Realtor Reviews & Advice

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • We are looking to sell our home in Albany and purchase a larger home. We'd love to stay in the Albany / North Berkeley area but based on our search so far, we're more likely to find what we need in Upper Rockridge, Piedmont or perhaps Claremont. We have a very clear idea of what we are looking for in a house, but need help with (1) crafting a winning bid, (2) advice on upgrades / fixes to our current home to maximize sale value, and (3) navigating the simultaneous (or at least closely timed) buy/sell process. Thank you in advance for any referrals. 

    Kwesi Roberts at Compass has a very deep knowledge of Bay Area real estate - I highly recommend him!  He helped us purchase our duplex in Point Richmond. 

    We were moving cross-country so can’t speak to (2) or (3), but Devin Ratoosh was a phenomenal partner for (1) and couldn’t recommend him enough there. Suspect he’s also very skilled at (2) and (3), just don’t have personal experience there. 

    Hi, our realtor, Teresa Baum ( is absolutely fantastic (she helped us purchase our home in Piedmont and has helped 2 other sets of friends purchase in the last year, too). She also knows the Rockridge and Claremont areas really well. Feel free to tell her Chi Rogers referred you. Good luck!

    I highly recommend Megan Micco, she handles transactions like what you are proposing all the time and she is absolutely dialed on the pulse of the market.  She went to albany schools from elementary through high schools and then on the UC Berkeley.  She helped us craft a winning bid on our house in South Berkeley and was an absolute pleasure to deal with.  Her website is:

    Feel free to message me for any additional questions.

    We bought and sold recently using Julie Cuellas of Red Oak as our realtor-- she was absolutely essential to our process, esp. overall strategy and how to package our house so that the delta between the house we bought and the house we sold was as small as possible.  Julie walked us through the various pros and cons of different approaches; we ended up buying first (because finding the right house to buy was harder than selling, and we needed to ensure that we were buying and selling in as close to the same market as possible), using a bridge loan in order to be able to put down a larger down payment than we could have otherwise prior to selling our old house.  We had a good experience with Tom Nitsan of MPR Financial for the financing. 

    Although it ended up working out well for us personally (although increased interest rates made the move more costly than originally anticipated), we came away feeling disgusted by the overall unaffordability and inequity of the East Bay housing market.  With the benefit of hindsight, we would be less inclined to participate in that marketplace overall, and maybe would have just renovated or otherwise made do with our smaller house. 

    Hi There!  We bought our home last year with Alex Michas, and I cannot recommend him highly enough.  He has so much experience and skill with both buying and selling homes, and he’s also just a wonderful person!  Here’s his website:  Best of luck!

    Perry Riani at Compass has experience and extensive knowledge in all of these areas and geos and is a very chill, no pressure person. Highly HIGHLY recommend. We’ve worked with him as buyers and sellers. 

    Megan Micco is THE BEST. ( ( )

    I own a home staging company, and I have worked with dozens of East Bay realtors, so it should speak volumes that I chose Megan when my husband and I were ready to buy a house. I can't say enough good things about her- she is so, so smart, and so well respected by other realtors, which is hugely important- there is no way we would have gotten our amazing house without Megan. She fought for us, and we beat out seven other offers, and we somehow still got an amazing deal. She also has a great personality and has a great team working with her.

    We recently recommended Megan to close friends who were selling their North Berkeley house, and they were impressed with her every step of the way- from her amazing listing presentation, to how she presented and marketed the property, to the incredible offers she brought in and closed.

    I can't say enough about Megan Micco.  ( She is an absolute star. She knows the market very well and went above and beyond for us--both in the purchasing of our new home in Kensington and in the selling of our house in Berkeley. It's a crazy market--and we were facing a lot of uncertainty about interest rates, etc. Megan was a huge help in supporting us through the ups and downs of that process. She cares deeply about her clients. 

  • Did you recently buy a home in Berkeley? Were you happy with your realtor? If so please share your realtor. Looking for someone that can help us through the process and knows Berkeley well.

    We have worked with Eileen Townsend (About Eileen Townsend | Berkeley Real Estate Agent) on two occasions and found her to be excellent. She is diligent, responsive and very knowledgeable about the Berkeley market. 

    Sheri Madden with Red Oak, got us two different  houses in only 3 offers (2013 and 2017, very competitive years, we did not overbid) , our "luck" was her pure skill, so many people i know have crappy realtors, she is absolutely amazing, will get you the house you want

    We recently bought in Oakland and worked with Tracy Davis at Red Oak. She specializes in Berkeley and she is fantastic. She is so capable and calm. We love her!

    We used Revelina Um. She was fantastic - on top of everything and super fun to work with. She became a close friend!

    Yania Rodriquez is awesome. She is knowledgeable and will quickly understand what you are looking for and come up with options. She also has a good vision for what can be done with a house in terms of renovations, etc

    info [at] 

    We bought in late 2019 and used Hsuching Wintz from Red Oak Realty.  We loved working with her.  

    She has a lot of knowledge about the Berkeley and surrounding areas and never pushed us to make any offers we weren’t comfortable with.  We took almost two years working with her to finally find the right house and she was super patient through it all!

    highly recommend Hsuching!

    We've had a great experience with Jenny Wang. She sold our house in Oakland and helped us buy a house in Berkeley in late 2020.

    Ana Forest. The Best. Excellent personal service, based on my experience and that of others. Reviews here:…

    Definitely she was our realtor twice in 3 years and got us great homes; the last one was a tricky transaction and we won by 10k. 5 star

    Kim Markinson 

    +1 (510) 837-9144

    We bought a house about a year ago in Berkeley and used Leslie Bandy with Red Oak. She’s great! She’s super on top of things and responsive, has a great sense of humor, and is a master negotiator. I would highly recommend 

    We loved our realtor, Julie Durkee at Winkler Real Estate —

    Anita Becker is a magician. I am convinced we would not have bought our Berkeley home without her. 

    Zanna Knight at Compass helped us buy and sell a house and Berkeley and she is just wonderful.  Deeply knowledgable and well connected with other agents and beyond that, so calm and helpful on reflecting on how to approach each house and offer.  She has all the wisdom and brings a ton of joy!

    We bought in late summer of 2021 at basically the height of the real estate insanity in Berkeley and our realtor, Megan Micco, got us the first house we made an offer on, winning out over multiple other offers. She really knows the area, and REALLY knows the numbers and how to craft an offer to win out over multiple offers. Plus she's a really nice person too :) 

  • Hi,

    Does anyone have any recommendations for buyers looking for a real estate agent who has experience specifically with finding homes in Albany? Thanks.

    We had a great experience buying in Albany with Jodi Nishimura. She found us a good deal in what was a frenetic market. She was super plugged into what things were pending at, making the bidding process easier since we could more easily track the market. She also told us which places to prioritize bids for e.g., skip certain ones since they would get 20+ offers in a red hot market. Her office is just off Solano Ave as well.

  • My wife and I own two single family houses in Oakland which we rent and use the funds for retirement living expenses. We are concerned about the possible destruction a large earthquake might cause and so are thinking strongly about selling them and purchasing other income property in a state (or states) outside California. The issue is that we do not know any real estate agents who specialize in out if state listings or transactions (or have connections with those who do) so we would appreciate very much any recommendations of highly qualified persons who have such experience. Many thanks.

    We just bought a vacation place in another state. We approached it as we would any home purchase: researched agents in that area, phone/zoom interviewed them, then chose one. I'm not sure there are agents who sell in multiple states, but maybe you could find one here that sells in a state you're considering. Otherwise, it is a tradition real estate search, but via zoom, text, phone calls, and emails.

    To find income properties outside of CA, you might check the National Association of Realtors website for agents in the specific area(s) in which you might be interested.

    Here in CA, we have a certificate program called "Graduate Realtor Institute" ("GRI designation").  We needed to sell inherited properties in Los Angeles, searched for GRI agents in the specific area, and found an excellent person. There may be similar programs in other states.

    FYI - if owning an income property in another location is in your future, you should certainly inquire about property management services.  That way it will be someone else who gets yto 4a.m. call from the tenant about the malfunctioning water heater.

    Hi there, I'd love to recommend my realtor, Jennie Lok ( We haven't personally done any real estate investing with her but she and her partner actually run courses to educate others on how to do this, so I'm fairly certain either they'd be able to help you, and if not, I'm sure they would have contacts out of state who would be able to. Even though most of her reviews are about Bay Area transactions, I definitely think she's still worth a reach out (she's very responsive). She was the first realtor I met and worked with in the Bay Area who genuinely seemed to have my best interests in mind. Feel free to mention my name (Joyce) if you reach out.

    Howdy.  I don't know how much you know about doing a preliminary search for potential rental property, but here's a very simple formula that allows you to determine if a particular property has income potential.  Take the purchase price of the home, add to that all the fix up costs to make it "tenant ready," that is, fully fixed up and ready for tenants to move In.  Now find out the reasonable potantial monthly rent for that home, in that neighborhood, at this time.  IF THE POTENTIAL MONTHLY RENT EQUALS 1% OF THE TOTAL PURCHASE + FIX-UP COSTS, you have a potential money-maker.  That 1%, multiplied by 12 months, gives you a potential annual return.  Plan on one month of rent to pay property taxes, one month of rent to pay for insurance, one month of rent for local management, and possibly one month of rent for repairs, upkeep, etc.  That still leaves you with a potential net income of 8%.  

    Unfortunately, it's difficult to find areas where this formula will work.  Yes, you can drop that 1% figure down to 0.75% and still get a positive cash flow return, but start by aiming at a full 1% figure.  So if and when you locate an area you want to explore, and find a reliable, knowledgable realtor, run this formula by him/her to see how viable that market really is.  And of course be sure to ask any potential realtor how much of their business involves purchasing single family homes to be turned into rental property.  Fully 85% of my realtor's work is doing this very thing.  He has 6-8 clients from California, because the numbers don't work here, that is, you can't find that 1% return.  Good luck.

  • I am a single woman hoping to find a great realtor with detailed local knowledge to help me find a condo in the Berkeley area. I think I would prefer a modern, secure newer building where I could walk alone and feel safe but I am open to hearing about any options that fit my needs. Thank you very much for your recommendations.

    Denise Milburn cell 510-410-2424. She’s a Compass Agent (which I loved) and helped me find my place. I ended up in Oakland but she based out of Berkeley. Highly recommend! 

  • Hi all, 

    Our family would love to buy a house in the East Bay (primarily looking close to job in Berkeley, but could be Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito...) and we'd be interested in buying a "fixer upper" - something that needs a bit of work but is not a total teardown/rebuild. 

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a real estate agent in this area who could be good to work with as we seek properties of this type? We're also open to a home that is not a "fixer upper", but just would like to work with someone who is open to helping us pursue that avenue if it presents itself. 

    Thanks in advance! 


    I would highly recommend Kyle Tannahill: He knows the area incredibly well and understands everything about old houses that you should be on the lookout for. Can't recommend him and his team enough!

    We worked with Megan Micco on this exact situation.  Her website is:

    Is buying a fixer a by-product of price/budget or more of the opportunity to craft the house to your liking?  Keep in mind, fixer's are still going for substantially over asking so while there are some price savings it's still a very competitive market.

    We purchased in berkeley.

    Hi Jess, we highly recommend the agent that we used, Danny Yadegar ( He was incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, and supportive in our process. He grew up in the east bay and has family in the structural engineering business, so he has a wealth of knowledge and resources. 

    Our agent, Angelo Raymundo is the most competent and trustworthy professional we have ever worked with. Anyone he refers to he holds in high regard and must meet his professional standards. He won't let you down. The yelp reviews speak for themselves. 

    We were in the same boat and worked with Katy Palvorsa at Redfin. She’s been in the business and the area for a long time and has purchased properties similar to what you’re looking for herself too. She was able to give us some tips on the type (and cost) of work houses would need, which helped us decide what to offer. Ultimately we found a perfect house that was completely livable, but because it wasn’t picture perfect there was less competition. We’ve been able to make the updates we wanted and now the house is perfect for our family. Tell her Ottilia sent you and best of luck!

    I have worked with Mala Mahlebashian twice over the past couple of years.  She guided me through purchasing my home in Richmond in 2020 and I looked at some fixers (ultimately did not buy a fixer but am very happy with the home I did buy!).  She was really open minded about houses in various states, giving me input on what would be involved but not opinions on whether she thought I should do it.  And we did have a lot of fun imagining the possibilities at some of the places I saw.  This year she helped me sell a family member's house which started out as a cosmetic fixer but we decided to fix it up for sale.  She got all the work lined up for us including finding all the materials and appliances, so she definitely knows what goes into doing that kind of work.  So I've been happy working with her now as both a buyer and a seller.  She is at Compass and her website is

    I quite like Jeffrey Vu:…. He is knowledgeable about construction and pretty quick to point out issues that aren't necessarily immediately obvious to a layman. And he is usually able to give a general estimate about how much a fix may cause on the spot. That might be helpful in your situation!

    Hi there!  We were in the same situation in 2019 and worked with Hsuching Wintz at Red Oak Realty.  We successfully bought a Berkeley fixer (non-tear down, just needed a gut-reno inside) with her help in a great location.  She has great contacts with GCs who were able to come with us on the visit and give us a ballpark reno cost, which was super helpful when deciding if the house was a good option.

    I will say you probably will be competing with investment groups / teams for the fixer, which has been increasing common for the fixer market in Berkeley.   And definitely echo the sentiments of another poster who says the fixer market will still be competitive. 

    But that being said, if you can swing a fixer, it is a great opportunity to 1) renovate your house to your exact liking and 2) save on property taxes in the long run if you plan to live there a long time.  The property tax difference savings is significant if you live there long term.  If you do all your renos permitted (which we did and I highly recommend doing for all who want to renovate) Alameda county will reassess for your "significant improvements" but the additional assessment amount is waaaaay lower than compared with if you bought a completely renovated house (for example, using even numbers, you bought at $1 million, complete reno may put your reassessed value at $1.1-2 max depending on scope of work but if you bought the same house completely renovated, it would have sold for $1.7-$2M depending on how much the bidding wars resulted in)

    I found our realtor through posts I trusted on BPN, so I wanted to share my review in appreciation for all the hard work she's done for us. She would be a great choice!

    Marilyn Garcia helped us search for a home with an in-law for our family and my parents for 9 months. We had wanted to work with a real estate agent who knew the insane Berkeley market well and would be willing to take the time to help us find the right home for us before selling our home, without pressuring us during our search. We were so glad we had chosen her to be our agent - she was so knowledgeable, patient, kind, accessible, and professional throughout the whole process. She is an exemplary real estate professional and a real expert in her field. She understands the nuances of the seemingly unpredictable Berkeley real estate market and was consistently able to predict the selling price of a home within an impressive margin - the Marilyn Estimate was always far more accurate than the Redfin Estimate! When we discovered homes on the market shortly before offers were due, she always responded quickly and made herself available to show us the home or write an offer, even at the last minute. She was easy going, down-to-earth, and never once put any pressure on us to offer on a home that we didn’t love.

    We didn’t end up finding the right home that we could afford as values skyrocketed to unthinkable levels. When the stock market went down and interest rates went up, we decided it made more financial sense for us to stay put and build. But throughout those grueling 9 months of searching, it was so wonderful to work with Marilyn. We will certainly be listing with her whenever it comes time for us to move on from this home. I highly recommend her to anyone who is looking for a real estate professional who knows Berkeley and the East Bay very well.

  • Has anyone hired/used a RE agent to sell their house and paid them by the hour? Can you share your experience and how you found your agent and set the rate? My understanding is that there are more RE agents than houses for sale and many agents spend the majority of their time marketing themselves, not selling homes. It seems like getting paid an hourly wage to sell a house would be preferable to spending time and money prospecting for clients.

    You could potentially negotiate something other than a percentage-based commission fee for the selling agent (hourly, lower percentage, or flat fee), but remember that a lot of the cost of selling your home is the percentage that goes to the buyer's agent and various taxes and fees, which you won't be able to negotiate. Whether you'd really come out ahead by paying a selling agent hourly vs. paying the standard selling agent's commission is questionable--depending on how quickly your house sells, for how much, and what's involved in preparing it for sale, you could easily wind up paying more--and probably not worth limiting your options to the realtors willing to do it. If the goal is to save money on the sale, I'd look at one of the reduced commission agencies. Realty Advocates in Berkeley also does flat fee sales if you do not need a full service agent (though it doesn't sound like this is what you're looking for).

    Rather, you may want to negotiate the commission percentage instead if cost is an issue for you. I have recently sold two homes, in different counties using different agents, and without question they worked tirelessly, at any hour and day, to meet my needs and get the houses sold at the best price possible. They earned every penny of their commissions. At least in my case, great service and attention was worth paying for; I never felt that their personal marketing was detracting from working for me.

    It's probably not what you want to hear, but I think you will have a very hard time finding any quality experienced RE agent to do this. Many of them work through brokers and I don't think they even have the ability to negotiate this type of arrangement if they wanted to. You might find someone new and smart with their own brokerage license who is looking to get business and has the ability to use an alternate fee structure.

    I think you would be better off either (1) finding a good real estate agent who will market the house and not themselves; or (2) using a service where you are kind of selling by owner but an agent posts in in MLS for a flat fee (used to be less than $1000). Look at to see how this model works, sometimes they do have agents available to answer some questions on an hourly rate. I'm not sure whether there is a similar service in the Bay Area.

    Note that it is a ton of work to sell your own place and that the Easy Bay market has some weird real estate practices that make it extra complicated. (E.g. under listing everything, ordering inspection reports and providing to buyers rather than having them order their own). On the other hand, you would save a lot on the RE fee if you managed to effectively market the house on your own. 

    I don’t know any agents who charges by the hour. In the standard CA listing agreement, there are two ways to pay your agent, commission by percentage or a fixed amount. Think about this way, if you’re paying by the hour what would motivate the agent to sell your house for the highest price possible? They get pay the same amount whether it sells for $500k or $1M. There is no motivation for them to do the best job possible to net you the highest price possible.  What if the house doesn’t sell, you will have to pay them out of pocket. 

    You may get a lot of responses to your very logical question - why aren't real estate agents paid by the hour?

    This warrants exploring the entire business model of real estate, and the premises on which it is based.

    Under California law, there are two levels of Realtors: brokers and salespeople. The former - at least the managing broker of an agency - supervise the latter. While some people are able to take the broker exam cold-turkey and pass, most new brokers worked for a few years as salespersons, gaining experience.

    The creation myth is that the Realtor is an independent contractor running their own business. Beginners, or those who sell fewer than one property per month, must split about half of their commission earnings with their managing broker. The broker provides the office and some infrastructure and branding.  An alternative model (ReMax) has the agent paying a "desk fee" to the broker and keeping a larger percentage of the commissions they earn.

    In the beginning, realtors could hoard information about properties for sale. With the Internet, of course, market information is much more openly available - although DIY buyers soon discover that most of which the public can access online is outdated. In the Bay Area and other hot markets, properties sell fast, but the webpages linger like zombies in the aether.  Licensed agents who join their local CAR affiliate and pay big money for an MLS subscription have instantaneous access to fresh, accurate information. For this reason - and the fact that non-corporate real estate buyers and sellers are typically emotional about the transaction - has meant that low-contact, Internet-based representation has not really caught on.

    individual initiative is a crucial ingredient in agent success. Agents must "prospect" for clients every day. We are taught to calculate our results according to a formula:

    How many contacts must you make in order to get an appointment with a prospect?

    How many appointments must you attend in order to get a contract?

    How many contracts result in a sale?

    Therefore, how many contacts must you make in order to close a sale?  For me, it was about one thousand contacts per closing.  And you don;t get paid or recoup expenses until close of escrow.

    It was exhausting to be constantly hustling everyone I encountered for potential business. I stuck it out for 10 years, and have never regretted quitting the business.

    That said, making a living in real estate comes more easily to some people than others.  Being very physically attractive and personable is an indicator for success. But neither intelligence nor honesty are indicators for success, in my experience.  The rule-of-thumb is that 80% of licensees quit the business within two years.

    The managing broker want the agents to "always be closing" deals. Some agents are more productive than others.

    Therefore, it would not make economic sense for the managing broker to pay agents by the hour. There is wide variation in productivity. And people earning a flat salary per hour are not incentivized to hustle.

    While there may be some public agencies or corporations that pay licensed brokers a salary, this is the exception to general market practices.

    When we were first-time home buyers years ago, the real estate industry seemed very mysterious and threatening. It remains exploitative in many respects, but no viable form of disruption has yet been devised.

  • I’m looking for a real estate agent who is familiar with Oakland’s less expensive neighborhoods, and will be attentive and responsive to a buyer with a small budget. (My max is about $600,000.) Thank you in advance for any recommendations!

    I'd recommend Vantha U, he's very familiar with Oakland and all the different neighborhoods the city has to offer. We worked with him to buy our house and I know he's worked with many clients to purchase their first home in Oakland, many of which were in the price range you might be considering.

    His website is here: and he's very responsive over text, his phone number is 707-334-7480. 


    I highly recommend our agent Holly Bradford with Red Oak, she lives in Oakland and knows all the East Bay very well. We had a modest budget too but I like that she is able to work with clients which such a diverse range in budget. She is very responsive and on top of things. 

  • Hi! We are starting our search for a family home in the Claremont, Piedmont, Elmwood and Rockridge area. We did all the legwork and used Redfin for our first home and with 2 kids we definitely want to hire a great real estate agent to help with our search this time around. Would love recommendations for anyone stellar you’ve worked with.

    We loved working with Shahin Tabib. He grew up and lives in the Oakland/Alameda area so is super knowledgeable of the area. His communication style is also great - he’s friendly and also very direct and realistic. We worked with 3 other agents before him and he was able to wonderful to work with. 

    That sounds like perfect Dan Walner territory! We used him 8 years ago to buy our family home in Berkeley.  He was really friendly, knowledgable, responsive, and caring.


    We used Sheri Madden with Red Oak to sell our house and to buy our current. We had worked with another agent to originally buy and it was clear right away that Sheri was the best fit for us. She is the best in the business- ethical, measured, and knows every person involved in the real estate business- which is helpful. 

    We worked with Herman Chan ( and would highly recommend him. We've referred two of our friends to him as well and they've both had excellent experiences. He's super smart, closes a ton of transactions at all price ranges, listens well, gives realistic advice, knows the market incredibly well, and has a lot of "insider" knowledge. 

    We highly recommend Jenny Wang at Sotheby's. She's fantastic, has a big network, knows a ton about those neighborhoods. She got us an incredible price on our house while getting us a deal on our new house at the same time. She handled everything for us while selling, including repairs and painting the house.

    We are currently working with Megan Micco, who is a gem. She's a third generation Berkeley native and knows the areas you've listed really well. She has a great reputation in the field and she knows her stuff. We've also previously worked with Sandy Patel, who is amazing and has over 20 years of experience in the East Bay market. Sandy is very in tune with keeping her clients focus on their goals without being detracted by the constraints of this tough housing market. 

    In 2017, we worked with Simon Motley and enjoyed working with him. (We ultimately bought our neighbor's house through a private sale.) He was very patient with us, understood what we were looking for, and worked hard to find us the perfect home. We bid on a few houses with him and he was always organized and on top of things. I recommend him and would work with him again. Good luck!

    Hi there!

    We bought our home in Castro valley November 2020 with the help of Amanda Brunato via Compass. She lives in oakland is is very familiar with the Bay Area. She listened to our wants and needs for a home and helped us find our dream home. She was very communicative, trustworthy, easy to get a hold of, knowledgeable about the whole process and any questions we had. We would work with her again in a heartbeat. 

    We worked recently with Michael Braillard of Caldecott (, and he is AWESOME. We were third-time buyers, so we've been around the block a bit and I highly recommend him. We found him originally through a trusted mutual friend. He helped us buy in Oakland, which he knows intimately, and despite our unique set of needs, our budget constraints, two kids tagging along, and this nutty market, we miraculously (and due to his smart approach and guidance) had our first offer accepted. I think what is so impressive about Michael is his combination of strengths: he knows the area really well, including its history, architecture, and food, as well as the nuances of life in different neighborhoods and streets; he started out on the mortgage side of the business and so truly understands the financial and contractual end of things; he's on top of his stuff, responsive, and detail-oriented; and he's great with people—he is outgoing and easy to talk to, he gracefully heard all of our anxieties and hopes as we explored different options, gave his honest opinions, and worked really well with other agents, which is super important in finessing a deal. Other agents universally seemed to respect him, when we visited open houses and mentioned his name. He is just an amazing, consummate professional who we missed working with once we bought a home, because we had enjoyed our time with him despite it being a stressful process. Check him out, and good luck to you! 

    Worked with Dana Cohen to purchase home in Piedmont, and lived working with her.

    Mavis Delacroix, wiht Compass, is the best! She knows those areas like the back of her hand. She helped me find my home near the coveted Claremont hotel and also helped a couple of my friends. She really listens to what you want and she gets the deal done ( and she has a great mortgage lender and other home resources if you need that). Her website is Definitely contact her!

    David Otero in Oakland.  (510) 869-4239

    I bought my current home with David's help 20 years ago. Down to earth, straight shooter.

    Denise Milburn (510) 410-2424

    used her to find my condo. She is VERY much in the know about this area. 

    I highly, highly recommend Diana Ip from District Homes! She was the sweet, gentle hand that guided us throughout our year+ long house search when we moved to the East Bay from out of state in 2019.  She was honest with us from the very beginning about the state of the market and about the houses we were looking at, pointed out the good/bad features of every home, and was the best advocate for us when it came to offers.  She was always available and communicated constantly with us every step of the way. The market then was competitive (but even more so now), and we ended up getting an offer accepted (thanks to Diana and her mad skills) just in time for our move.  

    Tom Watson got us our home in Oakland. He actually helped us with a tricky situation after we dealt with a scammy agent. his number is 415-794-1173

    I know you've gotten a lot of great recommendations, but I wanted to add one more for Robert Parker ( He helped us purchase our home in Berkeley and was very patient with all of our questions and requests as first-time buyers. He knows the area in and out and helped us to narrow down exactly what we were looking for. He is very proactive about finding potential options that meet your needs and has a great pulse on the market. He is stellar, and we'd highly recommend working with him!

  • We are considering multiple East Bay neighborhoods/cities in our search for a house, e.g. Maxwell Park, Montclair, North Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, etc. In this situation, would it be best to focus on one area at a time and work with a realtor who specializes in that area? Or is it possible to find someone who is knowledgeable about multiple locales? Also, does anyone have specific recommendations for realtors? Any advice is appreciated! 

    I suspect no one has replied yet to your query because you really need to narrow your focus - the areas you mention can be wildly different- and it would be difficult to find a realtor that has the time and breadth of knowledge to educate you about/run around with you to all those places. My suggestion would be for you to first do some research about all the cities you mention. You might consider what is important to you - schools? size? demographics? proximity to SF? public transportation, etc? as it varies widely in each of the places you list. Once you have narrowed your search area to several potential neighborhoods, then consult a site like Redfin or Zillow to learn more about the area and affordability. Attend a few open homes in a few different places, and when you hit on an area you like approach that realtor about the opportunity to work with them. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of time for handholding in this (still seller's) market, so you will have to do some front-end hustling, like anything else, to find what you need. If you find an area you love, try to repost to find a buyer's agent for that place. Good luck!

  • Hello BPN! We're looking for recommendations for a real estate agent that specializes in Novato and Petaluma. Someone both knowledgeable and approachable, and especially good at working with first-time homebuyers. Thanks!

    We highly recommend Kathleen Murphy!  She is amazing!!  We had a very easy first time buying experience because of her!!  She is not only very knowledgeable but she is personable and reliable!  She is a great resource!!!

  • Hi all! Looking for a referral to a real estate with expertise in Walnut Creek/Orinda/Lafayette. Thanks in advance -

    We had a wonderful experience with Tina Frechman! These are the three cities we focused our search on and she was incredibly patient, helpful, and supportive throughout the process. And she knows Lamorinda and Walnut Creek incredibly well!

    Robert Jones with Sotheby's.

    Highly recommend. We were looking exclusively in Rockridge, but he is great for all Eastbay and I think lives in Orinda. 

    Excellent communication. Got our house on our first offer!

    We had a great experience working with Vadim Nadtochaev  with Compass when we purchased our home in Lafayette in 2020. 

    Janice Jordan helped me buy my house in 2016 during a very hot sellers market. She is great! janice.jordan [at] (janice[dot]jordan[at]compass[dot]com) M: 925-580-7482

    Hey there! Carol Sawdey is the best :) Can’t recommend her and her team enough. She helped me buy my first condo and was a huge help as a first time home buyer. Patient with all my questions and going above and beyond to make me feel comfortable. Her phone is 1 (925) 487-2353


  • We are moving our parents into assisted living this month.  They have a large rundown house full of a lifetime's worth of furniture and junk.  One realtor offered to run the estate sale, haul the junk, and pay the contractor to fix things up, with the idea that they will recoup their investment in a higher sale value.  This would take a big burden off of us, but it also sounds too good to be true.  Is it a good deal?  What should we be looking out for?

    I would not make it a deciding factor in which realtor you select to represent you in the house sale, but if the one you select happens to provide the junk disposal/estate sale service, I personally would take them up on it. Cleaning out someone's house when they go to assisted living is no fun. (speaking as an adult child with way too many elderly relatives with way too much stuff)  As to who hires and pays the contractor to fix up stuff before sale, I believe it is standard for the seller/owner to pay but maybe that has changed in this crazy market - maybe to get listings, realtors are willing to take that on?

    Totally depends on what you value. You're not going to make money off of it if you go through the real estate agent. My parents went through something similar with an estate sale company and and after all was said and done made something like $400. But they didn't want to deal with it so it was a good deal for them. Since your agent would be taking a cut I guess they would take it from the sales? Maybe your parents had more valuable things than my grandpa so you'd make more? Either way, if you don't want to do it and you don't need the money then it is a great deal no matter the outcome. Good luck! 

    I agree with the previous responder. If you're happy with this agent and want to for sure work with them then... GREAT! It's NOT too good to be true at all. But. Do know that you are lucking out - big time! As an agent myself, I know that many of us will go to great lengths to get a listing (in this environment, getting a listing is something of a guaranteed paycheck for us while working with buyers is NOT) but most of us couldn't afford to undertake that kind of time/financial risk. I'm actually very surprised when I see so many agents take on a listing and sell it "as is" for so much less than it could've gone for with a little fixing up. I've only been doing this work for a few years now, so maybe there's something that I don't yet understand about that strategy/way of thinking, but... Why would anyone NOT spend the money to fix up such a property when it means getting hundreds of thousands of dollars MORE for your seller???? In the Bay Area that seems like a no-brainer. Good for you for finding this gem of an agent!



     I have a lot of experience in real estate and recommend you do the following before you make any decisions:

    1. Shop around - reach out to a few other agents (look online) and ask them what they would take on vs not in your situation. 
         - Look at their previous experiences and see if they have any experience in taking on something like this. 
         - Ask for references or at least look online to see if there are any comments or feedback from other clients.
         - Understand what they would be 'charging' or want in compensation for this additional work, e.g., a higher commission on the sale price, etc.
    2. Contact a few estate sale companies to see under what services they would offer in your situation, get an estimated price/quotes, etc.
    3. Some questions to ask:
        - How the house and its contents would sell for in their current state vs. sale price after fixing and upgrading. 
        - What is being recommended to fix and renovate and how much would it cost? 
        - A good paint job, plus upgrading the bathroom and the kitchen can go a long way towards resale value if done properly.
    5. Regardless of which direction you go, make sure you have a proper contract and agreement that clearly spells out what is covered vs. not covered.

    I just spent months and months and a lot of money and heartache trying to organize the estate sale, junk hauling, and fix up and staging of my parents’ run down place full of artwork, collections, and 80 years worth of momentos. The scrapbooks alone easily took a month to go through! I would recommend you take that realtor up on their offer! It does sound too good to be true but in this market this may be the norm. Just make sure you know up front what any costs will be to you or the estate. Good luck. It’s not easy…

    We recently bought a house from someone who used their realtor to haul and hire a contractor. The "contractor" clearly had no idea what he was doing and made a series of errors that we, as buyers were then left with. Some of these were minor but some were seriously dangerous and illegal (e.g. gas line was installed almost humorously improperly and was leaking gas into the walls). We went back to the selling agent and actually threatened to sue her and the buyers if they didn't reimburse us for getting everything done correctly by a licensed GC. It seemed the buyers didn't have any idea just how egregious the agent and handyman were and they simply trusted the agent to do good work. If I were you, I'd ask the realtor who he/she is planning on hiring and what their qualifications are. Good luck!

    Hello! I actually think this is pretty common. Usually how it works if the person doing to sale takes a percentage of the sales. Are they doing that or just wrapping it into the sale of the house? 

  • Off-market agent referrals

    May 14, 2021

    Long-time East Bay residents, teachers, community service-oriented family seeking off-market home purchase. Have you worked with an agent who helped you mitigate the insanity by finding an off-market listing?! If so, I would *love* to hear from you. FWIW: We have lived here for 16 years, so not at all new to the area or the game, but the market and influx of new buyers from everywhere imaginable has grown to epic proportions, and we need help!

    I would recommend Kathleen Murphy for all you realtor needs!  She is amazing!!!

  • I will be selling a condo next to Lake Merritt in the next month and am looking for a realtor with experience selling condos in the area. I've received two recommendations from someone who works at the front desk of the building: Mason Ma (Concord Pacific West) and Janette Licata (Highland Partners). Does anyone have any experience with either one of them? Or do you have a realtor you would recommend? 

    Thank you!

    You may want to speak with Marni Fischer at District Homes in Berkeley, she is very experienced.  Marni has sold lots of homes and condos in the Lake Merritt area and is really a lovely, very ethical person and truly fantastic to work with.  Her info is:  415-722-0032 / MarniFischer [at]  Best of luck with your sale, the market seems very strong right now!

    Happy Client

    Valerie Ruma is an excellent agent. She sold my condo near  Lake Merritt/ Rose Garden area in Dec 2020. I had multiple offers & got well over asking. 

    Golden Gate Sotheby's International 

    510 579 3614

    She has excellent reviews. 

  • I'm thinking of selling my 100+ year old craftsman home in Berkeley and have been doing research on real estate agents. It is very difficult to differentiate between the many realtors in the area. Given that there are so many agents with 5 star reviews on Zillow and other realtor websites, what should I really be looking for when searching for the most exceptional agent in the area? Does anyone have specific agent recommendations or a more general framework for criteria to consider when selecting an agent?

    Personality fit is important. Jennifer Lucas is an extraordinary real estate agent. She does both selling and buying and she also has experience with construction and flipping houses. Her first hand construction experience sets her apart for buyers and sellers. She works incredibly hard. She was our agent when we bought and when we finally pull the trigger to sell and relocate to our dream house across the tunnel, we know we will use her as well. I have recommended her to friends who sold and bought in Oakland, Berkeley, Lamorinda and all have had stellar results. The way she stages the house for sale is remarkable and she uses social media well. jennifer.lucas [at]

    We are huge fans of Deidre Joyner at Red Oak. She really went above and beyond for us when we were buying and we plan to use her to sell, too.

    Personality. You need to meet them and see if you sync. You'll be communicating with them a lot so their communication style, how you feel when you're with them, the things they care about really matter. Also, they can provide you with other people they have worked with who you could ask questions to. We love our agent, and have used her for 3 transactions now, but I can see how she might not be for everyone. However, she knows literally EVERYONE in Oakland and those relationships got us both our places. So personality and network can go a long way and are what I'd consider if I was ever looking again. Like many things in life, there is no one right person or one right choice. Good luck! 

    Agree with personality fit. We used sheri madden with red oak for two purchases and and sell and she is the best agent imaginable. Honest, hardworking, very knowledgeable and transparent. 

    Personality fit and their local connections and understanding of the area is most important. The better they know you, the better they can represent your home too and help you prepare it for sale.

    Many transactions are done between agents who know each other - ie if your agent is well connected and can sell to an agent they know and trust, you have more assurance that the transaction will go through. In addition, many agents share things off market so as a seller, there's the potential you could get a good offer before even having to list your home and therefore lower commission.

    Bottom line: you should ask neighbors and friends who have recently bought or sold homes in the area who they recommend instead of reading reviews. Also by securing a referral from someone they have worked with, you will already enter with a trusting relationship. Trust is extremely important in the home buying/selling process, not just the highest price!

    Finally, avoid redfin despite the allure of lower commission. Lots of agents don't like working with them and they are often less experienced, less connected, more focused on the tech. Someone with good commission will make a world of difference. When I was buying my home, I felt reassured when my agent knew the seller's agent who knew her clients well because it just brought much more trust to the entire transaction. I'm in contract now on a new place, and will sell with my agent too, and bought my first home w/ her. 

    As a former real estate agent in the East Bay, these are my recommendations:

    As a seller here, you only need a competent agent who is a good fit of personalities.

    In contrast, a buyer in this market needs an agent with the patience of Job, the analytical ability of Einstein, and a well-tuned crystal ball to determine what price to offer that will secure the property yet won't bankrupt the client.
    But seriously folks, look for an agent who has a GRS certification, indicating that they are smart and diligent enough to undertake some advanced study. Find out whether the agent will be serving you full-time, or whether they have an assistant who will be in more regular contact with you than the agent themself. This need not be a show-stopper if all else is OK. If you want a best buddy to guide you through the process of preparing your home for sale, that is a legitimate preference - though that will not be the case for every client or work for every agent

    Sellers are encouraged to pay for staging.  The money you invest in this will be returned to you as a higher sale price. Logically it makes no sense whatsoever to pay people to redecorate your house for just a few weeks, but here we are.

    I recently (during Covid) had to fly back east and sell my parents house very quickly.  The advice I got from folks was really worthwhile so here it is.  As others will have said, personality fit is most important.  All the agents provide basically the same services and you will get many recommendations.  Pick 3 that know your area, and have a good reputation and interview them.  You need to have a guide in the journey, it's not just about price.  Some will want to you to stage, some will want you to paint, some will just say move out and clean it and sell as is. You need to choose.  In our case I presented 3 realtor options to my mom.  One guy came with a full presentation, one just was too casual, and one was too pushy.  She went with the man with the presentation, he sold as is in one day with 7 offers over asking and did everything she wanted including going to the property every other day during the sale to feed the fish in the pond! I had to fly back to the Bay Area and he stayed in touch with me and made it so easy for her.  You should feel taken care of not pushed.  Good Luck!

    If your 100+ year old craftsman home in Berkeley is in good to great shape, it will sell itself for more than you ever thought possible. You can go two ways, the first is to use a discount service to try to minimize the amount of commission paid out. The second is to find the most connected Berkeley agents, the ones who sell the most homes, and hire them create a bidding war situation utilizing their network. Avoid the 90+% of the agents who transact less than half a dozen homes in Berkeley a year. There are a lot of these people basically working part-time, who for the most part, don't have a great understanding of this brutal market.

    Signed, burned by dilettante agents

    I adore my real estate agent, Dan Walner.  He is maybe in his mid 50s (and so not a hip young guy), but has been working Berkeley and Oakland for a long time.  He will be very good at assessing what you should put your house on the market for and in helping take care of all your needs around the sale.  His number is 510-205-7159 and email is dan.walner [at]  He is with Compass RE.  One thing you have to be concerned about with some agents is that they greedily want to set your price artificially low so that there is a bidding war over her property.  I believe Dan eschews this philosophy and will price your house accurately so that the buyer knows what it is worth.  In my view, it is a horrible practice in the Bay Area to artificially lower the price in order to have 20 or 30 buyers competing with each other, given the plethora of buyers out there (especially for Berkeley properties). 


    I think you want somebody that is smart, warm, caring, experienced, skilled and knowledgeable that feels like a good fit for you.  I would recommend that you speak with Marni Fischer of District Homes in Berkeley.  She embodies all of these characteristics and then some.  Marni has many years of experience, specifically in the East Bay.  We had such a great experience with her that we think anybody would be lucky to work with her.  Her number is: 415-722-0032 and her email is marnifischer [at]  

    Best of luck!

    We worked with Marilyn Garcia: She was phenomenal. We were moving to the region/country and buying our first house. A friend of ours is a successful realtor in Southern California so we asked that friend to interview/recommend a realtor in Berkeley; she chose Marilyn. Marilyn walked us through the whole process. She is very knowledgeable about the market, smart, direct and personable. We were able to buy our current house (also a 100+ yo craftsman) despite many challenges (it was a messy situation on the seller side) due to Marylin's determination to build a strong relationship with the selling agent and her reputation within the industry. We got in when no one else could. We haven't sold a house yet, but we fully plan to use Marylin when we do. Her properties around here are always presented impeccably. 

    Agree fit is really important. Someone you trust and know will do what's best for you and your family. It's also really helpful if you can use someone that is well connected in the community. I highly recommend Megan Micco who is at Compass (her email is megan [at] She helped us buy our house and made what I feared would be a torturous process, feel fun and much less stressful. I have recommended her to several people (including my family). She's kind, direct, and seems to know everyone in Berkeley/Oakland. She also LOVES her job and you can tell - she's incredibly responsive, believes in building long term relationships, and gives very sound advice but doesn't pressure you do anything you don't want to. She has a special place in her heart for older homes, so I think this would be a particularly good fit for her. Happy to chat more if you want more info!

    Hi! I have nothing but amazing things to say about Chris Nava at Highland Partners.
    We are in the process of buying a house and the level of personalized support we’ve gotten from him is nowhere near what other 5 star agents do. Highly recommend you get in touch to discuss.

    Oooh.  Since I see we are recommending specific agents please let me second the recommendation of Marilyn Garcia.  She got us into a great home that has doubled in value in the last 12 years.  I've been following her work since and see she is really well connected, incredibly experienced with our local market.  Easy to work with.  I hope to work with her again.

  • Could anyone recommend a good real estate agent specialized in residential lots in the east bay?

    Thanks in advance!

     We recently purchased a couple of lots in East Bay, so if you have any initial questions, I'm happy to help. You can give me a call on 778 227 1540 


    I would recommend that you speak with Marni Fischer of District Homes in Berkeley.  She has many years of experience dealing with residential, commercial and vacant lots, specifically in the East Bay and is a very kind and knowledgeable agent.  We had such a great experience with her when we bought our lot that we think anybody would be lucky to work with her.  Her number is: 415-722-0032 and her email is marnifischer [at]  

    Happy Customer

  • Buyer’s agent?

    Jan 5, 2021

    We live in Berkeley and are considering moving to a different house in the area (we need more space). Has anyone worked with a great agent? Someone who will be patient as we try to find the right place, rather than pushing for a sale? There are a couple recommendations but they’re several years old. 

    We worked with Megan Micco, who's a lifelong Berkeley resident, and had an amazing experience. She's not pushy at all and super knowledgeable. She also has great relationships with other agents in the area. We've recommended her to all of our friends who are looking.

    We have had a great experience with Donna Costello 510-338-1355. She has helped us to both sell and buy a home. She is very patient but also professional. She has a lot of experience with homes in Berkeley and Oakland.

    Leslie Bandy of Red Oak is wonderful. Very patient, very much there for YOU. She's not your typical real estate agent and she's very honest with you (no fake nonsense). My husband and I had very particular and hard-to-find needs and she found us a great place. We looked all over Berkeley and North Oakland. She also convinced us NOT to buy a place that she thought would have been a very bad decision for us (she was SO right), even though it meant a longer search and more work for her. Really highly recommend.

    Sheri Madden with Red Oak is amazing. We bought two houses and sold one using her and i cannot recommend her enough for either role. She has helped several friends with purchases as well, everyone is equally as impressed

    We used Steve Maurer  with Compass. He was great, he worked with us patiently for 9 months while we dragged him all over the bay looking at all sorts of different nonsense!

    We spent almost a year searching for our first home and made 8 offers. Maureen Lawlor was incredibly patient and thorough. We never felt any pressure from her. I highly recommend her. Best of luck!

    I highly recommend Bethe Vanier from Kim Cole Real Estate. She's super nice, very understanding, knowledgeable, buttoned up and never pushes. I worked with her for over a year to find my perfect fit and she was a pleasure to have by my side as I navigated the process. We also used her to sell our condo and she is great at that too.

    You can do no better than Corey Weinstein at Red Oak as a buyer's agent  I've worked with her for multiple transactions on the buying and selling side and she's fantastic. She listens to her clients and she's committed to finding the right house for you. We had some pretty specific requirements and we weren't in a big rush to move. Corey was super patient as we looked at properties and it paid off, we found a great house in our preferred neighborhood where houses don't often come on the market. I'd work with her again in a heartbeat. 

    We worked with Sheri Madden who both help us get our new place and sell our old place.

    We started talking to her early on (we gave ourselves 2 years to find the right place knowing how limited inventory was - we found one in 6 months) and she showed us different places and have us talk through what we liked and what we didnt liked about each place so that she could get a good sense on what we wanted (and my husband and I have slightly differing opinions). She was extremely patient with us, never pushed us at all and has a wonderful calm demeanor. In fact, when she saw our current place, she told us - "i think i might have found a place you both would love" - and she was right. She was also a great guide all throughout the process - she has an amazing rolodex of people that she leverage to help us in our decision making. For example, she had a contractor walkthrough the place to tell us what the condition was, what work might need to be done, and how much it would cost. Same with an electrician. We loved working with them after that as well. I highly recommend her!

    We really liked our realtor, Mischa Lorraine. She was not pushy in the slightest. 

      Mischa LorraineRealtor ®, CalBRE #01858312www.yourlife-yourhome.commischa [at] (mischa[at]mischalorraine[dot]com) 510-331-3617

    We worked with Ira and Carol Serkes. Very data-driven, respected our decision to make unrealistically low offers on a couple places "in case we get lucky," and ridiculously quick turnaround on the paperwork thanks to Carol. We ended up putting together our winning bid on a place while I was in Austin on business and only intermittently available, so tolerant of our schedules too. They've been working in the Berkeley real estate biz for a while and know it well from what I understand.

    We worked with Diana Backinoff and were very pleased. She's quite knowledgeable about the area and the neighborhoods in Berkeley/Oakland/Alameda, and was very patient with us as our search for the perfect home stretched out over several years (!). Can recommend her without hesitation. 510-381-8890,-oakland_ca_2989587_820294618

    We love Becky Andersen. We spent so much time with her during the year+ that we were house searching that she became a permanent part of our lives; several years later, we are still in regular touch. She is a wonderful human, cares so much more about her client finding the right house than about the money, and has decades of experience in this market. Feel free to message me for more info about our experience.…;

    Highly recommend Jenny Wang, she helped us over the course of more than a year look for a place (we finally found something and are closing this week). She was very patient, and also just a very good, knowledgeable, experienced agent. Her email is [at] (j[dot]wang[at]ggsir[dot]com)

    We've worked with Dalia to buy twice and she's been great. Knows a lot of agents in the area, so that's been a real asset when working with the buyers agent. We'd recommend her.

    I feel lucky to have found Aliky Vasdekis (510-815-4358), she works with BHG and Redfin, when I bought my home.  It took me about 4 months to find the right house (we went to dozens of listings together) and then another 3 months to finalize the purchase (it was a short sale) and she stuck right by my side throughout guiding me skillfully at every step.  She's patient and super knowledgeable about the local real estate landscape.  Plus, she has a good eye for houses that have good bones if you're interested in maybe remodeling. 

    We worked with Andy Read at Caldecott. Truth be told we didn't work with him for a long time (we'd been house hunting w/ another broker in SF, and only engaged with him after we found a house in Berkeley that we wanted to put an offer in on). That said, he was really great in helping us navigate the offer & closing process, and is very knowledgeable about the area.

    I may have written a recommendation for her before but I strongly recommend Anne Culbertson.  She is currently at Compass but used to be with Grubb (when we worked with her).  She knows this part of the East Bay well and was incredibly patient with us.  We probably worked with her for 18 months, maybe even longer - I was actually kind of sad when she handed us the keys because we weren't going to see her anymore!  She was incredibly patient, trustworthy, and honest about whether our offers would be viable or not.  (We were buying in a very hot market.)  She was not pushy about getting us to offer more than we were comfortable with, nor did she ever encourage us to place offers on homes that were not right for us or that had a lot of issues/repairs we weren't prepared to properly deal with. She was comfortable looking at places outside of the core Berkeley/Oakland areas but also clear when she felt that we would be better represented by a local agent (for an offer in SF).  She is worth a call.  Good luck!


    I know an excellent agent. Her name is Susan Niami. She helped us buy our house and also helped my brother in law buy his house. If you are ready to buy and ready to find your next home I'd be happy to connect you. Just send me your email and I'll put you in touch. 

    Ana Lucia Garcia

    I highly recommend Tia Hunnicutt.  She helped me buy my house, as well as sell it a few years later. She was very honest about the type of house I could afford and the current market.  I never felt that she was pushy.  Best of luck to you in your search.  

    We worked with Kellen Gauthier to buy our first house last year, and I would strongly recommend him to anyone looking for a realtor. His number is (510) 499-5347, and his email is kellen [at] (kellen[at]ilovealameda[dot]com )(he's based in Alameda, but works throughout the Bay Area).

    Starting our search, Kellen guided us through the process of figuring out exactly what we were looking for in a house, including challenging some of our initial assumptions. As we toured listings, Kellen always had a vision for how to re-imagine a house's layout and use the space to its full potential. And he was more than happy to let us take our time and find the right place at the right price—never any pressure to buy.

    Once we found the perfect home, Kellen came up with a strategy to get our offer accepted (even beating another, higher offer!). During the contingency period, he went above and beyond coordinating with numerous inspectors, working to negotiate the best price possible and to make sure we were comfortable moving forward with the purchase. While in contract, a major issue came up with our loan, but Kellen was able to use his connections with the lender to get things back on track. Kellen and his team took care of all the details, big and small, to make the purchase go smoothly.

    We just worked with Megan Micco and cannot recommend her enough!

    Super knowledgeable, trustworthy, respected in the community and well connected.

    We absolutely loved working with Priscilla Izumi Cook from Sequoia Real Estate ( We started looking right before the pandemic, paused, geared up again, and bought in September 2020! She was patient throughout, proactive, and knowledgeable. Let me know if you have any questions.


    We worked with Elic Suazo as a buyers and sellers agent (first as buyers). As I got (desperate) he actually sat me down and told me my house choices were not what we had discussed, and he needed clarity on what our goals were. Which really reminded me not to lower my standards. He is great!!! 

    I cannot speak highly enough of Aaron Brown.  He is from the area and knows it well.  He is patient, knowledgeable, and experienced.  He took his time with us to make sure we got what we really wanted in our first house.  I never felt pushed at all, in fact he talked me out of bidding on houses we didn't love.     He founded his own real estate company called perspective real estate.  You can find him at

    Hi, we worked with Deidre Joyner of Red Oak and really loved her expertise. She’s good at really finding the right fit.


    We are navigating the same situation and could not be happier with our agent, Romney O'Connell She has not only been patient, but has also offered us extremely valuable advice as we try to find a home that better accommodates our family's needs. Romney is also helping us make thoughtful decisions about how and when to put our current home on the market. Her years of experience supporting both buyers and sellers is really shining through in this process. 

    Romney was originally reffered to us by three separate friends who each had great feedback to share about their experiences working with her. Based on those referrals, we passed along Romney's information to my husband's parents, who ultimately selected her as their agent. They were impressed by the support and guidance they received throughout the house-hunting process and noted that it was Romney's patience and thoughtful communication that ultimately helped them find the home that was exactly he right fit for them (I can share the glowing review written by my in-laws if requested).  Now that we are personally working with Romney, our own experience can only confirm that she is deeply committed to always acting in best interest of her clients. We feel luck to have her in our corner! 

    I'm including all of Romney's contact information below: 

    Romney's contact information - website: 

                                                          email: romney [at] (romney[at]berkhills[dot]com) 

                                                             phone: 510-599-6911

    We purchased our current place in Lower Rockridge with our agent who looked at 30+ houses with us over the course of 8 months. We would say that's very patient! We always appreciated his insights and him not trying to push anything on us. Our agent is Ed Kuo with The Grubb Company. DM us for his contact info.

    Please check out Diana Ip from District Homes!!  

    Our situation was different from the ones described above, as we were living in the Midwest during our house-hunting year.  Diana was amazing--she walked us through the process, was extremely responsive to any and all of our questions, and patiently and knowledgeably guided us through multiple offers until we were able to buy our dream home.  She was our advocate every step of the way, which was SO important since we were looking from afar and could only fly in to look at houses (pre-COVID) about once every couple of months.  Just a wonderful experience!

  • We are looking to purchase an investment property as a rental. Are there any service providers we can pay to talk to for advice on on a good location for that (i.e. we are hoping to purchase in a location where rental market will support setting the rent at an amount that will cover mortgage, real estate tax, etc. so that we at least break even)?  We are not looking to make much on the rental income as we view it as investment in the property, but do want to make sure we at least break even and are not bleeding money on the property (with the exceptions of when it is sitting empty).   We want to invest in real estate but worry about making a mistake or investing in the wrong place and just want someone to get advice from, but have no idea who is the right service provider for that discussion.  We also will have questions about how to set rent and deposit and run checks on potential tenants to minimize the risk of getting tenants that will not be paying rent.  I know it is the pandemic and with the economic uncertainty it is likely a bad time to invest in rentals, but hoping that by the time we find and purchase one and get it move-in ready and locate potential tenants the vaccine will be available and the state will re-open so that it will be less of a risk.   Any advice for service providers, professionals, or even books/online resources would be greatly appreciated.  If you went through this decision process yourself, and decided to do it, any advice and warnings from personal experience would also be greatly appreciated. 

    We have had many rental investment properties, and have learned a few things through the decades. You don't need to pay anyone for advice -- you can do it for yourself, and probably should as every person has different criteria for what is a successful rental property. Youtube is your friend for research. Just start looking around. Have you decided on a state? Maybe somewhere nice that you would like to visit, as checking on your rental is a tax deduction. A rental property in California is very different from one in,say, Texas. If you are in a hurry, you will make a costly mistake. Research states, cities, places, neighborhoods, populations. Take virtual tours. Look at properties in your price-range. And after COVID, go visit.  A rental investment if not done carefully, can lose a lot of money and demand a lot of unexpected time and resources. But if you take your time, are patient and wait for the right fit for you (like a spouse) the returns are excellent and headache-free.

    Howdy potential landlords. Way too much info to type, much of which might only lead to more questions, but I'm fairly certain I can answer all the questions you listed.  If you'll contact me at kgmkirk at gmail, I'd be happy to get us connected, answer your questions, and give you a bit of a primer on how to determine a money-maker from a struggler, and some rules of thumb for how to ball park costs, income, and their relationship to purchase price.  I've owned small rental properties for a decade. Not a realtor, not a "rental service provider." Have learned by doing. Best to you in the meantime.

    It actually may be a good time to invest in rentals. Since Prop 19 passed in California, the calculus of passing property on to offspring has changed, and as a result, owners are selling. Prices may be depressed because of empty units or people not paying their rent. Could be risky, but could work out well. Unless you put down a huge down payment, expect to run in the red for a least a few years. Generally, property owners depend on inflation to get a profit. You didn't mention rent control, which can be quite a headache. I would recommend that a beginner not buy in a rent controlled area. Setting rents can be difficult. It used to be that you could check craigslist for similar units and average those numbers. But craigslist is so full of lowball scams now, it is mostly useless. In general, check rental sites and go look at rentals to figure out prices. As for background checks and credit checks, I think you can just google that to find a service. I don't know if there is a legit service provider that can help you get into this business. You may want to go look at lots of properties on the market. The real estate agents will do a sales job on you, but you will learn a lot in the process. Good luck!

    I recommend starting investing in cities other than Berkeley.  Berkeley has so many anti-landlord rules which can be very challenging (ie. rental control, rent ceiling, yearly payment to rent board for each unit you own, yearly fees for business license, can't use prior eviction or criminal hx in selecting tenants... the list goes on).  Consider nearby cities still close to BART and good schools for investments (ie. Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington etc)

  • I'm looking to purchase some riverfront acreage in Northern California or Southern Oregon, but haven't settled on a specific river or county yet. I'd love to find a realtor who could help, but worry that I need to narrow down the area first. Are there "experts" in undeveloped property who can help identify and vet options over such a large area? Or even part of this area? If you have any leads, please send them along. Thank you!!

    Answer: No, there is not likely to be any one real estate expert over such a big range. I am not sure why you want riverfront "acreage" but haven't settled on a river yet... you may want to do some reading about water rights and what is allowed in both California and Oregon. Then do some touring around the areas of interest. I have friends in Redding with homes in town that back onto the Sacramento River, nice views but it's dangerous to enter on your own (some have fishing boats). Or you can go to the Medford/Gold Hill area of Oregon where you can buy property that fronts on the Rogue and there are spots where maybe you can wade in. But bottom line, if you want to be on a river to go swimming, consider you may want to consider a lake instead. If you want fishing/boating access, you're buying property with a dock or putting one in which may require a new set of permits that may or may not be approved by the right agencies. That leads me to my last point, which is that developing raw land is expensive, time-consuming, and not something you'd want to do long-distance.

    All that said, I was just in Northern CA/Southern OR and saw plenty of for-sale signs on land, so if you start touring, you'll find some leads working parts of the area you're interested in.

  • Hi - looking for Realtor reviews from 2018 on from happy sellers in the flats of El Cerrito or nearby.  Particular agents who were very helpful in determining what work should be done prior to selling for maximum ROI, and even helping to coordinate it. Thanks!

    Katrena Prior with Maddox Real Estate helped us sell a house in West Contra Costa County a couple months ago. This was out first experience selling a home. Katrena had a lot of good ideas of about remodeling and was familiar with various options and their costs. She made arrangements to obtain several bids from contractors and offered to coordinate their work, though in the end, we ended up selling the house in as-is condition. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a seller's agent in the area!

    Dear Soon-to-Be Seller:

    We bought AND sold our home in South Berkeley through Berkeley Hills Realty. I realize that you are hoping to get responses from El Cerrito, but I wanted to let you know about Berkeley Hills because they are so wonderful to work with, fit exactly what you're looking for in terms of services, and they are located on Solano Ave. Tracy Sichterman and Linda Van Covering were a pleasure to work with. They are the best combination of personable and professional; they have SUCH good taste when it comes to paint colors--forget hiring a color consultant!!; they told us what NOT to waste our money on; and they make the horrible process of putting your house up on the market quite bearable. I can't remember the name of the fix-it-up crew they brought to our home, but wow! They were amazingly skilled and such nice people--it was family crew, three brothers. They helped us get our house ready in three weeks, and we did really well on our sale price. Feel free to private message me if you want more details. Berkeley Hills Realty: Tracy Sichterman  (510) 524-9888, 1714 Solano Ave, Berkeley

    Hi there…I’m not in El Cerrito but in Albany—one block from San Pablo towards the hills--and we just had an AMAZING experience with the agent who sold our house, Romney O’Connell with Berkeley Hills Realty.  We needed, desperately, to maximize what we would make on the house since it was our only and biggest investment...and not to mention the home we raised our kids in so there was a huge emotional element to the process.  We were beyond nervous about putting the house on the market during the pandemic.  Additionally, we were worried sick about not being able to stage the house because it was not allowed in Albany by law under the Shelter In Place orders (we ended up “virtually” staging per her suggestion, which turned out to be brilliant and MUCH cheaper!) and we were doubly worried about not being able to have the normal open houses.  Romney held our hands throughout the entire process and expertly strategized all aspects of it for a few months…the last 1.5 of which we had to relocate out of state to be able to safely shelter-in-place!  She was spot-on with what we should or should not put our, LIMITED(!), resources into and she expertly guided us with her knowledge on what people want to see in a home and what they are willing to look past.  She has an entire team of contractors, painters, cleaners who were all very good and super-reasonably priced.  Her knowledge of the market, during a very shaky time, was incredible and she helped plot a course as to when we should put the house on the market and what we needed or did not need for advertising.  Also, she was well informed on all of the new “laws” around Covid-19 and seemed to have really great relationships with a ton of other agents in the area.  I mention that last note because it felt like she was a part of a larger real estate community during the uncertainty and, therefore, had resources to find the (many) answers to the (too-many) questions we had.    If I seem effusive about her it is warranted because we received 11 offers after only being on the market for 1 week (another strategy she employed, expertly I’ll add) and our house sold for almost $450K OVER asking.  Seriously, a miracle in our opinion.  We owe her the hugest debt of gratitude and I cannot recommend her enough.   Feel free to respond back if you have any questions but here is her information:  Romney O’Connell, Berkeley Hills Realty, ph:  510.599.6911 and her website is  All the best of luck and healthy wishes!!

    We sold our El Cerrito home in March 2020 and highly recommend Romney O’Connell at Berkeley Hills Realty (510.599.6911 /  She is incredibly experienced in representing El Cerrito sellers and knows all the players in the local market.  She developed a well thought-out strategy for prioritizing which prep work needed to get done, what work we should just get estimates for, when to market the property, and even which furniture could remain for staging to manage costs.  We trusted that she was always working hard for us behind the scenes: managing her network of contractors, stagers, landscapers, photographers, and (importantly) other agents to bring strong demand come listing day.  During a stressful closing she continued to provide us sound advice (borderline therapy), as strange things were happening heading into the first week of COVID quarantine.  She was professional throughout the entire process, listened thoughtfully, planned well, and was generally a lot of fun to work with.  Ultimately she not only brought in multiple offers but multiple strong offers and a quick close.  We’re very satisfied clients!

  • Seeking suggestions for a knowledgeable and effective realtor to sell a venerable brown shingle family home in the North Berkeley hills.

    We are looking for someone who is responsive, easy to work with, and well-connected to the local market.

    All tips appreciated!

    Well, the good news is that lovely old brown shingle houses in Berkeley are easy to sell! Our lovely old brown shingle house was found for us by the amazing Faye Keough (The Grubb Co.) before it hit the market. The Berkeley Hills are her beat. She knows every house. She is probably the most knowledgeable agent out there, and will be brilliant with pricing strategy and marketing, and will also work tirelessly to protect her clients' interests. Additionally, she is a warm, delightful person.

    Maxi Lilley at Red Oak!

    Maxi is an *exceptionally* talented real estate agent.  We have recommended her to many people, and everyone raves about her.  We worked with her to successfully close an off-market purchase in a highly competitive neighborhood, and she has worked with a number of friends to sell their homes.  Maxi is special.  She is a top performing real estate agent in the East Bay area.   Super knowledgeable about the properties, the neighborhood/market, all the little local details.  She has a design background (both landscape and interior design) so she knows exactly what to do to make your house sing in the sale.  Kind of astonishing what she can do with a home pre-sale to make it most attractive to buyers.  She has many connections to high quality folks on the finance side (mortgage brokers, bank loans, title company) and on the work side (handyman, electric, plumbing, HVAC, painting, etc), which also really helps with getting ready for selling.  But almost more than any of that, Maxi has an amazing bedside manner — she has helped us (and I have seen her help others) manage through doubt, stress, over exuberance, conflict with your partner, issues with the other party, etc.  She is honest, straightforward, trustworthy & kind.   We think she is one of kinda, actually.  A truly exceptional agent — would never think of using anyone else.  

    Linnette Edwards of Abio Properties. No doubt.

    She and Tammy sold our house for us. Super-responsive, not only easy to work with but also fun doing so. Knows the market back to front. Always on, always responsive.  They also have a great team of go-to guys to get things done to prep the home for sale quickly (and a great sense of what would be most helpful to do). And Tammy's marketing materials were tremendous. We made a vast amount more than we expected on selling the house (which they'd also helped us buy some years earlier).

    Do not pass Go just call: 925.580.8801

    You are looking for Marilyn Garcia, with the Grubb Company. 

    She’s simply the best.  She stuck with us through market ups and downs, and helped us find our north Berkeley family home.  She also helped us stage and sell our small brown shingle central Berkeley home—we received over 30 offers.  I can’t recommend her highly enough!  Please feel free to pm me if you’d like more details.  She’s also helped several friends of ours and all are happily settled now. 

    I love Dana Cordeiro at Red Oak Realty. She has worked with at least 4 member of my family and was wonderful every time. Cell: (510) 543-4198

    Mark Choi with Compass is great (he recently left Marvin Gardens).  He is extremely knowledgeable about the area, well-connected and very honest and responsive.  My family has used him to buy and sell several house in the Kensington/El Cerrito area.  And full disclosure after doing business with him we became great family friends as is true with many of his clients and I think that's a testament to his quality as a realtor and human being. He can be reached at 510.381.1116

    I recommend Pamela Oettel. We found her extremely easy to work with, patient and knowledgeable.

    We had such a wonderful experience with our District Homes Realtor, Diana Ip!  She is, hands down, the best realtor we have ever worked with.  She is a great communicator, listener, representative and advocate. She always responded to us and was very thorough and efficient. We just felt really supported from house-hunting to closing. And I'm not sure if this is important to you, but it was to us--she has a big heart and just exuded empathy, and was a strong believer in social justice.

    Don't bother looking anywhere else. Steve Michaeledis at the Grubb Company is one of the nicest humans you'll meet, but also the most knowledgable and experienced in real estate around here. He's helped us buy and sell a number of times. You'll love him!

    Negar Souza at Red Oak 510.543.7016.  She has all of the qualities you are looking for and more!  Negar has helped me buy 2 homes in El Cerrito and sell one in North Berkeley over the last 3 years.  

  • Hi BPN people, 

    Long time Berkeley residents, first time contemplating buying. Looking for someone very familiar with duplexes (or similar) and willing to help educate first time buyers that are getting a start 15-18 months before we’d ideally like to purchase. Thanks in advance for any suggestions. 

    I own and live in a duplex, main house with backyard unit. Perhaps I can answer some basic questions. Can you share an e-mail address?

    Hey there, my husband and I own a property in NorCal and rent here in Berkeley. We plan on buying a duplex in a few years (know that's outside of your time horizon) but if you're interested in getting on our radar. Please reach out.

    Jodi Nishimura at Pacific Union was excellent and helped me find several duplexes, including the great one that I purchased and live in now.   She's now a personal friend, and a good person all around.

    Just to respond regarding being a landlord as mentioned in a previous reply: As long as you as an owner live in one unit of the duplex the other unit is not under rent control. However uou will still need to follow some basic rules an the tenants will have rights. If you do not live on site then both units will fall under rent control. For more details you can contact the Berkeley Rent Board. 

    Here is a response to the answer you got from someone advising not to use or ask Realtors....

    Maybe this person worked with a unprofessional Realtor?

    Realtors know the markets and can help you educate yourself and pointed to the right direction for legal help. Realtors make their money by selling property, they usually make 2.5%-3% of selling price, and then that gets split with their brokerage. A good, professional Realtor wants to establish the best possible relationship with their client because referral and repeated business makes the most of their income.

    There is nothing wrong to look for a duplex and educate yourself to what it means to be a landlord. A good Realtor is familiar with the markets and with the local laws. They can't give you legal or tax advice but can direct you to where you can find them. 

    Good luck with your great plan!

    Please be careful about accepting legal advice on this forum, even mine (although I am a lawyer I am providing general i public nformation, not legal advice). A duplex is NOT automatically free of rent-control by the occupancy of an owner in one unit. Only "Golden Duplexes" have this benefit. Please get legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in Berkeley Rent Control or from a specialist.

  • We are planning to sell our house in the N. Berkeley hills and wonder about other people's experiences with either Redfin -- or any realtors that they particularly recommend working with for sales of houses in North Berkeley (hills).  Thanks!

    Redfin is a brokerage company, a brand with multiple agents working under its umbrella.

    You're asking the wrong question. What you really want to find is an individual Realtor with whom you're confident working, a Realtor who understands the local market, and who has the expertise to advise you on how best to market your home, and experience in crafting offers that can attract multiple offers and net you the most after commission are paid.

    I have got the perfect person for you: Romney O'Connell at Berkeley Hills Realty - we've had very positive and recent experiences with her. In fact, whenever anybody asks my wife or I for a Realtor recommendation, we tell them to contact Romney. Over the course of the last 6 years, we have worked with Romney in four different transactions. The first time was our first home purchase ever (in Berkeley), then we both sold our first house and bought a bigger one in North Oakland with Romney in anticipation of the arrival of our twins. The fourth transaction involved my wife's architecture business. I can honestly say that I don't think we would have been able to purchase either home or done so well on our sale without her. In the first case, it was her relationships with local realtors and mortgage brokers that made my offer stronger than the competition's. The second time around, she thought of us for a diamond in the rough opportunity that was more than we could have ever asked for. One of my best friends also worked with her twice (2008 & 2013) - repeat business says it all! 

    Romney began as our Realtor, but today she is a family friend who lives just a few blocks away with her kids and husband. She truly gets to know you, looks out for you, and wants the best for you (and your kids!). She is incredibly helpful, caring, patient, and relentless in the boom market that we are in. You will be treated like family working with her. 

    In summary, Romney O'Connell is a top-of-the-line, veteran Realtor with deep knowledge of the East Bay real estate market and the home selling process. With both her more than a decade of experience and week-to-week pulse of the market, she will help you understand the selling process, help prepare you for sale, and set a strategy for your sale that meets your objectives. I credit Romney for how well we did on the sale of our first home -- and this is the only thing that allowed us to afford a bigger home for our growing family. She also knows the historical homes in the East Bay very well - Romney has a great aesthetic sense (M.F.A. from Columbia and won a local historical society award), so you're in good hands in marketing your home or if you are thinking about renovation or sprucing before your sale - she's done it herself. We have, and will continue to, recommend Romney to all our friends looking to buy or sell in the East Bay. Her contact info: romney [at] (romney[at]berkhills[dot]com)

    Faye Keogh at the Grubb Co. knows every property in Berkeley, and represents lots of buyers looking for sellers. She's an older lady who knows her stuff, is a wonderful person, and will guide you protectively through the entire transaction.

