Tips & Advice

American Flag Etiquette

Memorial Day is next Monday! As an important symbol of our country, everybody should understand the significance of flying the flag. On Memorial Day fly the flag at half-mast, a position reserved for when the country is in mourning, until noon, before raising it to full mast for the remainder of the Day.

Here is the full list of the proper way to fly the American Flag:

  • The custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open, but it may be displayed at night upon special occasions to produce a patriotic effect.
  • When the flag is hung vertically on a wall, window, or door, the Union (blue section) should be to the observer’s left. When the flag is hung either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the Union should be to the observer’s left.
  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.
  • The flag should be displayed at every public institution and in or near every polling place on election days, and at schoolhouses during school days.
  • In a procession, the American flag should be to the right of any other flag or, if in a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
  • The flag should not be displayed on a float except from a staff, nor draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle.
  • When the flag is displayed on a vehicle, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis.
  • No other flag should be placed above the American flag or, if they are to be placed on the same level, to the right of the American flag.
  • The United Nations flag may not be displayed above or in a position of superior prominence to the United States flag except at United Nations Headquarters.
  • The flag, when displayed with another against a wall—both from crossed staffs—should be on the right (the flag’s own right), and its staff should be in front of the other staff.
  • The American flag should be at the center and the highest point when displayed with a group of state flags.
  • When flags of states, cities, etc., are flown on the same halyard, the American flag should be at the peak.
  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and the American flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.
  • When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff.
  • When the flag is displayed otherwise than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out; or so suspended that its folds fall as freely as though the flag were staffed.
  • When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.
  • On a platform, the flag should be above and behind the speaker, with the union uppermost and to the observer’s left.
  • When displayed from a staff in a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the speaker’s right as he faces the audience.
  • When flown at half-staff, the flag should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff position. It should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. Half-staff is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag must be flown at half-staff on all buildings on the death of any officer listed below, for the period indicated:
    • For the President or a former President:30 days from the date of death.
    • For the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives:10 days from the day of death.
    • For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives:From the day of death until interment.
    • For a United States Senator, Representative, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:the flag should be flown in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia, on the day of death and on the following day; in the state, congressional district, territory, or commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, from the day of death until interment.
    • For a Governor:Within the state, territory, or possession, from the day of death until interment.
  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder.

When does “As Is” mean “As Is”?

One of the most misunderstood concepts in Real Estate is the concept of “as is”. In it’s truest sense, “as is’ means the buyer is accepting the property in its present condition with no obligation for repairs from the seller. Not surprisingly, most sellers would love to sell their home “as is”. In fact, I have seen many sellers light up with the mere mention of the word, like my 12 year old niece lights up at the mere mention of Justin Beiber. The reality is that very few homes are ever sold “as is”. In practice, most of the time when a seller says “I want to sell it as-is”, what they are saying is they don’t want to be responsible for a long list of minor repairs. They are essentially saying I don’t want the hassle of doing a lot of work. This is certainly their prerogative, and as long as the buyer is willing it can be done.

NYC signing September 1,2009 Nintendo Store - NYC

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The standard CAR real estate contract used here in the Bay Area is essentially an “as is” contract. In standard practice, there is usually a stipulation that the seller will take care of any Section 1 items that are discovered as part of the Pest Inspection. These items would include any dry rot or infestation from termites or other pests. Other than that, there are typically no other repairs that are mandated, with the exception of water heater bracing and smoke detector installation. Recently, Carbon Monoxide detectors are becoming more and more the obligation of the seller.

But it is certainly possible to write a contract that is strictly “as is” with no obligation on the part of the seller. There are generally two situations where this is done.

The first situation is when the seller gets ALL INSPECTIONS AND DISCLOSURES completed prior to putting the home on the market. In this situation, the seller can provide copies of the inspection reports and disclosures to prospective purchasers before they make an offer. This allows the purchaser to make an informed decision about the condition of the property, and allow for any repairs that need to be done when arriving at an offer price. This is the best way to truly achieve an “as is” sale, as there is full disclosure of all known issues and needed repairs, and the buyer can move forward with confidence. This is a fairly rare event.

