Tax Assessment Appeals

We’ve been getting quite a few inquiries about tax assessment appeals in Alameda County this past week. Out of what we’ve been approached with so far, we’ve been able to show lower values based on recent sales data so that homeowners can use the data provided to appeal their assessment amounts.
Due to the drop in overall values, many property owners have not approached the tax assessor’s office in many years and have likely been paying too much. You snoose, you lose! The deadline for requests for appeal comes up in September. Once the deadline passes, you won’t have another opportunity to appeal Alameda County’s assessed value until next year…

Renovation Financing

According to International City Mortgage, renovation loan programs are available for properties that need work. Here’s an idea of the programs that are available:
The FHA Section 203(k) insurance program enables borrowers to finance the purchase or refinance of a home and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage. This program is used for large, complicated improvements such as major rehabilitation, remodeling, new construction such as a room addition, repairs to structural damage, or site amenity improvements.
The Streamlined FHA 203(k) program is intended to facilitate uncomplicated rehabilitation and/or improvements to a home for which plans, consultants, engineers and/or architects are not required. This program comes with a total rehabilitation amount of $35,000. Examples of eligible improvements are listed below (this list is not all-inclusive):

  • Repair/Replacement of roofs, gutters, and downspouts
  • Repair/Replacement/Upgrade of existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • Repair/Replacement of plumbing and electrical systems
  • Repair/Replacement of flooring
  • Minor remodeling that does not involve structural repairs, such as kitchens
  • Exterior and interior painting
  • Weatherization, including storm windows and doors, insulation, and weather stripping
  • Purchase and installation of appliances, including free-standing ranges, refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers, and microwaves

Our newest listing, a historic property at 22195 Prospect Street needs work. We’ll have information available at this week’s scheduled Open Houses!

The neighbors stepped up to help!

In an amazing show of community pride on July 23rd, umpteen neighbors of the Historic Prospect Hill Neighborhood participated in the clean-up of this early 20th century gem that we have listed for sale.
On behalf of the entire neighborhood, we wish to thank the following individuals for their sweat and hard work:

  • Walter Butler
  • Mae Garcia
  • Darrell Graham
  • Dee Dee Ligibel (Grand Terrace HOA)

There were other neighbors who helped too by offering their waste bins to recycle the green waste and we thank Mae Garcia for enlisting their assistance:

  • The Aprim family
  • Nellie Bordador
  • The Domingues family
  • Zina Fierro
  • Dr. Ralph Herndon
  • Sid & Syleste Jordan
  • Edith Macabe (& James)
  • Cathy O’Connor
  • Lacey & Ryan Sutherland

We were out there from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and hauled away FOUR pick-up truckloads of debris, filled up FIFTEEN of the neighbors’ waste bins (including three of our own).
Due to having such pride in the accomplishment, neighboring HOA President Dee Dee Ligibel of the Grand Terrace neighborhood drove by later that night and saw a deer munching on the greenery, no doubt attracted to the yard by the smell of freshly cut shrubbery. (Could it have been a blessing by the Sierra Club group that visited the property while on a walking tour of Prospect Hill?)
The lot of us got our necks and arms sunburnt, fingers blistered and had a good night of sleep afterward. Prospect Hill, this could not have happened without you! Our gratitude to each and every one of you for your contribution to helping make Prospect Hill beautiful!
-Anna May, Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association Director (since 2004)
-Greg Jones, Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association President

Old House, Cleaner Slate

This home is a gorgeous 1930’s charmer of over 3000 square feet.
It needs floors!
Light fixtures!
Our mission for this weekend is to gather some neighbors to assist with clean-up. No doubt we have neighbors who would love to help by bringing their garbage and recycling bins over to help fill ’em up!

California Youth Energy Services at Our House

On Friday afternoon, two young people (Mursal and Dorian) visited our home to conduct a free energy audit in our 1926 home. We know our furnace is ancient and we know some rooms need weather-stripping. Aside from the obvious, these youth educated us on other things that we could do to save energy.
This one surprised me:

  • Our hair dryer being plugged in sucks up energy even when we’re not using it.

