Saturday, October 29, 2005

Friday Night @ the NAR Expo

I had a great time down at the NAR Expo last night. I went there in search of new tools and technologies to help my business and ended up meeting lots of wonderful people. Sometimes REALTORs can be a tough bunch to be around and I admire the people that have to man those booths all weekend.

Before leaving, I made sure to grab my tickets, my wallet, my iPod and my fresh copy of Wired to read on the BART. I even made sure to post to MEBA, but I managed to forget my list of phone numbers which kept me from meeting up with my fellow KW Berkeley agents.

A couple of last nights stops included:

Inman news- I'm a huge fan. Look on the sidebar, you'll see their news feed.

Based in nearby Emeryville, Inman is a great source of real estate related news. If you look on the sidebar, you'll see their news feed.

They were promoting Inman Stories. If you're a regular reader, you know that I'm really interested in video blogs, especially how they relate to real estate.

I really wanted to chat with them, but they were busy working out some logistics and I made a note to stop back later when we could talk a little more in depth about their project.

By the way, they're also blogging the event.

EcoBroker-- EcoBroker is a Certified Designation that helps Real Estate professionals stay current with the growing green real estate market and the opportunities it presents.
The EcoBroker Designation is a positive and profitable way to differentiate yourself in today's real estate market. Becoming an EcoBroker(TM) is a great opportunity for you to benefit your community and the planet, while broadening your base of training and earning more business.

I've been thinking about exploring this niche for a while, but I wasn't aware of this designation before yesterday. This goes on the list of products to investigate further.

Here's a shot of the EcoBroker crew:

All right, that's it for now. It's Saturday night and I need to peel myself away from the computer.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Rushing Out the Door

and heading down to the Real Estate Expo down at the NAR Convention in San Francisco. I can't wait to see what's the latest and greatest in the world of real estate.

Plus, I get a chance to take BART into the city and not have to worry about parking.

In case you don't know about it, here's a trip planner for the Bay Area. You enter the end points and it will tell you how to get there, which trains/buses to ride and also gives the schedules. It may not be so impressive now, but when I first moved out here three years ago, it was a great resource.

I'm looking forward to contributing to the Real Estate Blog Squad's coverage of the event.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Real Estate Lens Anticipation

I'm really looking forward to creating a lens with Seth Godin's new project Squidoo.

If you haven't heard of it yet, Squidoo is billed as a service that makes it easy for us to create, share and discover meaning online. It's a co-op of everyday experts, called lensmasters, who build lenses on topics they care about.

I think this is a great idea. I hope it lives up to the hype.

update: 11/9/2005 message received! Welcome to the Squidoo beta test!

woo hoo!

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flickr credit: garoto_mm creative commons license

10/26/2005 Weekly Mortgage Roundup

Here's the latest update from Shawn Repulles of Equitas Capital.
  • Mortgage rates climbed for the sixth consecutive week and haven't been this high since July 2004.

  • The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased from 6.1 percent to 6.17 percent, and the average 15-year, fixed mortgage rate nosed higher as well, rising from 5.69 percent to 5.72 percent.

  • The average jumbo 30-year, fixed rate rose to 6.33 percent from 6.25 percent last week.

  • Adjustable-rate mortgages also moved up, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage notching higher from 5.74 percent to 5.77 percent, while the average one-year ARM climbed from 5.07 percent to 5.16 percent.

  • Concerns about higher inflation continue to push fixed mortgage rates higher. In the past week, both the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, and the Producer Price Index, or PPI, showed sharp increases, precipitated by higher oil and energy costs.

  • Higher inflation makes bond investors nervous because it erodes the fixed payments on bonds and cements the notion of more Fed interest-rate hikes.  Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How to Buy a Home

I came aross a great wiki on How to Buy a Home and thought I'd pass it along.

Of course it's a simplified version, but I think it provides some good info in a strightforward, concise manner.


1. Do your homework. Enlisting the help of a tutor is great idea (this is your real estate agent)

I agree wholeheartedly :wink:

East Bay Market Data

I mentioned in an earlier post that Glen Bell & I have been tracking the listing data for our local area.

What we've been doing is this. We take each geographic area that our MLS covers and count the active and pending listings. The active listings are properties that are on the market & not yet under contract. The pending listings are those that are under contract, but haven't closed yet.

Using these numbers, we count the existing inventory (actives) & figure the ratio of pendings/actives. The higher the number, the more weighted the market is towards sellers. The lower the number, the more weighted the market is towards buyers.

