Seattle buyer featured on HGTV’s House Hunters tonight at 11pm

An episode of HGTV’s “House Hunters” featuring Seattle resident Valerie Sloane and her friend Mary Jo Reynolds will air Monday, November 7th at 11pm, and again later at 2am.

I played the real estate broker. It was a stretch, but I made it work.

You’ve probably seen House Hunters before where the premise of the show is a buyer decides to make a home purchase and then the agent “presents” 3 homes to choose from. By the end of the 30 minute show, the buyer decides which home to buy.

Valerie was renting a house in West Seattle and realized she wanted to move closer to the city and she was ready to be a homeowner. I showed her homes in the Central District, Seward Park, Mt. Baker, Madrona and Capitol Hill.

The HGTV producers try to create some drama about what the buyer will decide and even show the buyer and her friend making the big decision. However, it’s all faux, as the buyer has already bought and closed on the house by that time! That’s why some of the shows look like the buyers and the agent are acting. Because they ARE!

In real life, I took Val to look at dozens of homes, she bought one and then they went back and “re-enacted” the home search for the film crew.

Then, after Valerie moved in to the new home and fixed it up, the film crew came back and filmed an “after” segment to show how cute her new home is.

The buyer, Valerie Sloane, is a private tutor, but the family she works for did not want their children on the show, so my son Sam David, a student at St. Joseph’s School in Seattle, was the stand-in stunt double.

Don’t have cable? You can watch the House Hunters episode from the comfort of your computer screen HERE.

New “Scouting Report” from Redfin

Earlier this week, Redfin announced a new feature on their website, the Scouting Report, where one can look up any agent by name, including Redfin agents, partner agents, and agents who are not associated with Redfin, and see their home sales and listings back to 2008.

Though this sounds like a good thing, Redfin routinely manipulates these figures for their own benefit and I’m guessing will continue to do so. If they did not believe that the Scouting Report will help them in their goal of market dominance, this feature would not be rolled out.

One will often see their agent stats touted on their websites and sent out in press releases “Seven Redfin Agents in the Top Ten in King County” or “Five Redfin Agents Rank in the Top 10 Boston Area Buyers Agents”, and this looks impressive.

The statistics are presented as accomplishments of individual agents, and if that were true, would indeed be notable. But is it accurate?

From their website and articles published online, we are informed that the company uses “field agents” to show homes. The Redfin agents who negotiate the deals do not ever visit the home they have sold. Is this good representation? Yet, these transactions are counted as sales for that agent.

Redfin agents who write up the deals have field agents to show the homes and transaction coordinators to track the sale, and other employees to arrange the inspections and reinspections, order title, open escrow, collect and deposit earnest money checks and the countless other tasks associated with a real estate sale. Yet this one agent is listed as the “sales agent” for the transaction. Is this really an accurate representation?

Aren’t we really comparing apples to oranges?

Most traditional real estate agents would do all of the tasks associated with a sale. They would preview all homes in a buyers selected price range and neighborhood (which is not typically what a Redfin agent does.) They would then show the most promising homes themselves, to the buyer. Again, Redfin agents don’t do this, they only show homes upon specific request.

When a traditional agent and buyer locate a home, that agent then draws up a contract. At Redfin, the buyer is passed off to a 2nd agent, one who has not seen the subject property, and that person prepares the contract and negotiates the sale. A 3rd agent might arrange for the inspection, and other agents and administrative people may do other tasks associated with the sale.

In a recent Redfin transaction I was involved in, 4 different agents accessed the property on behalf of one buyer, but none of those agents were the one who finally wrote up the deal. Yet that sale was attributed to the agent who wrote up the transaction, not the agent who showed the house.

How then is this an accurate accounting of that particular agent’s sales?

Doesn’t this mislead the consumer into thinking that their individual Redfin agent is more successful than they are? I think it does.

And ultimately, this Scouting Report has the power to do the same thing. It will compare traditional agents with the Redfin office staff agents who get all the credit for a sale, but who actually share that accomplishment with a dozen other support and administrative personnel.

