Berkeley Homes
Ira & Carol Serkes
Pacific Union RE
Berkeley, CA USA


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Morning Light At Casa Serkes

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday In Berkeley With Ira

Got up early to put out lots of Open House signs for 1711 San Lorenzo in Thousand Oaks, one of our wonderful Berkeley Neighborhoods. It's a completely updated 3 bedroom 2 bath home for $925,000. View our extensive photo portfolio, and an interview with the sellers at 1711SanLorenzo.com

We're open today, 24 Sep 2006 between 2 and 4 pm... and when you stop by, be sure to tell me you read about it in the Berkeley Blog Cast.

Got up early, put up the signs, and then went to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA for a workout and soak in the hot tub (today's discourse by a tub-mate ... men have a lower body temperature than women).

Next stop... 4th Street shops in West Berkeley (not to be confused with yesterday's Blog on Berkeley West)

You meet all sorts of interesting 2 and 4 legged folks in Berkeley!

Now I was born in Manhattan, grew up in The Bronx, went to The Bronx High School of Science, and then took the #4 IRT subway (back when the subway lines were IRT, BMT and IND)from The Bronx to Cooper Union in the East Village. So... I know what kind of bagel I like best. And Manhattan Bagels on Berkeley's 4th Street (one of our unique Berkeley neighborhoods) gets my BBB award for Best Berkeley Bagels!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Berkeley West

It was a beautiful day, and we decided to visit Berkeley West.

We often blog about our favorite Berkeley neighborhoods, and 4th Street in West Berkeley, is one of our favorites.

This time we headed further west... to Berkeley West.

You might know it as San Francisco.

It was a beautiful day, so decided to drive over. Note to self....if we're only going to the Ferry Building Market Place, then BART makes much more sense... it costs less, takes about the same time, and gets you closer to the Ferry Building than a $5 parking lot does!

So what did we find when we arrived? A great Art Deco building, marvelous food and lots of people! BBQ Oysters, fresh tamales, beans, peppers, breads, coffee, chocolate and more.

Here's one of the murals from Rincon Annex post office building - it shows the discovery of gold! Rincon Annex is an Art Deco post office, which has been nicely converted to shops and restaurants. One of the scenes from Tucker was filmed in a corner of the lobby.

What else was there? Turns out that Berkeley West has many of our West Berkeley Neighborhood shops! Peet's Coffee, Stonehouse Olive Oil, Acme Breads, Sur La Table, The Gardener and Scharffen Berger Chocolate, to name a few!

It also had the chimes from the Ferry Building Tower, music, historic streetcars from around the world, and a filming crew from the Food Network!

Enjoy the photos!

The WPA murals inside Rincon Annex show the development of California, and some scenes from the depression. I don't think the murals showed bread lines.. but people are still lining up for bread in San Francisco. Some of my favorite San Francisco WPA Murals are inside Coit Tower. The aforementioned link is from http://www.sandy-travels.com/

The Ferry Building Marketplace has a very European feel, as does the building. It reminded me of Budapest's Central Market Hall, so I dug out my photos to compare.

Wow! You can see why I thought of Budapest. These were taken with a "state of the art" Sony Digital Camera... set to Fine Mode... on 3.5" disks!

It's been 8 years since Leslie Jones crafted a wonderful trip to Prague, Vienna & Budapest for us... and I'm ready to return

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Walking The Streets Of Berkeley!

I happened across an interesting blog today.... Walking Berkeley by Jen who decided to walk all the streets of Berkeley.

The "About" section says "In 2004, I moved to Berkeley, California. In 2005 I set a goal of walking every street, path, and stairway in my new town. I hope to finish by the end of 2006, but am not rushing the journey. This blog highlights some of the interesting things I have found along the way, as well as others who are doing similar walks"

And it really is interesting to read the comments and see the photos!

Coincidentally, Carol and I were talking with one a buyer who first started corresponding with us when they lived in London. He asked about a home for sale in the Berkeley Hills, and I said "that's near Vermont, which is near Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, and Maryland.

Which got me talking about all the different street name in the area!

The Berkeley Historical Society has published a book Quick Index to the Origin of Berkeley’s Names by John Aronovici, but here's a quick review of some of interesting groupings around town.

There are California Counties - Madera, Sierra, Marin, Contra Costa, The Alameda (sort of), Solano...

And Poets - Bryon, Chaucer, Poe, and Browning

Presidents in Albany.. Washington, Pierce, Adams, Madison, Fillmore...

Old England in Kensington... Stratford meets Avon, Coventry, Camelot, Lexington...

And though Kensington doesn't have any colleges... it has College Streets! Purdue, Kenyon, Cambridge, Columbia...

