Monthly Archives: February 2013

Looking at the Bottom of the Barrel

barrelWhat was that tag line  we used to see on posters promoting Rasta bands at the Catalyst way back when?   All Killer – No Filler?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could channel a little more of that sentiment (and mojo) into the real estate inventory these days.  Seems like no matter how many times a day you and I and I go onto the MLS to check for new listings or download search engine e mails…nothing much new “of value” comes on. Just the same old same old.

Tired inventory.  Picked-over inventory.  Stale-inventory.  A warmed-over re-hash of all the stuff that didn’t sell last year.  Including a strange menagerie of distress properties.  Dubious short sales you can never be sure of and a smattering of REOs the banks are slowly pinching out of their systems…starting with the worst first.

The sum total?  An uninspiring catalogue of places.  Most of which aren’t qualified enough to move anyone anywhere.  As in: Move buyers in. And move sellers out.

(Quick disclaimer:  Individual Sellers, don’t get bent out of shape here. I’m talking about everyone else’s listing except yours.)

I guess we could say it’s All Filler…Very Little Killer in real estate land right now.  Not many killer views, killer yards, killer locations.   Or to lower our expectations just a little more… not many plain old, modest, middle of the road killer houses packaged up in nice presentations at reasonable price points. Specially right there in the sweet spot zone between $600k and $800k.  I don’t know about you…but it’s killin’ me.

Most Agents understand.  They’ve got clients calling too. Buyers ready to buy.  Or who think they are.  Buyers becoming increasingly frustrated with a market that doesn’t seem to offer anything up that fits their needs or price range.  And by extension, Buyers frustrated with their own Agents, who become more suspect each week when they fail to turn over enough rocks or the “right” rocks to uncover that special hidden gem waiting out there. Somewhere.

The same Buyers who don’t understand why it is so hard to buy in a Perfect Buyers Market now that it has rounded past the bottom and started morphing into a Sellers Market – at least for the few decent listings that are making their way into the market in the “zone”.

Yep – it isn’t a Perfect Buyers Market.  But it still could be a good one.  There are certainly incredible interest rates.  And prices are certainly still way down from the peak (remember – the Median Price almost hit $800k for a brief moment in time back in the boom days).  Those are two of the defining characteristics of a Buyers Market.

What’s missing?   Great places that people actually want to buy.  I think some people call it supply.  Or maybe “effective” supply would be a better term.

I keep having the same deja-vu  experience.  Clients who’ve been looking forever, pouring over the on-line pictures of homes for sale, who keep calling and asking to see places they forgot they already saw a year ago.  Houses that didn’t work then and aren’t going to work after another 365 days on market and a minimal price reduction.   I call this  “Deja Viewing”. Stare at the MLS long enough and homes start repeating themselves over and over.

So when’s this slow tortuous drip of new properties coming on going to end?  When do the floodgates open? I feel like a kid staring at the classroom clock.  Waiting for recess from a hard lesson. The minute hand isn’t moving. The fabric of time is frozen.

Groundhog Day already came and went this month. Another shadow appeared.  Another six weeks of winter.  Was it the shadow of a huge shadow inventory that we’ll see someday relatively soon?  Or was it the shadowy logic of would-be sellers planning to hold back putting their places on the market, for as long as they can?

Either way, looks like the winter of our buyers’ discontent (vis-à-vis the market’s lack of content)  might run through part of the spring.  Hopefully not the summer and fall.  And hopefully the shadow will be banished for good by next February.  We  can’t keep kicking the groundhog down the road forever.


Hearing the Inner Ca-Ching

CaCHING21There I was at a listing appointment this week.   The owner of a beautiful ocean-view property was doing his due diligence. Interviewing three prospective Agents – like conventional wisdom says a smart Seller should.

At one point, this likeable, highly-educated, sophisticated home-owner, fixed his gaze intently and said with utmost sincerity: “I’m  looking for an aggressive Agent to get the job done.  Someone who will target the right markets. Places where the money and the buyers are  – starting with Silicon Valley.”

Ok. No problem. Makes perfect sense.  I’m with ya’.

But suddenly out of the blue he took a left turn and started pitching curve balls in my direction.  Holding up a glossy local real estate magazine he continued on with his defacto job description:  “ You know, I want someone who’ll run these big color ads. Someone who’s going to put my place in the Wall Street Journal. Get a special mailing list of big time corporate CEOs. Send them all postcards. Run displays in the San Jose Business Journal to connect with all those up and coming tech millionaires.

A crash of cognitive dissonance washed over me.  Punctuated by ringing in my ears – the sound of inner “ca-ching-ing” as all those imaginary dollar signs rolled along with my eyes back into my head.

I recognized the place. Been there. Done that. Many times.  One of those lonely marketing cul-de-sacs where listings go to die.  Despite everyone’s best wishes, best efforts and best intentions.

Once again I was reminded that there are still an amazing number of Sellers who don’t quite seem to get it yet.  They are unclear on the concept. Running on autopilot with notions that were old even in the old days.  Having trouble reformatting their brains. Possibly doomed to spend the rest of their upcoming days on market as analogue people lost in a digital world.