The second situation, which is much more common, is where the seller states the property is being sold “as is” but there are not inspection reports on the property. In this case, it is “as is” subject to the buyer’s inspection and investigation of the property. The buyer will have the opportunity to inspect the property thoroughly to ascertain the condition. It is then up to the buyer whether they want to proceed with the purchase and remove their inspection contingency, or elect not to go forward with the transaction. The seller in this situation can’t force the buyer to buy the property. Rather, the buyer typically has some leverage. It is not uncommon in this situation for the buyer to request the seller correct any issues with the property as a condition of moving forward, which is how standard real estate purchases are handled. It is up to the seller to agree. Of course, if the seller does not agree, and the house goes back on the market, any future buyers will likely have concerns about any issues that were raised, so it might be in the seller’s best interest to agree to handle some of these repairs. Even on bank owned homes or short sales, which are typically “as is”, the lender will sometimes agree to remedy defects with the property, knowing that other buyers will likely have the same issue.

One additional caveat; Often the buyer’s lender require all termite repairs be completed prior to close of escrow as a condition of the loan. This complicates the transaction, as the buyer does not want to do repairs to a property they don’t own. And increasingly lenders are requiring other repairs to be done as well. So if the buyer is getting a loan it can create issues at closing.

So can a seller insist on an “as is” sale? Absolutely…. as long as the buyer is willing to go along. And as we know buyers are generally so easy in today’s real estate environment! One thing is for certain; the property ultimately will have to be priced to reflect the condition.

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Pass Your Home Inspection

Home inspections are often lumped (packaged) together with appraisals and while home inspections are usually not required in California, appraisals are almost always required when a mortgage loan is being used.

  • Inspection:A home inspector’s primary objective is to evaluate the condition of the house and identify items in need of repair. He’s not particularly concerned with the market value of the property.
  • Appraisal:The purpose of a home appraisal is to determine the current market value of the house, based on recent sales activity in the area (and other factors). The appraiser’s primary goal is to figure out how much the house is worth in the current market.

A properly passed inspection will allow you to get maximum dollars for your home and could be the difference in a decision being made to buy your home for any potential buyer that might be on the fence.

Pass your home inspection with these tips:

Check Roof and Foundation

These are two budget killers when it comes to home improvement. Before the inspection, check your roof and foundation. If there is a doubt that something is wrong (like a leak in the roof), you should call a local contractor to come have a look. They can estimate the cost of the repair and see if it’s a big issue or not. By having this done before the inspection, you are saving the potential buyers a huge worry.

Check Drainage

Your roof plays a key role in your drainage. If faulty, poor drainage can ruin your foundation. In fact, poor drainage is the No. 1 problem home inspectors find.

Make sure your downspouts lead water away from the home. They should be thick and long enough to handle large amounts of water. Especially in areas of heavy rainfall, downspouts of 3X4 inches are highly recommended.

Clean It Up

Sometimes, a happy home inspector can make all the difference. Therefore, make sure it’s easy to move freely about the home. If you have heavy boxes in front of the attic or around the furnace, move them before the inspection. Clutter can’t hide home issues, but it can certainly make for an unhappy inspector and longer examination.

Check Electricity

While I highly recommend hiring a professional electrician to check the entire house, there are small fixes you can make. First off, organize the wiring if it’s visible. Then, make sure all light bulbs are changed. If one is out, an inspector or potential buyer could attribute it to faulty wiring. Repairing an electric system can get expensive for some, but make sure your circuit breaker, light fixtures and all wiring are up to code.

Provide Documentation for Repairs & Maintenance

When and if you are completing some projects prior to the inspector arriving, be sure to keep the documentation to present to the inspector as well as any potential buyer. Nothing breeds the “warm-fuzzies” like a recently dated document for repair or replacement.

Check Insulation

Ventilation and insulation can create higher gas bills and other HVAC-related issues. First, go up to your attic (if you have one) and make sure there is enough padding and insulation. Some may fall off or wear down over the years. Inspectors will notice, so make sure you fix it right away.

Go Away

Almost everybody operates at a better level when they are left to do their work without being hovered over. Inspectors are no exception to this rule and remember that a happy inspector can make a difference in your grade. Leave them alone while they do their work but come back prepared to ask in-depth questions about their findings.

Real Estate in Pleasanton

Simple Spring Fixes for your Home

Spring is about to, well, spring. Time to assess the worst in your home brought on by winter. Use the break in the weather to take a closer look at what needs to be done heading into a nicer season and prepare yourself fully for next year.


Get at those bushes and trees! Perhaps the winter weather has weakened some vital branches that could snap once dry. Get rid of them. Take a good long look at the bushes that are somewhat manageable now because the impending warm weather will cause them to growth spurt.


The number one offender of big money damage in a home is water. You must respect the flow! Treat your gutters with respect in the weather break by really getting in there. Clean them out, look for breaks or loose mounts, check the pitch and make certain that everything is flowing the direction you want it to.