So.. enjoy your peramulations around the East Bay! Just one of the reason I love living here!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Berkeley Events - Walking Tours/Spice of Life Festival

It's almost fall... and that means more events in Berkeley

Berkeley Historical Society is sponsoring a series of walking tours this fall. Steven Finacom wrote Historical Society Hosts Fall Walking Tours in today's Berkeley Daily Planet. One of the walks will be "The Rocks Of Thousand Oaks"

Sun 8 Oct 2006 brings the 4th Annual North Berkeley Spice of Life Festival! Food, music, bodywork and more! Shattuck Avenue will be closed between Virginia and Rose Street.

Chez Panisse

One of our clients just took us to dinner last night at Chez Panisse to celebrate his new home. The food was superb, the craftsman dining room was beautiful and warm, and the company was delightful. Thank you Michael!

Chez Panisse is in North Berkeley... and will be one of booths at the Spice Of Life Festival.

Interested in living in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Neighborhood? Come visit 1711 San Lorenzo, open Sunday 24 Sep 2006 2-4 pm. Say hi... tell us you read about it in the Berkeley Blog Cast!

Times Of The Signs

When you've lived in Berkeley awhile, you've learned to calendar the UC Bears Football Days. Sunday morning I was putting up Open House signs for 47 Canyon Road and came across this interesting selection of signs.

Canyon Road is our Rustic Cabin just a short walk to the Haas Business School and Boalt Hall Law School.

Berkeley's Bicycle Boulevard, Parking, and Cal Bears home football. The Bicycle Boulevards are all over Berkeley, and many lead directly to UC Berkeley!

As an inveterate New Yorker, I must say I have mixed feelings about Berkeley's Solar Powered Parking Meters.

On the one hand, they're very cool (Solar Powered Parking Meters!!!), take nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins, and credit and debit cards. The machines print out a sticker which you then affix to the inside of your car window. The sticker has the date and expiration time.

On the other hand, you can't add time to the "meter" without issuing another sticker. And when you drive away, the next driver can't take advantage of the remaining time on the sticker... because the sticker leaves when you do!

I first came across this style meter at Pioneer Square in Seattle, and even though I'm trained as an engineer, it took me a few moments to figure out how to use the sticker. Here are the operating instructions - Peel off the sticker, turn it around, and use the sticky back to affix it to the inside of your car window. I first saw the meter in front of Venus Restaurant (which has a delicious Tofu Scramble) in Downtown Berkeley, and learned that a quarter didn't buy quite enough time for a leisurely breakfast.

The University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) has lots of transportation options.

Bear Transit is UC Berkeley's shuttle system which services the Campus and nearby vicinity.

AC Transit services Alameda and Contra Costa Counties (hence AC)... and also goes to San Francisco. Here's the .

The routes are an homage to the old Key Route System... all the Key Route trains with Alphabetic Routes (A, B, C...) went directly to San Francisco... and so does the TransBay Bus

Venus Restaurant down the street, Jupiter Beer House just a few blocks away. I guess Berkeley really is the center of the universe!

We're always "tuned into" what's happening in Berkeley... The Berkeley Hills, The Flats, 4th Street, Northbrae/Westbrae, Elmwood/Claremont neighborhoods are all our beat!

Here's how to search what Albany, Kensington, El Cerrito, Rockridge and Berkeley homes are for sale in each neighborhood

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Friday & Saturday Radio Shows

We always enjoy Friday night and Saturday Mornings.

That's when our favorite radio shows are on!

They each have streaming audio, so just click on the station link to listen live... and be sure to join as a member to keep those sounds coming!

Fri 9 pm KALW 91.7 Fascinatin Rhythm
Sat 6 am KPFA 94.1 Emmit Powell Gospel Music (yes... in The Bronx it was Yiddish Music)
Sat 9 am KALW 91.7 Car Talk
Sat 10 am KALW 91.7 Sedge Thomson's West Coast Live
Sat 12 pm KQED 88.5 Ira Glass' This American Life

And check out our new Technorati Profile

Friday, September 15, 2006

Poudini & Puddy Maximus

Those are the names of our two kittens we adopted from the Milo Foundation at 1575 Solano Avenue in Berkeley.

They're now 5 months old and growing in leaps and bounds.

And leaping and bounding.

We saw they had some Maine Coon Cat in them.. and I've loved the breed ever since meeting Prince Willie. That's an actual, unretouched photo, of Prince Willie... though he's closer to the camera than I was.. so his head really isn't larger than mine! Though, it might actually be!

My friend did a slide show which had the lyrics to the Crosby, Stills & Nash song "Our House"where they sung "two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard" and it brought tears to my eyes... because it took us many months before we were ready to get some new kittens to fill Lucy The Cat's paws. It's been just over a year since she died unexpectedly.

