Why PocketListings.net Is Awesome, And Every Real Estate Agent Should Use It

It’s true, I’m the founder of PocketListings.net, and I want everybody to use it. But it’s also true, if you’re an agent in San Francisco, and you’re not using it, you’re missing out. Have a look at this email that just came my way as a result of a Buyer Need post I did on PocketListings.net.

Hi Alex,

My wife and I are looking to relocate to Marin, and are currently deciding on whether or not to sell our flat (or rent it out and rent in Marin). I noticed on your pocket listing, http://pocketlistings.net/pl/662, that you had some clients that are looking for a place in our neighborhood, and I wanted to find out if perhaps they would be interested in our place?

We have a ~1914 sq foot condo (it is a 2 unit bldg with 3 floors, we have the top 2) with a huge 2 car garage w/storage, 2 fantastic roof decks, a backyard and is on a quiet cul-de-sac near USF. It is a 3 br (with an additional office that is bedroom sized but lacks a closet, currently used as a nursery) 2ba unit, with an updated kitchen and bathrooms (we just did the bathrooms in june ’11). It has been a great family home, we have 3 kids, and we have absolutely loved living there. The address is [removed].

I have not decided if we want to sell, hence why I think a pocket listing inquiry makes sense, but I would certainly entertain interested parties. I think there are some pictures still online at Zillow, but if not I can get you some further details. Thanks Alex,

-[Potential Seller]

This is awesome on many levels. For one, my vision of a network where buyers, sellers, AND agents can get together and shore opportunity is slowly coming to fruition, but also because not only is this a chance for my buyers to get a property that may be a match, it’s also a chance for this seller to “quietly” sell their home, and a chance for me to potentially get a listing.

It’s a new way to think about our industry, and I know it will take more time. Slowly but surely other agents will realize that just like email newsletter and blogs were considered unneccesary, this PocketListings.net thing is for real, and it is an opportunity no agent should pass up.

U.S. Existing Home Sales Decline in March but Inventory Down, Prices Stabilizing

Existing home sales nationally were down in March but continue to outpace year-ago levels, while inventory tightened and home prices are showing further signs of stabilizing, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February, but are 5.2 percent above the 4.26 million-unit pace in March 2011.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recovery is in the process of settling into a higher level of home sales. “The recovery is happening though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” he said. “Existing-home sales are moving up and down in a fairly narrow range that is well above the level of activity during the first half of last year. With job growth, low interest rates, bargain home prices and an improving economy, the pent-up demand is coming to market and we expect housing to be notably better this year.”

Total housing inventory at the end of March declined 1.3 percent to 2.37 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace, the same as in February. Listed inventory is 21.8 percent below a year ago and well below the record of 4.04 million in July 2007.

“We were expecting a seasonal increase in home listings, but a lack of inventory has suddenly become an issue in several markets with not enough homes for sale in relation to buyer interest,” Yun said. “Home sales could be held back because of supply factors and not by demand—we’re already seeing this in the Western states and in South Florida.”

Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive Separated Bikeway Project (Have You Noticed The Chaos?)

Have you made a trip into Golden Gate Park recently (maybe to go to the De Young Museum or Academy of Sciences), and wondered what the hell is going on with some cars parked on the curb, some parked (what would appear to be) in the middle of the road, bikes zipping by in between the cars and curb, and a general mess of people trying to figure out what to do on John F. Kennedy Drive? You’re not alone.

I happen to ride that route 5 days a week taking my boys to and from school and I’ve seen just about every possible combination of confused tourist, angry hipster on fixie, mom with stroller in the bike lane, and SUV parked in the red zone you can imagine.

Be enlightened! Embrace the change!

[tentblogger-vimeo 10559007?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0" width="520" height="293" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen]

Study the above diagram. Watch the video. Visit the SF Bike Coalition website and read their post about it.

Then go to Golden Gate Park. Walk, ride, drive, park, stroll, skate, and do your thing…all without spilling your latte.

It would be great to see more of these lanes throughout the city, especially since so many people in San Francisco are turning to two wheels instead of four as their preferred method of transpo…

Score one for San Francisco!

-Golden Gate Park JFK Drive Separated Bikeway
-On The Right Track Video – Lessons From Portland, Oregon

From The Front You Might Consider It A Duck…369 Upper Terrace

My golden rule in real estate sales and searching for the right home…unless the front of the home is actually drop dead fantastic and the best selling feature, take a “drive by” with a grain of salt.

