Zoo With a View

Oakland Zoo Gondola

Oakland Zoo expansion features a bird’s eye view 

Imagine taking a 68ft-high gondola ride through the hills of Oakland with breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay. Seated in the Swiss-made cabin, you see a herd of bison and antelope passing below you.

This experience will soon be a reality. In the spring of 2017, the Oakland Zoo hopes to unveil the first phase of its long-awaited expansion, which will include the scenic gondola ride. The four-minute ride will afford panoramic views with glimpses of six bridges and pass directly over exhibits of bison and antelope.

The gondola will transport patrons 1,700 feet to the zoo’s new Visitor Center. The Visitor Center will serve as an introduction to the zoo’s new exhibits, as well as providing a restaurant with seating for 150 people.

In 2018, when the entire expansion project is complete, visitors can tour 56 acres of open-air exhibits. The expansion, called the California Trail, will include native species such as grey wolves, jaguars, mountain lions, bald eagles, and black bears, in natural settings designed to be as close as possible to their natural habitat. A hands-on interactive discovery center and a children’s activity zone will be part of the expansion as well.

The Oakland Zoo was founded in 1922. It currently houses 660 animals. When the expansion is complete, the Oakland Zoo will double in size and will be the second largest zoo in the state behind the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The project will cost $61.5 million.


Higher Credit Score May Lower Your Interest Rate

Buying a home requires a good credit score.

Buying a home requires a good credit score.

The factors that determine a good credit score have long baffled consumers. If you’re a saver and don’t spend much money your credit rating will suffer. If you frequently spend on several different credit cards and take out loans, you’re rewarded with a higher credit score. To consumers, this logic seems counterintuitive. Lenders see spending in a different light. They want to know that you have the skills and experience to manage credit.

Lenders see your history of borrowing and repaying money as reassurance that you can repay their loan. The thinking is that if you have responsibly managed money in the past that you will continue to do so in the future.

Two mathematicians, Bill Fair and Earl Issac, invented the FICO credit score in 1989. To determine your rating, your credit history is entered into the FICO algorithm. The resulting number is a predictive quotient of your likelihood to repay an obligation. Scores range from 300 to 850. Scores above 740 are seen positively in the lending process. Scores below 640 are seen negatively. The effect of this is that the interest rate on a loan offered a borrower is increased or decreased according to their score.

Five Factors Affecting Your FICO Score

  1. Payment History – Frequent late payments or defaulting on a financial obligation will negatively affect your credit score. These factors comprise 35% of your FICO score.
  2. Debt Burden – A high debt burden lowers your score. It indicates that you may not be able to manage any additional debt without the risk of default. If your total income-to-debt ratio is already high, you may not qualify for a new home loan. This comprises 30% of your FICO score.
  3. Length of Credit History – If you have established a consistently positive credit history over time, your FICO score may increase. The longer your history the better your score. This comprises 15% of your FICO score.
  4. Account Diversity – Showing that you can balance several types of credit will increase your score. These types of credit include: credit cards, retail accounts, and other loans. This comprises 10% of your FICO score.
  5. Recent Searches – Credit searches by credit card issuers or auto dealers may push your credit score lower. These searches indicate you are about to make a major purchase or are ready to take on more debt. Checking your own credit score has no effect. This comprises 10% of your FICO Score.

Written by Steve LaBadessa in consultation with Richard G. Thornton, Loan Officer, Land Home Financial, Walnut Creek, CA.

Redwood Heights – Oakland’s Newest Million Dollar Neighborhood

Redwood heights homes selling above $1,000,000Add Redwood Heights to the list of hot real estate neighborhoods in Oakland. Uptown and Temescal have recently been viewed as Oakland’s most in-demand areas to live. In the last four years, the average home price in Uptown has increased a remarkable 45%. At the same time, Temescal prices have increased 40%. What seems to have gone unnoticed is that the average home price in Redwood Heights has increased an impressive 37%.

Also, in Redwood Heights, the price for larger homes have pushed across the $1,000,000 mark. In the last two years nine homes have sold above $1,000,000. The highest selling price paid was for 3345 Monterey Boulevard which sold for $1,185,000. Another Redwood Heights property, 4368 Detroit Avenue sold for $1,050,000, a whopping $301,000 above the asking price.

What’s pushing the impressive increase in home prices here? Redwood Heights offer all that embodies the California lifestyle. It has the green trees of Monterey and the sunshine of San Diego. It’s convenient to hiking trails, parks, and recreational fields.

Also, Redwood Heights has a popular elementary school and is adjacent to three colleges. Residents describe the neighborhood as having a small town feel, a place where everyone knows and cares for each other.

Residents are happy about joining the million-dollar club. “Breaking the million-dollar ceiling is an event for homeowners to rejoice. It makes you feel successful,” said one Redwood Heights neighbor.

Article written by Steve LaBadessa, Realtor at Marvin Gardens Real Estate.

Buying a Home Across the Bridge – rent vs own

an Francisco renters are becoming home owners in the East Bay, they join in the daily commute.

San Francisco renters are becoming homeowners in the East Bay, they join in the morning commute.

