Monday, March 30, 2009

A Post From The Road

Traveling for business today, so just the Alameda inventory data for today's post. The Island's inventory dip a little this week dropping 12 units from 179 to 167. I will dig deeper into the numbers later in the week with the month coming to a close. It will be intresting to see if sales picked up in the last week of the month.

Nationally and regionally sales have picked with first time homebuyers and investors pick up bargins. I doubt that we have seen any of that activity in Alameda, but we will have to wait and see. Be back on Island tomorrow, and I will have to get caught up with all the Measure A activity for Alameda Point. I have been reading The Island and Blogging Bayport from the road trying to keep up, but still need to dig deeper into the issue.

Have a good Monday Alameda.

Alameda Inventory for the Week of March 29, 2009















Short Sale




Price Reductions


High List

 $                 2,345,000

Low List

 $                    199,900

Friday, March 27, 2009

Alameda Snapshot: Ole's Waffle Shop

Today's Alameda Snapshot is an Island tradition Ole's Waffle Shop. I love taking pictures of Neon at night.

Have a great weekend.

Ole's Waffle Shop Sign at Night

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Much Dough Is "P" Generating

One of my first posts on this blog was about Measure P and what the impact would be to the housing market. I think that given all the other factors, foreclosure, lending and scared buyers/sellers the impact is hard to judge, but with nearly three months of 2009 in the books here what we know in regards to the dollars generated by the transfer tax.

First of all the numbers reflect on residential housing recorded on the MLS. Commercial building and private sales would take a lot more research, but here are the basics.

From January 1 to March 23, 2009, there were 61 sales that represent over $33 million dollars in transactions. Under the newly enacted $12 per $1,000 the transfer tax generated $398,722 in revenue. If the Council had not made the change the revenue would have been $179,425; a difference of $219,298.

If we compare this to the first quarter of 2008, 63 sales in Alameda generated just over $39 million in property sales. Even though, March is not over it will be tough to make up the six million dollar difference year-over-year. The 444 transactions last year accounted for $278,592,712 in property transactions.

In the short-term the tax may be one more factor for people not to buy, but given the stress on the City’s General Fund the tax may have been a necessary step. Only time will tell what the overall impact will be, but we do know that sale price are down about 15% and if the year continues to pace the same way the city will see a decline of about $300,000 in revenue year-over-year even with the increase.

I will continue to follow this topic at the end of each quarter to see how it is pacing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

National Sales Numbers Show Promise

Here at 94501 Real Estate we reported Alameda February Sales numbers two weeks ago and it showed that the Island's sales had remained flat year-over-year, but yesterday some very encouraging National housing news was released. Sales in the United States of previously occupied homes unexpectedly  jumped up in February by the largest amount in nearly six years.

The National Association of Realtors released Monday that sales of existing homes grew 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 4.72 million last month, from 4.49 million units in January.

It was the largest monthly sales jump since July 2003, with first-time buyers accounting for about half of all transactions.

The inventory glut created big opportunities as first-time buyers took advantage of deep discounts on foreclosures and other distressed properties. According to a survey by Emeryville based ZipRealty first-time home-buyer tax credit may be motivated to take some action and buy a home this spring, the survey showed Sixty-two percent of first-time buyers said that the $8,000 tax credit is giving them an incentive to buy in 2009.

Economists said sales, while still at levels not seen since 1997, may finally be coming back to life after declining sharply after the stock market plunge in autumn. Prices, however, are expected to keep falling well into the year. The ZipRealty survey also showed that of those who weren't motivated by the credit, 29% think it's not enough money to make a difference, 28% didn't think they would qualify and 24% think home prices will continue to decline.

Nationally, tens of thousands of homes remain tied up in the foreclosure process and are not yet for sale and could glut the market come this summer. Add mounting job losses many buyers are likely to stay on the sidelines.

Here in Alameda the wait and see posture seems to be the case and buyers are waiting to seewhat the future brings.

UPDATE ON WEBSTER STREET LOT: Michele Ellson got the low-down on the Farmer’s Market and its status. You can read the details in today’s post.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Webster Street Lot For Sale


I was working on Inventory Data for the week and notice Alameda has a vacant lot for sale. The land is currently a City parking lot and home to Alameda’s Farmer’s Market.

It has been on the market for nearly three weeks, the street address is 1435 Webster Street, and according to the listing description the current lease on the lot expires in July 2009. It is being promoted as a site for current or future development.

Since it is was the weekend when I found this listing, I sent an email to WABA to inquire the status of the Farmer’s market and the future of this location. I will also follow up with the City’s Development office and post both responses once they are received.