    She found our dream house for us, and though the seller was represented by her company, never once put the company ahead of what was right for us.

    I wouldn't hesitate to use her.

    Kerri Monday! She is amazing and super down to earth. Helped us sell our house in Alameda for way over asking price.

    she really knows this area very well. She can also present your house so it’s really attractive to the current market. She helped us sell during a really slow time after the summer. She is also not as stuffy and money hungry like some agent. I highly recommend 

    We can highly recommend Romney O'Connell from Berkeley Hills Realty. She is has been in the business a long time and specializes in Berkeley Hills and El Cerrito properties. She was our realtor for the sale of our parents estate. She is an expert at suggesting what to do, or not to do, to get a house ready for sale, and has a keen sense for pricing the property.

    Her contact info is 510-566-6911 and romney [at] 

    p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 12.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; background-color: #ffffff}
    p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 12.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; background-color: #ffffff; min-height: 14.0px}
    p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 10.0px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #222222; background-color: #ffffff}
    p.p4 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 10.0px Arial; color: #1155cc; -webkit-text-stroke: #1155cc; background-color: #ffffff}
    span.s1 {font-kerning: none}
    span.s2 {font-kerning: none; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: 0px #222222}
    span.s3 {text-decoration: underline ; font-kerning: none; color: #1155cc; -webkit-text-stroke: 0px #1155cc}

    Romney O’Connell with Berkeley Hills Realty is truly amazing both personally and professionally.  Our family recently sold our home in El Cerrito to buy a new home in Richmond. Romney provided a stress-free process that went as smoothly as possible.  It was clear that we had the advantage when selling our previous house and bidding on our new home.  We actually took great joy watching Romney work.  She was always a step ahead.  Romney is a true artist and a master of strategy, meticulously paying attention to every nuanced detail along the way.  She was quick to make personal connections with the agents and was always certain that we maintained a clear understanding of the process.  Again, we seemed to always be one step ahead of the other buyers. The sellers of our new home actually declined a counter offer from another buyer because the offer Romney helped us assemble was so strong.  We couldn’t recommend anyone more that we do Romney.

    Phone: 510-599-6911

    Email: romney [at] (romney[at]berkhills[dot]com)

    We cannot recommend our real estate agent, Marilyn Garcia of Coldwell Banker (corner of Shattuck and Vine), highly enough. 

    She supported us through the ups and downs of a multi-year home search, helped us submit offers, even attended a foreclosure auction with us, and finally helped us get a home that wasn't even on the market, a fixer-upper, which we have now happily been in for four years.  She took the time to get to know us and our likes and dislilkes, and truly helped us with every aspect of both buying and selling.  We ended up selling our central Berkeley home with well over 20 (!) offers, thanks to her amazing stagers and repair crews.  We have recommended her to friends, at least two of whom found homes with Marilyn in record time.  

    She is an expert in our hyper-local market, and just a great person to know, who does her job INCREDIBLY well.  Give her a call!

  • Hello Kind Neighbors! 

    Could you please recommend local lenders (individuals and/ or companies) you've had a positive experience with?  

    Could you please also recommend a realtor who's intimately familiar with Oakland (94602, 94606, 94607, 94608, 94609, 94610, 94611, 94612, 94618, 94619)?
    Many thanks!

    We moved here about a year ago and we used Steve Michaelides from The Grubb as our realtor. He is absolutely the best realtor I've worked with so far! He's honest and will walk you through everything you need to know about the buying process. We never felt pressured with him in any way. He actually pointed out concerns that he had with one house where we completely overlooked it in the disclosure. I completely trust him and recommend him to all of my friends. Feel free to reach out to him and tell him that Thu/Hunter referred you. :) Good luck! 

    Steve Michaelides


    The Grubb Co.

    510-339-0400 x242

    smichaelides [at] (smichaelides[at]grubbco[dot]com)

    CAL BRE: 01275784

    Zach Griffin at LaSalle in Montclair has done several loans for me and does a thorough, professional job finding the best loan. It’s a complicated process these days, and I recommend working with a local professional, like Zach, who really understands the market. His contact info:

    loans [at]

    cell: 510-325-1095

    I have a wonderful recommendation for a realtor -- Romney O'Connell of Berkeley Hills Realty 

    Romney helped us get our first home in Oakland. She is not only the best realtor we ever worked with, she is one of the best people we ever worked with. Here are some of the highlights:

    1. Intimate knowledge of the market and the area. She knows the schools, the little things in a neighborhood, all of the realtors selling and how that might influence the process, and all of the local laws that might influence upgrades to the house.

    2. Renovation ideas: Many of the homes we looked at needed renovations. She not only had ideas on how to improve things, but would bring in others to give us estimates of how much the fixes/upgrades would cost.

    3. Practical skills in negotiating: She knows how to place a really good offer. This includes getting a good loan letter, pricing, and other small things that make you an attractive buyer.

    4. Support: The Bay Area's market is tough. It takes many offers before you find a place. Through the whole process, Romney was supportive when things didn't go our way. When it came time for offers and counteroffers, she provided a guiding hand, yet didn't pressure us into anything. She made it clear what her advice was, but that final decisions were up to us.

    5. Closing Process: This was super easy. She handled almost everything. We had one slight problem around closing (not anything of her fault) and she handled it.

    6. Ongoing support: Even after we closed, she is still a partner in our new home. She wanted to know how things went, and can always find us a handy person/contractor to take care of something at the house.

    We are convinced that Romney is the best real estate agent in the Bay Area, if not the country. She is extremely knowledgeable, patient, available, and honest. My husband and I recommend her very highly!

    We loved our realtor Sarah Ridge (  She grew up in Oakland and is very familiar  a granular level with neighborhoods throughout the East Bay.  
    Sarah really gets to know clients an.  She also invests in relationships with area realtors, mortgage brokers, house inspectors, everyone involved in the process, and we got the sense that people trust her word. 

    We almost skipped the house we bought because the initial asking price was high, but Sarah constantly talks to other realtors to see where people are interested, asks selling realtors how many packets are out, etc.  Her recon and her gut told her that the sellers were a bit too aggressive in the asking price and we might avoid a bidding war.  We loved the house and decided to bid, still feeling 99% sure we had no chance of getting it, but she was right. She does thorough research of comps, gives good advice on pricing.  She really sells her clients to the sellers and sellers' agent.  Our offer was not the highest offer, but I think Sarah's hard work putting together a strong package, presenting the offer in person, having us write a letter to the sellers as part of the package, etc., helped convince the sellers that we were overall the best and least risky offer.  

    She was honest and helpful with feedback of other houses (Such as: "I don't think that's the house for you, because ___."  We go see it anyway.  She is right.)  Sarah is also very knowledgeable about building, design, landscaping, etc., and gives good advice.  I still contact her when I need to hire someone or get advice!  

    We used RPM Mortgage on Sarah's recommendation.  One advantage as I understand it is that they have an option for a mortgage that is fully reviewed and underwritten - more thorough than the normal preapproval process, which I think both helped us feel comfortable waiving the financing contingency and convincing the sellers that we were very safe, solid buyers.  We met with Erick Byrd, but everyone there seemed thorough and helpful.

    Our realtor was Heather Abbey.  She was great when we were house hunting in 2014-2015.  Personable, friendly, accommodating and encouraging.  We looked mostly around the Dimond neighborhood, but ended up buying in a cheaper area, south of 580, in zip code 94601.  But Heather can definitely help you in the areas you're looking in.  She is a realtor with Sotheby's.  1heatherabbey [at] 

    We bank with Patelco Credit Union, and used them as our lender, and they were good.  Nothing outstanding, but more or less efficient.

    Good luck!

    We had a very positive experience working with Kumi Hodge ( to purchase our home in North Oakland. He grew up in Oakland and has deep knowledge of different neighborhoods and the market. He took the time to really learn what we cared most about and his questions helped us think through priorities we hadn't initially considered. His genuine care and friendly demeanor made the many weekends of house hunting a true pleasure. In addition, we came to rely on his knowledge of homes and construction to help identify potential problems with properties (something we knew little about). Kumi is extremely dependable and has great follow-through. He goes the extra mile and it's always clear that he's your champion. He was also always very understanding about the fact that we were bringing a one-year old around with us and could only look at houses between nap times! At Kumi's recommendation, we worked with JVM Lenders and the process was very smooth on a 14 day close.

    I recommend Chimene Pollard of Red Oak Realty.  ( She's been living and working in Oakland for many years.  She's kind, practical, friendly and smart.  She values long term relationships with happy clients and so doesn't push anyone into anything that isn't comfortable or a good fit.   She helped us get our house in 94606 (just across the street from where she used to live).   I think she knows almost everyone in Oakland.  Chimene is a friend, but although I'm very fond of her I only see her very occasionally.  This review is prompted by regard for her professionalism and character.

    Kerri is amazing! Last year we put our house on the market at the end of the summer. Not in the most desirable part of Alameda. At the time everyone was either on vacation or about to get ready for school. So not a lot of buyers. She somehow managed to pull it off and we sold 60k over asking price. 

    Also she is super down to earth, knowledgeable funny and knows the Oakland/Alameda area very well. I highly recommend 

  • Real Estate Broker

    Dec 16, 2018

    My wife and I wish to buy a house in the Rockridge-Elmwood area of the East Bay next year. We have noticed that there is a real estate office near there on College Ave close to Ashby Ave named Marvin Gardens. Our guess is that there are brokers in that office who are very familiar with that area and could assist us in our search. Has anyone had dealings with this office in the search of homes nearby and, especially, individual brokers who provided excellent knowledge and service? We would be grateful for any recommendations and thank you very much in advance.

    We just bought a house with Don Adamson from Marvin Gardens and highly recommend him. Had our best interest, knows the neighborhood, quick, honest. He's currently selling our previous condo.

    Jenny Wang! Jenny Wang! Jenny Wang!! :)

    Can't recommend her enough. She knows (and lives) in Elmwood and has for years. My husband and I have bought and sold a good number of homes over the years and our experience buying (and selling) our Webster Street/Elmwood home with Jenny was stellar. Great energy, attention to details and will help see you through the whole process. Go Jenny! Good luck!

    Robin Donovan and Stephen Bloom are an incredible team, housed in that very office. We have done 7 or 8 transactions with them, and each time, another layer of their nuanced expertise unfolds. Robin is a whiz with numbers, and can predict how much to offer and exactly what it takes to get a deal done. Stephen is casual yet confident, warm yet firm - a master at negotiation. They are both fun and genuine. We have loved working with them, and will recommend them for anything in the greater Oakland/Berkeley area. Please feel free to message me with any questions, and best of luck with your upcoming purchase!

  • Hi,

    My family is ready to start looking to buy our first house with a budget cap of $1m. We have small kids and are looking for a good elementary school with safe neighborhood. We're open to anywhere from El Cerrito down to Piedmont, Montclair area, Lamorinda all the way to Walnut Creek. So far, all the realtor recommendations on here only mention one or two geographic areas, but since we're open to so many cities, we're looking for someone who knows all the areas really well. 

    If that person doesn't exist, would people recommend we work with a couple different realtors that specialize in their respective areas?

    Thanks for any advice and recommendations!

    Linnette Edwards of Abio Properties ( is awesome (we used her to buy and to sell and she delivered for us top-notch service and amazing results both times) and covers the full range of east bay locations that you describe.  She's not only highly professional but also really pleasant to work with. You can see her 5-star Yelp reviews (124 reviewers) under the "MyHousingGuide" banner here:

    We did this two years ago.  We tried to use one broker to cover just Berkeley and Oakland and that didn't work.  I think we noticed two things:

    1. The brokers who really know the areas and are going to have insights like "oh this house is about to come up for sale" are going to be hyper-local.  Outside of that they'll be surfing MLS slower than you will surf Zillow/Redfin.

    2. It will be hard for you to find the time to work with multiple brokers because they might try to take you on visits at the same time or claim they showed you the same house... so be up front about how you work with multiple brokers and do well-defined boundaries ("just Berkeley", "just Piedmont", etc.) to ensure that nothing goes wrong with commission discussions.

    Realtors are not that useful in finding a house you like. They don't look at houses the same way you do. Hop on Redfin or Trulia or the website of your choice and find houses that suit you and your budget. Go to open houses. When you find one that you want to make an offer on, get a realtor who works in that area. 

    Hi there,

    I highly recommend Deidre Joyner with Red Oak Realty. She grew up in the Bay Area and knows it inside and out. She was amazing in helping our family find the perfect home. Hope this is helpful.

    Deidre Joyner deidre [at]>

    Pattie Holm covered all of these areas with us in a similar budget range. She is amazing.

  • Any realtor recommendations for a first-time home buyer (in California, at least) for the Rockridge/Claremont neighborhoods of Oakland and Berkeley?  I'm looking for a 3/2 single family home and expect to be looking at a purchase price of $1-2M depending the location and amenities. 

    I need someone who can help me understand: 1) things to consider or look for when determining purchase price (sewer lines, foundation issues, etc.), 2) feasibility/permitting laws for any potential renovation needs like adding bathrooms and in-law units or remodeling kitchens and baths, and 3) Oakland/Berkeley laws around rental opportunities for rooms/space in the house in the event the property lends itself to that arrangement.  

    Thank you!

    We started our home search with Kate Tanaka from the Red Oak Realty office in Montclair; we found her very helpful and great at keeping our expectations realistic for what we could get and what were reasonable compromises to make. When we stopped looking in that area she referred us to another Red Oak colleague who helped us get our house in West Contra Costa. So really, I would say go to your local Red Oak agency and you'll be on good hands!

    We absolutely loved working with David Valdez at Pacific Union in Montclair. We were living in Rockridge when we started working with him. He’s very knowledgeable and has been a realtor a long time. He ultimately helped us purchase in Glenview. I cannot recommend him highly enough (if you look him up in yelp you will see I’m not the only one).

    We were first time buyers and used David Higgins ( and thought he was great- super knowledgeable. We will use him again as we buy a home for my mother-in-law. I think his office and specialty is right in that area- Rockridge/Claremont. We used Dianne Crosby at RPM for our mortgage and we would not use her again.

    Faye Keough at The Grubb Company helped us find our magical house in a tight market. She's been trolling that beat for decades, virtually knows every house, and can dig up listings moments before they hit the open market (that's the only way we would have not been outbidden for this 3-lot beauty we now live on). Could not recommend her more.

    Try Maria Cavallo Merrion (510.919.8841) and Carla Buffington at Pacific Union Oakland and Berkeley.  They really helped us on these issues.

    I recommend Pam Oettel at Coldwell Banker in Berkeley. We worked with her 2 years ago.

    Pam was very upfront about the pros and cons of every house, which made it much easier for us. She pointed out things like foundation problems, etc., right away and was very honest about the amount of money we'd probably need to fix some houses that looked (on the surface) like a "good deal."  Knows about things like sewer laterals, planning departments, etc. That means you won't waste time looking at homes that won't work for you. She really listens well.

    pamela.oettel [at]

    (510) 703-8636 mobile
    (510) 486-1495 office 

    Hey!  Here is the info for the realtor I used when we bought our house in San Pablo, who is now helping my friend looking for a house in Berkeley. We were first time home buyers and Daniel was great at explaining things we need to know and what to watch out for. He is easy going.

    Daniel Lewis:

    dlewis0088 [at]  

    or dlewis [at] 

    Good luck house hunting!

    The Bloom Homes Team is awesome. I can't recommend Stephen Bloom and Robin Donovan enough. We have worked with them for six years, as buyers and sellers, 8 times now. I think we have lost out on 1 bid, maybe, and been successful in four purchases, and four sales. They are excellent. I'll warn you, however, that we do almost everything they say, which I think is the trick once you find someone you trust. They suggest and oftentimes will book/coordinate contractors, thoroughly review disclosures, help with appointments, and suggest aggressive and less aggressive offer prices, to name only a few details. They are kind, strategic, and incredible. I'm happy to answer any questions too!

    Hi - We used Jenny Wang at McGuire. She's a Claremont/Rockridge specialist and I would highly highly recommend her. We used her to sell our house but also saw how she worked tirelessly for clients in both capacities. She's got great energy, listens well and is committed to helping her clients have great outcomes. Can't recommend her enough and I've been through the real estate gauntlet as a buyer and seller in Northern California for the past 20-some years. She is the best.

    Good luck!

    jwang [at]

  • We will soon be first-time home sellers. This summer, we need to sell our home in Lincoln Heights (2300 square feet, 3/2 with gorgeous Bay views, between 580 and 13) and are seeking recommendations for agents who will help us fix it up in the next few months (have people lined up we can use), know that area of Oakland (it's not Rockridge or the Oakland Hills), and generally help us maximize what we can get (as we are moving south to the Peninsula and will need every dollar). Thank you for any suggestions of agents to use (or not to use).

    I strongly recommend Pamela Oettel.  She lives in a non-ritzy part of Oakland herself and we learned a ton from her about various parts of the East Bay (including Oakland), house remodeling, what sells, etc., when we worked with her 2 years ago.  She really knows neighborhoods.  She's 100% honest and so good-tempered, which will be a godsend when you are selling a house.  She's with Coldwell Banker in Berkeley.  And no, I don't get any kind of kickback for giving this recommendation.

    HI i strongly recommend sheri madden with Marvin Gardens. She knows Oakland very well and is very skilled at home improvements and maximizing offers. She sold our home and took over all the prep, made it very very easy on us. She also represented us as buyers sonwe know her well and know her skill. Cannot recommend enough. 

    Hi. Andrew Pittare helped us purchase our home last year in the Laurel District. He has since helped my brother-in-law purchase a house in Oakland this last month. He is excellent. He has a contruction background, so as buyers he was able to help us understand all the disclosures very clearly. I imagine that  would be very helpful with selling also. He also lives in Oakland and knows your neighborhood well. He works with Anthony Associates. 

    All the best with your move.

    Karen Lum sold our home.  She was super helpful in getting in painters, carpet, fence repair etc. to maximize the offers.  You can check her website which lists her past listings and testimonials to see if you would want to meet her. You probably know that it can be a good thing to interview a few agents to pick one you prefer.  Coldwell Banker, Montclair. 

  • Hi -

    I'm curious to know about other people's experiences of working with a real estate agent. We've been actively looking to buy a house for over a year (and have made a number of unsuccessful offers) and are not particularly happy with our agent. I'm wondering if we're expecting more than the norm for the Bay Area, or if she's not serving our needs.

    In your experience, should the buyers' agent be reviewing the disclosures? Or is their role just to get them, pass them on, and answer questions if you have them? What about hiring contractors if the disclosures suggest work may be needed? Would you expect your agent to schedule appointments with inspectors, structural engineers, electricians and be there for the visit, or would you just expect the agent to offer names for you to call? And how has your agent helped you determine offer price? 

    Thanks for sharing your experiences - and your recommendations for great agents if you have them!

    Yes, I'd expect help reviewing/interpreting the disclosures, though some agents do just pass them on. I would only expect a list of suggested contractors--I'd expect to do my own appointment scheduling, etc. Offer price should be determined by comps (coupled with your own comfort level--you may be okay going over comps, or you may want to stay under them even if it means losing out on the house). I would also caution that unsuccessful offers are unfortunately part of the game in a sellers' market, so may or may not have much to do with your agent (unless you are writing offers below what you're willing to pay based on the agent's guidance and then not getting homes--in which case yes, you need a more aggressive agent!) That said, if you don't have a good relationship after a year of this, it might be time to move on regardless. Good luck!

    I can't recommend Stephen Bloom and his partner Robin Donovan enough. We have worked with them for six years, as buyers and sellers, 8 times now. I think we have lost out on 1 bid, maybe, and been successful in four purchases, and four sales. They are excellent. I'll warn you, however, that we do almost everything they say, which I think is the trick once you find someone you trust. They suggest and oftentimes will book/coordinate contractors, thoroughly review disclosures, help with appointments, and suggest aggressive and less aggressive offer prices, to name only a few details. They are kind, strategic, and incredible. 

    In our limited experience (we bid on two homes and won our second bid in montclair) our agent did do a bunch of things that made us really happy:

    1. She reviewed all the disclosures, was able to benchmark whether - relative to other homes- the disclosures were more clean or had some big issues, and was also able to ballpark an estimate for how much the work would cost that was recommended in the inspections
    2. Provided names of contractors and would have been on site had we chosen to do an independent inspection (in our case, the person she would have recommended actually also conducted the sellers inspection). Once we'd won our bid, she also put us directly in touch with her preferred contractors and sent them the portions of the inspections that were relevant to the work (electrician/plumber etc.) so that they could provide us with bids for the work
    3. On the bid, provided a list of comps and some general guidance on what her "gut" was telling her about how much the home would go for - obviously, no realtor is going to say "this is what you should bid" but when we pushed her, we often were able to get a more clear number as a ballpark and then could make our own decision on what felt comfortable
    4. When we were closing, was at the Title company with us to review paperwork and flag things that were important for us to research/remember

    If yours isn't doing these things, it might make sense to find another!


    My husband and I just got our offer accepted and we are going through the process of closing. We are new to the Bay Area and we are new to home buying so coming in was all a learning experience for us. Thankfully we were connected with an agent that really took care of our best interest and was quite sharp. 

    Since the get go, he sat down with us at our first home tour with him to explain to us all of the jargon that comes with looking for a home and the different processes, basically getting us ready to see the complete process. We asked him many questions and he answered them all with additional guidance and perspective. Once we found a home that we wanted to make an offer for, he requested the disclosures, we reviewed them carefully and made an offer. During each of our home visits, he was there at least 10-15 minutes earlier than us to check out the neighborhood and to meet with the listing agent to build a relationship and ask questions about the house. As we arrived, he already knew what disclosures were available, he had already scoped out the house to find any issues and even before the visit he had already pulled comps. Once we let him know that we were interested in a home, he would call the listing agent immediately to let him know to expect an offer. As we submitted the offer (contingent upon our own inspections--as he recommended), we got the offer accepted and went in within the next day with an inspector that he had recommended and even called for us. He met my husband at the home and the inspector went through the house once and then a second time explaining to my husband his findings and recommendations. This was very helpful because we not only want to know what are the issues, but what we can do to maintain our new home. When closing a home, there are many moving pieces and one needs to act quickly. Our agent upon notice of the accepted offer, moved his team and worked with our lender to get all of the required information needed as soon as possible. Another thing that I think is key has to do with your lender--how soon are they able to close? I think this was a big thing in our case as our lender is able to close in 21 days vs. our competing offers which asked for 30+ days. Again, our agent was instrumental with this information as he connected with our lender as soon as we met him so that he could get the specifics on how our lender worked and using this information he let the listing agent know which made our offer the most desirable. Like I said before, we didn't really know what to expect from our agent and we never even asked him to do things, he just did them and now looking in the future if we ever need to buy a new home, I wouldn't have it any other way. The level of quick followup, connecting across the board with all of the different parties and maintaining us informed in a timely matter, while giving advice are in my opinion the best qualities that an agent should have. 

    Hi it sounds like you don’t have a good agent. A buyers agent should review all the disclosures and be actively seeking properties for you to see and make good recommendations regarding comps and favorable offers. We worked with Sheri Madden of Marvin Gardens for two purchases in the past 5 years and she was a dream come true. We didn’t have to look for long since she was so on top of everything, she reviewed all disclosures and gave accurate advice . She would help you schedule all inspections and services and has many quality contacts. She really isn’t in this to just close a deal but wants to find her clients a home they be will be very happy with. I can not recommend her enough. Most people i know have a big change of luck when they get a good agent 

    No matter what is "reasonable" or "normal", it sounds like your agent is not doing what you want her to do. So politely tell her you no longer need her services, and find another agent who WILL do all those things for you. And make sure you ask these questions up front when you interview a new agent. The market is really tough for agents right now (low inventory etc), so a good agent should be wiling to go over and above to get your business.

    We are closing on a house today and we worked with Dana Cohen from the Grubb company.  She is fantastic -- sets realistic expectations for you, has a lot of local connections to get things done quickly, and is really great at giving you the pros/cons on a house based on what you're looking for.  We found a house, bid on it, and won the bid in two weeks of looking at open houses.  I'm happy to connect over the phone with you if you have additional questions.    

    Our realtor, Lloyd Jung at Marvin Gardens in El Cerrito helped us buy in Richmond/El Sobrante and did all the things your are asking about. He sent us the highlights from each disclosure report, found us properties to look at and drove us around to see them He scheduled the inspections and the estimates from tradespeople. He really worked hard for us. Compare him to our realtor the first time we tried (and failed) to buy a house - a guy with tons of glowing 5 star yelp reviews who treated us like an annoyance and did absolutely nothing for us. Major difference in quality. I can imagine if our search took over a year perhaps we would’ve been on our own a bit more? But I kinda doubt it with Lloyd. He was great and we are so happy to finally be home owners!

    Each agent works a little differently, but in my experience, they have all done some amount of review on the disclosures for or with us, and they have always scheduled appointments for inspectors, since they need to be there to gain access to the house.  In terms of contractors, I have gotten recommended names from them, and would expect them to be happy to organize the appointments, also due to the logistics of lockboxes, etc.  In terms of offer price, they tend to keep themselves at arms length from your final decision - I think it's a liability thing for them.  But, they should provide a lot of information as comps and then talk you through how each comp relates to or differs from the property in question.  Unsuccessful offers are common, so try not to get too discouraged.  I do hear that a lot of properties are being sold "off-market" nowadays, meaning that agents hear about properties that are available, without an MLS listing.  If you decide to switch agents, you might want to filter for someone who is well-connected or in a well-connected firm that would be hearing about a lot of these "off-market" opportunities.

    My agent, who I highly recommend did all of these things on my behalf without my having to ask-- Farrah Wilder with Pacific Union-

    She also used to be an attorney.  So, she is incredibly savvy, sharp, and professional while being quite pleasant to be around.

    Good luck!

    California real estate agents/brokers are required, in sales of single-family homes, to do their own visual inspection and provide you with a written disclosure of anything they see.  But a buyer's agent won't ordinarily analyze the seller's disclosures for you, although of course they should ensure you get them and do their best to answer your questions.  It's possible that you're asking questions that need to be answered by a lawyer, a contractor, or other specialist - and in that case, your agent should try to get you some referrals.

    Yes, your agent should schedule inspections, but this ordinarily happens after you're in contract, not before you make an offer!  It is very unusual to get inspections with your own contractors before you make an offer, so don't expect an agent to arrange that.

    Determining offer price is again up to you, but of course your agent should be helping you understand the market, how to read comps and when to expect a competitive bidding situation (very common in the Bay Area, with contract prices often being MUCH higher than asking price) so that you can figure out how much to offer.  Your agent should also give you advice about how to write your offer to be as competitive as possible in ways other than offering a higher price. Keep in mind that prices in the Bay Area continue to rise, so you probably have to adjust your expectations from what they were a year ago. 

    If you want to switch to a different agent, you'll get better referrals if you say which specific cities or neighborhoods you're looking in.  Most agents can do their best job in the particular neighborhoods they specialize in!

    We worked with Berkeley Hills Realty and were really impressed with the services they offered. Tracey Sichterman, our agent, not only looked at disclosures with us, she was actually something of a "dwelling forensics" expert in our opinion. She often pointed out potential structural weaknesses and other elements of the house we were looking for that might cost money in the future to repair or bring up to code. Tracey also gave us suggestions for contractors--and in a few cases, she facilitated appointment making, but for the most part, we did it ourselves (figuring out everyone's availability can get tricky). If a contractor was particularly booked in advance, Tracey would sometimes offer to use her relationship to get us booked with that person sooner. All I can say is that we felt so well treated by Berkeley Hills Realty that we'll definitely use them when we sell our place. We'd used several other realtors in the past--both for purchase and sales--and we couldn't compare those experiences. I know this is going to sound over the top or corny, but with other real estate firms, it felt like a business transaction. With Tracey at Berkeley Hills, it felt like we were establishing a relationship someone who happened to have incredible expertise in house hunting. She was the consummate professional, but really authentic. Our first bid was not accepted, but we didn't think it had anything to do with our realtor (the seller took an all cash offer). Our second bid was accepted. I wouldn't be surprised if you have to make many bids: we've had friends who've made 6-8 bids before getting a house (not sure which real estate firm), but my sense is that they were still in a learning curve about exactly how much they had to offer. Sigh. It's brutal out there. Good luck. And be sure that you're really comfortable with your agent and trust him or her.

    We worked with an agent who didn't really do those things. He just sent us property listings, which wasn't really helpful since we had access to the same information. He did send us places people were hoping to sell off-market, which can be an advantage in a market like this. 

    We ended up going with Redfin. You can schedule to see houses pretty much whenever you want, and the people who meet you there are knowledgeable about the market, but have no incentive to get you to make an offer. (With the agent, we felt weird that his compensation made him incentivized to have us buy through him and spend as much as possible.) The people we met took notes on what we liked and passed them on to our Redfin agent (randomly assigned online) who pointed out places we might like from time to time. The agent is also paid a salary rather than a commission, and a bonus based on how you rate their services.  When it came time to make offers, the agent helped us figure out the disclosures, scheduled extra visits to the property, and helped us determine a competitive offer (price and contingencies). As first time buyers, we had a lot to learn about the whole process and she was super helpful. And, bonus, you get some money back - some of the percentage reserved for the buyer's agent goes to you, rather than Redfin. 

    We used several agents concurrently.  One for each town we searched.  We were upfront with all the agents about this.  It look about a year and 10 formal offers before we finally purchased a house in the East Bay.  But we probably requested disclosures and looked hard at about 30 homes.  In this market I think that the most important thing that the agent can do is to predict the price a particular home will sell for, then it's up to you to decide if you want to meet that number or if you are feeling aggressive, exceed that number and by how much.  All the agents we used had extensive contacts with various service people.  Only one of them scheduled appointments and was there for the visit.  I think that this is somewhat unusual.

    In order to come up with an accurate price, the agent must review the disclosures.  All of the agents we used did review the disclosures when they knew we wanted to make an offer but not till then.  It's time consuming but in all 30 cases, we did our own due diligence to determine if we wanted to make an offer.  Honestly most of the pages are boilerplate so the meat is the inspection report.

    BTW we did wind up parting ways with one of the agents.  We worked with him from the very beginning and we felt we weren't getting the best service after a while.  Working with other agents really highlighted his short comings.  We tried to make it work when things went south but in retrospect I wished we parted ways sooner and found someone else.  The agent we were most impressed with was the one who we ultimately bought our home with.  She just knew everything about the town/market including knowing weeks in advance when property would be listed.  She was constantly reaching out to the selling agent or other agents in her network to gather information, something our other agent frankly did not do, even when I explicitly asked him to do so.  She nailed the pricing on all the homes we made offers on with her.  We only lost to all cash offers or by the thinest of margins.  The other agents were wildly off.  They simply didn't seem to be plugged into how aggressive prices had become and to a certain extent somewhat shell shocked by the high prices.  

  • Hello fellow parents!  Does anyone know a really good realtor in the El Sobrante area that they can recommend? Someone who has worked there and perhaps lived there for a long time? And someone who is very good at getting offers accepted of course! I would greatly appreciate any help anyone can give!

    Many thanks! 

    Maddox Realtors im Pinole.  Jason or Jamie are the best. We have sold 2 houses and bought one  thru them and they are awesome. Lived in the area all their lives. Extremely knowledgeable, knows the area and takes the stress out of buying a home.   Check out their reviews. 

    Declan Spring from Red Oak Realty on Solano helped us get our home in Pinole in 2013; he was fantastic. He really knows the area and gave us a realistic sense of what we could afford with our budget, what we should expect in terms of the condition our house was likely to be in, and even a sense of local restaurants and parks :) We are hoping to stay in our home for many more years, but if we find ourselves in the market again we will definitely seek out his help.

    I recommend Pamela Oettel, who knows that area quite well.  We worked with her 2 years ago.  My parents used to live in El Sobrante, and you do want someone who knows the area personally.  Hardworking, honest, great personality, a pleasure to work with.

  • We would love to get recommendations for real estate agents who have experience selling in Rockridge.    Our home is larger than the typical Rockridge home and was completely rebuilt 10 years ago so it will be on the high-end of the market.  We would like to find an agent who has experience in our neighborhood and with higher end homes as well since it is a different set of buyers who would be able to look at this property.

    I strongly recommend that you talk to Tim Cannon at Marvin Gardens,…; Tim is a Berkeley native who has been selling high-end homes in the area for decades.  He is direct, ethical, hard-working, smart, well-connected and just a super-nice guy.  He helped us sell a smaller house and buy a bigger one in north Berkeley when we were two working parents with a 10-month-old.  We had a lot going on, and it was a confusing time in the real estate market (9/11 happened between the time we bought our new home and put our old one on the market).  We really benefited from Tim's patience and sage advice.

    With no reservations I recommend the Gunderman Group. They are magical, helping me to sell our home last year when my husband had already moved east for work. They’ve helped many friends sell and buy in the east bay, where they live too. David and Andrew have deep ties to the community and lead an expert team who will take care of everything. is based on laSalle in Montclair. Good luck!

    Soraya and Simon Motley with Pacific Union are a great team.  Were our agents and from start to finish and well seasoned in your area. They have  also worked with us on other transactions. 

    -Rachel Herbert

    Definitely discuss your situation with Julie Gardner. She helped us purchase our home in Piedmont 3 years ago. She has been helping people buy and sell homes in this area for many years and we found her expertise to be invaluable. We still call her when we have questions about the market and she is is very responsive after all these years. Her number is 510-326-0840.

    We cannot recommend Mischa Lorraine (…) enthusiastically enough! She helped us buy our home in West Berkeley, sticking with us through 13 bids and an eventual seller who took 6 months to close. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the area as a life-long Berkeley resident and long-time realtor, thorough, super-responsive, patient, and determined. 

  • We have a single family house in Richmond we'd like to sell and buy another property in LA in a 1031 exchange transaction.  Would like recommendation for a great responsible realtor who is well versed in such selling scenario.  Also, if you have done such transactions in the past, please share any do's and don'ts.

    Thank you, Lindsey

    You'll want different realtors in Richmond and in LA; their business is very localized and you want an expert in each neighborhood.  The realtor is not particularly involved in the 1031 exchange, although they can likely recommend to you the escrow company or companies and exchange accommodator company which will handle that for you.  (FYI, the standard procedures for real estate transactions are handled differently, in a number of ways, in Southern California than they are in Northern California.  Not a big deal, but you may very well use different escrow companies too.)  Every major title company has an affiliated exchange company, and there are independents as well.  You can price-compare or just follow your Richmond real estate agent's recommendation.

    I did my first 1031 Exchange about a year ago, and it was definitely worth it, but a pain in the ass. 

    You probably know this, but the Richmond house has to have been designated rental property for two years. If you are planning to replace it with another rental house in Los Angeles, an L.A. realtor can do that for you. If you are planning to replace it with commercial property, you'll need a a commercial realtor, which was a very tough thing for me to find -- commercial real estate is a world unto itself, and many agents didn't return my calls, due to the booming market. I finally found a young agent, on the come, who was delighted to help me, and did. I turned a single family house in SF into a huge commercial property in Santa Rosa, and tripled the rent I was getting.

    Most realtors have dealt with a 1031 situation, and will direct you to a trusted intermediary, which "holds" the funds" so you don't take receipt of them before you find a replacement property. Here's the hard part -- you have 90 days to identify the replacement. That's one hell of a lot of running around. 

    I believe you get a much longer time to close, though.

    Be warned that you won't necessarily get more for you money in L.A. -- prices here have taken quite a hike and money flows through this city (I happen to be there right now) as it does through SF. But you can add to the amount you put in for the new property without penalty. You can also come up short -- if the replacement property is less than the relinquished property you just pay the taxes on the gain from the gap.

    There are plenty of web sites that explain all this in detail, and they're pretty clear. I'm guessing you just don't want to be a long distance landlord. Or you might want to exchange for a house you can eventually move into -- that's perfectly legal to do, after two years. Hope this helps!

  • Hello,

    I'm interested in possibly relocating to either Walnut Creek or Davis and am looking for realtor suggestions in both places.

    Thank you. 

    Hi, we just purchased a house in Walnut Creek with Anastasia Stephanopoulos (J. Rockcliff) as our realtor. She is well connected and knows her stuff. I would use her again in a heartbeat. 

    We recommend Renee Wagner. We used her to buy our house (we got list price) and just used her to sell our house (20k over asking, which puts our comps at properties with 250-500 sq ft of more space, more bedrooms, more formal living areas, better lots, 21 day close, and 3 weeks free rent back). Read her reviews on Yelp or Zillow. You'll see why she's the best. 

  • Hi Everyone, 

    I'm relocating with my family to the Berkeley area. I don't know much about the neighborhoods, school zones, etc. I'd love to speak to a realtor who has experience in the local area and can help us settle-in. Any recommendations on realtors in Berkeley?

    Thank you in advance for the help fellow parents. We all know moving can be hectic. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    My husband and I recently bought a house in Berkeley and we worked with a realtor named Robert Jones (Sotheby's). He was fantastic - very knowledgeable about the area, did not pressure us, and has been available and helpful for issues we have dealt with since closing.…

    I highly recommend John Wesley with the Grubb Co. He's a great welcoming person, very resourceful, honest, and dedicated. You'd be in good hands! Best of luck!

    I have to recommend Sarah Ridge at Thornwall Properties. She has helped my friends get homes and I'm always drooling with envy at the places she finds. She also works tirelessly to hold hands and make sure she is matching the right ppl to the right house.

    Carrie McAlister is awesome! And she has young kids, so is very knowledgeable about local schools and activities.

    Are you looking to buy? My husband and I house-hunted with Pamela Oettel last year for 4 months and it was a great experience.  She's pretty knowledgeable about most areas of the East Bay since she actually bikes large parts of it!  So she knows streets and neighborhoods well.  We learned a lot from her. She is honest, patient, and straightforward; if a house won't suit your needs, she will tell you.  Her enthusiasm for her job makes the whole experience easier.  You can contact me if you want to know more.

    We are currently working together with a fantastic and very knowledgeable realtor. Paul Chastain has been around in the San Francisco East Bay for 20+ years ... matter of fact, we bought our current house in Berkeley with his help a decade ago and stayed in touch with him ever since. Our entire family loves his outgoing and social personality, his network connections and the confidence with which he manages our current house hunt (and preparations to sell the house we live in right now). You will appreciate his professionalism, his responsiveness to voice mails, text messages or emails (often within minutes) and his affinity with social media. From experience I can tell that Paul Chasten is the trustful partner you want at your side when buying/selling property. He is the master of research and connections and happy to answer any questions you might have (at any time of the day ... or night;-)!   For general information about Berkeley neighborhoods/schools, go check out his website and click on "Want to learn more about the community of Berkeley? See Demographics and School data here."  Good luck with your relocation! :-) Kirstin

    I recommend The Katy Team at Pacific Union-

    Energetic, committed, understand the market!

    Jodi Nishimura of Pacific Union is awesome!  She knows the neighborhoods & the market and is well networked in the real estate community.  Her phone number is (510) 459-0471.  Message me if you have specific questions about her.  We are in the process of closing on our home in Berkeley. :)

    I highly recommend Julie Gardner. She helped us buy our home 3 years ago. Julie is incredibly knowledgeable about the Berkeley communities and schools. She was very dedicated and helped us find the perfect home at a great price. Give her a call at 510-326-0840. Good luck! -dhira 

    We just bought a condo in Oakland last year. My sister-in-law has been in the local real estate business for 10+ years and she recommended our realtor, who was very helpful and experienced. She seems to have helped many young families especially those who are getting their first homes (like us).…

    We actually just closed on a house in Berkeley two weeks ago and can't say enough good things about our agent. We have bought and sold two other houses, and she was by far the best agent we have worked with. She grew up in Berkeley, has been an agent for around 15 years, has two sons in the public Berkeley schools, and knows all the neighborhoods, schools, etc. She was consistently patient with us, and we never felt rushed or pressured (which we have been by previous agents). Basically, she is a great person to work with and knows the market really well. Her name is Jennifer Cord and she is with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Her email is jencord1 (at)

    Brett Weinstein, owner of Realty Advocates, is a wonderful, very experienced broker who has brought up his own children in Berkeley and has helped many hundreds of other families (including mine) to find the right home for their needs, desires, and budget. PLUS, his agency features reduced commissions! Realty Advocates  437 Alcatraz Avenue  Oakland, CA 94609 510.428.0757


  • I'd like recommendations for realtors who really know Richmond.  I've been looking at online listings and have driven around a few neighborhoods, but Richmond is pretty sprawling.  It seems more sensible to connect with a realtor experienced in the Richmond market.  Thanks!

    Hello! I live in Richmond and I love it! I recommend Luther Martin at Point Realty, 510-215-2807. He grew up here and knows every inch of Richmond. 

    Cameron Parkinson, Thornwall Properties, 848-1950 office, excellent, knows Richmond well. I am also an agent and do not take giving out another agent's name lightly. If you are a buyer ready to move, you couldn't ask for a better agent than Cameron. 

    Hi Labradorer,

    I would try Feagley Realtors in Pt. Richmond.  Jerry Feagley has been in the business since 1966 and knows Richmond really well.  Just a disclaimer that I work with his wife handling property management . . .  

    Jerry Feagley 


    whatshisface [at]

    I recommend Tommy and Jeanette Schneckenberger. They have been agents serving Richmond and the surrounding area for many years, and were neighbors of ours when we lived there. They are a hardworking team and know Richmond and its many neighborhoods very well. Good luck on your house hunting adventure!

  • We are looking to buy a home and have between $500-700K to spend. We have lived in the East Bay for many years, and have a good sense of where we would like to be based. We are looking in South and West Berkeley, El Cerrito/Richmond (the area closest to El Cerrito), and the following neighborhoods in Oakland: San Antonio, Bella Vista, Adams Point, Fruitvale, Korea/Northgate. But we are always open to learning about other areas as well!

    Can folks with a similar price point on this list recommend agents who advocated for them, as opposed to their own commissions? I have purchased a home before, and had a great experience with a patient, motivated, and humble real estate agent, but I know they can be hard to come by, especially when the housing market has gotten so competitive.

    Please advise!

    Gregg Lustig in Berkeley at Coldwell Banker. He's the best.

    I really liked working with Mark Darfler, who we originally found through Redfin. He was fantastic, patient, looked at over 100 houses with me, flexible, responsible, and very friendly. I couldn't have hoped for someone better. We ended up buying in El Cerrito, which wasn't on our radar initially. He was good about looking all over the East Bay for something that met our needs and was in our price range. I wanted something that needed work thinking it would be a way to save money. He'd help us with back of the envelope calculations with what certain things would cost so that we could make apples-to-apples comparisons between houses needing work and those recently flipped and everything in between. Finally, while we could have afforded more, we wanted a super manageable mortgage. He was the only person in the real estate game not pressuring us to max-out. Also, he has good relationships in the industry, which helps... we got the second house we made an offer on. Our offer beat out an agent specializing in the El Cerrito market by just $1000. 

    If you're willing to put in your own legwork (finding houses to look at), I highly recommend Redfin. There's no agenda, they give you unfettered access to the same listings that actual realtors have (whereas Zillow and Trulia get it secondhand). The redfin agents themselves are salaried (not on commission), and their pay is determined by customer satisfaction, so they're incentivized to make you happy. (The fact that redfin agents are not on commission and that you do a lot of your own research also means that they take a much smaller fee of the eventual purchase.) It's super easy to find out about open houses or to schedule a viewing of a listing using their website. We used redfin and got a house in your price range (in fact, as a proof of their customer service, our agent actually managed to get us a place that had been off the market and hadn't yet been relisted yet).

    We HIGHLY recommend Karen Manuel out of Alameda. We recently bought our Albany home with her. She is trustworthy and knows the EB very well. She is very patient and took us out over many weekends to explore the East Bay (we relocated from peninsula). She has a great reputation which is one of the reasons we got our home. The listing real estate agent knew Karen and knew she would get everything done. While we were in a higher price range than you are, she helped our best friends a few years ago buy their first home. She helped them scour the market for a home they could afford. It has been a great place for them (they now have 2 kids and the neighborhood is up and coming so their home has appreciated) and she did an amazing job helping them get it. 

    We bought our house in Foothill neighborhood of East Oakland 5 years ago (on a SERIOUS budget) and couldn't have been more happy with Wendy Graves. As first time home buyers we were clueless and she spelled everything out for us so we felt confident in our purchase choice. She is a real estate agent because she delights in seeing her clients happy. 

    I recommend Kathie Longinotti,, with Coldwell Banker. Kathie works in all price points, as do most of the realtors around here. A realtor can only do so much in a crazed real estate market like ours, but I can say that Kathie is a very honest, very principled person. She'll advocate for you, but she'll also be realistic and give you her honest perspective. She's a very warm person and very sympathetic to the challenges of families looking to get a foot in the real estate market here. She worked with us on and off for years before we finally found our home. When we dropped out of sight in frustration after a few setbacks, she welcomed us back warmly when we were ready to try again. And she encouraged us to explore neighborhoods that we weren't familiar with - the area where we ended up buying isn't one I had considered before, and now that we've been here for 5 years, I can tell you that it's right for us. We love it. Kathie found the house, and we are very grateful. 

    Karen Sanders Moss at Marvin Gardens in El Cerrito is a fantastic agent. She's knowledgeable, trustworthy and patient. She helped my husband and I find the perfect house, and we looked in Oakland, Berkeley and El Cerrito. S. Young.

    karenmoss [at] 


    That was our price range for the East Bay. I feel your angst. Psychologically it's hard to hunt with that budget because the market is so hot, you feel like David against Goliath. You don't want an agent that will lose patience, or who will act as though you don't measure up because you're not rich. You need someone who gets you and how important this is to you.

    I really think you'll be happy with agent Pam Oettel.

    What I liked about Pam was that she never tried to "sell" us or hustle us into any place in order to make a sale. She'll tell you what's good, what's bad, what the odds are, and if she thinks a place will meet your needs (we asked her to scout some houses before we drove to see them.)  She works super hard, loves what she does, and communicates that joy to you. Incredibly honest and looks out for you. Also knows the neighborhoods you've identified really well.

    Be aware that inventory is extremely low in the East Bay, so it may take some time to find a place that is right for you.

    You can contact me directly if you want more information.

    We had a fantastic experience with Jeanette Lipari from Century 21. We just closed on our house in El Cerrito in December after several months of looking all over the East Bay in the same price range and throughout the process I felt she really advocated for us. She was diligent, flexible and an absolute joy to be around.

    You can contact Angela Xu.  She is a real estate agent who specializes in Richmond Annex, El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany and Berkeley areas.  She speaks fluent English & Mandarin Chinese.  Her tel: (510)-621-8100 All her customers are of the middle class.

    Call Kate Tanaka at Red Oak Realty. Kate stuck with us for over a year and through six offers and was a dream to work with - patient, knowledgeable, and a lot of fun. We just moved into a great house in Oakland. It was an off market listing and we are sure that we never would have heard about it - let alone ended up with the winning offer - if Kate didn't have such a good reputation with other realtors. We had a similar budget going in; we did go over, but because we decided we could stretch (and needed to to be in the neighborhood we wanted), not because Kate pushed us. Kate was a partner in the process who truly wanted us to find a house that was right for our family in every way (location, size, price, and even our quirks about floors, basements, laundry, and more). Almost all of Kate's business (buyers and sellers) comes from referrals - and we are happy to join the chorus.

    510.914.8355; kate [at]

    I've worked with Janesta Downey at Berkeley Hills Realty and she's a gem. Everything you described and more.  She really knows the market and neighborhoods in Oakland where I was looking and the other east bay cities.

    Her number is 510-301-5323

    We LOVED Simon and Saraya Motley, who you can find at They were amazing at working with us - honest, great advocates for us, worked with us on our financial limitations.  They continue to give us good advice on contractors, refi agents, etc.  I'm sure that if you talk with them they'll give you very clear and trustworthy advice on what's possible with your budget.  They also know many Bay Area/East Bay neighborhoods.

    We found Redfin's free listing service to be super helpful, by the way, in doing our own research on the market and pricing.  It was useful to have done that before we found Simon and Saraya.  I wouldn't suggest going without an agent, but doing your own looking can definitely shorten the process.

  • My father-in-law is preparing to move out of the house he's lived in since 1962, and is looking for a realtor. I saw some recent recommendations here, and am wondering if there are any realtors especially familiar with the Lake Drive/Los Altos/Beloit neighborhood of Kensington, north of the reservoir (and what IS going on with that reservoir, anyway?). Any experience working with Grace Bishop of Red Oak?


    Contact Sarah Torney of better homes and gardens. She helped us buy our house in that area. More importantly she grew up in Kensington and is extremely familiar with the area and the market. 

    Selfish request- if you can please sell to a family with kids! Our third grader is the only child in several blocks. We'd love to have some kids in walking distance !

    Celia Concus did a fantastic job helping us prepare and sell my grandmother's home on Colgate Ave. Thanks to her, we received many offers and sold it for an excellent price to a young local family (the mom grew up in the neighborhood). Celia has been selling homes in Kensington for many years (she sold my grandmother's home in 2010), knows the area exceptionally well, was a pleasure to work with, and I would DEFINITELY hire her again. Contact information: Marvin Gardins, 289 Arlington Avenue, Kensington, 510-527-0211. Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions. Brenda (brenda_o [at]

    Hello -- I can absolutely recommend Grace Bishop! As a fellow Realtor (but from another brokerage), I have worked with her many times, in Kensington and in the greater East Bay. I can tell you as an insider that she is solid gold. (Nope, she has no idea I am writing this, and nope, we are not personal friends -- I just appreciate her.)

    I highly recommend Izumi Tada at Red Oak Realty. Izumi is professional, experienced & a great negotiator. We have used him for 5 house purchases and I've recommended him to numerous friends all with excellent results. His direct number is 510-917-6085. Feel free to look him up on Yelp as well.

    I recommend Richard Morrison of the Berkeley office of Marvin Gardens. He's been a real estate agent for over 25 years. He helped us buy two homes in El Cerrito and sell one of them. He lives in Kensington so knows the area well. He just helped a friend of mine buy a house in Kensington. Plus, he's a nice guy and low-key, not pushy at all.

    Hi Ariadne,

    I think Marni Fischer is a fantastic realtor, she's at Marvin Gardens.  I was honestly pretty burned by a not so ethical real estate agent in my past so I was pretty cautious when picking another realtor.  Marni was as good an agent as my last one was bad and renewed my faith in realtors, yeah!  Marni is super kind, conscientious, ethical and all around fantastic.  I know that there are lots of great realtors in the area but if you really want someone who will completely and utterly look out for your best interests at all times, I would absolutely give Marni Fischer a call or text (415-722-0032), she's a great realtor and you can't go wrong.  

    We work with Sandy Patel-Hilferty with Pacific Union Real Estate and think she is wonderful. Several of my husband's colleagues at UC Berkeley have also used her for buying and selling their homes in the area! Her email address is sandy [at]

    On a more personal note, we are actually looking for a home in that neighborhood! We're expecting our first baby in just a couple weeks, but would love to know more about any home coming up for sale in the Upper Kensington area.

  • Hi, I'm looking for recommendations for selling a house in Orinda, possibly this summer. I've had only negative overall experiences with the ones we've used in the past. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Andi Brown with Coldwell Banker is amazing! 

    Hello, we (and two other friends) had a great experience with Jim Colhoun from better homes and gardens.  His office is close to downtown Orinda and he knows the whole Lamorinda area very well.  Happy to answer any questions you have or you can contact him directly at 925-200-2795. Good luck!


    Hi, I'm not sure who you used in the past, but we had an excellent agent in Orinda who helped us sell our house in Oakland and buy our house in Walnut Creek. He oversaw the entire process in both cases, going above and beyond to ensure proper contractors were hired to get our house ready for sell, staying at the site to oversee their work, and marketing the house so we quickly sold our home after it was ready. His experience with the area and the market took a lot of stress out of what can be a very stressful time. His name is Chris Casimere and his phone number is (925) 253-4600.

  • Hello BPN advice-givers,

    My husband and I are hoping to find a real estate agent to help us purchase our first home in Crockett. 

    We are considering Chris Stuart, who is an Exclusive Buyer Agent. Has anyone worked with her, and is anyone willing to share their experience with her? Do you think that her being an "Exclusive Buyer Agent" matters that much? 

    We are also considering John Sloss. He seems bright, and he knows the area. Has anyone worked with him, and have any opinion of their experience?

    We're seeking someone who is not a breezy, sales-pushing agent. We'd like someone who will understand that we are ok with old things--not necessarily splashy granite counter tops and stainless appliances. While we aren't picky looky-loos, we'd like someone who is okay with us not being in a rush. We'd also like someone who knows Crockett.

    Thank you all very much for any insight you can offer!

    If you are not already renting there, I'd highly recommend living in Crockett for at least a few months before buying your first home there. I worked in the area at one point, and ... just rent first.

    That other post worries me, it sounds very negative.  We bought our first (and only) home in Crockett without having lived here first.  20 years later we are still here, and love it.  It's been a great place to raise a family.

    There are many realtors working here in town (Sian Yap, Jan Orsi), but I think they all work with sellers.  So, probably a conflict of interest for them.  But you might try contacting the Crockett Chamber of Commerce and seeing if they have any ideas.

    Hello! I'm the original poster. I hope that it's ok to post this follow-up. I am curious about the response I received about renting in Crockett before buying a home there. Could the person who replied to my question please offer some insight into their experience? It's worrisome that someone has had a negative experience there--the people I've met there seem nice. If there is something flat-out horrible with the place that I'm not seeing (beyond freeway noise), I'd rather not live there at all first. My husband and I have two little kids and we don't want to uproot just to uproot again. I would very much appreciate further insight into this posters' experience, or more input from anyone else. Thank you again.

    OR here - original respondent, who suggested renting first. I stand by that, although happy you got a respondent who actually lives there too. As I said in my first response, I worked in the area at one time. It was for a neighboring city gov't., with friends in public safety who had experience there from mutual aid responses. The OP didn't say that s/he had any experience there, I guess I am assuming you are considering Crockett because it has a lot of cute houses and it as cheap as you can get on the I-80 corridor before crossing a bridge. If you have been renting there, working there, or otherwise already know the community well, go for it! But if not, Crockett is a different kettle of fish from the El Cerrito/Berkeley/Oakland area, IMHO, and I would highly recommend living there first in some capacity before investing your life savings there. It is much more like Martinez/Benicia/Vallejo, not that those are bad places, but they are definitely different than what you're used to if you're coming from the inner East Bay.

    Crockett is down wind from a large oil refinery.

  • My family and I are getting ready to make a move this spring.  I need a real estate agent with a lot of experience on both ends (buying and selling), someone who can do a lot of hand-holding but also be a tough negotiator.  I'd prefer someone with good design sense.  There are so many reviews out there it's hard to know what to believe.  I'd like a real recommendation from someone who's had a positive recent experience.  Thanks!  

    Anna Bellomo -- she's the best. Experienced, professional, well-liked and respected by all, and a joy to work with. Highly recommended -- I don't know if we would have found our house without her. - Emily

    I highly recommend Ashley Higginson at Keller Williams ( She helped us with our move from out of state. She was kind, highly organized, and a phenomenal negotiator. Good luck!

    I can wholeheartedly recommend Bebe McRae and her assistant Alexis Thompson. Bebe has decades of experience in the east bay and the two of them were powerhouses with strategy and responsiveness.  We purchased a fixer in Berkeley and I believe the only reason we were successful was because of their strategic thinking and timing. We met primarily with Alexis but communicated with them both.  Alexis was proactive and sensitive to what we were looking for. The reason we chose them was through a referral from another friend years ago who had struggled in the east bay market until she switched to working with Bebe. I can also recommended (in case you were looking) JVM lending.  We were on the phone with them until midnight working out creative terms to make us more competitive on the night of our successful bid. 

    I cannot say enough good things about Pamela Oettel, who my husband and I worked with this year. (A trusted cousin who no longer sells real estate referred us; Pam was her work partner for years.)  Pam is tough, completely honest, listens well, incredibly hard-working, and knows the East Bay, including neighborhoods (she bikes a lot). We looked at over 50 houses with her. She'll point out good and bad design elements of a house and a neighborhood and will say outright, "this isn't going to work for you," or "you could easily change that," or "what a shame they did such a cheesy update."  She's candid, knowledgeable, straightforward, not a typical sales person.

    Contact me if you want more information.

       Pam Oettel, Phone: 510-703-8636
       Email: pamela [at] (subject: inquiry%20from%20East%20Bay%20Modern%20Website) (Pamela[at]EastBayModern[dot]com)

    Holly Rose is a fantastic real estate agent. She helped us buy our home and we have friends who she's helped both buy and sell their homes. She deals with some pretty high priced real estate as well as--well, it's all become high priced in the Bay Area, hasn't it?! What I mean is she's happy to help folks who are just looking to buy their first home. Holly is down to earth, a good listener, incredibly experienced int a wide range of areas, and an excellent negotiator. She doesn't advertise; she gets all her referrals through word of mouth. I can't recommend her highly enough.

    I have got the perfect person for you: Romney O'Connell at Berkeley Hills Realty - we've had very positive and recent experiences with her. In fact, whenever anybody asks my wife or I for a Realtor recommendation for the East Bay, we tell them to contact Romney. Over the course of the last 4+ years, we have worked with Romney in two different transactions (2013 and 2016), with plans for a third (selling our first house after we move to the new one). The first time was our first home purchase ever (in Berkeley) and the second time (in Oakland) we were in search of more room for the twins we are expecting! I can honestly say that I don't think we would have been able to purchase either home without her. In the first case, it was her relationships with local realtors and mortgage brokers that made my offer stronger than the competition's. The second time around, she thought of us for a diamond in the rough opportunity that was more than we could have ever asked for. One of my best friends also worked with her twice (2008 & 2013) - repeat business says it all! 

    Romney began as our Realtor, but today she is a family friend who lives just a few blocks away with her kids and husband. She truly gets to know you, looks out for you, and wants the best for you (and your kids!). She is incredibly helpful, caring, patient, and relentless in the boom market that is the East Bay. You will be treated like family working with her. 

    In summary, Romney O'Connell is a top-of-the-line, veteran Realtor with deep knowledge of the East Bay real estate market and the home buying process. With both her more than a decade of experience and week-to-week pulse of the market, she will help you understand properties of interest, neighborhoods, trends, city development plans, safety concerns, school considerations (her own kids have grown up in both the public and private schools in Berkeley), and whatever other questions or criteria you might have. 
    Romney will always ensure you are fully aware and comfortable with the next step in the process - whether relating to the house itself or the financing. She is effective at crafting the right offer and negotiation strategy and she also knows the historical homes in the East Bay very well - both structurally and aesthetically...buying a house built in 1905 (like we did)? No problem! She has the experience to educate you so that you can make the best decision for you. Also, Romney has a great aesthetic sense (M.F.A. from Columbia), so you're in good hands if you are thinking about renovation or sprucing - she's also done it herself. We have, and will continue to, recommend Romney to all our friends looking to buy or sell in the East Bay. Her contact info:romney [at]

    Contact Carrie McAlister at today! Our family was new to the area and she helped us find the perfect house in the neighborhood that was right for us. She has impeccable taste and great network that includes lenders, electricians, etc. We really valued her expertise and felt like we were working with a trusted friend during the whole transaction.

    We just closed on a house (in Oakland) on Tuesday and had a wonderful experience with Kristen von Bargen at Highland Partners ( I was a first time home buyer and asked her the most novice questions and she talked me through everything. Not to mention we were most communicating across the country (we're relocating from Philadelphia) - she was always available and very responsive. She even went to open houses and took video for us since we couldn't attend. She's well connected and liked by across the board, which helped when we needed last minute stuff done like quick loan pre-approval. Her instincts were spot on with regard to the offer price we'd need to make, and she then helped negotiate furniture purchasing from the sellers. I can't say enough positive things about her.

    Herman Chan:

    Herman spent a year showing us home after home until we bought our first home. He was so fabulous -- patient, knowledgeable about neighborhoods and the CA buying process, and sensitive to our needs, preferences and areas where we were willing to compromise (or not). We recommend him wholeheartedly. Since our experience, Herman has helped a dozen of our direct friends and family buy Bay Area homes, and I know they have recommended Herman, too. He is honest, well-connected, driven, down-to-earth, and just a pleasure to be around!

    I cannot recommend Romney O'Connell at Berkeley Hills Real Estate more highly ( We reached out to her back in May to discuss our hopes to sell our starter home in Elmwood and move into a larger home in the Berkeley Hills prior to the arrival of our third child this winter and she was incredible. We were able to buy our new home with her guidance this September (we got a bridge that we just refinanced into a traditional mortgage), worked with contractors and an engineer she recommended (she knows everyone), and then sell our home in Elmwood in October with almost no overlap between the two.

    She was always available for our questions and concerns and we don't have any buyer's remorse involved, which I think is rare in such a crazy housing market. Did I mention that her college-aged daughter babysat for us in a pinch when our regular afternoon babysitter fell through? We anticipate that we are now in our forever home and won't have to move again in the foreseeable future but if we do we would call Romney again in a heartbeat. Feel free to contact me offline if you have any additional questions; home buying and selling is never fun but my family couldn't be happier with our outcome.

    We loved Simon and Saraya Motley!  They were knowledgeable, supportive, and great negotiators on our behalf.  And they've stayed in close contact over the years, and still help us with house needs (contractor recommendations for repairs, bank recommendations for a recent refi process, and even free pies for Thanksgiving). 

    When we were buying our house there were people that told us we couldn't get what we needed for the money we had, but Simon and Saraya believed it was possible, and they made it happen. I couldn't have hoped for a better experience.

    I highly recommend Pat & Gillian Leaper at Red Oak Realty. They are experienced, honest, kind and know their biz well. I have had several positive experiences with both of them. 

    Hope Broderick of Grubb was our agent when we had to sell our old home, and then buy a new home within a three month window. Long story why we were pressed into that time frame. This window included our old house's make-over and staging. Our old house looked sleek and stylish when it went on the market, and we sold it so much over the asking price that we were able to bid in an entirely higher category on our new house. To get our new house we needed a very fast closing time to be competitive, as we were buying with a mortgage, not with cash up front. Hope found us a finance person who was able to meet the turn-around time. We bought our dream home--it is as simple as that. Hope is warm, reassuring, and pragmatic, and has terrific design sense (honestly, just interview her!). 

    Amy Robeson ( hits all the desired points on your list. She is fabulous and I highly recommend her. 13 years of experience and working magic, for sure. We had  multiple offers on our dream home and I firmly believe we got it because: Amy is golden. Everyone loved working with her, and that sweetened the deal for the sellers' realtor. Everything went far more smoothly and successfully because she was always available, always knew the exact right thing to say, and she helped everybody - loan officers, inspector, appraiser, etc. I am more than happy to talk about Amy with you if you need more information. She is a joy to work with, had excellent style and improvement recommendations on what we could do with homes that we looked at, and I've recommended her a ton to everybody, who have also had excellent experiences with her. Feel free to look me up if you have any questions, and let her know I sent you. :) 

  • Realtor in Albany

    Nov 21, 2016

    Hi - we are looking to move from Orinda to Albany and are wondering if anyone has a recommendation for a realtor in Albany.  We are eager to find a person who can talk about the neighborhoods and schools but also kids activities such as sports, etc.  For example, our 10 year old would want to join the local baseball league and it would be great if this person would be "dialed in" to those types of topics.


    I highly recommend Jodi Nishimura. She is a longtime East Bay resident, a parent, and a very smart & savvy real estate agent. Plus she is a lovely person and pleasure to be around. 

    Jodi [at] 

    I recommend Jose Fernandez from Red Oak Realty.  He has lived in the East Bay all his life and is raising his son and daughter here.  I think his son is about your son's age. He is very dialed in. We had a great experience with him - he is just a really great guy to know in addition.…

    Charles Goldstein, say Suzanne Cerny recommended him. 510 526 7171 Max Accord Real Estate  goldsteinrealtor [at]

    Talk to Declan Spring from Red Oak Realty; he does all of West Contra Costa County and also lives in Albany with his family. He helped us buy our house a few years ago and he was phenomenal! Helped us get a realistic sense of our price point; gave us his honest assessments of the houses and neighborhoods we looked at; when we got an offer accepted, he scheduled a home inspection literally within minutes of getting the call from the other realtor. Tell him Hannah & Alec sent you :)

    We love Pam Oettel of East Bay Modern.  Wonderful and forthright.  In terms of kids activities, this changes all the time but what she doesn't know she will find out.

    Hi - we worked with Kathleen Wilson (kathleen [at], 510 919 1712) and she was amazing! She lives in Albany as well and has kids at school here (a 7 and a 10 year old), so I am sure she can give you advice on everything you need :) I live in Albany too with a 10 and 8 year old - you are welcome to reach out to me as well, if you have some questions (npuchner [at] - I can also give you my phone number if you email me, so we can speak too if that's easier). Our 10 year old son played baseball the last two spring seasons...

    Best, Natascha

  • We are looking to buy a fixer upper or a short sale situation in this crazy market. We are working with limited funds and exceptional circumstances, and so I have hesitated to contact a realtor for fear of being laughed out of her/his office and shamed for not making more money and expecting to own a home here!

    I am looking for an empathetic, knowledgeable, and accessible realtor who can help us navigate this market and work within our (very limited) price range to identify some options and leads for us. We are open to *all* neighborhoods and not so concerned with school districts and the usual things that many home buyers are investing in. Hope to find someone we can connect with to help us find our new home!

    Thank you BPN community.

    I wholeheartedly urge you to contact Sheri Madden with Marvin Gardens. She is amazing. We were working with a limited budget and not only is Sheri the most knowledgable agent I have ever worked with, she is also exceptionally patient and persistent. With Sheri's help, we were Able to find a great home and just closed a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely believe that our bid was successful because of Sheri and how she navigated the process.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Recommendations for Realtors Advice about Using a Realtor

Realtor Reviews from 2013 - 2015

Oak/Berk Hills Realtor (Reduced Comm) as B/S Agent

Feb 2015

Greetings fellow BPNers. We have not been in the market for over a decade, but we are now wanting to search for a bigger house first, and then sell our current house once we find something. We will stay in the area (Oakland/Berkeley hills), and we want to hire a realtor to represent us for our purchase, and then use the same person to help us sell our current house. We would like to find out:

- how likely/accepted is it to ask for a reduced commission (say 5%) for a full service realtor? It seems that, given the high housing prices and the fact that we will use the person on two transactions, it would be reasonable not to pay full commission, but we'd appreciate your perspective.

- any recommendations for a realtor who is active in and knowledgeable of the housing market in the hills who (1) can save us legwork by actively screening properties for us, (2) is savvy in terms of pricing/negotiations, and (3) is communicative, organized and patient.

Many thanks! Needing More Room

I can highly recommend Realtor Marni Fischer for your purchase and sale - she's fantastic, honest, personable and very professional in a warm kind of way. She specializes in the East Bay area and is very seasoned. Good luck with your upgrade. She can be reached at: 415-722-0032, Marni [at] Satisfied Client

If you're looking for an organized, responsive, savvy, communicative, and caring realtor who is going to work hard for you, I highly recommend Laura Feraru. I found her to be very professional, kind, honest, an excellent communicator, detailed-oriented and very knowledgeable about the East Bay market. It was very reassuring to have her be so responsive via email or text at all hours of the day and have my questions and concerns addressed so quickly. She clearly loves her work as a realtor and genuinely cares about making her clients happy. She went above and beyond to meet our needs. What also stands out in Laura's work is that she has a quick and easy system of selling homes. Since it was so easy, fun and profitable to work with Laura, I'm happy to work with her again and highly recommend her. You can reach Laura Feraru at 510-995-6547 or at lauramferaru [at]

Realtor for housing in Berkeley area

Feb 2015

My husband and I give Romney O'Connell, a real estate broker with the Berkeley Hills Realty, the highest recommendation. She made the search for a new home seem so easy and Berkeley Hills Realty was always on top of the paperwork.

Romney is professional and very knowledgeable about the competitive east bay/bay area housing market. She was especially keen on the timing of our final bid offer that landed us our wonderful new home, and she was genuinely as excited and happy about the win as we were. Specifically, we began our search in June, and she predicted that the home prices would go down towards August that led us to buying a home less than 2 months later for $100,000 less than what was typical for our new neighborhood! Granted, luck had much to do with this too, but her knowledge of the market guided us. Romney's knowledge on house inspections was really valuable, and she strategically guided us on when to elect to do a fresh home inspection or whether the inspection performed prior to the when a house went on market was sufficient, based on her knowledge of the inspector's quality on record. Romney consistently updated us daily with comprehensive, new home listings that showed the house listing number and date, number of bed/bath, price, neighborhood, open house dates and times, home type, and special comments regarding the home. This was an essential tool in our hunt!

She was an optimistic realist, with a keen sense of our competition and our limitations, speaking kindly yet upfront about our chances of being outbid or the chances of our offer being taken seriously, while helping us scope out the houses that truly fit our taste and budget. This was crucial to optimize the use of our limited time, given that we were expecting a baby in less than 5 months, and were hoping to move in before the arrival. She was very understanding about our urgency regarding our baby-to-come, and was wonderful to our 1.5 year old son in tow when we had him along.

