers feel we're now past the bottom of the market--they're ready to jump in. Carrying costs are in rough allignment with rents right now, and with a number of school districts facing major budget cuts, and private school tuition escalating as usual, Piedmont's great schools look ever more attractive.

Don't forget that if your junior has attended PHS for the past three years, you can secure "senior privileges." Your child can attend PHS for his/her final year, even if you're living in your move-down location.

Now may be the perfect time to put that house on the market! Call me for more info about the market, and to get a competitive market analysis of your home's value.

And meanwhile, if you've ever thought of retiring to the Benecia area, take a look at this new listing! I'm ready to move right now!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wash Where You Flush

That was Realtor magazine's headline.....

EcoHaus, the EcoHome of Seattle and Portland, is advertising another innovation from water-starved Australia: a combination sink and toilet. Check it out here. Great for cabana and tiny powder room installations--

An Interview with Sarah Susanka

You may know I'm a fan of Susanka's Not So Big House books. The best "green" home renovation maximizes the functionality of the home you already own.

Realtor magazine has a nice interview with Susanka in February's issue. Read it here.

A Visit to EcoHome on San Pablo Ave.

Have you been into EcoHome since they opened a few years ago? This showroom, design studio and paint bar offers eco-friendly advice for renovators. Have a hands-on look at no- or low-VOC paints, flooring, American Clay plasters, custom cabinetry, countertops, tile and more that's easy on the earth.

I popped in last week to pick up material on Marmoleum, the new-wave linoleum, for clients who are in contract to buy an Eichler, and had a great chat with co-founder Taja di Leonardi. She gave me a coldwater catcher she prototyped and manufactures(to catch and re-use the cold water that preceeds the hot water you need), and we talked about a shower timer they sell (won't work in my house because boys won't voluntarily turn the timer on before then step in). They are about to start selling the shower tool we've discussed here before that turns your shower water off as soon as it gets to temperature (if, say, you're off folding laundry or brushing teeth). This post at includes a great video on the Roadrunner (the turn-off valve with shower head, for $39.99);

(By the way, while searching for the Roadrunner, I came across an Australian post for an Aqualim shower head that offers x gallons of shower water, reduces shower flow to signal impending shut off, and then shuts off. A nice way to make sure the showers are reasonable in length! And there's a temperature-sensitive light fitting you can add to your showerhead that lights blue when the water is below 100 degrees, and turns red when the temp goes above 100. Now that might excite the boys.... )

EcoHome sells lots of other handy energy- and water-saving devices, and are a great one-stop shop. Check 'em out!