OAK NOTES from Grace Bishop
Jan 2020


The tech-savvy East Bay continues to foster and adopt new technologies and with the new year, it's time to get organized online. It's no surprise that protecting your personal information is getting harder and harder as hackers and thieves get even more deceptive with their ploys. Keep yourself safe by using a few of the tips below.

Discard Old Credit Cards
You probably know to cut your expired cards, but by doing this you've simply created a puzzle for trash bandits. If you want to ensure no one can steal your credit card information, consider throwing pieces in separate trash cans or use shredder that can cross-cut so that your cards are diced more finely.

Shred Paperwork
Crooks don't need a lot of information to steal your identity. Even credit and debit card receipts which contain vital information such as your name, signature, and the last few digits of your card number can be enough to wreak havoc. There are places in the East Bay to shred all of your personal records including ShredWorks in Oakland, Berkeley Shreds, and Shred Nations in El Cerrito. They can even wipe your hard drives. So the best rule of thumb is if it has any personal information, shred it. 

Lock Down your Credit Score
If criminals get ahold of enough personal information, they could open credit cards and loans under your name. The best way to protect you - and your credit score - is locking it down. Credit score agencies such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion allow you to protect your credit profile when it doesn’t need to be used. Then when you need to buy a car or open a credit card, you can unlock it for a set period of time.

Avoid Spam Calls
Spam calls may be annoying, but the goal of these scammers has turned into a heist. One of the most notorious ploys is the IRS scam. It's important to know that the IRS will never call and require you to pay or threaten to call the police. A new law will help protect you against robocalls, but for extra protection, consider using a call screening app like Truecaller, Hiya, Call Control and RoboKiller

Dynamic Credit Cards Use
To protect yourself against online credit card theft, Capital One has an intelligent assistant, Eno, that quickly generates a virtual card that's associated with only one website. Criminals will not be able to use that card on any other site. You: 1, Criminal: 0. If opening a credit line with Capital One isn't an option, simply make sure to not save cards to your online accounts.

Be Wary of Email
Note that some spammers can spoof their sending alias (ie. "From Facebook"), so start by checking the sender's email: if it looks abnormal with many numbers and characters and is followed by a free email service such as @gmail.com or @yahoo.com, chances are it isn't a legitimate email. Another tell-tale sign can be found in the body of the message. Phishing messages are usually urgent, they'll require personal information from you, and may be littered with grammar and spelling mistakes. If you see links from an unverified sender, don't click because links could contain viruses. General rule of thumb: if it looks fishy, it probably is. 

Protect your Passwords
Some people save their passwords in a personal notebook, sticky notes or a document on their computer, but none of these are well-protected. Consider using a password manager such as Apple's native password manager or an app like LastPass or 1Password, which store encrypted passwords on desktop and mobile.

Contact your Credit Card Companies
One of the most under-used practices is calling your credit card company and asking for security alerts. They can send security messages to your phone when your card is used and allow you to spot fraud as soon as it happens. 

If you want an extra layer of protection, look into an identity theft protection system such as LifeLock, which can help detect fraudulent credit activity and illegal use of personal information.

When in doubt, pick up the phone and call issuing institutions at their listed phone number, which can usually be found on their official website on the back of your credit card.

Be safe out there!




The 2019 East Bay real estate market was robust and active. Prices continued to grow as the median price reached an all-time high at $900,000, up 5% over the previous year. (However, some cities fell in value, like El Cerrito down 2.7%, and others grew significantly, like Kensington up 10%.) As prices continued to increase, fewer people listed their homes for sale, choosing to stay put and remodel rather than move. As a result, the number of sales continued to decline, down 3% versus 2018. And with fewer buyers being able to afford the high prices, there were fewer competitive offers than in previous years, which led sellers to list homes closer to asking (i.e. "transparent pricing"). As a result, properties still sold over asking at an average of 9.1%, but lower than the previous year (10.4%). Average days on market also increased slightly to 24 days.

The rate of appreciation is slowing in the East Bay, and we may face a further slowdown as a result of an election year, so 2020 prices may be close to 2019 levels. This means that we might be heading into a buyer's market - see more here. We will know more as the market heats up in April. However, each house and neighborhood is different. Let's chat to see what is right for your specific case.


The bureau of labor statistics reported that 145,000 jobs were created in the month of December. That figure was slightly lower than 158,000 which was anticipated by most analysts. Additionally, there were 14,000 downward revisions made to the previous two months. The unemployment rate stayed steady at 3.5% which kept markets stable after the reports were released. Mortgage rates are still trading at very low levels as market watchers keep an eye on tension in the Middle East and the overall health of the economy. 

It's still a great time to get refinanced or preapproved for a new purchase of real estate. To find out more or to have a free analysis of your loan, contact Faramarz Moeen-Ziai of Commerce Home Mortgage at fmz@commercemtg.com or 415.377.1147 

Commerce Home Mortgage



The East Bay is one of the most diverse areas with a multitude of culinary options which inspired Red Oak's 2020 desk calendar, East Bay FlavorsFeaturing some our favorite restaurants before the bridge, this photo is from Chez Panisse and is one of 13 dishes photographed by the very talented Stacy Ventura. Call or email for your complimentary copy!


Want more tips, tricks and other real estate information? Check out the Red Oak Realty blog.


King Yen Restaurant is a Mandarin, Szechuan and Hunan-style Chinese eatery that has been part of the Elmwood neighborhood for 40 years.

Offering fresh ingredients and perfect portions for sharing, popular items include the crispy, pan-fried pot stickers and the San Shan soup with its velvety, delicious broth featuring a seafood-vegetable blend. Is your mouth watering yet? Entree options offer plenty of traditional favorites and a large selection of vegetarian choices. Favorite main dishes include the Mongolian beef and prawns with honey glazed walnuts. All of the dishes are tasty and could easily feed two people given the generous portion size. 

The restaurant has high ceilings and plenty of seating, which makes this a perfect place for a date night, large groups or simply a drink and meal at their full bar.

King Yen is located at 2995 College Avenue, Berkeley. To place a reservation for 6 or more or take-out, call 510.845.1286. Open Monday through Friday 11:30 am - 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm - 9:30 pm. Open Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 am - 9:30 pm.

Grace Bishop
Realtor | #01245471