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


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Monday, October 30, 2006

Do you have a ghost of a chance in this market?

Well, my friend Mary Pope Handy has some tips for you!

She's a Los Gatos Realtor, hosts the Haunted Real Estate web site.

She writes: Once a friend of mine and I walked into a home that just "felt creepy". There was a coldness to the house, we couldn't put our fingers on it but we agreed something really bad had to have happened there.

We've represented over 500 families, and have been in a lot of different homes. I once went into the basement of a home, and afterwards asked my client "What did you think of it?" She said "the house felt a bit odd, and the basement gave me the creeps. Now, it might have been a subliminal smell, or just the fact that there was a basement.. but I felt the same way!

Another time I was waiting for clients in a home in Oakland, and looked out of the window. I got a sense of timelessness (almost going back in time to the '20s) and felt that I was one of many who had done the same thing. Not really an unusual thought, considering it was a home built in the 1890's or so. It was also a serene thought - I felt that I was just part of a continuum of history.

When I mentioned it to the sellers, they said "The house was once owned by a doctor, and that was his waiting room. From time to time, friends have seen a pretty little girl in a white dress on the stairway"

Now, I'm an engineer by training, and my mantra might be closer to "Show me the data".. but I couldn't help but feel that there was something else going on.

I've asked my realtor friends about this.. and they all had similar stories!

Ira... delighted to be surrounded by Berkeley's Las Gatas, Puddy Maximus, and Poudini (who just jumped onto my chair)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Can Berkeley City Hall Fight City Hall?

When selling or buying a home in Berkeley, it's important to know whether or not the home is subject to Berkeley's Creek Ordinance. And it turns out that Berkeley City Hall is built over Strawberry Creek! Good thing all the retrofitting has already been done... because otherwise we'd see the spectacle of City Hall fighting City Hall!

I took a careful look at the above photo, and realized that it was snapped a little after noon on a Saturday... and I might actually be in it. How do I know the day and time? The Saturday Farmers' Market is in full force to the north of Berkeley City Hall... and the shadows seem to be right for just past noon. This is just about the time that I'd be finishing up at the Berkeley YMCA and strolling to the market for fresh bread and produce!

Always on the cutting edge, Berkeley has a web based program to find out if your new (or old) home is affected by the creek ordinance. Simply click on the Protected Creek Letter Generator Web Site, put in the address, and generate a very cool map.. and letter!

Thinking of selling your home? Here's where to go to find out what your home is worth!

Want to buy a wonderful home in Central Berkeley, Westbrae, Northbrae, Berkeley Hills, Elmwood, Claremont, Thousand Oaks neighborhoods... or Rockridge, Montclair, Piedmont, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Albany or Kensington? We've a developed a site so you can search the Berkeley Mulitple Listing Service homes for sale by neighborhood! Just click on this Neighborhood Search Link.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Does # of Offers Correlate with Sales Price?

As Marge would have said in Fargo .... "You Betcha"!

We've tracked the correlation for years, and can now predict the probable selling price for a home based on how many disclosure packages are out, and how many buyers decide to make an offer.

And today's sale of 1837 San Lorenzo Avenue in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks neighborhood fit the correlation perfectly!

Our Berkeley home buyers have an excellent idea of the optimal price to offer to get the home... without paying too much.

And our Berkeley home sellers know how, and why, we recommend Strategic Pricing when listing their home.

So.. whether your buying Berkeley Real Estate, selling Berkeley Real Estate, or both.. give us a call or send an email... you'll profit from our expertise too!

We've a Torby in the house!

Carol came back from the vets and told me that Poudini was a Torby!

I thought about it a moment and realized what she was saying.

Poudini is a tortoise-shell tabby... aka "torby"

So now you know about it too!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have a nice trip... see you next fall!

And that's what happened to me at Sunday's open house of our new Berkeley Thousand Oaks Neighborhood home at 1837 San Lorenzo.

I was opening up the house, and getting flyers to give to a visitor, when I turned around to greet them.

My left foot was on the steps... and the right foot was on.. thin air.

I had a very nice trip.. and fall.