Romney treated us with kindness and patience in taking us through and signing the numerous pages of disclosure paperwork. She clearly explained technical paperwork jargon in layman's terms, and wrote clear, prompt, well-written emails. She matched our housing interests very well, and at the end, she also referred us to her handyman, speeding up the task of cleaning up the smaller home repairs to allow for a quicker move-in at no cost to us. Romney was patient with us and encouraged our need to take our time in finding the home we wanted, and perhaps above all, she treated us with friendliness, warmth, and was easy to communicate with that created an easy and efficient relationship. The couple of times that she was out of the office she referred us to another equally outstanding Berkeley Hills staff member who picked up our case without a problem. We cannot express enough thanks to her for her wonderful assistance in our house hunt endeavor. Again, she made the whole process enjoyable and seemingly effortless! (Before meeting Romney, my husband was fearful of the process; once we began working with her, he enjoyed the house hunt as though it were a game!)

We highly recommend Romney and Berkeley Hills Realty! We are truly happy to have worked with her, and love our new house! Contact: romney [at] (510) 599-6911. Sayaka

Realtor for San Mateo Co.

Jan 2015

I know that this might be a long shot, but am looking for a recommendation for a realtor who works in San Mateo Co. & has knowledge of most specifically the mid-Peninsula (Belmont, San Carlos are). It would also be great if this person has knowledge of fixer uppers and/or 'contractor specials.' anon

When my husband and I were on the search for our first house we worked with Jeff Holman, based in Redwood City (email: jeff.holman [at] When we put an offer on a foreclosed fixer upper, he really went the extra mile: found a home inspector on short notice (and brought donuts to the inspection), walked through the house with us pointing out what needed to happen and who we could call to get it done, and sat down with us to go through our final offer, line by line. In addition to being hard working, Jeff also has a great sense of humor. We were disappointed that we didn't buy a house with him; in the end, prices (even for fixer uppers) just weren't in our range on the Peninsula--we ended up in Berkeley. --Former Peninsula Dweller

Mortgage Broker and Realtor for Oakland

Jan 2015

We are seriously considering finally taking the plunge and buying a house and need recommendations for a realtor and a mortgage broker. We'd like to find people to work with who are good with first time home buyers and know Oakland really well (but also have some familiarity with Alameda and San Leandro). We think our budget is around $650K, but know that on paper we look like we can afford much more than that; so we want people who will NOT try and sell us too much house and mortgage. We think we are open to buying a fixer and doing a remodel, so familiarity with all aspects of that process (financing, finding contractors, etc.) is a plus. We are in no hurry so patience is a necessary virtue. Bonus points for women and/or minority-owned businesses. (Note - I am not interested in folks recommending themselves as seems to be a trend on BPN these days.) Ready to buy

we used Jim Aron - pacific west mortgage in emeryville. We were referred to him after our many attempts to obtain a mortgage on investment property. Our portfolio is complicated because we are self employed and nobody else wanted to go the extra mile to help us. Jim is incredibly patient and professional. He's got a good team. We are really pleased that he was able to help us. He obtained loans on three properties for us... and everything was seamless! here's a link to his info (on yelp) Tell him Sheila sent you! Sheila

Talk to Sergio Szyrko for mortgages! He did us a fine job and is very patient and friendly. He also speaks Spanish... and is based on San Leandro. You can reach him at: (510) 466-1416 Anon

Hi- we bought our first home last year (a fixer in West Oakland) and had a great experience with Stephen Bloom and his partner, Robin Donovan. We had a smaller budget than yours, but similarly would have qualified for more on paper. We used the Mortgage Broker he recommended and it went pretty smoothly. He never pressured us to make an offer that was more than we were comfortable with and was a knowledgable advisor on what our options might be. It felt like we were searching for a needle in a haystack, given our budget and space requirements- we have 3 kids and one more on the way, so the typical 1200 sq ft bungalow wasn't going to work for us. We ultimately ended up thinking outside the box a bit and bought a duplex that could easily be converted into a single family home. He was very patient with us and helpful in navigating the process of hiring an architect & contractor after we closed. I'd highly recommended him. His info can be found on his website: I'd be happy to answer specific questions about working with him or the process directly, as well. Sarah

We would heartily recommend Red Oak Realty. We worked with Kate Tanaka when we first started looking for a home in 2013; she works mainly in Oakland and Berkeley. When we decided we'd been priced out of Oakland and wanted to start looking in West Contra Costa (where we bought successfully in less than 2 months), she passed us on to another Red Oak colleague, Declan Spring, who was also fabulous and the one who ended up helping us with our home. From the start, both Kate and Declan were very interested in making sure they knew what we wanted rather than trying to sway us into buying 'more house' or pressure us into bidding above our comfort level. We had a great experience with Red Oak and would recommend it to anybody! Hannah

I recommend Angelo Raymundo, who works out of Oakland. Angelo guided my husband and I on our first home purchase; we too qualified for a loan of $800k but realized that we really only wanted to spend $600k. Angelo fully supported us in finding a home that met our needs, not one that maximized his commission. He's friendly, fun to talk with, and knows the East Bay real estate market inside and out. He also meets your minority business owner criteria. You can reach him through his website at Angelo works with RPM Mortgage and our mortgage was approved in record time due to his relationship with that company - we went from starting to look for houses to moving in in about 35 days. You can tell him Jen Lumanlan sent you. Good luck! Jen

I highly recommend Angelo Raymundo, who helped me and my partner buy our Oakland home a couple of years ago. He was the most fabulous realtor a first-time home buyer could want. The five-star reviews on Yelp should give you some idea: Anon

We bought a house in the East Bay in October and had an excellent experience with Deidre Joyner with Red Oak Realty, and Brenda Wyatt with Holmgren Associates as our mortgage broker, both based in Oakland.

We had a whirlwind process and we couldn't be happier with the outcome. We were first-time buyers with a similar budget as yours, the seller wanted to close quickly, we beat out an offer from an all-cash investor buyer, didn't have to waive any contingencies, and we got a ridiculously low interest rate. Dream scenario. Both women were great to work with. Deidre is kind and frank (which we appreciated), and Brenda was responsive and got us a really good loan terms. Deidre has been doing this a long time and has many contacts and suggestions for local contractors, etc as well. They both also happen to be women of color, which it sounds like you're looking for.

And just a note - it sounds like you haven't quite decided what your want yet since you're just starting. Given your budget, prepare to adjust your expectations. (A lot of the Oakland list prices are merely suggestions designed to drive up a bidding war, and closing costs can be an additional 2% on the price if I remember correctly.) There isn't a lot in that price range and we ended up not buying in Oakland after all, but are very happy with our choice in the end. Happy Homeowner

I highly recommend Izumi Tada from Red Oak Realty. I have worked with him for more than 9 years 5 house purchases & 3 house sales. I can't say enough about his high level of integrity, professionalism and competence. On top of all of that he is a very nice person & easy to deal with. I've recommended him to family, friends and co-workers who have all had great experiences with him as well. His website info: wendy

When we were looking to buy a year ago we did not know exactly where we wanted to live yet. We considered Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, Castro Valley, and San Leandro. We used Wayne Chin from Vision Realty Group and he was able assist us way beyond our expectations. He showed us properties that were within our budget and he spent time examining the properties too. Being first time buyers we had a lot of questions about the home buying process and our mortgage and Wayne was able to answer our questions about both. His office actually does both loans and real estate so Wayne knew what programs were out there that would be the right fit. We would definitely use him again if we buy again. His email address is wayne [at] or his number is 510-813-1379. happy first time buyer

Hiya, I highly recommend Derek Suring of New Leaf Realty. He helped me purchase my first home (in Oakland) a year and a half ago. Derek has been the most patient, accommodating, funny, experienced, calm (and did I say patient?) agent I could imagine. I met him in August 2012, and he stayed with me, writing offers, until March 2013 and helped me through a very odd, complicated, and legally tangled REO- tenant-occupied property. He knew exactly what I needed during different stages of the process (encouragement, reassurance, sympathy, straight talk, jokes, etc.) and kept the deal alive through at least four near deaths. He is a great agent, you would be lucky to work with him! Sue

We were in your shoes not that long ago, first time homebuyers looking in Oakland. We worked with Realtor Marni Fischer and feel like we really hit the jackpot. She was really great with us, very patient and incredibly knowledgeable. One thing we really liked was that she doesn't use a team. When you have a question you speak to her, not somebody on her team. We qualified for more than we wanted to spend and we never felt pushed by her. She also has a great referral source for tradespeople and inspectors. We really felt like she was looking out for us and our interests, not her commission. Her info is: 415-722-0032 / Marni [at] Good luck with your house hunt

Quality realtor for Montclair area house sale

Dec 2014

We have a large house in the Montclair hills we wish to sell next year and are now looking for a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and honest realtor to represent us. The person should be familiar with all areas of preparing the house for sale as well as having contacts for painting, repairs, staging, etc. The house has been recently estimated to be valued at approximately $2,000.000.00 so the realtor needs to have experience dealing with this price level. Many thanks for your recommendations. anon

Brian Santilena of Pacific Union in Montclair is an excellent realtor. He is very professional and he helped me buy and sell my last house. I trust him with all homes in the Bay Area. His email address is BrianS [at], and his phone number is 510-501-3534. He is a full service realtor who will go above and beyond to help you sell your home. Clare

I highly recommend Marni Fischer. She is a fantastic, local, East Bay Realtor. I found her to be exactly what you are looking for, skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and honest, for both my purchase and sale. I would also add with a heart of gold. I really can't say enough about her. She can be reached at 415-722-0032 or Marni [at] Best of luck with your sale. I give her 5 stars

Realtor in Berkeley

Dec 2014

We're moving to Berkeley in June are we're looking for a realtor to help us finding our new home. Any recommendation is welcome. Thank you

I highly recommend Claudia Esteban in Better Homes and Garden in North Berkeley. Claudia has helped me buy three properties over the last ten years, and every time I've done a transaction with her I've felt that my interests are truly represented. Hence I keep going back to her. Her honesty and commitment to the client is exceptional. Good luck finding a home! Dielly

You should call Kathleen Wilson, Better Home and Gardens. She is awesome.

Red Oak Realty is GREAT, they only work in Berkeley/Oakland so they really know their stuff. They have several great realtors (Jose/Stacy, Hannah Kern, Julie), so you can contact Aman Daro, VP of Marketing, and he can ask you a few questions and connect you with someone who's going to be the best match for you. aman [at], 510-280-2187. Good luck! Ellen

I highly recommend Caitlin Crawford. She was referred to us by a good friend when we made the move out here from New York late last year and we could not be happier with her service. We interviewed 4 realtors, 2 of whom clearly had a lot more experience but we so liked Caitlin that we decided to go with her in the end and do not regret it.

As anyone knows who has bought in the SF Bay Area in recent months, being a buyer can be an arduous experience and there were times where we felt defeated and ready to give up. But Caitlin stuck with us and really went the extra mile to introduce us to neighborhoods we likely wouldn't have considered and above all, was always our advocate - never pushy, always supportive and patient. She made herself available at all times of day, 7 days a week, which we greatly appreciated. More than that, my wife was newly pregnant with our 2nd at the time of our search and Caitlin willingly scooped her up on a regular basis to scope out possibilities and loaned out her car seat for our toddler (Caitlin herself is a mother of 2 young ones which my wife loved). After 6 months of serious searching and 2 unaccepted offers, we found our home when Caitlin suggested we submit a preemptive offer before the home made it to the weekend open house. The seller accepted within hours and we are now happy home owners in West Berkeley. We are settling in to life here and love it. Caitlin has reached out occasionally since to see how we're doing and continues to provide helpful information for such items like reputable handymen, researching preschools and where to take weekend getaways, among other things. She's a terrific resource, I think you'll be very happy should you decide to work with her. Her email is caitlin.crawford [at] and her cell is 510.289.7218. Good luck in your Berkeley home search and welcome! Andy

We purchased a house in North Berkeley 6 weeks ago. We were represented by Holly Rose, and I cannot recommend her highly enough. Holly is everything we wanted in an agent: she is smart, savvy, and honest. At the outset, we told Holly we wanted an agent who would provide honest, considered, full-blooded opinions, and not just some evenhanded list of pros and cons. Holly delivered, whether it was about particular houses, or neighborhoods or tradespeople to hire (or avoid). Of course, anyone can offer an opinion. Holly's were valuable because, having absorbed our aesthetics and preferences (only some of which had been clearly expressed) she could express her views in ways that addressed issues important to us.

Holly proved her worth again in helping us close on the house. At Holly's suggestion, we made a preemptive offer, which the seller accepted, with a 3 day inspection contingency. (The seller had provided few inspection reports, so we preserved the right to do our own inspections.) Holly managed to line up a home inspector, engineer, and roofing person to inspect the house during those 3 days. Based on the findings of these persons, Holly helped us to negotiate a significantly lower purchase price. I could go on but the bottom line is this: we could not have chosen a better agent than Holly, and we recommend her without reservation. E-mail: holly [at]; website: Satisfied Buyer

I had a pleasant experience working with Laura Feraru. She knows that I am a busy customer and sometimes I am slow to provide her the information that she needed. I really appreciate for her patience working with me and still know when to push me so I can move forward with the processing of selling my property. I look forward to continuing working with her in the near future. Very professional and works with a new system that permits her to charge the sellers only half the commission. You can reach Laura at lauramferaru [at] or 510-995-6547

Real Estate Agent in El Cerrito

Nov 2014

Hi, We're looking for an agent to list our townhouse in El Cerrito and help us find a new house in El Cerrito, Kensington or Berkeley. We're looking for someone who specializes in this area, goes on broker tour, and knows what's on the market. Someone who will help us get top dollar from our current place and a fair price for a new place.

In general, real estate agents make me very uncomfortable. I don't enjoy pushy people who try to intimidate me into buying a house that isn't the right one for me. The whole arrangement makes me uncomfortable as, especially as a buyer, our interests are not aligned. Our last agent was condescending when I didn't want to make an offer on a house right by San Pablo, built all the way to the lot line, that had a shady looking apartment building so close next door that the windows in the bedrooms needed frosted glass. She rolled her eyes and ridiculed me to my husband behind my back when I wanted to take my time to find the correct place instead of settling for the first place. We eventually bought our current place and she got her commission but I would never use her again or recommend her to anyone else.

So, I'm looking for someone who will understand that we will eventually buy something but not until we find the right place and that trying to intimidate me into buying one of the first houses will backfire. We also want to get the maximum amount out of our current while being realistic (we don't want to move out and stage the place if we won't get back the cost of the staging and rent out of the increased purchase price). We're also okay with not selling at this time if we can't get enough out of our place and don't want to made to feel guilty for not accepting a low ball bid.

Do any of you know anyone like this? Someone looking to build a business by being ethical and getting future referrals instead of getting fast commissions and then moving on the next person? Thanks for your recommendation

Oh gosh, that sounds like an AWFUL experience with a real estate agent. I'm so sorry. You should definitely interview Amy Robeson ( What we absolutely loved about her: she was the first realtor who understood what we meant by wanting a safe neighborhood we felt comfortable in, and also our ideal style of house. We didn't have to justify anything or explain a lot, she got us right away. She was honest with us about what we could get in buying a house, and would also be really honest about each house we looked at. If there was something we might overlook, we knew we could trust her to point out those details. Or if we might miss a home's potential, she had great suggestions on things we could do to improve the house. We felt very comfortable asking her questions and her opinion. We could also fully tell her what we thought about a house and she would understand us. She has a fabulous personality - she collects friends easily and this really paid off because even when she had to deal with difficult people during negotiations and such, the difficult people liked her and were very amenable to her suggestions which made our life and buying process so much easier! We have referred her to a lot of friends and they have all had really excellent experiences working with her. She goes far beyond the call of duty in helping out, with all of her clients. And a friend of ours, an employee at Amy's realty office, chose Amy out of all the top notch agents when she was ready to buy a house. That says a lot to me. Although we had her help us buy our dream house and haven't had her help us to sell a house, we know a lot of friends who did have her as their realtor for selling their house. They had a great experience with her. We like her so much, we sometimes visit her at open houses and her home stager is the best we've seen. She can help you get the most out of your house and help you find the right neighborhood and home. km

We worked with Kathy Nitsan (510-693-9213) of Red Oak Realty (Solano Ave) as our *buyer's agent* to find a house in El Cerrito and are very happy with her work. Very straightforward, no pressure on any particular house. The buyer's agent part is significant, to ensure the agent represents you and not the seller (or, for selling your house, you and not the buyer). Be upfront with what you want and the way you want to approach it. You want honest advice and feedback, but also respect for the parameters of your search (and sale) you've set. Don T

I highly recommend Melissa Eizenberg of Marvin Gardens, out of their Kensington office. She has been our agent through buying our first home, selling our first home, and buying our second home. She is an amazing, patient, hard working, experienced agent who does her homework, goes above and beyond, and never makes you feel pushed into anything or condescended to. I could never take that! Very low pressure, not a sales person, but a trusted advisor. Highly highly recommended. Lisa B

I would like to recommend Anne Culbertson at Grubb ( She is very patient, honest, and has successfully listed many properties in El Cerrito among other places. She also has experience with multi-unit properties (e.g., condos, townhomes). We have been very happy with her as our agent. Best of luck! .

I recently bought a home (in Oakland) and highly recommend Kathleen Wilson, at kathleen [at], Tel 510.919.1712. Kathleen is a nice, normal, down-to-earth person who will not pressure you into doing something that you are uncomfortable doing. She was very good at steering me away from no-go areas (homes with problems that I would not be able to adequately address given my budget, or homes with problematic sellers).

She is extremely detail-oriented, and was able to anticipate many questions that I had about particular homes. She is not pushy--but she does know the market, and will be very clear about whether your expectations are realistic, and will suggest appropriate compromises. Some people may not appreciate her directness--but I found this hugely helpful when searching for a home. I now have a home in a wonderful neighborhood, and it was not a neighborhood or type of home that I was originally considering--but to my surprise, it ended up being the right neighborhood and home for me. Give her a call, you will not regret it. Happy Homeowner

I highly recommend Joshua Whitmer of Red Oak Realty, Berkeley Office. Not only is Josh kind, and mindful throughout the buy/sell process, he also used to be an appraiser and so has excellent insight into potential problems in inspections and property values. He's low pressure with his clients, but high pressure with the sale! He was super patient with us looking at houses and making great reccomendations- were super picky and he always went the extra mile to be there for us on after work hours or just to chat through complexities! He also is based in Berkeley and lives in El Cerrito so he has lots of experience in your area. We've done 2 purchases and one sale with him. Tell him Laura in Alameda says hi! Laura

We recommend Te (Matean) Everson at Marvin Gardens ( He has been in this area for ages, knows the area and the market inside out, and is just a wonderful man to work with: relaxed, intuitive, communicative, trouble-shooting, resourceful, ethical, patient, nice quiet sense of humor (lol, yes, I was so impressed)--everything you would hope for in an experienced realtor. He has done both sales and purchases extensively. He found us a house about a year ago, and we are still over-the-top happy. Give him a try! Kristen

I highly recommend Heidi Kearsley (510-706-2937) homewardboundeb [at], she helped us find our beautiful home in El Cerrito, and was never pushy or condecending. In fact, she was there for us, to share in our frustrations and to console us when we didn't get a place we had really liked. I never once felt that she wasn't in our corner, even as the search started to drag on. As first time home buyers, we really appriciated her help with wrangling all of the inspection appointments, loan officers, and title company appointments. She was very responsive to our inquiries, even well after we purchased our home. If you're looking for someone who is ethical and more interested in your success than hers, give Heidi a call, explain your situation, and I think you'll discover why I'm recommending her. Mike

I would very highly recommend Kathleen Wilson from Better Home & Gardens to represent you for any home buying or selling needs. We worked with her to purchase our 1st home in Kensington (right on the border of El Cerrito) and we couldn't be happier with our home - we just moved in a week and 1/2 ago.

Not only does Kathleen have a lot of experience, she really takes the time to get to know and understand what kind of a house will best suit your needs - in a price range you can afford - then helps you find a home you will truly be happy with in the end. She really helped us pin point our search and kept us focused on the goal, while helping us navigate through the complexities that came with buying our first home. Ultimately Kathleen helped us remain calm and focused when it really mattered and we couldn't be happier with the results. On top of all that, she also knows who to hire for what jobs - pre-inspections, roofers, electricians, termite inspectors, asbestos removal, heater replacement - you name it, she can recommend someone, and we can't tell you how priceless this was for us. Contact her here - it's definitely worth it! Email: kathleen [at] Phone: 510-919-1712 Website: Christy

When we first started searching for a realtor to sell our Kensington home, my husband and I consulted Berkeley Parents Network and poured over the realtor reviews. There were numerous reviews singing Holly's praises regarding her dedicated work ethic, comprehensive market knowledge, wealth of resources and generosity of spirit. From these reviews, we knew that we wanted to meet Holly and emailed her to see if we could set up a time to meet. We received a prompt response from Holly thanking us for our email. Because she was in the midst of a major renovation of her own home, she didn't feel she had the time to devote to taking on a new listing. We completely respected Holly's honesty about her time limitations but felt in our hearts, that she was THE one. Because we felt so strongly that Holly would represent us well, we inquired about when her schedule might open up and scheduled a meeting.

We felt an instant connection to Holly when we met. We gave Holly a tour of the house, which included her crawling around the basement with a flashlight, assessing the foundation. Holly had wonderful design ideas, solid knowledge about home construction and her energy was exactly what we were looking for in a realtor. Holly shared the love we had for our 1929 Mediterranean home and we knew that this genuine enthusiasm set her apart from other realtors. It felt like Holly devoted all of her time and effort to just us, even though she had several other listings along with her own renovation project during the time we worked together.

Holly and her assistant, Sally, were amazing to work with during the entire time we were preparing our home for sale. When our inspection showed that we had a large amount of dry rot, Holly calmed us down and recommended what work was necessary and beneficial to get the best result for the sale of our home. Holly also advised which updates would be of value in the interior all while keeping a close eye on the budget, which had significantly decreased with the unanticipated dry rot repairs. Both Holly and Sally were in constant and timely communication with us. The Holly Rose team was always two steps ahead, coordinating work at the house, meeting inspectors and overseeing the work. When we had questions or input, Holly would always listen, take our thoughts into consideration and then make practical and sound recommendations.

We wholeheartedly recommend Holly and her team if you are searching for a stellar realtor in the East Bay. We could not ask for anything more- our house sold in two weeks with 9 offers at 45% above the asking price. Beyond the successful sales price, it was an absolute pleasure to work with Holly and we feel so fortunate that we had the opportunity to work together. We can't wait to work with Holly again on our next home. Forever a fan of Holly Rose

Our realtor, Wayne Chin, grew up in El Cerrito and has lived here basically all his life. He is now a realtor in El Cerrito and it's hard to think of anyone more qualified to understand the market. Name any street in El Cerrito and he's probably walked or driven down it more than a dozen times. He helped us purchase and sell in the summer of 2013. The great thing about Wayne is that he puts aside anything at any time to show you whatever comes on the market. It can be hard to navigate the factors involved in all of the multiple bids and he's prepared to negotiate wisely. Our family ended up with the perfect place for us. Wayne is at 510-813-1379 or wayne.chin [at] A Happy Homeowner

Hello, I'd like to recommend our outstanding real estate agent, Marilyn Garcia, of Coldwell Banker in North Berkeley. We had a grueling house search that lasted well over two years, and she stuck with us through thick and thin. She listened to what we wanted, and consistently sent us to the right kind of home, and expertly guided us through the process of bidding (and not winning the bidding wars 6 times before finally succeeding). She was always there for us -- we cannot recommend her highly enough!!

Realtor in Pleasant Hill, Martinez

Oct 2014

Hi. My family and I (wife and two kids ages 3.5 and 10 months) relocated to Walnut Creek from Denver, CO 4 months ago for a job in San Ramon. We are first time buyers looking for recommendations for a realtor. Please help us out with your thoughts on a good, trustworthy, knowledgeable realtor with experience in pleasant hill, martinez, walnut creek, Lafayette areas. Thanks in advance for your help. (BTW, price point is around $500k and schools are a priority) Zac

We had a great experience with Lauren Kraus at Coldwell Bank in Walnut Creek. Smart, thoughtful, has kids herself and is very sensitive to school issues, and worked her butt off for us. She even negotiated a reduction in price after we'd made an offer, which was incredible in our market. Happy homeowner

Hi Zac, My good friends just sold a house in Pleasant Hill with Nimmi Gidwanni of Coldwell Bankers. 925-285-9379. I know her as well and she is very knowledgeable in the PH/Mtz area as well as Lamorinda. If you want more info about schools/neighborhoods in PH/Mtz, free free to contact me as well. I've lived here for 17 years and my son has attended the public schools. Kathy.

Good realtor with reduced commission in Berkeley?

Oct 2014

Hi everyone, We are thinking about selling our house and wondered if there's any great realtor out there who works for a reduced commission. Thanks

Hi, I know of a GREAT realtor: Derek Suring: I worked with him as a first time buyer (on a complicated bank-owned property). He was wonderful: knowledgeable, funny, patient, resourceful, and available. I'm not sure about his commission (and frankly, if you want someone who will go to the mat for you and your house, they should be fairly compensated). Sue

Real Estate Agent for Condo Sale (tiny HOA)

Sept 2014

I'm looking for a sales agent with experience selling condos in a small association and building -- in the 2 to 4 unit range. My situation is complex and I need someone who is informed about the particular issues of small condo associations. I also need someone I can trust to handle things from a distance, as I don't reside in the Bay Area any longer. ms

I have a great agent for you! His name is Neal Corkery. Previously, he worked as a paralegal for the law firm G3MH, processing condo conversions for small residential and mixed-use buildings. His knowledge of real estate in general, and condominiums in particular, sound like they would be a good fit for you. He helped me in the purchase of a duplex that was bank owned and had a tricky tenant situation. I got a terrific price and resolved the tenant issue pretty reasonably. I am very satisfied with his services and would recommend him heartily. SM

Looking for a realtor for Panoramic Hill in Berkeley

Sept 2014

Looking for an experienced realtor to sell a home on Panoramic Hill in Berkeley. Panoramic seller

Annie Walrand of Grubb Co. has been our realtor for quite a while and she is a super nice person and a great realtor, plus she lives nearby Panoramic Hill, so is extremely familiar with that area. We saw a house up there with her and she had lots of details to offer about the immediate neighborhood. Her email is awalrand [at] Tell her Alexandra sent you! She is wonderful. Alexandra

Laura Arechiga (Coldwell Banker - North Berkeley) is a wonderful agent, who often takes on the role of Project Manager while getting a house ready for market. She has a rolex of local resources, and a long list of references. She lives on Panoramic Hill, and will have very good insight into the micro markets of Berkeley and Oakland. Michael W

Good Real Estate Agent in El Sobrante

Sept 2014

I am looking to purchase property (either land or house) in the El Sobrante area. Does anyone know a good real estate agent who knows the area well? Someone who will keep an eye open for any good opportunities. Thank you. Very interested and hopeful

Yes! Gaby Diskin. She actually was the selling agent on the house I bought about 6 years ago, but I was impressed by her skill, tact, and warmth during a slightly tricky transaction. And since then her name has kept coming up in conversations about good local agents. She has lived in El Sobrante for years and knows the neighborhood very well. (415) 750-1120 info [at] Life is good north of Berkeley

Try Dave Rivera and Sheila Small at Coldwell banker. I live in El Sobrante and they are my neighbors - very invested in El Sobrante and always keeping a pulse on the neighborhood. Good luck! Lisa

I recommend Lou Colaneri, a realtor at East Bay Sotheby's International Realty. Lou is currently our realtor for our search for a single family home from the Richmond Heights to Hercules. We visited lots of home in El Sobrante and currently in escrow for a house in Pinole. Lou used to live in El Sobrante and knows the area well. Lou is not your typical agent. He's very personable, warm, gets to know you and your needs and is straightforward with people. We had our 16 month old toddler with us at every meeting and house visits and he was always so patient with us. When it came to offers for houses, he's quick and knows the market and area. He's always reachable by phone or email. (510)501-8547 Lou [at] CalBRE#01829893 Happy client

Excellent Alameda realtor wanted

Aug 2014

We are wanting the services of a realtor in Alameda. We are looking for someone who will go over the process of selling a house in detail and keep us informed, who is nice to work with, who is honest, and who knows the profession and will use his or her skills to get the job done in a very satisfactory way. Please let us know your recommendations. anon

We recommend without hesitation Guy Blume with Harbor Bay Realty. We recently decided to list our house, and while we talked to many agents with good sales records, we decided to go with Guy based on his excellent record AND his 'I will do what it takes to get this job done' attitude. A lot of the agents we know are content to just let things happen, Guy is out there working for us to do what it takes, and ultimately that is what the best professionals do. We have had friends and neighbors buy and sell with Guy and every single one of them has RAVED about the experience! As a bonus, he is seriously one of the nicest and most honest people you'll ever meet! We're sold! happy to know the guy

Realtor recommendation for Kensington

July 2014

We are looking for a great realtor to help us sell our home in Kensington. We are searching for someone with depth of knowledge in the neighborhood, a savvy business sense and strong negotiating skills. We would like a straight-shooter who will be upfront about what works best to prep a home for sale, market and sell it. Who do you love as your realtor? Moving to the next stage

Todd Hodson at Marvin Gardens Real Estate is an owner of Marvin Gardens and a long time Kensington resident. He knows everything about the area.

Zanna Knight helped buy a house in Berkeley. Although it's not reflected in her profile below I know she has sold homes in Kensington. She's been around too long not to! ~ Happy Home Buyer!

We were very pleased with Matean (Te) Everson, also at Marvin Gardens. He is a very quiet, kind person, with a deep knowledge of the neighborhoods. He assisted us in buying a home, but told us he had actually been more active in selling, lately. Include him in your interview list and see if he is the right person for you; we were impressed with his skills and personality, and very pleased with the house (home!) he found for us. Kristen

Amy Kurzer, Marvin Gardens. She REALLY wants to sell your house, and you will have her undivided attention!! No one will work harder for you. - Huge Amy Fan

Lamorinda Realtor for First Time Home Buyer

May 2014

My husband and I are looking to buy our first home in Lafayette or Orinda. We are looking for recommendations for a realtor who is reputable, has been in the business a long time with a proven track record, knows the neighborhoods well, and is savvy when it comes to contract negotiations and structuring. I'm already anticipating that it could take a while to find the right house for us and we are in no hurry to buy something that we are not crazy about so I am also hoping for someone who is patient and not just looking for a quick sale. Lastly, if possible, I'd like an agent who has a good grasp for possible renovation costs (redoing bathroom, replacing kitchen countertops, etc) or even a good list of resources that can provide these estimates if we decide to go that route. Is there a real estate agent out there who can satisfy all these things that I'm looking for? Thanks in advance! first time home buyer

You can call Rob Jacobus! He loves helping buyers! Great guy to work with, knows the area well and has integrity! Also, you can check out Alex

You can play around with to find a realtor. I'm not sure if they have a Lamorinda specialist. They do have great FHA mortgage brokers though! Randy

For buying our first home, we used Gary Bernie. His office is in Orinda and his team was knowledgable, quick and efficient. There are lots of headaches being a first time buyer and many questions you'll have. Gary's team was quick in getting back to our concerns. Gary Bernie Pacific Union 925-200-2222 Good

I have the perfect realtor for you: Jeff Snell of Village Associates (925-765-8700). Jeff was raised in Lamorinda, offices are in Orinda, and he just helped us buy our dream home. Jeff knows the area like the back of his hand, but more importantly, he is a pleasure to work with. He meets all your criteria--he has been doing this for years, is reputable, savvy, incredibly patient and never pushy. We had to write multiple offers on multiple homes over the span of 2013-2014, he always gave us his honest take on a home and saw things we never saw. Especially as a first-time home buyer, you want someone you can trust who can talk to you about drainage, roof inspections, you name it! He knows his stuff and has great contacts in the area. He will get the deal done. Your other criteria was finding someone who could provide info on renovations--Jeff met up with a contractor at one of the homes we were considering and got bids for us. Honestly, Jeff is the best agent you can find to help you buy your home anywhere in Lamorinda and the 680 corridor. We love him! Found the right one

Hi, Ruth Eddy of Better Homes and Gardens, Mason-Duffie was my realtor who recently helped us find a home in the area. She has lived in Moraga for a long time and knows the entire Lamorinda corridor including Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and all cities east very well. She is professional, efficient, personable, not pushy, accommodating and will go the extra mile to respond to your needs. She is patient and resourceful. She has worked extensively with contractors in the area and is an excellent resource. I highly recommend her and would do so to a friend. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. tarry

I recommend Pamela Halloran with Pacific Union in Lafayette(925) 323-4100. Pamela has lived and worked in real estate in the Lamorinda for 25 years. Trust me you want to go with someone who knows the area and is a experienced real estate professional. I trust her completely. Lis

We just bought a house in Orinda with April Matthews of Village Associates. It's our first house, but not our first time working with a realtor (we've bought and sold a condo in another city and unsuccessfully house hunted before). April is by far the best we've worked with, and our criteria were essentially the same as yours. She knows all the neighborhoods right down to the particular street, steered us away from a couple houses that were pretty but had hidden major problems, and was knowledgeable about renovations and contractors. Michelle

Experienced creative real estate agent

May 2014

We have a house in North Oakland that we have put a lot into (solar, edible landscaping, code- compliant grey water, chicken run, bold interior colors...) that we would like assistance selling. We are looking for someone who not only specializes in the Temescal / Idora Park area, but also has some experience in selling a house that may be more ''alternative'', marketing the house for it's assets rather than painting the walls white and trying to make it more ''standard''. Selling Eco house

I did a lot of research looking for a smart, motivated realtor with great imagination, and we were impressed and thrilled with Anne Arriola Plant of Marvin Gardens on Solano. 510-381-2101.

Anne came out, saw our small place and, on the spot, began suggesting creative ways to maximize our house's, and in particular, garden's potential. She even worked with us to make our next house fabulous (colors, design, contacts).

She is super high energy; we worked really hard, but not half as hard as her. She has a great eye, great contacts for getting work done, and kept us on track. And, she's a decent, honest, helpful human. Shirley

to anyone looking for an amazing real estate agent...for buying OR selling...i highly recommend Holly Rose at Here's why:

Holly Rose is worth more than her weight in diamonds. She has that extremely rare combination of razor-sharp business sense and expertise in her field, plus creativity, intuition, ingenuity, and empathy. She has a visionary passion for our wonderful, walkable Solano Avenue area of Berkeley, and that quality permeated everything she did for us. Because Holly chose to work with us, we had the best possible outcome for the sale of our home: we got what we needed financially, and we attracted the right buyers for the house and for our neighborhood.

As a first-time seller, the prospect of putting my home on the market was not only daunting, it was overwhelming. I didn't have the faintest idea what to do, or what to expect. From the moment I looked through the materials Holly dropped off for me the day before our first meeting, I knew I had found the right person to shepherd me and my family through. Looking back, now that escrow has closed and we are about to turn the house over to the wonderful people who bought it, I liken the experience to whitewater rafting. When you're going through Class IV rapids, you need an expert boatman who can read the river and get you to the other side. We had that in Holly.

Here is just a little of what I loved about working with Holly:

She GOT my situation (selling a house i had loved and lived in for 20 years to go off on a new adventure) and how exciting but also bittersweet it was, and she navigated those emotional waters with me in a way that acknowledged and honored both.

She GOT the house -- a wonderful old Mediterranean with 'special needs' and a uniquely vibrant and colorful interior. My house was in some ways my long-term work of art -- rich, saturated colors throughout. Holly did not walk in and say 'yeah, first thing you'll have to do is paint these walls beige...' She walked in and said 'ooo, nice! we can stage this with what you have!'

Her introductory materials were clearly and beautifully laid out -- so that looking through them was a pleasure, and, as a first-time seller, also gave me a preliminary map regarding what to expect.

Her approach carved what is an overwhelming (and overwhelmingly detailed) project into one-step-at-a-time -- here's what we need now -- and when i was tempted to project into the future (and see catastrophe there) she'd rein me in and say 'Nope. We're not going there now. We're doing this. If we have to go there, we'll deal with it when the time comes.'

Her astonishingly skilled, efficient, and responsive team. Wow. Something needed to be done? Bam. It was done.

Her extraordinary poise, directness, honesty, and creative problem-solving in those moments when we either got discouraging news (a very high pest report) or something went colossally wrong (the morning I was vacating the house so it could be shown I caused a clog in a very old pipe in the basement, which began leaking over an electrical wire...Holly said: 'Drive away. We'll handle it.' We drove away. They handled it.)

Her staging of my house -- she has an amazing eye for color, space, and interiors -- and her staging showed my house off in the best possible way. As a visual artist, I have to say I was gobsmacked when I saw how she transformed my space, using what I already had, and also the beauty of her photographs.

Her strategic marketing: she went door-to-door, visiting 300 homes in my neighborhood and handing out flyers, in a rainstorm. Her website showed off my house in the best possible way. Her open houses drew over a hundred people both days (and the first day was also during a rainstorm).

The way she shared the experience with me: for example, as she was staging the house, she texted me photos. During the open houses, she texted me updates. I was always in the loop in all the best ways.

The way she set boundaries for me so that when it was time for me to STOP being involved i could do it. As someone whose entire career has been focused on implementing projects, I know there's a moment in a project when your part is done, and you turn it over to a trusted colleague. Holly helped me realize and live that moment.

Her abundant and over-the-top supportiveness. Once Holly decides to represent you, she leaves no stone unturned. She goes out of her way to make your experience during the process as smooth as possible. She takes you on. She brings you food. She texts you updates. She reassures you that you're not crazy b/c you sent her a cranky email at midnight.

And last but not at all least: Holly is tons of fun to work with. She celebrates with you. She looks on the bright side. She is the bright side. Chansonette

I would like to recommend the Realtor, Deidre Joyner. She has been the top producer for Red Oak Realty for the last 4 years. She is knowledgeable, hard working, creative and honest. Here is a link to her YELP page. She can be reached at 510-693-4253. Contact her and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. B. Wallace

Japanese Speaking Realtor

May 2014

My Japanese-American mother-in-law is retired and moving to the East Bay from North County San Diego. She is in the process of selling her current home to a family member and she would like to buy a home in the East Bay. While she does speak English, she is more comfortable conversing in Japanese, especially on a major life transaction. Can anyone recommend a Japanese speaking real estate agent to work with? KT

I work for J-Sei - (use to be Japanese American Services of the East Bay) Japanese Realtors: Kuwada - George Furuichi - 333-5686 T. Okamoto - Ron & Erin Kagehiro - 415-931-6295 x115 K & S - Robert Sasaki - 528-1900 hope this helps; if you call them, please mention J-Sei as they are great supporter of our non-profit agency. Veta

Real estate agents typically specialize in certain areas. It will be helpful to identify areas (Oakland/Berkeley, Alameda, El Cerrito, Walnut Creek, etc.) that she is interested in. Then, you can find an agent. If you are looking for a Japanese speaking agent in the Oakland/Berkeley area, you can contact Hiroko Tsumori at 510-409-3472 (hiroko [at] She has the following blog: Good luck! Mika

Hi, I highly recommend Randa Fushimi. She is very knowledgeable and would be the perfect person to walk your mother-in-law through the process. She can be reached via email: Randa.Fushimi [at] Best, Misha

Contact my friend, I'm sure she would love to work with you/your family: Hiroko Tsumori Coldwell Banker Berkeley office 510-409-3472 hiroko [at] Carolyn

Real Estate Agent with East Bay focus

April 2014

Looking for a realtor that focuses on the east bay, has knowledge of the rental market, operates with a lot of integrity and honesty, and listens and understands people well. Searching in East Bay

Stephen Beard is who you want.He knows the East Bay well and is a very honest,nice man.He is with Better Homes in Berkeley.He also works with many disabled buyers and sellers. Ellen

I recommend Muad Alarbesh. His office is in downtown oakland and he is exceptional. He grew up in the east bay and has been in real estate for the last 13 years or so. He's great at understanding the needs of his clients and is an excellent advocate to have on your side when negotiating. You would be hard pressed to find someone who knows the East bay market as well as Muad and will not find a more diligent agent. Good luck! Muadsells [at] (510)926-7133 Sevgi

Rick and Ernie AT Remax are very passionate about their jobs. They actually love helping people find their right home. I cannot recommend anybody higher. Rick Gutierrez and Ernie Sexton Direct: 510.520.4816 Cell: 510.368.2890 Mike

We were VERY pleased with Te Everson at Marvin Gardens Realty. He had wide-ranging and historical knowledge about the area, was always willing to explain things to us (and humorously), was rigorous on paperwork, inspections, etc. He found us very targeted choices from Richmond to Oakland; knew different vendors to offer us fee-saving possibilities along the way, and was totally patient with our ignorance and idiosyncrasies. Great guy! Kristen

We HIGHLY recommend Martha Becker of Thornwall Properties. She came recommended to us through a friend of a friend's. She lives in Oakland herself and has a lot of knowledge (a great and detailed sense of recent trends) for all of East Bay. She is spot on with her recommendations for bids (working with your needs and abilities very sensitively) and her predictions of selling price and, where she wants to be doubly sure, she consults with her colleagues in the main office. We were looking for a house in Berkeley -- we began looking in October of 2012. She stayed in regular contact, and it felt as though she took us on as a personal project -- but I think that is just her professional style (it really works!). Buying a house in the East Bay, and especially in Berkeley, can be depressing. She was great in keeping us focused, hopeful, and realistic. At one point, when we lost a bid, she seemed as discouraged and mournful as we were! We would tend to try for homes beyond our budget and she worked slowly on us to appreciate other homes and what we might do with them. She has a background in landscape design herself, I believe, and brings a creative eye to house projects as well. She'd look at a glum home and see possibilities, where we saw none. It all ended well for us, finally, and we bought a fixer up in SW Berkeley in March 2013 and have since done a lot of that fixing up and are very, very happy. We feel grateful to Martha Becker, and would recommend her to anyone! An Oakland renter who bought a Berkeley house

Realtor for FHA home purchase in Berkeley?

April 2014

Looking for recommendations for a realtor to help us purchase in the under 600 range in Berkeley using an FHA other words, we clearly need a miracle-worker! Someone who knows the market well and is well-connected in the real estate community. We are not first time buyers but this will be our first purchase in CA. Thanks!

Zanna Knight at Coldwell Banker helped us to buy our first house in Berkeley for $525k with an FHA loan (this was in 2012, when the market was slightly less insane than it is now). Zanna is a top realtor in CA but was still enthusiastic and very creative in helping us find our relatively cheap place. She knew some insider tricks that would never have occurred to us, and her optimism definitely helped keep us in the game. Give her a call! Happy homeowner

I highly recommend the realtor we used for our recent move. We also had a tricky situation - moving from out of state with tight time deadlines and other complications. We worked with 3 different people before we found Diane. I can't say enough good things about her! she was always on the ball, very responsive to our needs, could hone in on the critical issues for each property we considered, and consistently behaved with integrity and professionalism. We also really liked her on a personal level! Extremely knowledgable about the East Bay market and very well-connected as well. I encourage you to give her a call. Diane Southworth Coldwell Banker 510.501.0224 Cell 510.204.9129 Home Office 510.549.3720 Fax Lori P.

Real Estate Agent for Rockridge/Claremont

March 2014

Any personal recommendations for a real estate agent that primarily deals with the Rockridge/Claremont area of Oakland? I'm getting ready to start looking for a home to buy in that area and would like to find someone that has experience with a first time home buyer. Anon

I cannot recommend Lawton Associates highly enough. I have worked with owner Ron Kriss and his associates for 20 years. They are all very personable and helpful and will work with you at whatever level you want. We have three times found houses on our own and just had them guide us through the purchase process. However, they also provide more full-service help; we just haven't needed it. They are truly amazing and know the Rockridge area better than anyone else. Although they know the Bay Area generally, they are experts in Rockridge. You'll see their signs everywhere when sales are hopping.

Good luck -- it's a hard market, but Ron and company will be able to get you what you want. ~~ Laurel

I heartily recommend Ana and Pascal Forest of Red Oak Realty. They are Team Forest!

I could not recommend a more powerful team and I am certain of it after what I saw them accomplish for a friend of my mother's and mine. They stuck with that client through thick and thin, over a year of research and linking details to serve this super complicated situation. They informed themselves and her about potential options (which at first were frighteningly potentially very scant)and dug deep to find her all the players she needed for what resulted in being an extremely difficult TIC. The thing is, they never left any stone unturned! They worked miracles for this poor elderly woman who now has her new home that she is able to keep for her family, when at the onset, it was not at all clear that she was even ever going to be able to own again!! It was a miracle. And everyone turned out to benefit from their commitment and passion.

I credit Ana with an amazing talent for an ability to network and have vision while still keeping things real, grounded, maintaining super vigilance and forethought. Pascal is a treasure trove of knowledge, expertise, of analytical wisdom and quiet energetic vibrance or what I'd call positive energy. Their experience is pretty vast, maybe that is why they're so great.

Moreover they are even physically helpful, Pascal spent so much unsolicited time helping physically on that property...AMAZING! The most deeply impacting aspect is how much they care about people. They are the most caring Realtors I have ever met! And I have met many since I do a lot of work with home sellers. I have seen Ana and Pascal give hours and hours of free in depth information to folks. They never charge anyone for their consultations. They specialize in the Berkeley / Oakland area,especially since Ana grew up here and has owned property for a long time. (We both knew each other at Berkeley High & have been recently happily reunited.) The point is, they really really know this area and market place. So many important details and the trends and such, they discuss and publish in their news letter. I for one have learned an enormous amount from them even though I wasn't their client recently I was only working for their client. So definitely check out Red Oak Realty Team FOREST! I will happily speak to anyone in person about whatever other questions they might have about them if they would be interested in contacting Ana and Pascal. Feel free to call or email me. They are absolutely amazing. Kaylia

My family has bought and sold several properties with Laura Arechiga. She lives and has family in the Claremont/Rockridge area. She has extensive knowledge of the area, and *actually* does the legwork for her clients. I have always been impressed with how she orchestrates the small army of engineers and inspectors, to make sure no stone is left unturned.

Aside from her real estate prowess, she is a pleasure to be around. Good luck! From your soon to be neighbor! berkeleyboo

Pat & Gillian Leaper @ red oak in Berkeley. They are excellent and won't steer you wrong! Chela

You need to contact Brock Ford. He was quite the find when we were looking for our first home. Professional, courteous, determined, and friendly. He is a bundle of information and energy. Brock made the search and paperwork a breeze instead of a chore and ensured we were taken care of at every step. His number is 415-430-7835. Miss Monique precious_treasures [at]

You can talk to Tom Watson, a Rockridge resident from Climb Real Estate his number is 415-794-1173. He has integrity and is a great guy to know!

Alternatively, you can check out and find a realtor that matches your need! Alex

I highly recommend Brian Sparr (925)817-8428. His website is Many people I know use his services and say he is one of the best real estate agents there is. He knows the areas well and looks out for his clients needs. Maureen

We just sold our house in Rockridge and we really enjoyed working with Claudia Mills and Perry Riani of Lawton associates. While we were the seller, we had just purchased a house (not with them as we bought on the other side of the tunnel), we appreciated how much knowledge they had of the area, the market, the timing of our sale, the process, the other agents, their thoroughness, and responsiveness, even at 1am in the morning. They were extremely nice and amazing to work with, but what I really think is important about them is they really did always had our best interest at heart. We've worked with one agent that did not and could recognize that immediately.

With the market as competitive as it is in the area, having them on your team could help you better navigate the bidding process. Good luck in finding your home!! Love Rockridge

Our truly fabulous, went way above the call of duty, realtor, Amy Robeson, can help you find your dream home in Rockridge/Claremont area. We knew that when we bought we would need the best realtor to advise us as first time home buyers and help us get the best home in this competitive market. Amy was so great.

We not only liked spending time with her, she understood exactly what we were looking for and she was able to advise us on how to spot quality and what things we might overlook. For example, one house we toured in early spring looked pretty sunny, but she noted that by summer time, the big trees in the backyard would make the house quite dark. She also is very well informed about problems - like old electrical panels that are recalled, and similar problems that can come up.

When we found the house we wanted, Amy knew the best price we should offer, and despite many competing bids, we got the house. It's been nearly two years and we still can't believe we got this lucky. We were smart enough to take her advice and ask her questions and we are so grateful we found her (thanks to BPN reviews!). happy new homeowner

Looking For Real Estate Agent - East Bay

March 2014

i, I am hoping someone out there has had a very positive and wonderful experience with their real estate agent when buying their home and is excited to make a referral. We are open to buying in multiple areas - so it would be ideal to find an agent who is knowledgable of Oakland & Alameda (as well as potentially Berkeley, Kensington - even as far as Orinda & Lafayette).

Besides the basic needs of working with someone who is honest, driven, well informed and a pleasure to go house hunting with, we are specifically looking for these additional traits:

We wish to find a real estate agent who:

- is committed to helping us find the right house based on our needs and not their need for closing a deal and getting a commission.
- will vet properties on our behalf and not just send us random or mass listing for properties and open houses. I have access to redfin and can do that on my own.
- will only refer us to listings that met our minimum requirements (like school districts, square footage, #of bed/bath, etc.)
- will be able to go on tours and will screen properties for us in advance when they can.
- will review the reports to determine whether the property is worth seeing - and be able to inform us on the work that needs be done, before suggesting we see it.
- is tapped into the network of brokers - as to gain insight into the seller's motivation and provide history on the home.
- has a strong knowledge of the housing market and is able to analysis if a house is well priced and can negotiate and strategize in today's competitive market.
- has access to resources for additional inspections and estimates if necessary.
- will be able to walk us through the paperwork and final contract process.
Thanks. Future House Hunter

I can highly recommend Holly Rose and her team. They helped us successfully close on our new home in Montclair, and they were excellent on all fronts. They worked extremely quickly when we identified the house that we wanted, preparing an offer that was exactly the right price to get us accepted without overpaying. They protected us with contingencies and, once our offer was accepted, scheduled several inspections within the first week. We consulted with a general contractor, a home inspector, a structural engineer, an arborist, and a retrofitting expert, all upon Holly's recommendation. This told us that Holly and her team were committed to helping us land in a safe place that will be a good home for our family for many years; this level of inspection, if it had turned up information that was less than desirable, could very well have compromised the deal, but Holly and team urged us to be the best informed buyers we could be, even if that meant walking away. Holly herself also came up with a list of assertive questions for the Seller and his agent based on her own thorough inspection of the home, questions that hadn't even occurred to us. She even helped us find a mortgage broker who was excellent, timely, and thorough.

Ultimately, Holly's business acumen and the inspections that she recommended gave us the backbone and flexibility to negotiate on price after our offer was accepted, and now we know exactly what work we will need to do and how much it will cost. The East Bay market is exceedingly competitive right now, so we were pretty stunned that we ended up paying less than we expected, especially given that we were not necessarily the most attractive Buyers. We know that she gave us an experience that allowed us to go into home ownership with our eyes wide open. If you want to work with someone who is your staunch advocate, who will listen to your needs and be aggressive in ensuring that they're met, who is timely in her communications and patient in walking you through your options, and who is exceedingly knowledgeable about the East Bay market, then give Holly and her team a call. Satisfied New Homeowner

We recently bought our house with Holly Rose and she was FANTASTIC! After a long and careful search, Holly got us our dream house, a spacious 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in a lovely and walkable North Berkeley neighborhood. The market is very competitive for this type of house, and Holly was a terrific guide and hardworking advocate throughout the process. We are so grateful to Holly for encouraging us to wait for the right house and then helping us get it.

Holly quickly honed in on what we were looking for. I never once had the impression that Holly was pushing us to buy a property just to make the sale. On the contrary, she steered us away from a few houses, and we ended up with a far, far better home.

Holly has an excellent sense of the market and an uncanny ability to gauge what a house will sell for. She is also great with strategy and negotiations.

One of the advantages of working with Holly is her quality network of home inspectors, structural engineers, roofers and contractors. She can get the right people in to vet a property quickly. We were able to get a foundation contractor to come out on short notice and with no fee because Holly was our agent.

We've had a couple of friends buy houses with Holly this year, also with great success. My father, who has used a number of real estate agents over the years, was so impressed with Holly that he plans to work with her when he sells. We cannot recommend Holly Rose enough -- she is a terrific choice for buying or selling a home. You can reach her at holly [at] or 510-847-0656. Happy Homeowner

I highly recommend Holly Rose to be your real estate agent. She absolutely fulfills all the traits you listed, and more. Holly really knows the market, knows the area's network of agents, is extremely savvy in negotiating, and went the extra mile for us. We were searching for a home not far from our son's school in North Berkeley and appreciated how Holly kept our needs and interests as the priority. She made sure we didn't waste time on houses that weren't a good fit by vetting them for us. We appreciated Holly's judgment and ability to look at a house and assess what extra costs might be needed (i.e. for renovations, etc). Holly's access to inspectors, contractors, etc, was very helpful, especially when we needed to move fast on things. We were so grateful for the way Holly kept us steady through an often stressful process, and because of her help, we now are living in our dream home. Contact her! Anonymous

I highly recommend our agent, Jodi Nishimura, at Pacific Union.

Jodi is savvy, knowledgeable, intelligent, personable, and hardworking. We were out of town over the holidays, when she saw this amazing house that was on the market at the absolute worst time of year, making it a possibility for us, because there would be less competition. She actually did a video walk-through of the property, and we ended up putting an offer on it from out of town, and getting the house. As a result, our new home is head and shoulders above any other house we could have afforded. She's so responsive and hardworking that she was literally texting us on New Year's Eve, as we waited for our counteroffer to be accepted!

Jodi is kind and gentle, but can also be assertive when necessary. She is a master of the etiquette of the real estate world, and is able to negotiate effectively because she genuinely cares about everyone.

Jodi knows an incredible amount about the world of real estate. We didn't realize, embarking on the journey of buying a home, how much knowledge is required to purchase a home. Jodi has an amazing capacity to synthesize what she knows and guide her clients. For instance, every time that Jodi estimated how much a house would sell for, she was spot on, whether she was advising us to consider bidding on it, or guessing that it was going to be outside our range.

We were total newbies to this whole realm, and Jodi helped guide us through the process. She always knew the exact thing to say to help us feel good about our decisions or about the ups and downs of the process. It's hard to buy a house, especially in this crazy market, but Jodi held our hand through the process and made it feel like an adventure. Jenn

Realtor in Berkeley with patience

Feb 2014

\\We plan to downsize to a smaller, more accessible house in Berkeley, and we'd appreciate recommendations for an excellent realtor who has patience with buyers who are in no rush. We may be looking for months! We'd also appreciate recommendations/advice on using the same Berkeley realtor for both sale and purchase. Thanks very much. downsizing

Norah Brower of Pacific Union. She is great. anon

I highly recommend Catherine Stern at Red Oak Realty, on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. She helped us sell a house, and was all we could have asked for-highly experienced, knowledgeable, patient, and supportive. She never pressured us in any way. She is a lovely person to work with. (510 292-2030, or email catherine [at] Laura K

Jodi Nishimura. We were looking for a house for many, many months... We did not want a realtor ''holding our hand'': she sent us the listings that were interesting and we went to open houses by ourselves. We also looked for other listings on- line, to have an idea what was available in the market at that time. If we liked a listing, Jodi showed us the house and we discussed whether to put an offer. She educated us during the entire process and she was very smart when strategizing about offers. When we needed her to be available, she was there for us, and even though it took us forever to finally write ''the'' offer, she was extremely patient and knowledgeable. Although we have not used Jodi for selling, I am aware that her clients are very happy with her results when she sells their houses. She lives in Berkeley and she is with Marvin Gardens on Solano Avenue. You can reach her at Jodi [at] Good luck! Cristina

I highly recommend Sheri Madden at Marvin Gardens. She does have the patience to see you through a long run search if that is what is needed. 510-501-1317 Frank

Hi, I wanted to put in a good word for Melissa Eizenberg of Marvin Gardens Realty, 510-334-6420. Melissa has many years experience representing buyers and sellers in Kensington, El Cerrito, Berkeley and surrounding cities. When we were working with her, she scoured the listings on a weekly basis, listened to our needs to help us hone in on what we wanted, and supported us to our absolute satisfaction throughout the purchase of first home--which we are thrilled with. We did not feel pressure from her, she just presented options as they become available and let us decide how to move forward. Good luck on your search. Renee

I highly recommend Cheryl Berger. She is extremely patient and very knowledgable about east bay properties. She was my realtor for 3 transactions and I would definitely use her again. cheryl [at] Happy buyer and seller

Realtor for anxious, first-time home buyer

Feb 2014

I need a realtor who is very experienced, knows the market in Oakland, Berkeley and El Cerrito, and is also able to very patiently explain the ongoing process to a generally anxious, easily stressed mid-sixties woman who is doing this by herself. annonymous

My sister in law used Kevin Tanahill and was very happy.She was quite ill at the time and I thought I was going to have to be a lot more involved.She felt comfortable with him and he is very competent and nice. Ellen

I highly recommend Marni Fisher at Marvin Gardens. She lives locally and knows the area really well. But besides that she has the perfect temperament to work with someone who is a first timer. Marni's warm, conscientious and really patient. She can be reached at Marni [at] or call the El Cerrito Marvin Gardens. Lynn

Call Chimene Pollard with Red Oak Realty. She is a delight to work with! She is so generous with her time and information (not like some realtors who won't give you any information until you commit to working with them). Chimene will take all the anxiety out of the process and make it feel easy! elaspir [at]

We were house shopping last summer, as new time buyers from out of state, and we were very pleased with Barbara Levy from Mason McDuffie in Berkeley (on Rose Street). She was very knowledgeable and patient and, in the end, began showing us neighborhood's we hadn't considered (we thought we wanted Berkeley but ending up very happy in Oakland). She was also very smart in the buying process, giving us great tips that resulted in the purchase of our dream house, so check her out; I don't think you'll be sorry. C.

How to get best realtor for out-of-state home?

Dec 2013

Here in Berkeley, I do get a sense of who is on the short list for selling a property, just by seeing the same names on for sale signs and the properties actually selling near or above asking price. My question is how to find a GREAT realtor like that, but in Seattle. I have a Seattle property that I rent out to multiple tenants and manage from here. I've been thinking of selling it. What is the best way to find an excellent realtor? Some realtors claim they are the number one seller, but how do you REALLY know? Is there some website where this information is kept track of? I've yet to find it.

I recently sold an Oregon property (inherited from my Dad) and the process was very disappointing! When I thought I was getting a good realtor based on someone's recommendation, what I got was to the contrary. I got a realtor who priced my property too high, did unprofessional photos, a cheap one-page one-sided flyer and no open houses. I fired her, and the next one never bothered to spell check any of his emails to me, which I found annoying and unprofessional. He missed some important issues during escrow. But at least his photos and flyer were much, much better, and ultimately the property sold -- but I'd never hire him again. trying to avoid repeat experience

We had great results from the following method: Do an Internet search for (city or neighborhood name) + GRI . ''GRI'' is ''Graduate Realtor Institute''. It is a national training program that is not inexpensive. Serious Realtors who want to be at the top of their profession enroll. It takes at least two - three weeks, full time, to earn the GRI designation. You may find that a number of different names of realtors pop up. You an try searches on each name and see which one(s) you would like to contact by phone. We got lucky on the first try. I googled ''Tujunga + GRI'' and found a wonderful agent who did a great job for us on two sales. Local residents told us that she is one of the nicest and most competent agents in their community. Good luck! Amelia

We used Kelly and Kian Pornour to sell our home in Seattle and they were excellent. Kelly has been a winner of Seattle Magazine's client satisfaction five star award for many years. (I'm not aware of any official ''rating system'' but Seattle Mag is a decent anecdotal source.) We have friends who have been equally happy with them. They work as a couple and you get, in effect, two for the price of one. They are totally responsive to your concerns and do a top-notch job in all respects (deciding on price, house preparation suggestions, marketing, negotiating, etc.) They are with Windemere, Seattle's largest real estate company. They have a website at I would be seriously shocked if you are disappointed. I have bought and sold seven homes, three in Seattle, and they are by far the best (smartest, most energetic, most responsible and responsive) realtors I've ever worked with. And to top it off, they are completely honest and ethical. If you use them, please say Hi from Jane & Jack. Jane

Looking for Realtor with knowledge of Oakland

Dec 2013

I'm looking to purchase property and need a real estate agent with extensive experience and knowledge of all Oakland neighborhoods, including those generally deemed to be less disireable. Can anyone offer a recommendation? Thank you. rhonda

I highly recommend Dan Suich ( to anyone buying in Oakland (Berkeley and Albany as well). He helped me and my wife buy in North Oakland in March. His market insight and hard work (including fending off some last minute shenanigans by the seller) helped us land a successful bid in this very competitive market. On top of that, Dan has a great personality and was a joy to work with over the many otherwise stressful months we spent house shopping. Sean

Check out I found my realtor through there and you can actually see their transaction history. Recent Home Buyer

Real estate agent for Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro

Nov 2013

Hello- I am very intimidated by this real estate market but am hoping to find a home for my growing family in Alameda, San Leandro or Oakland. I am looking for an honest real estate agent who is patient, has a good sense of market trends and will respect our limited budget. If he or she speaks Spanish, that's a plus too. Also, what is a typical fee for a realtor in this market? Thanks! Hopeful for a home

I cannot answer your questions, but I can guarantee Brock Ford can (and he has Spanish speakers on his team too!). His number is 415-430-7835. Monique

One of the best local realtors is Mavis Delacroix of the Grubb Company. Actually, all the Grubb realtors are excellent, but Mavis is one of my favorites, so I highly recommend you talk to her. Michael McC

Highly recommend Angelo Raymundo. He is very knowledgeable and patient, wonderful for a first time home buyer. I recommended him to another friend and they were just as happy with his services as I was. He has a gazillion 5-star reviews on Yelp. I'm not sure whether he speaks Spanish. Homeowner

I can highly recommend Amy Robeson, who works in the East Bay and has helped clients in all the areas you mentioned: Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. We bought a house in San Leandro and were extremely happy with the whole process. Amy was friendly, easily accessible, honest, trustworthy, and very adept at her job and working with all of the people necessary to make our home buying process go smoothly. Realtors don't typically charge you, the buyer, a fee. The seller pays a commission to their agent, usually 6% of the purchase, and the selling agent and the buying agent typically split the fee. I'm not a realtor, but that's what I learned from buying a home. hope this helps

I would work with Anthony Cassel. He is one of the top real estate agents in the area. I'm very impressed with the way he works with clients. He is honest, trustworthy and reliable. He understands the market really well. He works very hard to get the best price for clients. His email ac [at] and ph# (510) 339-4562. Good luck, Lan

Seeking Realtor for Buying/Selling in El Cerrito

Oct 2013

We are looking for a single story 3 br 2 ba accessible home in El Cerrito. We will be selling our 2 story 5 br 3 ba home in the El Cerrito hills, but we think it will be harder to find a house to buy than to sell our house, so we want to first find a house. Can anyone recommend a great realtor specializing in El Cerrito. Albany and Berkeley are also options.

Don Adamson from Marvin Gardens Realty works in the El Cerrito office. You can contact him at don [at] 510-260-5499. He is great and will work on your behalf 110%. He is extremely knowleagable of the real estate market trends and will give you honest advice about selling and buying. He knows El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and beyond. Highly recommended. BM

We feel lucky to have worked with Don Adamson, he's a local guy with an office in El Cerrito. We heard horror stories about how emotionally draining the buying process can be in the East Bay real estate market, however he kept us informed and managed to get us into contract to purchase a home with our 3rd offer. I really don't know how many phone calls and emails he made on our behalf, but the whole process of buying our home seemed to go pretty smoothly. You could start with a phone call and chat with him about your goal/plan: Don Adamson; 510.260.5499. Good luck! Katie

Barbara Kaplan at Marvin Gardens is the realtor you are looking for! Barbara has tons of experience in El Cerrito and is warm, loving and kind. She is not high pressure and is extremely knowledgeable and competent. She has helped us buy and sell two houses in El Cerrito and she was fabulous on both ends. --EC homeowner

Didn't see your original post, but we've used both Marni Fischer and Maggie Resnick and they are fantastic and very knowledgable about El Cerrito. Love the EC

Chris Neddersen, Coldwell Banker realtor

Oct 2013

Does anyone have the experience of working with Chris Neddersen of Coldwell Banker in buying or selling a house. I walked into Coldwell Banker over a year ago and he happened to be working and we had a good conversation. At that time we were not ready to move, but now are looking seriously and I've gotten back in touch with him, but would like to hear from people who've worked with him. Thanks.

Chris Nedderson was our realtor when we bought our house a dozen years ago. We totally lucked out. He knows the real estate market and the people. I'm not going to tell you the specifics of what he did and knew, since I don't want to create expectations which may not be appropriate or available in every case, but we really got the impression that we getting the advantage of his knowledge, relationships, and contacts. He walks the line between letting you make the decision and making sure you have enough information to do so. He also struck us as principled. We've referred him friends and they've been pleased as well. I never really want to buy a house again, but would totally want to use Chris again if I did. anne

Real estate agent in Sonoma County

Oct 2013

Hello! I am looking for a great real estate agent who works in Sonoma County. We're looking to buy a place primarily in the Sebastopol, Forestville, Guerneville, Graton, and Occidental area, but are interested in Petaluma and parts of Santa Rosa, too. Would love to hear about anyone you had a really good experience with. Thank you! House Hunting

My friends just bought the house and property of their dreams in Occidental with the help of Tommy Apostolide of Wine Country Realty... I mean of their wildest dreams! Tell Tommy you heard of him through Bobby. Tommy's contact number: 707-542-9200 Best! - Occidental is awesome

I am a Berkeley realtor and have had a 2nd home outside Sebastopol for many years. One of the big decisions is country property vs. in town. In my experience, Sonoma County realtors tend to cover bigger areas than we do in Berkeley/Oakland so you can probably find someone who is very knowledgeable about all the areas you mention.

Looking For Real Estate Agent (help!)

Oct 2013

We are now in the market to buy and am looking for a recommendation for a seasoned real estate agent that specializes in Oakland (within great school district areas) - and who also has knowledge of Alameda as well.

* Someone who will go the extra distance and will vet properties for us.
* Who has considerable knowledge of today's market, the buying process and the art of negotiation.
* An advisor of sorts, who can help us navigate the process.
* And of course a person who is a pleasure to work with.

We are not looking for someone who is only interested in closing the deal and who will pressure us. If you have someone you've worked with - and have loved your experience... please be in touch.

We love Ira and Carol Serkes- we have bought with them multiple times and have felt well represented as well as lucky with the houses. They really pay attention to the offerings and are great about finding opportunities They are online at Carrie S

I always look for any chance I can get to recommend our RE agent: Julia Temple of Red Oak Realty. She is phenomenal. Our family was introduced to her via my best friend who used her when she was buying her house in North Oakland. I at one point was considering selling my house, and she went through the early stages of that whole production with me until I changed my mind on selling (sorry Julia). I thought sooo highly of my experience with her that I recommended her to my parents when they were moving to Berkeley. They had a horrible experience with the person selling their house (not aggressive enough, slow on follow through, not responsive to communication, etc.) and had the opposite experience with Julia. She got them a great house for a great price. A year later my brother and his family were looking to buy and again we all recommended her to them. Now they have a beautiful home in Kensington. We have all been thrilled with her and are so grateful for the hard work and real estate savvy she put into our home ownership. I still feel like I can email her anytime I have a homeowners question, e.g., refinancing. She definitely knows Oakland, lives there and often sells/buys in Oakland, but obviously she can find a great home in the Berkeley/Albany/Kensington region as well. Contact her at julia [at] and tell her Mollie said thank you!