There is nothing like a broken and dirty screen once you want to throw the window open on the first beautiful spring day. Take this opportunity to remove all your screens and give them a good cleaning as well as check the trim and rescreen as necessary.


Our old foe water comes into play here again. Assess your trim and external woodwork on your home for damage. Poke and prod below the paint to check the integrity. Do you have rot, or holes? Well they aren’t going to get better in warmer weather. In most cases you can simply strip, seal and repaint your woodwork. This will save big money later and also give your home a facelift for curb appeal.


The next thing to look at would be vents that lead outside, which connect to your heating and cooling systems, dryer and more. A damaged or missing vent cap could allow birds or rodents in, clogging the vent and potentially releasing toxins into your home. “This is the time when birds are going to immediately want to nest. Couple that with some nice weather, and within a day or two things can change dramatically,” Dave Lavalle, founder of Dryer Vent Wizard says.

Take advantage of the sun coming out and give your home a good once over! You will be able to enjoy the nicer weather so much more as well as know that when the bad stuff rolls through again you will be ready!

Choosing the Right Realtor

Experts agree that you should interview at least three agents to find the one with the experience, skill and personality that matches your needs. Choose from a variety of candidates including personal references, researched and close connections and treat every candidate the same.

Check Credentials

Check for license and disciplinary actions. Check with your state’s regulatory body to find out whether a prospective agent is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints.

While Online…

In todays digital landscape, your agent should be easy to find online. Check to see exactly where they are online and how they present themselves. Do they talk only about themselves and their accolades or do they appear to have community involvement? Do they stay away from divisive topics? There is nothing wrong with cross checking their professional profiles with their personal ones and look for red flags.


By all purposes you are conducting a job interview and should feel comfortable asking the tough questions. Be on the look out for red flags that lie below the surface. Are the answers mechanical or are they seemingly answering from the heart?

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How long have you been selling real estate?
  • What is your average number of clients?
  • What area do you cover?
  • What type of communication should I expect from you?
  • Do you have a recommended vendors list (Title, contractors, inspectors, etc.)?
  • What questions do you have for me?


Get listing presentations from potential realtors, who will tell you what comparable homes have sold for and how long they take to sell. The agents are all looking at the same data, so the suggested listing price should be close. Pricing a home too high at the start often means it takes longer to sell and ultimately sells for less.

Full Time or Part Time?

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, you want to choose an agent who is actively following the market every day. If you’re buying, you want an agent who can jump on new listings and show them to you immediately. If you’re the seller, you want an agent who is always available to show your home to prospective buyers.

Trust Your Gut

At the end of the day you need to listen to your inner voice. Pay closer attention to the voice that is throwing up red flags and don’t be afraid to walk away no matter what stage of the process you are in. If you aren’t having your needs met or there is a concern from the beginning then this just isn’t the agent for you.





Pleasanton Homes for Sale

Q & A: Can a Buyer Cancel a Contract For Any Reason?

Q: We recently accepted an offer on our home in Pleasanton. The buyer appeared to be very strong, and wrote an offer with a short inspection contingency. When the buyer’s inspection contingency removal was due, they cancelled the agreement, and did not give an explanation. Can they do that? Can we keep their deposit? We are quite upset about this. Bill in Pleasanton

A: Bill, that is a great question. The contract (CAR purchase agreement) provides that during the inspection contingency the buyer may investigate the property, order inspections, review all associated documents, and due their due diligence. The contract stipulates that at the end of the inspection contingency period, the buyer may either remove their inspection contingency, or cancel the agreement. In the event the buyer elects to cancel the contract, there is no contractual requirement that the buyer give the seller an explanation, nor is there any requirement that the seller gets to approve their reason for cancelling in order to release the deposit. It is black and white. Unless and until the buyer removes their inspection contingency, their deposit is theoretically not at risk, as the contract allows the buyer to cancel the agreement. The only realistic argument a seller has would be if the buyer acted in bad faith, either by never intending to complete the purchase, or entering into contract on another property simultaneously, or somehow demonstrating bad faith in another fashion. However, keep in mind the old saying in legal circles; “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove”. Proving bad faith can be an extremely difficult and expensive endeavor.20160921-share-kcm

One way to minimize this risk as a seller is to provide all disclosures and inspection reports up front to potential buyers, which generally leads to more serious offers and/or shorter inspection contingency periods. But there is no way to eliminate this risk entirely other than having the buyer write an offer waiving all contingencies, which is a big risk on the buyer’s part. Better to let it go and concentrate on getting another buyer. As always, when dealing with legal issues it is best to consult an attorney who can properly guide you in these matters

Things to do Before you Buy a Home

Track Spending

Chances are that buying a new home will likely cinch your spending habits for a little while. The chances are also great that your spending habits will be completely redefined. Now is the time to get real with your spending. On a spreadsheet map out every cent that leaves your possession in a month and for what reasons. The key here is to be honest with yourself and take a look at what can be removed or tweaked from the budget, long-term, to make room for your new home.

