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


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Monday, February 26, 2007

Beautiful Maine Coon Found on Vincente Avenue

Rico (or RECO) is home safe!

Robin took him to the Kensington Circle Vets, Dr. Gayle Vial scanned him and found a chip.

At the same time that Robin called the owner, the owner saw the signs that we had printed and Debbie had posted around the neighborhood. Kind of like the simultaneous discovery of Calculus by Newton & Leibniz.

What wonderful neighbors we have!

And.. both Robin & Debbie made it into the Berkeley Rocks book!


Beautiful Maine Coon Found on Vincente Avenue

Our neighbor called us hoping that this beautiful sweet cat was our missing Puddy Max. Alas, it wasn't

But if you've lost a cat in North Berkeley, contact me right away. Your 4 legged baby misses you!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

We're living wonderful West Coast Lives

Carol and I are big fans of Sedge Thomson's weekly radio show, West Coast Live... and it made us realize how lucky we are to be living West Coast Lives!

We always try to make the show when it's at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA)... two hours of "hand crafted radio" which matches our Berkeley "Hand Crafted Real Estate Services" and an amazing assortment of guests.

Why the SFMOMA Show? Because the West Coast Live admission also gets us into the museum for free.. and ahead of the big line to see the Picasso Exhibit which just opened!

Whenever possible, we take BART in and walk over from the North Berkeley to the Montgomery Street BART Station.. but we were running late today so drove in. The parking garage on 3rd Street a block below the museum always seems to have room.. and the rates are reasonable (for San Francisco that is)

My favorite Architecture and Design bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Area is William Strout Architectural Books on Montgomery Street; SFMOMA and Berkeley's Builder's Booksource are also superb

More West Coast Living Adventures... we came home from dinner at the Kensington Pub the other night... and in the night sky was a beautiful silver slipper of a crescent moon, probably about a day after conjunction with Venus!

Berkeley Rocks.. in more way than one!

Rocks? In Berkeley?

For Valentine's Day Carol bought me a beautiful book "Berkeley Rocks" I've blogged about it earlier... but we happened to be showing a home near Indian Rock Park.. so took some photos. Yes.. that's really San Francisco in the background!

Still life with Seltzer!

Most of our clients are referred to us from other clients, their Realtors, or come to us from our BerkeleyHomes.com web site.

We were showing a Rockridge Home to one of our buyers... and I realized I was near Genova Deli in Temescal. Genova is one of those old fashioned delis.. now in much larger quarters than they had been in when I first came to Berkeley in 1974.

Genova is the Italian Deli which most reminds me of the New York Delis of my youth (born in Manhattan, grew up in The Bronx).

Genova has changed since 1974, when everyone behind the counter wore a clean white starched apron and a tie. And everyone behind the counter was an older Italian man.. or so it seemed

Now everyone behind the counter wears a clean white starched apron and a tie. And everyone behind the counter is now male or female, young or old, and reflects the diverse makeup of the wonderful East Bay.

Still Life With Seltzer

But I digress (or perhaps, I should say, I digest?)

I ordered a bunch of food to take home (delighting Carol when I arrived home)... and one of our first feasts was gallantina, mortadella, red peppers, beans, archichoke tort... and seltzer from the Seltzer Sisters.

Carol agreed with me.. the composition looks vaguely Japanese!

But there's more to our West Coast Lives. We've wonderful clients, so have had an extraordinary real estate week.

Our real estate week - helping wonderful people sell and buy homes in (and near) Berkeley

On Friday we closed escrow on 138 Behrens, a home which we originally sold to our client about 20 years ago as part of their IRC 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange.

Our Sobrante Road sellers signed their closing papers at the nearby Montclair Village Title Office.. and I rushed back home to take Carol to see Jersey Boys for her Birthday Wednesday

We saw some magnificent homes on Berkeley Real Estate Brokers' Tour Thursday (our clients receive extraordinary information each week on the homes we see)

Tuesday? A lender who heard my speak many years ago referred us to two sisters; we showed them homes on Tuesday, and ratified their purchase contract on a Piedmont Avenue home this afternoon (it's 11:40 pm so it's still Saturday).

