Dec 14th, 2007Visiting Family, November TrendGraphix Analysis, and more

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Visiting Family: Many of us may be in the spot where our parents are getting up there in age. Diane’s parents are 84 and 87 respectively and we decided to visit for a week a week ago. We had a great time! Diane’s Dad was recovering from surgery and was getting about a little slowly, but he was delighted to have the company and help and “every day is a little better” was his mantra. It reminded me of a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that I saw a while ago: “As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death”. It is nice to visit and see that our parents are still using their lives well.

Training and Designations: It’s a great time to plan your education sessions and designation efforts for the coming year. For the coming year’s GRI designation classes in Northern California, visit the following GRI Website

Property Websites: The Wine Country Group is the only firm that I know of that allows our agents to build attractive and effective websites for each of their listings at no cost to the agent. This should certainly put us at a competitive advantage. In our advertising efforts, we are emphasizing and prioritizing listings that have a property website – so it behooves each agent to development one for their listings. Remember, great photos and great copy make a great difference. Check with Ally or Susie if you have any questions – they are there to help us create the most effective marketing pieces that we can.

Update to the Wine Country Group website: Speaking of websites, in concert with our 10th anniversary as part of the Frank Howard Allen family, we are updating our website. Here’s a glimpse at the new Homepage. The site will have added functions and features while remaining streamlined, efficient to use and attractive and professional to look at. You can see that one block at the bottom right takes you directly to our listing websites. We are looking for a launch in the next couple of weeks and will keep you posted.

In House Assistants: Don’t forget that Dina Mogannam (939-2073) is on our staff to assist you as a Transaction Coordinator and that Theresa Lucia (939-2038) is on staff to assist you as a Sales Assistant. Ask around and you will find that those who are working with Dina and Theresa have nothing but superlatives to describe the job that they do. Even though you may not be in our Sonoma office, depending on your requirements, they may still be able to assist you. Give them a call.

November TrendGraphix Analysis: Please call me for additional information and copies of the TrendGrahix reports – a Frank Howard Allen Realtors exclusive.

Napa County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale in Napa County declined appreciably on a month to month basis for the first time since January of this year. It had been on pretty much of a straight line upwards since that time. As of 11/30/07, 805 homes were for sale in the county compared to 903 as of 10/31/07. Certainly the season creates a natural decline in the inventory as homes that have not sold may be “pulled off the market for the holidays”. We can usually expect inventory to continue to decline until February when the Spring sales market takes hold. There were 54 closings in the month and 48 new sales which is pretty similar to the last few months. On a year to year basis, the median price of the homes that sold in November in Napa County was 10% lower, $592,000 compared to $650,000 a year ago. Attending the weekly Napa MLS meeting a couple of weeks ago, one of our agents was prompted to say that: “the $350,000 house has returned to the Napa market after a hiatus of several years. We are seeing lower priced inventory in the new listings that are appearing. The average asking price for listed homes in the City of Napa was $883,000 at the end of November, 2007. That is the lowest average asking price in the TrendGraphix data that goes back to 5/04. My guess is that it is the lowest average asking price since 2001. Affordability is a good thing for new homeowners, and the affordability index is improving. Please call me for additional information and copies of the TrendGrahix reports – a Frank Howard Allen Realtors exclusive.

St. Helena/Up Valley Trends: The St. Helena/Up Valley market (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville) was very quiet in November. 8 homes closed, and only 2 homes sold. Inventory remained “flat” at 145 homes for sale compared to 149 a month ago and 147 a year ago. It’s nice that the inventory is stable, but it would also be nice to have a bit more robust selling cycle such as the 12 that sold a month ago, or the 15 that sold in November of 2006. The 8 homes that did close in November had an average days on market of 101 days – a low for the past twelve months. That compares to 130 days for all closed homes in Napa County. So maybe the newer, “better” priced listings are selling.

Sonoma County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of November continued to decline. There are 2,288 homes available as of 11/30/08 which is 18% fewer than September of 2008. Closings and sales are steady compared to past few months with roughly 220 closings per month and 215 new sales. We’ll see how that holds up through the holiday season – typically, a slower period. The median price of the homes that closed in November was $509,000, 10% less than the median of closed homes in 11/06. We are seeing lower priced inventory in the new listings that are appearing. The average asking price for listed homes in the County of Sonoma was $703,000 at the end of November, 2007. That is the lowest average asking price in the TrendGraphix data that goes back to 5/04. My guess is that it is the lowest average asking price since 2001. Affordability is a good thing for new homeowners, and the affordability index is improving.

Sonoma Valley Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of November continued to drop. As of November 30, 219 homes were available for sale compared to 255 at the end of September, a 14% decrease. Closings and sales were steady compared to the past few months. Roughly, there are 18 closings per month and 15 new sales. The median price of the homes that closed in November was $690,000 compared to $750,000 a year ago, a decrease of 8%. The average asking price for listed homes in the Sonoma Valley was $920,000 at the end of November, 2007. That is the lowest average asking price in the TrendGraphix data that goes back to 5/04. My guess is that it is the lowest average asking price since 2001. Affordability is a good thing for new homeowners, and the affordability index is improving.

Healdsburg Trends: The inventory of homes for sale (76) at the end of November were 25% below the peak of 101 at the end of September. They also compared favorably to the inventory in November of 2006 which stood at 78. In fact, of all of our wine country markets, Healdsburg has the lowest months of inventory: 6.3 months based on the closings in 11/07 and 5.1 months based on the sales in 11/07. Closings (12) and new sales (15) were ahead of last month and pretty much even with that of a year ago. For whatever reason, the sold price to original list price ratio for the homes that closed in November in Healdsburg fell to 82% from an average of about 90%. I guess it was a month of good bargains!

Windsor Trends: Inventory of available homes in Windsor continued to fall in November. As of November 30, 138 homes were available for sale compared to 171 at the end of September – a 19% decrease. However, inventory is 39% higher than it was a year ago in November, 2006. Closings and sales have been steady over the past several months. There have been roughly 10 closings per month and 11 new sales. This is about half of the sales pace of November, 2006. The average asking price for listed homes in Windsor was $580,000 at the end of November, 2007. That is the lowest average asking price in the TrendGraphix data that goes back to 5/04. My guess is that it is the lowest average asking price since 2001. Affordability is a good thing for new homeowners, and the affordability index is improving. The median price for the ten homes closed in November was $461,000 compared to $570,000 a year ago, but the price per square foot for those homes was $356/sf compared to $305/sf a year ago. Sounds like smaller homes are selling at more per square foot.

Cloverdale Trends: Inventory in Cloverdale at the end of November fell for the fourth straight month. 84 homes are available compared to 112 in August (a 25% decline) and 79 a year ago. New sales bounced back to 9 compared to just 1 a month ago. Actually, sales and closings have been pretty stable, if slow, over the past twelve months averaging about 7 per month. The median price for closed sales in November was off 14% from a year ago, but the sample was quite small.

Closings: Many of our closings come from floor time, or from meeting our clients out in the community. Remember that professional business attire reflects the caliber of the work that we do and the service that we provide. Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the period of 11/26 to 12/7: Marina Zachau (Sonoma); Penelope La Montagne (Healdsburg); Tiffany Knef (Sonoma); Ann Amtower (Healdsburg); Frank Trozzo (Napa); Louis Horta (Napa – a $5,000,000 vineyard sale- go Louis!); Beth Bruno (Healdsburg – a $3.72M sale!); Erin George; and Leo Merle. The following agents had two transactions each during this period: Daniel Casabonne (Sonoma); Pat Brown (Sonoma); Deke DeKay (Healdsburg); and Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker (Kenwood). Congratulations to all!

Nov 28th, 2007Auction Sales, Market Updates and more…

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Congratulations to Alma!: Alma Aguilar, office administrator in our Sonoma office, has let us know that she is expecting a baby in late April of next year. I’m expecting that the little tyke will be born on April 22 which happens to be Alma’s and my mutual birthday! We don’t know Alma’s maternity leave schedule yet, but will keep you informed as the dates approach. Wishing Alma a comfortable pregnancy and happy baby.

Business Planning: “The purpose of a plan is to disguise the fact that you have no idea what you should be doing”. Scott Adams, “Dilbert’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life”.

Well, I don’t think that Dilbert was ever a business owner like all of us in the real estate sales business are. As Earl always says about agents: “You are the CEO of your own business”. So we encourage everyone to set aside a half a day before the end of the year, away from the office, to complete your business plan for 2008.

We’re working on the company’s budget right now, and I am optimistic! Our companywide pending sales hit a low of 58 units in mid October and has climbed each week since to 74 units as of today. Our inventory reached a high of 270 units in late September and has fallen weekly since to 220 units as of today. Sales rising at a faster rate than listings – I like the trend. We are being cautious with our forecasts for 2008, but we do feel that “real” buyers are out there and we know, at least from the thirty or so REO listings that we currently have, that we have some very “real” sellers. Please contact me, Earl or Scott if you would like us to give you feedback on you business plan.

