Monthly Archives: December 2011

Through The Glass Darkly: Real Estate for 2012

What’s ahead for real estate in 2012? Tough question. Gazing into the old crystal ball feels more like the looking through glass shards darkly these days.

But here goes… I picked up one of those old cans we’ve been kicking down the road and converted it into a homemade collide-a-scope. I’ve got it pointed forward towards the light and here’s what my own colorful, mosaic view of the future looks like:

– More big banks will convert their shadow inventories of foreclosed homes into long term rental properties offering attractive new incentives to subprime renters – like low 3 month teaser rate rents and negatively amortizing rent-to-own programs.

– Disenchanted Agents will join the Occupy movement. Calling themselves Doc-cupy Real Estate they’ll begin camping out at Bank of America branches until underwriters agree to approve loans and generate loan documents for well-qualified borrowers already in their queue.

– As more Americans adjust to simpler lifestyles in the wake of economic recession a dramatic increase in the number of Near Life Experiences will be reported.

– More Sellers will purchase Do-It-Yourself Home Cryogenics Kits – vowing to dig in even deeper for the long haul waiting for prices to return to 2005 levels.

– Sweeping new legislation designed to protect future homeowners will require builders to install Air Bags in all new homes.

– In a desperate move to counteract tanking sales, a local Real Estate Brokerage will substitute Nitrous Oxide for Helium in all Open House Balloons.

– Realtors will expand efforts to lure Gen X home buyers with cutting edge branding techniques like company tattoos and personal marketing piercings.

– A large pharmaceutical firm will begin clinical trials of a mourning after pill designed to relieve symptoms of Buyers Remorse.

– When Baby Boomers universally declare that old age doesn’t start until 75, defiant members of the Boomerang Generation will immediately proclaim that adulthood does not begin until the age of 35.

– Agents holding Open Houses will begin handing out insulated booties to encourage more buyers with cold feet.

– The Letterman Show will feature an ongoing series of bits called Stupid Lender Tricks.

– A new pest control franchise called The Termite Whisperer will promise to rid houses of termites without the use of toxic chemicals – by convincing them to leave voluntarily and move on to neighboring houses.

– When neuro-scientists discover that consumer brains respond most directly to smells rather than sights and sounds, Aromatherapists will be in great demand as Home Stagers. Sell the Smell will become a common catchphrase..

– More frustrated home buyers will turn to online Virtual Dream Homes in the coming year, where their Avatars can easily move into custom comfort. California will also begin exploring a Virtual Property Tax.

– In a massive effort to transform societal stigmas about the homeless, self-styled Homeless Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen will invite tens of thousands of homeless families to hotel-hop and couch-surf with him at 5 Star Resorts.

– EXTREME MORTGAGE: HOME EDITION will make its debut on Realty TV this year. First time buyers will compete for loan approval while a panel of celebrity underwriters comes up with a new set of performance anxieties each week.

– Remote Viewing will be just one of the innovative new forms of Psychic Marketing that begins to replace old fashioned, web-based, virtual tours in the coming year.

– A prestigious group of spin-doctors will accuse the National Association of Realtors of implanting false market memories in the minds of vulnerable and unsuspecting members.

– The Conversation Pit will make a comeback in American homes. More and more of them will be located in lead-lined safe rooms, where no electromagnetic television or cell phone frequencies can penetrate.

– Al Gore will once again rise to national prominence with a new film exploring global financial weirding and the meltdown of the international monetary system – called An Incoherent Truth.


X Mas for Realtors

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of anything stirring in the House (or the Senate for that matter). Everyone’s gone Home for the Holidays and it looks like Real Estate is going to have to forego any of the “big” presents it asked for this year.

No big jump in jobs. No big sigh of relief loosening up tight credit. No big reduction in the shadow inventory hanging out on the horizon. No big sea change in consumer confidence headed our way. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year near the end of 2012 when those Mayan Promotional Calendars we sent out tick closer towards ground zero.
But there are only a few shopping hours left and we’ve got to get Realtors something or we’re going to get stuck putting euros in everyone’s stocking. Since this is Real Estate of Mind and it’s always the thought that counts…I’ve come up with a list of last minute gift ideas for Realtors that you can at least think about buying your favorite Real Estate Agent.

The Ultimate REALTOR Fanny Pack: Everyone in Real Estate can use a little help covering their behinds these days. This beautifully crafted leather fanny pack is crammed full of the latest/greatest ass-saving devices – plug-in carbon monoxide detectors, water-heater strapping kit, smoke alarm batteries , low flow shower heads, fireplace damper clamps and more….

UnVanity License Plate Frames: For cutting edge Agents in sync with the new normal . Those who know that too much success is not a good thing. Four Models to choose from that fit all late model BMW’s and Lexus’ ….. “My Other Car Isn’t Leased”, “ I’m Short Sale-ing this Car”, “ The Bank Owns This Car – Just like Your House” and “Used to be in the top 1% now just a Real Estate 99%er.”

Wallmart Brand Pepper Spray Dispensers: For use in those difficult multiple offer situations when clients want to dissuade the competition and move to the head of the line.

