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Jodi Selene's Blog

By Jodi Selene | Agent in Berkeley, CA
  • When a discount real estate agency doesn't save money

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Oakland  |  August 24, 2013 4:03 PM  |  212 views  |  No comments
    I don't want to name any names.... but, sometimes we all search for "a deal."
    And yet, with a really, really important decision - like buying a home - you want someone you can trust who will be there for you before, during and after the purchase.

    I represented the seller in a sale a while back and the buyer was using a discount agency.  A big one.  The one that everyone talks about. 

    However, this buyer was new at buying property and asked me a lot of questions.  The questions were things that her agent should have gone over with her, but in discussing that with her, she told me that she had never actually met her agent. 

    That's right - she was making a purchase that for most people is the single biggest purchase of their life, and she had never met the person who was supposed to be her advocate, on her side, explaining the process.

    A year later, she called me with questions about something at her property.  I tried to explain to her that I represented the other side of the transaction, not her.  She called me about an issue that she hadn't read, but had signed a disclosure pertaining to it in her paperwork.  A good agent will go over all of the reports with their clients and make sure that before their signature goes on the line (and their money!), that everything is understood and agreed to.

    I am always available to help my clients, even years after they have moved in or out of the property I've helped them buy or sell.  And that's what I believe an agent should do.  If you're looking for a bargain, be prepared to do a lot of footwork for yourself and advocate for yourself.  You might need to.
  • How to get into a rapidly rising (again!) market in Berkeley

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Berkeley  |  May 10, 2012 3:29 PM  |  558 views  |  2 comments

    Be careful - there's a chance you may look back and wish you'd pounced on this rapidly rising real estate market in the East Bay. 
    Prices were up and up and up.  And then they crashed.  And now?  We're seeing a dozen offers....19 offers.... price wars.... $100,000 over asking price,  and then some!

    So what can you do to buy a home in Berkeley if you're not a member of the local 1% ?

    First, educate yourself by researching on-line, going to see open houses, and finding an agent you're comfortable with who can help find answers to questions about condition and value.  <br>
    Meanwhile, get your financing prepared so that when the house you live comes available, you're ready to write an offer.  Obtaining a home loan has become harder than it was, say 5 years ago when anyone who could pick up a pen, could qualify for a loan....almost.

    Finally, consider buying a property that isn't quite your dream home, but might be transformed into it.  A home that needs work in a good neighborhood may be a good investment if you plan to stay a while.  Consider your personality, your time commitments and ability to handle stress - all of these will tell you if you're able to take on a fixer.  

    If you're the type of person who thinks tinkering with something over the weekend is a restful and fun way to spend your off-working hours - you may enjoy being an owner of a fixer-upper home.  If, on the other hand, you like to see friends and go out to the latest cafe, festival or concert every chance you get, maybe having a big project at home isn't for you. 

    Make no mistake, buying a fixer can be frustrating and a lot of work.  It can also be creative, empowering and the end result is that you may get more house than you can otherwise afford. 

    I've renovated many homes before becoming a real estate agent, including overseeing repairs to the first permitted residential straw bale house in Berkeley. Look for my free class, "Renovation Demystified" in the summer, through Red Oak Realty. In the meantime, Happy Home Hunting.
    Jodi Selene, LEED AP, Green Real Estate Specialist.  jodi@redoakrealty.com
  • Green building & remodeling

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Berkeley, Home Selling in Berkeley, Going Green in Berkeley  |  March 16, 2011 8:53 AM  |  551 views  |  2 comments
    We're all hearing about Green this and that, but what constitutes a "green" building or remodel?

    Green  is generally agreed to be healthier, sustainable (able to sustain life),
    without chemical residue or outgasing, or spilling out into the air we breathe.
    The levels of green or the authenticity of green, however, can be debated.

    With so many products now claiming to be "green" it's important to know
    what is truly sustainable, healthy and what is 'greenwashing.'

    An example of greenwashing -  wood and paper
    products that come from forests that are sustainably harvested can be FSC -  certified from the Forest Stewardship
    Council.  http://www.fscus.org/faqs/what_is_certification.php

    This is an internationally recognized certification that comes with a log that
    follows the paper or wood product from the tree to the shipment to the store. 

    Unfortunately, the logo that is used for FSC products has competition – The Council of Forests Industry has a logo of a tree on their products that looks sort of similar but their wood products are not carefully documented as sustainably harvested

    In housing, what constitutes a “Green Building” or Green remodel?
    In general, it’s the same 4 R’s that first emerged in the early 1970’s when the
    American Environmental Movement developed: Reduce,
    Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle.

    Reducing harmful substances and waste by not using high V.O.C. products (volatile
    organic chemicals that outgas and can contribute to health problems), Re-using
    products that are normally a waste product (think: recycled glass countertops,
    or Vetrazzo or carpeting made out of recycled soda bottles), Reclaim (the use
    of wood that has been taken from an old house that is being remodeled.  Often this wood is old growth, tight grain wood and is naturally pest and rot resistant) and Recycle – everything from recycling the waste products of building and remodeling to actually using recycled materials that are re-made into new products, as described above.

    In the SF Bay Area, we’re lucky to have a wealth of experience in Green Building.
    This is where the US Green Building Council (now headquartered in Wash., D.C.
    with chapters all over the US) was first conceived, by local developer and
    Sustainability Consultant, David Gottfried

    The USGBC was founded on the idea that we needed a national standard of what Green Building design and renovation really is.

    The USGBC came up with a standard called LEED, Leadership in Energy and
    Environmental Design.

    “LEED is an internationally recognized green building
    certification system
    , providing third-party
    verification that a building or community was designed and built using
    strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter
    most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction,
    improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and
    sensitivity to their impacts.” -
    USGBC website

    We also have Build It Green, another locally founded green building company, a
    non-profit organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy- and
    resource-efficient homes in California.   

    Build It Green offers seminars on green building practices, a catalog of green
    building service providers and trainings to certify green homes.

    However, no matter how sustainable the new materials installed in a remodeled home, in the Bay Area most older homes will have to be cleared of products that were used widely in their time, and are now considered to be environmentally
    unsafe.  Materials such as asbestos coating in heating ducts and in old linoleum, lead paint that may be lurking underneath the newer coats of paint in most homes older than the mid-1970’s, and even old carpeting – now saturated with years of dust and dirt can be un healthy to children and adults with sensitivity.  The best thing to do if concerned with “greening” a home is to do plenty of research, buy a good quality mask if re-doing anything on your own, and consult a professional if your older home may contain potentially hazardous asbestos or lead paint.

    - Jodi Selene, LEED AP, Realtor, Red Oak Realty, Berkeley, CA


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