Monday, September 17, 2012

12 Easy Steps for a Free Real Estate Appraisal

My dad just published his appraisal workbook – suitable as a supplement for any textbook – ‘12 Easy Steps For A Free Real Estate Appraisal’. Go to and search ‘real estate appraisal’. Then, to shorten the search, sort by price – low to high. Excellent classroom project and an easy guide for consumers as well!

What follows is a 12-step process that will help the homeowner / buyer, or the student of appraisal create a finished, professional looking appraisal report that is both FREE AND EASY.

When you are stating the factual information regarding the property, try to be as accurate and unbiased as possible. When making the valuation decisions recognize the importance of comparison to property that is truly similar to the subject property.

Please do not be concerned with the dollar values used in the examples. They are simply that, examples. For your subject property you may need to multiply by 5 or add a zero to the end of the number. This does not affect the process. Whether appraising subdivision homes, condominiums, or fabulous beachfront estates, the rules of appraisal remain the same.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Retractable Screen Door

Last weekend's project:  Install retractable screen doors for the french doors from the bedroom.  This took some modification of the threshold.  It turnout out well even though it took twice as long as expected... of course.

Today's walkability/walk-to-work experiment

San Carlos was recently ranked very high for a most walkable City {update edit:  actually, it was Redwood City and I finally found the reference link: }.  That was the final reason that convinced me to walk to work today.  When I ride my bike to work, the computer says it's 2.2 miles.  At about 3 to 4 miles per hour, I figured it would take me about 45 minutes.

Here's how the times broke down:  House to train station = 12 minutes, train station to 101 interchange = 9 minutes, across the interchange = 5 minutes, and interchange to office = 16 minutes.  Total time door-to-door = 42 minutes.  Not too bad considering by car it can take as much as 20 minutes if I have to sit through a couple traffic signal cycles on Holly and miss some of the other signals.  By bike it's about the same (20 minutes).  Both car and bike are easily longer heading home, whereas I imagine walking will be about the same 42 minutes.

Interestingly, I ended up being hotter and sweatier walking than I do biking.  Maybe because it's just more overall time with less wind cooling me off and more sun shining down.

Overall, I would say it was an easy walk without incident and little vehicular conflicts.  For a civil engineer, there's nothing better than being on the street to notice the infrastructure that needs improvement or could have been designed better.

I wish I could turn off the pedestrian walk phase when I get to the other corner.  I feel bad for the traffic on the cross street that will have to wait long after I've already cleared the street.  Sure, it's important to time the phase for elderly or disabled... but when I'm the only pedestrian that can clear the street in a quarter of the time, why not let me cancel it at the other end?

The improvements at the train station at Old County Road and East San Carlos Ave are going to be great.  During the public participation portion of our San Carlos East Side Connect project, a concept was developed to bulb-out the station area at the intersection... what a great decision!  This will be FAR more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Our East Side Connect project also includes improvements to East San Carlos Ave.  The changes at Bayport will be nice, but the improvements will mostly be noticed by bikes rather than peds.  Today's walk reinforced the inability to really do anything significant to the block between Bayport and Industrial.  It will take redevelopment of those parcels to make any significant improvement.  Also, I noticed between Old County and Bayport, there are some slabs of sidewalk that have heaved from adjacent trees - these should be ground down for ADA compliance.  This should be separate from the East Side Connect project, and would be nice to have done beforehand.

Approach slabs at interchange bridge structures allow differential settlement between the roadway and the bridge structure so vehicles don't have to drive over a big step in the roadway.  That's great, but there is definitely no approach slab for pedestrians.  There is a large step in the sidewalk on the Holly interchange.  A pedestrian approach slab would be good to incorporate into interchanges.

Only one crossing on the interchange was a bit sketchy for me.  The northbound loop onramp after the weaving section was challenging.  I think this was largely because of the lack of sight distance with the vertical curve.  I really couldn't tell which lane the approaching cars were in and if or where they were changing lanes.  I could have just waited until I didn't see any cars, but that would probably be a long wait and more than likely a car would stop in the street for me (which I think is dangerous and shouldn't happen).  The reconfigured interchange in the future, and Caltrans' policy of converting full cloverleafs to partial cloverleafs, will solve this issue.