Perhaps it would help to list a few of the common disconnects between reality and realty that are floating around out there:

– Homebuyers from Silicon Valley aren’t driving over to the car wash in Santa Cruz to pick up a glossy magazines so they can search for available real estate.  They simply log on. Why would any serious buyer window shop randomly – when they can see the entire inventory in a couple of keystrokes?

Most Sellers in Santa Cruz moving to other parts of the Country are doing the very same thing their own potential Buyers are doing – looking on-line. Why would it be different for their Buyers than it is for them?

Advertising isn’t going to convince someone to buy something if they aren’t already moving in the direction of buying something.   Buying is a long process. Property ads don’t create buyers.

The chances that someone reading a four line classified in the Wall Street Journal is going to drop his coffee cup, get on the next plane and plop his money down are none and slimmer than none.  Who reads the WSJ classifieds anyway?

Someone who isn’t already familiar with Santa Cruz isn’t going to be moving/buying here anytime soon.  Near-future buyers are people who already are attracted to our area and have it on the same radar as their homing instincts.

Corporate execs aren’t checking their daily junk mail on the latest and greatest random real estate opportunities. Snail mail or  email. You know how you ignore all the superfluous crap you receive?  Why would they be any different?

And those social media millionaires?  Check our their Facebook pages. Not a lot of them are reading the Business Journal.

The majority of advertising dollars that agents and brokerages spend – are designed to sell the sellers on an Agents’ sell. Not to sell Buyers on what they are selling. We run those expensive ads mostly so more of you will list with us.  Been there. Still doin’ that.

Oops.  Now that I’ve blown my own cover, perhaps next week we can focus on how today’s real estate marketing really does work and which specific things Sellers should be insisting their Agents spend money on.


Channel Surfing Santa Cruz 

ChannelingSurfThose of us who do a little channel surfing on occasion when we’re not out on the Bay surfing the real thing will remember last year’s Apple TV commercial that got a lot of air time on the tube.  The one featuring a young couple somewhere in snowbound New England, asking their all-knowing Delphic I Phone Oracle: “What’s the best way to Santa Cruz, California?”

They certainly weren’t echoing the refrain of any old Burt Bacharach songs…like…”Do you know the way to San Jose?”  Nope.  The happy couple was humming a very different tune as they embarked on a cross country odyssey, finally reaching the promised land of the left coast – you know – Santa Cruz.  Is there a left-er coast anywhere else?

Bottom Line? Santa Cruz is now a big league destination.  Our little corner of the global village officially registers on the world’s radar.  I Phones. I Pads.  Macs.  Even – PCs – which seem so unPC these days in a Santa Cruz-y/App-y kinda way.

Yep.  We are wired into the planet’s brain.  Plenty of neural pathways heading in our direction via all those internet homing devices.

Just as an aside –  Don’t worry about all the Keep Santa Cruz Weird lifestyles in Surf City.  People move here precisely because they want both a latitude adjustment and an attitude adjustment.   That’s the whole idea – they aren’t in Kansas anymore when they come here.  This is the home of the Mystery Spot. It’s supposed to be weird.

Or….as we Realtors like to say when we get the opportunity for a perfect seque – Life’s a Beach and then You Buy.   It’s easy…all you gotta do is phone home.

So if the world is calling our name – how are we answering?  My contention: Sellers need to expand their world-view about marketing if they want to increase the way the  world views their home.

Think of it this way:  When your property hits the MLS, your street address automatically becomes a Web Address. Your home – a Home Page. Within seconds it is streaming to the four corners of the globe. Wall Street Journal? DuPont Registry? MSNBC?  Click your heels. Your home page already resides here, there and everywhere.

There are 250 million internet users in the US.  Two billion on the planet. 95% of all Buyers utilize the web as their primary tool to view homes.  The internet drives thousands of Buyers and Agents past your place daily.  It is the market.  Search engines run 24/7/365.  Forget: “Where is my property being advertised?”  Rather:  “What do people see when they take that first virtual drive-by?”

If the Medium is truly the Message in the age of the digital download…it begs the question:  What kind of Message is your Message sending to that huge home audience out there?

The distinctive homes and remarkable settings for sale in and around the Monterey Bay deserve distinctive home pages and remarkable web sites that successfully capture and promote exactly what it is that’s so unique about them.  And about here.

Homes staged with beautiful contents should have home-sites staged with meaningful content of their own. Mindfully crafted images, words and descriptions that capture their essence and communicate their true character. Why do so many websites promoting special homes look and feel so one dimensional and uninspired?

Visual Tour. Tour Factory.  Obeo.  Take a few pictures. Slap them into the tour widget. Cue the canned music.  Whether it’s the $29.95,  $49.95 or $99.95 tour – might as well be the ten cent tour in terms of the amount of custom time, effort, marketing skill and money some Agents invest into the online presence of those expensive custom homes they represent.

If you want the ultimate destination for buyers to be your home, your Agent can’t just show up anymore and upload your listing off the assembly line.  Time to list local. Think global. But insist the design be compelling and personal before the world logs on.

Call me – I’m happy to show you exactly what I mean. Or go to