But given this is a large vacant corner commercial lot, and these are very rare in Alameda’s commercial districts it is not unrealistic that an investor would be interested in development. Which would force the outdoor produce market to move. Although I can not see this happening anytime real soon, but the current owners may not renew the lease if they are trying to sell.

This is zoned C-C, a Community Commercial Zoning District, and has utilities located on the property. I see that it the property is listed by Gallagher & Lindsey and is listed for over a million dollars. With that price tag we will have to see if sells first, before anything could happen.

Now back to the inventory data. The numbers show that inventory is starting to build for the traditional selling season. The inventory has gradually increased for four consecutive weeks in a row and has hit a 17 week high.


Part of the reason for the increase in inventory is sales have slowed. Sixty homes have been on the market for more than 90-days. Sales are just about stagnant, so the next couple of months will give a real indication of how the year will unfold.














Short Sale




Price Reductions


High List

$ 2,345,000

Low List

$ 214,900

Friday, March 20, 2009

Alameda Snapshot: Sunset At South Shore

Welcome Spring. As the weather gets ready to change I thought a snapshot of one of my favorite walking routes would be appropriate.

Have a great day and weekend.

Sunset at South Shore

Thursday, March 19, 2009

$35 in Errors Needed to Save Home

I thought NBC did a real intresting story about individuals fighting foreclosure and the methods they are using to battle the banks. It focuses on the meltdown in Miami-Dade County, but I thought it would be useful for anyone in Alameda that might be heading towards default. The story is no substitute for an attorney or accountant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Closer Look at February Home Sales

Last week, I posted February sales numbers and I wanted to take a closer look. The Alameda median home sale price is down 16% from the prior year even though the volume was almost identical, but there is a litlle good news hidden in the numbers.

The most interesting thing of the month was the median sale price was slightly higher than the median list price. A few homes sold for more than the listing price, a very good trend to stabilize the market, which gave us the small anomaly.

In 2008, the median sale price was $662,500 compared to last months $558,000. Eight of the 22 properties (36%) closed in February 2009 were sold for less than 95% of the asking price. Another eight sold between 95% and 99% of the asking price. The final six were evenly divided with three going for asking price and three above asking.

Two of the three that sold for above asking 309 Sand Beach (listing price: $540,000) and 308 Fair Haven (listing price: $535,000) were both 4 bedroom 2 bathroom homes, were sold for $45,000 and $60,000 more than the asking price.

These two properties are a good sign that this type of home has found a bottom price and there are buyer(s) willing to jump into the process.

The other interesting trend is no property listed for over $700,000 sold for asking. The five properties took from 93%-97% of what they were asking on those fancy flyers outside the house. The one million dollar sale, 12 Callan, saw the owners accept an offer 7% blow the listing price.

February 2009 median numbers were:

List Price: $557,475

Sale Price: $558,000

Bedroom: 3

Bathroom: 2

Square feet:1,522

Price per square foot: $395

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Housing Starts Spring Forward

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Alameda: With Spring approaching this weekend there was a glimmer of Hope Springing Eternal as a surprising report on housing construction showed the first increase in eight months this morning.

The Commerce Department reported housing starts jumped 22% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 from a revised 477,000 for January. It was the biggest percentage gain in 19 years, a far difference from what the economists had expected starts of 450,000 last month.

The small upward movement still does not change the fact that the month-over-month increase, housing starts were down more than 47% from February 2008, when more than 1.1 million new homes broke ground. Construction of single-family homes rose 1.1% last month to an annual rate of 357,000, and new construction of buildings with five or more units surged 80% to 212,000.

Building permits rose 3% in February, according to the Commerce Department report, to an annual rate of 547,000. Building permits are considered a reliable indicator of future activity in construction.

There is still a huge glut of houses on the market, some homebuilders are trying to entice consumers with special financing deals, vacations, job-loss insurance, cars and list goes on.

For Alameda, since new housing is very limited, the numbers are just an indicator of the overall status of the market. In recent months inventory in Alameda has continued to grow at very small rate of increase, but sales have remained stagnant. For us on the Island a better indicator will be sold units, as this increases our insolated market will halt its gradual decline, level and begin to climb again.

So, I will keep watching the inventory and sales to see what spring brings our community.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Three Thoughts

Today’s post is a collection of three items that have no connection, but I thought they were all relevant to Alameda’s housing market.

Alameda March home sales are off to a slow start with just eight recorded on the MLS  in the first half of the month. Of those sales, five were single family residences, two multi-family and one condo, if we keep this pace the sales will chart out to 16 for the month. If you compared the real estate transactions for March with the prior two years you will find the declining trend continue: 2008 with 20 and 2007 with 36 sales.