Case in point, 369 Upper Terrace:

From the front, it’s a bit of a duck, but on the inside there are 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, and 3462 square feet of mid-century (1973 is close enough) modern goodness with decks, 15 foot ceilings, Terrazzo floors, a spa style bath that “oozes tranquility”, a “vinyl lair for music listening”, and big views to get you through the slow days.





You gotta love the “lair”.

Look for more posts from me featuring the finest homes with the best views in San Francisco, starting with this one. I’d give these views an 8 out of 10.

-369 Upper Terrace, San Francisco, CA, 3 bed, 3 bath, $2,995,000 [MLS]

The Match.com Of Real Estate Is Already Here. Realtors, You Just Need To Use It!

This is a screenshot of my Gmail inbox for the past two days. Yes, that’s only two days, and look at the opportunity!

In case you don’t click on that, or can’t read it, that’s five buyers looking for property, and five sellers that are not listing their home on MLS…in two days! And these are only the agents that have chosen to email blast the San Francisco Association of Realtors.

So, is there a need for agents to share both their off market listings (pocket listings) and their buyer needs all in one place? Is there a service that allows agents to do exactly that, FOR FREE? Is there a service that puts the Match.com in real estate? The answer to all of those questions is yes. It’s PocketListings.net, and one of these days, maybe before I die, agents will begin to take advantage of the service we have created and get on the path to more happy clients.

To learn more about PocketListings.net, how it works, and how you can create opportunity where none exists, simply visit the site, and check out the tutorial. It’s simple. It’s FREE. It’s already there, and it works. Just use it.

-PocketListings.net: Off Market Real Estate Network

San Francisco Real Recent Real Estate Sales And Listings

A look at the past couple of weeks of sales and listing activity for San Francisco, as well as some other real estate tid-bits to tie you over until the next issue…

To be added to the list and receive this in your inbox bi-weekly, just drop me a line.

I should point out, this is the most real time information you’ll get for most recent sales unless you have access to MLS yourself. :-)

-sfnewsletter/MarketTracker

Stump The Stammtisch, Where Readers Ask, Experts Answer: “If A Shooting Occurred Where The Victim Died…”

I used to do a thing a long time ago called “Stump the Stammtisch“, where readers could write in and my (then) panel of experts would share their answers in the comments below (Think Trulia Voices, before Trulia existed). I changed it up to “Ask Us“, and received considerable response to many a question. But then, I got busy with life.

Let’s see if the community out there would like to take a stab at answering this question, and see if I can get the Stammtisch going again. If you’d like to be in the Stammtisch, it’s simple. Just answer the question, link to your website (or remain anonymous) and continue to answer any questions we throw up in the future. Build a track record as an expert, someone that cares to answer questions for complete strangers, and you’re in.

That said, my colleague at Zephyr Real Estate would appreciate any feedback you could provide in the comments below…

If a shooting occurred where the victim died and it was 200m from the subject property would you expect to see, in this current market, a decrease in value, and if so what arbitrary number would you assign to the decrease.

My reply is that it’s going to have some type of an effect on the resale of the property, but “in this current market”, I’d be willing to bet for as many buyers that are out there that would be deeply bothered by such an event, there are just as many that will see this as an opportunity, which, in our assbackwards real estate market, could actually increase the number of potential buyers to a property and actually drive the price up! I would imagine if this is in an area where homicides are common (that would suck) it will effect the price less than if it were in an area that would normally be considered safer (Bayview Hunter’s Point versus Pacific Heights for example.) My arbitrary number on the decrease in value: $0, it would be a wash…it will bother some, and not bother others.

Crime is everywhere, especially in San Francisco.

[Update: Some replies sent inter-office]
Responses from Agents

-My clients and I bid on a house at shotwell and 24th a year and a half ago where three guys had been shot on Friday night, bids due Monday.
It had 17 offers, three all cash, and went $200k over asking (we bid $150k over)
-My first Zephyr sale was under similar circumstances. The house in question was located in the Excelsior, listed for $599K in Escrow for $619K, there was a shooting within a few feet of the house so the first buyers dropped out. My buyers jumped in at the $615K and did not care because they were from England, lived in the Mission and were thrilled to get the house.
-A few years ago we had a listing in the Mission where a guy died on the sidewalk right in front of the house next door after being shot around the corner on 24th St., running down the block and collapsing about six inches from the edge of our clients’ house. This all happened about two or three weeks (something like that) before we came on the market.We disclosed it and everyone who asked pretty much shrugged their shoulders, and said, “Well, it’s the Mission.” I don’t remember how many offers we got but it sold for over asking to a single mom with an elementary-school-age kid.If your listing is in a neighborhood where stuff like this doesn’t usually happen, you will probably get a different answer but if it’s the Mission or equivalent, it might not make a big difference.
-I don’t see that as a big value “decreaser”, depending on the area and especially if the victim and perp knew each other so it wasn’t a random act…..