List Wants/Needs

While we are on the track of being real, here is a great time to define the difference between “want” and “need”. For instance, if you work from home a home office is a need, but if you only use your desk to pay bills then a home office could just be a “want”. These differences could not only save you big money but also open up your selections.

Interview Agents

Really Interview agents. In this day and age, agents should be pretty easy to vet online as a preliminary step. Check their digital footprint. Do they present themselves in a way that resonates with you, do they have multiple testimonials and have they established themselves as an expert in your desired area. Once you meet with them, pay close attention to listening skills and vision sharing. Give them some broad details of what you are looking for and ask for their interpretations of the detailed solutions…do they match yours? Don’t be afraid to speak to multiple agents before you find the right one.

Select an area, but be flexible

You probably know the state you want to be in and even the general area, but start to look at specific neighborhoods and all that they have to offer. The most important thing when settling on a neighborhood is to get familiar with the surrounding neighborhoods as well. List out by preference your second, third, fourth, etc. choice for nearby neighborhoods. This flexibility will increase your odds of finding your dream home.

Map Proximity to Commerce/Services

When deep diving on your neighborhood resources do not discount services and shopping. You will wish you had when you have to run out at 9pm on a rainy night for batteries. Emergency and medical services are crucial as well. How close is the fire and police departments, how far do you have to go to fix a cut knee? Remember that you plan on being here a while and every scenario under the sun will play themselves out while this is your base of operations.


With a little planning and foresight your dream home can become even dreamier than you imagined but also become more obtainable now!


5 Ways to Start Going Green

The very first time that I heard the term “carbon footprint”, my thought was “that would be a great name for a hard rock band”. You know, a group of high school kids that have decided to make a run at Metallica fame by practicing in the garage and hoping to get a chance to play at the dance.

The best part about a term so ominous and daunting was that with simple steps, anybody’s carbon footprint is reversible, or at least able to be less impressionable. For most starting out is the hardest part. Once I decided to minimize my carbon footprint I wanted to walk out my front door to a lush garden full of my food for the week, get into my Prius and drive to my job saving the whales, but finding my starting point was illusive.

Here then are 5 practical ways that you can make simple adjustments to your daily routine that will feed your desire to preserve our habitat, without having to move to Alaska and homestead, although I reserve the right to do that later.

Don’t Rinse

This one is tough for people to wrap their mind around, only because we have been doing it this way for so long. Keep in mind the adage that 28 consistent days of anything builds a habit. For goodness sake, let the dishwasher do the job it was invented for. How often do we get wrapped up in the process and load dishes into the dishwasher that are spotless? Scrape and load. You will save up to 20 gallons of water on each load, not to mention the energy used for heating.

Be a Vegetarian on Mondays

This is a really good suggestion for two reasons. First of all the science: It takes 2,500 gallons of water for every pound of beef produced…YIKES, and 55 square feet of land is cleared (deforested) for each burger that you eat. Secondly, you are going to love the way that eating veggie makes you feel, I guarantee it. After one month you may decide to add a day, then another, and then who knows, I might be asking you over for dinner one night.

Turn Off the Faucet When Brushing

I had a girlfriend once that told her young kids that every time you leave the water running when you brush, it makes a penguin cry. I thought this was a little harsh at first, but they never ran the water and now, long after the memory of her has faded, I still think about the penguins when my kids are brushing their teeth. If you cut the run, you will save 5 gallons of water a day! If everybody did it, we could conserve 1.5 billion gallons in the US alone daily! Stop making penguins cry you heartless creature.

Buy Local

In order to make a change, we have to change ourselves. This should include going for that easy brand name item on the shelf every time you need something from bananas to car parts. Next time you are in big name grocery store, drive around back and look at the oil stains in the truck delivery pit. DISGUSTING! Now imagine all the exhaust and energy consumption to bring those products to the shelf. When possible, you should be walking and buying directly from the people that create the product. Check out farmers markets near you and do your weekly shopping there. You will feel wonderful making a difference.