I recommend Arlene Baxter. She could have a second career as a therapist she is so patient and interested in matching the person with the right house. She is very knowledgeable about the Berkeley, Oakland and El Cerrito markets. Good luck! Trish

Real Estate Agent Dealing with Lower Income Senior

Sept 2013

My elderly parents are hoping to move from the East Coast, where they are now alone and the winters are harsh, to the Bay Area to be closer to their kids and grandkids. Due to their income constraints we are thinking the San Pablo (where there is a senior mobile home park), Vallejo, or Fairfield area. We are not sure how to find a realtor that will take on a client whose budget is in the $150,000 to $175,000 price range. If anyone has any information or experience with this, I would appreciate hearing from you. Jennifer

I would give Maggie Resnick at Marvin Gardens a call. One of the towns she is familiar with is Richmond. Despite some folks beliefs, there are pockets of Richmond that are splendid, and quite affordable. She will probably know about San Pablo also, as it is right next door. She's friendly, professional, down to earth, and if I were selling, she would be the realtor I would go with. If she asks, you can tell her, Leslie recommended her. 510-987-8026 510-527-9111 Marvis gardens in El Cerrito. east bay gal

I was looking into something similar for my mother and I found a nice senior mobile home park in San Leandro. It's close to the water and very well maintained. Such a nicer area (and perhaps closer to family?) than the other areas you mentioned. When I drove through I saw a couple of units for sale and I called some of the realtors who were listing these properties. Your parents could get a nice place there for their budget. Mailisha

Real Estate Agent for Rockridge/Elmwood

Aug 2013

Can anyone recommend a seller/buyer agent specializing in the Rockridge and Elmwood areas? We are looking for someone who appreciates old homes, who will help us sell our craftsman, and who will help us find a new home that suits our needs better. We'd like someone experienced who has connections with local inspectors/contractors, and who has a feel for the price we will need to bid to buy in this market. We are looking in the Rockridge and Elmwood areas primarily, although we'd consider North Berkeley as well. Thanks! Sarah

The best person you can use will be Jack Lebeau. He has been a Realtor and Broker in the business for 37 years working exclusively in the East Bay. He is an expert in craftsmen style homes and knows everything there is to know about the Real Estate Industry. He is very honest and genuine. He goes above and beyond for his clients to make sure that they are fully and completely represented and are being given opportunities and advice that are entirely in their best interests. His marketing skills and efforts will be sure to get the home exposed to more than what you would expect even in a market where buyers are all over the place. You will feel like you are his only client and his top priority which is very important in a market where Realtors have a lot of business and clients to take care of right now. He knows most of the inspectors in the area so will know who to use and who not to use. He is also very active in the market now so will be able to help with your purchase and determine what a good offer will be to help you compete in this economy. I highly recommend him and I know he will be a great fit based on what you have described in your post. You can reach him directly at 510-205-3794 or at alohabayjack [at] Good Luck! A Completely Satisfied Client

Stephen Bloom, hands down. Of course, several great agents work in this area so I'm sure you'll have lots of great recommendations. We bought our home with him, as did many friends, and feel like we got the best deal for us. Friends of ours just sold their home with him and he had great recommendations of things to update to get a better price (they sold for a fair amount over asking)and is now working with them to buy another home. He knows this area well and would be a great asset to you. LA

Hi, I highly recommend Romney O'Connell with Berkeley Hills Realty ( She is extremely knowledgeable about Berkeley real estate, especially the Elmwood area. In 2009, we were renting in Elmwood and met her at a Craftsman in our neighborhood (she was the selling agent). We were impressed with her knowledge and interest in finding a home for us with architecural character. She helped us find our first home soon thereafter. Her number is 510-524-1700 x52. Good luck! Kerri Liljegren

We had an absolutely wonderful experience working with Elisa Uribe from Rockridge Digs ( or call her at 510-485-7272. Her specialty is the Rockridge Areas but she covers all of Alameda and Contra Costa. She has an amazing wealth of knowledge and really cared about making sure we got into a home we truly loved. She went above and beyond and made the whole process really easy. She would even get free estimates on repairs for houses we were just considering (and the contractor she recommended was so great we have continued to work with him years later). Justine

Derek Suring is an excellent real estate agent (patient, experienced, funny, friendly, honest, responsive, and smart). He helped me with my first home purchase (a very complex REO) and I can't recommend him enough. Derek Suring 510-863-1162 derek [at] Sylvie M

Anja and Collette at Grubb Co are excellent seller's agents and meet all your qualifications. They are also fine for buying. I think however, that every agent is representing the buyer in the end, because the higher the price, the more money they make. It is extremely difficult to find a buyer's agent who is actually on your side. Anon

Sarah, I read your post and couldn't help but reply and recommend Laura Arechiga. She has bought and sold numerous properties for our family and friends, and has been a pleasure to work with over the years. One of her best qualities is getting a home ready to sell, acting as somewhat of a project manager for the never ending number of tasks (both large and small) that arise in preparation. Working in North Berkeley, living in Elmwood area, with a sister right on Lawton in Rockridge, it just may be a perfect fit. Best of luck, Michael

We absolutely love our realtor, Amy Robeson. She is at Pacific Union in Berkeley and knows this area very well. She is incredibly professional, while also very friendly and helpful. She has been a great resource for us and we have recommended her to many friends and acquaintances. When we looked at houses, she was really great at letting us have our own first impressions, and then gave us feedback on things we might not realize - such as a house that looks sunny in spring time would be much darker when the trees in the backyard get their leaves. We found her through rave reviews on BPN (thanks!!). She had an incredibly good inspector that she works with who we also liked very much. He inspected the home that we bought last year, and he was exceedingly thorough. He searched our home meticulously, and his report was excellent. I would hire them both again. Kirstin

I highly recommend Joan Dark with Pacific Union (510.338.1316). We met her several years ago as a selling agent when we first started looking for our home and quickly became our agent. She specializes in Oakland, Berkeley, and Piedmont and really knows her stuff. She helped us identify and keep our priorities straight, steered us to / away from properties, and easily pointed out potential issues (e.g, unpermiited / unsafe improvements, clear drainage or structural issues, etc). She knows everybody so inspections were a breeze and left us with list of contacts from home decorators to contractors when we closed. I would definitely use her again if we ever decided to sell.

Whenever we are complimented on our fantastic house in Berkeley, our kids always pipe in that we owe it all to Holly Rose. Holly was truly a miracle maker, helping us buy our first little home in Berkeley, and then when the family outgrew the little home, helping us sell that home and buy a bigger home. Her advice was always spot on. Her manner perfectly professional. And her negotiating skill are tremendous. Having lived in the bay area pretty much my whole life, the two easiest recommendations I can make are: for special events, eat upstairs at Chez Panisse; and if you need a realtor, work with Holly Rose. Alison B

We wholeheartedly recommend Holly Rose at Marvin Gardens Real Estate. She knows the market well, has great instincts, and will help you get a great price for your home. She's incredibly attentive, patient, and smart. She helped us both navigate a tricky home purchase, and stage and sell our home for a terrific price. We can't say enough good things about her! Tell her Michelle and Stu sent you! holly [at] Michelle

Anthony E. Cassel with East Bay Sotheby's International Realty knows the Rockridge home market. He is a terrific realtor who goes that extra mile to serve his clients well. He's also a really nice guy and a good communicator. You definitely want him on your team whether buying or selling. His contact info: 415-310-0066 cell, 510-339-4562 office, email:ac [at], and website . laura

Do you know a good realtor in Pleasant Hill/W.C.?

July 2013

Hi BPNers, Not until I had my baby boy have I realized how wonderful it is to be a mom. We are ready to find a place he can call home and grow up in. Does anyone have recommendations for a good real estate agent in Pleasant Hill and/or Walnut Creek area? I don't know where to start since we couldn't really afford to buy until now. Any suggestion is greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance. Julie

We were lucky enough to find Andrea Klein when we were purchasing our first home just a few years ago in Walnut Creek. She is wonderful to work with, very knowledgable and professional and helped us greatly in purchasing our short sale home. Best of luck in your home search! Elizabeth F

My in-laws used Holly Henkel of Pacific Union to find a house through the tunnel after relocating from Southern CA. They found her through other recommendations on BPN. Holly was very accommodating and gave them lots of personal service during their house hunt and while they were moving up here. She was very strategic during bidding and took care of all the details once my in-laws actually bought their house. Her areas are Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Martinez, Concord, Lamorinda and surrounding areas. She is great at introducing people to these areas and enjoys working with young families. Her website is Her number is: 925.360.2390 good luck with your house hunt! Mollie B

You can't do better than Larry Jacobs at the Better Homes & Gardens / Mason McDuffie office in Orinda. Larry really took care of me and my wife, first by making absolutely certain that he grasped exactly what we were looking for, then by finding (precisely!) what we were looking for, and finally by strenuously negotiating on our behalf, ultimately beating out eight other offers. (Additionally, this was the very first offer we'd made on a home, and we hadn't even made the highest offer!) Working with Larry one gets the feeling that, if it's possible, Larry will get it done. I know that he works in both Pleasant Hill and W.C., and he knows 'that side of the tunnel' like the back of his hand. I really could not recommend more highly going with Larry. Dave M

Searching for EXCEPTIONAL real estate agent

June 2013

Can anyone recommend a real estate agent who is truly exceptional for both buying and selling a house -- not just a salesperson, but someone who will really have my back? Anonymous

I recommend Linda Andersen. She is located in Oakland and fabulous. We met her years ago, when at an open house which wasn't actually open. She happened to be waiting there for her other clients who were running late. She let us in toured us around and became our realtor. She is a great person, ton's of patience, fabulous manner. We loved working with her on buying our house and selling our previous house.

You want Brock Ford. I could not have asked for a better person to handle our first home purchase (we moved from San Francisco to Richmond Heights). Professional, reliable, on-time, diligent. He had numerous contacts for a variety of vendors to ensure we were taken care of from start to finish and beyond. He made this experience wonderful and easy instead of stressful. A real find! His number is 415-430-7835. Monique

I highly commend Cynthia Cummins with McGuire.(cynthia [at] She's helped us buy three houses and sell one, and is both a phenomenal person and an phenomenal real estate agent. She's smart, organized, funny, and down-to-earth, gets the job done. We've had a hard time deciding where we wanted to be, what we wanted, etc., and she's been extremely patient with us while we dithered around. There's no pressure with her, but when the chips are down, and you are in a bidding war, she will be like a shark on your behalf. I can't say enough nice things about her. She's a real treasure. Good luck. You can tell her I sent you! Ysa Wood Ysa Wood

HI, Don Askey is a fantastic realtor but more than that he is wonderful person! Best wishes with it all, Bill S

I have done two separate transactions with Victoria Curtis of Better Homes and Gardens. She knows the East Bay market very well. She sold my house and helped me to buy my current residence. She has been in Real Estate for over 25 years, so she is a seasoned pro who has seen it all. I know many other families that she's represented and they all recommend her for her personal touch and attention to detail. If you don't believe me, just ask her to bring her huge binder of letters of recommendation she's received from her past clients! The best thing about her is that she knows how to guide you through the process step by step which made me feel very reassured. She can be reached at 510-305-7775 or at victoria [at] Good Luck! Jim

Hello, We have been fortunate enough to work with a great realtor. Don Adamson has worked with us on both selling and buying a house. He helped us sell our previous home and navigate some difficult issues and when we were ready to buy we found ourselves in a crazy multi offer situation. It took 4 tries and we were shocked at how quickly prices were going up, he did the research and told us what the price needed to be but we had a hard time accepting that until we realized he was right. We always knew that he had our best interests in mind and stayed with us until we got what we wanted. You can contact him at don [at] or at 510-260-5499. bm

We highly recommend our realtor, Amy Robeson, because she went far beyond the call of duty in helping us to buy our first home. We have also observed her handling selling a home for another client and her work is exceptional. She keeps clients for years because she is great to work with and once we met her, we knew we had to have her as our agent. We wouldnt think of going with anyone else if we ever had to sell our house and buy another (but we got lucky and found our dream home!). She gave us excellent guidance and we had a ton of questions. It was absolutely her guidance and advice that helped us to get our offer accepted and all of the negotiations during escrow went remarkably smoothly. Everyone enjoyed working with her - our loan officer, our mortgage broker, the other realtor, etc. That goes a long way in making sure everything goes smoothly. - a very happy client! K M

I have just completed a transaction with a realtor who may be exactly what you are looking for. I can only speak to my experience in selling a home with Holly Rose, but I assume that she would be as much of a pleasure to work with if you were buying a home. I first met Holly Rose, of Marvin Gardens Real Estate, when I was interviewing realtors in preparation for selling my mother's home. My mother had died just a few months earlier, and I was overwhelmed by the task ahead of me. I was immediately impressed with Holly's knowledge, calm demeanor, unassuming style, and knowledge of the local neighborhoods. She never pushed me in any way, yet she was also available for the myriad tasks involved in preparing a house for sale. The process was not without its bumps in the road (five initial offers, all of which fell through), but she took it all in stride and we ended up selling the home for almost $100,000 more than the list price. Holly has wonderful people to call upon to get work done -- stagers, carpenters, haulers, painters, etc. -- and orchestrated the entire process seamlessly. She also gave great advice about what we needed to do and what we could choose not to do without sacrificing potential buyers. Her instincts seem spot on, and her experience is evident the longer one works with her. I highly recommend Holly and would definitely consider her an exceptional real estate agent! Judy

I highly recommend Kathie Berg of Marvin Gardens. Over the years we have bought three houses and sold two with her expert guidance. She came recommended to us by family members who have used her and we in turn have recommended her to our friends, who have been as happy with her services as we were. She really knows the East Bay, won't give you a hard sell, and is incredibly scrupulous about inspections and other due diligence when both buying and selling. Her attention to detail and knowledge of the market have served us very well. I can't say enough positive things about her. happy homeowner

I highly recommend Carrie McAlister at Grubb Co. Her email is CMcAlister [at] and at She sold our home and also helped through a long and complicated process of purchasing our current home. She had smart, strategic advice in selling our home. We are pretty knowledgeable about homes and real estate ourselves. She cares about her clients, personable (not salesy), is a great listener, knows real estate and super smart (did grad studies at Harvard). Stacey

We have bought and sold several homes in Berkeley over the past 25 years and Holly Rose (Marvin Gardens) has been with us every step of the way. No matter the complexity, in great markets and not-so-great, she has been there for us. For Holly Rose, a challenge is chapter one of a success story. And they\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2ve all been success stories. As clients go, I would not get any prizes. As a former real estate agent, my standards are exacting and my expectations lofty. If I were an agent, I wouldn't be my first choice for a client. And Holly Rose and I got along beautifully (despite me). It helps that Holly is a great communicator. The lines were always open. She returned calls, immediately. She listened, really listened, no matter how busy she was. I know she\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s one of the top agents in the area, but I never got the feeling she was. Her know-how is second to none. Every agent will tell you they\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2re experienced, but that simply isn\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t true. Having just closed an out of-the-area escrow with two agents who claimed they were experts, I can say with certainty that there\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s a lot of bluffing going on out there. Holly is a straight shooter, which has earned her the respect of clients and other agents in this community. She won\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t tell you, or anyone else, what you want to hear. That said, she is a great cheerleader and you always know she\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s in your corner. Years ago, on an especially dreadful day (not her fault), I came home to a nice note, a box of chocolates and a prescription to eat one immediately because it would make me feel better. I did. I smiled. How could I not? There are a lot of good agents out there, but the shining star - now that's rare. That's Holly Rose. It would never occur to me to work with anyone else. Kate B

I would like to recommend you to Izumi Tada of Red Oak Realty. I have purchased and sold more than 8 houses with him since 2002-I used to flip houses. I also purchased the home I live in using his services, my mother used him for 2 purchases and two family friends have used him for home purchases. Izumi is reliable, trustworthy and very shrewd in the real estate biz while still being a very nice person to deal with. I had a transaction where a few days before closing we were told that the house had just entered foreclosure (this information was hidden by the sellers agent and owner) which caused the final price of the house to be increased by $10,000.00. The sellers agent demanded that I pay the difference, naturally I was not going to pay and decided that I would not purchase the house, period! I really wanted the house, but felt that it was the principal of thing..Izumi suggested to the sellers agent that they both reduce their commission by a certain percentage in order to cover the $10,000.00 overage. The sellers agent reluctantly agreed after Izumi badgered him about not being able to sell a house in foreclosure... So, long story short I got the house for the price I originally agreed to and both real estate agents received less commission than they had planned. I was so impressed with his commitment to me as his client that I have used him ever since and he has proven himself time and time again. He has been a real estate agent for more than 20 years and is extremely knowledgeable. I have recommended him to countless friends and family. He really is a good business man who will be fully on your side as well as being a very nice human being. Izumi Tada 510-917-6085 wendy

I can highly recommend David Harlins at the Berkeley East Bay Sotheby's office! David was born and raised in the East Bay and as a local he truly knows the area like the back of his hand! He is not just a salesperson but he truly cares about each individual client! He is honest, knowledgable and passionate about real estate! He can be reached at 510-409-2664 happy client

You are going to get many recommendations, because there are many solid realtors in the East Bay. One thing to keep in mind is that they tend to have specialty areas (neighborhoods), so also think about where you want to live. I used Regina Jacobs and her husband/partner Tom Craig at Sotheby's. They were awesome - they're super nice, sincere, well-connected people, and they take a very intelligent, analytical, strategic approach to finding the perfect house, listening very carefully to the client. They've been a highly successful team, and to me it's clear why. Tom was in construction for years and has extensive expertise that you can use when assessing what needs to be fixed in a house. They have lots of contacts - Ive used their construction team (who I love) and several other vendors they suggested. I've recommended Regina and Tom to many people. Regina specializes in areas around - Oakmore, Glenview, Rockridge, Montclair, Piedmont. I will also recommend Jennifer Bauer at Grubb. I havent' worked with her, but I've known her personally for 2 years and know that she has many delighted clients. Jennifer is an extremely responsive, caring, focused, detail-oriented personality. She comes from a family background of realtors and mortgage brokers, and has much expertise to offer. Plus, she's super nice and the kind of person you could drive around with for hours and actually enjoy your time. Hope that helps! Sarah

My husband & I just bought our first house with the help of Michelle Senitzer-- she's pretty exceptional and I would recommend her without any reservations. Unlike other agents we met with, Michelle never made us feel like we were going to end up as suckers-- she's not pushy or slick. She's patient, hardworking, knows her stuff, & with her help we bought the perfect house for us, in a great location for us, and stayed within our budget. Joanna

Krista Miller ( is wonderful - patient, friendly, honest, experienced, with a great eye, in-depth knowledge of East Bay neighborhoods and the local real estate market. We used her to buy our house, family members of ours have used her, and friends too - we've only ever heard fabulous things back about her. I know she's had great success representing sellers too. You can contact me if you have any questions. Rebecca

Laura Arechiga, who works out of the Coldwell north Berkeley office, is an exceptional agent. She has helped me, a number of my colleagues, and family friends buy and sell homes/condos. She is tough when she needs to be, and always helpful. One of the things I appreciated most, is that she born and raised in the area, and can provide that 'local' expertise. Hope this helps. Michael W

Amy Robison and Chris Cohn. I have had many real estate transactions in the East Bay and have interacted with dozens of agents. These are the ones who are savvy and have only your interest in mind. Sold on Chris and Amy

After buying & selling a couple of homes with agents (different ones) in the Bay Area, my last home purchase was without an agent (on either parties side) with success and ease. No agent TRULY has your back. If I were to consider using an agent to sell, I'd use They don't charge as high of a commision as other realtors. It's a seller's market, so you'll probably have a lot of offers, even though some realtors will tell you it's all about networking. Hate the game

We worked with Marilyn Garcia to buy our home in Berkeley. She was endlessly patient and attune to our preferences and how much we were willing to/could afford to pay. Never once in our 8+ months of looking did she ever pressure us to hurry up and make an offer. She knows the neighborhoods in the East Bay really well (with a particular expertise in Berkeley) and has a great sense of how much a house is going to go for (a key skill in this bidding war market). She has great relationships with the other realtors in the area and has an extensive list of vetted contacts for the many house-related projects that come up. Most importantly, she's a lovely person with an extremely calm demeanor. I highly recommend her. Marilyn's contact info: Coldwell Banker, Berkeley, (510) 981-3035 Amy C

The agent you want is Carrie McAlister. Hands down, no question. We sold our home with Carrie in '08 and she worked HARD for us. She went above and beyond and far exceeded my expectations. Carrie is not only very good at what she does....researched, smart (so so smart), experienced with both buying and selling, hard working etc etc, she is grounded, funny, down to earth, practical, good energy, kind and a just a really amazing human being. I am happy to tell you the details about our selling experience with Carrie and why it was a tricky transaction and how she conducted herself on our behalf (it was a short sale before they became popular). Please email me if you are interested, and I can fill you in. Christie_cjr [at] Carrie's info: Office: 510.652.2133 #425 Mobile: 510.292.7838 She's with the Grubb Co. in Oakland. You will be more than pleased and happy that you called her, I promise! christie

My family had a great experience with Roy Grigsby. He actually made what could have been a stressful and kind of traumatic process seem creative and fun. He had clear advice, but was also collaborative. Has great resources and knowledge and knows all the realtors in the area. Elizabeth

We highly recommend Carrie McAlister, with Grubb Co. She's a caring, honest, genuine person who also happens to be insanely smart and savvy, making her your best ally when it comes to submitting offers, reading offers, and other such negotiations. She's also very patient -- it took us 4 years to find our second house, but she stood by us the whole way and never gave up. We think all these traits make her invaluable! Carrie McAlister Cell: (510)292-7838 Christa L

I highly recommend Kathleen Wilson of Better Homes and Garden. She is very intelligent, listens to her clients and works very hard for them- and I mean that in every way. She'll be your advocate, won't push anything on you, and will try very hard to get you what you want. She's just great. karen

Carrie McAlister with Grubb is the best! She helped us through a difficult purchase in north Berkeley and the following year sold our duplex in south Berkeley. She was an amazing advocate and negotiated great deals both times. She organized inspections and all the work that was done to prepare the properties. She is friendly and easy to work with, and always listened to our needs. Highly recommended! Satisfied Berkeley homeowner

I cannot recommend Jeff Rosenbloom at Marvin Gardens highly enough. My husband and I had some very specific needs on a smaller budget for the area and we bought our home with unusual financing. Jeff was simply amazing during our search through different areas and through a very, very difficult transaction. I am an attorney and have also used Jeff to help my clients during a case that involved the transfer of real estate and the purchase of a property as part of a settlement. That was also more complicated than usual and Jeff was fantastic there as well. His number is (510) 290-6559 and you can reach him at jeff [at] Lara S

I just saw this question and had to reply. Contact Norah Brower: norah [at] (website: There can't be anyone better. Norah is a person of great imagination, perfect integrity, and unusual generosity. We were first-time homebuyers, not really sure what we were doing or what we wanted, and definitely not in a rush. After some educational months of quite intensive house-hunting, with Norah's guidance and input (which saved us from one house we didn't love but were ready to settle for, and from another we liked but couldn't really afford), we had a crisis with family back east and decided to stop looking for a while. Soon after that Norah called and told us that there was one more house, just one, that we really should take a look at. This was (is!) THE PERFECT HOUSE for us, as we knew the moment we set foot in it; Norah knew EXACTLY what we were looking for, better than we did ourselves. Norah's commitment did not end with the sale. After the purchase went through (Norah not only ensured that our bid was successful but successfully negotiated a significant price cut based on the inspection), she supervised (for no fee) the structural retrofit, painting, etc.. while we were OUT OF TOWN for a month, and also arranged a full-scale cleaning so the house was not just ready but habitable on our return. When we'd been in the house for some months and the rainy season hit, she called to ask how our sump pump was doing (there had been concerns raised about it but in our inexperience we had decided not to replace it); it was because of this call that we checked and discovered our sump pump was nonfunctional and our basement partly flooded. No one I know back in NY can believe that such a realtor exists, but there it is--she does! Norah Brower! The best! eolien

I also agree with a previous commenter that Don Adamson is an amazing realtor. Very knowledgeable about market trends and local listings and just an all-around great guy. I would recommend him to my family and friends in a heartbeat. He can be reached at 510-260-5499 or at don [at] SCB

I missed this post the first time around. I highly recommend David Otero. 510-869-4239. A stand up guy, who will be in your corner. I would not have my house if not for him. If not David, then Maggie Resnick. 510-928-6348. They are both down to earth, upfront people. Were I to purchase another home, these are the two I would use. woman with dog

You asked for a *GREAT* realtor, well I have one! I know you received many responses but Catherine Beirwith will really go out if her way to show you expectional houses, help make bids that actually get you the property and do it all in YOUR price range. She found us a short sale on Alameda, walked us through the long process, booked and was there for every inspection and was super sweet to accommodate our toddler nap time with showings. She really went to bat for us with the bank and got them to pay $12k in credits which is no small feat for an 'as-is' bank owned property! Catherine was tenacious, fearless and made us laugh during the house buying process. She is an honest straight-shooter that will get you the home you dream of. Feel free to let her know we sent you or email me any questions. She's the best! Catherine Beirwith Phone: 510.339.8900 Cell: 510.418.3731 Fax: 510.523.3000 Email: cbierwith [at] Her partner Karen Miller (also very wonderful) specializes in buying/ selling Short Sales if you have a home to sell: Karen Miller Phone: 510.339.8900 Cell: 510.388.2501 Fax: 510.339.3747 Email: kmiller [at] Kylie G

Hi, I'm a little late chiming in on this one, but I wanted to put in a good word for Melissa Eizenberg at Marvin Gardens in Kensington. Melissa helped some friends find their house and recommended her. With us, she has been patient, communicative, a great listener, trustworthy and determined to help us (first time buyers, somewhat picky) to find a house that meets our criteria. Her persistence helped us find a house that we're super excited about and our offer was accepted (!!) amidst some competition. Good luck on your search. Anon

Real estate agent East Bay

March 2013

Hi, I need a recommendation for an East Bay real estate agent. I want someone who knows the neighborhoods and schools super well, has sound advice, and will go to bat for you. Suggestions please?! Katie

Andrea Gordon is the answer to all of your needs - she's A M A Z I N G. Andrea [at] 510-421-6818 She's got the energy, knowledge, and spirit to get you what you want. I thought she was exaggerating when she said to us, 'Don't worry! We'll get you your dream home.' And low and behold, not only did she sell our house BEFORE it went to open house (one day on the MLS) with three offers over asking (that's working the network!) but that same week she was able to negotiate a price for a home we fell in love with thus putting the home within our reach. She was able to do BOTH of these sales as well as she did because of her skill and her wide network of agents. That's a double win and THAT'S what you get with Andrea. She also has an amazing assistant allowing documents and research to get done ASAP and a great network of people to work with such as loan agents, inspectors, etc. Selling and/or buying is stressful!!! No question about it. Do yourself a favor and hire the best out there -- it does make a huge difference in stress level. Trust me, we sold and bought with a 10 month old and 4 year old, with a husband working long hours...all right before Thanksgiving. My life was already chaotic enough! I wouldn't hesitate to use her again. Just take a look at all of her awards, it's quite impressive. She's also a 'Previews' agent, giving her access to resources most agents don't have. Happy in Our Dream Home

We worked with Don Adamson and I would recommend him as a seller or a buyer agent. He helped us with a short sale that was very difficult because the lenders kept revising price and terms, but with his consistent follow up and efforts on our behalf he closed the deal after several months (6). He really came through for us. Contact info (510.260.5499; don [at] Good luck! Happy Homeowner

I highly recommend contacting Don Adamson at Marvin Gardens. We purchased our first home in November and Don held our hand every step of the way. He was supportive and was never exasperated at how often our minds changed. He had extensive knowledge of the area and even provided us with data reflecting the local housing trends from previous years. We were buying in a very competitive price range with multiple bids on every house. He drew upon his experience along with that of his colleagues to make sure we were offering the most competitive bid. We closed on our home in November 2012 without a hitch, thanks to Don. He still checks in with us to this day to make sure everything is well. He can be reached at don [at] or 510-260-5499. Best of luck! Shannon

Rebecca Nemeth at Berkeley Hills Real Estate was a delight to work with when we bought our house. She was NEVER pushy. We were nervous buyers since we were unsure to the last minute whether we would be approved for our mortgage. She was calm and steady throughout. She was easy to meet with and always willing to check out a new property or to listen to our worries. She is very knowledgeable about housing: structure, damage, cost of potential repairs, what would be easy to upgrade, what would be tough etc. This was important to us because we did not have a huge budget and knew we wouldn't have $ to fix much after the house purchase. She gave us good warnings about slide zones and about other moments when a house price might be too good to be true. She had a very sharp eye for detail in every house we looked at together. She wants to figure out what the buyer cares about so she can be conscious about their concerns. She has two school aged children herself so that, in addition to good information about schools, she is very good about thinking how children might live in a particular space. My sense is that her expertise lies mainly in Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington, and less in Oakland. But I could be wrong about this. I would certainly go to her again myself--except I hope I never have to move again! I recommend her warmly. happy relatively new homeowner

I highly recommend Julia Temple through Red Oak Reality. She was recommended to me by a good friend who used her, and I have in turn recommended her successfully to two different family members of mine. We've all been very pleased! Plus she is a mom, so knowing schools is more than just her business. Julia is a straight shooter and a really good person. She'll get you the house you want. Happy with my Realtor

We just bought in the fall and had a great experience with Karthiga Anandan at Grubb Co. She was extremely knowledgeable, reliable, and thorough. The market is tough again for buyers in our little zone and she was creative with suggestions on how to make our offer as competitive as possible, given that we were often up against people with more or all cash. Some agents just try to move you along but Karthiga took the time to help investigate each house's potential issues, which gave us great comfort during the search. -Happy Homeowner

I highly recommend Chimene Pollard with Team 510 Realty. She is so warm and committed to you having the best experience possible. Best, Jessica

Hi! As a new (and first time) homeowner, I would recommend Alissa Custer from Marvin Gardens without reservation. My wife and I interviewed many agents before we decided to work with her. We appreciated that she listened to where and what we were looking for in a home. Since there weren't many homes available in the market when we started searching, she gave us map with hand-sketched markups and sent us on weekend excursions exploring different neighborhoods in our cities of interest (in our case, Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito). We provided feedback to give her a better idea of what we liked and disliked about each neighborhood. Once we had an idea of our target neighborhoods and refined what we needed in a home, we were able to decide quickly on homes that came on the market. Alissa would send us weekly emails of new homes to check out that matched our criteria. Once we found a home we liked, we worked with her on how to devise a competitive offer. Since she's from the Bay Area, she had intimate knowledge of market conditions from street-to-street and month-to-month. The second offer we placed on a home was accepted. During escrow, Alissa was very helpful in getting us the information we needed in an organized and speedy fashion. She has a wealth of contacts from inspectors to handymen to dog-sitters! My wife and I are very happy to have gone with her and will work with her again for our next home purchase. I would interview her if you plan on getting an agent in the East Bay. As I final note, I would also recommend to make sure to work on your personal letter to the seller. Our house had 10 offers with 3 grouped near the top. The sellers noted that the letter made the difference. Cheers from Albany, Chris P.

Realtor needed for a first time buyer

Feb 2013

My husband & I are thinking of purchasing our first home in the Bay Area and we need a lot of education. We are LA transplants & have been in the East Bay for about a year. The reason that we are searching for a home now is that we are expecting our 2nd child & we will soon out grow our current rental. We received some recommendations for realtors via friends and co-workers, but we found them to be abrupt, short and unaccommodating. Our experience with realtors in LA were so different! They made home visits since we have a young child, they were friendly, patient and informative. One realtor we contacted here would not even send us her bio/ credential. We are wondering if this is the interaction that we should be expecting in this area since there seemed to be more buyer than inventory available. We hope this is not the case. If anyone can recommend a realtor that is warm, friendly, flexible professional who is willing to work with a naive first time buyer, it would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Hi, I am also an LA transplant although I have been in the bay area about 5 years. We just bought our first home and I recommend Gina Odom at Berkeley Hills Realty. She is also a mom of an under 2 baby and is very knowledgeable about East Bay neighborhoods. She is also flexible and accomodating not to mention patient. She answered all our questions, went to bat for us and accomodated weird times and weekends. Gina Odom Real Estate Consultant gina [at] vm 510.524.1700 x58 cell 415.307.1423 reutness

I would highly recommend Mavis Delacroix from the Grubb company. I used her last year to buy my home and I wished I would have used her to sell the old one too. I plan to stay at my current home for many years but if I have to sell I would use her with no hesitation. I hope she will be in business when I'm ready to move into retirement home....The agent I used to sell my old home was nothing like Mavis, and I felt I had to figure out all the details alone. Mavis is amazing! She makes everything run so smoothly. Half of the time you don't even know of the problems she is solving behind the scene. Her motto- Mavis Makes it Happen- is so true! As a recently divorced woman who was buying a home alone for the first time, Mavis made every step of they way flow seamlessly. If it was not for her ingenuous offer writing, it would have never happened. I was not the highest bidder but she knew exactly what to write to appeal to the seller. TC

We have been working with Maria Cavallo-Merrion from Pacific Union while looking to purchase our first home. She grew up in the East Bay so she knows all of the neighborhoods and cities really well, and she is great with people. My wife and I have differences in our priorities, and I am sure that at times it has been a challenge for Maria, but she continues to be patient and calm and never makes us feel like we are being difficult, which we certainly are. The best part about Maria, and what makes her ideal for first timers, is that she is not chasing a commission and trying to jam us into something that doesn't fit so she can move on to the next deal. She is direct and honest with us when she thinks we are interested in something that would not suit our needs and protects us from being over-eager. She treats the decision with the gravity it deserves, and has really taken the time to get to know us as people so she can represent us better. Her cell is 510-919-8841 and her email is mcmerrion [at] Jordan G.

For real estate transactions, I suggest Jean Shrem, an Attorney & Real Estate Broker, and also a BPN Mom. She sometimes charges flat rates. Having seen real estate professionals get things wrong -- I'm dealing with a screwed up deed right now! -- I think its a good idea to have an attorney confirm that the paperwork is correct. . . A Berkeley Dad

Hi, Congratulations on your upcoming new child! It sounds like you need someone who will not only help you through the purchase process but would also be in a good position to advise you with regard to areas with better public schools? I recommend Holly Rose of Marvin Gardens. You can learn more about her at She is very knowledgable on a street by street basis of the areas with solid public schools including Kensington, Albany, Piedmont and parts of Oakland. She is very professional and patient but most importantly for me, smart! She is particularly good at looking at the structural soundness of the older homes you are likely to encounter. She has a great team that provides excellent support from the time you first start looking until the transaction is complete. Be prepared for competitive bidding situations in places such as Albany. There's a real art to bidding just enough over the asking price to get the house but not so much you leave a large sum on the table. She won't insist you to put in a specific offer amount but will give you specific information about the real estate agents you are competing with and what your odds are at various price points. When I've looked up the final selling price on various houses I considered buying in Albany, she was right most of the time. Good luck! Recent Albany buyer

Mavis DelaCroix of the Grubb Co. she is warm, accessible, knowledgeable and a real go getter. I have assisted her in preparing properties for sale and have witnessed her time and again go the extra mile for her clients. Mavis is super great and will help you find the right home for your growing family. She can be reached at 510-541-4020. AND not only is it important to have the right realtor, it's also important to have the right lender. Dianne Crosby, Branch Manager of RPM has regular first time home buyer seminars. She is one of the best Loan Brokers in the Bay Area hands down. These two together will give you the experience you deserve! Dianne can be reached at (925) 743-3501 and she has a Facebook page at Catherine B

I highly recommend Catherine Stern, at Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. She worked with last fall in selling a house. Catherine went above and beyond what we expected-she helped us clear out the house, arranged for people to appraise and buy things we were selling, set up inspections, painters, etc. She was wonderful to work with, always responded to our concerns immediately, and put in a lot of time and effort to make the sale happen. lauraannek

Realtor for buying and selling, East Bay

Feb 2013

We are thinking of a move and need a realtor for both buying and selling who'll be honest with us and is exremely knowledgeable about Oakland, Berkeley and other East Bay neighborhoods, especially prices and hidden gems. Appreciate any recommendations including the pros and cons of using a buying and selling realtor or one for both buying and selling. Thanks... anon

I highly recommend Realtor Marni Fischer for both buying and selling east bay real estate - she has helped me with both and was exceptional so I honestly can't speak highly enough of her. She specializes in Richmond, El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland but has worked in other cities as well. She is sweet and has lots of integrity. Marni has a ton of experience and a great reputation with the realtor community - which I thought really made a big difference for both sales. I think working with the same agent for both buying and selling makes sense because they know what's going on with both deals and can help coordinate timing, your move, etc. - additionally you can often get a break on the commission if you work with the same person for both. Her phone number is: 415-722-0032, her email is: Marni [at] Good luck with your move. JSP

I can recommend these Realtors: Todd Andrew: todd [at] Gini Erck: gerck [at] Charles Goldstein: goldsteinrealtor [at] Todd Andrew just helped us with a transaction very recently and did an outstanding job. I can vouch for the integrity of all of them. - Leesa

I cannot recommend Stephen Bloom enough! He's actually helped a good ten (or more?) couples I know find homes in the area, all in the East Bay, most in Oakland. We've all loved him so much we just keep recommending him to the next friends who are looking to buy. He's also helped some friends with selling their home and buying a new one, and they were very pleased with him. For many of us, this has been our first home so he's very good about determining your price range and what neighborhoods work best for you. He's well-versed in the area and knows enough about houses to be able to tell what might need work and what to watch out for. Check him out: Happy Home Owner

Stephen Bloom with Lawton Associates ( does a great job walking buyers through the 203k process. It is a good program, but working with an agent and lender that have been through the process is critical. Stephen also has experience developing his own projects, which is helpful to arrive at realistic numbers for your project. His number is 510-541-6728. Robin D

Karen Starr is the one you want. She will listen and understand what you need. Karen is not only smart about the real estate market, but savvy, sensitive, and knows how to keep things moving smoothly in a world where things can get pretty stressful. She has had tons of experience in Oakland, Berkeley, and other neighborhoods. She has had experience being a buyer's realtor, a seller's realtor, and even both at the same time. So, you will be in very good hands with Karen. I hope you will at least give her a call to explore the possibility of working together. Karen has helped several of my close friends and they still talk about what a wise decision it was to work with her. Karen Starr, Grubbco Realtors 510-414-6000. shirley l

I really like, AND trust, David Otero. He works out of Oakland and knows the business. He is a straight shooter and very down to earth. He managed to get me into my current home 13 years ago even though there were multiple offers. If I were to sell, I would use him again in a heartbeat. He's a good guy. Bottom line: won't screw you. If he ask, you can tell him Leslie referred him. a fan

I have bought and sold several homes and investment properties in the area and have dealt with about 25 realtors in those transactions. I can only recommend one team, Chris Cohn and Amy Roberson, with whom I have bought and sold three properties (and almost several others). Integrity is the virtue that I think of first with Chris and Amy, and that is not so easy to come by in the world of real estate. In addition, they are savvy and knowledgable. They have also proven themselves, again and again, to work very hard for me (and always without question of their ethics.) You should at least meet them. http://www.berkeley-, 510-828-3478. Ruth

We had the excellent experience of working with Heidi Long (Red Oak Realty on Solano; Heidi [at]; 510 835-6218) in buying two houses (one ten years ago, one last year) and selling one house (the first one we bought). We have gotten to know Heidi quite well. She is a lovely person and a skilled communicator - exactly the type of person you\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2d want to be exchanging frequent emails and voicemails with! In terms of buying a house, we found Heidi to be the perfect balance between 'on top of things' and 'not pushy.' We had a very specific idea of the type of house and neighborhoods we wanted. She was able to read us well, and get to know our idiosyncrasies and predict what we might like and dislike about a listing. She was always well-informed and aware of what was on the market and frequently knew about houses that would later be coming on the market. We never felt pushed or pressured, even when we came close to offering on a few properties. While she is easy-going and fun to work with. We wondered if her laid-back exterior would serve us as well when selling our house, but her 'mellow' demeanor masks a certain intensity. We were glad to see that this came through in marketing our house. We were selling a very unusual house, a beautiful architect designed-and-built home, but with appeal to a limited market. When we bought it 10 years ago, it had been on the market for 3 months (during a hot market period) and we bought it below listing. We were worried about the same fate in selling it, especially in the slower market of today. However, Heidi (and her partner Dana) really advertised it aggressively, and we ended up with multiple offers and a small bidding war, so we were very relieved and ultimately quite happy with the sale. Overall it was a pleasure working with Heidi, and we would gladly do so again. We can't recommend her highly enough! sarahh

We found Amy Robeson through excellent reviews on BPN (thank you!!!) and we highly recommend her. She works in the East Bay area, helped us find a gorgeous gem of a first house easily and her expertise, personality, and charm made miracles happen and helped the whole process go very smoothly. She worked well with everyone, everybody liked her, and that worked wonders for our home buying process. If we ever need to sell our home, and/or buy another home, we would only work with Amy. K Mandalay

Mavis Delacroix is an extremely smart realtor (formerly a math professor) and a great resource for getting more information about your question regarding using the same realtor for buying and selling, whether or not you end up deciding to work with her. She has many years of experience in and deep knowledge of Oakland and Berkeley neighborhoods. She is the realtor I wish I'd had when I bought my current house, and the one I will use when I sell, and when I buy again. I highly recommend giving her a call. Julie

Mavis Delacroix of Grubb Company is an excellent realtor who is very smart, very energetic, and knows the local market. She can help figure out the best strategy for maximizing the value of your current home. She knows construction and home improvement, having grown up in a family of contractors. She has connections to get any needed work done well and at reasonable cost. More importantly, Mavis knows what to do and what not to do. Mavis is also super knowledgeable about local neighborhoods, having lived in the area for many years. In addition, she can sniff out the best deals because she knows much more about construction than most realtors. Finally, Mavis is one of the best realtors at Grubb, which for my money, is the best realty firm in the East Bay. Michael M

We rarely post any recommendations on the web for a variety of different reasons but we would would like to make an exception this time around. We have been looking to move from a small house in the Northbrae area to a bigger house that would accomodate our growing kids. Looking to buy a new house by itself can be a very frustrating experience in a very hot housing market and we needed to do two transactions in a very short span of time. We were extremely fortunate to stumble on Holly Rose, a realtor at Marvins Gardens. Holly is one of the most knowledgeable and professional realtors you can work with and is extremely well respected in the (realtor) community, an important factor when buying/selling a house. She is very well experienced with the evaluation of a house (if you are a potential buyer) and equally competent in preparing your house for the open market. On a personal level, we were able to land a dream house in the Claremont area (an area that Holly knows quite well although her office is in the Northbrae area) and sell our house in the Northbrae area after receiving ten very competitive offers. Holly is also extremely well connected to highly competent contractors, financial advisors, title companies, staging companies, and moving companies to name a few, and handles all aspects of a house purchase/sale in a very careful and well planned manner. In summary, we had a wonderful experience working with Holly and we recommend her highly without ANY hesitation. Her coordinates are (510) 847-0656, hollyrosehomes [at] J.T. and F.O.

I want to strongly recommend our realtor - Holly Rose. Last summer we finally realized our family needed to move out of our two bedroom Rockridge bungalow into a larger house. Holly basically made the whole thing happen - she got us organized with a schedule and a plan for the whole sale process. She gave very clear advice about what we should and shouldn't spend time and money on to prepare the house for sale. She helped find a rental property so we could move out, so we could paint and repair our bugalow ready for sale. She then organized, scheduled and monitored inspectors, painter, handyman, landscaper, floor re-finisher and stager. Holly has an excellent support team back at her office, who all helped make the process and paperwork go very smoothly. Our house sold quickly for a great price and then we were buyers - again Holly had great advice and contacts - she introduced us to an excellent mortgage broker, and managed to clinch the deal for us over twelve other offers. A month later we were moved into our new home near Piedmont Avenue. The process could not have been smoother. Holly has long established connections in the local real estate community and is a real professional. She also has a huge list of professional contacts, for every kind of household need. Holly works out of the Marvin Gardens office on Hopkins Street in Berkeley, but she covers Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and beyond. Her website is: Sam E

GREAT REal Estate Agent in Russian River?

Feb 2013

We are looking for recommendations for a GREAT real estate agent who handles the Russian River area. After bidding on and losing 6 (!) houses in the Bay Area it finally set in that, yes, experience does count. Thank you everyone!

I recommend Cassandra Ferrera. She lives & works out of Sebastopol/Graton, but knows the whole area well and she's fantastic. cassandra [at] 707-228-8400 Mailish

Realtor Reviews from 2011 - 2012

Seeking highly experienced realtor for North Berkeley house

July 2012

We need a realtor who specializes in selling houses in the Berkeley Hills. Any recommendations or information on realtors to stay away from would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Curious

Nancy Mueller with Berkeley Hills Realty is an amazing realtor with a very trustworthy and honest approach. We worked with her for over a year (after working with many realtors here and in other areas) and have never experienced someone that had as much knowledge, integrity, and patience. Lori

I would like to recommend a great realtor/broker who lives in the Berkeley Hills and has sold there for years. She does a very thorough job and really gets great clients for sales. She is fast, efficient and effective! She is: Diana Yonkouski Bay Area Properties on Claremont Avenue, Berkeley diana [at] dianay3088 [at] Penny

Marc Guay sold my parent's home near Tilden Park and their home in Pinole. He's focused on Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito for many years. Nice guy too. He's with Coldwell Banker. 510- 981-3033. If you call him, say that Bobbie Chan referred you. Barbara

As a former client of Kathie Longinotti I wholeheartedly recommend her as an excellent realtor specializing in Berkeley and the East Bay. She works for Coldwell Banker in North Berkeley and lives in the Berkeley Hills herself so knows the market inside and out. She is a tireless resource both for buyers and sellers, has a knack for listening to clients' desires and concerns and addressing them to a T. Mike R

Looking for an LGBT friendly realtor for Oakland

April 2012

My partner and I are looking to buy our first home and are hoping to get some recommendations for Realtors/Real Estate Agents as we have no idea how to find a good one on our own. We are looking for an agent who is:
-Great with first time buyers on a tight budget (350k max).
-Knowledgeable about Maxwell Park, lower Oakland Hills, North Oakland and Berkeley (on the off chance we could find a place that is within our budget).
-LGBTQ friendly with an emphasis on the 'T'.
-Experienced with bank owned homes (since they might be the only options in our price range in our ideal neighborhoods).

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Aspiring Homeowner

Hi, Give Ernie Sexton a call. He helped my partner and me sell a Maxwell Park house and buy a Millsmont house - in your price range. Not 'T' but family. He's got lots of experience, knows the area and he's so much fun! I believe he works with RE/Max. His mobile: 510.368.2890 Happy Homeowner

Contact Laura Martell at Daniel Winkler Realty in Albany. She sells all over the Bay Area and all types of property. Very LGBTQ friendly and a great realtor. Kathy

First: as best I can know, any Realtor not 'lgbT friendly' should loose their license pronto ! That being agreed, I'd suggest you might call Jean Shrem, a real property attorney = (510)882-9992. Jean was a Realtor with Marvin Gardens for years. Although, now, Jean has moved into doing only law, her partner, Marni Fisher, is still a Realtor. Jean can be a bit abrupt, but, in my experiences with her, she's a fair advocate for her clients, knowledgeable, market savvy, and honest. Straight - Against Prop Eight !

Try Hope Broderick at Grubb. She most definitely meets ALL the qualifications you outlined. Tracie

I think Eddie Moran meets all of your criteria. He lives and works in Oakland and is familiar with Alameda and Berkeley. He is definitely LGBT friendly. I'm sure he'll be happy to consult with you while you clarify your needs. Happy hunting! Susan

Contact Linda Elkin at Red Oak. She helped us buy a foreclosure in East Oakland. She is very patient, non-judgmental, and she has loads of resources to come up with a good offer price. We had loads of hurdles to jump, and she was with us all the way. Call 510.292.2021 Here is her website stu

Realtor specializing in East Bay Rentals

Feb 2012

Looking for referrals or recommendations for any realtor or leasing agents that specialize in rental properties in areas of the East Bay, specifically, El Cerrito/Albany, Walnut Creek or Alameda. Looking to find a rental apartment/condo/townhome for my parents who will be relocating here from North Carolina by mid April or early May. Appreciate any leads or referrals. jen

I highly recommend Stuart Levitas at Astound Real Estate. Stuart specializes in East Bay rentals. He's a great guy to work with - personable, listens well, very professional and responsive. Check out 925-858-5830 or stuart [at] I'm confident you will find a great place with his help. Marika

Realtor for selling/renting small business

Feb 2012

Does anyone know who to contact to put house and/or small business for rent/sale? I need to retire after 20 some years in business. Any referral would be very much appreciated. Thanks ready to retire

Hi, Your question really involves two different experts. The first to sell the house you need a licensed realtor. I always recommend someone familiar with your neighborhood. Look to see who sells the most in your area. Otherwise, I can send you some names.

Selling your business is different. Depending on the size of your business, you need a business broker or a business consultant. These individuals use a term called EBITA (earnings before the deduction of interest, tax and amortization expenses) You should know that number before talking to these professionals. You should also talk to your tax preparer/CPA. You should also come up with a list of your competitors or vendors, these are individuals that might be interested in buying your business. Very truly yours, Joe

Try Chad Shepard as your realtor! We recently worked with him and found it a much more pleasant experience than working with a large company who didn't really have time for us. Chad knows the area, the market, and has an easy- going attitude to help you through your sale. I think his web site is or call him at (510)325- 8526 Jenny

Looking for realtor for Berkeley Hills

Jan 2012

We are thinking about moving to the Berkeley Hills and so I am looking for a realtor who is patient and wise with lots of experience. We have alot of things to consider and will be fussy so this may not be a quick purchase. Recommendations would be helpful. Thank you. kg

We truly appreciated Kathryn Stein at Thornwall Properties in Berkeley (510.593.7311). She worked with us through three unsuccessful offers, and our final successful purchase in the Berkeley Hills. She was knowledgeable about markets from El Cerrito to Montclair, constructive, rapidly responsive to changing situations, respected and known by sellers' agents, gave good advice when asked, was creative in structuring offers, and understood our particular interests. One other skill I really appreciated-she was calm and appropriately supportive through what is a complex and emotional process. Happy Homebuyer

I HIGHLY recommend Holly Rose as a realtor in the Berkeley Hills, and the Bay Area in general. She deeply listens to what you are looking for, and provides patient advisement in order for you to find the right house for you. Her number is:(510) 847-0656 cellular Ben

I recommend Fabio Garcia, a real estate broker with 20+ years experience who is very knowledgeable and patient. He can be reached at fabio.garcia [at] or 510-384-3744. He has helped me purchase my homes. Miche

We recommend Holly Rose. She did an ace job at helping us get into our dream house in Berkeley. She had uncanny intuition about the local market and patiently guided us through our first home-buying experience.

She was warm and friendly throughout the whole process. We really got the feeling that Holly has deep roots in Berkeley.

We found Holly through several reviews on Berkeley Parents Network and Yelp. It is true that she is super-savvy at helping place the bid at just the right number, without overpaying. She helped us prepare the entire bid package and ensured our bid looked as attractive as possible. She definitely exceeded our high expectations -- even crawling under the house to do an impromptu inspection with us.

Also, Holly fluently uses various means of communication -- texts, phone, email, and digital signature services. She has an incredibly useful website with locally relevant information about the buying process, and an extensive list of local referrals for everything from mortgage brokers to locksmiths. We can't recommend her enough! Jamie

Realtor in Lodi/Gold Country?

Jan 2012

We're thinking about buying a weekend place out around/past Lodi, towards gold country. We're not sure how to go about finding a real estate agent out that way. We're looking for a modest home with acreage. Has anyone bought in that vicinity and had a good experience with a realtor they can recommend? Thank you. Need space to run

We just closed on a house in Plymouth CA and used Ann Keister of Sierra Gold Realty. She was extremely professional (she's a broker) and very patient with us throughout the process. I highly recommend her. Tell her Jen + Will sent you! Jennifer

Oakland-Berkeley Realtor of multi-unit properties

Dec 2011

Can anyone recommend a great realtor who specializes in multi-unit rental properties? I'm looking to buy a 2 - 6 unit building in Oakland or Berkeley and I'd like to have a hard-working, knowledgeable realtor who is an expert in multi- unit properties. Denise

I think Marni Fischer of Marvin Gardens Real Estate is fantastic. She has extensive experience with multi-units as well as single family homes in the Oakland/Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito/Richmond area - she has a ton of experience and is one of the few Realtors I've come across that has the whole package. She's smart, diligent, hard working, really cares about meeting her client's needs and knows how to make it all happen. Good luck with your purchase. Here's her contact info: Marni Fischer License # 01378845 Marvin Gardens Real Estate Cell 510-558-9996 or 415-722-0032 Marni [at] Client for Life

Check out the Shamszad Group at 704-1240 or They are in North BK. I recommend them highly. anon

Realtor with a TON of patience

Oct 2011

We need a very patient realtor with lots of good ideas to help my very frustrated, somewhat picky and older in-laws find a new home. They had lost their house in the San Bruno explosion and have spent the last year in somewhat of a hell of decisions. They're tired, they're frustrated, but they need a place to live and we'd like to help them do that. Anyone have a person they're recommend. They're not sure where they'd like to relocate, so someone with overall Bay Area experience is a plus. Thanks! Ideas please

I can highly recommend Karen Moss with Marvin Gardens (510-282-3853 - She is extremely patient and very conscientous; she will take her time working with you to find just what fits, even if you're not sure what that is until you see it. She really goes the extra mile for her clients. She's dependable and understands the importance of being a good listener and asking the right questions to help you find a good fit. Laura

My husband and I just closed on a house in Berkeley. We cannot speak highly enough about our agent: Nancy Reichert Burley at Coldwell Banker on Shattuck (full contact info at end).

Nancy has been an agent for more than twenty years and knows the Bay Area, and particularly the East Bay, extremely well. This was our first house and we went in not knowing a thing about the process. Her patience and generous, good-natured spirit brought us to a close that was both quick and easy. She explained everything along the way in great detail, and really had our back when the seller wasn't holding up their end of the agreement. She was always present at our various inspections and helped to secure the necessary workers for some repairs. She also took the time to get to know us and understand what we were looking for.

She lives in Berkeley and has an immense understanding of the different neighborhoods and the various school districts, as well as of the East Bay as a whole. She is very savvy about all the issues to look for in a house and that her husband is a local contractor is a major plus. Nancy's contact info: Nancy Reichert Burley Coldwell Banker 1495 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709 nanscape [at] 510-486-1495 (office) 510-981-3018 (direct) 510-507-9051 (mobile) Please feel free to be in touch if you'd like more details. laura

How to choose an out-of-state Realtor??

Oct 2011

I inherited my Dad's house when he passed away. He lived in Oregon for 30 years, and I've had a very hard time accepting his absence. The house still has all his things in it and is vacant for the last two years! It's time to let it go and put it on the market. Is there a good resource for finding an excellent realtor out of state? I need someone who is familiar with the outskirts of Eugene, and someone who can help me with an estate sale of things I won't be keeping. I'm not familiar with traditional realtors at all, since I prefer the Redfin business model. But I can't do that with this property. And what are the things you need to look for in a good realtor? What questions to ask? Thanks in advance. Daughter

Hello, I understand what you are going through and I really feel for you. As a Berkeley real estate agent I've helped many people through this process, and there is so much more involved, both materially and emotionally, than just 'selling a house.' Choosing the right agent is key to how you will feel about everything, because you will be here, and she will be there, and you will have to trust her with your cherished things and all that they mean to you.

There are some great ways to choose an out-of-area Realtor, and those ways vary depending on the area. But shopping on the internet is not a great way, because the agents who funnel a lot of money into online advertising are not usually the ones you want. (The ones you want are quietly receiving clients through word-of-mouth recommendations.) I usually start by calling the title companies and loan brokers in the target area for recommendations. They work with the local agents every day and they get to see their true untarnished character. Then I call those agents, interview them, and pass the remaining candidates on to my clients for a phone chat.

Don't settle for somebody who doesn't feel just right, and don't let anybody put the hard sell on you. It may take a little work but I promise there is somebody great for you. Feel free to call me to talk about it, and best of luck! Holly

I love my residential realtor, Eloise Middleton. She has so much information and even if you don't know the right questions, she will guide you. She has contacts in Oregon and you can work with her locally while she works with those realtors so you don't have to stress. Her contact information is (925)934-2900 and cell phone (510)386-0547. Good luck with your transition. Jennifer

Buying a Condo - advice and realtor

Sept 2011

Would appreciate advice on Buying a Condo. We want it to move in eventually, or have our daughter live in after college, but would rent it immediately. What's a good area (would love a view and good, safe community) and can you recommend a realtor that is knowledgeable about condo purchasing and potentially renting it. Thanks very much.... anon

Not sure how to help you with location, as that depends on where you'd like to live. Where do you work/hang out? It's really dependent on all that. As far as realtors though, I cannot recommend Stephen Bloom at Lawton Associates highly enough. He came recommended through several friends (in fact, every friend of ours who's bought a home has bought through him, he's that good!). He knows the market well as well as what to look for in the condition of a home, how to make sure you get what you want and he was so easy to talk with. He made this strenuous process as easy as can be. He'll know what rental markets are and what neighborhoods to look in. He's awesome. love my house

Our relators are fabulous. Ira & Carol Serkes have years of experience buying (& selling) real estate in our area. They are also very knowledgeable about buying investment properties - they helped us buy two. Ira & Carol Serkes 510 526 6668 Happy Customer

Top Notch East Bay Realtor needed

Sept 2011

Can anyone recommend a great real estate agent in the East Bay (Berk/Oak/Albany) who is truly caring and trustworthy, not just out to make a quick buck? Burned once in Berkeley. rozy

Colleen Larkin from Thornwall Properties. She is extremely caring and trustworthy--definitely not out to make a buck. She will fully disclose all of your options, even the ones that aren't necessarily advantageous for herself. She is top in the business with years of East Bay experience and has a stellar reputation. Anon.

Holly Rose is the most exceptional realtor and all-around special person that I have had the pleasure of working with in a very long time.

I was probably not the easiest client to work with from an emotional standpoint, so in addition to educating me about all the basic, tangible steps involved in getting a house ready to sell, Holly needed to hand-hold, calm me, and keep me from sliding backwards. I was so emotional about the sale of my house where I had lived for 40 years and was quite scared of moving towards the unknown. But with the calm and ease of a seasoned professional, Holly accomplished all of that and more.

I had already interviewed several very good agents before meeting with Holly, so the bar was set high. Within the first few minutes of meeting with Holly, I knew she was the right choice for me. She knows exactly what needs to be done and is able to explain it to you without being pushy or aggressive. She is very authentic and honest, and it became clear to me very quickly that I could trust her completely. This was a huge relief.

Holly understands how houses are put together and she's not afraid to get her skirt dirty. During our first meeting I mentioned a certain noise I had been hearing under the house. Right away she went to the crawlspace into the depths of the underground with her flashlight (which she carries along with gloves, a mask, tape measure, etc. in the trunk of her car) and found a torn vent screen that had been allowing critters to get in. She found a hunk of concrete to drag into place to seal the opening. The mystery noise stopped. That is a typcial Holly response to any problem presented to her - resourceful and proactive. Her attitude is always 'let me get to the bottom of this right away.'

Everything about the sale of my house turned out far beyond my expectations. Holly's strategy was always clear, strong and logical. I can't believe how quickly my house sold, the amazing offer she negotiated for me, and how she worked hard to make every step as easy as possible for me. My friends, neighbors and family were always interested in hearing the latest Holly stories and were also so amazed at the level of care she took with me and the sale of the my largest asset, my house.

I am so appreciative of Holly's exceptional skills and caring approach. She turned a very emotional and difficult transition into a positive, rewarding and probably life changing experience for me and for this I will remain ever grateful. You can contact Holly Rose at: LRW

My wife and I worked with Sheri Madden of Marvin Gardens. You can find her contact info at Her phone number is 510.501.1317. We just closed on a house after months of picky searching and I am so glad we decided to work with her. There is no pretense and no pressure to make offers. She is so sweet and knowledgeable and quick to respond by phone or email. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with her and you'll understand. She spent well over an hour with us at our first meeting, before we had even decided to work with her, and it spoke to the passion she has for helping clients find homes. I'd recommend her to both friends and family, which I hate doing if I'm unsure of the quality of service someone will experience. With Sheri, I have no doubts. Chris

I want to recommend Kathie Longinotti at Coldwell Banker's Gourmet Ghetto location. My husband and I worked with Kathie for a year to find the right house in the East Bay; we ended up in the Elmwood. We had different priorities in what we were looking for in our new home, and in retrospect neither of us had very realistic expectations. The aspect of Kathie's service that we most appreciated was her unending patience, helping us to come into alignment with each other and with what was realistically available on the market.

Kathie was always very responsive. She was always on time for our meetings and well prepared. She was extremely careful never to 'sell' us on a house that was not truly a good fit for us. If anything, she was more critical of houses than we were. Kathie also never pushed us to go higher in price than we were comfortable with. In short, we never questioned that she had our interests uppermost in her mind.

Once the search was finally over and we were in contract we had expected Kathie's involvement to drop, but was she a tremendous help to us during the negotiation process. She helped to coordinate multiple inspections and contractors providing bids, arranging appointments and providing the materials we needed to negotiate further with the seller. Brian

I want to give my highest recommendation to East Bay realtor Heidi Long of Red Oak Realty (510-835-6218; She is an outstanding realtor who has lived in Berkeley for 30 years with her husband (also a fine realtor), and they are extremely well- respected in the community. In 2003 I needed her help in a semi-emergency situation (we needed to find a house with an in-law unit right away because we were taking care of my mother and our toddler and had given notice on our 1 1/2 bedroom rental). Heidi found us the ideal house in N. Berkeley within a week. We love our beautiful home, and despite the recession, it has gone up considerably in value. I found Heidi to be warm, caring, supportive, and scrupulously honest; she is also highly skilled and effective as a realtor, and is very familiar with any legal issues that might arise. I don't think you could find anyone better to represent you. Diana

I give Holly Rose my very highest recommendation. I can't think of another single professional relationship in my life where I can affirm the following: Holly's performance in every single interaction has been perfect. I know; how is that possible? There has never been one time when she said she'd do something and not done it I have never asked a question or left her a message when I didn't receive a prompt reply. She has handled every single business interaction with sellers, buyers, inspectors, lenders, appraisers, work crews, etc. *exactly* as I'd wish. I first met Holly about 20 years ago, when she was referred to me by a trusted friend in the Berkeley hills. Since that time, she has helped me buy two houses and sell one, has helped a nearly countless number of other friends successfully find and sell homes and has been a knowledgeable and steadfast resource for all matters home-related. And out of all the friends I've referred Holly to, I have never heard anything other than glowing reports from a single one. And Holly's amazing responsiveness and skillful professionalism doesn't just end with the close of escrow. Her website ( includes a wealth of useful information and resources for almost any topic related to buying, selling, *and* owning a home you can think of. And this is a good metaphor for Holly herself: when you work with Holly to buy or sell a home, you get Holly seemingly forever, and she will always find a way to help you. A client relationship with Holly is a permanent one, and you will find that she is a real, down-to-earth fun person you will actually enjoy hanging out with. There is no 'pitch' in this sales woman. She is 100% authentic. And, she's just an all-around amazingly accomplished cool person: black-belt in karate; tangoista; cellist; novelist; avid gardener; funny; generous; kind. Again, I know: too good to be true. But true. K.R. El Cerrito

Contra Costa Realtor Recommendation

Sept 2011

Can someone recommend my husband and I a real estate agent/Realtor recommendation who works in Contra Costa county (Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, San Ramon)? We found a Realtor who specializes in Alameda county and thought it would be best to find another in Contra Costa county. Unfortunately, the recommendations on BPN for Contra Costa are sparse. Thanks! anon

We can recommend Wendy Holcenberg She is lives in Moraga and specializes in that area. She is great. --happy homeowner

I highly recommend Jeff Snell w/Village Associates. He works alone and with his mother Linda Snell who has been a realtor in this area for decades. We moved from SF in 2009 and found Jeff through a referral. We knew next to nothing about the area. He saw us through an extensive search and a rocky escrow. He lives in Lafayette, was raised in CC County and is just a great agent. Knowledgable, patient, on the ball, all the things you need from a realtor. Good Luck.

I would urge you to contact Holly Henkel of J. Rockcliff Realtors in Orinda (hhenkel [at]! Holly is active in the community. For younger families interested in moving to this area because of the schools, Holly helps buyers find the right fit in Lamorinda. She knows the neighborhoods and is knowledgeable about the schools. You will immediately feel comfortable with Holly. She is upbeat with a 'can do' attitude. She will work hard for you. kr

Need top-notch real estate agent in Lafayette

August 2011

We've been through several disappointing experiences looking for a house. We worked with two agents - one who was constantly nudging us beyond our stated price range, and one who kept showing us dumps that were a 'good value' even though we specifically told him: NO FIXERS. We need an agent who will really listen to our needs and not just steer us on his/her usual track. Preference for someone who specializes in Lafayette area. Let the househunting begin (again)

We can recommend Wendy Holcenberg. -happy homeowner

We worked with Jeff Snell at Villiage Properties. He's great: honest, resourceful, patient, etc. At the time I was referred to Jeff, I was also unhappy with the agent I was working with. Jeff stepped in gracefully, was super knowledgable (he has live in this area all his life), technically savvy, and understood our needs right away. I would highly recommend him. Reach him at Jeff [at] He's also pleasant to be around.

My parents used Ann Sharf at Village recently and they could not have asked for anyone better. They loved working with Ann- she focused on their needs and listened to what they wanted. Her website is Love Ann.

We recently purchased a house in Orinda and used Devang Parkih, Barnes Associates, C: 415 812 3777. Devang really made the purchase a smooth process and if it were not for his excellent negotiating skills we probably would not have been able to afford Orinda. He is really familiar with the entire Lamorinda area which was a huge plus for us. He was able to give us insight on the different areas/neighborhoods. He definitely respected our tight budget and what we were looking for in a house. We never felt pressured. In fact, once we fell in love with a house, he had us wait 24 hours before making an offer. He then took us back to the house and would only write up the offer once we were all confident this was the right choice. His goal wasn't to just make a sale but it was more to find us a home where we could be happy. He succeeded! He would be worth connecting with as you interview new agents. You can't go wrong with him! Helen

I suspect that you are not going to be able to afford the home you want. One real estate agent is showing you the homes you can afford, the other the type of home you want. Since there is no overlap, you want none of them. I suggest that you start searching yourself by looking online and going to open houses. When you find something, get in touch with your agent. Here is a link to get you started:!lat=37.88667390714807=-122.11788208249897=sanfrancisco_id=9927_type=6=1,2=6,5,4,3,2,1=6=13

You don't need a top-notch agent. You need to do your homework and adjust your expectations. anon

Maybe your disappointment is not due to the agents' actions but because you want more than you can afford. Your options are to expand the geographical area of your search to fit your price range, reduce the scope of what you want, do the fix-up, or raise the offer of those has to give.

The agent who was constantly nudging you beyond your stated price range wasn't doing it to make a larger commission; he or she almost certainly did that because what you told the agent you want is out of your stated ceiling price.

And the agent who kept showing you fixers did it because those properties were in your expressed target location and price. You seemed to disparage the agent who pointed out good values by putting it in quotes...he was actually doing a good job! Buying an undervalued property is the fastest, most reliable way to gain equity (*especially* in the current market as appreciation will be minimal in the next few years), &/or to be able to buy in a good location.

I'm an agent: we don't make money not listening to clients or wasting time, and we do want to satisfy. No agent I know has a 'usual track'; our actions are always guided by client objectives.

If it's the money for rehab that keeps you from considering fixers, ask your mortgage broker about a 203K loan for the repairs. If the loan adviser discourages you from it, ask another broker: the loasns are complicated to process and not a lot of agents want the trouble or have the experience. Jessica

We have used Linda Van Drent for the purchase of several properties. The seller told us that they sold the property to us, because her presentation of our offer was the most compelling (even though others offered more money). What I liked about her is that she seemed honest about each property we saw and was clear about the pros and cons, was flexible in meeting with us, was responsive to each question (this is really important to me), and understood priorities when it comes to children. She's out of Coldwell Banker in Orinda and works in the Orinda, Lafayette, Oakland areas. She's done this for probably twenty years. She knows everyone and highly professional. Liz W

Can you recommend a real estate agent?

June 2011

I'm looking for a superb real estate agent familiar with the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, El Cerrito) family-friendly neighborhoods and schools. We are not afraid of fixers and may prefer one, even one in what most would consider horrible shape (we are builders). The right person would also know the rental and resale market a bit as we may be looking for investment properties. If anyone has had a great experience or is an agent themselves please let me know. You can write to me off-list if you are a professional. Sue

I highly recommend realtor Marni Fischer: 415-722-0032/510-558-9996, Marni@Marvin, She specializes in the East Bay market along the I80 corridor (Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Pinole, Hercules, etc) and parts of the 24 (Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Concord, Orinda, etc.). She is an unbelievable agent and I would recommend her services to any buyer, seller, contractor or investor. I've been incredibly impressed with her manner in dealing with extremely stressed out people, advocating for her client's rights or negotiating a tough deal. Definitely give her a try. Happy Client

I HIGHLY recommend Helen Walker of Thornwall Realty - 510-207-2968 - She is extremely knowledgeable in the areas you are seeking. She has an incredible network of contractors to recommend and she is extremely patient and attentive. She must have shown me 30-40 houses in the time I was looking. Helped me with offers and negotiations and ultimately found me my incredible house. Email her directly or if you have any questions, contact me. ultraviolet

When we moved to the Bay Area from Washington DC, real estate agent Hope Broderick was recommended to us by a friend who discovered her when buying a house. Hope was representing the seller, not our friend. That is how good she is. Everyone in the room is reassured by her professionalism and dilligence. We had a price range, house size, and school needs in mind, and no other narrowing factors-- and we were 'shopping' from DC. Hope checked out houses from North Berkeley to San Leandro for us--saving us hours of time. She is very gracious and a bridge builder and we found that other agents were really happy to be working with her. In the end she found us a house that we were certain we couldn't afford. She judged the market, the timing, and the needs of the seller spot on, and in the end we got exactly what we wanted. Hope can be reached at Highland Partners at 510-740-5954 or hope.broderick [at] Ann--happy in Oakland

Daniel Stea, PGB Real Estate. Knowledgeable, personable, patient, great to work with. He's also a real estate attorney, if you need/want that. 3 years after our purchase, he was still incredibly helpful with some follow on questions. Can't say enough. Call him! happy homeowner

We highly recommend Kathie Longinotti at Coldwell Banker in North Berkeley. She is smart, professional, ethical, and well-informed about the market. She is also very pleasant to work with. Berkeley Resident

I can recommend Kathryn Stein and Helen Walker, who work together. They are an outstanding team!! We worked with them to sell our home in El Cerrito and buy our home in Berkeley. We were looking in specific areas of Berkeley in order to be in close proximity to certain schools. They worked within this parameter easily and were familiar with the zones within the Berkeley school district. Prior to agreeing on Berkeley we were searching other areas in the Bay Area and they were equally knowledgeable about them as well. Kathryn and Helen are excellent listeners and were able to direct us to homes and neighborhoods that matched our taste and requirements. They were so knowledgeable and competent we trusted them completely. Personally, they're wonderfully easy to get along with, were always fabulous with our children and all around great people to be in close contact with for months at a time! Please feel free to contact me if you have other questions. You can contact Helen 510-207-2968 and Kathryn 510-593-7311. Their website is Good luck! mara

I love my Realtor! He is very knowlegeable about all things house related, and isn't scared of recommending fixers, and giving you a good idea of what needs to be done, as well as what it will cost. He is very knowledgeable about all of the East Bay, particularly where you are looking. His name is David Valdez, he is with Union Pacific, email him at david [at] or call 510-593-6100 happy home owner

Seeking highly experienced realtor for North Berkeley house

May 2011

We live in North Berkeley and are looking to sell our current house and buy a new family home in the area.