Sale Date




  sale price







1807 2ND ST





2153 CLINTON Ave










1828 9TH ST



















Item Number 2: I do not follow the rental market very closely, but I was curious so I did a very non-scientific look at the Alameda rental market gathering my data from Craigslist. I looked at about 200 listing over a three day period and here is what I found. The two bedroom apartment had the most inventory with 73 units available, followed closely by the one bedroom with 70 units. The highest rental property was $5,500 per month Ballena Bay Townhome with boat dock. The lowest was a $700 studio. I took a look at median rental and here are those numbers.

Studio: $913

1 Bedroom: $1,145

2 Bedroom: $1,425

3+ Bedroom: $2,300

Item 3: Weekly Inventory Data















Short Sale




Price Reductions


High List

 $ 2,345,000

Low List

 $    214,900


Friday, March 13, 2009

Alameda Snapshot: Spot's Pop Inn

Happy Friday Everyone. If you are starting the St. Patrick's Holiday early enjoy safe way. Today's snapshot is a Park Street Fixture.

Spot's Pop Inn

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Foreclosure Wave Continues

The foreclosure wave continues to roll across the country and Alameda is not immuned. As long as you have been awake in the last 18-months the foreclosure market has been one hot topic and from what I can tell it may be another 18 before we find something else to talk about in real estate.

To add fuel wave of information to this topic announced that completed foreclosures in February reached the highest monthly total since the foreclosure crisis began, soaring by more than 67 percent over January's reduced foreclosures, according to the latest U.S. Foreclosure Index released today by the website.

According to In February, 121,756 new foreclosures were completed, up from 72,694 in January, which had seen a 26 percent drop from December's 97,841 foreclosures. The February number topped the previous monthly high of 104,243 new foreclosures seen last September - then the high-water mark for this crisis. It shows a new wave of distressed properties hitting the market.

Chart of Alameda Listing

Distressed Listings

Link to Lager Version

In the past three months Alameda saw a peak on February 15, 2009 with 40 distressed properties listed for sale on the MLS and the distressed inventory has remained flat for the past three weeks. Realtytrac as a much bigger number on their website, they list 70 properties that are Banked Owned (a.k.a. Real Estate Owned (REO)). That means their about 40+ properties that are not on the MLS. The website list 186 properties in pre-foreclosure, these are that are behind on payments and foreclosure process has begun. Here is a chart from Realtytrac tracking foreclosure sales:


The Island is seeing the flood leak into our community. Job loss, bad loans and declining home values have been a little more moderate, but the impact is now coming home. The pre-foreclosure number is a real warning signal for what may come. All the efforts by banks and goverment seem to be coming up short.

“Despite the efforts to stem foreclosures by government and many banks, the hopeful signs of the last quarter of 2008 and January didn't follow through in February,' says Alexis McGee, foreclosure expert, educator, and author. 'Many homeowners are in trouble and rising unemployment continues to threaten to intensify the problem.”

The U.S. Foreclosure Index also found the number of pre-foreclosure filings - the original filings that can lead to a foreclosure - increasing to the highest monthly total since the foreclosure crisis began, hitting 207,703 in February, up more than 24 percent from 166,860 in January and up 9 percent from 190,467 in December, the previous monthly high.

Foreclosures increased across the country despite a temporary halts by major banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac previously had foreclosure moratoria from Nov. 26 to Jan. 31, which helped to slow down foreclosures during that period, and reinstated the moratoria in mid-February. Nearly all the bank moratoria have since expired or are about to expire.

The top five states that continue to dominate the numbers of foreclosures for February are California, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, and Texas.

California continues to dominate the numbers:
-- California: 23,988 foreclosures, up 67 percent from January and down 24.7 percent compared to September's high.
-- California: February pre-foreclosures are up 35.4 percent from January, and 7 percent higher from December.

Top 10 States Nationwide REOs Last 6 months

1. California

2. Florida

3. Arizona

4. Michigan

5. Texas

6. Georgia

7. Ohio

8. Nevada

9. Illinois

10. Tennessee

Top 10 States Nationwide Pre-Foreclosure Last 6 months

1. Florida

2. California

3. Arizona

 4. Illinois

5. Nevada

6. Texas

7. New Jersey

8. Georgia

9. Michigan

10. Oregon

Top 10 List Source:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"A" Bonus for Alameda

I was able to watch the Planning Board meeting yesterday, and for someone that is interested in Real Estate and home construction the discussion over the Density Bonus Ordinance was fascinating stuff. Action on the item was continued to the next meeting but here are the highlights.