Mock Realtor Sock Puppets: Perfect educational tool for hard to convince clients. Works equally well on Sellers determined to chase the market down and Buyers who can’t pull the trigger. With these on hand, Agents can be brutally honest and say all those things they couldn’t say before.

Realtor Door Mats: Promotional door mats handcrafted in Agent’s own image. They can personally greet every prospective buyer of every listing right at the front door. Boosts their ego by letting people walk all over them literally rather than figuratively.

Orange Oil Massage Products: Perfect for on the spot termite control , bed bug infestations, or persistent client cooties.

Road to Nowhere Bumper Stickers: Do you Know Where Your ARM is? Flip Real Estate – One Finger at a Time! Mortgage …Why do you think they call it Death Tax? I’m Addressed for Distress are You?

Real Estate I PHONE APPS: Random Number Generator App – ideal for choosing a list price. Vanilla Extract App – generates that warm and cozy open house smell. Marble App – put that phone on the floor and see if it is level. Slumlord Map App: Instantly pull up every student rental in a 3 block radius.

Market Periscopes: Easy assembly. Perfect re-gift for Underwater Homeowners who want to keep an eye on prices and know when they can come up for air.

Niche Gifts for Clients: Seed and Stem Packs – a sensitive way for Agents to tell down and out clients they care. Forget-You-Nots – flower seeds to send out after that next escrow from hell. Recession Recipe Cards – delicious menu tips using spilt milk, sour dough, entrees stewed in juice and guaranteed to stick in most craws. Pot Pourri: A delightful blend of medical marijuana selections designed to light up homes even on the most dark and depressing days.


Home Inspection Coming…Duck and Cover!

Another Home Inspection this week. Another reminder just how risky daily life is. Will most of us even survive the night under the false-security and un-protective custody of our not-so-safe-houses?

Homes used to be a places of refuge. Bastions of comfort. Sanctuaries from all those bad things – out there.
They used to say that most accidents occurred within five miles of home. But after reading this 60 page tome of a Home Inspection my listing client paid $750 for, I’m not so sure.

Now that I’m more aware of all the insidious dangers lurking in every room, closet and corner of the one place that’s supposed to nurture us the most, I don’t see how anyone makes it out the front door in one piece – let alone down the driveway.

Nothing like a Home Inspection Report to make you feel incredibly paranoid and insecure. Nothing like a Home Inspection to make a million dollar place feel like a loathsome den of inadequacy.

I call it the 60 Minutes Syndrome. Goes something like this. Morley Safer (fictitious name?) does a riveting expose on the dangers of automatic garage doors – evil snares for unsuspecting children and small pets – waiting to pin them helplessly underneath.

By the following week consumer protection advocates are up in arms calling for new codes and retroactive auto-reverse safety mechanisms.

On the front line of the Center for Dis-Ease Patrol are the Code Talkers. The Home Inspectors that cite chapter and verse of all the new codes to live by. They understand after a lawsuit or two that if they don’t warn everyone about every possible thing that could potentially harm everyone, their own asses are in grave danger. CYA rules. Absolute CYA rules absolutely.

And so we are moving into strange territory –Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is slowly morphing into Caveat Venditor – which means Seller Beware of all those things that will scare you about your own home and scare the heck out of potential home buyers too.

Home Sweet Home. How can it kill, maim or injure thee? Let me count the ways… Here are just a few of the things you never knew you had to worry about…until now.

Does your oven have an anti-tip device? Ever see an oven fall over on someone? Not pretty.

That naked light bulb in your closet? Stack those sweaters high enough and there’s a fire waiting to happen.

That dryer vent? Filling up with combustible layers of lint even as we speak.

How many dyslexic plumbers have installed hot and cold water lines backwards?

Is every stairway a potential stairway to heaven? Risers too high? Too wide? Treds uneven? Handrails too hard to grip?

And God Forbid. Deck rails more than 4 inches apart? Wide enough for small heads to get stuck? My own baby crib had bars wider than that. You are all witness to the end result.

Those sharp screws that secure the electric panel? What if the tip of one of those screws pierces a wire coming in?

GFCI’s? Carbon Monoxide Detectors? Smoke Alarms? Pool Alarms? A ban on all extension cords? Installing tempered glass? Clamps to hold open the damper on your gas fireplace?

When I was growing up we had the good old overriding fear of the atomic bomb. As long as we listened to Bert the Turtle – ducked, covered and didn’t stare directly into the blast, we were ok.

Everything else was gravy. Well, except for remembering not to run with sharp pencils in hand or put those plastic dry cleaning bags over our heads. Life was a gift with all it’s imperfections. But that was a different day and age.

Long before fear came home to roost.


Time To Spring Backward

Let’s recap…Last week I put my counter-intuitive,counter-cyclical,counter-cultural-contrarian advice out there in no uncertain terms.

If you really want to sell your house…quit stalling. List it today. Get it on the market. In the middle of December. Right in the heart of holiday flux-time. Forget about next spring. Or next summer. Don’t waste any more precious time or shrinking equity.

Since I didn’t see a lot of bright and shiny new listings coming on this week, your overwhelming response was decidedly underwhelming. Looks like we’re going to surrender to the holidays once again. Succumb to the status quo. Choose the myth of realty over the reality of it.