Good luck to you either way mate!

-Trulia Crime Map
-Stump the Stammtisch

It’s A Good Time To Sell

San Francisco Homes Selling Faster as Inventory Drops

With potential home sellers feeling that the market is on the upswing and that housing prices will soon appreciate, many of them have elected to hold off listing their homes, resulting in a citywide inventory shortage. At the same time, potential home buyers fearing higher prices are rushing to buy, particularly with the low-interest rate mortgages that are available today. These two forces are causing the already low for sale housing inventory in the city to be gobbled up at a faster rate. And, without new homes for sale to replace those that have been sold, the city’s inventory remains low, while home sales are staying high.

Single-Family Home Sales

Although the city’s inventory has dropped by 25.5 percent compared to February 2011, inventory levels also have ticked slightly upwards since January of this year, by 7.7 percent. And, despite the low inventory, homes under contract showed improvement compared to the same time last year, rising by as much as 22.9 percent. Moreover, the number of homes sold has almost doubled, by 40.7 percent, with a tally of 173 properties.

For homes that were priced below $700,000, the months of supply inventory fell by 66.2 percent to 1.2 months. For higher priced homes between $700,000 and $1.2 million, the months of supply inventory fell by 30.4 percent to 1.6 months. These short time frames continue to indicate a seller’s market, where sellers have more leveraging power over buyers who are competing against a limited group of properties.

One part of the city which experienced an above average increase in sale activity is the Sunset district. Since February 2011, the number of homes under contract has risen by 11.4 percent, while the number of homes sold has jumped by 52.4 percent to a total of 32 properties. The Sunset district, a predominately residential area, rests on the central-west side of the city. With good schools and plenty of family-owned businesses, home buyers seeking a more conservative and small town approach to living would find the Sunset district ideal.

Another area of the city which saw notably positive real estate activity is the central-eastern section. Compared to the same time last year, the number of homes under contract in the section increased by 4.8 percent, while the number of homes sold spiked by 157.1 percent, to a total of 18 properties. Although generally associated with the condominium markets of the South of Market (SOMA) and South Beach areas, the central-eastern section also includes neighborhoods such as Bernal Heights and Potrero Hill, which offer an assortment of cottages, bungalows, and single-family homes in a very friendly, community type setting. Home buyers who yearn to be close to the city, but who also desire amenities such as a small garden or yard, would find solace here.

Condominium Sales

Similar to single-family homes, the number of condominiums for sale throughout the city also has lessened by 33.6 percent since February 2011. Still, in spite of the low inventory, the number of condominiums under contract rose by 17 percent this past month, while the number of condominiums sold remained relatively the same, dropping only by 1.2 percent.

For condominiums that were priced between $500,000 and $900,000, the months of supply inventory shrank by 51.9 percent to a reading of 1.4 months. For luxury condominiums priced above $900,000, the months of supply inventory also decreased, by 28.9 percent to 2.5 months.

One region of the city which continues to experience strong condominium sales activity is Downtown San Francisco. Compared to this time last year, the number of condominiums under contract rose by 9.3 percent, while the number of condominiums sold shot up by 50 percent to a total of 42 units. Quintessential San Francisco neighborhoods such as Nob Hill and Russian Hill offer some of the most stunning and luxurious condominiums in the city. Those seeking to take an elevator up to their home and views worthy of magazine covers will find just what they’re looking for in Downtown San Francisco.

Outlook

Nationally, the consumer confidence index, which had decreased in January, increased in February. The index now stands at 70.8, up from 61.5 in January. (A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy.) Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, says, “Looking ahead, consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor market conditions than they were in January. And, despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects, and their financial situation.”

Based on the preliminary unemployment rates from the California Employment Development Department, the statewide and local job outlook is showing continued improvement, with the State’s unemployment rate dropping in January to 10.0 percent from 11.2 in December. Overall unemployment throughout the Bay Area also was down, with San Francisco seeing its unemployment rate decline from 9.5 percent last year to 8.1 percent this past January.

