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


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

How much does a fence cost?

One of my clients asked me how much a fence would cost, and I decided to see if there was a way to estimate the cost online.

I came across the Fence Online website, and tried it out. What I liked about it was that they asked for my zip code, so hopefully they adjust the cost based on local supplies and labor costs.

Here's the link to the fence estimator.
If you try it, let me know how the estimates compare to your actual costs.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Berkeley Hills - Tilden Park & Wildcat Canyon

Our cousin Mimi visited us last week. She's an outdoor enthusiast and rock climber, so we took her to the the places in Berkeley we knew she'd love... Tilden Park, Indian Rock Park, and Cragmont Park.

I often talk about Berkeley and Oakland's shopping neighborhood... Solano Avenue, North Berkeley, Elmwood Claremont, Rockridge & 4th Street... but the biggest wow for me was actually discovering Tilden Park in the Berkeley Hills! There's no other place I know where you can have homes with spectacular San Francisco Bay Views on one side of the hill, and amazingly serene pastoral views as far as you can see just a short hike or bike away!

Here's a photo I took on 15 Feb 2007... Yes, trees really do bloom in Berkeley the day after Valentine's Day. That's just one of the reasons I love living in Berkeley, and you will too.


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Dry Garden... in North Oakland

Carol visited The Dry Garden in North Oakland 6556 Shattuck Ave today, and took this iPhone photo for me. I thought you'd enjoy it too!

She's excited... spring is starting to be sprung, and the tree in our back yard has some tiny new blooms.

Me? I came down with an annoying cold... and spent the entire day day keeping the bed from levitating.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The San Francisco Garden Show at the Cow Palace

Casa Serkes Front Garden... a year ago
Poudini is standing guard, just above the step

Carol loves to garden. She was born in Newcastle-On-Tyne and I think it's in her British blood. And though she's now a US Citizen (a 3 hanky event) the gardening instinct still is strong.

So, while I drove to San Jose today to network with my California All Stars Realtors group (about two dozen of use have met for about a decade to share ideas), Carol went to the San Francisco Garden Show at the Cow Palace.

I was born in Manhattan, and grew up in The Bronx (on Bronx Park East, across from The Bronx Zoo and near the Botanical Garden), but my interests tend towards steel and concrete (though green concrete is always pleasing)

Carol, knowing of my interests, used her iPhone to take and email me the above photo.

Flush with success, I decided to continue on the same theme. The lovely photo above, a fine few of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the view when taking care of business from the Albany Race Track men's room.

I'll be you wondered how I'd bring back the block to East Bay Real Estate, didn't you!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

What did 3 bedroom homes sell for in Berkeley in 2007?

More Berkeley real estate sales research for you!

2007 Berkeley single family homes sales price information, organized by number of bedrooms, then sorted by increasing sales price.

We can learn lots of information from the graph:
  • Much of Berkeley was built up in the 20's, and so most the Berkeley housing stock is either 2 or 3 bedrooms (BR)
  • 3 BR homes sold for incrementally more than 2 BR homes; 3 BR = 2 BR + $xxx,000. Using the median price, you can purchase a 3 BR home for about $175,000 more than a 2 BR home
  • 4 BR homes sold for geometrically more than 2 BR homes; you have to pay about twice as much for a 4 BR home than a 2 BR home
  • Very few Berkeley homes sold for $500,000 or less.
Some more number crunching .... I like to refer to median home prices as a way to compare pricing distribution. The median price is the price at which half the homes sold for more, and half the homes sold for less.

This table isn't formatting quite how I want it to.. but this will give you the idea.

BR # of Sales Median Price
2 ..... 147 ..... $625,000
3 ..... 187 ..... $801,000
4 ..... 105 ..... $1,170,000
5 ..... 26 ..... $1,350,000

Data from East Bay Regional MLS, which doesn't reflect all home sales in Berkeley, but I think it gives a pretty good feel for distribution of the number of homes, and their pricing distribution.

Live update of East Bay Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Rockridge...homes by neighborhood!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It takes courage to buy or sell in today's Berkeley Real Estate market!

It takes courage to buy or sell in today's Berkeley Real Estate market!

Read the papers.. doom and gloom.

Economy changing.

Jobs uncertain.

And yet the Berkeley real estate market remains strong! We've heard of numerous homes which received 3 to 7 offers in the past few weeks.

Is this a good time for you to sell or buy?

It all depends on your needs.

We see our role as consultants rather than sales people; providing our clients the information they need to make informed decisions. After meeting, you'll know what's best for you... to sell, to buy, to rent, or to just stay the course.

If that would kind of information would be of value to you, let's get together!


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Berkeley Sales/List Price Ratio by Days On The MLS

I love crunching numbers... and reading maps... and finding correlations and relationships.

So when someone asked me about the relationship between sales price and days on the MLS, I thought about it for a bit, and quickly came up with the following graphs.

Top graph - 2007 Berkeley Single Family Home Sales. Though I can graph the sales prices as a function of days on the MLS (DMLS) I decided to look at the Sales Price/Original Listing Price ratio first.. since that gives an excellent feel for how "hot" or "cool" the market is. When most homes sell quickly for more than asking price, it's a hot market.

And 2007 was a hot Berkeley real estate market!

The median (half more, half less) days on the market was 15.

But that's more a function of how Berkeley homes are sold... we usually don't look at offers until a home has been on the market for 7-10 days (sometimes after two open houses)... and so the typical cycle time is 7-14 days.

And the median Sales Price/Original List Price ratio? About 101%.

Note though, that most of the homes which sold within 21 days on the market sold for more than the asking price. Almost all the homes which took 6o days or more to sell sold for less (often much less) than the original asking price.

And what of 2008 Year To Date (YTD?) Not a lot of data yet, but that's to be expected since not many homes sell in December or January.. because not a lot of homes were on the market that time.