We are looking for an East Bay real estate agent who will really be a good fit for us for the long run. I know it's a long list, but we only want to consider people who will truly excel at meeting all of our real estate needs:

We are interested in someone who's been in the business a long time who has a proven track record. Also, someone who is highly competent with both buying and selling, a top negotiator, an excellent eye for staging, up to speed with online marketing, knowledgeable about home construction and repair, energetic and motivated, highly professional -- somebody who will honestly care about us and our home!

Thank you so much for any recommendations you have!! anon

We've used Kevin Tannahill for 2 sales and 3 purchases. We wouldn't call anyone else. He's responsive and knowledgeable and keeps everything on track. His telephone # is 510-524-1112. He grew up here and is raising his family here. He knows the area very well. Kelly O

We love our realtor, Holly Rose (510-847-0656), who works out of the Hopkins Street branch of Marvin Gardens, in Berkeley. Holly is full of energy, knowledgeable, responsive, practical, and easy to work with. We began our search for a home with another realtor, and felt as though we were left adrift, receiving little guidance on what homes we should focus on and NO guidance on what we ought to offer for them. Finally another happy client recommended that we talk to Holly, and the difference was amazing. She made it easy to rule out the houses that were not for us, and when it came to making a bid on the one (the very first one) that we decided WAS for us, she told us exactly how much to bid. There were a lot of offers, and the top two - ours and that of the runner-up - were identical. In other words, we ended up paying what we needed to pay to get the house, and NOT ONE PENNY MORE. We have recommended Holly to all our house-hunting relatives, and they have had similarly great experiences with her.

To address some of your specific criteria: Holly has been in the business for a long time, and has a great track record. (I am pretty sure that at one point she was the top-producing realtor at Coldwell Banker in Berkeley.) We have friends whom Holly helped to buy a new house while simultaneously selling their old one, in transactions with nerve-wrackingly tricky timing, just as the real-estate market was crashing a few years ago; Holly pulled it off without a hitch. Holly is very computer-savvy, and while we have only bought, not sold, with her, her use of electronic techniques to help simplify our search for a home was certainly a lot more sophisticated than that of our previous realtor. You can't do better than Holly Rose! Anonymous

I highly recommend David Otero. He is a straight shooter, and very down to earth. He's been in realty for years and is on top of the game. The man works for you. His # is 510-869-4239, and you can check out his website. I honestly don't think I would be in my house if not for his help, as there were multiple offers. If I were to purchase another home in this area I would use him without hesitation. If you want, you can tell him Leslie Z. referred you.

Check out Sheri Madden with Marvin Gardens. She's very experienced, patient and super helpful. She's well-connected with a number of contractors and other such professionals. Her number is: 510.501.1317

Call Ira and Carol Serkes of They're knowledgeable, driven, and everything you want. -- leave it to dee

We recently bought a house and sold a house in North Berkeley. Both transactions went perfectly thanks to our realtor Gene Millstein. (510) 527-8822 Gene meets all of your criteria: he's been in the business a long time and has a proven track record. He's a fantastic negotiator and is highly professional. He knows what makes houses sell, both in terms of staging and marketing, and most importantly, he will honestly care about you and your new home! Good luck! Joan

I wholeheartedly recommend Nancy Mueller with Berkeley Hills Realty. She's very experienced and really a fun person to work with. maia

Carla Higgins is an exceptional realtor and has a fantastic eye for staging! She has represented buyers and sellers on more than 400 home sales and is an absolute delight to work with. You can reach her at carla [at] She's really fantastic to work with! Good luck! Sue

I recommend Helen Walker at Thornwall Properties ( She was very supportive in our home buying process, very knowledgeable and professional. She was sensitive to our budget and wasn't pushy in any way. She buys and sells homes in many parts of the East Bay, not just Berkeley. aw

We used Barbara Reynolds at McGuire Realty to buy our Berkeley home. We loved her! She's been in the business a long time (17 years), confident, was able to give us an idea of what things would cost and got us estimates for several things for our house before we signed the contract. She's fast and awesome. Cannot say if she does staging or not but I'm sure she'll have resources. Her cell is 510-847-2409

We worked with Heidi Long for two years, looking for and purchasing two homes for our extended family. She is a true professional, a long-time realtor in this area, and a lovely person. We had very specific parameters and looked at a lot of houses; Heidi never made us feel rushed and was always available to us. Her business partner, Dana Cordeiro, is also wonderful to work with. I have not had experience selling a home with her, but I encourage you to look up her previous reviews, and to meet her. happy homebuyer

After 30 years of buying and selling properties in Berkeley, I can recommend the best real estate team: Chris Cohn and Amy Robeson. Professional, savvy, sharp, responsive, experienced, trustworthy, fun and good people. I bought my last property with them just a few months ago. http://www.berkeley- Ruth

I cannot recommend the team of Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine highly enough! They helped us sell our house in Rockridge and find/buy a new one in N. Berkeley and met all of our expectations, which were exactly those that you state: Highly professional, really knowledgeable and thorough and enthusiastic in evaluating both your home and any home you might be interested in buying, excellent eye for staging, whether you hire someone or have them do it for you, very prudent and knowledgable about repairs, structural issues, spotting and flagging problems, making sure you cover all the disclosures, going over your home with a fine-toothed comb, excellent negoiators, and amazing at handling both transactions literally at once, with integrity and grace! They are truly respected in the field as well, which really helps your negotiating position. The realtors on the other side of the transactions will know that they are top-trust-worthy, cannot be fooled with, and also are true to their word. I would interview several people/teams, just to be sure you are finding the right fit, but be sure to include Glass/Sabine. Raissa

We loved our realtor, Maya Trilling. (510-524-1700 x18) She has been in Berkeley real estate for 30+ years, and can tell you the history of almost any house. My husband has bought two houses with her, and she remembered all his preferences between the two purchases 7 years apart. We feel we got good deals both as buyers and as sellers. Karen

I highly recommend my friend Julie Cuellas. She is a top producer at Red Oak Realty. She is proactive and stays of top of everything. She truly cares about her clients and develops clients for life. Hope she is the right one for you as well. Her phone# 510-280-2166, email is julie [at] Lan

I highly recommend Holly Rose. She was referred to us through our listing agent in San Francisco. When we decided to move to the east bay we interviewed a few east bay realtors, all of whom came highly recommended but ultimately we felt that Holly was the right fit for us and we have been so happy with the outcome. On our initial 'touring' with Holly we were impressed that she really took the time to understand what my husband and I were looking for...what we liked and didn't like about the houses we were viewing and thus she was able to get a really good feel for what was important to us, what our 'style' was and it enabled her to really be a strong advocate for us and a great sounding board through our house hunting process. She asked relevant questions, raised concerns, and highlighted things to consider that were really insightful and thoughful that we genuinely appreciated during our assessments of prospective homes. We never felt that she was 'selling' us and trying to talk us into something that didn't feel right. When we found 'the house' I really felt like Holly did an amazing job helping to negotiate and ultimately close the deal. Her knowledge of the market, and her years of real estate experience make her a very savvy negotiator and advocate. We felt that we were armed with trustworthy information that made us feel very secure in knowing what we were buying. We felt informed and as 'in control' as one can feel during a stressful event like buying a house! Holly was with us every step of the way. She was professional, knowledgeable and I think most importantly to us - she was ethical, honest and an excellent negotiator. End result is that we love our house and I really can't over emphasize what a positive experience we had with Holly. happy oakland customer

Need Walnut Creek realtor

May 2011

I am looking for a trustworthy realtor to sell my Mom's house in Walnut Creek. My mom is not knowledgeable about real estate, but very trusting of experts. My husband and I will help with the process, but because we work full-time in SF and have an infant, it's difficult. We want someone who we can trust to work in the best interests of my mom.

The house is somewhat run down, and there is little money for fixing it up. However it is large, has a huge lot on a cul de sac zoned for more than one structure (currently there is a guest house), and is in a desirable school boundaries. My estranged father who was paying the mortgage recently cut my mother off financially, so we need to sell as soon as possible. Is there anyone out there who can get us a good price (the proceeds will by my mother's retirement egg) and can be sensitive to some complex family dynamics?

We are also looking for a good fee-based financial planner who can help us set up a retirement plan for my mom using the sale proceeds and work out a realistic budget for a senior who is used to living beyond her means. Thanks! Looking out for mom

Stuart Levitas, Broker, of Astound Real Estate, could be the person you are looking for. I have friends who have used his services who rave about his respectful, sensitive, professional manner. I have some property in Walnut Creek that I am considering selling and he got right back to me with info and estimates of possible selling price. His office is in Concord and he is an expert in Walnut Creek and other Contra Costa County real estate. Give him a call -- he is very honest, experienced, and easy to talk to. Stuart Levitas, Broker, Astound Real Estate 925.858.5830 stuart [at]

I can recommend Todd Van Laanen of Alain Pinel. He is both a friend and was our realtor. He helped us sell our first home and buy our next one. We had an excellent experience with him. He is also just a nice person and is very easy to work with. GIve him a call to see if he would be a good fit. He is in Walnut Creek. Tell him I sent you. Todd Van Laanen APR Phone: 925.963.9883 Email: tkvanlaanen [at]

Real estate agent for rental home?

April 2011

I have a 2 1/2 year old and am hoping to move into a good public school district in Oakland (Rockridge, Piedmont, Montclair, etc.) in the next year or so. My husband and I would like to rent to start. We've looked on Craigslist and tried doing research on public schools online on our own, but would love the advice of a good real estate agent. Do real estate agents take on clients looking for rental homes? Does anyone have a recommendation for a good real estate agent? Gina

I highly recommend Heidi Long at Red Oak Realty ( She has been a realtor in Berkeley for many years and is very knowledgable about school districts in the area. I'm sure she'd be happy to consult with you. Claudia

Looking for a realtor for my parents

March 2011

My parents are moving up to the Bay Area. They have lived in the same house for 40 years so they haven't had to look for a house for a while. They are in their 70s and are interested in a condo or a place in a senior community (like Rossmoor)for under $400,000. They are interested in something between San Leandro and Pinole including Alameda. Does anyone know of a realtor who might specializes in working with older people? Thanks.

I would like to recommend Jackie and Chimene from Team 510 Realty. They are incredible!! We had the pleasure of using them in June 2010 to buy our first home and they made the often stressful, scary process totally enjoyable. We love them and cannot recommend them highly enough. Janel

I can highly recommend Lori Young at Rossmoor Realty if your parents want to explore Rossmoor. She has recently done a great job selling my mother's home in Rossmoor, and I know she is good with buyers, too. Incidentally, I have been a realtor in Berkeley for 20 years so I have high standards, and I am very impressed with Lori's competency and also her communication style with seniors. You can reach her at 925/787-6357 and best of luck. heidi

Hi, We worked with Barbara Reynolds from McGuire to buy our first house here in Berkeley. She was patient and confident. I would use her in a heartbeat if we decide to sell someday. She's been in the business for many years and I felt like we were in good, steady hands throughout the process of buying our house. Her office number is 510-883-7003 Best, B.

Looking for local realtor for first-time homebuyer

March 2011

We are going to start looking for our first home, don't have much experience in this realm and would love to find a realtor who is from this area and really knows neighborhoods well. We have a young daughter and and would like help finding a great house for our family, and would appreciate support in figuring out where we can get the most value....(looking in Oakland/ Bereley/ Emeryville/ Albany). THANKS for your suggestions! j.

Hi Joanna, I recommend Don Askey. He's a highly experienced, friendly, and no-pressure realtor who works a lot in the Oakland area but knows the East Bay scene very well. He was very helpful in a real estate jam I was in a few years back and we are now good friends. His number is 510-326-5614 Best wishes, Bill

Dianne Arancibia is a wonderful realtor for first time buyers. She helped us find our first home and was so patient and helpful. It took us 9 months to find something we could afford and Dianne was supportive through the whole process. We recently worked with her again when we were thinking of selling our current home and buying another. It turned out that refinancing was a better choice and Dianne recommendeded a great mortgage broker who shares her integrity. Dianne Arancibia: dianne [at]
happy home owner

Michael Valva at Valva Realty (michaelev [at] is a GREAT realtor. Valva Realty is a family business that was founded by his grandfather and has grown significantly. This has the benefit of him having grown up in Oakland and being extremely familiar with the area (all of the east bay). I think he's been doing this for at least 30 years.

He helped our friends buy their first home in a more affordable, but still very safe part of Oakland and is helping us buy ours in a similar area (more affordable, very safe, and very cute!).

He was EXCELLENT about listening to our needs, showing us places that fit exactly into our specifics and staying well-within our price range and requirements. His philosophy is that he wants to help you find the right place for you so that when you are ready to sell you will use him to both sell and buy your next place and be able to get great value out of both experiences. We felt like his only clients. His knowledge and trustworthiness was invaluable. He was very honest about why a property might not be a good fit based on our requirements and could point out damage, estimate fixing costs and more. He was also honest about homes being priced too high or being on the market too long because of a likely problem and was pretty much always right about how much we should offer on a home and how quickly it would stay on the market.

I can't say enough good things about the experience we had with him. In addition, he treated us very well and took us very seriously even though we were spending relatively little in the Bay Area market and were trying to find a modest home in a more working-class area (not snobby and rich trying to buy in a snobby/rich area). :-) Please feel free to email me if you have any more questions about him. hannah

Heidi Long was our realtor for two home transactions, and we have come to really trust her judgement. She is a long-time resident of this area and really understands how the market here works. She's also just a terrific person. We enjoyed our time working with her. Her business partner, Dana Cordeiro, is also a complete professional and provides excellent substitute care if Heidi ever needs to be in two places at once. happy at home

I can HIGHLY recommend Stina Charles-Harris with Pacific Union (Berkeley/Montclair). If not for Stina, we would not have found our beautiful N. Berkeley home (in 2007). We were referred to her from friends who bought their Berkeley home with her, and we then connected friends of ours with her to find their first home - a wonderful place in Montclair. We all have kids (Stina is a mom as well), so she's very tuned in to the needs of young families. She's experienced, smart and knows the area well. stina [at] w: 510.982.4400 mobile:510.282.6201 If you contact her, please let her know I referred you. Good luck! Tara

Hi. You will probably get a lot of replies, as there are so many great realtors in the area. We used and love Sara Amaden (Coldwell Banker in Oakland). She was patient, rational and friendly. She also has 2 young kids so she will 'get' you. Her website is just her name (no space and dot com). Good luck on your search! Happy homeowners

Nadia Camiso at Beter Homes and Gardens is a top notch realtor. She recently helped us with every aspect of buying our home. She is a mother herself and understands the demands of parenthood. We really needed someone that would help us stay active in our home search. We tried out two other realtors before we found her. They never gave us the individualized attention and care she provided. She would actually pick us up at our home with our two kids in tow and drive us all over the East Bay to show us homes. She really worked to understand our needs and what we were looking for. She made sure to keep us actively engaged in the process. She ended up finding our home much faster than any of us expected. She gave us great guidance in putting in an offer, and out of many, ours was excepted. She worked hard to negotiate a fair price and even harder to make sure we got the loan, which was not at all straight forward for us. She even helped provide childcare when we were signing all of the final papers. She carefully and graciously walked us through every aspect of the process, explaining very clearly and in simple terms everything we needed to know. She made sure that we were making the right decision for us and we never felt any pressure from her in any way. She was honest, communicative, professional, organized, helpful, and gave us truly personalized service. I whole heartedly recommend Nadia to anyone looking to purchase a home. sc

You should use our realtor! She is amazing! She helped us buy our triplex in Emeryville, our home in Glenview (Oakland) and helped my family sell our grandmother's home in Berkeley when she passed. She's from Oakland so knows the area well, and is such a pleasure to work with. You can totally trust her, she's warm and not pushy in the least. And most of all she knows her stuff! She's right on when it comes to purchase/sale price, and the types of contingencies that are important to put in your offer. Another thing that is great about her is that other realtors seem to really like her, which means they want to work with her, which makes the offer process that much smoother. Anyway, I could go on and on. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Her contact info is below. Maria Cavallo-Merrion Pacific Union c: 510.919.8841 email: mcmerrion [at]

I bought my (first) house last year, and loved my Realtor. He was very knowledgeable about the area (Albany/El cerrito/Emeryville/Berkeley/Oakland) and about the process. I would highly recommend him :) David Valdez 510-593-6100 david [at]
Happy First-time-home-buyer

My wife and I love our real estate agent, Sheri Madden, at Marvin Gardens. We moved to Berkeley from San Francisco almost three years ago with our two year old and one on the way. Sheri was great. She listened to us to understand what mattered to us and helped us find a great place on a fantastic block. She lives in Berkeley with her family and knows not just the neighborhoods, but often the blocks well, and knows all of the areas you mentioned well. We have recommended her over and over again to people who we want to have a good experience. Our kids feel very comfortable with her, too. robin

I highly recommend our realtor (and now neighbor!) Kathryn Stein (510) 848-1950 x250 at Thornwall Properties. She has years of experience working in Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito. Her local expertise and connections were invaluable during the buying process, and she has continued to be a huge help to us as we navigate major projects on our 'contractors dream' house. Kathryn was endlessly patient with us (and our then 3&5 year old children); she listened and offered valuable insights and suggestions without being pushy. She is incredibly personable and easy to talk to, while at the same time being able to work efficiently and effectively under pressure. I can't say enough good things about her! RW

I would like to recommend our realtor, Colleen Larkin at Thornwall Properties. We were first time buyers going in on a TIC duplex with a friend. She guided us through a fairly complex situation, helped us negotiate to get a fair price and gave us lots of guidance regarding the many repairs our 100-year-old fixer upper needed. I was amazed at how hard working and responsive she was. She always got right back to our questions (and we had a ton!) and she was always good natured, patient, friendly and upbeat about the process. She is extremely knowledgeable and professional. I definitely felt like we were in good hands, which is so important when you are going into unknown waters as a first time buyer. What's more, she had been our TIC partner/friend's realtor for a year or two before finding our house, and she showed him many properties before finding the one that was just right. Again, super patient and hardworking!

Real Estate Consult for Future Purchase Planning

February 2011

My husband and I currently rent, but we are planning on buying sometime in the next five years. We aren't ready yet, but when we are, we're going to be looking in the East Bay (Lamorinda or Castro Valley, maybe?) for a either a home with some land (at least an acre, ideally more) or land on which to build our own home. As this will be a very large investment requiring careful preparation, we want to start planning now.

Do real estate agents talk to people in our situation? Ideally we want to sit down with someone and walk through our future options: what kind of land is available and where in the East Bay, how much we realistically will need to save, whether or not building our own custom home even makes sense, etc. Clearly if we did meet with an agent now, we would use them again in a few years to actually guide us through the purchase process when the time comes.

I would greatly appreciate any recommendations of a professional familiar with these kinds of purchases who might be willing to consult with a couple in our situation (who won't pressure us to act before we're ready). Thanks, Planning for the Future

In answer to your question-- yes a GOOD agent will absolutely be willing to spend time with you to discuss your needs and desires even if you don't plan to purchase for awhile. We had a great experience in working with Robin Gaskins at Red Oak Realty. She is knowledgeable about the market and really listens to what her client's needs are. We worked with her in the potentially hairy situation of buying a house together with my in-laws-- for them a place to live closer to grandchildren, and for us an investment. Robin handled the process with grace and good humor and ended up with all four of us (me, my husband, MiL and FiL) singing her praises. We found the perfect house which has proven to be a great place to live and a good investment. Robin was patient but also ready to move quickly when the opportunity was right. Give her a call, you will be glad you did. 510.333.4689 | robin [at] Ann

Kensington realtor for advice about selling

February 2011

My family recently became the inheritors of a small 1950s house in Kensington, and we're looking to sell sooner rather than later. Would love recommendations for a good realtor. The house is in decent shape, but has not been remodeled (kitchen, bath, windows etc.) -- one thing we're looking for is solid advice about how much work to do in preparation for selling. thanks! lucky legatee

When we bought our house in Kensington, we used Grace Bishop at Red Oak Realty. She is an amazing agent who is super reliable and incredibly on-the-ball. Her knowledge of the market is excellent, and she made the realty experience easy. Leslie

I highly recommend Anita Thede at Northbrae Properties. She is great to work with--hard-working, thorough and easy-going. She's been in the area for 30 years so she's super-knowledgeable about the N. Berkeley/Kensington/Albany area. Here's her info: Anita Thede Northbrae Properties 510-526-4336 Janet

I don't know why it has never occurred to me to do this before, but this most recent inquiry for a recommended realtor to sell a Kensington home reminded me that we have used a husband-wife tandem of realtors for a few purchases and sales that I would recommend extremely highly. They are Stan and Sharon Hammond, and they work from the Wells & Bennett Realtors brokerage in Oakland (Montclair). The main number there is (510) 531-7000.

With Stan & Sharon, you get two for the price of one, as they both work the transaction for you. They each have different specialties. For instance, Stan is a former contractor and knows a lot about how to assess a house physically, what needs to be done, etc. Sharon sees all the houses that come onto the market, and knows the most about marketing, comparables, etc. Together they are a fabulous team. Perhaps equally importantly, they are as honest as the day is long, extremely hardworking, and will hold your hand through the whole process (if you want).

They are just really good people, with lots of experience. They technically specialize in Oakland Hills neighborhoods, but they have handled properties all over the Bay Area, especially the East Bay, and can/will go anywhere. I would recommend you at least try them out. They're great. Joshua

Hi there - My recommendation is that you call Gene Millstein of Millstein Associates. His office is based in Kensington and Gene has been a member of the Berkeley/Kensington community for many, many years. Not only does he know the market and area well, he is a nice person and a good realtor. He helped us buy our house and we have recommended him to several other people who have both liked and respected him as well as having had successful experiences, both on the selling and buying side of the equation. Good luck! Tracey

Hello, I'd like to recommend a wonderful realtor in Kensington. Her name is Sheri Madden and she's with Marvin Gardens. I've heard nothing but incredible things about her from several people I know who have worked with her. She's very patient, knowledgeable and experienced and a lovely person. Her office is one of the Arlington shops near Young's Market and her number is 510.501.1317. She also has a website: Hope this helps! Congrats on the house! peace, Francesca

I know a really great realtor who lives in and works in Kensington. She found our house for us last year. She has boundless energy, lives in Kensington and really knows the business. Tracy Sichterman's website is Ed

Please call Bebe MaCrae of the Grubb Company. You will be so happy that you did. My husband works in the real estate industry and, although he has never worked for her, personally, he has seen her work wonders for sellers. he says that she almost always has multiple offers on her listed properties, and some people will get home inspections BEFORE the offer so that they will have no contingencies. She seems to have some sort of magic touch. We hired her a few months ago to list our Albany home. She told us exactly what to (down to the paint colors) and what to not worry about. She hired stagers out of her own pocket, and they did an amazing job! She had a sketch of the house and colorful flyers made. She held two open houses and gave other realtors a date for offers. We received 2 offers and ended up getting our full asking price (which was waaaaaay more than zillow and other agents said our house was worth and even more than a few bigger houses in our neighborhood) in November (which is a notoriously bad month to sell a house). We closed escrow less than 2 months after listing! Other houses in our neighborhood are still for sale 2 months later. At every step of the way, she was professional and in charge. She was a lot more experienced than the buyer's agent, which led the buyers to pay more than their original offer and to accept no repairs or updates. She is the best!! Bebe Fan

I highly recommend Colleen Larkin at Thornwall Properties. Colleen helped me sell my father's home in North Berkeley and she did a wonderful job! Colleen knew exactly what to do to make the house look current and welcoming, and then she did it all. She has a great network of contractors to get the work done at a reasonable price. Colleen was very thoughtful in her recommendations on how to deploy my budget to achieve maximum results. The process went very quickly and we ended up with multiple offers. She was extremely professional and a pleasure to work with. (510) 848-1950 x240 Jen

It is a pleasure to recommend my realtor Karen Moss. She works with Marvin Gardens in El Cerrito. Email: karenmoss [at] Mobile: (510) 282-3853. I had a bad experience with another realtor two years ago who was more interested in making a sale than helping me find the right place. I had completely stopped looking until I met Karen.

Karen is sharp, honest, respectful, and ethical as the day is long. She is resourceful, generous and works hard. I had many questions and concerns, being a first-time homebuyer. Karen answered my questions and volunteered additional information that helped me make informed decisions. She enjoys getting to know her clients, is a good listener, and wants her clients to be happy with their choices. She's enjoyable to spend time with. She offers the right combination of support, patience, and straightforward directness without being pushy. She understands people as well as trends and fluctuations in the market. She has lenders she works with as well as contractors and inspectors. I recommend her without hesitation. I love my house and am grateful every day that I get to live here. Teri

Give Susan Perry a call at Security Pacific Realtors, 510- 222-8340 office or 510-821-1585 cell. She is very knowledgable, thorough and will work hard to help you find just what you are looking for. She works for the benefit of her client, not just to make a sale. A satisfied client

Recommendations from 2009 - 2010

Real estate agent

Dec 2010

My husband and I recently bought a house working with Wayne Chin: Wayne was great to work with, he really knows the area well in terms of available homes as well as local services and schools. He's extremely pleasant to work with and really wants his clients to be happy in their new homes. Wayne helped us out before, during and after the sale, providing guidance, advice and well-informed insight throughout the entire process. Best of luck with your search. I'm happy to answer any specific questions you may have about our experience working with Wayne. CMC

Realtor for El Cerrito multi-unit investment property

Nov 2010

Does anyone know of an excellent real estate agent who has expertise in multi-unit investment property in the El Cerrito area? anon

Stacey Merryman, with Red Oak Realty is extremely dedicated, very organized and reliable. She has solid experience and a good knowledge of the market in the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Oakland area. I also like the way she communicates and her people skills, it really help when there is a hard negotiation process! She knows what it takes to close a deal and will work very hard to give it that extra push on the purchase of a property, suggesting different approaches. Highly recommend her: stacey [at] Cynthia

I can recommend Helen Walker from Thornwall Properties in Berkeley. (510) 848-1950. Helen is knowledgeable about the East Bay, VERY patient-she must have shown me 100 houses over the year it took me to find my perfect home (and I did) and a pleasure to work with. She also has knows the best contractors to get any job done.

Short sale - finding a good Realtor

Oct 2010

My husband and I attempted a short sale last year but were denied by the bank (after 8 months of waiting) because my husband's credit was too high and we weren't in default on any of our loans. It is a different story for us now, and we are wanting to try a short sale again. The Realtor that we worked with the first time was good, but I could tell how frustrated he was with our bank by the end of the process, so I hesitate to ask him to assist us again. If anyone can recommend a short sale Realtor, whom you've had a positive experience working with, we'd love to get in contact with that Realtor. We live in San Pablo and really want someone that is very well experienced and sucessful in short sales. Thanks! Wanting out of this mess.

Juliana Wynberg, Marvin Gardens, 510.917.7247 was great, hands down!

She helped us through a short sale. We were first time buyers on a budget, and Juliana was very patient with us.

She is very clear about the basics. In our case, because we knew our location, and were on a budget, the basics were price, sound structure, and a good floor plan.

Her philosophy of house buying seemed clear: be prepared to pay 5-10K more than market for a house you really want, to make sure you get it; else, make a bid that is a good bargain, and gives you a reasonable shot.

Juliana was quite careful with our money when making bids. From our experience with her, I would suggest that you not undercut her suggested bid: that way you will have almost no chance of getting the place.

Juliana has more than 15 years of experience, and this shows in the quick home inspection like examination she will make of the houses she shows you. She gives you a very good sense of what needs fixing, and how much it will cost. We found this very useful. Juliana also has tastes that we felt we could rely on when she suggested possible improvements, or turning down a house.

Juliana's knowledge and experience were particularly useful in our case. She suggested that we make an offer on a short sale that had already been pulled off the market. Sure enough, a few months down the road, the originally accepted offer fell through, and we got the house!

Not only is Juliana a nice person, she has great communication skills. My wife and I have different approaches to decision making: she makes quick gut decisions and her default decision is a Yes while I am irritatingly analytical and my default answer is a No. Yet we both thought her a great realtor! We both have no hesitation in recommending her strongly. J & V

I've worked with Kerri Naslund with Keller Williams, who specializes in short sales. She helps people from all over the Bay area, and even a few out of state, since it takes specialized knowledge that not all realtors have. I find her knowledgeble, committed to making sure you have a good realtor experience, and works hard. Pat

Recommendation for a Realtor in the Oakland Hills

Oct 2010

My husband and I are looking for a real estate agent to assist us with selling our house in the Oakland Hills. I checked previous postings and the most current information was from 2007, so I am hoping to get some more current recommendations. We would greatly appreciate recommendations and referral. Oakland HIlls family

Contact Ann Wilkins with East Bay Sotheby's in Montclair. Ann is very sharp, a very good person to work with, and a good Realtor to help you get the most out of your sale. Her phone is 510-899-6373 ... or email ann.wilkins [at] David

I would highly recommend Heidi Marchesotti with Mason McDuffie | Highland Partners. She has a great reputation, is one of the top 10 Realtors in Alameda County and specializes in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills. You can learn more about her at or or you can call her at (510) 387-7865. Oakland Hills Resident

Anthony Riggins with Southby's.....perfect guy and lived next door to us in the Oakland Hills for years... really knows the area. Tell him JM sent you! LOL

Hope Broderick as real estate agent?

Oct 2010

I am considering using Hope Broderick of the Grubb Company as a real estate agent to sell my current house in Oakland and to purchase a new home in the Oakland/Berkeley area. If you have worked with her, would you recommend her? Thanks. -Looking for agent

We worked with Hope when we purchased our first home. We found her to be very knowledgeable and ethical. She was always available and took the time to explain everything. We have recommended her to several friends and colleagues, they have all raved about what a great Realtor she is. Our good friend, who has very high standards, worked with her to sell her house and was very pleased with the experience. Sarah

Hope Broderick is an amazing real estate agent. I originally got her name from clients who raved about her and I now do the same. She worked with us for years before we actually bought a house and she never put pressure on us to buy a house that we didn't love. She has a keen eye for design and has flipped many houses of her own and guided clients as they remodeled theirs. The first time I met her I asked her to meet me at a big fixer upper to see if she thought it was worth it. I also asked her to estimate the cost to repair. Her estimate was EXACTLY the same as contractor's estimate so I knew that she knew her business well. She is down to earth, energetic (never tires of showing you homes) and professional. Always available for questions and concerns, and well, we love her. She has given us great recommendations for handymen, etc, and our house has been transformed at an affordable price! Ryn

Realtor for First Time Homebuyer using FHA

Sept 2010

Can anyone recommend a real estate agent who has helped them with a recent, successful experience buying a house using an FHA loan? We are on the verge of losing the home we are in contract for because our agent was unfamiliar with very rudimentary rules regarding contracts/loans. We are now picking up the pieces but are looking for a new agent. We'd like someone who is a good negotiator, knows Oakland, but above all, is honest and ethical. Thanks! Looking for Something Better

I'd like to recommend Rolando and Coqui Basora at Gallagher & Lindsey in Alameda (510-506-2051). They are very honest and trustworthy. I know this because they are my parents. But before you think I am biased, please know that I have used them in 3 transactions over the last 6 years. They helped me with 2 purchases and one sale. They are very patient and knowlegeable. Dafne

Eloise Middleton is an experienced realtor with Keller Williams Realty. She has had a number of recent buyers who used FHA loans. Eloise is honest, ethical and very deligent in helping her clients purchase and sell homes. She knows Oakland and the East Bay well. Eloise can be reached at 510-386-0547, or emiddleton [at] Helping Member

Strong Reccomendation for Steve Hill Realtor for Remax. He sold me my first home and knew the bay area market very well, he even knew what streets to stay north or south of and in what citys. He has numerous lenders he works with as well as contractors and inspectors, full time staff, and a private office. I asked him how many transactions hes done and it was over 600. Contact him at 925-202-6597. I promised him A referral so tell him Robert sent you! robert

Realtor wanted for Rockridge Elmwood or N Berkeley

Aug 2010

We need to move out of our 2 bed/1 bath Rockridge bungalow and find a place with at least one more bedroom and a second bathroom. We are looking for recommendations for real estate agents who have deep experience in Rockridge/Elmwood (or maybe North Berkeley). We can surf Zillow, Movoto etc, but we're looking for a realtor with initiative who can find the fabulous affordable house that isn't obviously on the market. Recommendations for friends / spouses, etc. are fine, but we really want to hear from recent buyers or sellers who have found an excellent realtor. Thanks.

Lori Lombardo of Pacific Union at the N. Berkeley office on Shattuck. Over the years she has handled 5 transactions for me and she has been fantastic. She works very hard, communicates very well and is a great counselor through the challenges of selling or buying. She is down to earth and has many years of experience in the area. I couldn't recommend her more highly. Will

I had the pleasure of working with Laura Arechiga, out of the North Berkeley Coldwell Banker office. Being a engineer, I was most concerned with finding an agent who communicated online, and was as efficient as possible. She absolutely excelled in both these areaC,bs, not to mentioned she priced my property perfectly and I got over the asking price on my North Berkeley home. I was impressed with her responsiveness and thorough knowledge of the neighborhood, and even more impressed by her ability to discuss all the fine details of the home itself (foundation/pluming/city-codes/fees). If you want a hands on agent, who is NOT going to make you do all the work, she is the one. michael

I thoroughly recommend the realtor that my husband and I used to buy our Rockridge home 2 years ago. Her name is Diana Yonkouski of Bay Area Properties. She has an office on Claremont, and has been in the business for over 20 years. We met with several realtors and even worked with one before we came across Diana. She has decades of experience in the areas you refer to (we started looking at Berkeley and ultimately bought in Rockridge) and she was the perfect fit for us. She's a rare thing in a realtor: a genuine ethical person who is really interested in helping you find the right thing for you, rather than making a quick buck. (She actually worked with us for over 2 years before we found THE right home for us!). She's also been around long enough to have a deep understanding of the market (it's lows as well as it's highs) which is invaluable in this economic climate. I thoroughly recommend her. Happy Rockridge Homeowner

We just bought a 3 bedroom/2bath with the help of Heidi Long. It is a tough market and it was great to have someone who has lived here and been in the business for many years. She was very flexible in meeting with us in the evenings/weekends. She had a very relaxed style and really listened to us. Never pressured us, but was very attentive and on top of it when we actually made an offer. She works with Red Oak Realty. Her number is: (510) 835-6218. I highly recommend her. Chelsea

Ann Plant of Marvin Gardens is the best. She's been in real estate for thirtysomething years - mostly (I'm sure) because she loves it. She's full of positive energy, enthusiasm and commonsense.

She helped us easily sell our two bedroom Berkeley bungalow w/paint, garden, staging advice and help; and had workerpeople she managed. Our house was a crowded mess, but she could see its potential.

We also had a great buying experience w/her - she kept us from making a big mistake and helped us close on a great house that we'll be comfortable in for a long time. Again, she rocked w/great color and other house advice, plus worker recommendations. She's smart, generous, and a decent person.

Here's her contact info: Marvin Gardens 1577 Solano Ave Berkeley, CA 94707 510.527.2700 annaplant [at] Shirley

My husband and I were thrilled with our realtor. His name is Jeff Robarts and he is out of the Prudential office on Tunnel Road across from the Claremont. Jeff is very knowledgeable, honest, good humored and patient. He is a great guy with alot of integrity. I can't recommend him highly enough. Good luck with your search and happy house hunting. Heidi

I'm not a recent buyer or seller, but I have had good experiences with Daniel Stea, the managing broker of PBG. His office is in Elmwood, right next to the Claremont hotel. Daniel E. Stea 2907 Claremont Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705 510-843-6400 . . Scott

I would highly recommend David Valdez from Pacific Union. He was my Realtor when I bought a house last year. I bought in Oakland, but we looked all over Berkeley and Albany too. He is very, very competent and professional. He really knows the ins and outs of reality in this area: David Valdez Senior Sales Associate Pacific Union Real Estate 510.338.1326 direct 510.593.6100 cell 510.339.6519 fax david [at] / Lisa Simirenko

Realtor in Berkeley who is familiar with foreclosures

May 2010

Hi, Our small family is looking to buy a home in Berkeley. We are first-time home buyers and are feeling very priced out of the market. We'd like to find a trustworthy realtor who understand the pros/cons of buying a forclosure and is familar with first-time homebuyer and downpayment assistance programs. Many thanks!! Newbies

Ann Wilkins has developed a specialty in foreclosures, short sales, etc, and she is very good at it - and great to work with. I'm confident in referring you to her. Ann is with East Bay Sotheby's. Her phone is 510-899-6373. You can email Ann at ann.wilkins [at] Please see her website here: Best wishes David

Martha was an invaluable source of knowledge and patience as she helped me and my husband through the process of buying our first home. While ours was not a foreclosure, she is knowledgeable about the subject. She taught us everything we wanted to know about buying a house and made sure we were comfortable every step of the way. Martha is a hard worker and will negotiate to get you what you want. Even though we closed on our home in Berkeley months ago, she still follows up with us to see if we need further guidance with anything home related. When searching for a home, you end up spending lots of time with your realtor. An added bonus with Martha is that in addition to being smart and knowledgeable about home buying she's also fun to be with, and brings chocolate! Amy

Realtor to sell or lease Berkeley Hills home

April 2010

I want to explore my options regarding selling or leasing my Berkeley Hills home and need a realtor who can tell me what my property would likely rent or lease for, help me weigh the pro's and con's of each in this market, and represent me in the sale or lease process. I don't see any recent postings recommending sellers' agents and would like to know of competent agents very familiar with Berkeley Hills properties. msv

I highly recommend Tania Balazs-Gvishi at Marvin Gardens. My husband and I have worked with her a few times recently - both buying and selling homes. She is incredibly dedicated, smart, honest and has her clients' interests first - always. She helped us evaluate if selling or renting made sense for us a couple years ago - we ended up renting the home and then just this month have sold it with her help. Her insight and knowledge of the area (especially Berkeley, Albany, Kensington, El Cerrito) is very important but most important to us is the way she works with clients. She makes what can be a very stressful experience, as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Tammy

Any competent local realtor should be able to help you find tenants, but you may be able to find your own (and save the rental commission a realtor would charge) by advertising on Craigslist. Your ad should include photos to attract attention; you can ask applicants to bring a complete credit report with their rental application. You will want to be SURE you have a Berkeley-specific lease because of Berkeley tenants' rights issues. BPOA has a good one, or try getting something simple from real estate attorney John Gutierrez. He's very helpful and won't churn you for fees (tel. 510.647.0600).

If you want to compare rental vs. sale proceeds, be sure to get help from a realtor who understands both the rental and sale market, and you may also want to talk to a CPA or tax-preparer who's strong on real property tax regulations (e.g., Gary Feiner at Feiner Financial) as tax implications will make a real difference to your comparative bottom lines. There's relatively little for sale in Berkeley right now, so this could be a good time to sell (catch lots of buyers' attention). Lucy

San Leandro Buyer's Realtor

March 2010

I'm considering buying a house in the San Leandro area and am looking for a good realtor to assist me in the process. I'd like someone knowledgeable and experienced who is also low-key and not pushy. I'd be grateful for any recommendations. - Low-key in search of house-key

Julie Cuellas. She's with Red Oak, handles (and lives in) San Leandro, and is far savvier than most of the ''local'' San Leandro realtors. We are low-key people too, and we found her the calmest of the realtors we dealt with. satisfied client

I would highly recommend Amy Robeson with Pacific Union. Although she works in many parts of the East Bay, she lives in San Leandro and knows the area well. We just bought a house in El Cerrito, and I could not be more satisfied! She worked with us for almost TWO YEARS and always made us feel like we were a top priority. She is knowledgeable, hardworking, responsive and a good communicator. She is definitely not pushy! Her number is 510-828-3478. Tell her you heard about her from Lucy on BPN. Happy Homeowner

We used Julie Cuellas at Red Oak Realty - she lives in the Estudillo Estates area, which is where we ended up buying, and felt she was very knowledgeable about the neighborood. (510) 280-2166, julie [at],

We also talked to Lanz Camacho, who is with Rinetti - we liked him too, and they also do a lot of work in this neighborhood as well. AgentID=13660, (510) 568-6171 x12, lanzcamacho [at] Julie

Amy Robeson who's with Pacific Union lives in San Leandro and knows it well. She is excellent in every possible way -- smart and experienced, completely aware of the market, fine negotiator, pleasant and professional. You just couldn't do any better. Amy's phone 982-4400. Pat

We would recommend Maksuda Yuksel. Prudential Realtor. She helped us to buy our fisrt house. She explained all our possibilities and scheduled all our inspections, followed through till closing time. Her phone number is (510) 207-1033 Cristina

Real Estate Reco Upper Rockridge & Lamorinda

Feb 2010

We live in Upper Rockridge near the Piedmont border. We are thinking of listing our home and would like recommendations for agents experienced in selling $1 MM++ homes in Upper Rockridge. Ideally we would love to find a broker that also has experience in buying in Lamorinda. We sold our Berkeley home using Grubb, and have worked with Prudential in the past. We have heard many bad things about East Bay Soethby's head broker in Oakland and would love to hear your experience if you worked with them. Recommendations are appreciated! Heather

My neighbor, Terry Kulka, has sold over 75 homes in Rockridge, in your price range, and I think she'd be great to work with. Some of her sellers are now her good friends, so she really instills trust in clients and I've never seen anybody work harder! Since you'll be spending LOTS of time with your real estate person, you want someone who's competent, but also has a great sense of humor. She has both qualities. You can take a look at Long Time Oaklander

Real estate broker in Berkeley

March 2010

I need a broker/agent. I'd prefer one whose a top producer for Berkeley and a rec. from experience. Many thanks.

I highly recommend Marilyn Garcia at Coldwell Banker (marilyn_garcia [at]; Marilyn recently helped us purchase our first home in Berkeley, and she is outstanding! As a couple that wanted different (sometimes mutually exclusive) things in a house, Marilyn was instrumental in helping us find a home that we both love. She's smart, patient, very professional, and well-respected among her peers. New Berkeley homeowner

Looking for Real Estate Agent in Lafayette/WC Area

Feb 2010

Hello, We are looking for recommendations for an experienced real estate agent in the Walnut Creek/Lafayette Area who has helped you or someone you know by a home recently. We are especially looking for someone who can help us buy a home with our criteria in a fairly short amount of time ( within 6 months to one year). Thank you

We recently bought a home in Concord using the services of Rich Burris. We found him to be honest and extremely hard working. You can check out his website at or call 925-586-8800 dave

ken jacobs is excellent and he is very familiar with the area. 925-280-1260 tka

Diane MacDonald with Pacific Union Real Estate based in Orinda. She is great. Been in the business a long time and is so knowledgeaable. Does a lot of business in both Lafayette and WC. Super nice, patient, very organized and attentive to detail. Very great at walking you through the process, notably once you decide on something and have millions of forms and paperwork as well as dealing with, in our case, a slightly crazy seller and her agent. She knows so many of the other realtors in the area since she has been around for so long.

We used her to buy our house last fall after looking for a year. We saw SO many houses (because we were so indecisive) and she never complained and did a great job of helping me keep track of them. She was great about seeing all of the stuff on tour days and letting me know what was out there. She is also very knowledgable about current pricing and trends.

dmacdonald [at] Phone: 925-253-6286 Mobile Phone: 925-963-0269 Web Profile: Other Web Page: Stephanie K.

Looking for realtor to help buy a foreclosure

Jan 2010

I am looking for advice or a realtor that can help me to investigate the possible purchase of a house in pre-foreclosure or a foreclosure. Geographic areas of interest are Kensington and El Cerrito. Or, do I even need a realtor? I see partial and full addresses listed on many websites. Is there anyone who does this or has done this? Can they share any advice about finding and buying the properties? If realtor, I am looking for someone who is really phenomenal and at the top of his/her game. Attention to detail and promptness are absolutely essential. Thank you in advance.

Sheri Madden (Real Estate agent) specializes in the Kensington, El Cerrito area. She's phenomenal and at the top of her game (honest, hard working and doesn't pressure you, she has a passion for what she does)Her attention to detail and promptness will impress you. She has spent a lot of time with me and my son looking at homes and we will always use her because of her integrity. Her phone number is (510) 501-1317. LL

Teri Lester has been my real estate agent around Albany and was fantastic. Here is her web page: Kate

Great Realtor in Berkeley/Albany

Jan 2010

I have a friend moving to the area who wants some updated recommendations for a realtor that specializes in Berkeley/Albany/possibly El Cerrito. Specifically looking for an agent that is patient, trustworthy , a good listener and good with people - not in a pushy-sales type way. Thank you.

Patrick Leaper at Red Oak has all the qualities your friend is looking for, plus one important one you didn't mention: knowledgable. He's been working the area for 30+ years, and there's very few houses he hasn't been inside in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito! We like him a lot and he did a great job for us nervous first time homebuyers (closed in Nov. 09). Meet with multiple Realtors, then choose Pat

I would like to recommend our wonderful realtor, Heidi Long. heidi [at] She is extremely knowledgeable (she's been in the business for a loooong time), very sensitive to what you are looking for (she would first select a long list of places and accompany you to sharpen the sense of what you want), and with a knack to get it. She is on top of every detail, responds emails on Saturdays (!!!!) and would walk you to documents, city regulations, school options, etc. and help you negotiate terms and offers (sometimes with a a box of fresh raspberries from the market). She was recommended to us by very good friends, and we in turn recommended her to two friends, who found their homes in a couple of months. What else can i say? She is a lovely person, who soothes the crazy and overwhelming process of finding a home. It was a pleasure to work with her. Mara

Hi, We are really happy with our realtor, Dan Suich of PGB Realty. He is thorough, extremely patient with our shifting needs, and knows the market all around Berkeley. And he's a mensch -- not a pushy sales guy at all. Kim

I'd like to recommend Dana Cordeiro and her business partner, Heidi Long, to you. I've known Dana for a while now. They are wonderfully caring, intelligent and consciencious agents who will do a great job for you. Rosie

I would like to recommend Gerry Pfoor at Berkeley Hills Realty, gerrypfoor [at] She works in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area. We were new to the Bay Area and USA, so were incredibly naive with purchasing a house in the USA. She listened to our needs and concerns, was incredibly patient, and was not pushy at all. Berkeley Hills Realty, 1714 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA. 94707, (510) 524-1700. Verna

Two great realtors come to mind: Scott Bovard (510) 280-2147 Warwick May (510) 597-0291 Steve

I highly recommend June McDaniels from Prudential Realty in Berkeley on Rose. She worked with me, as a first time homebuyer, and helped us through a really difficult sale with Crazy sellers. She was amazing! and as an added bonus, she has a great personality, sense of humor, all while being professional and no-nonsense! dani

Ruth Goldstone at Marvin Gardens Real Estate on Solano is *awesome* - I recommend her without hesitation. We used her to look for a house in Berkeley and Albany two years ago after friends who bought in El Cerrito recommended her. She knows all three cities very well, she quickly understood what we were looking for (saving us a ton of time and footwork), and she is very laid-back and not at all pushy. It was our first home-buying experience, and she had infinite patience for our many questions about the process, the market, and the communities in which we were looking (we moved from San Francisco). We never felt pressured to bid on or look at something we didn't want or couldn't afford. We really felt like she wanted us to find the right house, not one that would get her a higher or quicker commission check. She is honest, open, and a pleasure to work with.

Ruth Goldstone ruthgoldstone [at] 510-418-7191 (mobile)
Albany Homeowner

I'd like to recommend Heidi Long from Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave. We recently purchased a home in Albany and had a great experience with her. She is extremely professional and competent, and is truly interested in helping you find the house that YOU want. Then, when you make an offer, she is excellent at strategizing and helping you navigate through all the paperwork, inspections, etc. She knows all the right questions to ask, and has a network of inspectors, home improvement people to call for quick estimates, etc. To top it off, she is also very friendly and personable, but not in the over the top way that we have seen in some other realtors. I don't think you could go wrong with her. She has also helped two other families we know buy homes in this area, and they had great experiences with her also. Joanna p

Real estate agent for Alameda needed

Oct 2009

I'm looking for a real estate agent who has experience/expertise in Alameda. I'm interested in buying a ''fixer upper'', and am also considering buying multi-family (2- 3 units). So I'd like to find someone who is knowledgeable about these issues. I'm also fairly picky and will wait to find the right property. Thanks for your help, - HJ

Kerri Naslund with Keller Williams 510-409-4966 Geraldine

We had a positive experience purchasing our home in Alameda last year with the help of Quinn Stone. He provided us data and guidance for over a year before we were ready to move on a property. He never even tried the 'hard sell' during that period of time. loving island living

ISO Walnut Creek Realtor

Aug 2009

My husband and I are ready to buy our 1st home and would like to find an experienced real estate agent that specializes in Walnut Creek. I checked BPN recommendations for Real Estate agents and only found 4 for Walnut Creek (only 1 was from the last 5 years). Please let me know if you can recommend a real estate that you bought/sold a house with who specializes in Walnut Creek. Thank you! anon

We've been working with Pat Trager to sell my mom's house in WC, and I highly recommend her. She has lots of experience and savvy, and she's very helpful and energetic. Here's a link to her website: Janet

I highly recommend Mieko Winnacker (I bought a house last Spring). As an immigrant, even after reading homeownership books and talking to friends, I wasn't confident in buying my first home. A friend, who had sold and bought properties with her help, made a recommendation and I couldn't be more satisfied. She was very professional: punctual, organized (she always carried a file with the listings of the places we were going to see), informative, and prepared. Prior to taking me to the property, she checked the place to make sure that the keys were right and that the property was as advertised, and many times, she had talked to the seller to find out any other information that was not in the listing. She was very patient in answering my questions and understanding my expectations. During the escrow, not only was she available 24/7, but very fast in helping with the paperwork. Mieko's office is in Lafayette, but she has a lot of knowledge and experience with real estate in the east bay area since 1982. She is a Better Homes Realtor agent (925-284-9500). Good luck! Anon

Real estate agent for the Peninsula

Aug 2009

We are house hunting in a couple of areas, and one area we are seriously looking is the Peninsula - most likely San Mateo or Redwood City (San Mateo is the area we prefer for its location). We are looking for a real estate agent who is willing to help us find a deal. We do have children, and so the schools are important. If you know of a real estate who you can trust, and who will go to bat for people buying at the lower price end, please let us know!

We bought a house in San Mateo last year with Lottie Kendall and can highly recommend her. She's very responsive, thorough, and very easy to work with. I think she tends to work farther south on the peninsula - but we looked at houses from Burlingame south to Redwood City with her and were happy with her knowledge of the market wherever we went. You can check out her website ( that has her contact info and I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you have. I would expect her to be straitforward with you if she isn't familiar with the houses in your price range and if appropriate, would trust any referrals of agents who might be more familiar with it. Jessica

My friend Trish McCoy is a wonderful real estate agent who specializes in matching the perfect house to purchasers down on the Peninsula. I have not used her personally, as I own a home in Berkeley. Many, many, many of my friends have used her and have found her to be very professional and very clearly looking out and negotiating for her client's interests. Her cell phone number is - 650-245-9903. Her website is - Best of luck to you. Margo

Looking for Alameda real estate agent

Aug 2009

My family of three is looking for a home in Alameda, and are searching for a great real estate agent to help us. Ideal would be someone who is enthusiastic about helping home buyers who can afford only the lower price range in the areas that interest us. A plus would be someone familiar with REO's, fixers, foreclosures, etc.(not that we want to capitalize on anyone else's loss - but it may be all we can afford). We are looking for a place in the East End or Bay Farm Island (though would consider the West End) because would like great schools, and hubby commutes to the Peninsula, so southern areas of Alameda are a draw. This is our third home, so we are not total novices, but would like someone who is a straight shooter, has integrity, and is very knowledgeable about the market. Any suggestions are so appreciated.

David Gunderman and Andrew Raskopf they are FABULOUS!!! attentive, smart and on the ball. and there are an awful lot of peopel in the real estate business who are NOT. they are with Kane realty, one of the local outfits, and they really know their stuff. In this market you really want someone good on your side of the table, it's a tricky market and they will tell you the straight dope and how best to manuever. tel them andrea sent you andrea

I would highly recommend Lisa Lawley who works for Harbor Bay Realty in Alameda/Bay Farm. She helped us purchase our first home last October - a lovely condo here in Alameda. She helped us negotiate the best offer and ours was accepted out of 4 offers on the table! She was extremely responsive, helpful, easy to get a hold of, and very knowledgeable about the real estate market on the Island. She was also very patient with us as first time home buyers, and explained each and every step in detail along the way. She is an Alameda local who obviously loves her job and wants the best for her clients - highly recommended! sarah

You should call Jan Mason - she really has her finger on the pulse of Alameda. She's a straight shooter with the highest integrity and fun to work with. jennifer

You cannot do better than Pacita Dimacali with Gallagher & Lindsey. She helped us buy our first home in Alameda and is extremely knowledgeable, straight forward, hard-working, and attentive. When were looking for realtors, we met her at an open house. She listened closely to what we needed and followed up with listings that were just what we were looking for. She has always been available to us by phone and for in-person consultations about shifts in the market and our options year to year. She will go the extra mile for you and help you with everything you need. She's an amazing realtor at the top of her game and now a family friend. Kathryn

We are about to put our house on the market and we are using Maureen Shandobil from Harbor Bay Realty. So far our experience with her has been great, she has really helped us along in the process getting our home ready for sale. She has also been a realtor in Alameda for 20 years and just does Alameda real estate. You can contact me if you have any specific questions. karie

We have an incredible agent. He is experienced and very knowledgeable. We had been through a few before we found him and he has proven to be THE ONE! He lives and works in Alameda so he has his finger on the pulse. He is professional, passionate, honest, forthcoming, committed and has put his heart into the home search as if it were his own. He listened to our needs and never gave up until we found the right house. Even now as we near our closing date, he has continued to provide us with advice and support throughout the entire transaction. We are VERY happy to refer him. You can see some other reviews on Yelp though there are a few misdirected complaints on there regarding rentals, which he does not actually deal with. I cannot speak highly enough about his work. He has worked tirelessly and has made us feel as though we were his only priority. Michael Studebaker michaels [at] 510-748-1129 anon

I would like to recommend Rolando and Coqui Basora at Gallagher and Lindsey. They are a great husband and wife team that are knowledgeable with the whole bay area, but especially in Alameda since they live there. Gallagher and Lindsey is a real estate company based in Alameda. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that Rolando and Coqui are my parents. BUT, in the last 5 years my husband and I have used them in 3 transactions. We bought a home in Oakland in 2003 and sold it in 2007 for a nice profit with their help. In 2008, we used them again to buy our current home in Alameda. They are wonderful trustworthy people who really love to see people find the perfect home. They are honest, knowledgeable and great Realtors! You can reach them at 510-506-2051 or via e-mail at rolando [at] Dafne

Monterey Realtor?

Aug 2009

Has anyone worked with a Monterey Bay realtor that they loved? We are looking at properties online and are ready to schedule some ''real'' property tours. Thanks a bunch! Looking

Yes, we worked with Marilyn Koll and love her. She is low-key, accessible, and smart and has raised her own family in this area so she knows schools, etc. Marilyn Koll Bailey Properties Direct (831) 688-7434 ext. 272 Cell Phone (831) 588-5189 Fax (831) 685-6422 mkoll [at] Ann

I'm sure I am biased...but my mom is a great realtor in Monterey. She works for the John Saar Agency out of Carmel, and is familiar with every nook and cranny in the area. Her name is Judi Hartwell and her number is 831-869-1757. She's really down to earth and will work hard to help you out. Good luck. tracey

I can highly recommend Rick Kennifer of Coldwell Banker/Del Monte Realty. He is experienced, reliable, knowledgeable and ethical. I lived on the Monterey Peninsula for 16 and knew Rick the entire time. We worked together briefly in a related field. Call Rick at 831.626.2284 or email rick [at] Feel free to contact me with questions. jay

Real estate agent - El Sobrante

Aug 2009

Can anyone recommend a real estate agent for prospective buyers who specializes in the El Sobrante area? We've been looking around for months with an agent who does not specialize in that area and have had no luck. We currently rent in Berkeley but want to own in El Sobrante. Thanks! C.C.

I'm happy to recommend Gary Toretta, a real estate agent who specializes in the El Sobrante/Richmond/Pinole area. I used him last year to sell my mom's house, and I think he's ethical, honest, pleasant and hardworking. Gary Toretta Work 510.222.8340 Mobile 510.508.5634 Laura K.

I wanted to recommend the real estate agent we used to get our wonderful house in El Sobrante. It's a great area and we are very glad we moved here. We used Jim Parkhurst, 510-693-2664, Email: jimparkhurst [at] He was able to both sell our old house and get us a good price in this down market, and then help us find a great house and get us a very good purchase price on that one. We found him to be both trustworthy and very professional. He did what he said he was going to do when he said he was going to do it. He has been working in this area for many years so he really knows the ins and outs of the local market. He did not pressure us but clearly laid out all our options along the way and let us choose the best one for us. I highly recommend him to you for your house hunt. Gary B

When my husband and I bought our house in El Sobrante 4 years ago, we used Carlos Valero with Exit Realty and were very happy working with him. I can also recommend my neighbors, Dave Rivera and Sheila Small with Coldwell Banker. Sorry, I don't have their contact info, but I'm sure if you google them, you'll find their phone numbers. Lisa

My family moved to El Sobrante within the last year and while we didn't use a real estate agent specializing in El Sob (it was a probate sale) I did meet a real estate broker at an open house in our neighborhood who does...Ken Rogai. He lives in El Sob, is enthusiastic about the area and had some good restaurant recs - which is helpful if you're moving up here from Berkeley! Anyway, you might give him a call 510-303-7113 or email krogai [at] El Sobrante resident

Piedmont real estate agent

June 2009

We currently own in San Francisco but want to move to Piedmont for the schools. We can't spend much more than $700,000, so I'm not sure if we can even afford it, but we want to find out for sure. Could you recommend a real estate agent who would be able to take us on as clients with our budget in mind. We might need someone who can just let us know whenever something on the low end comes on the market, but not pressure us to buy something we cannot afford. house hunting family of four

Katie Macks! She does the extra stuff, like showing up in person with the offer instead of just faxing it, so that the selling agent has a real person to respond to instead of just a piece of fax paper. This is the kind of thing that makes the difference. Plus, her strength is in negotiation, so if you're trying to get into Piedmont on a budget, she's a good bet. Phone number is 510-847-9757 Laura Kennedy

You won't find anything in Piedmont for $700,000 (except land). As I type this, the least expensive home on the market is listed for $1,449,000. Also, you don't need an agent to keep tabs on the home inventory, you can check for homes online, although I don't think you'll find anything for $700,000 in the near future. Have you considered renting in Piedmont? Good luck

Nancy Lehrkind at Grubb Co. (Montclair) was amazing and worked with us for more than six months last year while we looked for a home. Other posters are right -- there's not a lot under $1M in Piedmont. BUT there may be more than you will find on the free web listings -- some places never make it to sites like Zip Realty before being snapped up. I recommend Nancy warmly and without a single reservation. She is whip-smart and has decades of experience in Piedmont helping clients buy and sell at the six-figure end of the market, at the megabucks end and everything in between. Anon

I'm also looking in Piedmont and will probably just go with with a redfin agent. For our last home purchase in Oakland, we used David Kerr from ziprealty and were happy. With both agencies, there is a rebate from your home purchase. anon

East Bay Real estate agent area

May 2009

We're looking to take the plunge and buy our first house. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good real estate agent in the East Bay, ideally one who specializes in Pleasanton/San Ramon area? anon

Hi, we wanted to recommend our long-time realtor, Brett Weinstein, with Realty Advocates on Alcatraz Avenue in Oakland, who not only charges a reduced commission, but provides incredibly high quality and comprehensive services, including arranging for contractor bids and services. We've been very impressed by Brett's integrity (i.e. telling us the house ''we loved'' was not for us because it didn't have sufficient sunlight among other problems we overlooked) and his knowledge of homes (he has a degree in architecture and has also been a contractor). We're on our fifth time around with Brett (the first was where he represented the other party)and have been incredibly pleased. You can find more information at Margaretta

I am recommending my real estate agent Keith Murray whole-heartedly!!!! We bought our first house five years ago at the ripe age of 23. We felt very comfortable and taken care of with Keith. He was very patient with us, took the time to understand what we were looking for and never felt forceful or sleezy like some of the other agents out there just trying to make a sale. Since the purchase of our house he has help my 24 year old brother buy his first house and a number of our friends. Even though we purchased our house five years ago, i still get a box of See's candy and a card waiting on my steps every year wishing us a Merry Christmas. He is a great guy with a big heart who really wants to help people. His number is (510)512-0956 and please tell him amanda and paul sent you. Trust me, you'll be well taken care of. amanda

Hi, I wholeheartedly recommend our agent Dan Suich of PGB Real Estate. He knows the area and the market, has been very patient with our desire to look at tons of properties before we make a choice. He's worked so hard for us! He has integrity, helped us focus on what we need, and he's fast and efficient. He and the others at PGB have great contacts with mortgage brokers, inspectors, etc. And he's a smart, nice guy to boot. Dan: (510) 910-7265, dan.suich [at], Kim

I would highly recommend Judi Cohen at MBV/Law. She has over 20 years experience as a real estate attorney, was partner in a firm in Oakland and now practices out of SF. I trust her completely, she's brilliant, and easy to talk with. I can say without a doubt, you'd be in great hands! She can be reached at 415.781.4400 x1433. Dana

Looking for listing real estate broker

April 2009

We are thinking of moving out of the east bay. We need a real estate broker who knows the Upper Rockridge area well. I am wondering if anyone sold a house and feels that the listing broker they used was honest and helpful (has names of people for the things we need to fix) so that they earned their commission. We want to give a 5% commission (not 6). Thank you

Jeremy Lebeau, owner of Aloha Bay Realty, is a wonderful agent. He and his farther own the company and have a wealth of knowledge, integrity and expertise. They both go above and beyond any agent I have ever known. I had an excellent experience with them -- so nice, honest and reliable. They also worked for me for 5% recently, (2.5 for selling agent, 2.5 for buying agent) and I believe they are still doing that. You can reach him at (510) 558-8378. mo

I worked with Heidi Long and Dana Cordeiro through Red Oak Realty. They have thorough knowledge of the Rockridge/Elmwood area and have represented buyers and sellers (20 years) for longer than I have lived in the East Bay. Their advice is astute, their knowledge of market dynamics is great and they listen to what you say and what you mean. They have great follow-up on the incredible amount of detail to oversee, and are positive but don't sugarcoat everything. Heidi's site is, and her partner at Red Oak is Dana Cordeiro, tel. 510.280.2152. a homeowner

I have two recommendations: Olivia Stockman from Remax 510.530.1707 and Deidre Joyner from Red Oak Realty 510.693.4253 Both are experts on the area and extremely hard working, I enjoyed working with both of them. rachel

I would highly recommend Jose Cerda-Zein of Century 21, especially for Alameda, Oakland or Berkeley. He listed our house in Alameda this March and sold it in only 12 days above asking price. He is pleasant to work with, always returns calls and works relentlessly to get the deal closed. I don't think I've ever known him to take a day off! Kate

Berkeley Real Estate Broker

April 2009

I'm looking for an honest, knowledgeable real estate broker in Berkeley for a mid range house. Thanks so much

I recommend Barb Kaplan of Marvin Gardens. 510-559-2910 work or 510-305-7478 cell. She is a fabulous networker so can get you the best termite inspector, etc. She is one of the top realtors in the area and knows how to negotiate. She has bought and sold four homes for our family and did a fabulous job each time, from handling multiple offers to negotiating a higher selling price at the nth hour. kl

We were really happy with Linda Gerson, who is now with Millstein and Associates (548-0266, LGersonRE [at] She has been working Berkeley real estate for a long time, really knows what she is doing, and is a truly down-to-earth and nice person who we felt was always looking out for our best interests.