This is my favorite photo of Lucy, who adopted us not so long ago.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Selling your Berkeley home? Here's what you need to know about Berkeley's new Sewer Lateral Ordinance!

It goes into effect on 1 Oct 2006, which means that just about everyone who has a Berkeley home on the market as of September 2006 must be in compliance with Berkeley's Sewer Lateral Ordinance.

There's one out, but it's not very helpful for sellers. If the seller gives a $4,500 Sewer Lateral Deposit to the City of Berkeley, the Buyer can close escrow.

The gotcha? If the work costs less than $4,500, the difference goes to the BUYER!

It gets worse! If the Buyer doesn't do the work within 6 months, the City of Berkeley may confiscate all deposit funds, and have the work performed by a contractor selected by the City of Berkeley!

Read all about it in the Declaration Of Sewer Lateral Escrow Deposit Form.

What does this mean for home sellers? If sewer work has been done on your home download and complete an Application for Sewer Lateral Compliance Certificate; submit the application and permit copies or paid invoices to the Dept. of Public Works, 1947 Center Street, 4th Floor. Here's what the Sewer Lateral Certificate Of Compliance looks like.

If you're planning a sale or remodel and already know you need work done, get an estimate from a California licensed plumber or sewer replacement company, bite the bullet and just have the work done.

If your home is on the market now, and no sewer work has been done, you really need to get moving on this to save yourself some money at close! And if you're just not sure? Get a sewer camera inspection for about $75 and have the technician complete and sign a report that is downloadable at the city's Public Works website ... the city will charge $150 to view the tape.

If the technician's report indicates problems it doesn't make sense to give the city $150 just to tell you that the work needs to be done... simply get an estimate for replacement and "just do it"

We replaced our sewer lateral a few years ago using the trenchless system. We decided to test the system by researching the permit history of our own home online. Make sure your contractor has had a final permit inspection by the city ... ours didn't, and we may have to go through the sewer video camera inspection process with the $150 fee for the city to review the tape and/or reinspect!

As of September 2006, this is a new process so expect a few glitches ... never good if you're a seller trying to meet a contractual obligation to close escrow on a certain date.
  • Minor Digression - While the plumbers are out there, why not have them install an automatic gas shutoff device. Whenever it senses a mild earthquake, it shuts off automatically! Here's what PG&E says about Gas Service Shutoff Valves.
Here's where to go for more details about Berkeley's Sewer Lateral OrdinanceAnd believe it or not, I have a personal Y2K story which relates to this problem.

A friend of mine was a very concerned about Y2K, and kept me posted with various stories of doom and gloom. We were both programmers in a prior life, and knew you could only fit 80 columns of code on a punch card... so it made sense to only use 2 columns for the year.

And then it happened. On 1 Jan 2001, our sewer backed up.

I called him with great delight to tell him that his warning were well founded. He got very excited when I told him we had a personal Y2K problem. And then he sighed when we told him what it was!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Our Buyer Brokerage System In Action

After careful research and analysis, have discovered that buyers are involved in 100% of the real estate closings!

Yet.. if you've ever attended a real estate seminar, the vast majority of speakers talk about representing sellers.

We have a superb Berkeley Buyer Brokerage in addition to our ourstanding Berkeley Seller Brokerage.

We love to work with both buyers and sellers... representing buyers helps to to know what's important to buyers. This tell us how to better represent sellers by giving buyers what they want. And vice versa.

I received the following email from potential clients, and Carol and I met with them.
My husband and I have been consulting your great website to browse the Berkeley homes market for a couple of years, and we have also been reading your book. We are finally ready to buy and would like to act within the next 90 days. Are you looking for buyers to represent? How would we go about retaining you?
Carol and I met them for an initial consultation... they were both very busy, and really liked the detailed information we provide our buyer clients every week. We preview 15-20 homes each week, create maps, take lots of photos, and report back to our clients with detailed comments and notes.

We knew we'd enjoy representing them. Interestingly, they both were attorneys... and we've found that attorneys are great clients to work with... all they want is detailed information and analysis so they can make the right decision.

We sent them daily updates whenever a suitable home came on the market. They were intrigued by several.
It looks as though a few places in our desired location have recently come on the market. We were curious about the following houses:

1600 Virginia St, 1738 Virginia St, and 1525 Keoncrest Drive.
We scouted out each of the homes for them, taking photos, writing up detailed comments, and showing them where the homes were on our tour map update.
That week there was another home on the market, and we said "If you liked those three, you really should check out this one"

They visited during the open house, saw how close it was to the BART Station, and Elmwood shops, restaurants, and cafes... and decided to write an offer on it. They lived in San Francisco, and didn't know about Berkeley's wonderful Elmwood Neighborhood.