So.. I've a sprained ankle, and doing business from the sofa. Poudini snoozed on my chest this morning, she just stopped by to say hello and is now grooming herself by my right foot. Not quite My Left Foot.

What's the lesson?

Live today to the fullest
You never know when "stuff happens"

Take good care of the ones you love
I took great care of Carol when she broke her foot last year; she's taking care of me now.

Have contingency plans
My cell phone is in my sweatshirt pocket, my G4 Powerbook laptop is plugged in, and we've an AirPort wireless network... so I can work from anywhere!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Groucho Effect

Amongst the words of wisdom attributed to Groucho Marx is the quote "I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member."

We've noticed the same effect in real estate.

A home might stay on the market for weeks, and then receive two or three offers at the same time!

Perhaps some buyers don't want to make an offer on a home that no one else is making an offer on. Once another buyer has recognized the value of a home, then they feel more comfortable making an offer on it.

To paraphrased Groucho, perhaps they feel.... "I would not make an offer on any home in which I would be the only buyer"

I've earlier discussed how I received the Nobel Prize for Real Estate by discovering the quantum theory of home buying ... "After you make an offer on a house, you either get the house, or don't get the house.. there is no other state"

What I hadn't really considered is the activation energy needed to trigger an offer "chain reaction" Once one offer is made, it seems to provid the quanta of energy needed to create a chain reaction of other offers.

Our advice... if you like a home, make an offer on it right away! You might just get it accepted.


Someone told me that Oprah's Harpo production company reported that the Groucho effect was first observed in Chico California. After diligent investigation by the Gummo & Zeppo private investigation firm, I can't give high marks to this story.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Does 2 x Thousand Oaks = 2,000 Oaks?

Does 2 x Thousand Oaks Berkeley Neighborhood = Two Thousand Oaks?

Time will tell!

We just sold a Thousand Oaks home at 1711 San Lorenzo... and put another home on the market at 1837 San Lorenzo... so it means we have Two Thousand Oaks homes!

Carol and I have lived in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Neighborhood for almost 25 years... and we love living here. It's an easy stroll to Solano Avenue (Solano Stroll?) shops, restaurants, and cafes... and just as easy a walk to Kensington Circle for dinner at the Kensington Circus Pub or Kensington Bistro.

That's why we're such supporters of Berkeley, and love selling homes in our Thousand Oaks Neighborhood.

Well, a delighted buyer just had their offer accepted on 1711 San Lorenzo yesterday... and we put another beautiful Berkeley House for sale up the street at 1837 San Lorenzo.

We wanted to personally invite you to visit this Sunday's Open House on Sunday 22 Oct 2006 2-4 pm.

1837 San Lorenzo, a beautiful home in
Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Neighborhood

$849,000 3 bedrooms 2 baths

Here's what this beautiful home offers
  • Newly Painted Interior & Refinished Floor
  • 3 Bedrooms; 2 Baths
  • Formal Dining
  • Master Suite
  • Bright Updated Eat-In Kitchen Looks Out Onto Patio & Back Yard
  • In-Counter Gas 4-Burner
  • White Cabinetry & White Tiled Counters
  • Kitchen Storage Benches
  • Office Has Built-in Desk & Shelving
  • Recessed & Track Lighting
  • Glass Paned Display Cabinetry
  • 3 Skylights
  • French Doors To Back Yard From Kitchen & Bedroom
  • Garage
  • Walk To Solano Shops, Movies, Restaurants!

And what makes 1837 San Lorenzo and the neighborhood so special... words from the heart from the owners

We love this house!

Although we’re excited about our new house - we are truly sad to be leaving this fabulous home.

We have lived here for more than ten years and started our family at this home. We now have two boys, ages 9 and 6. This house could not have been better laid out for families with young children. I could cook dinner, give the kids a bath and do the laundry all at the same time - and it never felt crowded!

The layout of the house worked well for us; the level out to the backyard from the kitchen was like having a family room outside. The circular flow of the rooms utilizes all of the square footage of the house and made the daily routines quite efficient.