Auction Results: In a prior blog post, I mentioned that ten of our REO listings were going into a Northern California auction on 11/17 and 18. Well in the course of the weekend, nine of the listings sold and we represented eight additional buyers in the auction. 17 sales in two days – all to close by mid December.

Congratulations to Cheri Stanley who represented all of the listings and three of the buyers. Svetlana Turnovskaya represented three buyers and Dulce Hercules represented one successful bidder. Faeli Vyn’s client wasn’t successful at the auction, but is continuing to search for properties with her.

If you haven’t been to one of these auctions, I encourage you to check it out. It is kind of a carnival atmosphere with free refreshments, live music, the main barker and a herd of assistants roaming up and down the aisles trying to identify and assist bidders. I was afraid to scratch my nose in fear of making a bid. The crowd was large (several hundred), diverse and boisterous. Between each successful sale, the live music would pick up for fifteen seconds or so to keep the energy level at a high pitch. They sold homes at a clip of 25 per hour and in total, they sold over 1150 homes in California in the one week that they were here. They say they are already planning the next Northern California auction for February and next time we will be better prepared. I’ll keep you informed.

By the way, in case you are wondering, including the “buyer’s premium” of 5% on the bid price, the nine listings of Cheri’s sold at auction in a range from 60% to 83% of the current list price. If you have some clients with a little cash, in my view, they can get some good bargains in these properties. As one agent said in the sales meeting today: “Wish I had some extra money”!

HomeFeedBack.com: Allyson Valente, our Internet Marketing Services support person, has researched several on-line “Showing Feedback” sites on the internet. We are recommending HomeFeedBack.com if you want to use this service. It costs an agent $19.95/mo. You can craft you own questions for each listing and there it provides and easy, “third party opinion” feedback option for your sellers. Visit www.homefeedback.com to look at their features. If you choose to sign-up, Ally, or your office administrator, can provide you with the company logo and agent photo to upload to the HFB site.

Call Allyson at 939-2082 if you have any questions.

Luxury Portfolio: Effective January 1, 2008, to conform with the standards of Luxury Portfolio properties in Marin County, our Wine Country listings will have a minimum price of $1,500,000 to qualify for Luxury Portfolio marketing support. In addition, the property must have the following to qualify for Luxury Portfolio marketing support:
Five (5) good quality, high-resolution photos.
Residential listings only. No vacant land (unless special exception such as great photography of view, etc. – always subject to approval)
No renderings unless they are architectural perspective, full color illustrated renderings (always subject to approval)
Under Construction – will be displayed with a minimum of 1 full color rendering and one “under construction” photo. The remaining 3 photos can be renderings, views or “under construction.”
Pre-Construction – will be displayed with a minimum of 1 full color rendering. The remaining 4 photos can be renderings, views or site photos.
No floor plans as part of the required five photo images (floor plans may be included if you already have 5 photo images).
All properties must have grammatically correct ad copy and preferably should include a detailed property description.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Tenth Anniversay Celebration: RSVP deadline is December 1. Please let Linda in our Napa office know ([email protected]) (265-1600) if you and your guest will be attending We look forward to celebrating with the individuals with whom we work every day and to our delighted to recognize and celebrate with the individuals who support us in our efforts – our spouses, significant others and friends. Look for a new launch for our Wine Country Group website (preview) coincident with out tenth anniversary.

New Banner Ad on Sonoma News.com Check it out!
(Be aware that it rotates with banners from the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and one other vendor).

Wine Country Market Analysis for October, 2007: Remember that TrendGraphix is an exclusive tool for the use of our agents. They are improving the utility of this software every month. Explore it’s full benefits when you can.

Napa County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale in Napa County appears to have stabilized as indicated in the October TrendGraphix data. For the first time in months, for every net new listing in the month, there was one closing and/or new sale – so the net inventory remained static. I expect that inventory will actually decline over the next several months and new sales will exceed new listings for the coming period. The median price of the 56 homes closed in Napa County in October was actually higher than the median in 10/06 ($648,000 compared to $625,000) and the price per square foot of the homes sold in October was also slightly higher than a year ago ($427/sf compared to $424/sf). American Canyon continues to suffer with 45 months of inventory based on the sales pace of four homes per month which occurred in October. Prices seem to be getting attractive in American Canyon, however, with the average asking price declining to $547,000 from $628,000 a year ago. Perhaps buyer’s will start recognizing these prices as an opportunity.

St. Helena/Up Valley Trends: The St. Helena/Up Valley market (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville) is the only one of our Wine Country markets where inventory is lower on a year over year basis. 149 homes are for sale as of October 31, ’07 compared with 166 in October, ’06. Closings and sales are relatively stable at 8 and 10 respectively for October ’07 compared to 12 and 13 for October ’06. It seems the discretionary nature of buyers and sellers in these smaller, higher priced markets allows the local trends to buck the larger macro trends.

Sonoma County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of October fell for the first time in nine months. As of October 31, 2553 homes were available for sale compared to 2784 at the end of September. For every net new listing in October, there were two closings and/or new sales. This trend can be expected to continue in the coming months. The median, average, and average price per square foot for the 217 homes that closed in October were all lower. The average asking price for all homes in the County stands at $724,000 and properties are selling at roughly 96% of there last listing price.

Sonoma Valley Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of October fell for the first time in nine months. As of October 31, 237 homes were available for sale compared to 255 at the end of September. For every net new listing in October, there were seven closings, and/or new sales. This trend can be expected to continue in the coming months. New sales (13) in Sonoma for the month of October were the same as last month, but were down from 27 a year ago. The median price of the eight homes closed in October was $705,000 compared to $662,000 a year ago for twenty homes, but the sample is relatively small and probably not indicative of overall values in the area.

Healdsburg Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of October fell for the first time in nine months. Closings and new sales outpaced net new listings by about 2 to 1 for the month of October. As of October 31, 96 homes were available for sale compared to 101 at the end of September and 90 at the end of October, 2006. Closings were down to five for the month compared to 12 in September and 16 a year ago. New sales were up to 8 compared to 5 last month and 12 a year ago.

Windsor Trends: Closings and new sales outpaced net new listings by about 2 to 1 for the month of October. As of October 31, 163 homes were available for sale compared to 171 at the end of September and 117 at the end of October, 2006. Closings were down to 10 for the month compared to 12 in September and 32 a year ago. There were 9 new sales in the month compared to 12 last month and 30 a year ago. The median price for the ten homes closed in October was $620,000 compared to $527000 a year ago, but the price per square foot for those homes was $268/sf compared to $328/sf a year ago.

Cloverdale Trends: Inventory in Cloverdale at the end of October was preety steady compared to the last six months. 100 homes are available compared to 106 in September and 86 a year ago. There wan only one net new sale in the month of October – compared to 14 a year ago. We can surely expect this to improve in the coming months..


Closings:
Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the period of 11/5 to 11/23: Herb Heil (Sonoma), Chuck Post (Sonoma), Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker (Kenwood), Sheila Whitney (Sonoma), Cheri Stanley (Napa), Kendra Martin (Sonoma), Helaine Forte ( Sonoma), Carol Lexa (Healdsburg), Daniel Casabonne (Sonoma), Susan Irvine (Sonoma), Dee Grohmann, Lisa Ehreth and Rico Ruthnick (The Grove – Healdsburg). And Mari Johnson in our Sonoma office had three closings over this period. Congratulations to all!

Diane and I will be visitng family in Minnesota from tomorrow, the 29th, until December 4th. I will have cell phone and e-mail access, but if you need direct and immediate broker assistance, please check with Earl or Scott Rader. Thanks, and have a great week.

Nov 8th, 2007The Mind Muscle and Real Estate – Update to the Blog

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

“The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven”. -John Milton (1608-1674) [Paradise Lost]

Frame of Mind Coaching: Kim Ades of Opening Doors has developed a coaching practice that revolves around an individual’s thoughts (frame of mind) and works to develop a “mind muscle” that is formulated on the following seven elements. In her experience, these attributes combine to create “Emotional Resilience” – the single highest determiner of success in real estate sales. Top performing agents have:

1. Heightened awareness: They have an awareness of thoughts and beliefs that are not serving them, and they have the means to shift those thoughts and beliefs.
2. Continuous practice: They engage in thoughts that are self serving (that help them achieve their goals) and lead to a focused frame of mind. They have a propensity for happiness and good daily practices and habits.
3. Focused actions: Top performers take action regardless of fear – they are self motivated. What they focus on is what materializes. They look for the opportunities and engage in, and take, inspired action.
4. Dedicated daily writing: Top performers use this form of writing to move themselves and their career forward. Why? Because when it is in writing there is a higher likelihood of it materializing and it has a direction. It’s like having a business plan. When it’s in writing, it’s not fleeting, it has more permanency.
5. Community of like minded people: They have a natural tendency to reach for people who are healthy and supportive, and help them to move forward in your path. The books they read, the conversations they have, their associations, the seminars they attend, all attest to their open mindedness and desire to learn and grow, connect and support.
6. Infrastructure: Top performers are part of a team. They have a willingness to share and support others, a cooperative spirit. They also have a positive and supportive structure to support them. They have a strong sense of accountability to themselves.
7. Commitment to living from the heart: Top performers have a sense of passion and a commitment to that passion. The true benefit to developing the mind muscle is that one develops a mind/heart connection. When one truly lives from their heart, they enable themselves to accomplish all that is within their heart to accomplish. They are, in fact, allowing themselves to achieve success.
For more of Kim’s insights, visit her website: www.openingdoors.tv.