That's not all we did on Tuesday.. our two IRC 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange offers were accepted on two 4 bedroom homes in Raleigh NC (we're diversifying the location of our Real Estate investments so it's not all in Berkeley)

Oh... did I mention that we listed a beautiful North Berkeley home on Thursday afternoon? It's about a 3 minute walk to Saul's Deli.

And there I am again, talking about corned beef, egg creams, matzoh ball soup, and seltzer.

Bookstores and food and Carol... some of the great loves of my life.

And for Carol's birthday this week we went to see Jersey Boys at the Curran Theater. It was WONDERFUL!

We also started work our front yard landscaping!

We truly are living wonderful West Coast Lives!


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Saturday, February 17, 2007

There is a There There in El Cerrito!

We've been home in Berkeley for over 30 years... and only learned a few years ago that there was a movie theater hidden on San Pablo Avenue.

The Friends of the Cerrito Theater has done a marvelous job bringing it back to life!

We've had an intense week and I told Carol "I'll take you to the movies!" I really enjoy the Oaks Theater on Solano, and the Cerrito Theater in El Cerrito. so checked out the schedule and saw that Babel was playing.

Got to the theater for in time to get a table and order one of each of the 4 basic food groups - beer, popcorn, a burger, and a salad!

And the movie - WOW! It's intense.. and not for everyone... but we really enjoyed it. The last movie we saw was Pan's Labyrinth... also by a Hispanic Director. Another intense movie, and definitely has some very disturbing images... but well worth considering.

I drove down San Pablo Avenue, through Albany, on the way to our Thousand Oaks home... and once again saw the terrific neon at the Albany Bowl. Dropped Carol off at home and went back down to take pictures.

The fountain photo reminded me of an Edward Hopper painting. When I showed Carol the photo she said "oh... looks like you're in a Hopper mood" What do you think?

Here's a photo a friend took of us having coffee at one of Berkeley's many coffee houses.



Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why we love having a home in Berkeley

Today's the Ides of February... 15 Feb

We visiting homes in Berkeley today, and up on Wildcat Canyon saw this beautiful tree.

I'm talking to my CyberStar friends right now.. and Pei Lin from Syracuse said she was "up to her neck in snow"

Not us!


Tech Tip - Adobe Acrobat Files From Web Sites!

I always enjoy reading Architecture, Design & Travel articles in the paper (yep... even though it's so 20th Century)

When I see an article I like, though... I go digital!

If you have a full version of Adobe Acrobat (not the free reader) you can create Adobe Acrobat PDF files from the web page.

There are several cool reasons to do it:
  • Saves paper and storage - just use keywords in the file name (i.e. NY NYC Subway Art.pdf)
  • It's better formatted than just printing it to paper
  • The embedded links are active! Just click on the link from within the PDF and it takes you to the web site
Is that cool, or what!

Hope your Valentines Day was as wonderful as ours.

Ira & Carol


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Berkeley Rocks

I've said that often... and today got a beautiful book from Carol for Valentine's Day!

The title?

Berkeley Rocks published by Ten Speed Press.

When we stroll around Berkeley we're always amazed at the graceful stone walls... and huge rocks homes are built on or near. This book celebrates the rocks of Berkeley.

The table of contents includes development in the Berkeley Hills, landscaping with the Berkeley Rocks, landmark rocks, climbing, and finding the rocks.

It's a real treat for me to see so many of the streets in our Thousand Oaks Berkeley neighborhood (Vincente Avenue, Menlo Place, The Arlington...) featured, and to read comments from many of our neighbors.

Carol was really excited when she showed me the map on page 50. It clearly showed Gibraltar Rock in our neighbors' yards... and within our "viewscape". When our gardener David Mc Crory of Planet Horticulture suggested taking down the Loquat Tree in our yard I thought it was a brilliant idea... it opened up our view of Gibraltar.