For all their talk of transparency, Redfin should take their own advice instead of continuing to manipulate statistics for their own marketing purposes.

Redfin releases Scouting Report, the most disruptive online real estate play in years
(1000 Watt Consulting)

Redfin hits roadblocks with real estate agent ‘Scouting Report
(Geek Wire)

Initial Thoughts on the Redfin Scouting Report (Phoenix Real Estate Guy)

Turn Here video star killed in bicycle accident

Turn Here, the video company founded by Inman News‘ Brad Inman, created a series of neighborhood videos that captured the essence of neighborhoods and cities across the U.S. One of my favorites was this video of my neighborhood, the Broadway area of Capitol Hill in Seattle, starring Brian Fairbrother, general manager of Espresso Vivace on Capitol Hill. Last week, he was seriously injured in a bicycle accident and he passed away yesterday.

Vivace Manager has bicycle accident – Capitol Hill Blog

The Tell-Tale Lexus: Realtor on Realtor Crime

Keep your eyes peeled for a blonde with a big bouffant in a Lexus, suspected of stealing staging items out of vacant homes.

In a perfect case of “it takes one to know one,” a realtor suspects another realtor, one sporting a blonde bouffant, of breaking into two Fremont houses for sale in an attempt to steal items used to gussy up the homes for prospective buyers, according to the Seattle Police Department.

On Aug. 2, the realtor stopped by a house in the 3800 block of Woodlawn Avenue North she is in the process of selling for its owners. The backdoor was unlocked, and a rear window was open.

The realtor noticed two decorative glass containers and two decorative vases had been moved, two bottles of water had been taken from the fridge and placed in the bathroom, and the key to the garage was missing, according to the police report.

The realtor then went to check on a house in the 3600 block of Carr Place North she had recently sold for the owners. The front door was ajar, and the backdoor was unlocked.

Inside, a number of times used for “staging” for-sale houses had been collected and placed together in the basement, according to the report.

While the realtor waited in her car for police, she saw a silver Lexus driven by a pudgy woman in her 50s with a poofy, blonde bouffant pull into the driveway, according to the report. The realtor told police the woman in the Lexus saw her and immediately backed out of the driveway and drove off.

For a number of reasons, the realtor suspects the woman with the bouffant is another realtor and is behind the break-ins.

Police: Realtor suspects another realtor in break-ins
from KOMO News

For-Sale-By-Owner founder fails to sell his own home, hires a broker

Colby Sambrotto, a founder and former chief operating officer of, a large website for owner sales, spent six months trying to sell his condominium himself through online listings and classified ads, before turning over the listing of the 2,000-square-foot apartment to a broker.

The broker, Jesse Buckler, who is with Bond of New York, said he told the seller the apartment in the Lion’s Head building in New York City was priced too low and wasn’t drawing the right buyers.

By May, it went into contract, he said, after attracting multiple offers. It closed in the last few days for $150,000 more than the original asking price.

Details in the Wall Street Journal.

There are certain situations where one can sell a property themselves, but generally “listed” properties sell faster and for more money.

Tables Turned: Couple threatens foreclosure on Bank of America!

A Bank of America branch there had improperly been involved in a foreclosure lawsuit against a local couple, yet the bank was refusing to pay the couple’s legal fees when it was found to be in the wrong.

So two sherrif’s deputies and an attorney showed up at a Bank of America branch with some help — a local William C. Hoff moving crew. The deputies and attorney offered Bank of America a choice: Either the mega-bank pay the couple’s $2,534 legal fees, or they would foreclose on the branch and and seize all of its assets. Bank of America decided to pay. Watch a local news station’s report on the incident:

Couple threatens BOA

U.S. Home Prices, Sung As Opera

The Case-Shiller home price index is a powerful way to look at the story of housing in America. You can see the boom and bust all in one simple graph.

But when NPR goes on the radio to talk about home prices, a graph isn’t much good to them — nobody can see it.