Is it a Perception Market or is it the Economy?: Steve Murray, Founder of Real Trends, makes a strong case that we are experiencing a “Perception Market” that is resulting in a reluctance of buyers to buy. His position is that, unlike the last down cycle (1990-95), most economic factors are positive: low unemployment; rising incomes; and relatively low interest rates. He, and many others in the industry, believe that the consumer is being bombarded with “bad news” and as a result, is in a state of inaction.

Dr. Chris Thornberg, Principal of Beacon Economics, on the other hand, made a presentation last Friday entitled “Housing and the Economy – from Bad to Worse” in which he forecast a 75% probability of a recession in 2008. The slides for his presentation can be viewed at www.sonoma-county.org/edb/reports.htm and, once on that page, click on “California Outlook 2008”.

I find slides 11 and 12 particularly interesting. On the bottom slide on pg. 11, there is a graph of the US Ratio of Median House Price to Median Household Income. For the period 1960 to 2000, that ratio was equal to, or below, 3.5 times. In 2005, it approached 4.75. On page 12, the top chart indicates the “Affordability” of housing based on the Federal Housing Administration definition. In 1989, the average household in Alameda earned 83% of the amount needed to “afford” the median priced home. It’s not a surprise that 1989 was the last housing peak. In 1999, the average household in Alameda earned 138% of the amount needed to “afford” the median priced home. What did they do? They went on a buying binge with their excess income. This year, 2007, the average household in Alameda is earning only 66% of the amount needed to “afford” the median priced home. Is it any surprise that their brakes are on? This ratio varies for different regional areas, but, in my view, either incomes have to go up, or prices have to come down. Look at the “Deviation” graph on page 11 of the Thornberg “Outlook”.

Whether you fall into the “Perception” or “Economics 101” group, one thing is sure for our industry. We need to let the public know that homes are selling.

Feature “Sold” Properties in Your “For Sale” Properties Classifieds

As stated in the San Francisco Realtors Association Newsletter:  “What can REALTORS® do to counter the public perception that real property listed for sale today does not sell? One suggestion comes from Alex Perriello, CEO of Realogy’s Franchise Group: Feature “Sold” properties in your “For Sale” properties classifieds. Perriello suggests featuring one sold property for every five listings featured in classifieds or homes magazines. Consumers who see only a growing spread of “For Sale” properties are inclined to think that nothing is selling. Of course, this is not true. Perriello does not suggest increasing advertising budgets, just allocating about 20 percent of the space you have to featuring “Sold” properties, so that consumers can see that properties are selling”.

I’ve developed a “Listings to Sales” ratio. Last month, in Napa County, for every three new listings there were two new sales. In Sonoma County last month, for every 5 new listings there were 2 new sales. My prediction is that in the coming months, the number os sales per month will exceed the number of new listings per month. This is great news – our job is to spread it. I’ll send along the statistics as they come up.

Tenth Anniversay Celebration: Our agents and staff have all received an invitation to a cocktail party celebrating our tenth anniversary as Frank Howard Allen Realtors, the Wine Country Group.  Frank Howard Allen Realtors actually celebrates it’s 100 year anniversary in 2010.  Our celebration will be held at the Sonoma Lodge on December 15th. We look forward to celebrating with the individuals with whom we work every day and we are delighted to recognize and celebrate with the individuals who support us in our efforts – our spouses, significant others and friends.

500 Property Websites: Congratulations to our agents and staff in reaching the milestone in the past nine months of creating 500 property websites supporting the marketing of our listings. This listing feature, offered at no charge to our agents, has proven to be an extremely effective marketing and listing tool. Well done by all of our staff behind the scenes and our agents out front representing the properties. Allyson, our lead staff person for website marketing, is taking increased awareness that these sites are to be distinct marketing efforts, and not just a repetition of the photos and copy in the MLS. Keep up the great work.

Education: On March 1, 2008, the DRE regulations change and 45 hours of licensing education to renew your license will take you 45 hours. Until then, you can do what we have been doing for the past decade, or more, – do 45 hours of education in four hours – Oh My! Anyway, the Napa Chapter of NorBar is presenting a program on 1/15 for you to complete your education requirements for the next renewal of your license. It’s Duane Gomer, and he is always good, so plan on it if you can. Call Lani Burglin at 254-4500, or check with your local NorBar chapter about alternative classes.

Auctioning REO Properties: Eleven of our current listings have been pulled into an auction of Northern California lender owned properties. This auction will be held next weekend on November 16th and 17th in San Ramon. Details about the auction can be found on the website: www.hudsonandmarshall.com. Buyer’s agents can earn a 2% fee for representing buyers in this auction – so get your buyer’s involved and registered!. I want to acknowledge Cheri Stanley for the incredible effort that she is putting forth to service the many listings that she is representing throughout the area. It’s takes a huge amount of work to communicate with the owner representatives handling these properties and to respond responsibly to agent and buyer inquires and offers. With the help of our agents, Cheri has all eleven listings open this weekend. Well done!

Closings: Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the weeks of 10/15 to 11/2: Kent Mitchell (Healdsburg), Gunter Pirchner (Napa), Julianna Anshutz (Kenwood), Joyce Davison (Sonoma), Cheri Stanley (Napa), Mary Beth Foster (Sonoma), Herb Heil ( Sonoma), Erin George (Sonoma), Frank Trozzo (Napa), Jana Jones (Healdsburg), Barbara Sommerville (Sonoma). The following agents had two sides during this period: Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker (Kenwood), Lisa Albertson (Healdsburg/Sonoma), Pat and Norm Brown. Carol Lexa in our Healdsburg office had three closings over this period and Kendra Martin in our Sonoma office set the high water mark by having four closings during this period.

Congratulations to all!

Oct 19th, 2007Broker Blog – 10/19/07

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Abelina Magana: “Abelina is my mom, and i am very proud to say that. There is tons of reasons why, like for example she was there when I was sick. She was there was I mad, and she was there, just because. I love her, and im also proud to say that, and she loves us too. She always is happy, and she always loved to have fun. I ask for you to pray for her and send her all your good energy, because i want her to get better as soon as possible.”

Abelina is a colleague of ours. A real estate agent in the Novato office of Frank Howard Allen Realtors. On Friday, she was shot and critically wounded by her husband who then killed himself. Two of their three children were present. She continues on life support and in critical care. Diana Tate of our Sonoma office is caring for Abelina’s three children through the initial stages of this ordeal. Many, many colleagues are helping with food, transportation, funds, etc. If you wish to assist, you can contact Diana at [email protected] Also, Frank Howard Allen Realtors has established a matching contribution (to $10,000) trust fund for the Magana family at the Bank of Marin, 1450 Grant Ave., Novato 94945. As Abelina’s son asks above, please do keep good thoughts and a prayer in your heart for her.

Market Update – Wine Country: Some of you saw the Napa County update in the Broker News that I sent around on Wednesday. Here’s some thoughts covering the various market areas in which we have offices:

Napa County Trends: Sales and closings for the month of September in Napa County reached their lowest levels in the past three years. On a year to year basis, new sales (53) were off 49% from a year ago and closings (46) in the month of September were down 52% from a year ago. On a month to month basis, sales were down 14% while closings were down 31%. It seems that in September there were more sales in the lower priced end of the market as both the median and average sales prices of sold homes fell substantially, also reflecting three year lows. Perhaps the summer sales (June-July) that closed in September reflected a trend towards the lower priced end of the market as that sector has been weak for much of the year. Of the 1183 homes in Napa County in the local MLS system as available, contingent, or pending, 11%, or 127 of them are identified as “REO, Notice of Default filed, or Short Sale”. In American Canyon, of the 204 homes in the MLS as available, contingent, or pending, 32%, or 65 of them are identified as “REO, Notice of Default filed, or Short Sale”. These are certainly numbers that we haven’t seen before. It will be interesting to follow the trends forward and see if buyers start to take advantage of the lower prices or if they stay on the sidelines. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current local trends.

St. Helena/Up Valley Trends: The St. Helena/Up Valley market (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville) is continuing to buck the inventory trends by having a lower inventory on a year over year basis. 160 homes were for sale as of Sept. 30, ’07 compared with 170 in Sept., ’06. Closings and sales dropped in September to just six closings for the month compared to 22 a year ago. New sales were down to 9 from 18 a year ago. It’s not uncommon to see closings and sales in the single digits in the Up Valley market in the months of December through February, we’ll see how it goes in the coming months. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current local trends.

Sonoma County Trends: Sales and closings for the month of September in Sonoma County reached their lowest levels in the past three years. The local newspaper (Press Democrat) reported that they were the lowest in 16 years. On a year to year basis, new sales (207) were off 45% from a year ago and closings (212) in the month of September were down 42% from a year ago. On a month to month basis, sales were down 28% while closings were down 31%. Both median and average sales prices were down for the period, but not dramatically so. It will be interesting to follow the trends forward and see if buyers start to take advantage of the lower prices or if they stay on the sidelines. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current local trends.