Tell people to get their houses on the market these days and all you get back is a cacophony of collective excuses echoing:
No one buys this time of year. The weather is bad. My house looks better in the spring with flowers blooming. The market will be better then. Everyone moves during the summer to get settled before the new school year. There will be a lot more buyers then.

Did I miss anything? Any other old chestnuts about why this is such a terrible time to list a house? Funny. Over the last four years virtually every single thing we thought we knew about real estate has been turned upside down.
And yet, we still cling to old notions about how it works. Perhaps to give ourselves some illusion of comfort? Permission to kick the can a little further down the road? Hang onto the belief that there’s still a traditional world waiting for us somewhere around the bend?

Here’s the irony Sellers: There are ton of buyers out there. What’s holding them back? The lack of decent homes to choose from. They are tired of bank-owned bomb-shelters. They are wary of interminable short sales that remind them life is too short to wait for idiot lienholders to respond.

They are ready to plunk their money down on real homes offered by real sellers. There are plenty of recent multiple offers to prove it.

You can wait until spring when the flowers bloom but while you are waiting, the market will still be going down in value. Whatever you hope to gain will be eroded by the time you get there. The grass will be greener but your net proceeds won’t be.

And it’s true that a higher number of homes sell in the summer than in the winter. But it is also true that lots more homes don’t sell in the summer than in the winter. In other words, a higher percentage of homes available in the supposedly slow months between November and February actually do sell, than in the “good” months between May and August. Would you rather be selling, when there are fewer competing properties or when there are a whole lot more homes for buyers to choose from?

Perhaps in the 50’s there actually were more Ward and June Cleavers buying new houses in the summer so Wally and the Beav could settle in before school started. But these days nuclear families are a minority demographic in the Bay Area. The bulk of those brand new beautiful schools and family neighborhoods are quite a distance due east of here. And overall, California ranks close to last in terms of public schools. The school syndrome is simply not a huge market motivator. There is no there, here.

So each year around this same time…we tell ourselves that Christmas for real estate is really going to arrive in April. We did it last year and the year before and the year before that. And we are still waiting for it like April Fools. This year, make your Christmas list early.



Before you start…look at the small type on top of this tiny font. Says right there. Advertorial. As in AD-vertorial – that funny (not necessarily funny ha-ha) two-headed beast that’s somehow supposed to combine ADvertising with EDitorializing.

Are AD and ED compatible? Or more like Dual Agency where the same Agent/Broker supposedly represents a buyer and seller fairly and completely impartially? A Solomon-like task. Not for the faint of heart. And not to be repeated too many times – unless one is fond of lawsuits.

Does Advertorial mirror the essential contradiction of real estate? Many of us perceiving this as a service profession – helping people through life transitions – but knowng we don’t get paid unless something sells.

Bottom line? Shouldn’t I be trying harder to sell you something? Ply you with my wares? Get into your head with a brand of hype-gnosis that glorifies me above and beyond all others who must be infinitely less capable of satisfying needs you may not even be aware you have – based on the fact that I’m paying for this space?

Real Estate of Mind. A handful of column inches. A brain map of my design. As all us unruly kids know, inside my head at least, no one is the boss of me. So I don’t have to sell myself if I don’t want to.
Today’s message? Listen with open minds.

If you truly want to sell…. list your property now. Get it on the market. You don’t have to list it with me. Just don’t wait – list it with someone.

Now let’s review all the objections that come rushing back in whenever someone like me tries to push the envelope of ambivalent Sellers:
a) No one buys properties this time of year.
b) My home looks better in the spring… flowers are blooming.
c) There are more buyers in the spring. People move in the summer before the new school year.
d) I’ll get more money when the market is better – next spring.
e) I have holiday plans, dinners to prepare and presents to purchase.

And….what do I say to all of the above? Excuses. Proof positive that the mind is capable of rationalizing everything. Devise clever stories that help people avoid what they have to do at some point in time. Today. Tomorrow. Next spring.

Most Agents have heard the same objections since time immemorial. And most just accept the status quo without questioning it. Even in this brave new world of real estate – where “normal” no longer applies. We sink into the holiday haze. A tryptophan high dulls our senses and fosters an altered real estate of awareness.

I was shaken out of my 4th quarter stupor recently – by a couple of events – reminding me, why prevailing wisdom doesn’t necessarily apply anymore – if it ever did.

I’ve done two different Sentinel Featured Home/Open House Ads (look to the right of this one) – accompanying two different open houses in the last month. You know – November – when no one is looking or buying.

One open house in Corralitos had 150 people through. The other featured open in Bonny Doon had 50 people show. That’s Corralitos and Bonny Doon! That’s a ton of people. Now, I’m not going to say that there weren’t a few lookey-loos or home gossip-hobbyists in the bunch… but the end result? Multiple offers on both properties. All cash. No investors. No bottom feeders. Just regular people. Looking for nice homes. Whaaaaattttt? Flies in the face of reason. November? In a buyers market? How’s that possible?

Next week – I’ll explain why it’s not only possible but actually more probable.