Hi, We're very happy with Dan Suich of PGB Real Estate. He knows the area and the market, has been very patient with our changing perceptions of what we need, fast, and efficient. He's worked so hard for us! He and the others at PGB have great contacts with mortgage brokers, inspectors, etc. And he's a smart, nice guy to boot. Dan: (510) 910-7265, dan.suich [at], Kim

I cannot recommend Herman Chan enough!! Herman shepherded us and countless other friends through their first-time homebuying experiences all over the Bay Area -- East Bay, San Francisco, etc. He has so many clients, yet he managed to make us feel like we were priority #1. He absolutely advocated our offers and did not apply pressure. Herman is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the market, micro-markets, the process, etc. Plus, he has great, trustworthy contacts for home improvement, financing, etc. that we and our circle of friends have used with positive results. Herman Chan Associate Broker, REALTOR President's Circle Prudential California Realty 510 334 8932 herman [at] anon

Realtor in Orinda

April 2009

Hi, can someone please kindly recommend an honest, reliable, detail-oriented, well-connected, and patient realtor who negotiates well and specializes in Orinda real estate? My husband and I are starting our house search (to purchase a house) and since I've always lived on the other side of the tunnel, I would really appreciate your personal recommendation. Has anyone worked with April Matthews? She seemed to have quite a few listings with Village Associates. Thanks so much for your time! house hunter

I have a wonderful real estate agent who helped me to buy my home in Moraga, he is a real estate broker and worked in Lamorinda area for years. He is very professional, patient and he will negotiate the price for you!! I bought my place when prices were high at a lower than the asking price. His name is Alexander Gailas His info: Office:(925) 254-7600 AG REALTY 32 Overhill Rd Orinda, CA 94563 Elena

Rick Booth, Coldwell Banker, specializes in Lamorinda properties. He lives in Orinda so you're getting a home town expert. He helped our family get into our Lafayette house. Very calm, patient, smart, strategic. We highly recommend him. Rachel

Hi. After searching the Orinda market for one year, I have nothing but praise and respect for our agent , Charlene McHugh. She works out of the Prudential office in Lafayette but raised her three kids in Orinda. She was patient, honest, accessible, and unflinching throughout the search. Two previous agents were only kind for the first month or so and when it became clear we would wait as long as it took to find the right house within our price range, they more or less bailed. To Charlene's further credit, after almost two years and two offers, she supported our decision to rent in our desired neighborhood to see if we could live on ''that'' side of the tunnel while leaving our life savings in tact. She even printed out utilities info and gave referrals, which just re-enforced her graciousness in my opinion Charlene makes every interaction painless and we will turn to her when the time is right for us no matter what side of the tunnel we end up on. Contact Charlene at 925-708-3444 Mary

I would love to recommend Loretta Barra with the Coldwell Banker office in Orinda, Loretta.Barra [at], 925-253-4642. I have bought 3 houses and sold one and she has been the best Realtor by far. She is very low key. but a serious negotiator that knows her market inside & out. I have never had a Realtor that seems completely interested in my needs entirely & has been so pleasant to work with. candace

I highly recommend Linda Maguire from East Bay Sotheby's in Montclair, Oakland. Though Linda is a realtor in Oakland, she is very knowledgeable with other areas of the Bay Area. We bought our home in Walnut Creek. She is extremely hardworking and puts her clients interests first. Not only is she a professional in her industry but she also has a wonderful sense of humor and is extremely pleasant to work with. We would definitely work with her again for our real estate needs. - Happy first time home buyers. Contact: Linda Maguire East Bay Sotheby's (Montclair, Oakland) (510) 557-4052

We recently relocated to Orinda and used Anne Hill at the Orinda Prudential office. Anne was fantastic and showed us literally hundreds of homes - she is from the area and knows it very well. I would highly recommend her. Home in Orinda

SF Realtor Wanted

March 2009

Can anyone recommend a realtor for San Francisco? My sister is looking to purchase a home (probably a condo) in SF. Thanks. Ann

I can very highly recommend Jack Burrows from Urban Bay Properties. He will put in a lot of effort to find the right place without the hard sell and with extensive knowledge of the market. He is very familiar with the SF condo and housing market. I found him to be professional, ethical, enjoyable and very hardworking. He has kids and is very sensitive to time demands and is quite flexible. He is great both on the buyer and seller's side. Also, will work in all price ranges. Give him a try, here is the link to his web site: Happy client

Ann, I would like to recommend Becky Layton of Pacific Union. She knows the San Francisco market inside and out, being well informed on all price ranges and housing styles. Becky's warm personality and attentiveness makes wading through the real estate process very enjoyable. Your sister can call her at 415.345.3040 or check out Becky's website: Becky is also a Top Producer. Jill

TIC Real Estate Agent

Jan 2009

I'm looking for a reputable real estate agent who has lots of experience with Tenants In Common (TIC) sales in Berkeley. Any help?? Martin

I highly recommend Jeanne Trombly at Keller Williams on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. She has represented myself for both selling and purchasing TICs, and I know she has extensive experience in both Berkeley and Oakland with many other TIC units. happy TIC owner in Oakland

Recommendations from 2007 - 2008

Albany Realtor Needed

Dec 2008

My family is looking to move to Albany, CA and would appreciate realtor recommendations. Thanks! mt

Hi! Just want to say that Barb Kaplan at Marvin Gardens, Fairmont Ave, El Cerrito, is the Best!!! She has helped us through house sales and home purchases and has always been right there for us, getting the best deal. Here is her profile: kathryn

For buying or selling a home in Albany, we recommend Heidi Long, Red Oak Realty, 510/525-5800. On recommendation from a friend who bought with Heidi, we engaged her to help us return from Europe and initiate us to life in Berkeley. By e-mail and phone calls, she came to know us, our requirements for a home, and helped us to compete in a hot market 4 years ago. My husband saw only our house,only for 45 minutes, and I saw only online photos. Heidi was incredibly industrious, flexible, and an expert in her trade. We continue to feel that our home is the best fit possible and realize that Heidi was a critical element in our successful purchase. karen

Olivia Stockman with ReMax is a wonderful realtor. She is very patient and understanding. We are (slowly) working with her on our next move. She has a lot of insight into the our needs and wants. Oliva Stockman: 510-530-1707 geraldine

Sheri Madden is one of the hardest working, honest, patient and knowledgeable realtors out there. She will go the extra mile and loves what she does. She doesn't pressure you and her goal is to find what you're looking for. She knows Albany especially well. Her number is (510) 501-1317. E-mail sheri [at] L.Lynch

Hi There! We have used Kevin Tannahill with Security Pacific for our last few real estate transactions. He lives in Albany with his family and is a super nice guy and very easy to work. He always goes the extra mile. His # is 510-524-1112. Good Luck! Kelly

Our family moved to Albany last year, and our agent was Ruth Goldstone with Marvin Gardens Real Estate on Solano Ave. We couldn't have been happier with our decision to work with Ruth. In addition to being an all-around nice person, she is dedicated, down-to-earth, and knows the area very well. She took the time to get to know us and what we wanted in a home, and she saved us hours of time by finding properties for us to check out that would most likely be a fit for our family. She gave us great advice when we were writing our two offers and during the negotiations and inspections for the house we ultimately bought (we got the second house we bid on -- this was before the market slowed down so much). Over a year later, she continues to be a resource for us as we looked into refinancing and as we prioritize and find contractors for the various repairs and upgrades we have planned. She also gave us great ideas for remodeling our outdated kitchen. You cannot go wrong buying in Albany with Ruth! Ruth Goldstone ruthgoldstone [at] 510-527-2700 office 510-418-7191 mobile Happy Albany Homeowner

I highly recommend Grace Bishop of Red Oak Realty. She is amazing. She helped us buy in Albany at the height of the market. We love our house and neighborhood. The buying experience was so less stressful than we expected and I'm sure it's because of her calm and reassuring manner. She is an excellent listener and not cheesy-salesy at all, we trust her. She has continued a relationship by referring us to people when we've needed to do work on the house. She's just great and worth a meeting. You can email her grace [at]

Call Grace Bishop at Red Oak Realty. She organized, strategic, fun to work with, and knows the area well. 510-280-2178 elizabeth

I highly recommend Warwick May. He has about 15 years experience in the area. He has a fresh approach to the experience of buying a house and an encyclopedic knowledge of the local Real Estate market. I have used him myself, much to my advantage, and I have referred him to a number of my grateful friends. One of the aspects I like best about the way Warwick works is his honesty. He'll tell you the straight truth about a house you are considering. You'll get the good or, more importantly, the bad, rather than get sold on a particular house. Also important, he has a great network of support services such as Mortage Brokers and Inspectors and Title Company that he has worked with for years and who will really look after you. Warwick is hands-on, particularly when the process is most difficult. He is always easy to get a hold of, unlike many other realtors that I have experienced. I know he'll look after you. BTW, lastly, Warwick has a wonderful, quick, sense of humor and that can really take some of the stress out of buying a Bay Area home. You can reach Warwick on his phone at 510-547-1077 or his e-mail at warwick [at] His website is: Sitra

Tricia Swift of the Grubb Company is your woman. Her phone number is 510-339-0400. We just closed on a house in Albany at the end of October and Tricia was our Realtor. She is extremely honest and professional and respected our (pretty severe) price limitations. We continue to be amazed at the quality of the folks she recommended we work with, from the mortgage broker and general inspector to the painter. She seemed to have a lot of pull in the real estate community. We always felt like we were in excellent hands. Sarah

We just bought a house and used Linda Elkin of Red Oak Realty. We are first time home buyers, and Linda was super patient and thorough. She explained everything, and patiently waited as I read all the documents before signing them. This was a foreclosure and the process is much longer and more involved. She was there for us and gave us as much time as we needed with her to research and discuss a price to offer. She accompanied us with the inspections, has great resources for trades-people, and she stayed on top of the process at all times, even weekends. Here is her information Linda Elkin Red Oak Realty 510-292-2021 office 510-282-5666 cell 510-547-3099 fax Stuart

We purchased a home (our first) in Albany in April with the help of Heidi Long from Red Oak Realty. She was amazing - she knows the local market, got a great home inspector to come and warn us of some things the pest report missed, negotiated very well so that the seller picked up quite a few expenses, and generally did a great job in getting us a very nice house for a good price where we wanted to live. Aside from being very knowledgeable about Albany homes and local laws, she was an excellent guide for us as first time home buyers. Her website is Daniel

Really nice Lamorinda Realtor?

Nov 2008

Hi, what are your recommendations (the more the merrier) for a Lamorinda Realtor with an excellent knowledge of not only Lamorinda but the Walnut Creek market too? We're looking for a very patient person with good people skills for first timers. Thanks! first time buyers

We couldn't have been happier with Hal and Margot Kaufman at Village Associates. Not only were they very knowledgable about the Lamorinda/WC area (they are long-time residents) but they were very patient while we looked for just the right house for over a year. Hal and Margot work together as a team which means you get double the knowledge! They are very involved in the community and respected by their peers - two very important criteria in any agent. You can reach them at 925-258-1109. Laurie

I have a recommendation for THE BEST realtors in the East Bay. Ann Schiebert and Paul Chastain work as a team for Coldwell Banker. They give you the attention you deserve with the patience you expect when asking a realtor all the questions you have as a first-time house buyer. Check out or Since we bought our house with them in 2006 I have recommended them to many of my friends who all became happy house buyers with only the greatest experiences! I can guarantee you wouldn't be disappointed with Ann and Paul's services. They know the Lamorinda neighborhoods and will find your dream home without pushing you and with giving honest recommendations. Relax - house hunting is FUN! Tell them ''The Paydos'' sent you

You probably can't go wrong with any of the realtors at Village Associates in Orinda, but Lynda Snell is our realtor, and we are very happy with her! Claire

This is the recommendation I gave back in 2004; it's in the archive, but it is just as true today! Patti is working with a friend and co-worker of my husband right now, and he's as pleased with her now as we were back in 2001. She's really, really nice -- and experienced and skilled, too.

My husband and I can unreservedly recommend our realtor, Patti Camras, who is with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She is expert in the Lafayette-Orinda-Moraga area, and she also works in the Berkeley Hills and in western Walnut Creek.

We must have been terrible clients: picky first-time buyers looking for the Perfect House for a low price in Orinda! But she was patient with us, answered all our nervous questions, and provided expert and valuable advice. (She even returned my calls when she was on vacation in Carmel with her husband!) She is a good negotiator and helped us close what could have been a troublesome deal. Her Web site is -- Happy Homeowner

I would like to recommend Patti Camras (925-253-4609 (w) 925-899-9282 (c)). She helped my husband and I through buying our first house, and she was wonderful. Patti is very knowledgeable, listens well, and is very pleasant to be with. She knows Lamorinda area really well. She wants what the best for her clients. The house that I ended up buying was advertised with a lower percentage commission for the buying agent, and yet Patti was willing to pursue it. Even after buying the house, I still stay in touch with Patti all these years. She is a wonderful resource for contractors. Two years ago, my house went through a flood disaster, and Patti offered her help which was very touching. My recommendation for Patti is without reservation.

Rose Brudigam has been in Real Estate broker for over 35 years and knows the Lamorinda and Walnut Creek area intimately. She has been doing real estate so long that she has a handle on the entire East Bay Area. She is friendly, knowledgeable and very professional. I have referred several people to her and they have been very happy. Most of her customers are either referred or repeat customers. That speaks a lot of her qualities. She works at Security Pacific 1555 Riviera Ave, Suite E, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. Her phone number is 925-746-7650. Her sister Susie works with her and they make a great team. Rose and Susie are great for all real estate issues and also have a big network of service providers that do really good work for reasonable rates. Rose herself buys and fixes up properties so have a deep knowledge of remodeling and investment properties. She knows a good value when she sees it! Rose has advised us on how to get our property ready for sale including the latest colors to paint and features that customers are searching for right now. So, she can help you both sell your old home as well as help you buy the new one. Good luck in your quest. Georgia

Hal and Margot Kaufman from Village Associates in Orinda! Friendly and knowledgeable; They truly go 'above and beyond'. They helped us purchase our home in Orinda, they even helped us secure better financing. If we were selling our home today, we wouldn't hesitate to contact them. Their email address is hal [at] or Hal's cell phone is (925)260-4799. Joy

Before ultimately deciding to buy in Albany, we looked for houses in Lamorinda using Patty Battersby with Village Associates as our agent. She spent almost an entire day with us and our toddler, driving us around to give us the lay of the land and showing us a half dozen houses that were a match for our price range and needs. She has lived and worked in the area for a long time and knows everything about it and everyone there, it seemed. And she was very nice about it when we told her that we had decided that the other side of the tunnel was a better match for us. Good luck! New Home Owner

I would highly recommend Saraya Motley of Red Oak Realty. Her office is in Oakland but she lives out that way and does much of her work in Lamorinda/WC/Pleasant Hill. She is a consumate professional and very good at explaining the process to newbies. As a matter of disclosure, I am a real estate appraiser and I am on her recommendation list. However, as an appraiser, I know a lot of realtors and do not make recommendations lightly. And I am a client as I chose her to sell our house for us. Nikko

Realtor - Castro Valley

Nov 2008

Does anyone have any first hand knowledge of Mark Rodrigues out of Castro Valley as a real estate agent for selling a house? We were directed to him for selling our house, and I want to get a sense of whether I can trust his recommendations. Inclined not to trust real estate agents

We were referred to Mark Rodrigues by a Montclair realtor whose opinion we respected. Although we ultimately decided against selling our home (for now), we found him to be on the money when it came to market conditions and advice. He is informed, candid and articulate, and we have complete confidence in him. When we do sell, we will call Mark. Julie

Realtor for buying a condo

Nov 2008

Can you recommend a good realtor for buying a condo for future living and/or an investment. Thanks... thinking about the future

You did not mention where you want to buy a condo. Typically real estate agents specialize in one geographic area. I can highly recommend a realtor if you want to buy a condo in Marin County. Her name is Pat Beekler and she works for Frank Howard Allen. She currently has 3 or 4 condos for sale at great prices in Greenbrae which is right over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Her phone is 415-302-5550 and her email address is patbk [at] happy house hunting! anon

Stefanie Parrott 510-839-4737 She's great. Covers Oakland and Berkeley. I purchased my home with her and have refered her a number of people who all LOVE her. Knows her stuff and is a broker as apposed to an agent. mathew

Realtor - East Bay

Nov 2008

Does anyone have referral information for Helen Walker of Thornwall Properties? I need to buy and sell and have been referred to her for both but do not see recent recommendations on the archives. nervous buyer/seller

I would highly recommend Dan Joy. Several of my friends have used him and I was so impressed with all the help they got. He is friendly and professional and knows so much about both selling and purchasing. With one friend he really helped them find a rare deal and fight for it and another friend Dan and his team transformed their house into a gem which got them above asking price in a fast sale!! i plan to use him when we sell our place. Maryl or cell 510-414-4699

We were very happy with the service that we had from our real estate agent, Dave Pleasants. We bought our house about two and a half years ago, and the process wasn't simple or uncomplicated- nor was the sale of our condo! However, Dave was always very helpful, honest, and direct. He listened well, addressed our concerns, and was very approachable and always available. It's obvious that he cares about his clients and works hard to have a win-win situation for all involved. He is experienced and knowledgeable, and has a lot of integrity. We will definitely use Dave again in the future! He can be reached at (510) 868-1565 and sara sara

We have loved working with Barb Kaplan. We have sold 2 houses through her and bought 2. She has always gotten the very best deal for us. She also knows EVERYONE to do termite inspection, repairs, remodels, etc. Here is her profile at Marvin Gardens in El Cerrito. kathryn

Real estate agent for Oakland under 300k

Nov 2008

Can anyone recommend an experienced real estate agent who is familiar with the Oakland market and who would be willing to work with someone shopping in the sub-$300K market? Ideally someone with some experience buying fixer properties who is also sensitive to the needs of a family with small children. Thanks! House Hunting

I highly recommend Stefanie Parrott. She is a Broker and long time Oakland resident. Very active on community issues and an all round great person. I purchased my house with her a few years back (175k), and have referred her numerous friends since who have all been very happy I did. She just had a kid, so is well aware to the needs of new parents, and her husband is a contractor who has been on NPR along with her discussing the b and professional level and appreciate her honest, down to earth approach. I would call or email her to introduce yourself and see how the fit is. You can reach her at spreal [at] or or 510-839-4737 mathew

I've been househunting with a budget lower than yours, and am working with a great realtor \x81\xe2\x80\x93 Shannon Way. She listens to what I do or don't want and need, respects my budgetary limitations and has been educating me about the process of home buying and what to look for when examining a property. She has been proactive in working with my loan officer, and has connected me to quality people for inspections, etc. Thanks to her I'm thisclose to actually owning a home! Shannon's contact information is: Shannon Way Sotheby's International Realty Cell 510.919.7161 shannon.way [at] Allison

I highly recommend Haideh Chew. She works so hard, so smart, and with such caring for her clients. Haideh treated my budget limit with respect, and put immense energy into finding nice places I could afford instead of tempting me with houses I couldn't. After years in the business, she knows Oakland (and some other affordable areas) well. Her expertise in this realm gets her calls from institutions that are trying to hire, and need someone to drive their job candidates around and prove to them that, yes, they can find properties that are both desirable and affordable. You can reach her at: haidehchew [at] Lucky to have asked Haideh

Someone to help us sort out our best options

Sept 2008

I guess I should preface this with 'we're NOT looking to sell right now'. We just want someone who can sit down with us and almost act like a consultant, someone who has a strong grip on the reality of the housing market and who can tell us realistically what the next 3-5 years holds. Someone who is very familiar with construction loans and the pros/negatives to home additions. Someone who isn't going to push their own agenda, but who can really help us sort out what the best options are for us in the future. If we have to pay an hourly fee, that's fine. We didn't use a real estate agent when we bought our current home, so we have no one we can turn to. Relative/friend recommendations are highly sought after! Thank you! always a planner...

Adrianne Nash was our real estate agent and we couldn't have been happier. She's honest, caring, upfront, knowledgeable, warm, funny, experienced, well respected and knows the ins and outs of the biz -- and has great contacts to use (like for home inspector, etc.) Whenever we would go to open houses and were asked by the selling agent ''who is your agent'' and when we said ''Adrianne Nash'' proudly, they would 99.99% of the time know her and say - ''oh, she's wonderful!''. So, we made an offer on our current house with 18 other competing offers!!! Ours stood out NOT because we made the highest $ offer, but because our whole offer package was so clean and well done. The accepting agent wanted to work with her and trusted her the most. So - we got our house! We still remain in touch with her for questions and referrals - she came by to visit our new baby (not so new anymore). We would use her again if/when needed. Adrianne Nash, Prudential California Realty (510) 763-4060 Home Office (510) 845-0211 Office Jennifer

I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend our agent Nahid Nassiri. She helped both my brother-in-law (and his family) and my family find our homes. She is the most professional person i have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. She runs a really tight ship and even though she must be a very busy woman, she somehow finds the time to return phone calls, follow up on calls, and make visits if asked. She has many assistants so if she cannot personally answer an email, someone in her office will and alert her of it. After she sold us our house (no personal agenda whatsoever, she does not need the business, they do so well because I think their customer service is above and beyond) she sent numerous welcome home cards, thank you cards, even a housewarming gift and also followed up with a personal phone call. I don't know if other realtors do that but I certainly did not expect it. You can find her on Good luck. Valerie Valerie

We used Jennie Flanigan from Pacific Union in Montclair. She encouraged us to be patient and start looking 6 months before we thought we wanted to make an offer, so I'm sure she would do consulting for you. Had a great handle on what markets/neighborhoods would be a good investment for us, and she helped us weigh the options on several fixers, before we chose one that we are VERY happy with. good luck anon

I think our realtor is exceptional: Jerry Ratch 428-2660 We've bought 3 houses with him and many of our friends have used him, as well. He's been around Berkeley for a long time and knows the area well. His biggest asset is that he's well- connected and has good relationships with other realtors. I credit him for getting us our current house by working on the selling agent over several weeks to convince the sellers to accept our below-asking offer! happy client

Hi: Any good agent should be happy to sit down with you and give you what you need without a fee. You'd want someone who will listen carefully to your goals, who knows the market (which includes the value of updates, renovations, additions),who'll come prepared, who has a good network of mortgage brokers or loan officers, and is insightful and thoughtful.

Couple of questions you'd want to think about in advance: How long do you plan to be in your home (a 3-year horizon is very different, from an analytical point of view, compared to a 20- year horizon)? Are you hoping to meet basic needs, or preferences? How do you feel about risk?

No one knows what the future holds--the feds are about to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a step unfathomable a couple of years ago. But trends from past housing slowdowns are useful (and these suggest that slowdowns tend to result in flat prices for a 5-6 year period, and we're about 2 years into that trend already).

Financing is difficult right now unless homeowners have about 20- 25% equity in their homes (i.e. a realistic valuation is about 20% more than the outstanding mortgage plus any seconds or home equity lines). (New purchase loans under $729,750 are reasonably available for those with good credit histories as well.) Construction loans are much more difficult to get than a home equity line for construction purposes.

I would HIGHLY recommend Tracy Davis and Lee Goodwin at Thornwall. They helped us buy a new house and sell our old one in a matter of months. They are professional, kind, easy to work with, accessible, funny, and very knowledgeable. Happy Homeowner in Berkeley

we loved our realtor. she's down to earth, easy to talk to and really fights/looks for you. Nancy Reichert @ Coldwell Banker lisa s

I highly recommend Martha Becker at Thornwall Properties (510-872-6771), especially if you're looking in Berkeley or Oakland. She's great -- tremendously knowledgeable about East Bay neighborhooods, a savvy advocate for her clients, super smart, very funny, and well-known and well-respected by other realtors. She also did an excellent job of educating me about the whole process, and she has great contacts and advice on everything from insurance to local contractors, electricians, and plumbers. I had a great experience working with her. cph in oakland

John and Judith Ratcliffe!!!!! They did an amazing job, they know the Berkeley/Albany market very very well, every piece of their advice and recommendation and guidance was right-on every single time. They're online at

Also, FYI, someone told us that the Grubb Co. was mostly high- end and wouldn't work with us because our needs were on the less-expensive side. Not at all true. John and Judith went out of their way in many ways, and did an excellent and top- notch job for us. Rahel

I can very highly recommend Patti Camras of Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She is an outstanding realtor. We were nervous first- time buyers with a limited budget looking to move from Oakland to the Lamorinda area, and Patti was more than enthusiastic to work with us. She patiently answered all of our questions, spent a lot of time with us to help us find and secure the right home, and she explained every step of escrow in a clear manner. One of the best things about her is that she loves to negotiate for the best price on her clients' behalf. She's been in the business for years, and we really appreciated her expertise to guide us through the process and help up get the home we loved at a great price. Carrie

We think of ourselves as diligent people who take the time to do things the way they should be done. So when it came time to find a real estate agent to help us with our first home purchase we solicited recommendations from friends, family, and co-workers, and also looked on Berkeley Parents Network. We interviewed three people. Our first stop was Marilyn Garcia at Coldwell Banker in Berkeley. We could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle and stopped there. Even though we went on to interview other agents we went back to Marilyn and it's one of the best decision we've ever made as a family. She's super friendly, very easy to get along with, and is willing to do anything you need of her, often doing things for you you didn't know you needed done. She's always available and goes out of her way for her clients' happiness. When we balked on one house and had to get out of the contract, she handled the situation with aplomb, grace, and speed. Granted our experience is limited as this is our first house, but there's no doubt that Marilyn will be our agent again when we move. We recommend her wholeheartedly and without reservations. She is, quite simply, the best. roikoe

If you are looking to buy or sell a home, Roger Grubb is an excellent choice for a Realtor. He is a Bay Area native and knows east bay markets. He is extremely patient and easy to work with as well as quick to respond to my endless phone calls and ''dumb questions''. He was in the construction business for years and can see the potential in, as well as to help avoid problems with, homes. He represents people who are relocating, first time home buyers, seeking investment property, 1031 exchange, or people looking for a fixer. He has a reliable network of contractors, so finding skilled help for home repairs and projects is problem free. The contractors actually do what they say they will do, when they said they would do it. Amazing... Roger places my best interests first and I love the feeling that I'm being represented by someone like that. He is an excellent listener, an skilled negotiator, and follows through with integrity. I highly recommend him. His number is 510-504- 0402. Martina~

Alameda Realtor needed

April 2008

Can anyone recommend a good realtor in Alameda? My husband and I want to buy an Alameda condo for my mom to live in (and perhaps buy it with her). We'd like a trustworthy, nice realtor (not to pushy) who can help us find a place, and also figure out the best way to go about buying it. Thanks!

Bobbi Vogel from Gallagher & Lindsey is a great Alameda Realtor- she lives on and loves the island- she knows everything there is to know about it. Her info: Bobbi Vogel 510.748.1119 Direct 510.919.6870 Cell rachel

Realtor for first time buyer

March 2008

I know there are a million recommendations for realtors in the archives already, but most come from before the market went crazy. I am wondering if anyone can recommend a realtor who understands prices well, and could be helpful now that the market is so wacky. We are first time buyers, focusing on Alameda, but open to other areas, and looking for what most others look for - a decent house in an area with good schools that isn't going to bankrupt us. confused buyer!

We used Anita Becker, and she was great. After the frenzy of last spring, we were ready to put in a high bid on the house we wanted (in Berkeley) but she told us that we would be overpaying and that she was confident we would be able to get the house for less. She was right, and we feel so lucky that we were able to get such a fabulous house for the price we paid. We closed on October of 2007, and according to Zillow, our house has gone up 13% in value since we bought it. Anita is full-service and can get bids on any work needed, and since she's done several full-house remodels herself recently, she can give you a pretty good idea of what any project will cost, even before calling in the contractors. Her number is (510) 520-8335. -Yana

Jeremy LeBeau at Aloha Bay Realty is the guy you're looking for. He understands what's going on in the current market and he is 100% trustworthy. 510-558-8378 --

Jeremy Lebeau is a relator with Aloha Bay Realty on Solano Ave. in Albany. He really likes working with all home buyers but especially likes working with first-time buyers. He takes the time to do the research and make it a good fit. Here's his number: 220-5227. rishida

I highly recommend Karthiga Anandan of the Grubb Co (510-409-5356, kanandan [at] We were looking for our first house in the East Bay with a good school system, and Karthiga helped find us a wonderful home within our budget. She explains the process very well, provides lots of resources and valuable referrals, and is quite patient too. We really enjoyed working with her, and it is evident that she really understands the market. Judy

as an 8 year resident of Alameda, I have two recommendations for you - Richard Kim - who was everything we wanted in a realtor - nice, patient, a good listener, knowledgable and professional Richard Kim - 510.814.4813 rkim [at] or if you'd prefer working with a femal realtor, I also recommend Colleen McFerrin at Bayside, colleen [at] They both live and work in Alameda. Good Luck! Jessica

Dear Confused Buyer, You are correct, in the current market it is important to understand and stay ahead of property value so that you do not overpay for a property. It is currently a very strong buyers market which automatically gives you some leverage. Also, as a first time home buyer there are many programs available that you may qualify for and it would be a good idea to explore your options. The city of Alameda has a first time buyers assistance program as well (DPA Program). This URL has some information to get you started: Best wishes in your search and congratulations!

My husband and I LOVED our realtor for our first home, and have recommended her to others, who in turn have loved her just as much. Erikca Jennings. She was at BJ Droubi in SF when we worked with her, and is currently with Green Key Real Estate. She focuses on the east bay, but is also well versed with SF. Carol

Dear Prospective Homebuyer, We are happy to recommend our realtor PASSION BROUSSARD (925-639-1796) whose tireless efforts on our behalf made possible the purchase of our home. Hereblameda Realtor neededs a sampling of what Passion did for us:
*She enabled us to begin searching for a home prior to our arrival in California by personally visiting, photographing, and e-mailing pictures of homes and neighborhoods of interest to us.
*Passion helped us to clarify which features of a property mattered most to our family.
*She quickly won the affection of our 2-year-old son who relished spending time with her while we toured homes, reviewed documents, completed forms, etc.
*Passion competently guided us through all the complexities of the home-buying process, helping us to bid effectively on the property of our dreams.
*She sweetly persuaded myriad individuals to conduct inspections and produce needed reports on short notice and in record time.
*Passion assisted us in obtaining a purchase price significantly below the sellerblameda Realtor neededs asking price.
*She also helped us to negotiate terms of our purchase agreement that will save us tens of thousands of dollars during the initial years of our loan.
Our family became so fond of Passion that after the purchase was complete, our 2-year-old kept exclaiming, br kids love Andrea too! You can contact her at: (510) 339-4700 or andrea [at] Her web site is Emily

I just noticed this request and had to recommend our realtor Nick Fox with Coldwell Banker. We used him to buy our house in Montclair last September and to sell our house in Temescal shortly thereafter. Both the purchase and sale were hard work due to unforeseen problems with the house we were buying and the housing market with the house we were selling..Nick was a champ all the way. He worked so hard for us on both ends helping us negotiate a better deal on the house we were buying and then getting us a good price on the house we were selling even with the tricky market. He definitely went the extra mile creating a website specifically for our house and holding it open every sunday for a couple months until it sold. His number is (510) 981-3022 or website I can't recommend him enough!! Dandy

Alameda Realtor

Dec 2007

A few months ago, someone asked for a recommendation for a real estate broker. I have been very happy with the services of Rick Pavao of California Real Estate Finance in Alameda (521-0300). I believe he is the owner of the company. He truly puts the interests of the client first to the point where I wonder how he makes any money. He is knowledgeable and would never push the risky loans that are causing the current havoc in the market. Cindy

Commercial Real Estate Agent

Nov 2007

We're thinking about buying a smallish apartment building, but don't know much about this sort of venture. Anyone out there know a good commercial agent? Thanks in advance.

Bruce Chambers is a great realtor who deals with a lot of commercial real estate in the East Bay. He has been a realtor for years and years so he knows the ups and downs of the market. He works with Valva Realty in Oakland. I highly recommend him. He was very honest with me about the property I purchased in Oakland and expedited the transaction. I also dealt with him when I sold a commercial property in Oakland and he quickly got me a good buyer who was serious about closing the deal. He has given me free advice that was very helpful on many occasions. Satisfied customer

Jillian Loh at Loh Realty and Investments is very good. Talia

Realtor for finding house with an in-law unit

July 2007

Can anyone reccomend a trusted and capable real-estate agent capable in finding properties with secondary/separate ''coach houses'' or ''in-law'' apartments on the property, or similar arrangements in either Alameda or Contra Costa counties, and sympathetic to the costs of an expanding family and care of elderly parents. In need of good and understanding agent

I can recommend an real estate agent for you, Tom Carr, who actually renovated our home a number of years ago to make an in-law space for us when he was a general contractor. He would know what to look for, and general costs etc. He's an agent with Coldwell Banker now and he knows Alameda & Contra Costa counties because he and his partners owned & renovated properties in both places. I am so sad that we can't call on him for renovation jobs anymore (a big loss in the contracting world because he was always so honest & nice) but it's a gain in the real estate world I would imagine because of his practical experience. Here's his work voicemail 925-253-6327-I can't find his cell number. Good luck! Diane

I would recommend Grace Bishop (510-280-2178) at Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave in Berkeley. She works mostly in the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond areas. We enjoyed working with her and she has young kids of her own so I think that she would understand your needs. There's lots of great info on her website Ruth

I had a good experience with Linda Harrison at She helped us find a great house in Berkeley and was very understanding of our needs. Very smart and competent. Good luck.

Hi there, I would highly recommend Shaun Martin with Wells & Bennett Realtors in Oakland. She's extremely knowledgeable, friendly, energetic, & above all hardworing & honest. She wont stop looking until she finds exactly the right option for your family. We were in a similar situation, looking for a house that had an in-law option or 2 houses on 1 lot, to aid in ever growing expenses (kids, & parents both to care for), & Shaun was outstandind in every way! Her direct # is 510 485-7240. Call her today, you wont be sorry! Good luck! New home owner

Richmond/El Sobrante Realtor

June 2007

Any recommendations for a seller's real estate agent in the Richmond/El Sobrante area? Thanks!

Two excellent real estate agents for the El Sobrante area are Gloria Egger of Egger Real Estate ([707]433-3604), and Melanie Ross (melanie.ross [at] (707) 319-2828 http://www.MelanieRossRealEstate). Amy

I highly recommend Tom Carr for a real estate agent for the Richmond/El Sobrante area. He's a really nice and patient guy who was also a general contractor so he has a lot more practical knowledge than your average, phony realtor. He's a local boy and he knows everyone because he went to the local public schools (West County and Orinda) as well as Cal State & UC Berkeley. I know he's already helped people buy & sell homes in the El Sobrante/Richmond/Carriage Hills area (my friends used him and loved him) and he's now based in Orinda at Coldwell Banker so he's doing business on both sides of the tunnel (or both ends of San Pablo Dam Road if that's your route). You can call him on his cell at (510)406-1965 or at his office phone (925) 253-6327. He's one of the nicest people in the world and he'll do a good job for you. Cheers! deedee

I highly recommend my realtor, Sarah Richards, of Red Oak Realty. She has years of experience, very easy to work with, listens to your needs and follows them (!), very professional and will make things happen for you! Also, if you have kids, she is great with them and works around your (and your kids') schedule. She can be reached at: 510.292.2000 -Lexie

San Leandro Realtor

June 2007

Can anyone recommend a good realtor for San Leandro to help us find a home? Also, whatms the market like in San Leandro? Thanks. Looking in San Leandro

The realtor who just helped us buy in Berkeley, Amy Robeson, knows the San Leandro market very well (she buys and sells there and lives there!) and is extremely organized, knowledgeable and pleasant to work with. She was very on top of every detail and is still helping us with questions after our move. She works for Red Oak Realty (a very reputable company). Check out her website (it has testimonials from other clients): good luck! susan

Dave Tang with Reliance Realty helped us with our first home and our current home in the East Bay. he is super-knowledgeable, honest, has integrity and also owns a brokerage company so that you can do it all through him in a timely manner without having to deal with multiple companies. He's helped people all over the East Bay. They have two offices: San Mateo Office: (650) 577-9500. Pleasanton Office: (925) 226-0110. Ask for Dave Tang and tell him I referred you. Pauline F

June 2007

After many years in Berkeley, we've decided to move. San Leandro is one of our possibilities. Can someone recommend a good realtor for San Leandro? Also, whatms the housing market like in San Leandro? Thanks. Leaving Berkeley

The agent I recommend for San Leandro is Julie Cuellas from Red Oak Realty on College Avenue in Berkeley. As a home inspector I get a unique perspective on Real Estate agents. I feel Julie is effective and assertive in promoting her client's interest. I also appreciate that she takes additional efforts in finding defects on properties that could effect her client's investment. I know a lot of good agents but she is the one who could offer a specialty in San Leandro. A Home Inspector's Choice

I can't recommend Lorri Arazi enough. We thought we'd buy a house in Oakland 2.5 years ago and we ended up in San Leandro and couldn't love it more. She knows the East Bay so well and is very caring and knows all about houses and what to look out for. We loved all the people she recommended from the plumber to the chimney guy. She is so great! Feel free to email with any SL questions, too. Good luck! yvonne

When we bought our home in San Leandro two years ago, we were very happy with our realtor, Julie Cuellas, who is with Red Oak Realty in Berkeley. She's energetic, ethical, positive and responsive, and as a resident of San Leandro herself, she really helped us understand the local market and how it differs from the Berkeley/Oakland real estate scene. We're convinced that her advice as well as her good reputation with other realtors helped us get our home for a fair price. You can reach her at 510-280-2166. Good luck to you; we hope you'll be as happy in San Leandro as we have been! Katie W

I highly and wholeheartedly recommend Amy Robeson of Red Oak Realty. She is a San Leandro resident who knows the city's neighborhoods very well. She is highly ethical, knowledgeable, and very friendly and personable. She is the most responsive realtor I've ever worked with and she makes sure that all aspects and details of the transaction are taken care of. She helped us sell our San Leandro house in a matter of days (last year in a slow market) and helped us find a wonderful new house -- also in San Leandro (because we love it here). If you're looking for a realtor in San Leandro you can't do better than Amy. 510-280-2173 Best of luck to you! Cathy C

Realtor for Alameda

June 2007

I am looking for a house in Alameda (the main island) and am looking for a realtor who can help me in my search. Can you recommend someone? Thanks. House Hunter

Hi there, We live in Alameda and have dealt with a few Realtors on the island for buying our houses over the years. We have found that Kane & Assoc. is by far the best broker to work with. All the agents are very well trained and their process is above board, straightforward and honest (can't say the same for all the different Realty companies in Alameda). I would recommend interviewing a couple agents from that office. We have had great experiences with Liz Kane, Marie Kane and Hanna Fry. They are very knowledgeable, professional and just great people. I would also recommend interviewing Julie and Darin Vinall of Harbor Bay Realty. Although I cannot recommend HBR as a broker (not a good experience for us), Julie and Darin are very good at what they do, and also great people. Our friends have had good luck with them as a buyers agent. Good luck in your search - Alameda is a great place to call home. :) Kristie

I can highly recommend the realtor who sold my Alameda condo on Alameda, on the main island, Diana Wyman. She is the President of her company, called Bayside Real Estate at 1812 Santa Clara Avenue. Yes, she and her husband are the best at both kinds of skills: the listening/caring and the knowing the market/negotiating. Diana Wyman, Bayside Real Estate, 510-522-5827. Web site is
Louise G

Steve Sorensen with Harbor Bay is a great guy and excellent Realtor. Give him a call. Tell him Tim in Berkeley says hi! berkeleyhome at

I highly recommend Wendy Sanda with Kane & Associates (phone 510-331-0963). We bought a house in Alameda a year ago and worked with Wendy - she was fantastic! She was a referral from our Oakland realtor. We were in a situation where we needed to move quickly, yet still find a place that would suit our family for many years. Wendy quickly identified exactly the type of property we were looking for, previewed several potential properties with us, and when she found *the one* she knew it even before we saw it. She was spot on. Throughout our buying process she was always available and able to answer any question that arose. She worked closely with us as we made our offer, giving us excellent advice along the way. She helped us make a very competitive but reasonable offer in a multiple offer situation and made sure we were able to move in asap with a 30 day close. My husband and I have purchased property before, but had never experienced such an efficient transaction. Wendy keeps in touch and is always happy to give referrals for contractors or other Alameda services. Above all, she has a terrific personality and is a pleasure to know. We now consider her a friend. Cindy

I highly reccomend Wendy Sanda with Kane & Associates. We bought with her about 6 years ago but stay in touch. We were at the bottom of the market then and she never pressured us to spend more (although we qualified for more). She was great during the search part, but even better during the much harder phase of negotiating when you find out there are issues. We were on the phone more than once a day for at least a month and she was great. She has been selling in Alameda for more than 10 years - maybe 15? She has also worked with three friends who were are very very happy with her. Her number: 531-2274. I reccomend you do a drive around with a few realtors to get a feel for them. We were very picky (probably saw 100 homes in 4 months, offered on 4 or 5) and she was great with all of it. Good luck! Jacqueline

We bought our home in Berkeley 3 years ago using Justine Francis as our realtor. She is absolutely fantastic! We couldn't believe how hard she worked for us and how available she was 24/7 - and this was when she was 7-8 months pregnant! She got us into a home that we still can't believe we're in. And on top of it all, she's extremely fun to be around - positive attitude and a great sense of humor. Justine will get the job done. She is based in Alameda (her home) so she knows that area quite well and showed us a few homes there while we were looking even though that wasn't our target area. Couldn't recommend Justine highly enough! We've kept in touch with her and expect to use her again if we ever buy/sell again. Justine can be reached at 510-282-8062. Shoshana B

I highly recommend Mindy Hart with Kane & Associates. She's been in the business for many, many years and is very knowledgeable about Alameda. You can see her ad in the Alameda Journal. Her business number is 510-523-0746 and her email is mindyhart at Feel free to tell her Stephanie W sent you.

We sold and bought a house in Alameda last year. We worked with Steve and Nancy Brandt for purchase and sale - they were terrific! They know Alameda very well - I think they are natives. They were professional, candid, and very warm. They are the kind of people you would want as friends. They also know a lot of people in the community and can refer you to experts who can answer your questions and give you quotes. (We had to have a little bit of work done on our home and needed to know what we were willing to pay.) They went above and beyond what they needed to do - helping us get bids and coordinating contractors after we closed. You can reach Nancy at nbrandt at or 510-814-4823. Zara

I cannot recommend Richard Kim highly enough. Our original realtor from another company, completely dropped the ball and our house remained on the market for six months! Richard did everything differently: he returns calls very promptly, he listens, he does not talk you in to anything you're not comfortable with, he has a calm, soothing demeanor and is the utmost professional. He was recommended by another Alameda family who used his assistance to both buy and sell their home and they couldn't be happier. Another family we know just bought their first home with Richard's help. He has all the contacts for staging, painting, website design, house-cleaning etc. so that selling and buying a home is as stress-free as possible: This is his contact info: Richard Kim REALTOR 510.814.4813 rkim [at] Good Luck! Jessica L

I would just like to warn you away from Mark Wyman, owner of Bayrise Realty in Alameda. We had to abort the sell of our house at the last moment due to his misrepresentation of our interests. He led us to believe that we would be getting about $40,000 profit on the house, when in fact there would have been a $20,000 loss. This became very contentious and went through legal mediation, which he lost. According to what he said to our attorney, this was not the first time this has happened with him. anon

We worked with Colleen McFerrin from Bayside Real Estate (522.5827), and were very happy with her services. We found her professional, easy to work with, low-pressure, business minded, and generally very likeable. She helped us to negotiate our way into a great Victorian fixer upper, which we wound up being able to purchase for about 40K less than the asking price. At the time, people were saying we'd gotten the best deal in Alameda. She's still in touch with us after more than two years in our house, and we've enjoyed our interaction with her. I recommend her with no hesitation. The best of luck to you in your move to Alameda- it's a pretty special little island. Deirdre

We cannot speak highly enough of our realtor Amy Loughran !!! She is an Alameda Mom of twin boys, has wonderful friendly demeanor, smart, and honest(in a sea of shark types-a rare find). She has been in the bay area for over 15 years and knows all the different neighborhoods. (She drove us around everywhere and was able to tell us about countless neighborhoods and schools-we moved here from Seattle.She is always calm and professional in tough negotiations. She is the one to call to get it done (510)295-9633, Amy's cell phone. She is terrific! amyg

I can wholeheartedly recommend our realtor, Dede Cunningham, who is with Kane. I have sent her several friends and they have all been thrilled with her service. She is very thorough and detail-oriented, which is especially important in Alameda because of the unique culture around building permits and older homes. She knows Alameda very well and is involved in the community so has lots of insight on neighborhoods, etc. She is super organized and pleasant to be around. Her direct line is 510-919-3204 and her email is dedecunningham [at] alamedamom

June 2007

If you're considering moving to Lamorinda, I've got a really nice and very talented real estate agent to recommend. His name is Jim Ellis. His contact info is: Ph (925) 253-4602, Cell (925) 285-7423, Email: Jim [at], Website: http:// He listed and sold our Richmond Hills house and showed us all around Lamorinda when we were planning to move there. He is smart, patient, easy to work with, and extremely helpful. In the end, we decided to stay on this side of the Bay for our own reasons. Had we decided to live there, I have no doubt he would have found us a great place & a trouble-free tansaction. JoAnne S

May 2007

I have just had an amazing experience with mother/daughter team Aliya Johnson and Liz Stevens of Windermere real estate bay area. as a single mom, I needed a miracle and these women (liz is the broker owner and aliya a licensed agent) listened and worked with me quickly and efficiently. I had my house on the market for 2 weeks, 3 open houses, and had 200 people go through! I am now under contract with a very short escrow. Here's the catch: these two women know their markets so you too must be willing to listen to the particulars of your area. Cant hurt to call them. Good Luck. Liz: 510.409.6977 or 510.984.2000 michelle

East Bay Realtor

April 2007

Hi, my husband and I are going to have our first child in 6 months and are interested in going from renting to buying. We're looking at Albany, Rockridge, Montclair, and possibly Alameda. Our budget will make buying in these areas a real challenge, so we need a creative, experienced real estate agent who will work hard within our budget. Recommendations based on experience with realtors in any of these neighborhoods, working within the current market, are greatly appreciated. rmr

Sheri Madden with Marvin Gardens, 510-501-1317. She worked with friends of mine who were very happy with her. I have also had the chance to do work for her as a service provider, I run a mobile locksmith service. She has always been very professional and a pleasure to work with. Julie P

Oakland: Lake Merritt Realtor

April 2007

We have a 4-bedroom house in China Hill near Lake Merritt that we want to sell and would like a recommendation for a realtor who knows that area. Thanks for your help. Joann

We've been working with Jerry Ratch from Coldwell Banker to sell our home in lower Rockridge. Jerry has over 20 years experience as a realtor in this area. I'd strongly recommend him. He's very professional and detailed about next steps. After meeting with us he provided a marketing proposal that was very detailed. We had MANY realtors and people come through, and sold our home after having it on the market less than 2 weeks. Jerry can be reached at 510-981-3037 (direct) or jerryratch[at] Lisa

Check out Brett Weinstein whose website is He's a great realtor,charges less is commissions, and knows the area well. anonymous

I wholeheartedly recommend Deidre Joyner with Prudential. She just sold our house with a great success! (Multiple offers in less than a week, sold over-asking price, etc.) She is an Oakland resident so knows the market very well. Check out her website ( and call her at 510-835-6180. She does everything to sell your house. yukari

To sell a house in China Hill, I would definitely call Dave and Carla Higgins. They have been focused on China Hill and surrounding areas for years, plus they are very honest, funny, and smart. Also, successful. They know what they are doing, and won't miss a thing. I just googled and found their website Good luck, I think that it is starting to be a really good time to sell too! Higgins fan

April 2007

If you are looking for an amazing real estate agent to work with I highly recommend both Dave and Carla Higgins. They helped us purchase our first home.We were clueless and overwhelmed about the process. They held our hands and baby stepped us from the beginning till the end. (Which was exactly what we needed). They are very knowledgable about schools and neighborhoods. Dave and Carla are experts in real estate and wonderful people too Thalia

March 2007

I would like to recommend my wonderful realtor, Sarah Richards, of Red Oak Realty. She is extremely knowledgable, listens to your needs, doesn't push anything other than what you ask for and is just a super-nice person in general. I have 2 small children and she didn't flinch when I had to bring them to look at houses and they screamed in the car. She helped us buy a house in ''short sale'', which is essentially pre-foreclosure. We weren't looking for that in particular, but we found a house we loved and it happened to be a short sale. A lot of realtors wouldn't touch it because they didn't have experience in the area. But Sarah got us through escrow in 20 days (our choice)! Plus, she helped us negotiate some major repairs on the house at the seller's cost. She specializes in Richmond Annex and El Cerrito/ Albany, but I know she does other areas. (We bought our house in Richmond). I highly recommend her as both a incredible realtor and a person of integrity. You can reach her at 510-292- 2036 or at saraherichards [at] --Lexie M

Oakland: Montclair Realtor

Feb 2007

Hello! My husband and I are expecting our first child this summer, so we've decided to take the plunge and buy our very first house. The BPN realtor archives online are great, but a few years old. If you can recommend a realtor who specializes in the Oakland Montclair/Piedmont areas (or other areas with good elementary schools- these are the ones we've come up with so far), we'd love to know about them- we can use all the help we can get! Thank you very much! Amanda

Barbara Reynolds of Prudential in Berkeley is fantastic and makes your realistic home dreams come true. Here's her website, With her assistance, we bid, bought, and moved into our home in SIX WEEKS. She's the consumate professional with a wonderful sense of humor as well. We highly recommend her! Good luck! Lupe & Leticia happy buyers

We purchased our first house when I had just had our first child and found Sandra Vogl at Grubb co. to be amazingly supportive. Like a good mother, she looked after us and knew how to navigate the terrain. She asked the right questions, anticipated our needs as our family grew and steered us from some short-sighted choices. Her area of expertise is Montclair and Piedmont, though we ended up in another part of Oakland. With Sandy's help we beat out competitors, despite not offering the highest monetary bid. Sandy's hardworking, respected, and a driven negotiator. Her connections paid off for us. Six years later, we still keep in touch. Hilary

I highly recommend Michael Valva with Valva REalty in Oakland. Valva realty has been in business for decades (50 or more I think). We bought 2 homes with Michael and sold one home with him as well. He/Company knows Oakland and Piedmont REALLY well and can help you find what will work for your family. Good luck Mary

Call Debbi DiMaggio with the Grubb Co. at 510-414-6777. She is GREAT! From: Satisfied Home Buyer

You should talk to Lucretia Jacobs with Prudential California Realty in Montclair She just had a baby and will understand your needs first hand. Plus she is a great Realtor, and is very thorough. (510)290-4907 Email: lucretia.jacobs [at] Stu S

I can highly recommend Stephen Bloom from Lawton Associates. His phone is 510 -541-6728. From my experience, he listens to what you want, working with you based on your needs, not his agenda. I have referred Stephen to a number of my friends buying their first homes, and have always gotten more than positive feedback. I would be happy to share their names with you if interested. He used to be based in Piedmont, but now is in Rockridge. Buying a home in this market has its tricks and turns; having someone you feel comfortable with to guide you is key. Good luck, and congratulations! R. Donovan

Although the Grubb Company has a great reputation, my own experience with Michael Friedman was very bad, to the point where I am trying to find out where to file a complaint beside the BBB. I used Friedman for my first house after my divorce - he refused to give me a copy of the seller's disclosures until closing, arranged a 2-week escrow without my consent and told me after the fact, arranged for a drain inspection without my asking and then charged me for it, and finally tried to get my mortgage broker to state a buying price for the house at $15,000 more than I had agreed to, but with a $15,000 credit. The inspector he recommended was just as bad - after the inspection he stated that the roof was 95% fine. The result is that I have a ''new in 2004'' roof that's been leaking (Friedman's response was ''you knew the previous owner was the one who installed it), and various repairs and updates that will cost 3-4 times what his inspector estimated, not to mention a severe mold problem as I couldn't afford to fix everything at once. Just because the RE company has a good reputation doesn't mean that all its agents are good. Paying heavily

We l-o-v-e-d our real estate agents: Corey Weinstein and Hanna Kerns of Orange Door Properties Corey made navigating first-time home buying a pleasure. susie

Feb 2007

This is an unsolicited recommendation for the best agent in Contra Costa: Leslie Mills at Coldwell Banker. We found her from a similar message posted on this site from 2001, and she was beyond our expectations and then some. We were first time buyers and sellers when we contacted her. Leslie and her team have been nothing but helpful, diligent, informed, hard-working, flexible and available since the moment we started the process of selling our condo and buying our first home. The whole experience has been as optimal as I can only imagine, largely due to her, and her demeanor and advice has been invaluable. Her network of resources is amazing, from staging our home for sale to people to do the work necessary at reasonable cost to long-term help we're just grateful. Do yourself a favor if moving in CC County, call her. Really, she's the best. Carolyn G

Vallejo Realtor

Feb 2007

My mother-in-law needs to sell her home in Vallejo. The house is almost 20 years old and has not been maintained. I'm looking for advice on what we should have done to the house (in addition to new paint and carpeting) to maximize the sales price without going to an excessive amount of effort. The house has 4BR/3BA, a funny floor plan and a steep hill in the backyard. Have you worked with any good real estate agents who specialize in Vallejo who could provide some advice (and possibly help us sell the home once it's ready)? THANKS! Signed: What to do about MIL's home?

We finally sold our home in Vallejo with the a new agent. He worked fast, good advice and experience. Mario Gamez with Intero Real Estate in Danville. cell 925-336-6399 or office 925-855- 4180. kim

Hello,I just wanted to Recomend a very good Realtor his name is Cary Bourland.You may reach him at (707)315-2463 or his email at 1asfan[at] He sold my parents a home on Beechwood Av.right off of Georgia St.They were very happy with his services and how he was so helpful and proffesional with them.On a scale of 1-10 they rated him a 10+.Feel free to contact him,he is always available to you when needed.He will answer every question you have.He works for CENTURY 21 Schutjer Realty.Tell him Monica D referred you!Good Luck! Monica

Imve recently updated and sold my home in the north-east Richmond area (October 06m), I replaced a dated kitchen and bathroom, added access to backyard and installed a small deck, front lawn sod ,new planting and painted inside, I spent about $18,500. I was able to get my asking price. My suggestion is to focus on curb appeal as well as the usual items of cleaning up and de-cluttering the house, depending on your budget and if there is a little sweat equity, your costs can be reduced. Raul

Lamorinda Realtor

Feb 2007

Moraga Real Estate Agent
Can anyone out there recommend a good real estate agent with a strong knowledge of the Moraga market? Anon

Linda Friedman from Village Associates is very good and knows the whole LaMorinda area well. You can reach her through Village Associates at (925) 258-7114. Judy I would like to recommend Patti Camras (925-253-4609 (w) 925-899-9282 (c)). She helped my husband and I through buying our first house in Moraga, and she was wonderful. Patti is very knowledgeable, listens well, and is very pleasant to be with. She wants what the best for her clients. The house that we ended up buying was advertised with a lower percentage commission for the buying agent, and yet Patti was willing to pursue it (this happened more than four years ago when the market was still a seller's market). Patti lives in Orinda, and she is very familiar with the Lamorinda area. She was also a teacher which was a plus to us because we could learn more about the public school system in the area. Even after buying the house, we still stay in touch with Patti all these years. She is a wonderful resource for contractors. Recently, our house went through a disaster, and Patti offered her help which was very touching. My recommendation for Patti is without reservation.

You MUST call Hal Kaufman with Village Associates in Orinda. We worked with him 2 years ago to find our house in Orinda. Hal and his wife, Margot work as a team and are the most wonderful, professional, honest RE agents that I have ever met. We were very picky about who we selected to represent us and after interviewing 4 other agents, chose Hal and Margot. They are both excellent listeners, not at all pushy and have extensive knowledge of the Lamorinda area (both have been residents for many, many years). You can reach Hal at 925-258-1109 or hal6120 [at] They also have a website: Please tell them that Laurie D referred you! You can also email me if you'd like to chat further. Laurie

Realtor familiar with Alameda

January 2007

Hi! My husband and I are thinking about buying a house in Alameda after all the great reviews it has received in BPN. But we have very little information about the different parts of town, schools, etc. We are hoping someone might be able to recommend a realtor who knows Alameda well and can help first time homebuyers navigate this world. Any other thoughts or suggestions related to buying in Alameda are also very much appreciated. Thank you for your help! Rebecca

My family and I recommend David Gunderman and Andrew Raskopf as agents in Alameda. They work together as a team and are great. Go to or to learn more about them. Smart agents. Nice people too. They are Alameda residents and will help you figure out which neighborhoods are best for you. Nina M.

I would recommend Bev and George Williams at Harbor Bay Realty in Alameda, 510-523-1144. I was completely new to this town and they helped me find the right house and neighborhood. They were very patient when I had trouble deciding, and they helped steer me away from areas that I wouldn't like. For example, when I was looking at condominiums in Bay Farm, near the Oakland Airport, we went on Friday afternoon. George commented that if I couldn't handle the noise at that time, then I shouldn't even consider buying there. He was right and I ended up in a quieter neighborhood just 5 minutes away. I worked mainly with Bev but for the few times that she wasn't available, her husband, George, showed me some places too Nancy

For the couple looking for a Alameda realtor I can highly recommend Carol Martino of Reality World. She is the owner,broker and loan agent of her own agency. She is a long time Alameda resident and knows the market. She is down to earth and will help you no matter if you are looking at high end homes or fixer uppers. She helped us with the purchase of our home 7 years ago and explained the whole process to use and never made us feel stupid or less than when we asked tons of questions. She can be reached at 510-523-9300 email carol[at] Good luck! I have seen alot of cute houses on the market in Alameda in the past few weeks. Mary

Karen Kellenberger works at Kane and Associates. She is FABULOUS!!! She's been in Alameda for 20 years (living and working), and really knows the community well. And she's very honest about home values, etc. You will not be disappointed. Call her and meet her and then decide. Tell her Kirsten and Jason recommended her. Good luck. kirsten

A friend recommended Richard Kim, of Harbor Bay Realty in Alameda, 510.814.4813, rkim[at]hbrhomes.comto us and were thrilled with the services he provided to us. He's patient, responsive, knowledgable, low-pressure and very nice and he also listens to what you want instead of trying to convince you about something you don't want - all great traits - we coudn't have asked for anyone better.

Realtor to help buy ''fixer''

Jan 2007

I am looking for a realtor to help us buy a ''fixer'' in a nicer/ more established neighborhood in oakland/berk/piedmont. So far my search has been mixed. I'm looking for someone both hard working and low-key, honest and not too pushy. Someone with experience fixing up houses themselves, interested in keeping their eye on all fixers that come up. thanks. -potential fixer

Hi potential fixer buyer, Stan Momtchev from Red Oak realty.His cell # is 510 388 7566. He is great very hard working, honest, not pushy but always available when you have a questions, provides a list with potential contractors , could help in the process of getting estimates. He has his own experience fixing up houses and will keep an eye on all fixers that come up on the market for you. Thanks, Elena

I'd like to recommend Debra Alber of Prudential Realty in Berkeley as a fantastic realtor who can help you find and purchase a fixer. She is a wonderful person who is excellent at what she does and very easy to work with. In addition, her husband is a contractor, and the two of them have a great deal of personal experience renovating fixers. I am confident that you will enjoy working with Deborah. Her number is (510) 845- 0211. Good Luck!! Lisa R

I highly recommend Miriam Ng of Korman & Ng ph 510.525.4600 x12. She helped us buy two fixers, and both worked out great. She is hard-working, very knowledgeable, and not pushy. Phil C

I'd like to recommend the realtor we used to find our house, Star Lightner of Mosaic Realty. She's a lawyer turned realtor, who also has a business managing vacation rentals at the Russian River ( In that capacity, she buys and fixes up houses to rent, so she has a lot of experience knowing what to look for. What we liked is that she's very smart and motivated, spent a lot of time on the details, and gave us really honest advice (including advising against houses if she thought they wouldn't ultimately work for us). As a working mom, she's also very laid back and easy to work with. We highly recommend her. Star's contact info is 510 332-5559, star at, Craig B

We recently bought a home with the help of Kamal Randhawa. We looked at fixer uppers by default (first time middle income home buyers) and she was more than willing to check out the worst of the worst. She kept a look out for potential homes for us (with ultimate success) and she has an eye for a home's future potential. Feel free to contact me with any questions. She can be reached at: Email: k.randhawa [at] Century 21 Bay Realtor Group ph. 510-932-1066 fx. 510-262-9117 lesliem

We would like to second Chris' recommendation of Pat Leaper as an outstanding real estate agent. We recently worked with him and his daughter, Gilian, and they are just excellent. They not only look tirelessly for a property for you that meets your needs, but they are always supportive and available. Most important, they are honest and ethical. We cannot say enough wonderful things about them and now consider them to be good friends. June and John

Oakland: Temescal Realtors

Jan 2007

I will soon be looking for a first home in the Temescal area of North Oakland, can anyone recommend a realtor? I am looking in the 450-600K range. Thank you! anonymous

I'd like to suggest that you contact my husband, Joel Kovisto at joel [at] He is a Realtor and we've lived in Temescal for the past four and a half years and just love our neighborhood. I know he'd be happy to help you find a home that's right for you. You can also check out his website: I've also seen signs for, you might want to check that out too. Good luck! clegas

North Berkeley Realtors

Jan 2007

Can anyone give me a recommendation for a real estate agent who would work well under the following conditions? My husband and I are thinking of selling our current house sometime in the spring or summer and would like to buy in a very specific area of North Berkeley. We're very particular even down to the blocks we are interested in looking at. The downside is that not too many places sell in this area, and not too many of those are in our price range. However, we're willing to hold out and take our time because we want the next house to be the house we stay in for a very long time. This means that we really need an agent who is ok with the process taking a while and who won't try to push us into the wrong area/house just to make the sale. Any suggestions? Thanks. Allison

We just sold our North Berkeley house and I highly recommend our agent, Anita Thede, at Northbrae Real Estate on Hopkins Ave. From what you say, you want someone who really knows the area (she does). When I first bought my house, from a friend in the late '90s, I went around to other homes that were on the market first to get a sense of the comparable value. She and her associate, Gayle, were often at these houses, either looking or representing the sellers, and I got to know her a bit. She helped me out, well knowing that she would get no benefit from it at the time, and when it was time for us to sell, we had no doubt about going to her. We were happy we did! Let me know if you want to know more, Abigail M

We have used Carolyn Jones at Grubb Co. for three of our real estate transactions. She is fabulous and efficient. She is from this area and knows all the other agents. c.s.

I would like to recommend our realtor Marilyn Garcia at Coldwell Banker in North Berkeley. She did an excellent job both of selling our North Berkeley home and helping us find our new home in Orinda. North Berkeley is her specialty (as well as where she lives) but she also did a great job for us in Orinda. Like you our search was long and slow -- we had a 2-year rental here in Orinda and spent most of it looking for just the right house and neighborhood. Marilyn never pressured us but was always willing to drive over the hill at short notice to show us something when we needed her to. She is very smart -- a Berkeley Phd in economics -- and practical. She has my highest recommendation. Her number is (510)390-5406. Good Luck! Lisa H

I've always worked with Pat Leaper of Red Oak, who is very experienced and not likely to try to sell you something you're not interested in. I have bought 3 properties through him and have come to regard him as a friend as well as an excellent agent. Chris D

we LOVE our realtors - ira and carol serkes. they are incredibly knowledgeable about the north berkeley area, live in north berkeley, and buy and sell here. they have helped my husband and me sell a home (we received multiple offers and more than we expected), buy a home (they submitted our LOW bid and we WON the bidding war), and have also worked with friends and family with the same fantastic results. visit their website at here is their contact info: 800/887-6668 Toll Free 510/526-6668 Direct happy we found the serkes!

Hi Allison - I am a mortgage broker in the area and have professionally and personally used Jennifer Jonak (510-501-6276) for a number of years and she is amazing. She is a corporate attorney as well, so that helps a great deal. She lives in Kensington and knows all of Berkley very well - we just bought in Claremont about 1 year ago and Jenny helped us. Email with questions. Jason R

More than 20 years ago when we were looking for a real estate agent, we toured open houses in the Berkeley area, not for the house but for the agent. Through this process we were fortunate to meet Kathryn Stein, who works for Thornwall Properties in Berkeley. Since then we have bought and sold properties in both Berkeley and El Cerrito, mostly fixer-uppers, with Kathryn as our agent. She has been a stalwart worker and friend through not only our property searches but my parentsm search for a ''level-in'' property. We value her integrity and her extraordinary knowledge in the field. During the last few years Kathryn has teamed up with Helen Walker and together they are a dynamic duo. We highly recommend Kathryn and Helen to all of our friends. Kathryn can be reached at 510-848-1950 x 230. Susan D

Hi there - We recently purchased our home and used the services of Liz Rush who is now with Elmwood Realty and Investment Co. I'm sure you will receive lots of recommendations but here are a few things about Liz that we especially liked: 1. Patient - she was very willing to do what WE wanted. We were first-time buyers who had waited out a really hot market and were not about to rush ANYTHING in a slowing down market. We shrugged out shoulders and scoffed at the prices when we went to see homes. We finally found a good deal on a house - it was a messy close (seller close to foreclosure) but she stuck with it and we're happy. 2. Personable - nice person and genuinely great with our kids. 3. Trustworthy - at all times we got the sense that she wanted to do the right thing for us. So, good luck - her information is below. Liz Rush Realtor Elmwood Realty and Investment Co. 2991 College Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 C: 510-689-6921 O:510-883-7009 F: 510-883-7076 EAnnis

I highly recommend Janet Kaplan. She works at Windmere and helped me buy my house in North Berkeley. She always took the time to check in with me on a personal level every time we met so she really understood what I was looking for and was able to support me emotionally as well! I truly believe that I wouldn't have gotten my place with any other agent. There was actually a higher bid than mine but the selling agent chose mine because she knew Janet. When it all went through I really felt that she was excited for a single mom it was really nice for me to feel like I had an ally. She really walked me through the whole process and always took the time to explain everything to me . Her cell phone number is 506-2762 or you just call windmere on solano (right above La Farine). good luck! stacia

Leslie Avant at Pac Union (339-6460 x1341 or 925-254-1232) would fit your criteria. She was very experienced and treated us with warmth and dignity, even as we were flying in on a hectic schedule from Boston to look at housing. She has lived/worked in the area (possibly even Berkeley, but I'm not 100% sure) and bought/sold her own houses around here, so she knows Berkeley very, very well. She has a lot of the history about the area under her belt and told us some stories that helped us feel more grounded and oriented, which helped a great deal. I think she would be very understanding and patient with you. Why don't you give her a call and try her out? k12mcc

When we bought our house, I met Bill McDowell of Berkeley Hills realty through chance . . . I was a first-time buyer, just going to open houses, and he really impressed me with his willingness to talk, understand my needs (which were pretty fussy and didn't involve a lot of money), and give free advice. He became our agent, showed us a lot of homes, really ''got'' what we wanted, and found us a wonderful home. I recommended him to friends who had the same great experience, And, he's based in North Berkeley, with a long history in the area. When we choose to sell, I'll call him again in a heartbeat. billmberk[at] vm 510-524.1700 x30
Mariah B

Hi. I recommend Janet Kaplan as a realtor. She is an expert in the N. Berkeley area. She is very patient, a great listener and doesn't push you into a sale. Her number is 506-2762. She is a realtor with Windermere which is located at 900 Colusa Ave, Ste 203. Good Luck! Sara

Brett from Realty Advocates is a really laid back person. He will listen to your needs. Since you know exactly what you want it won't be too hard to figure it out. We have worked with him for a few years. We have put bids on places that we didn't get and then waited for a year before bidding again and did get. Brett's number 510 428-0757. Lisa

We just sold our old house & bought a new one (both in North Berkeley) w/ Colleen Larkin. I'll relay what the other professionals that work w/ her regularly told us. We went on the brokers' tours and the realtors would uniformly tell us, without prompting, that she was the best, wonderful, etc. We had the building inspector tell us she wanted the right outcomes for her customers, even if that meant the deal didn't go through. And the loan company exec talked about her compassion. Our own experience evidenced all of that. Also - that she listened to what we wanted, honored our requests, and when we found ''our'' house, she did everything possible to make that happen for us. We were also very specific about where we wanted to be. She has 20+ years experience and so knows the real estate cycles and micro-''climate'' areas in Berkeley. Good luck in your hunt - here's her contact information: 848-1950 X240 from starter to dream home

Ditto the comments on Brett Weinstein of Realty Advocates as a buyers agent. Practical, focused, experienced, super easy-to-work-with and reassuring. His office number is 510 428 0757. By the way, his office also standardly represents sellers for 4% commission--with excellent service. We are just now in contract to sell a house with him. Happy with Realty Advocates

A little more than 2 years ago, my wife and I started to look for proerty in the Berkeley Area (we were living on a boat in the Caribbean at the time.) We walked into a Real Estate Office and met Marilyn. She both directed us in our own searches and took us around herself. Her guidance was invaluable. We are happily housed nopw in North Berkeley in a house which we wouldn't have found without her. Good luck on your search - her contact information is: Marilyn Garcia, PhD Coldwell Banker 1495 Shattuck (at Vine), Berkeley (510) 981-3035 marilyn_garcia[at]
Bill & Carol

Recommendations from 2005 - 2006

Looking for fixer-upper in Berkeley/Oakland

Dec 2006

We're first time home buyers who don't want to move to the suburbs, but are worried about what we'll end up with for our dollars in the Oakland/Berkeley general vicinity. We rent a house in on the Oakland/Emeryville border and it's really shown us how important your neighborhood is; I'd rather a dump we can work on over time in a neighborhood with walkability, friendly neighbors, and accessible amenities. If you've had a great experience with an agent who really enjoys this sort of thing-- this definitely won't be a turnkey property we're looking for-- I'd love to hear from you. Thanks

For a great real estate agent talk to Mykah Larkins at Marvin Gardens in El Cerrito (a very good friend of mine): She and her aunt Mary Gray are in business together and are wonderful, nice, real, people. Mykah grew up and lives in El Cerrito, so she knows the area very well (not to mention everybody!). Mykah also knows the in-and-outs of how to fix up a house, which neighborhoods are good, which schools are good, and loves to help with ideas on all of this! Allison

Hope Broderick at GRUBB and CO in Montclair is wonderful. We purchased our firsthome from Hope and she is much more than a RE agent.She goes above and beyond in every way. ANd she's a sweetheart two with 2 small children HBroderick at Please tell her that Lisa and Michael recommended her Lisa

I would like to recommend Patti Camras (925-253-4609 (w) 925-899-9282 (c)). She helped my husband and I through buying our first house, and she was wonderful. Patti is very knowledgeable, listens well, and is very pleasant to be with. She wants what the best for her clients. The house that I ended up buying was advertised with a lower percentage commission for the buying agent, and yet Patti was willing to pursue it. Even after buying the house, I still stay in touch with Patti all these years. She is a wonderful resource for contractors. Recently, my house went through a disaster, and Patti offered her help which was very touching. My recommendation for Patti is without reservation

Dave Tang with Reliance Reality is absolutely wonderful. He is patient, honest, and makes sure that you understand the maze of real estate purchase. his company also has a mortgage lending component (Portfolio Lending Company). so you don't have to work and wait for 2 people. he helps you with both. he has lived, built homes, and worked in real estate in many different neighborhoods in the Bay Area, including the East Bay. his contact info.: dave at Pauline F

I enthusiastically recommend our realtor Martha Becker of Thornwall Properties. She specializes in first-time home buyers. She was instrumental in the purchase of our home in Northwest Berkeley two years ago. She works hard for her clients. You can find out more about her on the Thornwall Properties website. Her email address is marthabecker at Catherine

Dec 2006

I would like to ''highly'' recommend Norah Brower of Berkeley Hills Realty. 510-524-1700 x 26 or Cell 510-703-6934 Norah is one of the most architecturally literate agents I have ever met. She understands how various styles of architecture translate into personal values for her clents. I am an architect, so I had a great need for this type of dialogue. Norah is a good listener and knows when to step back and let you make the final calls in those very stressful moments. Norah was also very helpful in connecting us to the community and sharing her wide range of helpful references with us. Feel free to give me a call for any further information. 510.558.8280 Joanne K

November 2006

If you have kids and are wondering which real estate agents can deal with that well, I have a recommendation for you. We recently bought our first home with the fantastic help of Kathryn Stein and Helen Walker from Thornwall (848-1950) in Berkeley. They are both mothers and can cope with the things that kids do while looking for a house. They were always so nice to the kids (and us), and know how to help when the kids are distracting you or too tired, etc. When we finally found a house and were serious about getting it, the little one was feeling it was very unfair that the older one would get a larger room. Helen took her seriously, paced the length of each room with her, showed her all the good reasons why her room was nice for her, and how it really wasn't that much different in size. Whatever I had to say at that point would not have worked, but Helen saved the day and made her so happy with the room. We did get the house, and the little one has never complained about her room since. These two agents are just life savers when you are tired and stressed from house hunting with children. I could share many more good comments about them if I had room. Good luck to all house hunters! Happy in New Home

El Cerrito Realtor

Oct 2006

I am not responding to a specific question on Real Estate Agents. However, my husband and I just bought a new home in El Cerrito and I would like to recommend our agent. Her name is Francine Di Palma and she is with Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave. Francine is truly unbelievable and a rare find. She was so patient with us...we took 8 months to find the home that was perfect for us. During this time, it was always revealed to us, that Francine has an excellent reputation in the community for being professional, hard working and ethical. She has the perfect balance of being straight forward and honest but not pushy. After 8 months of working with her, we did get to know her well and our first impression was correct, but our respect and fondness for her increased. And she is smart, fun, interesting and funny on top of all of that. I honestly believe we NEVER would have found our perfect home if it was not for her Kristen

Pleasanton/Dublin Realtor

October 2006

Hi, I'm looking to buy my first home and am in need of a buyer's agent for the pleasanton/dublin area and/or the fremont area. Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thank you una

Hi there- I HIGHLY recommend our realtor team who helped us find a home in Pleasanton. Phyllis and Carolyn Weiner (they are a mother/daughter team!). They were so patient with us and went above and beyond in helping us find the perfect home. They are with Hometown. Phyllis has been in the profession for over 20 years and they grew up in Pleasanton. Contact info is 925-426- 3845 Their website is best of luck Amy

June 2006

I'd like to recommend our agent Jerry Long. As first time home buyers in Northern California, we were wary of getting into the market q too many horror stories about houses going thousands of dollars over the asking price had scared us into submission! But Jerry made it seem like a breeze; he was supportive, wise, and resourceful. Our budget always seemed to us be too tight, but Jerryms patience and confidence that we would find something gave us hope q and he was right! Hems always willing to take the time to answer questions and offer advice, and his laid-back style took all the anxiety out of important decisions. He and his wife Heidi focus on Berkeley, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito, see pakravan

June 2006

Last week I saw a posting discouraging home buyers from using Lawton Associates. It is unfortunate the poster felt he/she had a bad experience. I wanted to let people know that my experience with Mary Smartt and the team from Lawton Associates was wonderful and rewarding. Mary spent a lot of time with us as first time home buyers. She was gracious and the utmost professional. We found a home that was perfect for us but was also listed way below market value, resulting in a bidding war of over 50 offers! We didn't have the highest offer, but through Mary's professionalism and experience in this market, she helped us craft an offer that got us our dream home. There were a lot of issues that came up in escrow that Mary handled for us, covering every detail. My parents who have been investing in real estate for over 30 years and who were involved in the process of our home purchase have said that they have never come across a real estate professional as thorough as well as personable as Mary Smartt. We truly consider Mary a friend of the family for life and would never hesitate to work with her again and would recommend her to anyone. Marina P

June 2006

We had a very negative experience with Lawton Assocs of Berkeley during a recent home buying experience. We purchased at the height of the market and paid a premium price for what thought was a fairly decent, albeit older bungalow. As we were first time homebuyers we had many questions and at times I had no idea what we were doing and thus relied on our Realtor (Mary Smartt and Ron Kriss at Lawton Assocs) for guidance. We found out much later that our Realtor did not live up to her Fiduciary Responsibility in representing us in the purchase, neglected a number of inspections we had asked for and thought we had gotten, did not fill out the TDS properly and was generally rushed with the process. She tried on many occasions to get us to bid the maximum we had been approved on for a house that obviously was not worth that amount (even with overpayment). In the end, we still overpaid and are now faced with a list of claims from concealed issues with the house. Moreover, the Realtor was totally lax at helping us find one point we tried to fire her but had (our current house) ready to bid and needed to move ahead. Lawton is small boutique agency in Berkeley which we were referred to by a friend. Lawton tends to represent sellers in Berkeley, Rockridge and Piedmont. -Anon

May 2006

For anyone looking to purchase a home, I wanted to strongly recommend Karthiga Anandan at the Grubb Co. We purchased a home in Berkeley from Karthiga last summer and were so pleased with her professionalism. Karthiga was not only very knowledgeable about the real estate market in Berkeley but also about the details a buyer should know when assessing which house is the best fit for you. We used a different agency back in 1998 with our first home and were satisfied with the service. However, with our latest foray, we were amazed how much our previous agent didn't provide in all these little ways in terms of personality, contacts with local contractractors, architects, and inspectors, and negotiation. Karthiga truly made a stressful situation into a much more pleasant one. Carolyn

Piedmont Realtor

March 2006

I like to hear from people who have had great experiences with their realtors in purchasing a home in Piedmont in the last few years. I have heard about Chris Cohn, Dana Cohen, Kirt Buchholz, Diane Verducci of Grubb, and also Georgia Cornell of Pacific Union --- does anyone have any first-hand experiences with any one of them in buying a home in Piedmont? Any other recommendations are also very much appreciated !! albert

We moved from Oakland to Piedmont last year and had a wonderful experience with our realtor, Nancy Maloney, at Coldwell Banker in Montclair. She grew up in Piedmont and knows the area well. She helped us with both the purchase of our home in Piedmont and the sale of our Oakland home. With so much going on in a short time period she really did a great job and managed everything perfectly. We were very happy with the outcome. Nancy can be reached at 339-4781. Cindy M

March 2006

I would like to recommend our realtor, Jimmy Reina of Red Oak Realty in Albany. Last year when we bought our first house we used Jimmy and were very happy with him. Jimmy listened closely to our needs and desires and didn't waste our time with houses or locations we weren't interested in. He was very patient with us and thoroughly explained everything. He showed us homes in Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda - in the end he helped us with a very quick closing on our home near Lake Merritt. He is a good resource for the type of buyer who wants to take the time to understand what they are signing. My husband and I were very satisfied and would love to be able to direct more business his way. You can reach him at 510-280-2120 or jimmy at Cheryl

March 2006

In 2005 my partner and I put our El Cerrito home on the market. After meeting a bunch of realtors who left us cold, we found Kathie Longinotti of Coldwell Banker in north Berkeley (next to Black Oak Books at Shattuck and Vine). Kathie has warmth and enthusiasm, diligence and an eye for detail. She was always gracious and professional, even though our home s across the street from an active demolition site s was locationally challenged. She expressed genuine excitement about our home, and it was apparently infectious: We got 12 offers, exceeding even our secret hopes. We confidently recommend Kathie to anyone looking for a great agent. Her number is 510-486-1495. John B

Feb 2006

Hi I am writing to recommend a terrific Real Estate Agent that I have been working with. She has gone above and beyond any expections that I had. She is constantly keeping my husband and I updated on houses on the market and willing to meet with us at OUR convenience. It has been a refreshing experience. She works in mostly in Montclair but her area of expertise include all surrounding areas. Erin P

Feb 2006

If you're looking for a house in the East Bay, I can _highly_ recommend David Kafton, a licensed real estate broker. He rec'd his PhD from Berkeley in the 1960s, has been a resident of Berkeley since then, and so he knows the area like the back of his hand. He used to be w/ Mason McDuffie, and has been running his own practice for the past 10+ years. He helped me buy my first house in 1994, and our second in 2000 (for the 2nd purchase we weren't the highest bidders, but his presentation got it for us). Not only does David have over 25 years of experience as a realtor--he has an incredible amount of integrity; his commitment to the community is expressed through his work to help people find the right homes; and he has a heart of gold. We've remained friends to this day, and if I need a referral for anything from a chimney sweep to a vet to the best eclair in town, he's the first person I call. You can contact him at 510.524.8973 or dtk at kafton dot org. AJ

Albany Realtor

Feb 2006

I would like to recommend Francine di Palma, a real estate agent at Red Oak Realty in Berkeley. 510-527-3387 Francine helped my husband and I buy a house in Albany this summer. The first thing I noticed was that she spent most of her time telling us what NOT to buy, rather than pushing properties that may not have suited us exactly. It was clear that Francine wasnmt just trying to walk off with her commission as quickly as possible. Francine exhibited her dedication to our interests on many other occasions, in particular taking on awkward negotiations with future neighbors over a potential boundary dispute with gusto. She also used her local connections to spot suitable houses early, point out potential problems and hunt down as much information as possible q lots more information than is available from listings and conversations with sellers and their agents. Two months after the purchase closed, Francine is still emailing with recommendations for gardeners, plumbers, odd-job helpers and much-needed general advice on how to look after a home. Kimberly W

Feb 2006

I want to recommend an amazing real estate agent, Dana Cordiero at Red Oak Realty, 2983 College Avenue, Berkeley, 510-849-9990x2152, danacordeiro [at] Our family of four moved to the Bay Area from Boston 1.5 years ago. Dana was helpful in arranging rental housing for us while house-hunting, was amazing with our two children during countless open-houses, and kept an amazing positive attitude through the entire process that there was a house for us that would fit our family. She was effective in negotiating cash back after a surprise during inspection. She continues to be a great reference for contractors and services, mails us information periodically, has fun client appreciation events and has become a delightful family friend. Anon

Feb 2006

I give my full endorsement to Carrie McAllister, my real estate agent who helped me find the house of my dreams. As a first-time homebuyer Carrie patiently walked me through the home-buying process. During the search I was most impressed with how well Carrie listened to my needs -- location, size, amenities, etc. Carrie was professional and thorough and a pleasure to work with. You can reach her by phone (510-292-7838), email (carrie [at], or you can visit her website: Scott F

Dec 2005

After using the Berkeley Parents site as a resource over the years, my partner and I would like to post a recommendation of our own. Last summer we decided to put our El Cerrito home on the market, and we began to shop around for a real estate agent to represent us in the sale. After meeting a number of realtors at open houses who left us cold, we found that Kathie Longinotti of the Coldwell Banker office in north Berkeley (next to Black Oak Books, at Shattuck and Vine) had the warmth and enthusiasm to represent us the way we'd have represented ourselves, if we could have. Kathie's diligence and attention to detail was just what we were looking for; if anything, she was more excited about our house than we were, and we figured that potential buyers would respond to Kathie's excitement. They did. We got 12 offers on the house, exceeding what we even secretly hoped for (even in the traditionally sluggish month of August, for a house with a rather challenged location across fr! om an active school demolition). Through it all Kathie was gracious and professional ' we strongly recommend Kathie to any seller looking for a great agent. Her number is 510-486-1495. John B

Moving to the Bay Area from the East Coast

October 2005

We moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast and are looking for a realtor to educate us about the East Bay neighborhoods and the housing market. We have 2 children and want a house in a good school district. Annon.