Sonoma Valley Trends: Sales and closings for the month of September in the Sonoma Valley reached their lowest levels since January of this year. On a year to year basis, new sales (13) were off 52% from a year ago and closings (15) in the month of September were down 53% from a year ago. On a month to month basis, sales were down 38% while closings were down 25%. Perhaps the summer sales (June-July) reflected a traditional slow down in summer activity. It will be interesting to see if the fall market responds. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current local trends..

Healdsburg Trends: The Healdsburg inventory of available homes for sale is the same as it was a year ago – 101 homes. Closings and sales were down from last year with 9 and 5 respectively for September ’07 compared to 12 and 13 for September ’06. Perhaps the summer sales (June-July) reflected a traditional slow down in summer activity. It will be interesting to see if the fall market responds. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current trends.

Windsor Trends: Inventory of available homes jumped to a three year high of 171 units in Windsor at the end of September. New sales (12) fell to 56% of what they were a year ago and 33% of what they were in August ’07. Closings (11), similarly, fell to 54% of what they were a year ago and 54% of what they were last month. The median sales price in September was the lowest in the past three years. It will be interesting to follow the trends forward and see if buyers start to take advantage of the lower prices or if they stay on the sidelines.. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current trends.

Cloverdale Trends: The inventory of homes for sale in Cloverdale (106) at the end of September started to ease though there were 16 more homes for sale than there were a year ago. Closings and sales are steady at 4 and 7 respectively for September ’07 compared to 6 and 8 for September ’06. Selling prices for homes in Cloverdale closely mirror the asking prices for homes – so, the market seems pretty well balanced, though heavy in inventory. Call me for more detail or to discuss the current trends

Legal Update: On Tuesday, we had the second of our Fall series of Legal Updates. Some of the tips that I picked up include:
1. Good info on short sales and foreclosures at CAR.org – legal – short sales and foreclosures.
2. CAR has a “short sale listing addendum” and a “short sale addendum” will be released in the November forms update.
3. Assume listings may be a short sale – get a property profile prior to uploading the listing.
4. It’s okay to state in “confidential remarks” that “short sale commission to be split 50-50 between listing and selling agents”.
5. An affirmative representation by an agent will “trump” all the standard, blanket disclaimers.
6. “Characterizations” of a property can turn out to be representations.
7. Avoid “creative contract writing”. Use standard forms, or see your manager/broker.
8. The current interpretation of Standard of Care for a real estate agent in a residential transaction includes “neighborhood awareness”. If you are going into neighborhoods that you know nothing about, our attorney’s counsel is to “Stay Home” – refer the business to a local.
9. Use the AVID (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure) form.
10. Be careful in recommending handypersons, etc. Licensed and insured individuals are important.

Post some things that you might of picked up that I didn’t mention.

CAR 2008 Annual Forecast: Most of you have probably read reports on CAR’s annual forecast for 2008 that was released last week at CAR’s fall meetings in Long Beach. On a statewide basis, the Association’s economists are predicting a 9% reduction in sales to 334,500, a 46% drop from the peak sales figures in 2005. The median price for resales of single family homes is expected to drop 4% next year on a statewide basis. A good thing in the forecast is that mortgage rates are expected to remain stable at 6.5% for 30 yr fixed rate loans.

So, what are some reasons that it is a great time to buy real estate?
1. Selection – There is are a lot of options from which to choose.
2. Fewer bidding wars – If you take out the REO auctions that we are going to see (more on that in a moment), there is far less competitive bidding in this buyer’s market.
3. Buyers can make and offer – if it doesn’t fly, move on to the next one.
4. Patience is acceptable in this market. Sellers welcome a buyer whenever they show up.
5. Due diligence is welcome and repair requests are respected – that’s a change!
6. Plenty of builder spec homes if you want a new one.
7. Buyer’s who are owner occupants aren’t competing with investors for prime properties.
8. Financing is excellent – still low if one looks over the past thirty years.

I’m planning to talk up these factors, and more, as to why it is a good time to buy. To view CAR’s full forecast visit www.car.org.

REO Auction Coming to the North Bay: We presently have about 35 REO listings in our inventory of 250 homes for sale. If you are looking for a deal, give us a call. Eight of our REO listings in Napa and Solano counties are being placed in a pool of properties to be auctioned off in an auction to be held around 11/15 by Hudson and Marshall. The auction will take place in Concord or Walnut Creek – they are nailing down the details. Keep yourself posted on www.hudsonandmarshall.com. An agent registering a successful bidder in the auction has the opportunity to earn a 2% commission – so get out there and call your bargain hunter clients and take them to the auction.

Ten Year Anniversary and Holiday Celebration: Agents of the Wine Country Group should circle the date of 12/15. In cooperation with the “core company” of Frank Howard Allen Realtors, the Wine Country Group will be celebrating ten years as an licensee with FHA. I fondly remember the December day when we went out to the old clubhouse at the Sonoma Golf Club to announce our new affiliation. You will be receiving an invitation for you and your spouse/significant other to join us from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Lodge at Sonoma. In the meantime, reserve the date and time in your calendar.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the week of 9/24 to 10/14: Erick Rothfeld, Nancy Gillespie, Bill Streett, Tiffany Knef, Constance Sharpe, Jeff Veness, Linda Alioto, Barbara Sommerville, Chuck Post, Charlee Schanzer, Tom Lawrence, Corrie Sterbentz, Lisa Albertson, Michel Boucher, Howard Powell and Ron and Jane Pavelka. Randy Haak, Kendra Martin and Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker each double ended a transaction this week. The following agents had two closings during this period: Isaac Raboy and Carol Lexa. And the following closed three sales during this three week period: Daniel Casabonne, Cheri Stanley and the team at the Groves of Healdsburg: Lisa Ehreth, Dee Grohmann and Rico Ruthnick. Well done by all!

Sep 26th, 2007Creating “Equity in Life”

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Equity in Life: Well, our empty nest phase was postponed by a few days by a visit from our son for the weekend. As I was driving Andrew to the Airporter at 5:30 AM on Tuesday morning he remarked: “I’ve been thinking about building equity in my life”. Shaking the lingering sleepiness from my brain, I asked him what that meant to him. He replied that he wanted to build equity in his friendships, equity in his education, equity in his business contacts and relationships. Equity in all parts of his life. I am very impressed that this young man came up with such an original concept and started thinking about it myself.

Later in the morning, I had the pleasure of welcoming two agents who were joining our Sonoma office and I explained Andrew’s “Equity in Life” concept and how I believe it applied in this case. I said that, in my view, these two excellent agents and excellent individuals are adding to the “equity” of the agent/staff community that we have in the Sonoma office and, broader, in the Wine Country Group. Thanks, Andrew, and welcome to Sheila Deignan and Kathy Grant. Also welcome to Juan Gallegos and Marianne Young – building equity in our Napa office.

Comic: Perhaps you saw the comic in the Press Democrat, or your local paper, on September 5th. Two women are in a market pausing from their shopping to speak. One says: “I’m worried about my son. I wish he had chosen and easier profession.” The other responds: “So he wants to be an actor?” And the first replies: “No, a Realtor.”

So the public is painting a picture for us – but we still have our attitude! Linda Watson, Area Manager for First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation (I’ll give her a plug: www.firstam.com/warranty), stopped in today and mentioned that she had recently attended a Brian Buffini seminar and Brian’s opinion is that: “the market is great!” Or as my partner, Earl Shuttleworth, responds to the question: “How’s business?” – Answer, a rousing: “UNBELIEVABLE”. As Linda pointed out – as a client, would you rather work with someone who’s in the dumps about what they are doing and considering “getting out”, or work with someone who is busy, excited about what they are doing and looking for the next opportunity? I know what my answer is.

I’m excited As of 9/24, the WCG has $237,000,000 in listing inventory – 270 properties. More than we have ever had. Look at all that business in our futures!

Upcoming Training: Frank Howard Allen’s Bulls-eye Sales Training begins Oct. 2 – call me if you need info about it. The final Legal Update of the Fall is on October 16 from 9:00 to 11:00 at the Petaluma Community Center– be there, or be square (also required for our E & O insurance). And catch up on the latest real estate technology tools at the NorBAR Technology Faire this Friday, September 28 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Vereran’s Memorial Hall in Santa Rosa.

Surfing and Selling: The Seventh and final Installment: Thanks, again to Robert Graham for allowing me to present his seven “Surfing and Selling” ideas. I hope that you have enjoyed them. Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected]

7. You’re never more fired up than when you’ve had a great ride. Every time I said to myself, “Just one more good wave,” I’d find myself paddling back out to catch just one more.

Selling lesson: There’s never a better time to make a sales call than after you have made a sale. Celebrate your success; then get right back on the phone while you are still hot, confident and feeling it, and make another call.

iAnnex e-Flyers: I’ve heard that some of you are not receiving your own iAnnex e-flyers, nor those from other agents. This most likely has to do with your spam filters. Set your spam filters to allow mail from iAnnex and it should solve the problem – Frank can help you out if you give him a call. I get twenty or so of these flyers a day and I usually look at one or two, but I always look at those from our WCG agents – and they look great!