They call it the East Bay migration – San Francisco renters purchasing homes in the East Bay. Why are so many people moving? San Francisco is currently the most expensive place to rent in the US. Because very few homes are being built in the city, rental prices rarely go down. More and more San Franciscans are looking East as the best affordable option for housing.

An examination of the two markets reveal why the move is becoming so attractive. According to SF Gate the average two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in San Francisco rents for $4,830. That monthly expense is the equivalent to paying the mortgage, insurance and property tax on a $875,000 home.

The type of home you can purchase for $875,000 depends on where you want to live. According to Zillow, the median home price in San Francisco is $1,127,400, while the median price in Oakland is $616,300. San Francisco prices are nearly twice that of Oakland. Finding a home listed in San Francisco for under $875,000 is very difficult. San Francisco renters are now seeing the logic of moving a short commute away.

There are some caveats. Simply being able to pay a high monthly rent doesn’t qualify you to purchase a home. You need a down payment and must have an excellent credit history. You need to have the correct income-to-mortgage ratio. Also, insurance and property taxes vary from city to city. In addition, this calculation assumes a 3.5% interest rate.

As prices continue to spiral upwards, more San Francisco renters will be buying in the East Bay.

This story was researched and written by Steve LaBadessa, a Realtor in the East Bay.

Are Zillow’s Home Price Estimates Accurate?

zillow-pix Every month millions of people look to Zillow to tell them the market value of their homes. Then when it comes time to sell their property, these same homeowners approach their local realtors with their Zillow estimates (Zestimate) in hand. Their expectations are high that the stated price will be the selling value. Excited home sellers get upset if their agent can’t obtain an offer at least as high as the Zillow Zestimate.

Home buyers are equally concerned about making an offer higher than the stated Zestimate. An offer above Zillow’s price is perceived as paying too much.

So the question is, “How accurate is the Zestimate?” It’s important to recognize that a real estate purchase is more complicated than buying an airline ticket online. The price of a home is determined by many factors, such as the number of bedrooms and the square footage to name two. Many intangible factors affect the price as well including: the condition of the home, location, architectural details, school district, how many offers are being made and how the home purchase will be financed. Can Zillow really take into consideration all this factors? The short answer is: No, it never intended to.

When Zillow launched its site in 2006, the concept was to bring the once exclusive information, available only to real estate agents, to the general public. In some ways Zillow has succeeded. Information, such as home sales prices, is now readily available to anyone with a cellphone.

While Zillow can provide good baseline information it’s not meant to replace real estate agents who have first-hand knowledge of a property and an understanding of local market dynamics. In a recent interview with “CBS This Morning”, Zillow’s CEO Spencer Rascoff stated that the Zesimate should be used as a starting point in determining a home’s value. His statement reflects that fact Zillow’s business model is advertising based, not home sales-based.

As for Zillow’s accuracy, the LA Times recently reported that Zestimates are off by an average of 8% nationwide. In specific markets the numbers vary widely. The LA Times reports in Manhattan the error rate is 19.9%, in rural California the rate can be off as much as 26%, and in the San Francisco Bay Area the error rate is 11.6%.

What does that mean in dollars? In the San Francisco area where the median home price is  $1,000,800, the 11.6% Zillow error rate translates into $116,093. With the sale of home, that can mean a lot of money is left on the table. One Bay Area real estate agent referred to the Zillow Zestimate as more of a Zguestimate.

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Bottom line: Zillow Zestimates are a starting point to determine a home’s market value. It can give you a ballpark sense of what’s going on in your area, but seek out a professional realtor when you’re ready to buy or sell a home. They can help you avoid the Zillow error rate and get you the best deal.

Kids and Pumpkins – Lessons Learned

John Muller, Farmer John, of Half Moon Bay, CA, holds a square pumpkin grown on his farm.

John Muller, Farmer John, of Half Moon Bay, CA, holds a square pumpkin grown on his farm.

What if you could make a square pumpkin? Farmer John in Half Moon Bay figured out a way to grow square pumpkins in his pumpkin patch. Now he uses the square pumpkins to teach kids about diversity.

John Muller, Farmer John, of Half Moon Bay, CA, inspects a box containing a pumpkin.

John Muller, Farmer John, of Half Moon Bay, CA, inspects a box containing a pumpkin.

Square pumpkins are a good learning tool. Every year just before Halloween school kids from the Bay Area are bused in to visit Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm. They meet John and tour the fields. He tells the kids that everyone doesn’t look the same, that people and pumpkins come in different colors, shapes and sizes. John holds a pumpkin and says, “look even pumpkins can be square.”

How does John make a round pumpkin square? As the pumpkin plant starts to develop John puts the end of the vine into a wooden box. When the plant blossoms a pumpkin starts to form on the end of the vine. As the pumpkin gets bigger it conforms to the shape of the box, the normally round pumpkin becomes square.

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Halloween Events

MONSTER DASH- Lake Merritt

Get dressed in your Halloween costume and run for charity.  October 31, 9:00am  $45.00



The Superfly Tribute Show Yoshi’s Oakland

The ultimate 70’s style costume party show this Halloween season, a tribute to some of the greatest Black Movie Soundtracks ever produced. October 31st  7:00pm, $25.00


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