I'd like to recomend Tania Balazs as a great realtor for the central east bay region. She has two small boys, twins, and is very mindful of what families are looking for. She is very understanding and hard working and reliable. I have watched her both sell a house down the street from me (which she sold for well over the asking price) and she has worked with me on finding a house. She has been a realtor for 3 years, and before was a landscape designer. She speaks fluent Spanish and Hebrew and is generally enjoyable to talk with and see. She did a wonderful job of listening to what we were looking for and is extremely reputable. This is a case where she will make up for any lack of experience by doing much extra footwork that other realtors may choose not to do. I feel strongly about her. You can call me if you have other questions Tania Balazs-Gvishi Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage 1495 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 206-2686 Cell (510) 981-3048 Direct (510) 549-3720 Fax Johnna A

For the person looking for an East Bay Realtor, I want to highly recommend Ismail Abdullah at (510) 776-3105. He is incredibly professional, experienced, and very knowledeable of the housing market and neighborhoods in the East Bay. He is also very responsive to your individual needs and constraints- not at all pushy. He served as our realtor in the recent purchase of our home in Oakland, but I know he also works throughout Alameda and Contra Costa County. We had a very challenging seller and without Ismail, we would probably still be looking. brightstar

To the person looking for an east bay realtor - I highly recommend Doug Fuller, at the Prudential office in Montclair. He is attentive, reliable, great to work with, and not a pushy seller at all - we had a wonderful house-buying experience with him. He can be reached at 510-339-9290. Lisa

Hi, This was in response to the person relocating from the East coast to the East Bay looking for a realtor and good school district. I would like to highly recommend our realtor Ted Streeter from Better Homes Realty in Lafayette. He was thorough, quick, and very responsive to our needs. If you're looking for a good school district, the Lamorinda (Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda) area touts one of the best and he has lived and worked in this area for 20 years and knows it like the back of his hand. He really went the extra mile for us - really fought hard to help us get a good price on our home (he saved us several thousand dollars) and even absorbed some loss from the seller's broker's negligence. My husband and I think he's great! He's the broker and owner of Better Homes Realty of Lafayette and you can reach him at 925-284-9520 ext. 212 or Good luck! Sandra

I would highly recommend Soheila Smith if you are looking for an experienced realtor who is knowlegeable, accomodating, and very easy to work with. She is intimately familiar with the Lamorinda area, which has some of the top-ranked schools in the state. Soheila found us the perfect home after an exhaustive search. She is genuinely caring and concientious. You can reach her at (925) 963-1284 or email her at soheilasmith at Good Luck on your move. Joan S

We used Ruth Goldstone from Marvin Gardens and can't recommend her enough! She knows the Berkeley, Oakland, Rockridge, El Cerrito area extremely well (including the various schooling issues). We bought the house earlier this year when the market was really difficult for buyers, yet Ruth still was able to get us the house for $20k less than what we'd actually bid (after inspections). I would use her again in a minute. Her number is 510-418-7191. Lara

We would love to recommend our realtor. He does an excellent job marketing (virtual tours etc.). He gave us great advice and was able to be supportive and strong without being pushy or adding any stress to an already stressful experience. His name is James Juanillo and he works for Prudential. His office is in San Francisco but he is currently working in the East Bay as well and we never had to go to San Francisco until it was time to close the deal. If you need a warm and smart realtor, please give him a call. (415) 929-5820 daraw

To the person looking for an East Bay Realtor: I want to highly recommend Dave Tang with Reliance Realty. Dave helped us buy and sell our first house, and recently helped us purchase our second home. He is super knowledgeable (he built houses before), available, helpful, and has a lot of integrity. He can also help you with your mortgage, so that you can have both through the same person and not have to wait for time lags and work with multiple people. He also has two kids, so he's mindful of what a family needs. His info.: Dave Tang 925/226-0160, email: dave at Tell him you were referred by Pauline F

If you are looking for a stressfree way to buy and or sell a home I can't suggest Dave and Carla Higgins enough. They not only sold our home and took care of every little detail from finding great painters, stagers, and handymen and sold it for the top price in our neighborhood.... But they also found us a great new home and the movers to help us move. All this was so very important with both of us working fulltime and two small children and another on the way. Anyway Again I can not tell you how thankful we are to have chosen them as our realtors. You can call them at 510-595-7699 or Jim K

Lamorinda Realtor

Sept 2005

If you are looking for a real estate agent in Orinda, I would highly recommend Patti Camras of Coldwell Banker, she is true professional in all phases of her work. She sold our house in less then one week. Her marketing plan was very effective as we encountered a swarm of potential buyers/lookers during our first open house. She made all the important arrangements and contacts for staging our house and spared no expense when she advertised it. She is the president of Orinda's Chamber of Commence, formerly a career school teacher in Orinda, and lives in Orinda, so she knows everything about Orinda. It was a real pleasure working with her. If you want a real professional for buying or selling a house in the Orinda/Moraga/Lafayette areas, call Patti or look her up at Ron

My husband has bought and sold a few houses in the Bay Area, but the best agent he (we) ever had was Margot Kaufman at because she is not only a totally savvy businesswoman but is a really good person. I?m sure we were a high-maintainence couple with our four-year-old in tow and very particular needs. We had to have a house that had a space that could be converted to a darkroom and a fairly tight budget for Orinda. Margot would tell us if she thought the house was fairly priced and told us several times to back off and wait for the right house at the right price. She is also a tough negotiator without coming off like a shark, due to her sense of humor. She and her husband, Hal, are genuinely committed to the Lamorinda community and have done quite a bit of volunteer work on projects involving kids and the arts. They like people and they like life; they work hard for you. Contact info: Village Associates in Orinda; office: 925 254-0505 cell: Mar! got's Cell 925 260.4787 margot6120 at Melanie L

Oakland: Rockridge Realtor

August 2006

Can anyone recommend a great realtor who has solid experience selling in Rockridge? Rockridge Seller

Hi. Lawton Associates specializes in Rockridge. I've worked with Ron Kriss, the owner, for over ten years, and have always been happy with him and his staff. He's helped us buy three houses and sell one. He knows the Rockridge area inside and out and I don't believe anyone can do a better job. Good luck!

Try Hal Feiger at Realty Advocates on Alcatraz Ave. -- many years of experience in Berkeley/North Oakland, down-to-earth, personable, discounted commissions. Hal was our agent for selling a house in Berkeley and buying in lower Rockridge, and we couldn't have asked for better service. Tel. 510-428-0757 E-mail: hal[at] Web site: Morris

Try calling Jerry Ratch at Coldwell Banker. Jerry lives in Rockridge, so he knows the area quite well. He's found homes for two people I know. Both had very particular needs. He was very patient with both, attentive and wouldn't give up until they found the right home. He can be reached at: (510) 981-3037 or (510) 486-1495 Good luck! Anne

I highly recommend Jeff Robarts, with Prudential. He is a long- time resident of Rockridge, and has represented a number of buyers and sellers in the area. He is smart, level-headed and patient, and actively keeps on top of the neighborhood market. He was instrumental in helping my family buy our Rockridge home last year. He's also a really nice guy. If you would like more information about Jeff, please email me. Otherwise, you can contact him directly at 510-390-6490 suzannet

August 2005

Maison Nouveau; realtors that rock! If you are looking for a realtor, Maison Nouveau is the place to call: 510-849-9900. They have an office in the east bay as well as SF and everyone in their office will work together as a team to find you the best place. We worked with Tori and Annalise and they were awesome. Buying and selling a house can be incredible intense and they were there for us whenever we needed. They seemed to work all hours, and even helped entertain our kids while we looked at homes. Best of all they only accept 2% commision and will up your offer by the remaining 1% or credit it back to you for closing costs. With the cost of homes what they are, this was a substantial amount of money! I highly recommend them, they helped my family get into an amazing house. jartdesign

Realtor for Alameda or Albany house

June 2005

We are thinking about buying a 3 or 4 bedroom home in Albany or Alameda. Can anyone recommend a realtor who is familiar with these cities? (Also, any advice about buying a home or living in these cities would be appreciated.) Thanks. Looking To Move

to the person looking for a realtor in alameda - there are tons of them! but you would be very happy with david gunderman and his partner andrew raspkof at kane realty. david was a colleague of mine before going into realty. he is patient, dedicated and non-pushy. email me if you want more info. his website is jennifer i

We went through a few realtors before we found Karen Kellenberger at Kane and Associates in Alameda. She really worked for her money, and worked hard for us. She's a local Alamedian (which makes a difference in this competitive real estate market). Her number is 510-523-6058 ext. 221 kirsten

June 2005

We recently purchased our first home and were lucky enough to have had Francine DiPalma at Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue to guide us through the process. We were such babes in the woods and, being from NYC, totally bewildered by the whole wacko real estate scene out here (in NYC, nothing EVER goes for more than the listing price; you b argain down - here it's just the reverse and it's a real mystery as to how much to bid over asking). Long story short - Francine is not only smart; she's wise and knows so much about every little aspect of, not only the market, but the actual house itself (she could be an inspector, I think LOL) She got back $10,000 for us on an issue we were prepared to not fight about. She's also a joy to be with - funny and kind and caring and we cannot recommend her highly enough. Carole F

June 2005

Carrie McAlister, a realtor with Red Oak Realty, is as good as they get. I was new to the home-buying process and to the East Bay, and she introduced me to both with patience and expertise. As we explored new neighborhoods Carrie listened to me and had a very clear sense of what i was looking for; as a result, we spent more time looking at homes and neighborhoods that i may not have found on my own. When it came time to submit an offer, then counter-offer and negotiate with the seller i couldnmt imagine having had anyone else help me navigate the choppy waters: she kept me cool under some stressful moments, and her advice s both prudent and shrewd s made the difference in the end. Carrie can be reached by cell phone or e-mail: (510) 292-7838 or carrie at Scott F

June 2005

I'd like to recommend our realtors Jerry and Heidi Long. They are a married couple, so you get two for the price of one. They truly compliment each other in their strengths and expertise. They are long time North Berkeley residents and are very experienced and knowledgable about property in Berkeley. We have hired them both to sell a house and to purchase a house. When selling the house, they assisted us immensely in getting the house prepared, knew just what to do and who to call. They have also assisted many of our friends in buying homes and everyone we know has been thrilled with their help. Carrie G

June 2005

An example speaks volumes: It was Sunday, and my husband, 2-yr. old, and I were ready to look at open homes our Realtor, CJ Boydston of Coldwell Banker had recommended; we just wanted to rest for a few minutes before heading out. The next thing we new it was 5pm! We had slept through the open homes! So we ate dinner and decided to drive by to look at the exteriors of the homes we meant to view. When we called CJ to confess we had missed the open homes, CJ immediately offered to come meet us at the houses and let us view the properties. She spent several hours taking us to all the properties we wanted to see. Thanks to CJ's responsiveness and good humor, that is the night we found our home. That was Sunday and they were hearing offers on Tuesday. There is no way we would have been able to make an offer on the house if we had not seen it Sunday night! We're happy to say our family has now settled into a house we are so proud to call home. We are so impressed and happy with CJ that I feel compelled to recommend her here, and to everyone I know! We had been working with another agent for months but getting no results, when a friend strongly urged us to work with CJ Boydston. Long story short-CJ's level of customer service and ability to get us a home we wanted at a price we could afford totally exceeded all expectations. With CJ, we were the winning offer on a home with 10 offers. Though all the offers were extremely competitive, the listing agent said that CJ's presentation skills got us the home. CJ works with both Buyers and Sellers. Everyone we have introduced her to loves her. She works out of the Montclair/Piedmont Coldwell Banker office and can be reached at (510) 282-3411 or cj at Andrea

May 2005

We recently had an exceptional first time home buying experience with Martha Becker at Thornwall Properties, (510)848-1950 x247, whom we selected based on a glowing review previously posted on Berkeley Parents Network. Martha specializes in working with first time home buyers. She is candid, honest, supportive, very responsive and down to earth. Her wisdom, connections and experience helped us purchase the first home that we bid on- even though their were a few bids that were higher than ours! Thanks to Martha, instead of a run down fixer, we've got a gorgeous house in an up and coming neighborhood with great neighbors. Her instincts about the market are spot on. I can't say enough positive things about our experience with her. If you feeling hopeless about getting into the market, give her a try- she's a miracle worker. Erika & Austin

I would recommend Chris Cohn with Grubb. She recently helped us evaluate an unusual real estate situation, and I really valued her input. Her knowledge of the local real estate market is tops. M. Moore

I'm writing to recommend our realtor, Francine Di Palma at Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave. in Berkeley. Francine helped us buy our house in Albany in November and was a pleasure to work with. She gave us consistently good advice and we felt she was a true advocate for us throughout the process. She is smart, experienced, always level headed and very witty as well. I would recommend Francine for anyone looking to buy or sell their home in the East Bay. You can reach Francine at (510) 280-2148 or by email at francinedp AT Susannah

May 2005

I would recommend Chris Cohn with Grubb. She recently helped us evaluate an unusual real estate situation, and I really valued her input. Her knowledge of the local real estate market is tops. M. Moore

May 2005

I'm writing to recommend our realtor, Francine Di Palma at Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave. in Berkeley. Francine helped us buy our house in Albany in November and was a pleasure to work with. She gave us consistently good advice and we felt she was a true advocate for us throughout the process. She is smart, experienced, always level headed and very witty as well. I would recommend Francine for anyone looking to buy or sell their home in the East Bay. You can reach Francine at (510) 280-2148 or by email at francinedp at Susannah

May 2005

We recently had an exceptional first time home buying experience with Martha Becker at Thornwall Properties, (510)848-1950 x247, whom we selected based on a glowing review previously posted on Berkeley Parents Network. Martha specializes in working with first time home buyers. She is candid, honest, supportive, very responsive and down to earth. Her wisdom, connections and experience helped us purchase the first home that we bid on- even though their were a few bids that were higher than ours! Thanks to Martha, instead of a run down fixer, we've got a gorgeous house in an up and coming neighborhood with great neighbors. Her instincts about the market are spot on. I can't say enough positive things about our experience with her. If you feeling hopeless about getting into the market, give her a try- she's a miracle worker. Erika & Austin

March 2005

Juliana Wynberg of Marvin Gardens is an excellent realtor. I moved to the area with my partner last summer, and she really helped us zero in on what we needed. She knows an amazing amount of detail about seemingly EVERY property in Berkeley and Albany. She was very respectful of our guidelines, never trying to push us into something that we didn't want. She also saved us from bidding on some properties that really weren't worth our money. She'also down-to-earth and fun to be around. Caroline

To the person(s) asking about Gene Millstein's qualities as a realtor. Gene is an outstanding, experienced realtor. We were first time home buyers with very complicated transaction needs that involved out of state property and a time constraint. He handled the whole process in a thoroughly professional way. Gene knows Berkeley neighborhoods inside out and knew of every home on, or soon to be on the market. Throughout the process, Gene was genuinely concerned about our needs, and desires. He's not about just trying to make a sale and will take as much time with you as you need to help you find the right house for you. In fact, Gene not only advised us against houses that were overpriced and not quite right for us, he actually helped us reduce our winning offer at the last minute by a significant amount after assessing the bidding situation. This clearly shows that he had our best interests and not his commission at heart. Feel free to contact me if you would like further information. Desiree

We were very happy with Ann Plant of Marvin Gardens when we worked with her over 13 years ago. She was fabulous and very patient, in took us well over a year to find theright house. We used her to sell a house and buy the new one. I can't tell you how many houses she told us were not right for us (and she was right). We have recommended her to friends who have worked with her very successfully more recently. Anon.

I'm posting an unsolicited recommendation for our awesome realtor, Heidi Long of Red Oak Realty. She helped us find a wonderful home in Albany in under two was only our second bid! Additionally, she was able to negotiate a purchase price lower than the list price, which is virtually unheard of in Albany. Heidi has been in the real estate business for over 15 years and it shows. She's quite knowledgeable about Albany, Berkeley, and many other parts of the east bay. Give her a call if you want a real estate expert by your side during the often nerve wracking experience of buying or selling a home. We appreciated and were reassured by Heidi's calm demeanor, sage advice, and comforting insight. Caroline

April 2005

I'm posting an unsolicited recommendation for our awesome realtor, Heidi Long of Red Oak Realty. She helped us find a wonderful home in Albany in under two was only our second bid! Additionally, she was able to negotiate a purchase price lower than the list price, which is virtually unheard of in Albany. Heidi has been in the real estate business for over 15 years and it shows. She's quite knowledgeable about Albany, Berkeley, and many other parts of the east bay. Give her a call if you want a real estate expert by your side during the often nerve wracking experience of buying or selling a home. We appreciated and were reassured by Heidi's calm demeanor, sage advice, and comforting insight. Caroline

March 2005

To the person(s) asking about Gene Millstein's qualities as a realtor. Gene is an outstanding, experienced realtor. We were first time home buyers with very complicated transaction needs that involved out of state property and a time constraint. He handled the whole process in a thoroughly professional way. Gene knows Berkeley neighborhoods inside out and knew of every home on, or soon to be on the market. Throughout the process, Gene was genuinely concerned about our needs, and desires. He's not about just trying to make a sale and will take as much time with you as you need to help you find the right house for you. In fact, Gene not only advised us against houses that were overpriced and not quite right for us, he actually helped us reduce our winning offer at the last minute by a significant amount after assessing the bidding situation. This clearly shows that he had our best interests and not his commission at heart. Feel free to contact me if you would like further information. Desiree

March 2005

Juliana Wynberg of Marvin Gardens is an excellent realtor. I moved to the area with my partner last summer, and she really helped us zero in on what we needed. She knows an amazing amount of detail about seemingly EVERY property in Berkeley and Albany. She was very respectful of our guidelines, never trying to push us into something that we didn't want. She also saved us from bidding on some properties that really weren't worth our money. She'also down-to-earth and fun to be around. Caroline S

Jan 2005

I enthusiastically reccomend Martin Chan of LOH realtors and investments.He did a great job selling our home this past Fall.We had an offer before our home was opened.We had only two open houses for the G.P. and were very pleased with the end result.He is very dedicated to his job and his clients. He is very easy going and works with you and your needs. We have two children(2 year old & 6 month old at the time)and he was great working around nap times and bringing documents to our home to sign.My eldest still asks about Mr. Chan and we will have the pleasure of working with him again soon with the purchase of our home.He knows the area and the market extremely well.He is a fantastic negotiator and always keeps your best intrest in mind.Martin can be reached at 510-339-9825 ext.105 E-mail:marty AT

San Francisco Realtor

Jan 2005

Hi, Can anyone recommend a good realtor in SF (we are looking to buy in Sunset or Richmond area)? We are the first time buyers, and can't afford an expansive house, but we still want to find something we like :) Were you happy with your agent? Was (s)he able to find a house of your dream without making you spend too much? Was (s)he honest and trustworthy? Committed and motivated? Did (s)he explain everything in plain English? Would you use that agent again? If so, we'd love to talk to him/her! Please, include any info you would like to share about the agent. Thank you very much! Started looking...

Try Lynne Maltz with Coldwell Banker. Her number is (415) 601-7654. She has boundless energy and determination and she knows the City. Elizabeth

Piedmont Realtor

Jan 2005

I am looking for recommendations for realtors from people who have recently purchased a home in Piedmont. I would like to purchase a home in Piedmont, and have a very specific idea of what I am looking for. I am familiar with Piedmont, and now need a hardworking agent with integrity and who is also a very good negotiator. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. anon.

I highly recommend Jennie Lippincott; I believe she's with Montclair Realty. She helped me buy my house 2 1/2 years ago, and has helped other friends as well. She grew up in Piedmont, has been a realtor for many years, and knows about all there is to know about Piedmont. She definitely is a full service realtor and went way beyond to make my move from out of state as smooth as possible, including short-term child and dog sitting! (She also helped my sister sell her house in Berkeley and works throughout this part of the East Bay.) Her phone no. is 510 384-3557. Charlotte

We just used to Dana Cohen (Grubb Co., 510-339-0400) to buy a home in Redwood Heights and sell one in Leona Heights. She's very knowledgeable about the entire area, very hardworking, and committed to getting the best deal for her clients. I believe she lives in Piedmont, as well. If you use her, tell her that Michael and Terri sent you. :) Michael

Recommendations from 2004 & Earlier

Dec 2004

Sharon Whipkey is a realtor with integrity. She is an exceptional listener. She asks really insightful questions. Sharon is quilter and a former life coach. If you're looking for a home in Alameda or Oakland, Sharon is a very devoted realtor who is dependable with a good sense of humor. She's calming and very focused on getting your goals met. I've heard many good testimonials about her lately, also. rebecca

Nov 2004

I just bought a house and really want to recommend my agent. If you are looking for a great realtor in Berkeley and the East Bay, Franz Ross with ZipRealty is amazing. He helped us narrow in on the right kind of house, right neighborhood and worked within our price range. He was exceptionally buttoned up on the paperwork and very proactive. This is not something I have found to be true for many realtors so I really appreciated everything he did. Also ZipRealty gives buyers part of the sales commission which helps with the closing costs. They also have a really great website that shows every home listing in the area there with details, pictures, etc. Franz' cell number is 510-910-0871 or you can get assigned a realtor for your area if you sign up at We rented for 7 years in Berkeley (and 7 other places) so when we dove into a purchase, it was great to have someone who really knew the market and how to make it through all the escrow stuff to the other side. Lauren

I read the most recent recommendation for Dave and Carla Higgins ( and had to chime in. Their expertise was invaluable when we moved this summer. Our old home, which only a year ago had languished on the market for over two months with no offers before we gave up and took it off the market, sold for asking price in just two weeks thanks to Dave and Carla's aggressive marketing strategy. If this wasn't impressive enough, their shrewd skills of negotiation resulted not only in buying our wonderful new house for asking price, but also getting $25K back from the sellers to finish the section one work. They also were quite helpful in referring us to reputable contractors to complete the necessary work before moving in. Dave and Carla were great to work with: very personable and energetic, and we would recommend them to any friend looking for a top-notch real estate sales team. Deirdre

Great Buyer's Agent

My husband and I just bought our first home in Berkeley and I'd like to highly recommend our agent, Tim Cassidy, from Red Oak Realty on College in Berkeley. Tim is patient and extraordinarily hard-working and he found us a home that was under our budget (we're joking that it was the last affordable house in Berkeley) that has many of the qualities we were looking for for ourselves and our two kids.

Tim spent endless hours looking at houses, he took us out to see new houses that fit our criteria every single week and went way out of his way to answer my questions (and I have a LOT of questions-most of his answers were emailed to me because I'm a busy mom w/ few windows for extended phone conversations). Several times we were able to print emailed documents in need of signatures from home at our convenience. He even came to our home a couple of times when we had some things that needed a fast signature. Though we are very familiar with the bay area Tim demonstrated an incredible knowledge of the area and area resources.

We are very lucky to work with Tim and he made the experience of buying a first home on a budget in this tough market a good experience. His # is 510-292-2011 and 510-697-8079. [updated May 2006] MG

Just wanted to recommend our wonderful realtor, Sherri Madden at Millstein Realty. She has expertly guided us through our first home sale. She has been attentive (but not overbearing), professional, thorough and calm throughout the entire stressful (how can it be helped?) process. She is a gem! Jennifer Lowery Jennifer

Nov 2004

My husband and I can unreservedly recommend our realtor, Patti Camras, who is with Coldwell Banker in Orinda. She is expert in the Lafayette-Orinda-Moraga area, and she also works in the Berkeley Hills. We must have been terrible clients: picky first-time buyers looking for the Perfect House for a low price in Orinda! But she was patient with us, answered all our nervous questions, and provided expert and valuable advice. (She even returned my calls when she was on vacation in Carmel with her husband!) She is a good negotiator and helped us close what could have been a troublesome deal. Her Web site is -- Happy Homeowner

Nov 2004

I would like to recommend the real estate services of Martha Becker of Thornwall Properties. I moved to Berkeley with my family this past summer. The real estate market was then and continues to be a tight and difficult market for buyers. Martha worked very hard for us by calling us personally each week to recommend properties for us to see during open house days. Throughout this stressful process, Martha was encouraging, honest, and straightforward. She never pressured us to bid on homes we didn't want or to bid beyond our means. Once we were willing to make a bid on a home, Martha helped us make our offer the best it could be. We bought a home in Berkeley on our first bid, an incredible feat in this tight market. Even more amazing was the fact that our offer was not the highest bid. But thanks to Martha's skills, our offer still stood out. You can contact Martha at 510-848-1950 x 247 or at marthabecker [at] We recommend her without reservation! Martha's fantastic! Catherine

I just bought a house and really want to recommend my agent. If you are looking for a great realtor in Berkeley and the East Bay, Franz Ross with ZipRealty is amazing. He helped us narrow in on the right kind of house, right neighborhood and worked within our price range. He was exceptionally buttoned up on the paperwork and very proactive. This is not something I have found to be true for many realtors so I really appreciated everything he did. Also ZipRealty gives buyers part of the sales commission which helps with the closing costs. They also have a really great website that shows every home listing in the area there with details, pictures, etc. Franz' cell number is 510-910-0871 or you can get assigned a realtor for your area if you sign up at We rented for 7 years in Berkeley (and 7 other places) so when we dove into a purchase, it was great to have someone who really knew the market and how to make it through all the escrow stuff to the other side. Lauren

Great Buyer's Agent

My husband and I just bought our first home in Berkeley and I'd like to highly recommend our agent, Tim Cassidy, from Red Oak Realty on College in Berkeley. Tim is patient and extraordinarily hard-working and he found us a home that was under our budget (we're joking that it was the last affordable house in Berkeley) that has many of the qualities we were looking for for ourselves and our two kids.

Tim spent endless hours looking at houses, he took us out to see new houses that fit our criteria every single week and went way out of his way to answer my questions (and I have a LOT of questions-most of his answers were emailed to me because I'm a busy mom w/ few windows for extended phone conversations). Several times we were able to print emailed documents in need of signatures from home at our convenience. He even came to our home a couple of times when we had some things that needed a fast signature. Though we are very familiar with the bay area Tim demonstrated an incredible knowledge of the area and area resources.

We are very lucky to work with Tim and he made the experience of buying a first home on a budget in this tough market a good experience. His # is 222-7731 or cel 679-8079 MG

Just wanted to recommend our wonderful realtor, Sherri Madden at Millstein Realty. She has expertly guided us through our first home sale. She has been attentive (but not overbearing), professional, thorough and calm throughout the entire stressful (how can it be helped?) process. She is a gem! Jennifer L

I want to recommend Dave and Carla Higgins (595-7699). (I noticed another subscriber recommended them last week and want to second that recommendation. We, too, are very happy clients of Dave and Carla's.) We chose to work with them because we had seen their advertisements around town. They are great with kids and have a daughter of their own. They helped us get into our first home and we recommend them to everyone we can. When it came to looking out for our best interests (and our pocket books) they negotiated hard and saved us money. We ended up buying our home for under the asking price!! They have a very informative web site that is easy to navigate which has every house for sale listed by town and price range, I hope this is helpful for anyone thinking about buying or selling. Molly

I read the most recent recommendation for Dave and Carla Higgins ( and had to chime in. Their expertise was invaluable when we moved this summer. Our old home, which only a year ago had languished on the market for over two months with no offers before we gave up and took it off the market, sold for asking price in just two weeks thanks to Dave and Carla's aggressive marketing strategy. If this wasn't impressive enough, their shrewd skills of negotiation resulted not only in buying our wonderful new house for asking price, but also getting $25K back from the sellers to finish the section one work. They also were quite helpful in referring us to reputable contractors to complete the necessary work before moving in. Dave and Carla were great to work with: very personable and energetic, and we would recommend them to any friend looking for a top-notch real estate sales team. Deirdre S

Buying first home in the East Bay

October 2004

My wife and I are expecting our first child in March, and are also looking to buy a first home in the East Bay. Can anyone recommend a good Realtor who knows the East Bay well, and is also knowledeable on schools? We've been focusing on Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, since this is where we currently work and reside. However, we are not averse to considering the other side of the tunnel -- we just no nothing about it. We are looking for someone experienced, knowledgeable on the East Bay, and hard working who is willing to put in the leg work on our behalf: checking out new openings, not just sending us out on drive-bys. I've checked out the already-posted listings for realtor recommendations on the BPN, but the latest is from 2003. Since the market has gotten even crazier, I thought I'd ask if anyone has had good experiences recently. Any names would be appreciated. reed

We've had very good experiences both selling and buying with Hal Feiger of Realty Advocates (, 510-428-0757). Hal is a Berkeley native who really knows his way around the East Bay real estate scene, and he provides attentive service without ever seeming pushy or overbearing.

Hal and his two colleagues, Brett Weinstein and Jes Montesinos, run a small office on Alcatraz near the Berkeley-Oakland border. Morris

We have had a great experience with realtor Roy Grigsby of the Prudential office in Claremont. We\x81\xc2\x92re moving from San Francisco to the East Bay and weren't entirely sure of where we wanted to move. Roy met us in a local coffee shop, listened to our needs and has spent time driving us around the East Bay. Of course he's showing us homes, but he\x81\xc2\x92s also telling us about preschools and elementary schools, interesting neighborhoods and parks, and all-around great places to take our two children. We\x81\xc2\x92ve decided to focus our efforts on the Rockridge/Elmwood area of Oakland and Berkeley. Roy\x81\xc2\x92s professionalism and good humor have helped make the process something approaching fun. No small feat in the chaotic real estate world. Anon

Greetings,in response to the inquiry about an East Bay agent, I would like to recommend Francine DiPalma of Red Oak Realty. She works out of the Albany office. My husband and I bought our first home exactly one year ago and Francine was a wonderful agent. Info:
Francine Di Palma, CRS Email: Francine at Web-site: Direct Line: 510.280.2148 Fax: 510.526.9543
We found Francine to be incredibly hard-working, professional, familiar with the East Bay, and additionally a really pleasant, caring person. One thing we liked about Francine is that she is very involved in the real estate community. Francine's knowledge of East Bay real estate and real estate in general helped everything go smoothly for us. She had a great deal of attention to detail and made sure we were completely comfortable with every aspect of the transaction. It was clear that she was representing our interests in a trustworthy and honest manner. I recommend Francine highly and would definitely use her services again (although we do not plan to move anytime soon!) K Murphy

I'd like to recommend Leif Jenssen at Red Oak Realty. We purchased our house in February of this year after 6 months of looking. We were very discouraged but Leif knew exactly where our house would be and kept us going. He spent many hours with us looking at homes and neighborhoods.

Leif was born and raised in Berkeley and really knows the East Bay. Real estate is all about relationships and it is very important that other realtors know your realtor and respect him. Because Leif does a lot of business the other realtors know that he brings qualified buyers and that the deal will go through. This made a difference I feel in getting our offer accepted.

The other nice thing is that Leif has a partner Jose Fernandez and they work together when needed. That meant that we always had someone to talk to and were never left waiting for a call back or unable to see homes.

We are very happy with our home and feel like we got a good price. Leif's number is 510-280-2126. Julie

Chris Cohn. She is simply amazing. Thoughtful, professional and totally operates in your best interest. I cannot say enough about her. She grew up in Berkeley, and has been a realtor in the East Bay for a LONG time. She's progressive, warm and funny (you always need a little humor when buying in this market). I should also mention that because of her reputation other people want to do business with her/take her offers because she is totally above board. You want a realtor with a good reputation(it strengthens your offer on a house). She can be reached at: (510) 339-0400 or you can look at her web-site at Good Luck!

I cannot recommend our real estate agent, Heather Sittig, of Maison Nouveau Realty, enough. She has a great knowledge of the east bay region and real estate market, with sensitivity to desirable school districts.

Aside from being extremely ethical, hardworking, insightful, and an excellent strategist, what impressed us most about her was her ability to assess our reactions to houses and adapt the listings she showed us to meet our needs. She was able to zero in on the right listings, and help us write the right kind of offers. Because of her, we literally have the house of our dreams.

Additionally, her commission is 2%, which effectively increases the offers you make on houses by 1%. In this market, that can give you a substantial edge over other offers.

her phone number is: 510 849-9900 her website is: rewoodruff

I know several east bay realtors who are all very good. But one stands out to me as a very savvy smart hard working woman: Tara Nelson with Intero. The phone number is 925-251-2500 Good luck and welcome to the east bay! Christina

I highly recommend our agent, Steve Dopkin (College Ave Realty, 510-845-8008). We selected Steve based on the positive reviews of two financial-planner friends, and based on his years of experience throughout the East Bay. Among his other qualifications, he has a law degree (although he is not currently practicing law) and was able to alert us to possible legal issues which might pop up in the future (easements, etc.) He also seemed very well able to talk with us about the structural/physical aspects of various properties. He gets high marks for patience and persistence. Both I and another prior client of his were very picky and determined to find a 'deal', and he was quite willing to go the distance with us. At the end of the process, we found a 'diamond in the rough' house last year in our most-sought-after neighborhood which we were able to instantly improve with paint and sheetrock. We love our house and regret nothing about the process thanks to Steve. deirdre

We bought our first house in Berkeley in the low end of the price range in May '04 and we were very happy with our agent Devony Corry (282-5403, devony at with Buy the Bay Realty. Strengths: - Devony is very hard working and energetic. While she was working for us we felt she was on our mission 22 hours a day. She has initiative and was very proactive in working with our lender, the title company, etc. She went and looked herself at everything she later took us to see. - She is experienced and works in a range of Bay Area communities. She has ties to other real estate professionals, making various inspections easier to schedule. - She was a strong negotiator when it came time to closing. - She seemed to have good judgement about what to show us and what not to waste our time with. Yet she was sensitive to our desires and showed us a condo in Albany at our request even though she says she thinks families are better off in a house. - We checked recent references and they were glowing. - We were financing through a state program, which means some extra paperwork, and another agent discouraged us from going that route. But Devony was patient and enthusiastic about the program, which greatly augmented our purchasing power. - We were able to buy for less than the asking price. - She was very patient with our baby and three year old! Her office has lots of toys. Less strong points: - She knows something about area schools but her information seemed kind of dated or general. Best to do some research of your own for any areas you are seriously considering. - We found her slightly overly optomistic at times about things like the price of a drainage inspection including work plans (it didn't) and similar smallish things. - She really encouraged us to spend more than we had planned, something that I do think we'll thank her for one day, but it will take a few years to know for sure. - Charis


Ira and Carol Serkes are wonderful realtors. They sold my Berkeley house after another agent was unsuccessful, and then they helped me to find and buy the perfect house for my family (also in Berkeley). They know every neighborhood, and they really understand the local market. Their expert advice was very helpful in submitting bids and negotiating with sellers. And they are really nice people, besides! I know they are very busy, yet they always made me feel like I was their only client.


Ira and Carol work in the area from El Cerrito through Oakland. They have a very informative website with lots of maps and photos for anyone who is looking for a home in this area: Elizabeth

A wonderful realtor is Pat Leaper. My husband nick- named him the 'Irish Bulldog,' because he was solidly on our side. He totally went out of his way to help us find a place to buy and the when it comes time for us to sell this place, we'll ask him to take care of it. Pat is also the co-founder of Red Oak Realty, a company which focuses on houses in the East Bay. His office is on the corner of Broadway and College in Oakland. 510 292 2000 happy home owner

We did not buy our home recently, but had the most wondeful experience with our agent, John Stasky. He was extremely profesional, very pleasant to work with, and got us a great deal in (Lower) Rockridge. You can contact him at (510)528-8800 johnstasky AT I'd be more than happy to give you any more refences if you'd like to -see email below. Good luck, EP

I highly recommend our realtor, Liat Bostick of Coldwell Banker. She helped me, my husband and our then 18-month- old son to purchase our first home a year ago. And, I say she helped all 3 of us because she really worked well with our whole family -- understanding the features we needed in a house today and into the future, respecting our budget, watching our toddler while we viewed open houses (though I still recommend leaving your toddler with a friend while you tour!), and giving us the support and referrals we needed to make offers and carry-out inspections thoroughly and efficiently. Liat was a tough and effective negotiator on our behalf -- we were in a multi-bid situation -- and I think her interpersonal skills and quick thinking during those negotiations were critical to our success. Finally, Liat is a pleasure to work with. Give her a call at 339-4734. Good luck! Eden

We are very happy that we chose to work with Dave and Carla as our realtors. They made the usually stressful experience of selling our home and buying another one enjoyable and problem free. ( This was especially important since our baby was 9 months old at the time) They have a very useful search engine on their website, , for browsing homes on the market in each east bay city. Unlike agents that are a one person show that are juggling you with all their other clients Dave and Carla have a team of kind, experienced agents working with them so no matter when we needed a question answered or to see a property there was always someone there to help us. We highly recommend them to everyone. Jim

Realtor for TIC

Oct 2004

I am thinking of buying a duplex with my sister and going into it as a tenancy-in-common. Can anyone recommend a realtor with experience in duplexes/tic's? or do I even need someone with any special expertise in these kinds of properties/sales? renter no more?

To the person looking to buy a duplex as a TIC...I don't know where you are looking, but I know a very experienced, smart and savvy realtor in San Francisco who specializes in TICs. Her name is Britton Jackson and she is with Zephyr. I do not know if she will work in the East Bay, but you could ask. YOu can call her at 415-939-7878. Good luck with your purchase! Eden

Oct 2004

I highly recommend Patrick Monahan at Prudential Realty of Lafayette. We bought our first home in Concord last January when our son was 10 months old and he was simply the best. He put in so many hours looking for just the right home for us and was so patient with us on the days we had to drag our ''little screaming mimi'' to our appointments. When we started, we wrote down a list of characteristics that were important to us and he kept our focus on that goal. As many of you probably know, it is hard for first-time buyers to be competetive in the market because you so often get out-bid. Near the end, we were ready to put an offer on anything, just so we wouldn't have to keep looking, but he kept our faith and hope alive and eventually we found the house that was perfect for us. He is professional, caring, honest and steadfast and I don't think you could find a nicer guy. He has experience in Orinda, Lafayette and Concord. His office is located at 999 Oak Hill Rd, Lafayette, CA 94549, and you can contact him at 925-864-9867. Cindy

Albany Realtor

September 2004

Hi! We are looking to buy our first home in ALBANY and wanted recommendations from people who had actually purchased a home there. (We realize this question has been asked before but it seemed like no agent was recommended more than once.) In addition to the real estate agent's name, company and phone #, could you tell us: 1) How you found your agent 2) Strengths/Weaknesses of your agent 3) How long ago you purchased your home 4) How long you worked with your agent 5) How many bids you made before yours was accepted 6) Did you feel you paid a fair/good price 7) Did you negotiate the agent's commission 8) How much over asking did you pay (if you don't mind telling us) 9) Did your agent have a good handle on any issues relating specifically to homes in Albany 10) Was there important information you did not find out until after you purchased the home 11) Any other useful information THANKS!! We would really appreciate any recommendations you could give us! Julie

I'd like to recommend Ruth Goldstone from Marvin Gardens. We Bought our house in Albany 4 months ago after working with Ruth for 3 months. This was our second bid (!) We found Ruth to be always available for any question, she took the time to explain all the forms and to understand exactly what we were looking for. Ruth was very well informed with spesific Albany issues. We felt like we paid a fair price for the house and did not negotiate the commission. Ruth's # is: (510) 527-2700 Please feel free to email me for any further information. Orit

I can enthusiastically recommend my sister-in-law, Paulette Erickson of Keller Williams Realty (cell-phone :(510) 219- 1677, email: paulette at on Walnut St. in Berkeley. She is knowledgeable about the Albany market and she has just successfully represented us in buying a home there (we closed on August 25th). She grew up in Oakland/Berkeley and now lives in the El Cerrito Hills, so she is very familiar with the whole East Bay. Good luck! Hisae

In answer to the recent post requesting a recommendation for a Realtor: I highly recommend Kevin Tannahill, Security Pacific Real Estate, 524-1112. He was our realtor for a house we just sold in Albany. He lives in Albany and really knows the territory. He priced our home just right, not too high and was very knowledgable in negotiating the terms. He was very engergetic in getting our home ready, he provided painting contractors, landscapers, flooring contacts and even helped with the color for the door and outside of the house. We negotiated the agent's commission (after doing interviews with several other agents). He is very personable and very attentive, he was always reachable at any time. On top of that he's the son of some tennis friends of ours and he plays tennis too!! Margo

Sept. 2004

I felt like I had to share with the community the name of a realtor who provides specialized assistance in today's thriving housing market. Her name is Lisa Hardy and she's with Montclair Better Homes Realty. I know that Lisa has lived in Oakland for more than 30 years and has a firm grasp on its many neighborhoods and communities. In this competitive market, representation is the most integral aspect of the buying and selling experience. Lisa offers FREE market analysis, FREE Interior Consultant Services, a FREE Aggressive Marketing Plan that includes advertising AND complete MLS Service. If you're looking to buy/sell, you should give Lisa a call at 510-812-6699. I'm sure she'll be a great asset to you. Lisa takes a genuine interest in seeing that the personal housing goals of her clients are reached and that the outcome of each transaction is a happy one. Anne

Sept. 2004

Need a realtor? Please contact lTeam Arean of Keller Williams ( Cynde, Jeff, and Alex, ''Team Area'', acted as our agent for our 1st-time home purchase. They began by explaining their individual roles, focuses & strengths, & what we could expect from each. They made us feel like their priority. What ensued was a 3- point effort on their part to get us the house we wanted. During the entire process, they fully responded to our needs. We met at the end of 6/04 and we happily closed on 8- 12-04.

Important info: Team Area is comprised of 3 licensed ''realtors'', each capable of fully servicing the client. Their attention to detail is borne out of a commitment to ensuring the buyer obtains ALL property-related info (i.e. inspections, disclosures, etc.) before close, including paying for inspections, as well as being bold about requesting info and repairs from the Seller. Their commitment to Sellers regarding inspections includes making sure Sellers know all costs before going on the market, including ordering & paying for all inspections before putting a property on the market. Sellers can relax when listing with Team Area. Potential buyers are screened prior to offers being accepted. Their industry reputation is solid; other agents enjoy & look forward to working with them. They also work w/only the best service providers: painters, lenders, handymen, etc. Additionally, Jeff's a carpenter, Cynde a teacher (an ability to communicate with a wide variety of people), and Alex is bi-lingual (Spanish-English). Post close, Team Area sent their handyman to handle odds and ends we needed fixing. You can't beat that kind of service! Commission check in hand, yet they contmd to respond to our needs! My next home purchase will be w/Team Area. To sell, Imd contact them, too. Please email (iabingy [at] for specifics about Team Area. I recommend them w/out reservation. Tracey

El Cerrito Realtor

July 2004

Can anyone recommend a smart, savvy real estate agent specializing in the El Cerrito area? The archives only go back to 2002. We're looking for a knowledgable, experienced realtor who can offer sound guidance on how to get the most for our house, i.e. update the bathrooms and kitchen or not, to stage or not to stage, curb appeal advice, etc. Also, is it better to go with a large, national real estate company, or a smaller, local one? Thanks!!

We've been happy with Susan Grant, who knows El Cerrito and Richmond quite well. She's given us great advice on what to fix and what to leave -- and she has a very good eye for what needs to be done for staging. Susan's email is: susangrealtor at Ann

I highly recommend Mike Hughey, who did a great job helping me sell my house about a year ago. He specializes in the El Cerrito/Albany area. Melinda

Hi, I know a wonderful realtor. She will work very hard for you, provides excellent services and knows the area well. She has helped several friends (and is currently working with my father) to buy houses and just sold a house for another friend. This is her contact information. Claudia Esteban. El Cerrito Office 10240 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530 Main Office: 510-527-9800

April 2004

I highly recommend Jake McTigue of Prudential California Realty. His phone number is (510) 868-1575. He was warm, conscientious, patient, very ethical, worked very hard for us and was extremely thorough. Even after the sale had been completed he helped with issues that came up. He is also extremely knowledgeable of the market and priced our house ''just right''. He was simply a delight to work with. Bernice

March 2004

I am still amazed at how well my recent buying transaction went, and want to share this realtor recommendation. Helen Walker of Thornwall Properties helped me purchase the perfect house, late last year in the midst of fall buying frenzy. I know that her market knowledge, experience and insight were instrumental in ours being the successful offer (out of nine!) on the house I purchased and where I now happily reside. Helen provided me with excellent advice and support throughout the process. On a professional level she was thorough, diligent and thoughtful, making sure that I had and understood all the technical information. On a personal level she was solid and friendly and able to provide emotional support and good humor along with all the business. During the entire process we made two offers, and I felt good about them both, even the one that was unsuccessful. In hindsight, it was actually quite a lot of fun... Judy

We highly recommend Francine Di Palma, CRS, of Red Oak Realty as a realtor for those seeking to buy or sell in the East Bay. In October 2003, Francine helped us to find a house in El Cerrito, within our relatively modest price-range. She worked hard for us, was incredibly professional, and knew what she was doing in all levels of the negotiations. In addition we really enjoyed Francine -- she was honest, kind, and genuine -- she cared about finding us a home, and her efforts were effective. You may reach Francine at 510/280-2148. Her web-site is Katie

From time to time I've seen requests for realtors listed in this newsletter - so I wanted to offer my own recommendation. Our realtor, Nicolette Bot from Wells and Bennett, was terrific to work with. Of course, when we started our house search, we wanted everything - cute house with lots of character and enough room to grow, nice neighborhood, easy commute, good school - but we had a limited budget to work with. Nicolette worked with us for over a year to find the right home and the right neighborhood. And having kids of her own, Nicolette truly understand our needs. We were priced out of areas like Rockridge and Montclair - but Nicolette helped us find a neighborhood in San Leandro that had everything we wanted, for significantly less. And we never would have found it without her. We didn't have a huge amount of money to spend, but Nicolette always made us feel like we were her number one priority. I can't say enough wonderful things about working with Nicolette Bot. It was almost like working with a friend to help chose your home. And in fact, what has been especially nice about the whole experience, is that once the paperwork was signed and the house was ours, we easily transitioned from client/agent to friends. Robyn

Feb 2004

To all homebuyers: I cannot speak highly enough of my realtor, Alexandros Gailas at AG Realty in Orinda. He understood exactly what I wanted, and if I am or am not able to do, financially. He is a wonderful person, easy to work with, always available, returning calls, and he updates me on new properties. He works not only in areas as: Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Berkeley, Albany but anywhere you would like to purchase a home in the East Bay. He helped me with my loan and the homebuying process. Alexandros can be reach at his office: 925-254- 7600 or by email: AGrealty1 at

Jan 2004

I highly recommend Francine DiPalma, CRS of Red Oak Realty, who helped us find and buy our first home in El Cerrito, CA. Francine may be reached at 510-280-2148 or by e-mail at francinedp at or francine at Francine was informative, honest, and worked really hard for us. She was extremely organized which helped a great deal in a difficult market for buyers. In addition, Francine really knows the East Bay. Our budget was low, and yet Francine remained positive, found us a great house, and helped us to put together and submit a competitive offer that was accepted! We thought Francine was fantastic. Katie (murphymessage at katie

Jan 2004

For anybody who's looking for a real estate agent in the East Bay, I would like to recommend Barbara Reynolds ( She professionally and with patience answered the many questions that, as a first time home buyer, I had every turn of the way. I have never felt pressured or rushed while, at the same time, Barbara pointed out deadlines and the tighter Bay Area market times so that I could take full advantage of what was available. G. H

Grubb Co. Realtors

April 2003

Hi, I am looking to sell my house and would like recommendations of realtors- We originally used Grubb to buy our house but our agent moved. Has anyone used Debbi DiMaggio (Our former realtor recommended her) or others at Grubb? Thanks for the advice

We used Carin Caroe at the Grubb Co. and had a very good/ successful experience with her. She helped us buy our first house. She's very experienced and also very direct. She knows her stuff. I would highly recommend her. She was recommended to us by Don Grubb himself. Maria

We HIGHLY recommend Chris Cohn at Grubb Co. if you have a home to sell. She is extremely professional, friendly and unpretenious. She's one of the top sales realtors in the East Bay, and once you meet her you will know why. She is also highly respected by other realtors, which goes a long way when your selling your home. She can be reached at 339- 0400 ext 253.

Debbi DiMaggio at The Grubb Co. is a great realtor. She has lived locally all of her life so knows the area well. She is very thorough and detail oriented (which is critical when buying or selling a house). Plus she is great to work with. I couldn't recommend a better agent.

Realtor for First Time Home Buyer

April 2003

I am looking for recommendations for a realtor with integrity, to represent our interests, keep us well informed, and steer us clear of potential first-time buyer pitfalls, advocate for us in this ''market'' and help us find a home. If you've had a similar, positive experience with a realtor, and success in buying a home, please pass on your references. Enormous thanks. linda

We are very loyal to our realtor, Chris Neddersen (Prudential). He offered wise, gentle advice and guidance through our first home buying experience. He also listened very carefully to our wish list for our first house and, as a result, the first house he showed us is the one we bought, love and still own. He covers most East Bay locations. Give him a call - (510) 527-0174. Esther

We were first-time buyers three years ago in a very crazy market, and were successful in finding a great house in Albany thanks to our wonderful realtor, Leif Jenssen at Red Oak Realty on Solano. He has all of the qualities you're asking for and more, and helped us find just what we wanted without overbidding. Feel free to contact me via email if you have any questions.

I highly recommend Susie Schevill at the Grubb Company. She helped us buy our first house 8 years ago and we are currently working with her for our next move. We have recommended her to several friends for their first home purchase and all have had great experiences with her. Theresa

I can highly recommend Therese Ashman at Berkeley Hills Realty. I've bought two houses with her and have numerous friends who have, alsoI can highly recommend Therese Ashman at Berkeley Hills Realty. I've bought two houses with her and have numerous friends who have, also. She is such a good buyer's agent that she would point out problems with houses we looked at that I would not have noticed. She's also consevative price-wise, and often told me that owners were asking too much for their house. This was in a different market than we have now, but she is really wonderful. Warm and funny, too. Lindsay

Hi, We just bought our first house. We worked with Rich Nameth of Alain Pinel realty. He's based in Orinda. We didn't have much money and were looking in lots of areas (it was hard to find one person who would work with us because of this). We were not too serious at first, but Rich kept checking in and when we bought our house--he really came through. He's helpful, warm, conscientious, and has a lot of integrity. He understood what a big deal it was to us and didn't give us any less support because we weren't buying ''high end.'' I highly recommend him. If you'd like more info, please email me. And if you go with him, let him know I recommended him. Good luck, Arl

My husband and I just bought a house in Berkeley with the help of Diana Mendler at Marvin Gardens. She is a wonderful person to work with for first-time buyers. She kept us informed throughout the process without patronizing us. She never tried to steer us into hasty decisions or uncomfortable situations, as some realtors do, instead always giving us enough information and guidence to make the decisions ourselves. She responded to our millions of questions quickly and thoroughly, nothing slipped through the cracks. Plus she's really nice and knows the area well. Her number is 510-559-2937. Good luck! Stephanie

Dear Folks, I'm a first time home buyer and had a good experience buying a home. My realtor did a pretty good job in finding us a home. He breaks down all the costs of buying a home and explains what each of the costs are. He gives his honest opinion about why he would or would not recommend certain homes that he shows. It took us a few months of searching but he was able to find one for us. He is very professional, patient, and overall a nice guy. His name is Ken Jacobs and he works for Security Pacific Real Estate Services in Walnut Creek. Give him a try. (925)974-7600. Tell him Bruce says Hi! Bruce

For the person seeking recommendations on a realtor, especially for first time home buyers: We would like to recommend Ury Beary. He helped us to buy our first home, and recently a bigger home. We were very happy with him, because he took time to understand what our needs were, and our situation, and directed us in the house hunting, advocating us to the potential sellers, and then also work hard for our benefit in the final closing of sales. Especially the second time around, we both worked at different jobs and also have a toddler, Ury was very accomodating in terms of working with us after work hours and during weekend, with the toddler (who now always gets excited when we mention Ury's name). We have twice positive experience with Ury, so did one of our friends that hired Ury to sell her home. Ury's phone number (510) 5278545, cell (510)9188445 If you need more details, email me jshimoni

Hello, I recommend an excellent realtor, Aaron Baluyot, who works with Red Oak Realty. He specializes in East Bay communities and is a wonderful home buyer advocate, especially for first-time buyers. His phone number is (510) 388-6879. Aimee

I would highly recommend Mary Jane McConville of Montclair Better Homes (510)339-8400. Several friends have used her and also loved her - that is how we found her. You didn't say where you were looking, but she knows Oakland very well - I'm not sure about Berkeley or other cities. We had a very complicated sale because of a mix up with the seller's agent and she handled things beautifully and represented us very well. We purchased our home in Nov. of 2002 and she is still in touch with us and brings gifts by, etc. You really could not go wrong with her. Good luck and happy house hunting! Melanie

Good realtor for Berkeley/Oakland

April 2003

We have been looking for a home to buy in the Berkeley/Oakland area for a LONG time now. I'm frustrated by the high home prices and maybe/what if's with the schools. As much as I love living in this area, I know that a move over the hills would be money well spent b/c of the good public schools. That said, can anyone recommend a good realtor. I prefer a woman, one that has children, knows the schools and neighborhoods, spends the time to figure out what we want and won't be too pushy(for the sake of the sale). Also, one that has a good eye for the structural issues(seismic retrofitting, foundations, land slide zones etc.) that we would encounter. Thank you! Maya

I highly recommend our realtor, Margo Kaufman, with Village Associates in Orinda. She is mom of two teenagers, lives in Orinda, and really worked with us to find a place that was perfect for us. She's very professional, and an added bonus is that her husband Hal works as a realtor in the same office, so while she's your realtor he'll keep his eyes out for a home meeting your needs, too. They are both very nice, relaxed people and we felt very comfortable with them, never any pressure. She helped us craft an attractive (to the buyer) yet favorable (to us) offer that was accepted after a couple counter offers, and has many referrals for inspectors, contractors, etc. One other thing, she is happy to take prospective buyers around for a tour of different areas in Lamorinda with no obligation to work with her, just to give you an idea of the area. We ended up buying a house in Lafayette and have been here already 3(!) years and love it. Can't say enough positive things about Margo and Hal. Fabulous! Christina

We worked with a fabulous realtor in Walnut Creek. Leslie Mills works with Coldwell Banker. We decided not to buy out there but I wold have liked to just to use her as the agent. Give her a call, she is very friendly and works very hard for her clients. (925) 935-7100 She also has a web site. Liza

Hi, I am responding to the post for a realtor in the Lamorinda area. We were not in a big hurry to move and looked around the area for a year with our realtor, Joanna Truelson from Pacific Union. Her telephone # is 925-254- 6611. We met her at an open house, explained exactly what we were looking for and she focused in on properties that matched our description. She would call us each week after seeing the new listings herself and we'd review whether they were something we wanted to drive over and see or not. Ultimately we found a great home. Joanna has lived in the area for many years and has raised two children here, I would definitely recommend her. Good luck! Laura

I can highly recommend Todd and Katy Van Laanen of Empire Realty Associates, who just helped us buy our new home in Walnut Creek. They work as a team. They live in the area and have kids in school here. We worked mostly with Todd as it turned out. He is incredibly hard-working, patient, helpful, and supportive. He really listened to us. He was often reminding us that it is all about what is comfortable to us. That was really important to us to have that recognition and not high-pressure. He was also really honest and told us things like, ''you wouldn't want that'' and explained why - and he was right! In addition, he would always come by in the evenings after our daughter went to sleep so we could have uninterrupted meetings. He really worked well with our schedules. We are going to work again together now to sell our former house we were so pleased! Here is the contact information:
Todd and Katy Van Laanan Empire Realty Associates 4185 Blackhawk Plaza Circle Suite 101 Danville, CA 925-217-5035 toddandkaty AT
Please tell them Jeff & Lori sent you!

We bought a house last year in May - and worked with 2 sisters at Village Associates, Linda Friedman and Peggy Harmatz. A friend of ours knows them very well and recommended them to us. We worked primarily with Peggy on touring houses and looking at neighborhoods, and then Linda did most of the negotiating on our behalf. They were a complete joy -- thorough, professional, and very kind. They made a very stressful time much less so... Both grew up in Orinda, so they know Lamorinda inside and out. You'll be in great hands. They can be reached at 925/254-0505 ext 7114. Good luck. Maryanne M

March 2003

I would like to offer another perspective of using Kathryn Hill of Thornwall Properties. We LOVED her, and have recommended her highly to everyone we know who needs a realtor--buying or selling! She was recommended to us when we purchased our home 5 years ago, and will use her when we eventually sell. Why go elsewhere?? She's a trained professional, and she's got lots of years of experience! If I can answer any questions about using Kathryn, please contact me. Christine

Looking between Alameda and San Leandro

January 2003

Because of unexpected but happy events we have to find a house quickly somewhere between Alameda and San Leandro. We need a realtor who is good at finding us a safe, family friendly and especially multiracial neighborhood with good schools. Can anyone recommend a realtor? Thanks again. A mom

We used George and Margaret Gadsby, based out of Alameda but very familiar with the surrounding areas as well. They really do care about you plus have a lot of experience. They only work off of referrals so they save on advertising and in turn, offer a low commission. They worked with us under a short timeline and really eased our 'pain'. We still keep in touch with them! Definitely worth a call to them to see if you hit it off with them. Tell them we sent you. The Gadsby's 510-748-5300 Karen

I highly recomend Wendy Sanda of Kane & Associates - her phone number is 510-531-2274. We purchased our home with her about 3 yrs ago in Alameda. I cannot say enough wonderful things about her. If we ever move we will use her again. Jacqueline

I would like to recommend Marilyn Schmacher of Harbor Bay Realty. She is a wonderful agent in Alameda. My SIL is an escrow officer who knows all the agents here, and she is the one who recommended her to us. She helped us buy 2 houses so far. She is very experienced, thoughtful and down to earth. She is one of those people you meet and it feels like you've known her your whole life. She is very patient and fun to work with. Her phone number is 510.814.4709. Give her a call! Laurie

I can recommend Steve Zager at Bayridge Realty-he was very good with me when I refinanced my home. He's at 510-524-3333x301. Good luck Cathleen

Hi there Mom! I have a very good friend that is a realtor that fits what you are looking for. His vitals are:
Darin Vinall Harbor Bay Realty, Alameda (specializes in Alameda and San Leandro) (510) 814-4824 dvinall AT
Also I should point out that he is very sensitive ( and knowledgeable) about schools and neighborhoods. He has a two year-old, and has another on the way! He currently resides with his wife and son in Alameda. And I must add that his sister-in-law lives in San Leandro with her family. A true expert in both areas you mentioned. Good luck in your home search. Julie

We used Kate Hardwig (510) 728-6412 to buy our house in San Leandro. She was very good and got us a house at less than the asking price at the height of the bubble. As far as I know she doesn't work in Alameda, though.

Albany Realtor

Nov 2002

We are beginning the process of buying a home in Oakland/Berkeley/El Cerrito/Albany area and we're curious if anyone has worked with a buyer's agent that they liked. With the market so competitive in our price range we'd like to find someone who is really working for us, rather than the sellers. We have a 21 month old son and our major requirement, in addition to affordability, is a good elementary school.

I've worked with Diane Ohlsson from Red Oak Realty who helped my group start a cohousing community in the Temescal. I've referred many of my friends to her and I think she's a great agent, especially in negotiating in this competitive market. I even work with her to form cohousing communities. You can see what we do at or just call her re: single family house. Her # is 280-2139 or visit www.DianeOhll Karen

I want to very highly recommend our realtors: Bob Randall & Mariedda Grynbal. They did such a great job in helping us to find the house of our dreams.

Based on the our criteria, and going by our busy schedule (with both of us working & commuting & having a 2-yr old) they carefully pre-selected houses to show us for several months. After seeing every house, they took notes as to our likes and dislikes, & were able to further tailor our search.

All the work, incl. signing closing documents was done during off-hours. And they made best friends with our daughter as they kept her company to let us see & discuss the houses we were coming to see, uninterrupted. Three years later, my daughter stops by their office about every week to say hi on her way home from school.

