Category: Real Estate

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

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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

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

Colby Sambrotto, a founder and former chief operating officer of ForSalebyOwner.com, 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.

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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

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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

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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
by DOMINIC HOLDEN

High Times on Broadway from Capitol Hill Blog

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And the angels wept – Cisco kills the Flip

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.”

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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.

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Real estate dreams – fact and fantasy

I was intrigued by the title “Big box broker lays off thousands, puts best producers on salary plus commission“. Who could it be, what company had done this? Reading the article, however, I realized it was just wishful thinking. No large brokerage has actually converted their commission-based agents to salary plus commission because it doesn’t make any sense.

If converting agents to employees or paying them a salary made financial sense, then brokerages would rush to convert all of their commission-based sales people into employees.

If it were possible to make money hiring agents and paying them a salary, then Foxton’s would still be in business.

If it made financial sense for real estate firms to have agents become employees, then Zip Realty wouldn’t have had to lay off all of their workers.

The argument made is that Redfin has agent employees, and they are “profitable”.

Do not believe Redfin’s press releases.

They may have, on occasion, made more money in a month than they spent, but they are still far from profitable.

Redfin is still $30M in the hole and the money they are refunding to their buyers is the money that they received from venture capitalists. The only hope they have to pay that back is to find a gullible buyer.

If this kind of business model made financial sense, there would be more imitators.

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QR Codes prohibited in NWMLS listings

Two dimensional barcodes, “2D codes”, such as QR codes and Microsoft Tags, contain patterns of black-and-white blocks or colored shapes that can be scanned by smartphones to bring up a website. Many NWMLS members now add 2D codes to signs or flyers so potential buyers can scan the code and view additional property information on their smartphones. However, 2D codes are not photos, and cannot be uploaded as listing photos or used in the listing.

The rationale behind this ruling is that QR Codes often point to websites with additional information about the listing and these websites are usually branded with the listing agent’s contact information and branding and, as per Rule 10(i), advertising is prohibited in listing data.

Some brokers believe that QR Codes are silly or superfluous, but others love the idea and have some great ways to capitalize on the QR craze.

I’ve used them a few times on flyers for the sign boxes, but not sure if anyone’s paying attention. However, I’m glad to have another tool to assist Sellers in marketing their homes.

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A visit from a friend

Cindy Saver dropped by my broker’s open house last week and shot a few impromptu photos with her fancy camera and noted my internet efforts online, and I was thrilled with the results.

Cindy is a broker with Gerrard Beattie and Knapp on Capitol Hill, and we were neighbors briefly when I lived on Federal and she had a home around the corner on Blaine. Seattle’s such a small town.

She has a wonderful real estate and photography blog called Residential Longings, and it’s full of beautiful pictures and a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing style where Cindy muses on the bits of everyday life she comes across during the day.

When she starts doing photography professionally, I think I’ll have her shoot a few new headshots. The ones I’m using now are so old, I think I’m wearing a power suit and shoulder pads from 1982!

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Boring real estate closing gift saves buyers lives

 
A real estate broker from our office, Sue Fernandes Darnell with Coldwell Banker, gave a “boring” closing gift that ended up being a lifesaver to this young couple and their family. The Sawyers family, Daniel, Brianna, and their two year-old daughter Maleah just bought and moved into their first home in Gig Harbor and Sue was their agent.

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RIP ZIP

A few months ago Zip Realty announced that it’s changing its agency model by transitioning the employment status of its real estate agents nationwide from employees to independent contractors.

This transition is described as a lay-off in the news, without much comment.

What does this transition in one company mean to the residential real estate industry?

The firm lost $15 million in the third quarter this last year, following a loss of $0.8 million during the same period last year. Because of losses, the firm decided to cut costs, including the benefits it has been giving to its agent. Employed agents have been receiving medical, dental and 401(k) benefits from the firm. When these employees become independent contractors, they will stop receiving these benefits.

Zip Realty hired agents as “employees” and gives a 20% real estate rebate to buyers and offers a less-than-standard listing fee to sellers. If they can’t make money doing this, what does this mean for the other major real estate employer, Redfin? Even though they claim to have reached profitability, I think they meant that for one month they actually brought in more than they spent. But to reach true profitability, they have to do that consistently, and I doubt they can do that by paying agents as employees (along with all the accompanying benefits) and giving back 50% of the commission to buyers. And at what rate would they be able to return any part of the $32M given to them by investors? Their angel investors can be paid dividend payments or profit sharing over time, but if there’s never any true profit then the only way they’re going to get their money back is when there is a liquidity event, either by being sold or having an initial public offering. But who would buy the business or the stock if there aren’t any profits? As Zip has found out, they cannot consistently make a profit by giving the “profit” back to the customers. In Redfin’s case, they’re not just refunding the profit, but actually giving their customers the angel investors money. It’s a massive money transfer and eventually the money will dry up. I predict they will move to a more traditional model in the next year because they cannot continue giving away their investors dough.

Russell Shaw wrote on Bloodhound Blog a few years ago about the problem with Zip Realty:

Here’s the problem the company has created, unsuccessful agents leave because they’re not making any money. Successful agents also leave because they’re not making enough money.

I think that statement is the simple truth of the problem with having employees v.s. agents.

To motivate, there must be a profit incentive. If there’s no profit, what’s the point of working? I ran across a Findwell blog post about trying to find an agent/employee for the business. The author complained about the quality of applications for employment at his firm. But who but the least successful or the least ambitious would be looking for a job like this? Everyone in the real estate business knows you have to work nights and weekends… who would want to do this unless highly compensated. And Findwell, like the others, refunds 50% of the profits back to the buyer. Yikes! I’d rather sell 10 houses at 3% commission than 20 houses at 1.5%. That’s just common sense.

As Russell pointed out, they’ve got to get rid of the rebate. The rebate is unnecessary.

Zip rebates about 20% of their gross commission to their home buyer customers. They provide a similar discount to home sellers. In my experience, the discount/rebate attracts buyers and sellers at the low end of the market. I sold houses for Zip and gave the required rebates. I also sold homes for traditional firms and never gave a rebate. Guess what happened when I stopped giving a rebate. My average home sales price went way up and so did my average revenue per transaction. Most of my leads were sourced online just like Zip’s so, this is a relevant comparison.

All three of these companies listed have great websites, and they all rebate. Yet, the companies that have the highest sales volume are the traditional firms which do not refund a percentage of the profits to their customers.

I think they should quit doing the rebate and just focus on good customer service and doing a good job for their customers and clients. It’s difficult to compete on price as there’s always someone more desperate and hungry than you are. Focus on exemplary customer service and reap the rewards.

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