I just ran the numbers for Oakland & Berkeley for this week and here they are, hot off the presses.

Berkeley 97 Pendings / 115 Actives = .843 Pending/Active Ratio

Oakland 472 Pendings / 793 Actives = .595 Pending/Active Ratio

In the past few weeks Berkeley has gone from a .653 P/A ratio on October 4th to .843 this week, which suggests that the market is strengthening again for sellers. For the same time period, Oakland's P/A ratio has stayed in the .59-.65 range.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Some Recommendations

I'm having a hard time pulling the trigger on a post here. I've probably started 5-6 drafts in the past couple days, but nothing is fit to publish yet.

I've also been spending some time giving Flock a test drive. My first impression is that I like the new features & the level of integration, but it's noticeably slower than firefox.

Anyways, here's a few more blogs that I've been enjoying recently.

The Bay Area Is Talking

The Big Picture

I've really been interested in videoblogging recently.

Crooks and Liars is a great one.

I've also been following Cirne. I met Enric at the Web 2.1 brainjam and really like what he's been doing.

More recommendations in this earlier post

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

10/18/2005 Weekly Mortgage Roundup

Here's the latest update from Shawn Repulles of Equitas Capital.

I added a couple links to the summary.

  • Mortgage rates climbed for the fifth consecutive week and remain the highest since March 30.
  • The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 6.07 percent to 6.1 percent, and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate nosed higher as well, rising from 5.67 percent to 5.69 percent.
  • The average jumbo 30-year fixed rate rose to 6.25 percent from 6.22 percent last week.
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages also moved higher, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage climbing from 5.69 percent to 5.74 percent, while the average one-year ARM floated up to 5.07 percent from 5.04 percent.
  • Concerns about higher inflation have led fixed mortgage rates higher in recent weeks.
  • Repeated comments by Federal Reserve Board members about inflation and the need for continued interest-rate hikes have pushed long-term government bond yields higher.
  • Even the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's Sept. 20 meeting left little doubt that short-term interest rates are headed higher, giving both bond investors and mortgage shoppers an uneasy feeling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Housing Settling Into a Steady State

The September housing numbers from Dataquick are in and it seems to echo what I've been saying.

"The Bay Area real estate market seems to have settled into a steady state, with few indicators pointing to any upcoming change. Supply and demand seem stable. We are keeping an eye on rising mortgage interest rates which could slow things down somewhat before the end of the year," said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

Inventory, which was previously rising, has flattened out for the time being and the result is a balanced market. It's the type of market where buyers are finding homes to buy and sellers are selling theirs in a reasonable amount of time.

The big wild card is interest rates. If they stay around 6%, we could see a very healthy housing market. But after seeing the recent inflation figures, I have a feeling rates are going to rise.

Keep your fingers crossed & I'll keep you informed.

On a similar note, I've teamed up with another agent in my office named Glen Bell & together we've been tracking listing data throughout the East Bay for the past couple months. I'm looking forward to posting some of our findings in the near future.

Sad Day for A's Fans

I just received some shocking news in my email inbox.

It looks as if longtime Oakland Athletics play-by-play announcer Bill King passed away this morning. I knew he was having some heatlh problems after injuring his hip last spring, but this is a shock.

"We are deeply saddened by Bill's passing," said A's President Michael Crowley. "He was arguably the most recognizable voice in the history of Bay Area broadcasting. One would be hard-pressed to find an announcer who served as the lead play-by-play voice for three major sports franchises for as long as Bill. He was a broadcasting icon and true renaissance man in every sense of the word whose loss will be felt in many circles. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill and his family."

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I'm a huge A's fan. Part of the reason that I became an A's fan is the world class talent that Bill King brought to A's radio broadcasts.

I grew up listening to Bob Uecker doing Milwaukee Brewer games & Harry Caray doing Cubs games & when I listened to King doing A's games, I knew that he was in the same category.

I wish he could have stayed around to see the current group of young stars develop.

Take care Bill, we'll miss you.

Fan reaction on Athletics Nation

Monday, October 17, 2005

Web 2.0 &

Another Web 2.0 service that I use extensively is is a social bookmarking, social software web service for storing and sharing web bookmarks (wikipedia). played a huge role in opening my eyes to Web 2.0.

I spend quie a bit of time on the web exploring. When I find a site that I'd like to bookmark, I save it in

Since is a web based service, everything is saved remotely & I can access my list of bookmarks at any computer with a connection.

When I save a link in delicious, I'm prompted to add descriptive tags, or keywords to each bookmark.