Valentines Day 2004

It's been three years since Carol and I went into San Francisco to see history being made. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom authorized his staff to issue marriage permits to couples who wanted to be married.

We had the honor to be witnesses at one of the ceremonies.

We look back at recent events such as Woman's Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement and ask "What took so long?"

When the real "Defense of Marriage Act" is passed - the one which really defends marriage and permits two consenting adults to marry - we'll say the same thing!

Ira Serkes

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Talking From The Heart

My friend Lois Cox, a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) from Pleasanton recommended me to speak at her local Woman's Council of Realtors (WCR) meeting.

So.. I hopped in my car and took my favorite route to Dublin (California, that is). Up Marin Avenue, through the Circle, into 1st Gear and up Marin Hill to Grizzly Peak Blvd.. then right on Grizzly Peak to Fish Ranch Road... and down the hill to Highway 24.

It's always a spectacular drive.. and this morning was a delight. Here's the view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge with the Farallon Islands behind the North Tower (right side) in the hazy distance.

It's always a delightful drive!

The talk went really well... I was able to get in reference to "Young Frankenstein", the Regret Minimization Framework, and Multivariable Regression Analysis.

The analysis? It's because I hired a statistician to research 7 years of Berkeley home sales. After extensive research and number crunching, she got back to me with the results.

Precisely 100% of the closed real estate transactions involved a buyer!

So, armed with the data I needed, I was able to precisely answer the question "Do we work with Buyers or Sellers"

The answer?


On the way back from the WCR meeting, I drove by the Lafayette Crosses.

I was expecting a few dozen crosses on the side of the road.. and was completely unprepared for the impact of thousands of crosses, stars, and crescents.

The first thing it reminded me of was the Golden Gate National Cemetery where we've attended Memorial Day Services.

We're thankful that others have sacrificed so we can have the freedoms which are sometimes taken for granted.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Smoke Detectors Save Time

Berkeley's Fire Chief Orth said that fires double in size every minute.

1 - 2 - 4 - 8 - 16 - 32 - 64 - 128 - 256 - 512 - 1024

Smoke detectors save time.

That's why they save lives.

When you change your clocks twice each year, change your batteries too.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Poudini has a new sister!

Well.. there was a fair amount of hissing going on, but so far they seem to be acclimating to each other.

The new "little one" doesn't have a name yet, but we've learned that they tend to name themselves. That's how Poudini got her name.. she was a regular escape artist!

Our wonderful Thousand Oaks, Albany & Kensington neighbors gave us many excellent Puddy Max sightings (she's still missing.. and we still miss her).. but what I learned is that unless your pet tag has an address on it.. people don't know if your four legged friend has strayed from home!

We made new metal tags for both of them when we picked up our new baby. And this time the tags had our address, phone number, and last name.

Puddy Max... come home and meet your new sister!


Friday, February 09, 2007

We stand on the shoulders of giants!

We’re privileged to network and learn from the best real estate agents and trainers in the industry.

Carol & I have both received the prestigious Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) designation. There are over 1,000,000 real estate agents in the United States and fewer than 4% have passed the stringent qualifications to be Certified as a CRS.

I had the honor to speak on Real Estate Technology at the annual CRS Convention last week; today Carol & I drove to Napa to attend our Northern California CRS Meeting.

Dr. Bernice L. Ross, Real Estate Coach, is one of the finest real estate coaches in the industry is (I’m using my wireless connection to write this from the meeting) our featured speaker.

Bernice writes the weekly real estate agent column for Inman News Features. Brad Inman, who I’ve known for years, dubbed Bernice “America’s top real estate coach”

It was a mutual admiration society!

Bernice autographed her book for me... and I gave her an autographed copy of my new book “How To Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home - San Francisco Bay Area Edition”.

That’s actually a photo on our house in Berkeley on the cover!

She wrote “Dear Ira, You are one of the most innovative and forward thinking agents in the business. Kudos to you! Have an awesome 2007!

Thank you Bernice... it’s a delight to know you!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Berkeley Emergency Preparedness... If something happened to you in your home... would your neighbors know who to call?