Enhanced Agent Website feature: Lourdes has enhanced our Agent Website templates to better assure that visitors to your web site that want to search the IDX database register themselves with you as your agent. Before the “search for properties” button, there now is a new message: “To ensure a prompt response, please be sure to select me as your Frank Howard Allen – Wine Country Group Agent when Scheduling a Showing or Requesting More Information.” We hope that this helps you secure more internet leads from your personal FHA-WCG website. Call me if you have any questions.

SureClose Phone Log: Our attorneys emphasize to us over and over again to keep a complete “transaction log” relative to our transactions. SureClose, our on-line escrow management system has an easy place for you to record notes of meetings or phone conversations directly into your SureClose transaction file. Frank is preparing a guide to easily get you onto this “notes” page where everything will be time dated and saved automatically. When he posts the directions on the WCG Intranet – I’ll give you another heads up.

By the way – we’re thinking of renaming our WCG Intranet. Maybe a bottle of wine for the best idea. So far we have “myWCG.com” and “getaclue.com” (Frank’s suggestion) – anyway, hit comment at the bottom of this blog posting and send me your ideas. I’ll award a bottle of fine Mayo Cab to the winner.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations, first, to Tom Lawrence. Tom served as the manager of our Windsor office for the past half dozen years and has always been a productive sales agent. He was recently recognized by our Realtors association for 35 years of service to the industry. Well done.

Also, congratulations to the following agents for closings during the week of 9/17 to 9/21: Steve and Marla Ericson; Penelope La Montagne; Frank Trozzo; Joyce Davison; Diane Krause; Daniel Casabonne and Jana Jones. Mary Beth Foster, Herb Heil and Dan Gallagher each double ended a transaction this week. Lisa Ehreth, Dee Grohmann and Rico Ruthnick shared a closing in the Groves of Healdsburg development and Rico had a closing on an additional transaction as well. Well done by all!

Sep 18th, 2007Empty Nesters

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Empty Nesting: Part of our “Who We Are” statement says that we “…help our clients with transitions that involve how and where they live and work.” Well, Diane and I are going through one of those transitions – becoming “empty nesters”. Sophie leaves this Friday for college and the house will no longer echo with teenagers in the middle of the night in the refrigerator or using the microwave. She won’t be there to give us hugs or smiles either. So, if you see us and we look a little lost, or like we might need some “help”, don’t forget our commitment to be there for our clients as their lives change.

Facts and Trends – A TrendGraphix exclusive to Frank Howard Allen Realtors – the Wine County Group: Here’s my latest analysis of our Wine Country markets based on the most recent TrendGraphix data:

Napa County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of August started to fall as the summer selling season reached its end. As of August 31, 879 homes were available for sale compared to 905 for July. Despite the month over month decline, the year over year inventory was 9% higher than August, 2006. Closings and sales were both lower than a year ago. 57 homes closed in August ’07 and 63 new sales occurred. In August, 2006, 83 homes closed and 90 new sales occurred. An interesting pattern has developed in viewing average asking prices versus average sold prices in the County. In 12/06, the spread between average asking price ($1,220,000) and average sold price ($696,000) was $524,000. It has been narrowing since that time and was the narrowest last month at $150,000 ($1,034,000 asking price and $884,000 sold price). There may still be some slack to be made up in this area as in Sonoma County that spread was just $26,000 in August ($729,000 asking price, $703,000 sold price).

St. Helena/Up Valley Trends: The St. Helena/Up Valley market (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville) remains one of only two of our Wine Country markets (the other being Healdsburg) where inventory is lower on a year over year basis. 150 homes are for sale as of August 31, ’07 compared with 162 in August, ’06. Closings were up higher in August ’07 over a year ago (14 compared to 12) but new sales fell to 9 compared to 16 in August, ’06. An interesting pattern has developed in viewing average asking prices versus average sold prices in the Up Valley area. In 12/06, the spread between average asking price ($2,166,000) and average sold price ($1,055,000) was $1,111,000. It has varied since that time and was the narrowest last month at $379,000 ($1,779,000 asking price and $1,400,000 sold price). There may still be some slack to be made up in this area in order to keep up the sales volume.

Sonoma County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of August continued to rise as the summer selling season reached it’s peak. As of August 31, 2,702 homes were available for sale compared to 2636 at this time a year ago – and increase of 7%. Closings and sales were both substantially lower on a year to year basis. For August ’07, 308 homes closed and 285 went pending compared to 429 closed and 406 pended in ’06. That’s a decrease in closings of 28% and a decrease in pended sales of 42%. The average price per square foot of homes sold in August ’07 was $376/sf, off 3% from the average price per square foot in August ’06. So, the decline in prices is not as dramatic as the decline in units selling and sold. An interesting pattern has developed in viewing average asking prices versus average sold prices in the county. In 2/07, the spread between average asking price ($804,000) and average sold price ($618,000) was $186,000. It has steadily narrowed since that time and the spread last month was just $26,000 ($729,000 asking price and $703,000 sold price). Certainly it appears that current sellers, at least in Sonoma County, are understanding and pricing to the market.

Sonoma Valley Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of August, 2007 continued to rise as the summer selling season reached it’s peak. Inventory typically reaches its highest level in August. As of August 31, 239 homes were available which was the same as this time a year ago. Closings and sales were slightly down on a year over year basis. For August ’07, 20 homes closed and 21 went pending compared to 25 closed and 25 pended in August ’06. The average selling price ($1,063,000) of homes sold in August actually exceeded the average asking price ($970,000) of all homes on the market which would indicate that more homes are selling at the high end than in the medium and lower price ranges.

Healdsburg Trends: The Healdsburg market remains one of only two of our Wine Country markets (the other being St. Helena/Up Valley) where inventory is lower on a year over year basis. 93 homes are for sale as of August 31, ’07 compared with 104 in August, ’06. Unlike our other markets, closings and sales are higher at 17 and 13 respectively for August ’07 compared to 10 and 12 for August ’06. The average price ($885,000) of homes sold in August ’07 was significantly higher than the medium ($600,000) of those sold homes. And, the average asking price ($1,112,000) of available homes was even higher indicating a wide spread in available price ranges.

Windsor Trends: The inventory of available homes for sale reached156 at the end of August ’07 compared to 146 available in August ’06. Closings and sales are both down at 27 and 18 respectively for August ’07 compared to 30 and 31 for August ’06. That’s a 42% decline in sales pended year over year. The average price per square foot of the homes sold in Windsor in August ’07 was $328. A 5% decline from August ’06. The median price of sold homes was just 1% lower than a year ago, $570,000 compared to $577,000.

Cloverdale Trends: The inventory of available homes for sale (112) in Cloverdale reached a twelve month high at the end of August ’07 compared to 101 available in August ’06. Closings and sales are down slightly at 8 and 9 respectively for August ’07 compared to 12 and 10 for August ’06. The price per square foot of the 8 homes sold in Cloverdale in August ’07 was $286/sf. The price per square foot stood at $336/sf a year ago and $287/sf last month. This represents a decrease of per square foot price of 15% on a year over year basis. At the same time the median price of the sold homes in August was +1% year over year. This would seem to indicate that larger homes are selling at lower per square foot values.

BAREIS Rules and Regs: BAREIS staff is being very diligent about monitoring the Public Comments and other sections of our listings to see that they conform to the BAREIS rules. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail to one of our agents regarding their listing:

“The public remarks field is only for a physical description of the property and home. We do not allow showing information (such as: Do not disturb tenants), financial information, website addresses, open house information, confidential information meant for other Agents only, or any information that goes beyond a physical description.

The photo comments are meant to describe the selected picture only. Currently you have “Do not go on property” and “Call agent for info” as well as “Current tenant is moving out” in the photo comments on the first photo. Any comments not describing the photo should be removed.

The Directions field is meant for directions to the property, not for showing instructions. Currently, you have “Do NOT go on property. Call agent. House is in poor condition, stairs are broken.” This information should be replaced with either the directions to the property – or an X or period (.).

If the property is a danger and people should not enter the property without instructions/guidance, you may want to think about only allowing “Partial” on Address to Internet (in the Listing Information). This will only show the City and County of the property, and will not give the actual address to the public”.

The fine for violating these rules can be $500.00, so please be aware of, and follow, the BAREIS guidelines.

Surfing and Selling: Sixth Installment: Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected] Robert has a monthly newsletter on his website “Speaking and Sales Success” and he recently wrote a piece on seven things he discovered in common between surfing and selling. I’m going to include one of his points in each of my next seven blog postings. Point #6 (and I believe this is a really important one):

When you finally catch a wave, stand up and enjoy it: This is why you go through all the abuse of paddling out through the waves, swallowing seawater and dealing with the bruises and scrapes.

Selling lesson: Celebrate your sales. Spend some money, pat yourself on the back, brag about your work (especially to your manager).