This is where the magic happens. Through these freely chosen keywords, we are collectively categorizing these links. This is called folksonomy and is one of the driving forces behind web 2.0.

One example:

Here are all of my bookmarks

By clicking on one of the existing tags on the right hand side, I can pull up every bookmark with that tag.

Here are my bookmarks that I've tagged with real estate.

If I go to the bottom of the related tags list, I can click on realestate from all users and I'll see this list, which are the latest bookmarks that any user has tagged with realestate.

One of the best features in the inbox. If I notice that a certain user is tagging great stuff, I can subscribe to their feed. If I want to stay on top of a topic, I can subscribe to that tag. Now everytime that I open my inbox, it's filled with bookmarks that I've subscribed to.

I find tons of great information every day, just by opening my inbox.

That's just scratching the surface. As with most of these great new services, the best way to learn about it is to try it out. If you see the value, do a little digging and learn how better utilize it. I love finding new aspects of services that I've been using for months.

Have fun & let me know how it goes!

Tilting Towards Normal

There was a good article in the Sunday SF Chronicle about the state of the current Bay Area housing market.

This quote sums it up pretty well:
There may be more to choose from, but we still have a large supply of buyers," said Prudential agent Lee Denton. "San Francisco has limited space, and because so many people want to live here, our market is different.

It's pretty much the same over here in the East Bay.

This doesn't mean that there aren't properties that are still receiving multiple offers. It is still happening, but it's mostly because they're nice properties that have been underpriced.

As more and more sellers start receiving offers at less than they hoped to receive, we're seeing newer listings come on with more realistic list prices.

The demand is still there. In fact, I believe the recent uptick in interest rates has motivated buyers who have been on the fence to buy.

With an increased supply of homes on market and with interest rate levels still near 6% for a 30-year fixed loan, it's a good time to be a buyer.

If you're looking to take advantage of the current market conditions. Contact me & I'll work to make it happen for you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Web 2.0 & Flickr

If you're not familiar with Web 2.0 yet, I'm going to work on introducing some of the services that I'm using and hopefully help bridge the gap between people using web 2.0 applications and those who aren't.

From wikipedia
Web 2.0 refers to a perceived transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. The proponents of this thinking expect that ultimately Web 2.0 services will replace desktop computing applications for many purposes.

From What is Web2.0

Web 1.0 Web 2.0
DoubleClick --> Google AdSense
Ofoto --> Flickr
Akamai --> BitTorrent --> Napster
Britannica Online --> Wikipedia
personal websites --> blogging
evite --> and EVDB
domain name speculation --> search engine optimization
page views --> cost per click
screen scraping --> web services
publishing --> participation
content management systems-> wikis
directories (taxonomy) --> tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness --> syndication

Flickr is a great place to start. It's a digital photo sharing website and web services suite. If you've noticed, when I post a photo to MyEastBayAgent I use flickr to store the images.

If you want to learn more about Flickr, check out this wikipedia entry & The Great Flickr Tools Collection.

Another great thing about flickr is that it's free. Of course you can upgrade to a pro account if you decide that you like the service, but a free account is more than adequate to get started. During the beta period, a one year membership is only $24.95.

Check it out. Its a great place to play around if you're bored & a lot more fun when you participate.

One more thing.

I help people buy and sell real estate across the globe. If you're looking to buy or sell in the East Bay area, I can help you personally. If you're looking to do business somewhere else, I can help you find a trusted professional in that area. If you're thinking about real estate as a career, let me know. I'd love to get you started on the right path. ( I had to work in real estate somehow).

Sunday Panoramic: Berkeley Pier

Today's panoramic shot/virtual tour comes from the end of the pier located in Berkeley's Marina(map).

On a clear day you have great views of: San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, Mount Tamalpias, the East Bay hills, downtown Oakland & both Bay bridges (the existing one and the new one under construction next to it).

Click to launch Virtual Tour
Click for a Visual Tour

Berkeley Marina Experience Program

Marina Facility Map

Berkeley Marina and Pier

Skates On the Bay 'Breathtaking Bayview Dining'

Friday, October 14, 2005

And the New Manager of the Oakland Athletics is...

the same one that we just parted ways with. That's right, Ken Macha is back at the helm of the Oakland Athletics as we head into the offseason.

I was really hoping that they'd hire Ron Washington, but it looks like it's not going to happen now.

A funny piece from Athletics Nation imagining the conversation between Macha and GM Billy Beane:

Billy picks up.