So they converted the Case-Shiller graph into musical notes.

They gave the sheet music to Timothy McDevitt, a baritone who’s getting a master’s degree at Juilliard. Then they got Karl Case and Robert Shiller — the economists who created the index — to listen to the music weigh in.

Microsoft announces new Photosynth iPhone app to create panoramic photos and tours on the go

Photosynth is a great tool designed to create 3D “experiences” and panoramas, and has always had great potential for real estate marketing, in addition to the travel industry and for anyone else intellectually curious about the world around them. By taking a series of fully-comprehensive photos, the user/creator can use Photosynth to “stitch” these photos together to create a unique and interactive tour of the subject, be it a museum, a travel destination or a house for sale.

Microsoft and the Photosynth team annouced this week that they have released a new iPhone app that can create a tour on the go, and it can create full panoramas from a series of individual photos that you snap with your device’s camera.

Compatible with the iPhone 3Gs and 4, the iPad 2, and the iPod Touch 4G, Photosynth is simple to use. You just point your device at the subject and tap the screen to snap the first photo. The app then prompts you to position your device to take the next shot. You can then either tap the screen to shoot again or wait for the app to automatically snap the next photo. You keep doing this until you’ve captured the full panorama of shots to include.

Head engineer and architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas explains the new release on video. He’s the guy that did that TED talk that people are still raving about, and I’m sure he’s got more cool things coming up in the pipeline. He’s been shooting dozens of new Photosynth’s around town that he’s posting on his FB page.

Today, I made my own Photosynth of a listing I have for sale on Capitol Hill. It’s only 87% synthy, and next time I’ll shoot higher and lower to get a more dynamic tour of the main rooms, but it’s a good start and is much better than the video I made

324 17th Avenue East, Seattle WA 98112

Others involved in real estate also have applause for this new app. Lani Rosales at Agent Genius says,

We’ve shown you a tool for panoramic videos and the new Photosynth app has major implications in the real estate world – can you say “virtual tours made in seconds” on the go? What once took an expert professionals hours to create can be stitched on a smartphone in seconds and shared on Facebook.

Realtors can upload their Photosynth images to Bing maps and even be alongside business search results!!! Even listings can be Photosynthed and put on Bing maps. If you thought Bing traffic surge was impressive as of last week, it’s about to get even better… Microsoft isn’t playing around, they’re serious about Bing.

My husband and I were excited to participate in the first launch of Photosynth by lending our house for an interior shoot for a commercial starring Laura Foy for Microsoft and Channel 9 TV.

During the shoot, Group Program Manager David Gedye, shot a wonderful and professional Photosynth of the interior of the main floor of our home. And if you look very carefully, you’ll find Jodavid and I, an Easter Egg for Easter weekend…..

David’s synth is, of course, 100% synthy.

Photosynth mobile app has epic implications for real estate

Seattle’s Greenest Real Estate Broker

The Apothecary, a medicinal marijuana shop opened recently on Capitol Hill in Seattle, is billed as the pioneer of Capitol Hill’s new era pot dispensaries, one of many that have moved to the Seattle area in response to more lenient federal enforcement and some gray areas in state law.

While many consider these entrepreneurs who open these stores to be taking chances and perhaps flouting local laws, owner Cass Stewart sees his new endeavor as a public service, helping to provide medical marijuana to people who need it.

What’s of particular interest to me is Cass’s other job, that of real estate broker here in the Seattle area.

When asked how he had come to open this kind of business, Cass said he had been a legal, authorized patient himself, and he wanted to help others in a similar situation.
He was ready for a life change and so with that in mind, he quit working at Windermere’s Mt. Baker office, where he’d been for 10 years, and moved to Coldwell Banker Danforth, and then set about opening his pot shop on Capitol Hill at 210 Broadway Ave. E., right above the Castle Superstore.