John Biggs gave the staff report and what I got out of it was the following:

  • This is an incentive to provide low to moderate income units.
  • Types of project: New residential, Mix-used with 5 or more units, renovation of existing multi-family units with at least five units that increase the number of units in the project, mix used in the Park Street and Webster Street business districts (the boundaries for district have not been clearly defined), conversion of non residential to residential with five units or more, conversion of rental units to ownership that have at least five units.
  • To qualify:
    • The project has two have at least 10% of the project designated for low income. This entitles a bonus between 20-30%. Example 100, 10 low-income allows for the 20% bonus and the developer can construct a 120 units.
    • The ordinance has an inclusionary housing clause; This reduce the inclusionary number from 25% to 15% that is required. SO the bonus does not become automatic with all projects.
    • Incentive and concessions
      • For ever 5% for very low income they are allowed one concession.
        • Measure A – is part of a long list
        • Lofts
        • Parking
        • Work/live
        • Lot size
    • Penalties for not complying

After Biggs report Christopher Buckley (Alameda Architectural Preservation Society) gave a very thoughtful response to the report. He believes that the Density Bonus Ordinance allows an end run around local zoning. This statement is very true; the state is trying to encourage (force) the building of housing for low and moderate income families. So the Ordinance by its creation is built to override local rules to accomplish the goal.

Buckley also would like for the City to limit the number of concessions in the Ordinance because “The impact to the character of Alameda neighborhoods could be significant.” He is looking for parameter on incentives (height and lot size).

I thought the most interesting part of his presentation was regarding what is Mandated by State in regards to incentives and concessions. The Alameda Ordinance has a list of 9 incentives (page 15 of the ordinance) and Buckley believed that five were not required by the state.

Buckley’s Five

  • Lot size
  • Increase maximum lot coverage
  • Reduce Parking requirement
  • Allowance of live/work
  • Reduced setbacks

Bigss clarifies that the State mandates, reduce minimum setbacks, increase height limit, reduce onsite open space, increase floor area and decrease parking.

Now comes the most interesting point. Andrew Thomas, staffer for the City, clarified that a builder can ask for any concession they want and the burden then becomes the City’s. Only health and safety could really be used to reject a concession as long as it was willing to provide the low cost homes and meet building and zoning requirements.

This is where you could see the board having obvious heartburn. The starting posing hypothetical scenarios that you could see where at the heart of both preservation and Measure A. The one hypothetical that got the most discussion was the Conversion of an existing single family home into 5 or more units. Basically the Victorian cut up for multiple units. Thomas eased much of that fear when explained that scenario would require a 10,000 square foot parcel – only about 100 lots in Alameda meet this requirement; and be PD zoning overlay. So the number falls even further.

Basically the answer was “Yes” a conversion could be done if you could find a single family property that met the requirements. The result of the State mandate is developers will now have an ability to work around Measure A. In a passing comment Board Member Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft talked about Measure A being address at the ballot box in the near future.

As the last agenda item it all seemed to be too much, so Board Member Margaret McNamara asked this to be continued the item to the next meeting

Link to the Ordinance:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taxing Times

I came across a press release from the National Association of Realtors® that I thought was a good reminder as the tax deadline rapidly approaches. Congress and the state of California have made a lot of changes through the stimulus package and the state budget that impact home owners. It is crucial tax information that may affect the bottom lines of all homeowners, buyers and sellers.

“Congress has passed new tax laws that will help many people who may be struggling in these challenging times,” said National Association of Realtors® President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “As the leading advocate for housing issues, NAR wants to make sure that homeowners, buyers and sellers can make full use of the tax advantages available to them.”

Some of the issues you need to explore:

  • How declining home values are affecting you property taxes, and what it all means for federal returns, and if you think that your property needs reassessment here is a link to the Alameda County Assessors Office Reassessment form. This will require you to do a little homework and submit comparative market data.  
  • What energy efficient home improvements can reduce homeowners’ tax bills, both the federal government and California SB1 are providing breaks. Energy Star has a list of federal tax credits. If you need more information on SB1 go to the state page.
  • first-time home buyer can now take advantage of the temporary $8,000 tax credit and how it will affect buyers’ tax returns. The National Association of Homebuilders has created a website to give you the facts:
  • How proposed changes to the mortgage interest deduction may affect homeowners, buyers and sellers at all income levels. The SF Gate wrote an editorial on the proposal.

Don’t procrastinate, and get those returns in early. April 15 will come fast.