Beane: "Is this really Macha?"
Macha: "Yeah, Billy it's me."

Beane: "Ken, I've got interviews with DeFrancesco and Hershiser coming up. I don't really have time to chat."

Macha: "Billy, you remember the time when I brought Rincon in to face Todd Walker in the Boston series the second time and he hit another home run?"

Beane: "Ken, the whole world remembers that."

Macha: "Well, I think I made a big mistake again. I really never wanted to leave Oakland, except that Pittsburgh job was so appealing. I interviewed and they realized they wanted Jim Tracy instead."

Beane: "Hoofah, how bad is it when Pittsburgh doesn't want you? What's your point, Ken?"

Macha: "I want a chance to finish what I started and I'll accept your original offer."

Beane: "Ken, this is going to look bad for everyone involved. We publicly claimed it was over. We're going to start to look like Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee."

Macha: "I'm OK with that. I just want my job back."

Beane: "All right, I guess. Man, Washington and Geren are going to be pissed."

Macha: "Don't worry, my calm demeanor will help rub off on them."

Beane: "That's what I'm afraid of."

Yes, folks, Mild-Mannered Macha and his gum chewing are officially back. We had all moved on to new possibilities. New opportunities.

But the dream is over and we've got Macha back. Dream on.



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Email Snafus


I made a change with my domain a couple days ago and I inadvertently sent most of my email into cyber-neverland.

If you've sent me an email in the past couple days and are waiting for a response, you might want to send it again.

Until I'm sure that the corrections take effect, you can reach me at:

Sorry about that.


It looks like I'm back up and running.

In case you need it, my email is

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Goodbye to the Mortgage Interest Deduction?

The big buzz today from the real estate world comes from President Bush's tax reform panel, who seem to be seriously considering the roll back or elimination of two popular tax breaks -- home mortgage interest rate deductions and employer-paid health insurance.

Currently, a married couple filing jointly can deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt.

From In a meeting Tuesday, the panel agreed to recommend lowering that limit, perhaps to the maximum mortgage that can be guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration.

The FHA limit varies by region, but in the Bay Area and most of coastal California is $312,895.

Considering that the median price of a home in Alameda county is now $586,000, it looks like this proposed change in the tax code would hit Californians pretty hard.

For further reading, check out:

Blanche Evans with Realty Times.

Buzz Machine

NY Times

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Berkeley Condo Conversion Update

It looks like we'll have to another month before we get a decision on Berkeley's condo conversion policy.

For the record, I agree with councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Laurie Capitelli who suggested a smaller fee and I feel that they summarize it up pretty well:

“The city does a pretty good job building low-income housing, but we don’t do anything for the workers,” Wozniak said. “The librarians and employees who work downtown, condos could let them move into the ownership market rather than having them move outside of Berkeley.”

Opposing the lower fee is:

Councilmember Dona Spring (who) countered that TIC owners should pay a hefty fee because converting to condos, a legally more secure form of home ownership, would dramatically increase the value of their property.

Is she serious?

I suppose that will teach a leeson to those greedy profit takers like Carl Farrington and his four partners who bought the three-unit building where they now live hoping to one day convert it to condos.

The Housing Advisory Commission has endorsed the 12.5 percent fee, and called for lowering the fee to 5 percent for owners of TICs with three or fewer units and where the owners have resided in the building for more than seven years.

Farrington and his partners wouldn’t qualify because they’ve lived at their TIC for just two years. He said they bought the TIC relying on the opinion of city officials that condo conversions rules would be relaxed.

I'm going to keep my eye on this sitation and will be sure to keep you informed as well.

Wednesday's Panoramic: Public Market

Today's panoramic comes from the Public Market in Emeryville. With over 25 different vendors, this is a great place to go if you want tons of options.

From their website:

From Philly Cheese Steak to the unique dishes of the Asian Continent enjoy the vibrant flavors, and aromas in the grandest of informal environments.

I'm currently hooked the Spicy Chicken from the Korean place. I order it everyime I go there and grab a can of diet coke for $7.47.

This trip was kind of funny because, after I took the series of photos to do the panoramic, a nearby diner thought I was a tourist and offered to take my picture. He seemed so happy in offering to help me, I had him take a couple shots of me 'out on location'.

Then I bought an M&M cookie for desert.

Click thumb for Virtual Tour
Click for a Visual Tour

Weekly Mortgage Roundup

I get a pretty good mortgage summary delivered to my inbox every week from Shawn Repulles with Equitas Capital. In an effort to provide some more news from the mortgage industry, I've asked him if I can cross-post the email in MyEastBayAgent & he's agreed to let me.