Earlier this month, the Federal Housing Administration announced that it would slash mortgage insurance premiums for certain home owners who refinance an FHA loan into a new one under its streamlined program. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The administration estimates that 2 to 3 million homeowners could be eligible to refinance under the reduced fees. But in the Bay Area, FHA loans were relatively rare until March 2008, when FHA raised its loan limit in high-cost areas to $729,750.

The San Francisco real estate market is likely to experience the same trend of low inventory and high sales in the next few weeks as home prices are expected to go up. When they do, San Francisco should begin to see a greater inventory of homes hitting the market.

In laymen’s terms…it’s a good time to sell!

-San Francisco Real Estate Market Focus Report (PDF)

Northstar Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe Courting the High End Market in a Ski in/Ski out Paradise

Being a real estate writer has depressingly few perks. I don’t get free tickets to concerts or desert on the house at Michael Mina. The product I write about, you see, can’t really fit in a gift bag. Mostly, I get accused of being a Realtor (I’m not) or of being “in bed” with the NAR (which again, I’m not. That sounds exhausting, by the way.)

But two weeks ago this perk-less-ness changed. Together with several other writers from across the country, I was flown to Tahoe for an all-expenses-paid tour of/experience with Northstar’s new Home Run. Aptly named, the development is a system of homes built mid-mountain, far above the (pleasurable, but at times, overly popular) melee of the Village. No waiting in line for the lift, folks. The ski run awaits just a few steps from your back deck. Wake up, ski out. Sweet!

Still, sometimes when I see construction in the middle of a forest, no matter how spectacular that construction, I feel uncomfortable. You know this feeling?  Human guilt? But at least here, as with all Mountain Residences projects, East West developers aim for LEED certification for each home- and we were introduced to many trees (including my favorite, old “Grandpa”)  and rock formations that had to be protected, built around rather than pulled from the earth.

Construction with a conscience means I was better able to relax, take in my surroundings, which that day were sparkly- a cold blue sky setting the freshly falling snow ablaze, everything studded with tiny diamonds on fire. Between each of the Home Run residences lie trails, tunnels, and bridges- everything inter-connected.  It’s very exclusive-village-in-the-Alps:  charming architecture, soaring vistas, the hush of a thick blanket of snow.

Our group toured one model home, mostly complete, which you see pictured here. The view alone made me want to hide in the (huge! Sexy!) bathroom until everyone left so I could stay forever. So what if the water wasn’t hooked up yet? I had miles of it, frozen and pristine, for my private use right outside.

But we had plenty to look forward to, including a meal at the Ritz Carlton which also rests mid-mountain. Over course after course of carefully paired wine and cuisine (developed under San Francisco’s own, chef Traci Des Jardins), we learned that two of the custom home lots have already been purchased, one by a young “Silicon Valley tech” family (for some reason, I thought Zynga. Unconfirmed). We also learned what Northstar is doing to change its more “vintage” easy-going (read “affordable to the middle-class”) ski area image. Purchased by Vail (of Vail, Colorado), Northstar is in full luxury market upgrade mode, adding high –end shops, linking new developments with exclusive rights to the Ritz and Schaffer’s Camp, and planning to cut ski runs on Sawtooth Mountain whose verticality will do away, finally, with the “Flat Star” label.  Meanwhile, the wine and food kept coming. I was drunk on luxury.

The almost surreal opulence of it all was capped off by the gondola ride back down to the Village at Northstar, a full moon casting blue light over the snowy expanse.

Back home now, I offer you this story, and the skinny on Home Run, because if I had the money, I would buy in immediately. I can see Christmas up there with my parents and maybe the kids I’ll have one day. I can see a week there, just me and my man, in our hot tub sunk deep in the snow. I see summers on my bike, hiking with my dog, and many, many gondola rides to the Ritz.  And remember, I am just a real estate writer and teacher: not only can I actually not afford to buy one, I receive nothing if anyone else can and does, even if that person does so because s/he saw my story. And yes, East West wined and dined the writers. But that was two weeks ago. The wine’s worn off. The food’s digested. I can hardly be asked to give it back should I chose not to write about Mountain Residences.  But why would I choose that, when I can’t stop thinking about how cool they are?

3-4 bedroom, 1,900-3,200 square-foot, Home Run townhomes are priced from $1.6-$2.3 million. East West Partners anticipates Home Run move-ins to begin spring 2012, so that means right now. If you’re lucky enough to be in the market for your own private ski-in/ski out chalet just a short drive from the Bay Area, you should grab Alex, grab your skis, and head to Northstar.

Say hi to Grandpa as you ski by.

[Guest Post By Anna Marie Hibble...THANKS ANNA!]