On the Redwood Shores side of the interchange, as you cross the street, there is a sidewalk for about 200-feet... and then it ends. We shouldn't be teasing pedestrians with a sidewalk that ends mid-block.  If there at least had been a sign that directed me to cross the street, or notifying me that the sidewalk ended, I would have known to cross the street instead - and that would have been totally fine with me.  In retrospect, it would have been the better way to go anyway, I think.

Then, the only last bit of challenge was to try and avoid all the goose poop on the walkways leading up to my office.  Darn geese.

I look forward to my walk home at the end of the day.  It's energizing, peaceful, and is getting me into better walking shape for our upcoming European vacation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Geek Murder, dad's next novel

My dad just published his next novel, The Geek Murder.  I'm excited for him - two novels in a series now!
It's available on Amazon right now - download it to your Kindle, PC, iPad, etc... and there's a special introductory rate through Memorial Day 2012.

Dad's official Release:

I am pleased to announce the launching of the second book in the Alex
Wright Mystery Series, The Geek Murder, by William L. Mansfield. This
e-book is currently available through the Kindle Store at
and can be downloaded to any electronic delivery system.
As an introductory special this book will be offered at $0.99 through
Monday, May 28th. I hope you take advantage of this holiday sale and
enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hot Tub Repair

After having the hot tub shut down for the winter, we drained, cleaned, and re-filled it... only to find the pump not working.  It wasn't much of a surprise - the tub is probably 10 years old and never had the pump replaced. give it a year of inactivity and it was likely frozen or rusted all inside.  So, after knocking it with a hammer to try and get it started, turning the motor shaft with a wrench, lots of penetrating oil, and no sense of it moving... we emptied it once again (it takes more than a few hours to drain... and lots of water).

Old pump and open side (hey, this at least gave us the chance to explore what our hot tub looked like inside)

So, I found a great website with lots of information and the best list of specs to compare to the old pump.  Plus, they had some great prices... so good that I found an excuse to order a new cover for the hot tub.

Here is the new pump installed... doh! less than an inch too short.

After 3 visits to the local hot tub shop (who were very friendly, even though they likely marked-up the plumbing parts 10 times more than they should have... but hey, I was in a bind and Home Depot didn't carry these parts)... I got it all together... and no leaks!

Overall, I made it extra difficult on myself because I wanted to eliminate a slice valve that seemed to have leaked before and was patched poorly, I didn't measure the pipes (hence the multiple visits to the shop because of a stealth reducer), and I didn't wire it properly to begin with (causing me to be challenged re-wiring it after it was installed and the tub filled with water).  The improper wiring wasn't all my fault - there just wasn't enough information anywhere, so I had to guess (and you would think that the common wire would be connected to the terminal labeled "c"... but no, that one just doesn't get used).

Now that it's done, we're happy campers - taking advantage of it almost every night since it came back online.  I learned a lot more about the hot tub and was relieved to not find a (literal) rats nest inside.  Plus, I got to use just about every tool I own.  Working on the hot tub is a crazy mix of plumbing, electrical, and other oddities.  The tools which were most valuable were:  an inspection mirror, multi-tool saw thingy (great for cutting the pipe inside the tight quarters), the ipad (camera and internet), and a circuit tester.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Yesterday, on Jan. 19th, 2012, I passed the PMP exam.  Wow, that was a challenging test!  It was 4 hours and 200 questions, mostly based on the PMBOK.  When applying to sit for the exam, I thought it wouldn't be too bad.  After trying some sample exams, I didn't feel so confident anymore.  I was able to pull a lot from all my varied experience and feel fortunate that I had that background.  Without that background, I'm not sure how anyone passes that exam.

I would like to thank all those involved in giving me the opportunities for such varied past professional experiences:

- Rohit, for the summer job on the assembly line at Sony
- Kragen Autoparts, for the brief retail stint
- Jim, for the fabulous first real job out of school
- Toastmasters International and all my fellow toastmasters
- Carla, Tony, and Jan - for mentoring me in a highly projectized environment for the past 16 years
- Edmond, for a personalized online UC Berkeley Extension class