We met to write the offer.. they competed against 4 other buyers, and we were able to get their offer accepted.

We also put in an inspection contingency... and effectively negotiated for them during the inspection period.

We're just as diligent negotiating for our seller clients.

We know whose interests come first... you, our clients!

Today was closing day, and it was a treat to meet them at their new home to give them the keys.

To celebrate, Carol took me to dinner on College Avenue in The Elmwood (or did I take her out to dinner.. I forget)

And now our buyers are in a terrific home, easy walk to BART to San Francisco, Whole Foods Market, Elmwood's Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, and Looking Glass Photo on Telegraph Avenue. Looking Glass Photo and Sarber's on Solano in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Neighborhood are our two favorite Berkeley camera shops.

I just read in the Whole Foods Market web site that "Whole Foods Market/Berkeley is the nation's first major food retailer to introduce solar energy as its primary lighting power source!"

We went solar a month ago.. and love it!

Ira, with support by Poudini... who is keep my recent quote in the Wall Street Journal warm!

Want to search Rockridge, Piedmont, Elmwood, Claremont, North Berkeley, Berkeley Hills, Northbrae, Westbrae, Thousand Oaks, Kensington, Albany, El Cerrito and Kensington homes for sale? We have a direct link to the Berkeley Multiple Listing Service (MLS) IDX Feed right on our web site, and customized each search so you can look for homes for sale by neighborhood.. or City!

"Dreams become reality in Thousand Oaks"

That's a direct quote from the marvelous article Strolling Down Solano Avenue in the Berkeley Daily Planet!

Marta Yamamoto does a great job of capturing the essence of Berkeley's wonderful neighborhoods. She writes about the parks, schools, strolls, houses, and restaurants.

We've had a home in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks neighborhood since the early 80's.

You can be one of our neighbors... the beautifully updated home at 1711 San Lorenzo Avenue has just come up for sale.

There's an extensive photo porfolio at 1711SanLorenzo.com, including a QuickTime Streaming Video of what the sellers love about their home.

Visit our Sunday Open House 17 Sep 2006 2-4 pm. Be sure to let us know you read about it in the Berkeley Blog Cast!

Monday, September 11, 2006

We will never forget... never, never, never forget

On 2 Sep 2001 Carol and I took my mother Adele to Marcy & Bob's wedding in Scotch Plains, NJ.

I asked my mom what she wanted to do, and she said "take me for a ride through Manhattan". I love New York (I was born in Manhattan and grew up in The Bronx) and was delighted to oblige. We drove past the Statue of Liberty, then stopped in Jersey City to admire the lower Manhattan skyline.

That's when I took this photo, which has been accepted into the "Here Is New York" exhibit of photographs from the World Trade Center. I'm writing this at 8:25 am on 11 Sep 2006, and the site isn't coming up.... there are many other people accessing http://hereisnewyork.org, I'm sure.

While in Jersey City, I also took this serene movie of a quiet Sunday afternoon in lower Manhattan, a tugboat travelling up the Hudson, a fishing boat heading to New York Bay, the Winter Garden, Twin Towers, and Woolworth Building.

One advantage of being a New Yorker was knowing there was a TKTS half price booth for Broadway shows at the World Trade Center... so on Tue 4 Sep 2001 at about 9:30 am I drove down to lower Manhattan, dropped Carol off at the World Trade Center, and kept circling around till she came out with the tickets.

One week later....

Scenes from the Berkeley/Albany Solano Stroll

This year's Solano Stroll was a lot of fun. I spent the day with my brother Bruce, the same one who got a hole-in-one yesterday at Tilden Park Golf Course.

We staffed our booth in front of the RE/MAX Office at 1758 Solano for several hours, then strolled, visited Carol at our new Thousand Oaks neighborhood listing at 1711 San Lorenzo Avenue, came back to the booth.

Here, in no particular order, are some sights from the stroll. You'll see a couple of lefties (note the watch on their right hand), a token Republican being dropped into the crowd (he got his visa in time from the Berkeley Consulate), some beautiful fabric and dresses, Jay Marlette, a home inspector in full inspection gear, and Ira & Bruce with Adele. Her name made us both smile, since today's the 2nd anniversary of our mother Adele's death from long life.

The Stroll covers Solano Avenue from Albany to Thousand Oaks Berkeley. Want to be able to walk to the Stroll next year? Then consider one of the fine Albany homes for sale right now... or perhaps a home in beautiful Thousand Oaks neighborhood. We've lived here for over 20 years ourselves!