Close Your Damper

We seldom think about the things we don’t see, so it helps to reimagine the truth. Leaving your damper open in the winter is like leaving a living room window open 24/7. No the damper is not as large but heat rises and constantly looks for ways to escape. Your chimney flu is the highest point on your house, so plenty of opportunity to pour heat (money) out of your chimney. Close it!


So there you have it, 5 ways to begin your quest to a better and greener tomorrow. As you begin to harvest the good feelings associated with being positively proactive, research other ways to make a difference. Before you know it, you will be dancing at Earth Day celebrations and kissing your great-grandbabies!

Make Scents to Make Dollars!

Sell your home buy making it smell right…not just good! The right smells during an open house can ease the potential buyer into more relaxed and sentimental place! All great places to get somebody making a meaningful purchase!

MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan and aroma specialist Dr Megan Thornton put some popular scents to the test with prospective home buyers to test the impact five scents had on the perceived value of a home.

Overwhelmingly a citrus scent came out as the most likely to persuade homebuyers to pay up, nosing out freshly baked brownies and bread.

The test found a subtle whiff of citrus at an open for inspection could add tens of thousands of dollars to the price a buyer thought a home was worth.

Here are the top contenders as well as the offenders:


Coming out on top as the most popular scent when hosting viewings is citrus. Clean, fresh and neutral, there’s a reason why cleaning products are citrus fragranced. Don’t go crazy with the citrus fragranced bleach, though – there’s nothing homely about a house that smells like a hospital.

Brownies/Baked Goods

Baked goods are the key to a person’s olfactory center! Remind them of their childhood, a favorite grandmother or that one rainy day that mom kept them home from school so you could help them bake for the holiday party! Those memories are invaluable and they might as well give you a blank check.

Fresh laundry

Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh laundry? There’s something homely, clean and relaxing about the smell of washing, which explains why it’s so popular with buyers. Pick up a linen fragranced reed diffuser rather than draping your home in laundry – as lovely as it smells, buyers don’t want to see your washing, even if it is clean.


It’s a cliche for a reason, and coffee smells good – even to those who don’t drink it. Brew a fresh pot before viewings and offer buyers a cup. It’s a win for everyone involved.


Cactuses and succulents may be all the range currently, but plants do more than just make your home look pretty. Adding greenery gives your home life and plants such as lavender and rosemary create a soothing smell.

The top offenders

Unsurprisingly, the top offending smells when it comes to turning buyers off properties are smoke, pets, bad plumbing or trash bins. Deciding against the property isn’t always because of the smell itself, but can be a result of the way those smells make the buyer feel. If a bad smell stops a potential buyer from wanting to spend time in your home, it’s unlikely they’ll want to make it theirs. The old advice to open the windows and air your home before a viewing is vital. You might not notice the smell anymore, but you can be sure a potential buyer will.


Q & A: Seller took another offer, even though ours was higher?

Q:  We recently submitted an offer on a home in Pleasanton.  We were one of 8 offers.  Our agent told us the seller accepted another offer, but was vague as to the reasons why.  We assumed it must have been a higher offer.  Well, we just found out that the sale closed at a lower price than what we offered.  Obviously we are not happy!  We feel it is unfair, and there must have been some kind of shady dealing going on.  What can we do?  We are heartbroken.  Abu

A:  Abu I appreciate the question.  The fact of the matter is that a seller can accept any offer, regardless of price or terms.  It is at the seller’s sole discretion.  And with 8 offers, you only have a 12.5% chance of getting your offer accepted just based on the number of offers.  The only exception to this is if you can prove discrimination on the part of the seller because of race, religion, or another protected class.  But absent of discrimination, it is completely up to the seller.  They can accept an offer lower in price than yours, or can accept an offer with loan contingencies over an all cash offer, or with a longer close than you are offering.  It is up to the seller.  There is no law that requires the seller to accept the highest offer.  There is no law that requires the seller to give you a counter offer.

Sometimes sellers will accept a lower price for stronger terms, with short and/or waived contingencies.  Other times they may elect to go with a buyer who offers them a rent back.  Other times they may just one of other buyers better.  I recently had a seller accept an offer from a disabled War Vet over our higher offer.  Again, it is not illegal.  It is at the seller’s discretion.  Another possible explanation is that the offer they accepted may have been equal to or higher than yours, but there was a price renegotiation due to repairs or some other issue.  My best advice is to do what you can to make your offer more attractive to sellers and try again with the next house.  As always, please consult an attorney if you for legal advice.  Happy hunting!