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the weeks of 9/03 to 9/14 (it’s been very busy – just ask Regina, Sharon, Dina and Lori!): First, I want to congratulate three agents who had their first closings with FHA-WCG: Heidi Diamantini of our Healdsburg office had her “one and only ever to be” first closing as a real estate agent – 3 Cheers! Mike Caselli had his first closing since joining our Sonoma office and Nicki Rector had her first closing since rejoining our firm in Healdsburg. Others with closings during this period include: Deke DeKay and Diane Harris; Beth Bruno; Rob Pursell; Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker; Carol Lexa; Jeff Veness; Ann Amtower; Pat Brown; Mari Johnson; Lisa Albertson; Nancy Gillespie; and Hank Lane. Diane Litchfield and Dianne Delfino had two units each during this period. Lisa Ehreth, Dee Grohmann and Rico Ruthnick shared three closings at the Grove in Healdsburg. And, rounding it out with four units each for this period were Dan Casabonne and Ron and Jane Pavelka. Well done by all!

Sep 7th, 2007Changes

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Changes: I used this quote from Washington Irving in our Sales Meeting Agendas this week: “There is a certain relief in change even though it may be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling by stagecoach, it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.”

I sense that there is some “bruising” going on among some of our agents. And, among other colleagues that I speak to as well. All I can do is encourage them to look for that comfort that shifting one’s position might provide. Our “position” might be our attitude, our work habits, our distractions, our lack of focus…shift our position and see what develops. Our overall business is ahead of where is was a year ago, and our company has lowered our overhead expenses and costs – so, “on the other side” of this market is another market. I see opportunities in both..

Frank Howard Allen Realtors, The Wine Country Group, enters into Marketing Services Agreement with Countrywide Home Loans: The feedback on our new relationship with Countrywide Home Loans has been great so far. In attending our sales meetings this week, both Cheris and Kevin mentioned a trend for sellers and buyers to consider loan rate “buy downs”. A 2-1 buy down program seems to be popular – the rate is 2% lower in the first year and 1% lower in the second year. It assists in the affordability of the loan and sellers may consider offering a buy down in lieu of a price reduction.

Our CWHL agents can prepare a sample Closing Cost Estimate sheet for you if you or your client has an interest in exploring this idea.

By the way, if you or your clients are looking for some facts and figures about the breath and scope of Countrywide’s business, please take a look at this fact sheet. One interesting fact on the sheet is that they do about 125,000 loan fundings per month. That’s a lot!

Bullseye Sales Training Announced: As mentioned in the last Broker Blog posting, the Contract Training runs from September 21 and continues through Monday, October 15. The next Bullseye Sales Training is scheduled as follows: Every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3:30 pm beginning October 2 through November 13th in the Greenbrae Frank Howard Allen Realtors office. The sessions include the following topics: The importance of Attitude; Working with Buyers; The importance of written weekly and daily plans; Lead generating activities; Building your business; Calls to your database and prospects; Developing relationships with your clients and prospects; Setting goals and tracking your activities. In my opinion, they are all excellent topics. Call for me or speak to your manager for more details.

Surfing and Selling: Fifth Installment: Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected] Robert has a monthly newsletter on his website “Speaking and Sales Success” and he recently wrote a piece on seven things he discovered in common between surfing and selling. I’m going to include one of his points in each of my next seven blog postings. Point #5:

Paddle hard to catch the waves. One of the reasons the good surfers catch so many waves is that they paddle furiously to catch them.

Selling lesson: If you have a good, qualified prospect, go after them with all you have. Assume that they won’t call back, and go on the offensive – in a gently persistent way, of course.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the week of 8/27 to 8/31: Erica Linn; Bob Beckstrom, Steve and Marla Ericson; Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker; Frank Trozzo; Dee Grohmann; and Kendra Martin. Kent Mitchell double ended a transaction during this period. Well done by all!

Aug 16th, 2007Wine Country Market Analyses

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

I’m heading out of town tomorrow for a week. I will have cell and e-mail communication, but if you need immediate broker response, Earl is in town and available.

Wine Country Market Overview: Here’s my latest interpretation of the Trendgraphix data for existing home sales in our Wine Country markets:

Napa County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of July continued to rise as the summer selling season nears it’s peak. Inventory typically reaches its highest level in August. As of July 31, 906 homes were available for sale compared to 767 at this time a year ago – an increase of 18% year over year. Sales were down on a year to year basis: 61 homes closed in June ’07 and 63 new sales occurred. Months of inventory reached a twelve month high at 14.4 months and Average Asking Price reached a twelve month low of $1,053,000. This trend may presage lower median prices in the months ahead, though we don’t expect a significant decrease.

St. Helena/Up Valley Trends: The St. Helena/Up Valley market (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville) is bucking the inventory trends by having a lower inventory on a year over year basis. 155 homes were for sale as of July 31, ’07 compared with 171 in July, ’06 – a 9% decrease. Closings and sales are steady at 14 and 15 respectively for July ’07 compared to 16 and 13 for July ’06. The Up Valley market contains a 10.3 month supply of inventory based on current sales and inventory.

Sonoma County Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of June continued to rise as the summer selling season nears it’s peak. Inventory typically reaches its highest level in August. As of July 31, 2,561 homes were available for sale compared to 2,468 at this time a year ago – an increase of 3.7%. Closings and sales were both off on a year to year basis. For July ’07, 307 homes closed and 311 went pending compared to 336 closed and 356 pended in ’06. That’s a decrease in closings of 8.6% and a decrease in pended sales of 12%. The median price of existing sold homes was off a modest 1.5% on a year to year basis.

Sonoma Valley Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of July were very close to that of a year ago – 222 homes this year and 220 in 2006. Closings and sales were very steady on a year over year basis. For July ’07, 32 homes closed and 26 went pending compared to 26 closed and 29 pended in July ’06. The median price of existing homes sold in the Sonoma Valley in July ’07 was $796,000, 3.1% less than the median of $822,000 a year ago.

Healdsburg Trends: The Healdsburg inventory of available homes for sale is bucking the regional trend as it is lower on a year over year basis. 88 homes are for sale as of July 31, ’07 compared with 103 in July, ’06. Closings and sales are ahead of last year with 14 and 19 respectively for July ’07 compared to 10 and 6 for July ’06. Healdsburg varies from other markets in that there are only 4.6 months of available inventory vs. 10, 14 and 18 in some of the other markets that we serve.

Windsor Trends: Things seem to be stabilizing in Windsor. Inventory of available homes for sale was 148 at the end of July ’07 compared to 157 available in July ’06. Closings and sales are steady at 18 and 21 respectively for July ’07 compared to 21 and 19 for July ’06. The price per square foot of the 18 homes sold in Windsor in July ’07 was $328 compared to $365 in 6/07 and $358 in 7/06.

Cloverdale Trends: The inventory of homes for sale at the end of July continued to rise as the summer selling season nears it’s peak. Inventory typically reaches its highest level in August. As of July 31, 107 homes were available for sale compared to 93 at this time a year ago – an increase of 15% year over year.. Closings and sales are steady at 10 and 11 respectively for July ’07 compared to 9 and 10 for July ’06. The price per square foot of the 10 homes sold in Cloverdale in July ’07 was $287/sf, a slight bump up from the low of $281 in June, ’07, but a 7% decrease from $310 in July ’06.

Surfing and Selling: Third Installment: Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected] Robert has a monthly newsletter on his website “Speaking and Sales Success” and he recently wrote a piece on seven things he discovered in common between surfing and selling. I’m going to include one of his points in each of my next seven blog postings. Point # 3:

Position yourself well. If you’re too far inside the breaking waves, you’ll get crushed. If you’re too far out, you’ll never catch them. The people who catch the most waves are the ones that paddle to the wave instead of waiting for it to come to them.

Selling lesson: Put yourself in a position where it’s easy for your customers to do business with you. Get on their radar regularly giving value, newsletters, ideas, gifts and invitations.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the week of 8/06 to 8/10: Roger Olson; Scott Rader; Charlotte Schanzer; Holly Lee; Ron and Jane Pavelka; Erick Rothfeld; Monica Courtman; Jana Jones; and Greg McCaw. Well done by all!

Aug 10th, 2007Broker Blog looks at the Mortgage Market

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

This week’s Broker Blog covers the following topics: Community Involvement; The Mortgage Market; Surfing and Selling; Property Website Stats; and Closings for the Week.

I’m always inspired by the amount of time, effort and money that our agents, and other agents in the industry, give to the non-profits in our communities. We are truly involved people – from Little League coaching, to Scout mastering, to Relays for Life, our local schools – the list is virtually endless. I have to give my wife, Diane Krause, a complement for her months of hard work on “Wet Paint”, the major fundraiser for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. It happens this Saturday night – so good luck Sweetheart – I know it will be great.

One of my pet non-profits is “California Poets in the Schools”. Their mission is to see that our young people get exposed to poets and the fun and pleasure that this ages old art brings. I recently got a thank you note for my modest contribution and it contained this poem:

Poetry

Poetry is life
rapping when thunder howls.
Poetry is the roots of stone
where I emerge. Poetry is
the footprints that follow me
on my journey home.
Poetry is the stars I see at night;
the peace and terror I cannot run from.
Poetry is the song in my heart,
the dance in my soul.

