Friday, December 28, 2012


Do you read San Francisco magazine? If not, make sure to track the January 2013 issue and check its cover story – Project Utopia, edited by Jenna Scatena. It is a refreshing look on 10 up and coming Bay Area neighborhoods based on the 10 criteria yielded from the poll of 200 “Bay Areans”. What makes the ideal neighborhood?
  1. Affordability
  2. Safety
  3. Walkability to amenities
  4.  Public transportation
  5. Proximity to work
  6. Accessibility of nature
  7. Culture (theater, art)
  8. Parking
  9. Good schools
  10. Ethnic and economic diversity

 OK, you will most likely not agree with the all selected neighborhoods, especially if you have children in the school age and your main concern is to find a neighborhood with best schools. But I will weigh in on their choice # 10, Burlingame Terrace, only.

I'm sure you will agree with this choice, especially since schools there are excellent. If you want to read about remaining neighborhoods, such as Ocean Beach, Polk Gulch, Richmond Annex and others, I recommend that you find a copy of the magazine to read about them (if you have a problem with locating a copy – contact me and I will email you a copy of the entire article).
Let me start with location of Burlingame Terrace - it is the area between Broadway and Peninsula Ave and California Drive and El Camino Real in Burlingame. Please note that technically, according to the local realtor association, the area referred by the magazine as Burlingame Terrace is a combination of two adjacent areas in Burlingame: Burlingame Terrace (from Broadway to Oak Grove Ave) and Burlingame Downtown (from Oak Grove Ave to Peninsula Ave). Here are some of the benefits of Burlingame Terrace, as defined and highlighted by the San Francisco magazine:

  • Affordability: B- (cost of 2 bedroom house starts is around $750k+)
  • Walkability to amenities: B (Burlingame Ave is 10 min walk)
  •  Public transportation: B (Two Caltrain stations – one operates on weekends only. Free shuttle to Millbrae BART station, bus)
  • Weather: A (mostly sunny – even in summer)
  • Safety: A- (“crime is very uncommon in Burlingame’s residential area, especially violent crime” – according Captain Mike Matteucci)

There are many good restaurants in walking distance (Burlingame Ave area). And of course schools. Burlingame schools are among the best on the Peninsula. McKinley elementary with API score of 882 in 2012 has dual language track (English and Spanish), Burlingame Intermediary has a score of 903(!) and Burlingame HS with the score of 869 is second best in the San Mateo County, just one point behind Millbrae’s Mills HS.

And what is bad? Let me quote San Francisco magazine: “It’s a far cry from being culturally diverse”. Another – really expensive parking tickets ($72).

Feel free to contact me if you have more questions about Burlingame Terrace or would like me to show you the neighborhood.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


While it is well known that the Easton family is the namesake of the Easton Addition neighborhood in Burlingame, CA, the October 8th 2007 issue of the San Mateo Daily Journal reported fascinating facts preceding the Easton family settling on the land that is now North of Burlingame. The story is a part of the “Rediscovering the Peninsula”  column that appears in the Monday edition of the Daily Journal. Click on the link above to read how a newlywed young couple – Ansel and Adeline Easton - were miraculously saved from the SS Central America ship that sank 200 miles of the coast of Carolinas in 1857.

Even more fascinating is a story how Tommy Thompson, an eccentric engineer, led exploration that discovered the shipwreck of SS Central America.  So click here to read this fascinating story.

To read more about Burlingame history visit also:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

CA "Homeowners Bill Of Rights" Becomes Law

On July 10, 2012 Gov. Brown signed the California Homeowner Bill of Rights into law. The Bill offers protection from the flawed and abusive practices of the big banks.  Governor Brown passed this bill because after thorough investigation it was revealed that bankers working in one department would feign ignorance of a customer’s case while another department would go behind the customer’s back and foreclose on them.  Customers were even being foreclosed on while in the process of a loan modification.  Homeowners will also be allowed to sue for violations such as dual-tracking and penalties for the banks have been increased.  Banks will also be forced to offer one contact per person.  “While the provisions that would make dual-tracking illegal and make the process less bureaucratic are positive” (Homeowners Could Sue Lenders Under New Bill of Rights), many feel the laws need to go further.
There are concerns raised by this bill though. “The California Bankers Association is concerned about the potential spike in litigation that may raise costs for future home buyers” (Gov. Brown signs Homeowner Bill of Rights).
            There are also many other benefits gained by homeowners with the passage of this bill.  One significant right given by this bill is the right to security against foreclosure.  The Homeowner Bill of Rights makes it much harder for the person in debt to be foreclosed on and keeps minor debts from being the cause of it. Homeowners have also gained the right to know all of the rules and charges on the property before buying a home.  Documents have to be provided in plain English, but unfortunately most real estate legal documents are still as confusing as ever due to use of unnecessary complex language.  The interests of the individual are stressed above that of the community as well.  Living in a common interest community does not mean a person’s individual autonomous rights such as peaceful advocacy in common areas need to be given up.   
          This law will generally come into effect on January 1. 2013. It only pertains to first mortgages secured by owner-occupied properties (principal residence).


Friday, February 24, 2012


Heavy burden of potential tax liability
Do you remember the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act? It was introduced by President Bush in December 2007. The Act offered relief to homeowners who would formerly owe taxes on forgiven mortgage debt. Before the Act introduction, underwater homeowners who sold their homes on short sales had to pay income tax on the amount of debt forgiven by lenders. The Act helped to popularize short sales among borrowers who needed to sell their underwater properties. Some claim that the law helped to prolong the home crisis as it caused many "planned defaults". As short sales for all practical reasons are given only to those borrowers who missed at least two mortgage payments. However, it often allows strategic defaults helping well to do homeowners to unload underwater properties on expense of those in real distress, as sellers pursuing strategic defaults are often in a better position to get through the complex and lengthy short sale process. Many believe that for house market to bottom out sooner and to start rebounding it is necessary to stop all outside intervention to home pricing including loan modifications or short sales.

Whatever your belief is, the Tax Forgiveness is set to expire at the end of 2012 and in light of dysfunctional Congress it is very unlikely that it will be extended again (it was already once extended in 2010). At least it seemed like this a few weeks ago. On February 15th, however, published the following information: In the Treasury’s Green Book, its summary explanation of the administration’s (2013) budget proposal, it calls for an extension of the tax break due to “the continued importance of facilitating home mortgage modifications.” The administration is proposing an extension that would apply to any amounts forgiven before January 1, 2015. So there is hope....

What should you do then if your property is underwater and you might have to sell it soon? You definitely need to do your homework and meet with your accountant to find out the tax implication of such sale now and after the end of the year assuming both cases, that the Relief Act will expire and that it will be extended. Also take in to consideration that while short sales are a bit easier than before, with more than one loan against the property, they still can take 3 to 6 months. Of course, to qualify for short sale you need to demonstrate that you are undergoing hardship to qualify. To be underwater is not a sufficient reason. And if short sale is not an option for you, what other options are out there? You might want to ride it through, but if it is not the option, talk to a professional. A bankruptcy or real-estate attorney might be able to help you through. Once you know what your options are - then you need to decide if to try to sell now or two wait.