How to Keep a Cellar From Turning Into A Basement

by Donald A. Schallock – Architect

Cellar or basement- what’s the difference?  If you have a residence and are thinking about adding or improving ‘below ground’ space, the distinctions are significant.  Local planning departments are beginning to apply floor area restrictions to subsurface additions that significantly impact the overall appearance of the house.  This is particularly true in downtown and adjacent urban areas where real estate is most expensive and lot size is limited.  As more of the cellar space walls become visible above ground level, the house will look more massive.  It becomes more visually intrusive to the street scape and to the neighbors.

Los Gatos planning code permits subsurface construction without regard to floor area limits if the ceiling height projects no more thean 4 feet above the surrounding ground level.  This is termed a “cellar”.  If the construction results in a ceiling height more than 4 feet above the ground, it is termed a “basement”.  In that case, the new or remodeled area is counted and subtracted from the total square footage allowed for the property.

Imagine a 5,000 square foot lot with an allowable floor area ration of 40% – or 2,000 square feet.  If there is an existing 1,800 sf house, only 200 sf remain for an addition..  This situation would definitely require taking advantage of the cellar technical requirements to add anything larger than 200 sf.

Many technical issue remain for any comfortable space to be  built below ground level, but meeting this particular code restriction is a good place to start.

Donald Schallock is one of Los Gatos’s leading architects.  He can be reached by email at don@donschallock.com or at (408) 395-2720.  Also do check out his website at www. donschallockarchitect.com for additional informations and ideas.

Coming up in the next few weeks is an article on  foreclosures and short sales  “Are Foreclosures and Short Sales Really a “Good” Deal?  Before jumping into the foreclosure and short sale pot, you need to read this article.

Property I Need Now! Please Help Me

Well I have a problem that other agents only dream about.  Lots of qualified buyers looking for property, both residential and commercial.  Why is that a problem you may ask.  Well my clients are picky (as well a they should be) about what they are looking for. My clients are extremely qualified to buy immediately, most with all cash offers.  They know what they want and will in let you know quickly, with no games being played.

To better serve my clients, I must go outside the MLS and into the community out there of people wanting to sell their property quickly and with minimum hassle and fuss.  Sellers who do not want to have busloads of unqualified buyers trampling through their property every day or having to run home all the time to clean up your house before a agent with a buyer shows up (or not show up), are  what I am looking for.

If you have a piece of property that fits one of my current property needs, please contact me ASAP.  If your not sure your property fits my requirements just call or email me with your property description and I will get back to you quickly.  My property needs change constantly so don’t assume your property doesn’t fit.

To view my current “property needs list” click on the following link:   Property Want List”

Coming up in the next few weeks I will have a special  guest blogger. He is one on the top local architects in Los Gatos.    His article will be a  must read for anyone looking at putting in a cellar or basement in your house.  To be notified of any new blogs, please click the “Subscribe” button to the right of this column and then scroll down and on the right side of the page to where it allows you to subscribe.

Neighborhood Being Hit by Petty Thieves

Well Dorothy,  this ain’t Kansas.  As some of my fellow Monte Serenoeans know, we are having a slight hiccup here in our fair town.   It seems we are being hit by a series of petty crimes.  Maybe I shouldn’t call it petty, especially if the crime has happened to you.

For people not familiar with our town, we are probably one of the best crime free cities anywhere.  So that when any crime happens it truly sticks out like a sour thumb. The crimes seem mainly to be break-ins with the typical scenario being that the victim and his family are out of town for a few days.  The thieves  seem to do the same thing each time, cut the phone lines (i.e. alarm system) and jack up the garage door or enter through pet doors.

I think that we as a group need to be more vigilant to what is happening in our neighborhood.  We all need to communicate with our fellow neighbors and the police each time you go out of town, letting them know to keep an eye on your place.

Also, if something seems strange to you, i.e. car driving slowly around our streets, stranger walking up to different homes and looking around, lights on or doors open on homes that are supposed to be vacant, or what ever, spend a few minutes, jot down license plates, take photos (with you phone if available), and call the police.