Some interpret the voter-approved Medical Use of Marijuana Act to allow a patient to grow up to 15 plants and possess up to 24 ounces of dried pot, and that patient can designate one person as their grower or provider. But no provision exists to run a dispensary, so if the law wanted to come down on Cass and others like him, they could.

Would Cass then be subject to federal prosecution and then also lose his real estate license? When asked why he decided to take a chance with this new kind of business, Cass said he’s been through the stock bubble, the tech bubble, and the real estate bubble. Maybe now Cass and many like him, are seeing the first of a green bubble.

Says Cass, “I have considered myself a entrepreneur my whole life and have been involved in various ventures. I’m still active in real estate, my wife and I are both agents and she is driving the real estate business currently. Not all of my clients are aware of my new venture but most have been enthusiastically supportive. I have always been very supportive of this movement and firmly believe in patient rights to safe access.”

As Cass says, “I’m probably the greenest real estate agent in town!”

Our Growing Industry
Medical-Pot Outlets Are Proliferating in Seattle and Getting More Brazen Than Ever—Testing the Law and Daring It to Accommodate Them

High Times on Broadway from Capitol Hill Blog

And the angels wept – Cisco kills the Flip

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Cisco is eliminating the Flip camera!

How could this be? It’s the coolest little video camera, perfect for real estate agents, parents, anyone who appreciates the ease and portability of a stand-alone video camera.

Yes, you can use your phone or your regular camera, but the Flip had that cool USB that just plugged into your computer and started the download automatically, plus it downloaded it’s own movie-making software that allowed one to quick and easily to edit and post a video online.

I have used both my camera and my Flip, and I definitely appreciate the Flip’s ease and versatility. It’s a sad day for real estate brokers and everyone who’s enjoyed this little camera.

“We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy,” the company said in a statement. “As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers.”

Will Zillow change Postlets after the sale?

Interesting to note that Zillow has purchased Postlets, one of my favorite real estate tools.

Postlets allows one to create an easy online webpage for a new listing and allows one to syndicate them to other websites, if so desired.

It also has a great tool when creating the listing to hover over the Zestimate, as one enters the actual sales price of the property.

I don’t syndicate my listings there, for a variety of reasons, but I do use the Postlets code to create “stand-alone” websites on my own website, Seattle Dream Homes.

I don’t want to re-create the wheel, and I’d rather be selling real estate or playing with the kids than writing a bunch of code, so I create a page in Postlets then use that code and build upon it to create a unique page for each one of my listings.

Here are a few examples of using Postlets code to create interesting and dynamic pages that I host on Seattle Dream Homes:

Madison Valley Enchanted Gardens

Capitol Hill Vintage Home

Lake Forest Park Modern Home

What this does is create a separate page I can direct buyers to, without taking too much time to make and it creates original content for my page.

If I don’t delete it, the info does stay on the Postlets website, but like I said, I rarely syndicate it to all the sites that Postlets offers, as then one loses control and a broker may not get referrals from any inquiries that the listing may generate.

I do pay the minimal amount per listing to upgrade, as then I can add more photos easily without re-writing the code to add more spacing and frames, but after that it’s easy to remove any items I don’t want.

I do hope that Zillow adds some support for paid subscribers. There is no email, chat line, phone number, no way to contact anyone at Postlets, either for praise or complaint. They probably got tired of hand-holding ignorant customers, but if one pays for the service, I think there is an expectation of at least a little support.

Other than that, I don’t see a lot of room for improvement, though some of the templates offered are a little dated. And it would be nice to have a separate page to view the templates first, without having to click on each template to view.

Some commentators have mentioned that Zillow is tired of begging for listings and they see this move as taking control of syndication, but then Zillow would be advised to remove the option for having the listings syndicated on Trulia and Yahoo Real Estate. However, the deal seems to specify that listings will continue to be syndicated to those and 11 other sites.

As John Cook in Geek Wire notes, this is the first acquisition for Zillow and this may be part of their preparation for launching an IPO.

So my advice is to use Postlets, but don’t use it the way intended. And my advice to Zillow is not to change something that already works.