The neighborhood, of course, is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the East Bay. The home is within a short walk of Solano Avenue, where one can find some of Berkeley’s fine food, coffee, movies, and groceries.

We walk to Thousand Oaks Elementary School, where our son attends school and where the children have played (both in the tot lot and the school playground) since they were babies. We have tried to care for this property and home properly.

In the last 3-7 years we have installed a new roof, new furnace and new hot water heater. There are also a few new amenities, such as the hot water dispenser and filtered cold water.

The back yard was completely re-landscaped, so as to provide a comfortable and safe space for both children and adults. The "herb trough" in the back is a terrific place to plant herbs and vegetables - safe from the deer and most little nibbly creatures.

The new owners of this home will soon find that they could never imagine better neighbors. This has been the most difficult part of the move for us. We are surrounded - on both sides and across the street - by numerous fabulous and talented neighbors. They have done everything from been an ear to talk to; watch our house when we were out of town; bring me countless dinners when I was on bed rest; babysit; coach my boys in soccer; look out for our eldest child who has special needs; and teach my youngest son piano.

It is a remarkable community!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another Berkeley Nobel Prize!

Albert Ghiorso at the Berkeley's Saturday Farmer's Market

The phone call came early this morning!

I'd heard the rumors, but was thrilled to find out that I received the 2006 Nobel Prize for Real Estate!

It was awarded for two different discoveries:
  • The Quantum Theory Of Home Buying
  • The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Real Estate
Quantum Theory
After a buyer writes an offer on a home, they either get the house... or they don't get the house - there is no other state

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
The act of writing an offer on a home changes the home's final sales price... even if you're uncertain as to what the other offers are.

If there are multiple offers on a home, and you write a low priced offer, your probability of getting the home is very low. You affect the outcome, because someone who really wants the home will raise their bid and the home sells for a higher price!

Albert Ghiorso
And Albert Ghiorso above? Albert, one of our 91 year spry neighbors, was co-discoverer of more elements than any other person in the galaxy! Albert's Wikipedia entry lists the following elements:

* Americium ca. 1945 (element 95)
* Curium in 1944 (element 96)
* Berkelium in 1949 (element 97)
* Californium in 1950 (element 98)
* Einsteinium in 1952 (element 99)
* Fermium in 1953 (element 100)
* Mendelevium in 1955 (element 101)
* Nobelium in 1958-59 (element 102)
* Lawrencium in 1961 (element 103)
* Rutherfordium in 1969 (element 104)
* Dubnium in 1970 (element 105)
* Seaborgium in 1974 (element 106)

Cogito Ergo Blogo in Berkelium Californium Americium

Degrees Of Separation
I looked at the San Francisco Chronicle's list of Bay Area Nobel Prize winners, and realized I was one or two degrees of separation from several.... one neighbor works with a Medicine Award, a client's father received one... and I went to Bronx Science, Cooper Union, and UMass Amherst at with a real Nobel Prize Recipient... Russell Hulse (is that a one degree of separation?).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Busby Berkeley

Put Berkeley into a search and you'll come up with UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley CA, City of Berkeley, Elizabeth Berkeley (nuff said), Real Estate Berkeley CA, Berkeley Parent Network.. and Busby Berkeley!

I first saw a Busby Berkeley movie at Cooper Union's Green Camp. Green Camp was Cooper Union's oasis in Northern New Jersey... and was beloved. I was a Green Camp student leader, and led the very first joint orientation of Art, Architects, and Engineers in 1969 along with Emmy Van Exter and Pete Saltini.

Green Camp had 2-3 different theme weekends ... movies, baking, painting, etc.... and lots of fond memories.

The movie weekend was one of them.

We watched Busby Berkeley's 42nd Street on DVD this weekend, and was delighted by it... I recall the ending when there's a dancing NY Skyline, and then a surreal view up a skyscraper.

I read the credits at the end, and saw that Busby Berkeley training came when he was an officer in World War I and learned how to drill his recruits!

We saw 42nd Street on 42nd Street several years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it! Carol reminded me that we saw it in September 2001. And that was 4 Sep 2001, the day that we bought tickets at TKTS booth in the World Trade Center.