Luke Morrison, 5th grade
Neil Cummins School – Marin County

That will keep me as a supporter!

The Mortgage Market: Certainly, this is the story of the week. Front page headlines like “Mortgage Crunch”, and “Credit Fears Hit Dow Hard”, can’t help but catch our attention. Personally, I’ve been waiting for someone to report the losses that we see being experienced as the REOs “close out” up to 20% of the loan asset in foreclosure. I’ve been waiting for someone to say “ouch”! Finally, now, we’re starting to hear the ouches – big ones. Banks in Germany, France, Denmark and Australia – hedge funds in both the US and abroad – are freezing customer access to pooled mortgage backed securities funds because they “can’t determine the value” of those funds.

So are they lining up to buy more MBS pools and CMOs? I don’t think so – and thus the liquidity problem. I’ve heard that solid lenders like Countrywide and WFHM have taken $100,000,000 mortgage pools to the market as recently as last Friday and what did they find – no buyers. So they have to hold those loan pools for now and that means they have less reserves with which to fund their current loans in the pipeline.

Fortunately, these lenders are also banks and can access needed liquidity through the Federal Reserve Bank. That’s why the President says that there is amble liquidity in the market – and ironically, mortgage rates are down. However, mortgage banks with institutional warehouse lines don’t have the same access to federal funds and when the warehouse is full and the investors won’t take product out, or provide more capital, even good mortgage bankers, like American Home Mortgage, can be forced out of business.

We had one borrower with a loan commitment from AHM that was scheduled to close last week when AHM announced that they were shutting down. No funds. Now what? Loan contingency removed but lender fails to fund – who is responsible? Can the seller say “cancel the escrow and I’ll take the liquidated damages and resell the house”? We don’t think so, but we’d rather not have to find out. One savvy buyer is asking us to write in the contract that the loan approval will be obtained in 17 days, but the loan contingency will remain in place until “funding”. This may become a popular mantra for buyers, and sellers are going to have to deal with it.

Everyone in the mortgage business that I have spoken to in the last couple of weeks say several things will surely happen: 1) Underwriting will get tougher and documentation more demanding; 2) There will be few, if any, “stated, stated” loans – and certainly not 100% LTV ones; 3) It’s going to be a dicey period – probably six to twelve months in duration and we may emerge from this time with only a handful of national lenders – the rest will be absorbed and consolidated into the larger institutions.

In the late seventies, when the secondary mortgage market was an infant compared to what it is now, and there was no branch banking, when depositors took there money out of the S & Ls we had “disintermediation”. We tried to entice individuals to put the money back in our banks by offering them toasters and blenders so we would have money for mortgage loans. Today, the secondary mortgage market is smooth and global, but it is experiencing a big hiccup and, I believe, there will be some fundamental changes to it and the mortgage industry in the next twelve months.

I know that my strategy will be to suggest our clients work with established, larger lenders with secure sources of funds. I can’t trust that Uncle Charley, the mortgage guy, will be able to fund our client’s loan.

Surfing and Selling: Second Installment: Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected] Robert has a monthly newsletter on his website “Speaking and Sales Success” and he recently wrote a piece on seven things he discovered in common between surfing and selling. I’m going to include one of his points in each of my next seven blog postings. Point # 2:

Use the right equipment. Nobody was catching the really big waves at Mavericks until they started towing people in behind jet skis. I only surf on long boards, as they are easier. You don’t want to surf in cold water without a wetsuit.

Selling lesson: Be prepared. Have the right CRM (Customer Relation Management) system, sales tracking system, headset and technology at your disposal to be an efficient selling machine.

Property Website Stats: Do you review your Property Website Stats (and MLS visit and lockbox visit stats) so you can report to your sellers how many eyeballs were on there property last week? If you send an e-Flyer – do you monitor your stats to see if there is a spike in visits and if your efforts were productive? You can get to your website stats by following Lourde’s instructions below:

“Each website, both agent and property, comes with its own site specific set of web stats. The stats are stored on the website in a password protected directory. Each website has its own unique login and password which is assigned when the website was created. We have established a standard naming convention for assigning the passwords so it should be relatively easy for the agents to figure out what they are once they are familiar with how they are assigned. They can also request this information from Allyson or Susie.

The link for the stats is: https://insert domain name here/plesk-stat/webstat/

Just replace “insert domain name here” with the website address and enter the login and password when prompted.

Agents can also access their agent website stats directly from the link in their control panel”.   Again, call Ally or Susie with any questions and let’s keep our sellers informed.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to all agents on a great month of July for the Wine Country Group. Our closed units were up 51% and our dollar volume was up 70% over July, 2006. The Sonoma office (+237%) and Napa office (+193%) were bellweathers. Congratulations to the following agents for closings during the week of 7/30 to 8/3: Tiffany Knef; Daniel Casabonne; Steve Tarantino; Debby Hendershot; Joyce Davison; Susan Irvine; Lisa Albertson; Holly Lee; Sheila Kelly; John Scott; and congratulations, congratulations to Bill Streett and Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker for two closings each during the past week. Great work by all!

Aug 1st, 2007Risk Management, Surfing and Selling and more

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

This week’s Broker Blog covers the following topics: Risk Management; Surfing and Selling; Market Conditions; and Closings for the Week.

But first, I recently returned from a reunion of my wife’s cousins in north Minnesota farming country. The families come from predominantly Swedish, Welsh and Irish heritage. As Diane says, when they came across the country, or through the Great Lakes, and found country that looked like home, they settled. Anyway, I came home with the following Swedish Proverb that I like: “God gives every bird his worm, but he doesn’t throw it into the nest”. The analogy in the real estate sales world is: “There are sales out there, but they don’t drop into your lap.”

Risk Management: In the recent Realtor Magazine, the following points are made to avoid claims of misrepresentation:
1. Disclose all material adverse conditions. The crux of this statement is the definition of “material”. The suggestion is to ask yourself whether buyers would be interested in the property if they knew about the condition or whether it would affect the sales price they’d be willing to pay. Our risk reduction attorney goes by the mantra: “Disclose, disclose, disclose”. We are currently dealing with a situation where it appears that the seller, our client, failed to disclose to us and the buyer (also our client) material facts that the buyer discovered after the close of escrow. The “fix” is looking like it may be $25,000 to $30,000. Batten down the hatches!

2. Don’t discuss what you don’t know. In other words, don’t guess. Direct the client to sources for them to gain answers to the questions that they may have.

3. Clients should complete their own transfer disclosure statements. If they have questions of a legal nature, refer them to an attorney.

4. Don’t tell buyers or sellers what to do with a property. Provide known facts and market information so that buyers and sellers can make their own decisions. Refer questions about issues like zoning, school districts, floodplains, etc., to authoritative sources.

5. It’s best not to order or interpret inspection and pest reports. If you arrange for inspections as an accommodation to clients, have the billing and original reports sent to your clients lest you be seen as “owning” the reports. Don’t orally explain reports, give the clients copies of the reports and access to the inspectors.

These are broad suggestions, so if you have a specific question or questions, speak to your manager.

Surfing and Selling: Robert Graham is the Principal of GrahamComm (www.grahamcomm.net), a consulting and training company that helps clients increase their sales and deliver outstanding presentations. He can be reached at 415-652-0763 or [email protected] Robert has a monthly newsletter on his website “Speaking and Sales Success” and he recently wrote a piece on seven things he discovered in common between surfing and selling. I’m going to include one of his points in each of my next seven blog postings. Point # 1:

Go to where the waves are right for you.
Sayulita has warm water and small, slow waves, perfect for a hack like myself. I have no business paddling out in big surf and don’t really want to spend hours in 54-degree water.

Selling lesson: Position yourself in an industry and company that fits your personality, aptitude and skill-set. The best sales skills won’t get you far if you are in the wrong place.

Market Conditions: According to the just released “Trends/July 2007” from CAR, Northern Wine Country (Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties) remains the area in the state with the lowest supply of unsold inventory of detached homes. Here is a sampling:
    Northern Wine Country:        2.0 mo. supply
    San Francisco Bay:               3.7 mo.
    Sacramento:                       5.9 mo.
    California totals:                 10.7 mo.
and on the other extreme:
    Central Valley (nic Sacramento): 15.0 mo.
    Orange County:                        19.8 mo.

Do you have a 2 to 4 unit property to sell? Do you have a client who wants to buy a 2 to 4 unit property? Visit www.2-4units.com. I’ve never tried it, but maybe it’s worth a try!

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following for closings during the week of 723/ to 7/27: Diane Krause; Frank Trozzo; Rico Ruthnick; Erin George; Deke DeKay and Diane Harris; Robyn Makaruk; Diana Tate; Jose Saldana; Felice Torri; Julianne Anshutz; Daniel Casabonne; Penelope La Montagne. Mechel Boucher in Healdsburg double ended his own listing in Cloverdale. Great work by all!

Jul 20th, 2007New FHA-WCG e-Marketing Initiative

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Before getting into the exciting new FHA-WCG e-Marketing initiative, I’d like to give equal billing to our daughter Sophie, as I did with our son Andrew a couple of blog editions ago (see 6/25/07 posting).