Berkeley Emergency Preparedness... If something happened to you in your home... would your neighbors know who to call?

Carol and I have owned a home in Berkeley's Thousand Oaks Neighborhood for over twenty five years... but if something happened to us, our neighbors wouldn't know who to call!

I decided to create a Family Information Form so my neighbors would know our emergency contacts, and vice versa. Just click on Family Information Form to download the Adobe Acrobat file.

My thoughts... make several versions of the form - one would be very comprehensive and sent only to your emergency contacts; the other would have less sensitive information, and given to neighbors you trust.

Feel free to forward this link to your family and friends.

We're all in this together!

Here's the link to Berkeley's Office Of Emergency Services. Here's what they say on their web site.

"The Office of Emergency Services offers free training in emergency preparedness to anyone who lives or works in Berkeley. Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) classes include Basic Personal Preparedness, Disaster First Aid, Disaster Mental Health, Fire Suppression, Light Search and Rescue, Responding to Terrorism, and Shelter Operations. Classes are held at the Fire Department Training Center (997 Cedar Street) "


At last night's Block Association meeting we learned something very important from the Fire Chief. Calls to 911 from your cell phone go to a dispatch center in Vallejo!

Program this number into your cell phone - 510-981-5911

It's a direct line to the Berkeley Fire/Police Dispatcher

I've given it the Quick Key of "F" (for Fire) on my Treo 700!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Go Vest, Young Man!

First... why a vest? I'd like to tell you that it all started growing up in The Bronx, when my father, Max Serkes, would give me... in his strong Russian accent... the same advice he took when he was a teenager "go vest, young man!"

But that never really happened.

We tried using sweaters or sports jackets... but I carry so much gear that the pockets sagged! Not surprising, since I usually carry a lockbox key, cell phone, Treo 700 cell phone/PDA/email unit, digital camera, checkbooks, note pads, post-its (don't leave home without it) and more!

And now a very cool 80 GB iPod!

I thought that a vest might work well, so bought a nice fabric one from Royal Robbins on Gilman Street. Everything fit just fine... but the cloth vest didn't hold its shape well. We were attending a real estate convention in Las Vegas... and Carol found the perfect leather vest at Wilson's Leather It works just great, and looks pretty good too! Now you know the rest of the story. But now there's more! My friends John & Ellen Pinto hosted a dinner at One Market in San Francisco, where I met their friends, Peter & Susanne Rundberg of Fog City Leather. Peter made me a custom black leather vest (aka Ira's Purse), which I love!

And we liked the black vest so well... we ordered a reddish-brown one! We picked it up yesterday after greeting Queen Mary II to San Francisco... and it is beautiful!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sir Keys Meets Queen Mary II

Though I pronounce my name Sir Keys, today was the closest I came to Royalty since Prince Charles visited Berkeley last year!

Seeing the Queen Mary II visit San Francisco for the first time ranked up there with the my Golden Gate Bridge Walk on its 50th Anniversary.

Here are the photos I took today... hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them!


Friday, February 02, 2007

Standing on the shoulders of giants

I've had the honor to learn from the best in the business - Randy Eager, Senior CRS Instructor, and Pat Wattam and Judy McCutchin amongst others.

Pantheon of Real Estate Agents doesn't have many members... and Judy is one of them. She might even be the first one to have a place in the Pantheon!

I was honored to be invited to speak on the panel with these other marvelous real estate agents to show Certified Residential Specialists how to use technology to be more effective! Over 1,000 agents, including dozens who flew hours to come here from Spain, came to Las Vegas to attend the convention.

Thank you all. I've stood on the shoulders of giants for a long time... it's a pleasure to be able to give back.

Ira Serkes

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pride and Admiration in Las Vegas!

Pride and Admiration in Las Vegas!

I'm sharing the panel with two of the finest real estate technology experts I know... Judy Mc Cutchin of dallahomes.com fame, and Pat Wattam

Judy dog Chester is world-renowned.... and her new 4 legged child, Warbuck (aka Starbucks) is the most beautiful dog I've ever seen!