One thing that intrigued me after reviewing our energy bills and comparing them to last year is that we’re paying 40% less for electricity usage. One reason we believe to be the cause is that we no longer work from home and therefore our computers are not on all day, not even in sleep mode.  Apparently, “sleep mode” sucks up energy too!
Back to the visit at our home. We’re really excited to receive a comprehensive report in the next few days. We’ll keep you posted!

Lenders Approaching Us

We just took over as the new owners on July 1st where we have a great retail location in the downtown with a parking lot right outside our door! This may have something to do with why different lenders have inquired about partnering up with us to be their preferred lender while they enjoy regular space in our office.
So we’re thinking that we’d love for our in-office preferred lender to be one that has consistently done a great job for our clients. The best option so far is a multi-lingual team that has also sent us business over the years.
Choices, choices. The stars are aligning nicely for us, providing options for growing our business and drawing attention to the fact that we are indeed a full-service office with property management, real estate sales, land use and entitlements consulting and lending under the same roof! We also have an insurance agent upstairs in the same building with whom we’ve worked to assist our clients. Although each business is separate, they can all be found in one convenient location.
We’ll keep you updated!

Update on the B Street Property

UPDATE: Recently, 1500 sq ft of space has been leased to a clothing boutique and salon. There’s still up to 2100 sq ft left!
What would be an ideal business to go next door to a clothing boutique/salon?

“Registered Doberman Puppy” = Would-be Alarm System?

Future family member?Who wants a perceived fool-proof alarm system?
It’s a bit expensive and high-maintenance, but perhaps worth it. Until now, I’ve personally been pet-averse for two reasons:

  • Most animals get stinky (or have stinky aspects)
  • My lizard Bing-Bing got old and started dying and it broke my heart

Now I’m starting to think that having an incredibly smart and well-trained doggis would compel me to exercise more when taking him out for a walk. (Yes, I want a HIM dog.)
What do you think?
(Our home is protected by ALL-GUARD. Don’t mess with our house!)