There were about 47 closings in 2007 compared to about 38 closings the same time period of 2008... though that is more a function of few homes on market this year. Looks to me that there's a similar distribution for 2008, though some homes are taking longer to sell, and overbids somewhat fewer.

What does this all mean?

I think Berkeley will have a strong local real estate market... while other "micro" real estate markets around the SF Bay Area and the US might be much slower.

If you're selling, call us right away so we can get your home on the market as soon as possible.

And if you're buying... unless a home is overpriced or has been on the market awhile, the home you're interested in will probably sell for more than asking price if it sells within 21 days on the market!

There is a direct correlation between how many buyers offer on it, and what it sells for. Let us know if you'd like more information.

The Data: East Bay Regional Data, which represents homes sold through the MLS and not private home sales. All number crunching done by Ira Serkes.. who, as they say, has a (actually two) degrees in Science! Information deemed to be correct but not guaranteed. Your mileage may vary.

B.S.Ch.E Cooper Union (1970, M.S.Ch.E UMass Amherst 1974

Here are the graphs closer together to make them easier to compare with each other.

Email serkes@berkeleyhomes.com or call 510-526-6668 for more information.

Live update of East Bay Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Rockridge...homes by neighborhood!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

From the Berkeley Hills... to the Berkeley Flatlands... Berkeley is special!

From the Berkeley Hills... to the Berkeley Flatlands... Berkeley is special!

In the past few days we've listed, and shown, homes all over town. Having lived in Berkeley for over 30 years we've learned that every neighborhood has its special places... whether you're the flatlands of Berkeley or high in the Berkeley Hills. Out equivalent of "from the mountains, to the prairies..."

Here's some of my favorite places - the Rose Garden on Euclid, intriguing old and new commercial properties in West Berkeley near the UPRR Tracks, the beautiful cherry trees in bloom along San Lorenzo and Thousand Oaks. All photos taken within the past few days.

Let me know which ones are your favorites!

Email serkes@berkeleyhomes.com or call 510-526-6668 for more information.

Live update of East Bay Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Rockridge...homes by neighborhood!

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Some very cool uses for the camera in your cell phone!

Some very cool uses for the camera in your cell phone!

Carol and I spend several hours every Thursday to preview the new Berkeley MLS homes on the market for our clients.. then prepare a detailed report for them to review online at their convenience. We started using our iPhones to take photos and email to our clients.. while still at the house.

One of my mastermind buddies, Alan Mah from Vancouver, shared this nifty tip. It was so good that I thought I'd let you know about it too.

"Never use my little camera in my PDA phone in the past as I do not like the low quality of the images from it.

However has I am getting older and have too many things in my mind I found a use for it. Ever go to a huge parking lot and park your car and try to remember where you park your car? Now I don't have to remember where I park as I just take a picture with my phone of the parking space, the floor it is on and the direction of my car.

Will work with hotel room number, take pictures of groceries you want to buy etc, you get the idea where I am going with"

Thanks, Alan!

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My Very Cool Niece is running to raise money for cancer research

Here's what Lauren wrote....

In 2001, at the age of 48, my mom, Geri, was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. With colon resection surgery and six months of chemotherapy my mom bravely conquered the cancer. In the cancer world, cancer patients are considered completely cured after five cancer-free years, so in 2006 my mom celebrated the fifth anniversary since her surgery and was declared completely colon cancer-free.

Unfortunately, just one short year later, in 2007, she received a breast cancer diagnosis. This occurred in October, which coincidentally is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We soon became much more attuned to the exceedingly large number of breast cancer foundations and campaigns to raise money for breast cancer research. When I told my mom that I bought Progresso soup and tic-tacs in a pink container because proceeds went to breast cancer research she did not respond with the enthusiasm that I expected. Instead she simply said, I would rather you donate money to colon cancer foundations. Don't get me wrong, as a breast cancer patient my mom is all for increased funding and research, but she feels that colon cancer foundations are truly underfunded.

If you'd like to contribute, click on this link... and tell Lauren you read about it on Uncle Ira's blog

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

What are Berkeley Comparable Sales for this home?

What's the right price to offer on that new Claremont Neighborhood home which just came on the market?

It depends upon recent sales information!

We provide detailed Comparable Sales Analysis (aka "CMA") for our sellers and buyers so they have the information they need to make informed decisions.

The graph gives a vivid overview of neighborhood activity. Each home is different, so we provide our clients with updated information each time they want to make an offer.

The data would just be data without interpretation and analysis... and that's how we create value for our clients. We routinely negotiated 3-10% price changes (up or down) depending upon if you're selling or buying.

You can easily find a real estate agent who sells homes for less.. or who will rebate part of their commission to you. We specialize in working with clients who want to sell for higher net sales prices, or purchase for lower prices.... rather than those who just want lower fees or rebates.


Email serkes@berkeleyhomes.com or call 510-526-6668 for more information.

Live update of East Bay Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, Rockridge...homes by neighborhood!

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Mabel Bolton left $150,000 to the Thousand Oaks School!

Just read in the Daily Cal that Mabel Bolton left $150,000 to neighborhood's Thousand Oaks Elementary School. There once were several liquor stores on Solano Avenue when we first moved to the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood. Bolton's liquors was one of them. The article talks about their pharmacy, but I don't recall that.

Looks like the school will be using the money to install Photo Voltaic (Solar Energy) on the roof.

When we set up our living trust, we made sure that the Berkeley Public Library and New York Public Library receive donations... we also have a large contribution going to Cooper Union.

What do they all have in common?

I frequented libraries all my life. And graduated from Cooper Union with a Chemical Engineering degree.

And all were free.

I received; and so I give back.

Consider doing it yourself!


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