So here's the first installment of the Weekly Mortgage Update:

  • Mortgage rates climbed for the fourth consecutive week and are now the highest since March 30.
  • The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped from 5.97 percent to 6.07 percent, the first time over 6 percent since early April.
  • The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate increased as well, rising from 5.58 percent to 5.67 percent, while the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate rose to 6.22 percent from 6.13 percent last week.
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages also moved higher, with the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage bounding from 5.59 percent to 5.69 percent, while the average one-year ARM zipped from 4.95 percent to 5.04 percent.
  • Fixed mortgage rates have climbed in recent weeks, led primarily by concerns over higher inflation.
  • Bond investors have had an uneasy feeling in recent weeks, with long-term government bond yields moving higher to account for higher inflation forecasts and further Fed interest-rate hikes.

If you're looking to buy property and need to speak to a lender, Shawn has always been very helpful & offers a high level of service.

If you'd like to contact him, here's his information.

Shawn Repulles
Office 415-292-0160 ext 210
Mobile 925-457-3820

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tuesday's Panoramic: Totland Playground

Today's panoramic was taken from the corner of McGee & Virginia is Berkeley.

What makes this location special is the Totland Playground located on the Southwest corner of the intersection.

Yesterday afternoon, I was out doing some fieldwork in my neighborhood and I kept seeing parents heading to the park with their children & decided to check it out.

When I got to the park, I found around 50 tots along with their parents. I thought it was pretty cool that there was a neighborhood park of this size & type where families with younger children could go.

Click for a Visual Tour

Google map of location.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Monday's Panoramic / Virtual Tour

A light went off when I was reading this 'What is web 2.0' article.

The open source dictum, "release early and release often" in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis.

This is going to be the first in a series of panoramics pictures that I'm going to feature on here. Instead of procrastinating and prefecting ideas before putting them into action, I'm just going to do it and tweak it as it goes along.

So, I'm going to work to produce a pamoramic photo/virtual tour daily. Sometimes it might be a location that I find myself in, or maybe a hot new listing that I just previewed, or maybe even a specific request that one of my readers has made.

Here's the first one. This is from the 4th Street commercial district in Berkeley. This is where I walk almost every morning to collect my thoughts and grab a cup of coffee in order to start my day off running.

Click on the thumbnail below to launch the panoramic viewer.

Click for a Visual Tour

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Tremblor in Berkeley

I want to thank the Earth for telling me to go to bed last night. I had fallen asleep on the couch and as soon as I opened my eyes, I felt last night's 2.7 tremblor.

It was pretty crazy, especially considering the recent events in Pakistan and the Gulf Coast. This was the third noticable quake that I've felt since moving to the area over three years ago and once again reminded me how little we really are in the grand scheme of things.

What was cool was that I was instantly able to go to the USGS website and get the lowdown.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Web 2.1 Brainjam

I spent yesterday afternoon down at the KRON 4 studio in the city attending the Web 2.1 BrainJam. It was billed as 'A half day unConference and networking event for discussing what Web 2.0 is, what it's missing and what we want from Web 2.1'

While reading The Bay Area is Talking a few nights ago, I saw this post and thought it might be fun to check it out.

To be honest, I almost didn't go, but I'm really glad that I did. I met tons of great people with amazing ideas and I'm glad to have been a part of it.

A huge thanks to Chris Heuer, Kristie Wells, Brian Shields, and everyone else who made it happen.

You can see the short piece that KRON did on the event in this post from TBAIT.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Breaking the Silence

Happy Monday to everyone.

October is here, and in the Bay Area that means Summertime! It's kind of strange how our weather out here is a couple months behind the traditional seasons. In the summer months, fog usually domiantes the morning and eventually burns off to reveal a beautiful, sunny afternoon. As we move into October, days filled with sunshine are more common.

Real Estate and new toys have kept me from posting in the past week and I apologize. I have some great ideas for additions to the site, but they'll take a little while to fold in & I need to keep on myself to keep posting in the meantime.

It looks like interest rates are rising and inventory is starting to build up. It will be an interesting next few weeks and the economic impacts of Katrina and Rita start to become apparent in the economy.

I finally jumped off of the fence and signed on with VisualTours to start making Virtual Tours of listings and neighborhoods. As with any software, there's a bit of a learning curve; but it's fairly easy to use and I'm looking forward to incorporating the technology in my business.

Here's my first one, let me know what you think.