Neighborhood considers ‘historic district’ designation

Dear Readers: Below is the story from this week’s Tri-City Voice regarding our roles as the Historic Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association Board members; Greg is the President this year and I’ve been a Director since 2004. We love our neighborhood!
Neighborhood considers ‘historic district’ designation
By Simon Wong
Members of the Historic Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association (Prospect Hill) met with Hayward Planning Manager Richard Patenaude for an overview of the city’s Historic Preservation Program to consider designation of their neighborhood as an “historic district.”
“The rationale for a Historic Preservation Program is that historic Hayward continues to look like Hayward and maintain our unique character rather than resemble every other community across the state or country,” explained Patenaude.
Council approved an historical resources survey, the associated inventory of historically and architecturally significant buildings in the city, incentive programs and the goals and objectives for historic preservation on June 1, 2010.
The survey identifies the types of historic properties within the City of Hayward, neighborhoods or potential historic districts, areas devoid of historic resources, properties that do not warrant more attention and potentially significant individual buildings or areas that merit further evaluation.
Of the approximate 2,500 properties built before 1946, just over 800 have a medium-to-high level of integrity. About 1,000 have low integrity. In the Downtown area and centre of Hayward, pre-1959 construction was considered. A structure is said to have integrity if it retains enough of its original fabric/appearance, and character-defining, architectural features to convey its historical importance.
Upper B Street, Prospect and lower B Street (aka Street Car District) neighborhoods were quickly identified as historic districts, before other parts of the city which will be revisited for closer inspection, because of their high concentration of sites of interest and the likelihood of change in a short period.
A site or structure’s inclusion on the list does not mean automatic, official designation as an historic building. The program is voluntary; owners should apply for such a designation for their property, otherwise the building’s status remains unchanged. Designation can be removed, if property owners subsequently change their mind.
Ownership of an historic property brings benefits and obligations. Designation as an historic district could prevent unwanted change. Potentially, fees to the city might be waived in exchange for designation. Many such properties do not meet modern zoning requirements so the opportunity exists to develop special zoning regulations to protect their character and that of the neighborhood.
A building permit for alterations to an older property typically requires upgrades to current standards. The California Historic Building Code, however, allows alternative improvement methods, if they do not impact health and safety; for instance, new decks have higher railings than those on old homes which, according to the state Historic Building Code, can retain the shorter height.
Under the Mills Act 1972, an historic property may qualify for up to 60 percent property tax relief, annually, if the owner enters into a contract with the city to renovate and maintain the property’s historical and architectural character for at least 10 years. Each year, Mills Act contracts, including the associated benefits and obligations, are renewed automatically and transfer to all subsequent owners during the contract period.
Local governments participate in the Mills Act program because they recognize the economic benefits of conserving resources and reinvestment and the importance of historic preservation in revitalizing older areas, tourism, civic pride, sense of place, quality of life and continuity with the community’s past.
Owners of historic properties can also qualify for federal tax credits. A 10 percent tax credit is available for properties built before 1937. A 20 percent tax credit can be applied to improvements that meet national preservation standards.
Additionally, studies indicate historic districts often have higher property values; such neighborhoods are considered desirable and property owners are committed to maintenance.
“If Prospect Hill does not become an ‘historic district,’ individuals can still seek ‘historic’ designation for their own property to access the benefits,” clarified Patenaude.
The city can work with historic districts and property owners to devise mutually acceptable guidelines, with flexibility for change, to prevent loss of historic character and properties falling into a state of disrepair, such as the types of project the city would review. Minor projects and general maintenance are not subject to public hearings unless they materially alter the building’s character. This also applies to historic commercial buildings. Most cities do not look at interior alterations.
The City of Hayward is also working on general design guidelines for infill development to ensure it is in keeping with surrounding structures and the character of the area.
“We must credit Prospect Hill residents Frank Goulart and Julie Machado for their passion. They’ve invested in and restored several historic properties, including the Linekin Building on Main Street, and are the catalyst and continuing advocates for the neighborhood’s potential designation as an historic district. Their idea gained momentum when Council adopted amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2010. The historic resources survey was commissioned while Greg Jones was Hayward City Manager; he succeeded Frank as president of the Historic Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association and both have engaged the city to determine the realities of being an historic district and how they might affect property owners,” explained Prospect Hill resident and former Councilwoman Anna Laveria May.
The neighborhood association will establish a committee, with which Patenaude will work closely, for detailed consideration of the matter. If Prospect Hill decides to become an historic district, approximately 200 properties will be researched and documented in readiness for Planning Commission hearings.
Prospect Hill’s provisional boundaries, as per the historic resources survey, are Mission Boulevard, San Lorenzo Creek, a section of Foothill Boulevard and A Street. A clearer idea of which properties might be within the city’s first historic district will emerge as talks progress.
For more information, contact Richard Patenaude, Planning Manager, 777 B Street, Hayward, CA 94541-5007, call (510) 583-4213 or email Download a copy of the City of Hayward Historic Preservation Ordinance at

We’re the New Owners!!

"He Said" From the Cave, "She Said" From the Throne

July 1st, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. we are officially the new owners of the Realty World Neighbors franchise!
Greg and I decided to embark upon this endeavor when we were on our honeymoon last September. Our wish was to work together and since he’s accustomed to always being in charge, we decided to pursue ownership of the real estate brokerage I’ve been a part of since 2002. In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing to you our team here on our blog and a little about our company history.
We invite you to stop by and visit our office and see some of the changes we’ll be making to the office space and storefront!
The origins of our partnership and the “He Said, She Said” caricature we launched when Greg and I first started working together stem from the caricature we used for our wedding invitations.