They are very involved with the community. For example, they volunteer a lot of their personal time and money at local schools.

Their web site is

Please call me if you want to know more. I can never say enough wonderful things about this team. Maria

I recommend Betsy Thagard. I know her both in a professional and personal capacity. She is a Red Oak Realty agent who helped us close the purchase of our house and she has since become a friend. She is very professional and diligent. Contact her via catrin

I saw a posting requesting the name of an agent that would be helpful to the buyer and not just the seller. Two years ago we bought in the throws of the crazy pre dot com bust days- where everything went as is for 75K over asking price. We found Cherie-Hunt at Prudential in Alameda after searching in oakland/berkeley for months. Two weeks later we had a bid on exactly what she promised- our dream house. We not only got our house but we got 10k back because of her crass skills. She is down to earth, thoughtful and full of pipp. I can't recommend her highly enough and hope you'll call her cause she'll help you out. Good luck 510-337-8670. Juliette

I would recommend Jan Fougner. He is a broker in Oakland and serves the Oakland/Berkeley area that you are interested in. Jan is trained as an architect, lawyer and real estate broker. He is extremely thorough, ethical and conscientious. We bought our first home with him and he provided experience and attention to detail that made everything go very smoothly. We have referred several friends to him and they have been equally delighted with Jan. His number is (510)655-8211. Tell him Carol Akiyama sent you! Carol

North Berkeley Realtor

Aug. 2002

I am looking for names of good realtors that work in the N. Berkeley/Albany area. My husband and I are first-time buyers and would need someone willing to work with us in this demanding market. If anyone can pass along a name, I would greatly appreciate it. Karen

To the first time homebuyers: I cannot speak highly enough of my realtor, Colleen Larkin, at Thornwall Properties in North Berkeley, on Shattuck. She is simply the best. I was a first time homebuyer, and working with her, I made my one and only bid in this crazy market. There were 16 other offers, 3 higher than mine, yet Colleen succeeded! She is masterful, a great people person. She understood exactly what I wanted, and was or was not able to do, financially. She knew when to push me and when to back away. She is a wonderful judge of character, and simply a joy to work with. Elizabeth

We used Melissa Eisenberg from Marvin Gardens, and had a great experience. She was a very good communicator, listening to us re.what we wanted, open to feedback, etc. and also good at guiding us through the process. Very available as well -- we were also first time buyers, with all the jitters, and found her to be very good at her job. Her phone is 527-9111. Suzanne

I can highly recommend Juliana Wynberg at the Marvin Gardens realty office on Solano Ave in Berkeley. She helped me buy my first home in Albany a year and a half ago. She has worked in this area for years and really seems to know it. She was recommended to me by another satisfied home owner in Albany. Her phone number is 527-2700, ext. 31 Good luck! Sheila

I'd like to recommend my long time friend, Martha Becker (Thornwall Properties: 848-1957). She helped me find & buy my first house ever last year, in Albany. 1. She really quickly ''got'' what I was looking for & that made it a lot easier & faster. 2. She managed to be both easy going & energetic at the same time -- it was a nerve wracking process to come up with the money & also the market was *extremely* competitive at that time. She made the whole experience so much easier! 3. When it came to making an offer she did a really great job of also helping the sellers to connect with who I was. I'm quite sure that their understanding of why I wanted to buy their house & what kind of person I am was why my bid won over similar offers. 4. She really seems to like what she does, especially the joy of finding bargains. She's smart & funny & well, just not a stereotypical realtor. I sent her name to a couple that posted here (directly via email) & it sounded like it worked out great for them as well (they bought their first home). Good luck! Marina

I would like to recommend Heidi and Jerry Long as great realtors who are extremely knowledgable about Berkeley and its environs. I have used them both as a seller and as a buyer and they are equally good in both realms. Heidi is especially impressive in helping get renovations done with her extensive list of good painters, landscapers, roofers, etc. Both Heidi and Jerry are genial, easy to get along with, and highly skilled at guiding one through the arcane labyrinth buying or selling a house. I trust them implicity. They work for Red Oak Realty, on Solano, 510/280-2150, Dianna

Berkeley Realtor

March 2002

Hi, My family is moving back up to Berkeley after 2 years in San Jose. We're looking for a realtor who has experience working with families moving in from another area. We're planning to buy a somewhat affordable ''starter home,'' and I don't know if realtors take that into consideration when they work with clients, but that's our situation. Thanks for any leads you can give us, Laurel

I strongly recommend Merritt Levine with Red Oak Realty - (510) 280-2177. She really knows her way around this difficult real estate market & she really goes to bat for you. We bought our place last September & I don't even know if we could have found anything close to what we wanted in our price range if it weren't for Merritt. Elisabeth

Leif Jenssen at Red Oak on solano is the best! he helped us find the perfect starter home, and has also helped friends with home purchases. He grew up in Berkeley, so is extremely knowledgeable about the various neighborhoods, etc. and what constitutes a reasonable bid. in addition, he's enthusiastic, honest, and just a really nice guy. The Anderson-Barrett family

We ended up buying a starter home in Oakland and worked with a realtor named Dan Joy. He works for Heritage Real Estate in Montclair, and his phone number is 510-339-8900 x242. For price reasons, we were looking mainly in Oakland, but he seemed to be familiar with the east bay from El Cerrito through Oakland and into San Leandro. Unlike many realtors I've heard about, he really worked hard for us. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Michael

Lafayette Realtor

Feb 2002

We are looking to buy in the Lafayette area within the next 6 months and would love to get a recommendation on a real estate agent. Many thanks. -kelry

We used Lynda Snell when we purchased our home three years ago and really enjoyed working with her. She has since also sold a house for my parents. She is with Village Associates in Orinda, and her number is 925.683.2600. Claire

Please call Margot Kaufman at Village Realtors, (925) 254-0505 x214; I think she is the best. We used her to find our home in Lafayette during the buyer's craze 1.5 years ago. She was patient as we tried to decide what type of house we wanted (moving from the hills to ranch style was a shock). She never pushed us to pay more than what we could afford and she sold our bid in a way that we won it even though we were the same amount as another bidder. We went through two bids with her and looked at dozens of houses. We are still friends and she has given me advice on buying for my parents in an area that she doesn't cover (Rossmoor). I got her name originally through this network. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. Linda

I highly recommend Kurt and Leslie Piper, a brother and sister team that helped us find our house in Orinda. They specialize in Lamorinda and are great to work with. Kurt & Leslie Piper Village Associates 23 Altarinda Road Orinda, CA 94563 (925) 254-0505 - Stacy

In response to a recommendation for a Lafayette Realtor, I would HIGHLY recommend our real estate agent, Ted Streeter of Better Homes in Lafayette - 925-284-9520 x212. He helped us find our house several years ago during the crazy real estate days. We had to move quickly and he was absolutely wonderful, finding numerous homes that met the critera we were looking for, showing them to us at times that worked for us (often at night) and finding new listing as soon as they were out there. And, throughout the process of looking at homes, and we looked at a ton, every single agent that we came across, and I am not exaggerating here, when asking who our agent was and hearing our reply of Ted Streeter, said what a great guy he was. Good luck in your search. Seanna

Realtor for move from the East Coast

August 2002

My husband and I are moving to the East Bay in the early spring. We are open to renting or buying. I've read the past realtor and rental agent recommendations. Can anyone recommend a realtor who regularly handles both types of transactions - renting or buying' Since we live on the East Coast, we want someone who will be able to help us explore our options from a distance - someone who will understand (and look for)what we need, help us find the right type of home, and make this already diificult process a bit easier. If anyone has recently made this type of move, any other advice would be appreciated. Thanks! Shari

Have you tried They are a national online real estate firm that has agents in several cities on the East Coast as well as the East Bay. While they do not handle rentals, their agents can work with you (over the internet or phone) to help you find a home in the East Bay. You can look at all MLS listings for the area that you're interested in via their website. They would seem ideal for someone in your situation, looking to move from one coast to another. Good luck. MK

Montclair Better Homes

Jan. 2002

Can I get any input on the following realtors?? Tarpoff & Talbert, or Nahid Nassiri of Montclair Better Homes?? I was impressed with all of them, but would like to hear others experiences.

I just wanted to say that we had an excellent experience with Nahid Nassiri. She helped us to buy a home, and I would (and have) recommend her services to others. Michelle

Pat Talbert and Anet Tarpoff are absolutely wonderful! We met them at an Open House they hosted a few years back and were struck by how charming and engaging they were as people -- and how well they marketed that house. I have since tracked the houses they've listed and sold; they are extremely creative in their marketing approach, taking the time to tell a story about each house and giving it a life of its own.

We were avid readers of T's weekly articles in the Montclarion Real Estate section, and when we were ready to start looking to buy, we contacted them and met them for some one-on-one Real Estate 101-type consulting and coaching for our particular situation. They were extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and went out of their way to provide us with hints and tips that went beyond the scope of the hourly fees they charged.

Although they couldn't take us on as a buying client (they were booked and also had a different geographic emphasis), they referred us to an excellent realtor who came through for us. I could go on and on about how fabulous they are -- thoroughly creative marketers, knowledgeable/ethical realtors and warm/giving people...but feel free to contact directly if you have any questions. Noreen

I can very very highly recommend Pat and Anet (Talbert & Tarpoff). We hired them as consultants while buying our rental house from our landlords (during the hot real estate market). Since our current living situation was at risk and this was a realtor-less transaction we were feeling very vulnerable and nervous.

We have very high expections and Pat and Anet exceeded them ten fold. They are extremely professional and have a high degree of expertise in both real estate transactions, negotiations and support. On top of this they are just plain nice! They returned returned calls very quickly, gave us wonderful advice and support and they never made us feel like we were too demanding or silly. They take pride in their work. Of course we ran into some bumps, doesn't everyone?, but we followed their advice and reconciled the problems and now we own a house. When we sell our house, we would not dream of using any other realtor. Regards, Michele

Martinez Realtor

Jan. 2002

Wanted: recommendation for realtor and/ or mortgage broker in Martinez, CA area.

Audrey McInerney (925-935-7100) at Coldwell Banker has been our realtor for years. She helped us buy our home, sold my mother's home and helped her buy another, and has helped several of our friends. She is amazing! She really knows realty in the Concord/Martinez/Pleasant Hill area. I trust her completely - she is so honest and genuinely cares about her clients. I just can't say enough good things about her! Feel free to email me if you would like more info. -Jaime

Diane Gleason of Better Homes Realty knows Martinez better than anyone I know. Her number is 925.2294548 or 925.284.9500 Good Luck, Teresa

Moving from Montclair to Piedmont

Nov. 2001

We are considering moving from Montclair to Piedmont to take advantage of the great schools. Our son is one and a half now so we have some time. Can anyone suggest a good real estate agent for the Piedmont area? Any advice for househunting there would be much appreciated. Thanks! Lisa

We bought a house in Piedmont in July with both buying and selling agents from the Grubb Company, which handles the great majority of Piedmont real estate. We liked our agent, Sheila Gallagher, but we had serious problems with the Grubb Company and the seller's agent. I'd strongly recommend you use someone else (try Pacific Union -- there's a woman there named Patty ???, who I've heard good things about). I would be happy to provide additional information if needed. ellen

The Piedmont Realtor I like is Erika Celestre at Grubb Co. Her # is 339-0400. -Tim

I can highly recommend Kurt Buchholz of The Grubb Company. 510-339-0400. When we were looking a year and a half ago, he showed us all around Piedmont. Although we decided we couldn't get what we wanted in Piedmont and ended up buying in Lafayette, he kept us well-informed of the market. We used him to sell our house in the North Oakland Hills and he was unbelievably professional, organized and courteous. He also got us another 10% over what all the agents thought was the highest we could get. By the way, if you end up looking in Lamorinda, I would recommend Margot Kaufman of Village Realtors, 925-254-0505, just as highly. Between her and Kurt we had the best experience with a sale and purchase one could hope for. Linda Byberg linda

i would highly recommend Donna Costella of Pacific Union for the Piedmont and Montclair areas. she has helped us and several of our friends sell, bid, and buy in these areas. we first met her in 1995. she is extremely professional and ethical. she was also sensitive to the fact that we all have infants and/or toddlers. -Suzie

Chris Cohn with the Grubb Co. in Montclair is an amazing real estate agent. She is well-respected and experienced (25 years+), and will steer you to only the best (for your needs) properties to look at. She has terrific taste and vision, and is a strong but gracious negotiator. You will have the utmost confidence in Chris. 510-339-0400 ext 253 -Suzanne

I highly recommend that anyone seeking a house in Piedmont contact Haideh Chew. Haideh knows the neighborhood very well, and often gets wind of properties that are going to come on the market before they are even listed. My family knows Haideh because although she is a much-sought-after real estate agent, she makes time each day to teach French to Piedmont's school children. Haideh is a good listener, a solicitous human being, and very experienced in the Piedmont market. She works for Prudential California Real Estate. You can reach her at: (510)428-0900, or haideh.chew at Siobhan

I know you were hoping to find realtor referrals, but just thought I'd share a story from a friend. They moved to Piedmont recently because of the quality of schools. They budgeted the money they had been spending on private schools for their two kids into their mortgage, and strettttttched themselves to get into the costlier Piedmont neighborhood. The kicker: their kids were so bored that they ended up putting them back into private schools. So much for their budget. So be sure you personally check out the schools and assess their fit for your particular kids before making a big investment! Good Luck! Ann

Alameda Realtor

Sept. 2001

We are in love with the idea of living in Alameda and really want to move on and find a home there. Does anyone have a recommendation for a realtor that specializes in Alameda. We need someone with experience and confidence. We are looking for an older home with style and character. The home we lost was built in the 30s and was everything we could have asked for. Any referrals for a realtor who would have our interests at heart would be greatly appreciated. MW

I have a friend who is selling his home in Alameda and recommends his realtor quite highly. Her name is D.A. Hammond, and her business phone number is (510) 339-9290. She also works quite a bit from her home, and the number there is (510) 654-6141. She is very reputable, with many years in the business. My friend and his wife have been very happy with the way she has handled the entire process so far, from setting up open houses to keeping them informed on the overall process. (Their home on Liberty St. is still available and it's a beautiful one. Check it out!) -Mari

Realtor for selling our house

Sept. 2001

We are considering putting our home on the market, and are looking for a realtor who will work with us and our needs. Our special considerations: We can't afford to move out and rent a place while we're waiting to sell, so clearing out and staging the house is not an option. We have a 15-month-old so I doubt we could make the house look as non-lived-in as they would like. Has anyone sold recently with a realtor who was understanding, cheerful and optimistic, as well as competent and communicative? Our house is quite nice and I think it will move even in this slower market, but I need to find a realtor I feel comfortable with. Thanks! --Lori

We had the best experience both buying and selling our homes with the help of Bob Randall @ Prudential Realty. Bob is very experienced, very competent, a great communicator and he is very resourceful. Three years later, we still go to Bob for his references. He made the process as easy on us as it could be possible, and demonstrated great patience and gave us every piece of his attention. Bob can be reached at (510) 339-8888. From maria

We had a quite hard-working realtor who we LOVED. Her name is Sheri Madden. she's with Eugene J. Millstein & Assoc. on the Arlington on the Berkeley/Kensington border. Her number is 524-3840. She has children, so she knows your situation. Her communication skills are great, she has great ideas, and she's optimistic. Good luck.

I would like to highly recommend our Realtor Lorri Arazi of Pacific Union. She found our house three years ago, and she just sold our house last month. She is very dedicated to her job and her clients. She is very easy going and works with you and your needs. We have two dogs and a baby so our house was not staged for sale. She was great with working around our schedules. She grew up in Berkeley and knows the area and the market extremely well. She is also a very sweet person. Lorri can be reached at 510-339-6460. Carole

I highly recommend my realtor and friend, Hal Feiger. He and his partner Brett, at Realty Advocates in Berkeley, have been in business for 15 years. They are personable, proficient, extremely knowledgeable and experienced, fair and community-oriented. In addition, they offer a discounted commission rate, only 4% versus the usual 6%. The phone # is 510-428-0757. Nancy

I just read your request for a realtor. We bought and sold nearly a year ago. We have 2 children (then 4 and 6). We had a small house with a lot of things. We did store a great deal and made the house as presentable as possible while living there. We had 4 open houses - 2 for the public and 2 for the realtors. Our realtor, Luanne Warren was fabulous. She helped with everything: from meeting with the pest control people and the structural engineers in preparation for the sale (both my husband and I work full time) to getting down and dirty to help us move, drag, clean, set, decorate, advise us and all the necessary attributes that makes the sale of a home a success. She was always charming and helpful. I do recommend her highly. She can be reached at 510-847-0532. Renee

In the Last Household Digest there was a blurb for Martha Becker (of Thornwall Properties: 848-1957). Martha ''gets it.'' We found our perfect house 3 weeks after our search started! It might sound corny, but I know that her charming personality and flexibility really helped us. The first and only house we bid on had several bigger offers and one CASH offer but Martha *still* got us the house. She rocks. She went above and beyond for us: 1) She went to the Record's Office and got a copy of every permit, microfiche, etc. attached to our new house so that we would know our house's ''history,'' so to speak. 2) We were moving from San Jose and she accommodated us (and our long trips up I-880 with two young kids) by preparing house-hunting maps based on locality. I'm sure she cut our hunting time by more than 50%. 3) She brought flowers from her beautiful garden to try and reduce my stress level...Give her a call at Thornwall Properties 848-1957. You will not be disappointed! Laurel

For a realtor who is skilled, warm, a good listener, and has many years experience in Berkeley and Albany, I would recommend Kathryn Hill of Thornwall Properties at 1656 Shattuck Ave. 848-1950. She guided us through the first- time homebuying process in a steady, optimistic and reassuring way. She leaves town for 3-4 months in the winter, though, so contact her soon. Tyche

We just moved from the Boston area to the Bay Area in August. We went through the whole house-hunting, bidding, and buying process. Things went pretty smoothly. We worked with a very good realtor at Pacific Union named Leslie Avant. She has had many years of experience and has lived in the area for a long time as well, so she knows the reputations and histories of different neighborhoods. She has a good head for this crazy market. She doesn't try to hide anything or mislead you in any way. In fact, she'll tell you what she knows if you ask her. However, she is not pushy or opinionated. She is patient and lets you figure out your comfort level as you see houses. We did a lot of house hunting on the web (house porn, as my friend calls it). One of our favorite websites was, which seems to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive listings (although not all.) Leslie Avant is at Pacific Union. Her number is 510-338-1301 ext.1341. Or 510-410-6752. (If you get in touch with her, tell her the Lee's in Piedmont referred you.) Best of luck! k12mcc

After looking through the archives and trying to track down leads for a real estate agent we found one that we had a fantastic experience with. Thank you to all the parents on the network that recommended Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue. For families that are just getting started in the process of finding an agent to buy or list your house with, we highly recommend Keith Robinson at Red Oak Realty. He was totally responsive, informed, and a delight to work with. He didn't mind driving around with our two small (and often crying) children and showing us properties several times that I couldn't make my mind up about. He never made us feel like we were ''high-maintenance'', demanding, picky, etc.. (which we were all of the above). He also was very savvy with dealing with a competitive bidding market. He knew how to write the offer, deal with the selling agent, etc. to get us what we wanted. I will spare you all the grueling details of our escrow, but Keith was fantastic. If you give him a call, please tell him we referred you, we want him to know how much we appreciated his efforts. Alexis & Niles

I'd like to recommend Bill Gallagher of Re/Max in Walnut Creek on Mt. Diablo Blvd as a very competent real estate agent. He listens to what you want, and provides you with a packet of all the homes he'll screen for you and provides you written reasons of why he may eliminate them. He is the most organized agent I've worked with in that area. He lives in Pleasant Hill and knows the area very well. His phone # is 925-687-2222. His website is junfish


i highly recommend marlena leverette with templeton realty on claremont in berkeley. she is extremely competent, knows the market inside and out, is extremely patient and helps alleviate stress in such a stressful situation. she helped me successfully buy two different homes in berkeley (one in elmwood, one in rockridge)...we were in competition to buy the homes and she successfully won the sellers over into allowing us to buy the home (even over a higher buyer in the rockridge situation). she is sharp! Lexine

Ira and Carol Serkes are extremely professional and know the market well. They sell a lot of homes. They are at 510524-6668 or you can look at Lynn

I would highly recommend Laurie Capitelli at Red Oak Realty. He helped us buy our house four years ago, and then helped a friend a year later. He knows Berkeley in incredible detail and was able to help us match our needs to the market. I think he'd also be a fine agent for selling a house. Carol

I highly recommend Ron Kriss of Lawton Associates for anyone looking for a real estate agent in the Berkeley/Oakland area. He really knows the area. His wife is a Boalt Hall graduate, and they live in Rockridge. On the side, he buys houses and fixes them up before selling them. He has a lot of integrity, is available at almost all hours, and really advocates for his clients. His business is built on referrals and word of mouth. His office number is (510)547-5970. Evan

I would like to recommend LaMel Smith he is a realtor through Prudential which is located here in Berkeley @ 2855 Telegraph Ave. Ste. 100, Berkeley, CA 94705 Office # - 845-0200 Voice Mail- 464-1139 Pager- 819-4683 He works really hard to find his clients what they want and he is on top of it immediately. Above it all he is a wonderful person. Happy House Hunting!

We sold our house in November 1999 and used Dian Hymer with Coldwell Banker in Montclair (on LaSalle). We had a wonderful experience with her. She is professional, well prepared, and worked hard for us. Dian only works in Berkeley, Oakland, and Piedmont, and therefore knows this market inside and out. As a matter of fact, we were shopping for a new house in Orinda and Lafayette and she referred us to another agent, feeling that she wasn't as up on the Orinda and Lafayette market as she should be to do a good job for us. Dian has been the top agent in her office for years, yet we always felt that we had her undivided attention and that she had plenty of time to spend with us. She is also incredibly well connnected, and through those connections helped us meet a 14 day close on the sale of our house, a nearly impossible feat! You may have read her real estate column in the Sunday Examiner/Chronicle. She also has written an few books on buying and selling real estate. In short, she's a dynamo! BUT I still do recommend interviewing a few agents to see who you click with. Personality and communication styles are as important as expertise and connections, in my opinion. Good luck! Christina


We had a great experience with Templeton. Our agent there was Carol Neil, and she did a great job for us.

In response to the person asking about Templeton Real Estate: We've worked with BeBe McRae a couple of times and we recommend her very very highly. In a nutshell she earned every single penny be made. I don't know who Phil ? in that office is but I'm sure he's quite good as Templeton has a very good repution for being professional and honest. Good luck. Jeff

Re Jack Mcphail @ Templeton I have been working with Jack Mcphail; he is incredible nice, honest and fun. Highly recommended! Daryl

One year ago I sold a home in the Elmwood District. Our agent was not from Templeton, so my comments come from the vantage point of the seller's experience with prospective buyers using Templeton agents. Templeton is very good. Every one of their agents were considerate, upbeat, had real clients, and did a good job of representing their interests. In fact, we sold our home to buyers who had a Templeton agent, but not the one you ask about. We received four offers on our home, two of them from buyers with Templeton agents. Both offers were solid -- one bought our home, the other became a back-up offer. Tamara

I would like to recommend Stan and Sharon Hammond of Wells Bennet Realtors. these two have been in the business in Oakland/Berkeley for 20+ years, and did a fantastic job for us, they are also our neighbors. Jill

Stan and Sharon Hammond with Wells Bennett are honest, high integrity people and great realtors. They've handled 4 different real estate transactions for us over the past 5 years (and several other searches than didn't yield a transaction). They have lived in the same home in Crocker Highlands for over 20 years and know the Oakland neighborhoods you mention inside and out. We looked in all those neighborhoods as well when we bought our first home. I don't know how long they've been in the real estate business but I know they've seen several up and down cycles in the market. They are consistently top producers for their office but I've never had an issue getting in touch with them. Stan makes himself available by pager round the clock and they always take calls at home. Sharon goes to as many Thursday broker open houses as she can and they're always on top of it as far as homes coming on the market. They complement one another very well. Sharon is good at finding homes that meet your criteria, Stan is excellent at making a deal work and in evaluating structural and maintenance issues with potential homes. Stan has attended all of our inspections. With our first home he actually got 3 bids for a new furnace and once we reviewed them scheduled the work and arranged to have it payed for out of the closing. I can't recommend them highly enough. Their office is located on Liemert Blvd in Oakmore and the phone number is 531-7000. Kathy

My mother in law, Noll Davis, of Wells and Bennett is a great realtor. Her phone is 531-7000. She knows these areas (particularly Montclair, where she's lived for thirty years) very, very well. She's excellent t figuring out what it is you want, and what's available. She's extremley competent on the paperwork part of it, and knows to get the paperwork done *quickly* which is really important in this market. She's worked with lots of our friends all of whom rave about her (and reccomend h er to others).

Give Ira Serkes a call or email. If Oakland is out of his area, he will recommend someone. (Just another service he offers.) I can't recommend Ira highly enough. He helped us buy our house. I could gush for a long time about how wonderful he was - down to personally installing batteries in the smoke detectors. He is honest, knowledgeable and patient. He *literally* wrote the book on how to buy a house: I think the title is How to Buy a House in California, published by Nolo Press, down on Ninth and Parker. Please tell him I sent you. Referrals are a small way for me to pay him back for all he's done for us. His email address is Realtor at I don't have his phone number handy, but he is sure to be in the book. He is a Re/Max agent. Good luck! John

I recommend talking to either Laurie Capitelli (a man) or Marjorie Sperber at Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue. They worked with the University in marketing the University Terrace condominiums and did a marvelous job. They know Berkeley very well and are easy to work with and knowledgeable about the market. Red Oak's phone number is 527-3387. Helen

Billy Karp from Red Oak Realty has been a realtor in Berkeley for many years. He lives in North Berkeley and is a very nice and up front person. He worked very hard with us to try and sell a Tenants-in-common (which is a long nightmare story) and successfully found a very reasonable deal for some friends in their search last winter, when the market was out of control. Cary and Denise

I highly recommend agent Marsha Quick at Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. She knows the market, is a good negotiator, and works patiently with first-time homebuyers (like we were). After we bought our house, she continued to be a great resource for home repair and maintenance. We can't say enough about her! Heidi

I used Jan (pronounced Yon) Fougner at Rockridge Realty and was extremely pleased with his help, knowledgeability, accessibility. He listened to my needs and showed me houses that met them. He lives and works in Oakland and knows Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito and the Oakland neighborhoods. Pamela

We had a TERRIFIC realtor for buying our house in Rockridge. He's super nice, and very knowledgeable. He knows Rockridge extremely well, knows about construction, and is well-versed in the legal issues related to home purchasing. He helped us negotiate with the seller to get a new roof put on our house, and with all sorts of other things such as insurance, getting the furnace replaced, and so forth. His name is Jan (pronounced Yah-n) Foughner and his telephone number is (510) 655 8211. I recommend him VERY highly. FTR

great loan broker: Tom Nitsan 527-6146 Very creative, responsive and thorough as well. Tavie

We used Brett Weinstein of Realty Advocates in Oakland in our FSBO transaction earlier this year. He did all the paperwork, contract prep, and sheparded both parties through the entire process for a flat fee. We were very pleased with the outcome and highly recommend Brett. For more info, check out their web site at I know that he and his partner offer a variety of services, including by-the-hour consultations. An added bonus is that they are very familiar with the North Oakland/Berkeley markets. Good luck! -- Teri

Might I suggest Michael Hughey and Lalenya Mehren of Re/Max. Both are located here in the East Bay, work together at all levels of home-buyers and home-sellers needs, and are very successful. You can reach Michael at 510-235-1708 or Lalenya at 510-235-4100. Jonathan

I would like to recommend Mike Hughey with Re-Max Realty on Solano Ave, the phone number should be in the phone book or phone directory listing. I never thought we could afford our first house, but Mike made it happen when every other Realtor told us to pre-qualify first en then come back. He also sold that very same house four us in only two weeks when we moved out of town a year later. Mike will go out of his way to accommodate his clients. I can highly recommend him. Jannette

Berkeley Hills Realty On Solano Ave. is great. We used them and were very pleased with them. Our agent was Chris Ehlers-Hardie. She was wonderful, but i'm sure they are all very good at Berkeley Hills.

I highly recommend Marci Sponzilli who owns The Brokerage in Walnut Creek. She has been a family friend for 25 years and has been the realtor on the purchases and sales of homes for myself, my parents, and my sister. She is very fair and honest. Dylyn

We bought our first house last year (after a protracted search in a hideously competitive market with limited buying power) with Darcy Diamantine at Coldwell Banker in Montclair. Darcy was wonderful throughout the whole thing. She kept us informed, looked out for our interests, steered us away from a couple places that would have probably caused us problems (i.e. didn't think solely about finally getting us into any old house just to get us off her back after 8 months of looking!), and was infinitely helpful and cheerful and professional. Good luck, and I hope you'll talk to her. Wendy

We bought a house in the Crocker Highlands area of Oakland in April after looking in Berkeley and various other areas of Oakland and we were very pleased with our real estate agent. Her name is Rita Zwerdling and she is with Coldwell Banker on Shattuck in Berkeley. Her numbers are 486-1495, and 835-6187 for voice mail. She was very knowledgeable, professional, and really helped us make a great offer so that we got the first house we really wanted. I'd definitely recommend her, and feel free to tell her that I was the one who recommended her if you decide to give her a try. Michael

We used Steve Dopkin. (Can't seem to find his card but he is listed and has his office on Benvenue). He came recommended from several neighbors who had bought houses that were not on the open market -- he always seems to know of a few gems whose owners don't want to go through the hassle. Ours was unlisted too, just someone he knew who wanted to sell/move quick; we have been very happy with the house. All this insider info probably comes from his having lived in the Elmwood/Rockridge neighborhoods for so long -- very useful in this crazy market.

We had an excellent experience as *buyers* with Linda McClain of Grubb Company Realtors in Montclair Village. Her phone number is 510/339-0400 x226. Linda was recommended to us by friends who had worked with her twice before, once to buy, then to sell their first home and buy a new one that would accomodate the two kids they'd had in the intervening years. In the year and a half since we bought I've talked to Linda many times, to get recommendations for painters, contractors, and other service providers. She's always been great--she's into building a long-term relationship. She knows this area intimately and is good with people Darcy

My partner and I just closed escrow on a house south of University in Berkeley yesterday. We very much enjoyed working with Carolyn Jones of Pacific Union in Montclair. She's a very friendly, but not pushy, go-getter and she seems to focus mainly on the areas you're looking to buy in. She was always prompt in her recommendations and responses and seemed like a part of the family while we were looking. My partner & I were pretty aggressive in our efforts, sometimes seeing a dozen houses a day on the weekends,and Carolyn would want to hear what we thought of each house, so she could better judge what we liked and didn't like. The prices and competition are pretty fierce, by the way, though there seemed to be a number of properties for sale on the steep slopes of Montclair.
Contact info: Carolyn Jones office: 339-6460 ext 339 office fax: 339-6519 Pacific Union home (ok to call): 841-5172 1900 Mountain Blvd Oakland, CA 94611

In response to the reader who wanted a real estate agent familiar with Montclair, Glenview, Rockridge, etc, I have to recommend Chuck Corwin of Pacific Union in Montclair. We spent much of last year on the market (looking to buy) and he was extremely helpful, thorough, etc. He wrote 5 offers for us (none of which panned out, by the way, but not his fault.. the market is just nuts now). He was always gung-ho to write an offer even when we thought our chances of winning were low. As I said, none of our offers panned out and we decided to back off and get away from the craziness, so I don't have first-hand experience going through escrow with him, but he came recommended from a friend of mine who had a good experience going through the whole process with him. Anita

Our realtor, Jeffrey Himmel of Pacific Union in Oakland handles the areas of Oakland, Montclair, South Berkeley, and Piedmont, and is extremely truthworthy and diligent. He called us every week after the broker's tour to advise me what newly listed homes would be worth seeing (our style and price range), and in the end encouraged us to buy a fixer-upper that was much less expensive than we had been offering on already remodeled homes (thus reducing his commission). His vision of how the house could be remodeled to suit our needs was intuitive and creative. His advice on how to present attractive offers and obtain pre-approval of financing was helpful and right on the mark. Jeffrey helped us find the best house for us, always putting our needs and concerns first. Jeffrey Himmel: 339-6460 ext. 307 (office), 663-0640 (home office). The friends who recommended him to us have recommended him to many other friends, all of whom were equally impressed with Jeffrey dedication and service. Suzanne

Jeannie Yea of Investment Realty in Albany is absolutely first rate. She's creative, down to earth, and really works for her clients. Reach her at 527-8777.

On real estate agents: Investment Realty on Solano is fantastic. Ask for Jeannie Yea. She has helped almost everyone in our department buy a place and is just the sort of detail person that many of us need to save us from ourselves. 527-8777 is her number. Kiren

I highly recommend Richard Morrison, who works with Marvin Gardens Real Estate on Solano Ave. in Berkeley. His phone number is 510-525-2700. Richard found our previous as well as our current home for us (both in Berkeley), and he also sold our previous home. He really knows East Bay real estate. He is professional, patient, and personable, and really worked hard for/with us. Sandra


My favorite real estate broker & agent are my father, Don Clark, owner of Clark & Clark Realtors (at1566 Solano Ave., 525-5277) and my very wonderful stepmother, Rachel Clark. If you care about these things (and nothing against anyone else), my dad is one of the last remaining independent brokers around. He has been primarily in the business of single-family homes in Berkeley (and surrounding area) for over 25 years. He is scrupulously ethical, and very very nice. As a buyer's agent, he doesn't push stuff you won't like, or can't afford. As a listing agent, he is hard-working, and won't inflate your expectations. (Scuze the hype, I'm pretty biased!) Thanks. Leah

I have two recommendations. The first is to look up ListingLink on the Internet. This is a service that lets you look up houses yourself, without an agent, or in addition to your agent. I think it's You surf there and then fill out a few forms to indicate what you're looking for in terms of size, price, area, etc. Great service. We used it to scope out general areas that appealed to us. Then we could drive by to check out the neighborhood and see if we were interested in actually looking inside.

Once we had identified that we were interested in specific houses, we needed to get a Buyer's agent to get us in to see the houses. The person we used was Steve Schneider, with Marvin Gardens on Solano in Berkeley. He wasn't particularly familiar with the area we were looking at (San Leandro), but he's a great agent, so that didn't really matter. His phone is: 1-510-841-1414. That's his home, and the number for the B they own. (Be warned, though, they were talking about buying a place in Spain, and moving, so you might have to go with someone else at Marvin Gardens if that happened). Dawn

In response to request for Real Estate Agent, I would like to strongly recommend Graham as knowledgeable and caring:
Graham Carter
Prudential California Realty, Berkeley Office (formerly Mason McDuffie)
(510)845-0200 voice mail (510)466-5241

I highly recommend Peter Campbell, co-owner and president of Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue in Berkeley (527-3387). He sold me my house, but I've heard only the best from people whose homes has listed. He is great weith math and people skills, I saw him recently and he can show you his private calclations showing how the market has risen 21% in Berkeley/Albany in one year. Of course he (and his wife, Karen, who live on Ramona in Albany) can help buy you another house as well. I've known them since 1975. Wendy

Laurie Capitelli and Marjorie Sperber of Red Oak Realty on Solano Ave. have done a great job marketing the University Terrace condos for the University and I highly recommend them if you are looking for broker to list your home. Helen

We have found the best real estate agent in the world! In the past 5 years we have sold a house, bought a house, sold it, and bought another one, so we have come into contact with a lot of agents, and none can compare with Kathy Nitsan, of Red Oak Realty, on Solano in Berkeley. Besides being just about the nicest person you could ever meet, she is extremely knowledgeable, has many contacts, and will give you her honest opinion (we've found that a lot of real estate agents won't give you their opinion about anything). She's extremely responsive, thorough, loves her job and is good at all aspects of it, and doesn't give up (in this crazy market that's important). We really love her, and though we're extremely happy that we've finally bought a home (due to Kathy's perseverence and persuasiveness after several months of looking, bidding, etc.), we're sad that we don't get to see Kathy as much as we did. She's the BEST! She can be reached at 527-3387 Ext. 125 or at 549-3616. Suzanne

Advice about Using a Realtor

Can I exclude a potential buyer from my agent?

Jan 2013

We are planning on listing our house on 2/1. A friend of a friend has toured our home 2x and seems to be expressing sincere interest. I have heard that it is possible to exclude a buyer from your agent; some sort of exclusion clause- since we essentially found the buyer. Can anyone explain how this works? Would love to hear from you if you have experienced this scenario - or thoughts on this from the real estate agent perspective. anon

Yes you can exclude a potential buyer from your listing agent. When you fill out the listing agreement with the agent there should be a place on the form to write in a statement that specifically excludes that agent from getting a commission from a sale to ''enter person's name''. Nicholas @ GrageRealty

Use the same realtor as before?

Jan 2013

We bought a condo 2 1/2 years ago that we want to sell. The first time around, I researched and met a couple of agents who seemed disinterested in helping us. Then I chose one I liked (who had gotten GREAT reviews everywhere), but after showing us 2 houses she passed us off to another agent. We think this was bec. we were first timers and didn't have a huge budget.

The agent that took over worked out well. She was a tiny bit flaky (running late mostly), but always returned calls and emails quickly, took us to see a ton of houses, would stay up writing offers, and I always felt like we were on the same page in terms of taste, and she was never pushy nor judgmental. Also, I found out that she had to split the sale with the original agent who passed us off to her.

Anyway, now, we are looking to sell the condo and buy a house. We aren't sure whether we should go with the same agent or find one with a bigger reputation/more sales. Does it matter in terms of getting bids accepted or our getting our condo seen by more agents?

Also, it is general practice to have the same agent help buy the new place and sell the old one? Or should they be separate? Thanks! 1st Time Seller

I'm an agent with Highland Partners in Montclair. I have been doing this job for more than 15 years. It seems to me that your agent did a great job, show you lot of properties ( which means doing and extensive research job) and help you find a place. She/ He deserves to have your business again. Maybe you don't trust this person enough. It is difficult to establish this buyer,seller/agent relationship but trust me, most of us work really hard to find you a great property in the most relax way, as you know it can be really stressful. In any case, she/he can do a wonderful job. it is a sellers market. You would probably do great if you list at the right price. Reputation is relative, a ''big'' agent is not necessarily the best one for you but a diligent, hard working agent can be a better option. Good luck! MG

Who you use for the selling and buying would be completely up to you. My clients have done both. Of course, you would have an established relationship with your listing agent where a trust relationship has been started. I always want my clients to be comfortable and feel they are represented in the best way they can. Your property will be listed on the MLS which is also syndicated to all the major real estate websites so you get equal exposure no matter what size firm you choose to use. WC

Dear 1st Time Seller As an agent my advice would be to contact the agent who served you well when you purchased. It sounds like you got along well and trust her. Ask her if she feels competent helping in the area you wish to buy.Agents should be quite devoted to their repeat clients and it's a very nice relationship and ongoing resource for you. There are many agents who have excellent reputations within the brokerage community and will do a great job of meeting your needs both buying and selling. A ''bigger'' reputation with the general public does not necessarily mean a better agent and may not be better for you as a you discovered last time! Many agents deal with a wide variety of clients and price ranges and neighborhoods, especially if they have repeat clients and referral business. (Running late is sometimes hard to avoid when we're dealing with contractors and other clients and not everything goes as scheduled!) Good luck! Jackie

Pressure from ''Realtor Friend''

Dec 2011

An old friend of mine lost her job lost year and decided to switch careers to focus on real estate. She got her license several years ago but never practiced in the area. Its been difficult for her to find clients and I understand her need to market to friends & family. In the past, I've dealt with her solicitations by repeatedly telling her that I enjoy renting and am not ready to buy a home because I did not feel comfortable supporting a mortgage on a sole income (husband was a stay at home dad) and also because in case my husband found work I wanted the flexibility to move.

Every few months she still calls, e-mails, or sends me promotional materials for her real estate business. We've also had some very awkward & phone calls where she asks me whether I know of anyone interested in buying a home, and whether I'd refer her to my friends. During a recent phone conversation she expressed frustration over a client who switched realtors because she stated she wanted someone who was more familiar with the area she was interested in. I thought this would be a standard criteria: hire a realtor who knows the area you want to live in. However, my friend reacted very negatively and disagreed with me.

My husband has since found steady employement and I think we might be ready to hunker down and begin this home buying journey. I'm anxious to begin with because I've been a lifelong renter and have only moved once in the last 15 years! The whole home buying process is terrifying to me. I also don't want to mix business & friendship, and want to work with a realtor who specializes in the area I want to live (which my friend is not familiar with). In addition, I would want to work with someone with more experience.

Just to give some background, this friend is someone I use to be very close to in high school, but over the years we had a falling out but recently re-connected in the last few years after we both had children. I want to be honest with her but given her personality, I think she's already assumed I'll be her customer and would be offended if I didn't use her as my realtor. I don't think I'd be forgiven in the long run...I guess I'm wondering whether there is a way to let her down more gently (besides the reasons I've outlined above?) My husband jokes that we just shouldn't tell her until after we've purchased a home, but I think that would make the sitaution worse. Thanks so much for any advice you might have for me!!! Timid Friend

I've been in a similar situation, although in my case it was a relative. It most definitely added frustration to an already stressful process, and on top of that we later found out about some huge issues that weren't caught during the inspection process. So we're planning to move again as soon as we can afford to do so. Part of that was my fault for not being more thorough about inspections, but the realtor's lack of experience was also a factor. This realtor is a relative of my husband's; I let myself get pressured into working with her and then spent a lot of time kicking myself.

Part of a realtor's job is to show you houses. But really, you can look at listings online and go to brokers' opens on your own. Where you really need a realtor is to put together an offer and then negotiate through the contract, and that's where you'd be taking a risk by working with someone inexperienced. It may ruin the friendship if you tell her no. But it may also ruin the friendship to work with her -- and on top of that you may end up with expensive repairs or an unworkable house. Your husband's suggestion sounds pretty appealing. It's pretty clear from your post that you would prefer not to work with her. And if your husband doesn't want to hire her either that's an important consideration. Maybe you and your husband can find an experienced realtor, then you just tell your friend that your husband insists on working with someone experienced.

At the end of the day, this is a hiring decision. If you were an employer, and this friend kept asking you to hire her but wasn't the most qualified candidate, would you do it? Burned

How are you at lying? Say your husband's in charge and you have a realtor. Make it short and sweet. Regardless of what you say, it appears that your ''friend'' will not understand. If she gets upset or puts pressure on you, let the friendship go and don't stress. If she understands and supports you, then congratulations, you have a real friend! been there

I have a personal policy that stems from a couple of bad experiences - NEVER MIX FRIENDSHIP OR FAMILY WITH BUSINESS. If I were in your shoes, I would say to her: ''Your friendship is too important to me to risk losing it over buying a house. Because this transaction is a very big step for me, I need to work with a realtor with whom I have a business relationship only.'' If she is a real friend, she'll maintain her friendship with you in spite of your business decision. And that's what it is, a business decision. Good luck. And good for you for not buying a house until you could afford it! Jane

I agree with your position about not mixing business with friends. I would tell her up front, but be prepared for her to distance herself from you again. From your description of your relationship, that may not be that bad of an outcome. -homeowner

Your husband might have the right idea. I too have a friend who decided to become a realtor and is bombarding me with promotional literature and pressure. I heard a neighbor was moving out of the area for a new job and called my friend to suggest he contact the neighbor to see if she needed a realtor's help. I also asked a favor of him to help me locate the owners of a property in Berkeley and another in Napa. He jumped on the moving neighbor lead right away and barely spent any time at all with my request for help-it was all about him getting money. I wondered how to tell him I would NEVER consider him for selling my home because I would want a seasoned realtor that had over 20 years experience and not a newbie. If you buy without her you could explain that you know how important it is for transactions to go smoothly and you were afraid if there were any glitches it might affect your friendship or that she would feel badly/guilty so to protect her from that and to maintain the good friendship you decided it best to use an anonymous realtor.

A 1/2 way measure might be to somehow make sure your friend gets credit as the listing agent but you use another realtor as the selling agent. Each one gets 3% of the deal and the critical one for you is really the selling agent as they and their contacts (title company) make sure your interests are properly protected with termite reports, title search, sewer videos, and disclosures by seller and so on. Your friend will surely pressure you to give her both assignments but be firm with her and tell her it is 1/2 or nothing. Then/or ask her for a discount on the 3% and when she refuses tell her you have to go with somebody else who offered you a better rate. She'll be able to find out in the end who you used but it might be a helpful tactic. There are also services that will help you through the home buying process for much less than 6%. Sounds to me overall that she really isn't that good of a friend to tell you the truth so I wonder why you are so worried about losing a fair weather friend in the first place unless she will tarnish your reputation at the high school reunions. same boat

This is a difficult situation. Being in business myself, I have felt offended when my friends did not solicit my services, so I understand your friend's expectations. However, some people simply do not mix business and friendship and it sounds like that is your best excuse with this woman. I would tell her in the beginning, as she is sure to find out you are house hunting and did not solicit her help.

To her credit, she is trying to market her business. There is a limit as to how much to market to your friends and family though and then you must take steps outside of the safety zone and market to a wider audience (could you suggest that she take some marketing classes? There are good ones in the area...Lisa Cain at Page Point Marketing does great affordable workshops in marketing small businesses).

Not to sound flip, but it sounds like she is not your favorite person in the world anyway, so maybe it wouldn't be a huge loss for you if she ''de-friended'' you. Good luck. Buying a house is a HUGE step. You want to have a realtor you totally trust. anon business owner and home owner

Reasonable fee for a realtor in this market

Sept 2010

Early next year my husband and I plan to sell our Oakland Hills home in order to buy a house for our family in Moraga (for the great schools and family friendly community). What is a reasonable fee for our real estate agent? Is 6% the going rate or is it customary to negotiate that down? If it is negotiated down does that discourage buyer's agents from working with a seller's agent? It's been over a decade since we bought out house, so any advice is welcome. Thank you. Oakland HIlls family

You ask a totally reasonable question. We sold fairly recently, and interviewed various realtors. Some were as high as 6 1/2%. Most were easily negotiated down to 5%. The one we went with was a smaller agency with a great reputation and good references - at 4 1/2%. We had a very successful sale. Others may correct me, but I was under the impression that convention is that the buyer's agent always gets 2 1/2%, so their incentive is always the same. Good luck! +++ Successful sale

Bypassing my realtor and using seller's instead

June 2010

We have been working with a great realtor for several months now. He has taken several trips of several hours each to show us houses and send us lots of emails with listings tailored to our specifications. I recently found a house that is perfect for us via craigslist and the selling agent will only sell to us (the house is pre-MLS) if we have no agent so he can get the full 5% commission. My husband and I had a disagreement about what to do in this situation. He views realtors as sales people - even if the Circuit City guy spends 1 hour going over flat screen TV's, it's not unethical to waltz into a Best Buy for the actual purchase.

I am more relationship-focused and feel we couldn't do anything short of a full 2.5% commission for them since they've been so helpful to us. Maybe there's an middle route? Buy the house without them but pay them an hourly rate as a thank you for all the time they devoted to us (a retainer or something along those lines). It seems a shame to lose the perfect house because we have a realtor. We don't know what is customary in this arena having never bought a house before. Help! Anonymous

Whoa! Alarm bells ringing. As a former Realtor, anyone that offers you that proposal has a serious ethics issues and I would not want to do business with them.

Second, the Realtor representing the sellers has a legal obligation to them to get the maximum amount for the home and not do anything that might compromise that. That includes pointing out issues with the home to you that might lower the value. They cannot negotiate on your behalf or offer any advice...what happens if there are inspection issues? (there always are).

There may be other unsavory issues as well. I'd probably tell my Realtor about the house and proposal from the seller's agent. If push comes to shove, have your agent present the offer to the broker (local office manager) directly and insist they deliver it to the owners.

Home buying is a huge purchase, I strongly recommend that you do not circumvent your Realtor. Rick

OMG. Please do not dump your agent. You are buying the most expensive thing in life. You want to only use the SELLERs agent to buy an UNLISTED house? Your agent protects YOUR interest- financially and legally. The seller's agents protects THE SELLERs interest. It is possible for one agent to be both the buyers and sellers agent- but I would be VERY WARY of an agent who insist you only use him to buy an unlisted house through Craig's list. Forget the ethics (but yes, it is unethical to dump your agent I think), this could be a HUGE financial mistake. Your agent is legally bound to protect you!!! Buying a house is a long, expensive process with many forms. Please keep a good agent on your side. Especially if this is your first house- you are in for a ride!! Go to Nolo Press and buy the California home buyers guide. Good luck. This is one area not to be cheap- it could cost you a bundle in the long run. Just bought and sold a house with MY agent

Hello, I'm an attorney and a real estate broker. What your agent really brings to the table is walking you through the offer and escrow process. Conducting thorough inspections and making sure your interests are protected is crucial. It is not often possible for one agent to represent both parties well, since they already have a relationship with the seller then their allegiance will probably align with the seller. The listing agent has a duty to present all offers to the seller and act in the seller's best interest. Basically that agent is saying that the seller will not be offering your agent commission. You could up your price and request that the seller compensate your agent. At a minimum, talk to your agent and see if he has any thoughts on how to proceed. Tell your husband not to be penny wise and pound foolish. Good luck. -- Sincerely, Jean

I would just like to say that it seems very risky to not have an independent expert representing *you*, especially with an agent (the listing agent) using this type of practice, and already putting this type of pressure on you.

I was a realtor for a short period of time. Both you and your husband are right. I spent a great many hours working for a couple who ended up purchasing a house direct with a listing agent so they could save money. That was the bottom line for them. While this is part of the game, consider the following points.

1. The guy at Circuit City is a paid employee. If you buy the printer from someone else, he may lose a commission but he's not going to lose his income.

2. Purchasing a home without expert advice is tricky. If you are willing to put your neck out to do that, go ahead.

3. It's too bad realtors are seen as so disposable. There are so many wise and seriously educated people to help you negotiate portions of a contract you may not even consider negotiating for yourself or looking out for and protecting you from liablility.

4. The listing agent is greedy. Is he looking out for you or him? It's legal but is it ethical and in your best interest? If he/she is representing the owner solely, he/she will bring the best offer, not make a deal on who is willing to forgo their own protection.

Your realtor has a fiduciary duty to make sure you are protected and serviced - his salary and professional reputation as a small business owner (regardless of the brokerage) depends on it. How can a listing agent hold fiduciary obligation to two clients? Good luck. anonymous

You have either a written agreement or a verbal agreement with your own great agent who has spent his time showing you a variety of homes. His time is based upon the hope that he will find you a suitable purchase and then use his expertise to submit appropriate bids, advise you in accordance with real estate law, and put a lot of time and effort into getting you into a house. Believe it or not, real estate agents do a lot more than just drive you around from house to house. You owe your agent some respect.

I understand you want this other house. However, the Agent for the house is in direct violation of his agreement with Seller (for whom he is the Agent), which promises to show them all offers - not just offers from folks he represents. He is also likely not telling his Seller that he's using coercion in order to make more money (front and back end commissions). Not only that, but just because it's not listed on the MLS system doesn't mean he can bypass the rules and ethics of his profession - which he is doing by forcing you to use him as your Agent.

Your alarm bells should be ringing off the hook. This guy sounds terribly unethical, if not outright breaking the laws that allow him his license. There are a lot of things he can do to push the sale of this house, including not disclosing important details you may need to know.

You should do two things: tell your Agent about the situation (you owe him this much), and also call the Sellers' Agent's home office and talk to the Manager. You may find you can place your bid on the house through your own Agent.

To even consider acting in the sneaky, underhanded way the Seller Agent is suggesting, you are allowing yourself to be coerced illegally and will be acting unethically if you do as he wants. Not-a-Realtor but married to one.

Firstly, I think if the other realtor is trying to pocket the full 5% himself they sound really unethical and you probably need the protection of a good realtor! Does the seller know this because this realtor is screwing them - limiting their access to buyers while benefiting himself (unless the realtor is the seller).

That said something similar happened to us. After almost a year of working with a realtor that we loved we found something off the MLS (essentially a for sale by owner/realtor). I was straight up with my Realtor about it and he said - go for it (I knew I had picked a good one then!). That said in the end we decided to pay him out of our own pocket (he agreed to 2% instead of the usual 3%). IT was money very well spent! There was a massive amount of work to be done while in escrow and they handled the massive amounts of paperwork, scheduled and attended with us all inspections and negotiated the inspection items with the seller.

I too was always a bit skeptical about Realtor services but by the end of our escrow I was convinced they had earned their money. good luck!

Legally, you can most likely bypass your agent. Ethically, kinda lame.... But here's the real issue: why would you cut out your agent when you need him the most- in the legal paperwork phase? Seriously, what do you think the buyer's agent is for? To send you email listings and unlock doors? Anyone can find a house for sale, it's handling the legalities and paperwork that matters....

More to the point, in this case, it seems to me the seller's agent is pushing the boundaries of ethics. (I am not in the profession, so I can't speak to the actual laws governing real estate agents- you should check into them.) He may be within the scope of the law, since as you say the house is ''pre-MLS''... but if he is unwilling to present any and all offers to his client and pay a commission, he's not necessarily acting in the best interest of his client and thus could be breaching his fiduciary responsibility. Given that this guy is definitely not going to work with YOUR best interest at heart, you have even more reason to be concerned about negotiating a house purchase without the benefit of a professional representing you.

If you really want to make an offer on the house, talk to your agent and let him know the situation. He may have some suggestions on how to proceed.

In my opinion, integrity pretty much always pay- if not monetarily, then exponentially in other ways. anon

CAUTION! on dealing with a realtor who is trying to get the full commission, but really only represent the seller. This is a MAJOR conflict of interest, and unethical (probably not illegal, but should be). I would talk to the sellers directly, and tell them that you are very interested, but that you, too, need legal representation. These are your rights, and houses are EXPENSIVE! You need to be represented in case of a problem. and not by the shyster who is trying to mooch an extra commission from the sellers. Many problems may come up with a house on inspection, closek, property boundaries, liens, etc. Worse case scenario, walk away. This is not worth it. several houses under my belt

First of all, the selling agent refusing to sell to you if you have an agent is unethical. They are obligated to present their client with any offer that comes in. If you are foregoing your right to have representation, which may be against your interest, the selling agent should be crediting you the other half of the commission. Be careful in dealing with this agent-- this will probably not be the last time in the transaction they are trying to force you to do something against your own interest. I would say that you must have professional guidance in dealing with this agent. You have nothing to gain by not having an agent.

I bought my first property without a buyer's agent, but was credited the commission by the seller who did not have an agent either. I used a portion to hire an agent as a consultant to go over the contract.

I would discuss this matter with your agent. buyer beware

The Craig's List realtor demanding the full 5% for himself doesn't seem ethical to me. That means you have no one representing you in the transaction. It is not proper for a realtor to represent both sides -- a major conflict of interest. Even if the house is ''perfect'', this agent is not to be trusted. Keep looking and find a house you want where you have someone advocating for YOUR interests. Especially considering that this is the largest single investment most of us will ever make in our lifetime. G

It would be in your best interest to have your own realestate agent to help protect you and guide you during your first home purchase. There are a lot of scam artists out there. It is unethical for this agent to say he will only sell the home directly to you. I would contact the owner of the home (realestate agents made up a rule saying you cannot talk to the owner mainly because they are afraid you and the owner will cut a deal and leave them out because guess who pays the 5%) and let them know what is going on also be upfront with your own agent about this situation.

''I'll sell you this home, my brother did the title search,don't worry that the deed says it belongs to the Smiths, it was a typo my aunt never bothered to have it fixed no one ever checks these things also don't worry that half of the new bedroom sits on the neighbors property it was not recorded as being build so it saves you from taxes. Its all in writing somewhere in this 238 page document, just initial each page and my grandma will stamp the notery at the end.'' Anon

WOW! Your post gives me cold chills! I'm a realtor, and I am appalled at the listing agent's behavior, as you describe it, for three reasons:

1) When you enter a contractual negotiation to buy a house, you have different interests than the seller. The contract includes a lot of items with financial/major implications, beyond the offer price itself. This isn't the time to get on my soap box, but trust me: There's a lot more than salesmanship to good representation in a real estate transaction. Your agent should be involved for your own protection and benefit.

Re. your chances to get this house with your agent: The listing agent MUST SHOW any serious offer to the seller, and I doubt the seller's going to reject it on the basis that their agent isn't earning both sides of the commission! IF the listing agent refuses to present your offer to the seller because you have an agent, that listing agent could lose his/her real estate license. If you tell your agent about the listing agent's position on this sale, your agent can be sure your offer gets a fair airing.

2) This listing agent has apparently not made this listing visible to other agents. Is this part of an agreed-upon sales strategy with the seller...? It makes no sense to me to limit marketing of a property for sale, and makes me wonder if this agent is limiting marketing (not giving the property a full airing) in order to keep all other agents out, and secure the full 5% commission. This sounds like an agent working for him/herself - not for the seller to whom he/she owes a fiduciary duty. Would you want this agent in control of representing your interests in this purchase, when the agent already demonstrates potentially poor allegiance to his/her existing client (the seller)?

3) Your agent has been spending many hours with you and ''working behind the scenes'' each week, trying to help you achieve your home-buying goals. Dumping the agent at the alter (by going it alone) breaches a relationship your agent has honored by working vigorously on your behalf. The listing agent should know better than to ask this of you.

I agree with you that real estate IS a relationship business. The best realtors put time into building the relationship in order to really understand their clients' needs and properly serve their clients. I hope you'll honor that relationship - AND act in your own best interests - by bringing your realtor along with you on this offer. Good luck! from a realtor with no tolerance for sleazy real estate practices

Relocating to So. Cal - need advice about selling

April 2010

We are most likely moving to Southern California for an amazing new job for my wife. We need someone to help us crunch numbers so we can figure out what is best to do with our home in Berkeley, which has lost about $150,000 in value since we bought it. We would be living in Pasadena area 6-8 years until the job moves to another state. Do we sell in Berkeley for a loss and buy (or rent) in the Pasadena area? Do we rent out our house in Berkeley until it regains value? (But the mortgage, taxes, and insurance are about $5500/month and we could rent out the house only for $3000-3500/month.) We don't know who or what kind of person could help us look through all the issues, crunch numbers, and make our best decision.

Have you thought about refinancing the home to try lower the rate? I obviously have no idea what your financial picture looks like but you could maybe lower your monthly mortgage payment by going into an interest only loan till the values return? I would talk with a mortgage broker and see what options are available to you. If you do not have one, I'd be more than happy to look at your situation and see what is available for you. Mathew

I am not sure if there is a professional who can handle a question like this, a traditional financial planner are usually geared more towards retirement planning and investing, rather then decisions like this. My unprofessional advice is to sell and discuss with a tax accountant as to whether you can carry the loss forward on future tax returns to off-set future gains. In considering keeping the Berkeley home, you need to also include the cost of hiring a rental property manager and the risk of future financial problems from the house such as if the house needs repairs or you need to evict bad tenants. It does not look rental prices will be increasing any time soon because there is a fair amount of availability and who knows how long it could take for housing prices to rebound, so chances are you will continue to be incurring loss for many years to come. I know its difficult to take the loss, but it has happened to many of us and by trying to keep the house you could be creating a bigger problem. anon

When I look at the scenario right away, you would be losing close at least $24,000 additional on your house in Berkeley annually. Depending on whether you qualify for the Home Affordability Refi Program you might want to see if refi is an option to change to a rate lower than 4% with a 5 year ARM to reduce your monthly payment and increase cashflow if you rent. Of course selling at $150,000 less than you purchased hurts but if it takes 7 years for the prices to recover it is almost a wash. Try a Realtor and loan broker to crunch your numbers or see if you qualify for the HARP.

Decided not to sell - what to tell realtor?

Jan 2009

We have been looking for a long time now for a new house larger than our current one. The inventory has been weak (or crappy) in Berkeley and the homes that we do like seem to always still go, even today, for much over asking price with multiple bids. We have not decided to do it yet, but the option to stay put and add on/remodel is still being considered. If we can't find what we want we might as well build it ourselves. Though that will be a huge, painful undertaking. That choice is still far off.

Our real estate agent has been great. She stays in touch, is always checking in, and points out homes on a weekly basis that might fit our profile. She too has been disappointed with the inventory in Berkeley. If we decided to remodel instead of buy new how do we handle this with the agent? Is it commonly just a matter of being honest and saying thanks, or is some form of monetary compensation common in these cases or simply a nice thing to do? She's put a lot of time in for us and it does not feel right to just abandon ship and say sorry. If compensation is appropriate how much? At the very least we would provide her with a nice thank you such as a gift cert to a great restaurant, hardly a payback for time on the clock but at least something. Frustrated with Berk real estate

You agent already knows this could happen...we are all conditioned to accept the fact that our buyers might stay put rather than buy. You owe them nothing financially. Do, however make sure they know that you will do everything possible to refer her some new business whenever you can. That's usually the best approach. local realtor

I don't think you owe her anything at all . . . although I am sure a thankyou would be nice. That is why real estate agents make a fortune when they DO make a sale, to cover all the times when they DON'T.

How kind of you to think about your agent who put in a lot of time, but their work did not result in a commission. This is the dilemma of sales positions, that do not result in pay, from time to time. Your being sympathetic about this, is already a gift, and you could say that you feel sorry that all their hard work has not paid off, but that you have been very happy with their service and would be more than happy to recommend them to your friends or family (if this is so). Also, you never know, in the future, you may use their service again, and it will result in a sale. I don't think you have to feel responsible for their salary, this is the nature of their business. If you felt like offering a gift certificate that would be very generous, but not required. Anon.

Probably the best thing you can do for her is to provide her with referrals and recommendations, and call her when you're ready to sell, even if it's a long time from now. You're certainly under no obligation to provide any compensation, but you should give her a nice thank you card, let her know you will be recommending her to your friends, and if you want to really express your gratitude, you certainly can't go wrong with a gift certificate. former agent

Tell her the truth. She has to see what you see. I think the gift certificate to a nice restaurant idea is great. Include a thank you note and tell her that if you do go back into the house hunting market she will be the first person you call. Also let her know (and follow up on it) that you will shout her praises to all you know. Realtors live by referrals. Don't feel guilty. She will understand. most of my relatives are realtors

Hi, a friend of mine is a realtor and gave this advice: ~ If the agent does not have a broker/buyer agreement for time well spent then it would be nice to give a gift of appreciation. However, nothing is required except to be loyal and call her when you do decide to buy or sell.

What if you paid $25 per hour for time spent, and ask that, should you buy/sell in the future through her, that the current gift be applied to her commission? That way you are honoring her time spent if you never end up needing her down the road, but if you do, you pay the same you would have. I read something by a WC realtor who felt commissions were way out of balance - he only charged $25 per hour, regardless how many houses he showed you or what your situation was. He felt it was more fair, and I really liked this idea.

How to choose a realtor for first home?

Aug 2008

My partner and I are first-time home buyers. We decided to buy a home while out of town and got a reccommendation from a friend for a realtor. We've had a steady stream of email correspondence with this woman and our sense is that she is a good fit for us and specializes in the neighborhood we want to live in. But we have never met with her. Upon our return we got another reccommendation from another friend who said that their realtor is very well known. They mentioned that one of the key reasons their offer was accepted for their current home was their realtor's reputation for closing the deal efficiently and without a hitch. How important is it to choose a realtor with a known name and strong reputation? anonymous

In choosing a realtor the attributes you listed are very important. I would also consider if the realtor pays for professional staging, helps you ready your house (managing painters, landscapers, electricians and inspectors for you) and is a good personality fit for you. Consider too how many listings they carry at one time - if you expect a lot of attention best to choose a realtor who has time to spend with you and is not spread too thin. Your home is very likely your most valuable asset. Putting time into getting it ready to sell is critical - if you do not have the time to manage this process it would be best that you found a realtor who does this piece for you. Best of luck. Anonymous

Personally, I don't care for most of the realtors with come with the reputation. To me that is an indicator that they are just looking to close deals and not really focus on the buyers/sellers wants/needs. When we purchased our second place, we ended up going with someone else because we wanted someone who would respect what we wanted and not pressure us into something that we might not be happy with down the road or might not have good resale. I'm guessing that you're buying in the East Bay and not in SF otherwise I would recommend our agents who are probably the most ethical agents out there (I don't think ethics and real estate always go hand in hand). If you happen to be looking in SF, then please contact them. You can check out there website on how to pick an agent. I think they give very sound advice. Let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck in finding your home. Best, Cindy

Hi, my husband and I were in the same fix 18 months ago, but are now very happy home owners and have been for a little over a year. We interviewed a few realtors, though we did not have too many knowledgeable questions to ask ... finally, we met a wonderful lady who we had a sense would be great and she was, she spent a great deal of time and energy towards our home search and went out of her way to be helpful as I was then pregnant and my husband travelled a lot on work back then. She's been in the business over 25 years I think, so has all the necessary experience/contacts, but what really impressed us is that she did everything she possibly could to prevent us from buying a house that we clearly would have regretted buying in retrospect ... and she even insisted we buy under our loan limit and save some money just because ... that considering her commission depends on the sale price! I would be willing to give you further details and even her contact information if you are interested ... she works in San Francisco and the East Bay. heta

If you know roughly where you want to live, go to that 'hood and see which realtors have a presence there. Or choose a company that is clearly a big player in the area (such as Pacific Union, Grubbco and Red Hill in Berkeley/Oakland) and then ask your friends about agents. Look in the Sun Real Estate section of the Chron and see who has sold properties you like. We have worked with several realtors over the years, and they've all been decent - personality fit is something you'll learn after you've worked with them for a while, and if the fit isnt there, just get someone new. There is no obligation to stay.

I will recommend our current realtor, Leslie Easterday at Pacific Union. Leslie is a WONDERFUL buyer's agent (and also reps plenty of houses), with infinite patience, endless availability, and a deep, 20-year knowledge of the Berk/Oak/Alameda market. She really offers expertise and seems to know every street and neighborhood. Her number is 510-334- 9281. sarah

Interview three and consider: What does your gut say? Trust your gut. What do a previous client or two say? How well do they match your preferred style of communication? Communication is paramount. Consider mode, frequency, clarity. Is s/he really listening to you and your needs, or doing most of the talking? How well do they know your preferred market? How long have they been in this market? Can you get a sense of how the realtors are perceived by colleagues, perhaps by asking the agent to describe a couple of complicated transactions? Did they solve problems or cause them? Some well known agents are well known for being difficult to work with or less than straightforward in their dealings. I'd also seek a realtor who's a licensed broker (8 times the real estate education), who doesn't represent both the buyer and seller in any transaction, and who regularly takes continuing education courses. Finally, in this market, there's an argument that your mortgage broker or lender is as important as your choice of realtor. The seller and agent want a buyer who is represented by a realtor who'll get the job done and a lender who will get the money to the closing table. Your realtor should suggest you talk to 2-3. It's not the time to go with an internet lender or someone from out of the area. Email me if you want the Natl Assoc of Realtors ''12 Questions to Ask'' factsheet. Maureen

While I have also heard that it's best to work with a seasoned realtor who knows other realtors, my experience with 2 different realtors tells me that, more important than the experience, is ''clicking'' with your realtor. We have bought two properties in the last few years, and while the experience with the first realtor was just amazing (he also sold our house and was great!), the experience with the second one was plain average. Both realtors came recommended by friends and had lots of years of experience.

Our first buying experience was very good(with John Stasky), we actually had fun in the process and ended up buying a beautiful home in Lower Rockridge for a very reasonable price.

The second buying experience was completely different. It was all business, we didn't click at all with the realtor. We ended up with an OK property, but not nearly as happy as we did with our first purchase.

I think it is important for the realtor to get to know you and understand what you are looking for (both what you say and what you don't). Good realtors get a sense of what you like by your comments when you see properties, and then match that to the properties they scout. If the communication is not great, then the match may not be the best. So, in retrospect, for the second property we bought, I feel I should have gone with the realtor I connected with (even if newer to the business) and not with the one that had more seniority. Good luck with your purchase! EP

A ''good fit'' with your Realtor is important but so is the amount of experience of the Realtor and how long they have been in the business. Generally Realtors that are well known by other agents and the various service providers are going to give you a less stressful and more successful experience. They have more influence and more sway and will get it all done with less trauma/delay and that can translate into less stress/expense. In a transaction with an experienced agent dealing with a less experienced agent, the clients of the more experienced agent will almost invariably come out well ahead.

You might want to interview at least three or four agents before you settle on one. Ask the hard questions like: ''How many times have you been sued?'' or ''Have you been fired by a client?''. A good agent will answer all your questions during the interview candidly and without hesitation. They should, without prompting, give you a list of recently closed transactions and the names and phone numbers of five or six recent past clients for you to call. I had a great experience with Warwick May ( Good luck! anon

We truly appreciated Kathryn Stein (510.593.7311) at Thornwall Properties in Berkeley. She worked with us through three unsuccessful offers,and our final successful purchase in the Berkeley Hills. She was knowledgeable about markets from El Cerrito to Montclair, constructive, rapidly responsive to changing situations, respected and known by sellers' agents, gave good advice when asked, was creative in structuring offers, and understood our particular interests. One other skill I haven't seen mentioned in other postings--she was calm and appropriately supportive through what is a complex and emotional process. Happy Homebuyer