By doing these simple things, we can get this great town of our back to normal.  Please feel to add comments to this blog with your thoughts or ideas.  Share this blog with everyone you know.  Feel free to email me with any other ideas for blogs that you may have.


Great Opportunity for First Time Home Buyers Has Been Extended!!!!!!


As part of its plan to stimulate the U.S. housing market and address the economic challenges facing our nation, Congress has passed new legislation that:

  • Extends the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit of up to $8,000 to first-time home buyers until April 30, 2010.
  • Expands the credit to grant up to $6,500 credit to current home owners purchasing a new or existing home between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010.

Here is more information about how the Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit can help prospective home buyers become part of the American dream. If you have specific questions or need additional information, please contact a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040.

Who Qualifies for the Extended Credit?

  • First-time home buyers who purchase homes between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010.
  • Current home owners purchasing a home between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010, who have used the home being sold or vacated as a principal residence for five consecutive years within the last eight.

To qualify as a “first-time home buyer” the purchaser or his/her spouse may not have owned a residence during the three years prior to the purchase.

Which Properties Are Eligible?

The Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit may be applied to primary residences, including: single-family homes, condos, townhomes, and co-ops.

How Much Is Available?

The maximum allowable credit for first-time home buyers is $8,000.

The maximum allowable credit for current homeowners is $6,500.

How is a Buyer’s Credit Amount Determined?

Each home buyer’s tax credit is determined by two additional factors:

  1. The price of the home.
  2. The buyer’s income.

Price

Under the Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit, credit may only be awarded on homes purchased for $800,000 or less.

Buyer Income

Under the Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit, which is effective on November 7, 2009,  single buyers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000—may receive the maximum tax credit.

These income limits have changed from the 2009 First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit limits. If you or your client purchased a home between January 1, 2009 and November 6, 2009, please see 2009 First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit.

If the Buyer(s)’ Income Exceeds These Limits, Can He/She Still Get a Credit?

Yes, some buyers may still be eligible for the credit.

The credit decreases for buyers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000 for single buyers and between $225,000 and $245,000 for home buyers filing jointly. The amount of the tax credit decreases as his/her income approaches the maximum limit. Home buyers earning more than the maximum qualifying income—over $145,000 for singles and over $245,000 for couples are not eligible for the credit.

Can a Buyer Still Qualify If He/She Closes After April 30, 2010?

Under the Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit, as long as a written binding contract to purchase is in effect on April 30, 2010, the purchaser will have until July 1, 2010 to close.

Will the Tax Credit Need to Be Repaid?

No. The buyer does not need to repay the tax credit, if he/she occupies the home for three years or more. However, if the property is sold during this three-year period, the full amount credit will be recouped on the sale.


Hello world!

You know the old saying, today is the first day of your life.   Well, in a sense this is my first day, first day writing a blog.  I want to apologize in advance for any grammatical or spelling errors.  I am writing this blog at 11:52 pm and haven’t had any coffee since this morning.

Your probably asking yourself, why is this crazy Realtor writing at this late of night.  Hmm, maybe because I am slightly crazy  (just kidding).  No, its more because like most people I sometimes do my better work at night.  No distractions from kindly friends, cellphones playing rap music  or s someone trying to sell me a “How to get rich in real estate without leaving your bed” seminar.

But seriously, I just wanted to drop a few lines to introduce my self, let people who don’t already know me get an insight on who I am and what I can bring to the community that I live, work and play in.

I have been living in the Great State of California for almost all my life.  I truly believe that California is a great state.Even with all its faults, I feel there is no better place to live then here.  Not only am I privileged to live in this great state, but am blessed to live one of the most ideal parts of this Great State, the San Francisco Bay Area.

I live in the southern part of the Bay Area and have done so for over 30 years.  My household consist of my beautiful gal Mary and our two “kids,” Maura and Guinness.  Actually I should tell you my kids have four legs, that is four legs each. They are the two cutest Cavalier King Charles Spaniels you will ever meet (what can I tell you, I am slightly biased about that).

Oh my, I just realized it’s getting real late and I have a early meeting tomorrow morning.  So what I am going to do is end this first blog with a “to be continued” as the last line.  But do come back for part two.

PS:  Have a Happy and safe New Year.