In September, Sophie will begin attendance at the University of California – Santa Cruz. She is planning to study Marine Biology with an emphasis on tropical oceans. It sounds good to me – we’re planning to visit her in Barbados down the road. In any case, we attended Student/Parent Orientation this week. The first speaker had the following counsel to the new students with regard to their upcoming counseling sessions: “Don’t be timid; and don’t be impatient.”

I immediately thought that this is highly appropriate counsel to real estate sales agents. We can’t be timid in our search for new business, but we can’t be impatient with the process either. I kind of like restating the counsel as follows: “Be courageous; Be tolerant and understanding.” Either way, it’s a go for me.

FHA-WCG introduces new e-Marketing initiative: We are pleased to introduce a new program in cooperation with iAnnex.com. iAnnex is a database aggregator that sends e-Flyers to other real estate agents throughout the area and state. This is a business to business marketing initiative to spread word about our FHA-WCG listings. As a member of four different MLSs and a commercial marketing network, I get about twenty of these “e-blasts” per day. I find that I scan the subject line, and if it sounds interesting, I open the flyer. The thing that I’ve never liked is the inconsistent presentation of the photos and info. In cooperation with iAnnex, Lourdes developed three beautiful templates that are consistent with our branding and brand positioning. Please visit e-Flyer to view the templates and the simple directions to get started.

I believe there are two important keys to your success with this program. 1. Choose your subject line with great care and creativity – it is the key to whether other agents will even look at your flyer. 2. If you receive a request to “opt out” of the e-mail program, please forward that to both Susie and me so that we can see that iAnnex handles the request properly and deletes the individual from their database.

Good luck with this new program, and let me know what kind of response you receive.

Market Statistics: For the first six months of 2007, Frank Howard Allen Realtors is the leading real estate company in the North Bay in both Dollar Volume and Units sold. Congratulations to the over 500 sales agents that make up the Frank Howard Allen family.

Green Homeowners are Happy: According to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders and McGraw-Hill Construction, 85% of respondents are more satisfied with their green homes than with their previous , more traditionally built home. In addition, 63% of buyers are motivated by the lower operating and maintenance costs that are associated with energy and resource efficient homes.

Along these lines, Diane and I are submitting an application to be part of the pilot program for LEED (Leader in Energy Efficient Design) certification for a home that we are planning to build in The Sea Ranch. I believe that within the next decade, LEED certification will be a common yardstick that we use in presenting homes to the public. A LEED platinum certificate home will carry a premium over a LEED silver certificate home. We will all be learning about these new ideas and programs in the near future.

And further along these lines, congratulations to our Healdsburg agent, Carol Lexa, for earning a designation as an “EcoBroker”. Carol went through a training program on the energy and environmental issues that affect real estate transactions in order to earn her designation. For more information, you can visit www.ecobroker.com or call Carol at 707-473-3456.

Closings for the period 7/2/07 to 7/13/07: Congratulations to the following agents for closings over the past two weeks: Felice Torri; Diane Litchfield; Regina Gibson; Joyce Davison; Erick Rothfeld; Mari Johnson; Gunter Pirchner; Tish Thames; and Kendra Martin. Robyn Makaruk double ended one transaction and Pat Brown and Deke DeKay and Diane Harris all had two closings over this period. Daniel Casabonne and Cheri Stanley were the tops for this period with four closings each! Well done by all.

It’s a busy time of year. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself and with your friends and family. Be well.

Jul 5th, 2007CAR Mid-year forecast; plus, plus

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Hoping you had a Happy 4th of July!

In early June, CAR released its Mid-Year Forecast Update reporting revisions to its Annual Forecast published in 10/06. Excerpts follow: “In light of recent and anticipated conditions, the outlook for sales in 2007 v. 2006 was revised downward from an expected 7 percent decline to a 14% decline (this compares to a 23.6% decline in sales for 2006 v. 2005). Year to year percentage changes in sales should become smaller in the remaining months of the year.”

“The outlook for the median price was revised upward from an original 2 percent decline to a revised 1.8 percent annual gain (2006 v. 2005 was a 6.2% increase).”

“The economy was to blame for the extended duration of weakness in the California housing market during the early to mid 1990s, but it is not the culprit now. Low affordability and tight credit standards are constraining activity, particularly in lower priced, entry-level markets. Any turnaround in sales will require significant improvements in affordability. With mortgage rates expected to hold steady and no significant declines anticipated in home prices, affordability relief is not yet in sight.”

FHA_WCG listing e-marketing: We are completing our branded e-marketing program in cooperation with e-Annex. You will soon be able to send attractive and affordable FHA-WCG branded e-flyers to e-Annex’s databases of real estate agents around the north bay and throughout the entire state. Stay tuned for the launch in the next week or two. Thanks to Lourdes Sodari for her hard work on this project.

Unmatched Local Expertise: Keep an eye out for the following new marketing campaign for FHA-WCG:
Unmatched Local Expertise

  • 20+ local offices
  • 500+ professional agents
  • 97 years of experience
  • 5 straight years as North Bay Biz Reader’s poll “Best Real Estate Company”

Changing Times: CAR’s “Internet versus Traditional Buyer Study” stresses the need to move quickly to capture internet buyers. 86% of internet buyers (those who use the internet in their buying process) believe that agent response time is “extremely or very important” compared to 63% of traditional buyers (those not using the internet in their buying process). Generational differences are great: 16% of Gen Xers expect their agent to respond instantly, versus 0% of Baby Boomers. An additional 33% of Gen Xers expect to hear from their agent within one hour of leaving a message compared to 16% of Baby Boomers with that expectation.

One expert says: “…most people won’t remember what form they filled out three days ago. The average internet lead visits five sites and fills out three different forms, therefore making no lead exclusive. You have to make contact. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You have to put effort against all of them until you can pluck your needle out.”

Good luck with those internet leads and hustle, hustle, hustle.

Closings for the Week: Congratulations to the following agents who closed transactions during the week of 6/25 to 6/29: Randy Haak, Diane Krause, Colleen Spinelli, Ron and Jane Pavelka, Jeff Veness, Diana Tate, Dee Grohmann, Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker, and Holly Lee. And double congratulations to Sheila Whitney for closing two sides of a transaction. Well done!

Have a great week and weekend!

Jun 25th, 200721st Birthday and Father’s Day

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

My stepson, Andrew Krause, celebrated his 21st birthday this past weekend with about 35 of his college and school friends in attendance. His mom gave him a toast that went something like this: “If Andrew’s success thus far in life can be measured by the quality of his friends, then he is a huge success.” Of course they all cheered.
It made me think of the quality of our agents, staff and clients. And I’m proud that I can honestly make the following toast: “If the success of our company thus far can be measured by the quality of our agents, staff and clients, then we are a huge success.” Thank you.
Also, on Fathers Day, there was a small quip in the sports section of the newspaper that caught my fancy. John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, was quoted as saying this about his dad:
“He had two sets of three things he said we could use to guide our lives: Never lie; Never cheat; Never steal; and: Don’t whine; Don’t complain; Don’t make excuses. Do your best, and if the results are unsatisfactory, keep quiet about it and work harder next time.”
I believe that one could do well living with these precepts.Bulls Eye Sale Training starts tomorrow – 6/26 Are you aiming for the Bulls eye? Bulls Eye Sales Training that is. Some of the excellent topics of the classes include: The importance of attitude; Working with buyers; The importance of written plans; Lead generating activities; Building your business; Calls to your SOI and prospects; Developing relationships; and Setting and Tracking goals. If you are interested, see your manager – this is a great opportunity and FHA-WCG picks up the cost along with core company FHA.
Did you know that 36% of all new and existing residential sales in 2006 were second home purchases? This is a large number, but down 4%, or 650,000 sales, from 2005. Vacation homes purchases actually increased in 2006 over 2005 while investment purchases declined. Since we are in Wine Country, this remains an important niche in our market. For more information, visit: http://www.realtor.org/reinsights.nsf/pages/marketintelligence?opendocument
Impact Marketing and e-Broadcast updatesWhen you prepare a flyer on impact marketing, you can e-mail html copies when you approve the proof. Check with Susie for details. We are planning to have our e-Broadcast program up and running by 6/30. This will allow you to broadcast WCG branded flyers to various realtor e-lists to enhance the notifications about your listings – particularly to those Realtors who are not members of BAREIS. Stay tuned.Congratulations to…First of all to Andrew on his birthday. But also, to the follwoing agents who closed transactions since my last Broker Blog posting (6/11 to 6/24): Miranda Noh had here once in her lifetime very first closings over this time – in fact she had two! Jose Saldana, Daniel Casabonne and Diane Krause also had two sides each during this period. Other closings for: Kendra Martin; Patty Keiser; Catherine Moylan; Mary Beth Foster; Diane Harris; Bob Beckstrom; Herb Heil; Cheri Stanley; Scott Rader; Joyce Davison; Susan Irvine; and Tish Thames. All escrow closings are special, but the team of Dee Grohmann, Lisa Ehreth and Rico Ruthnick have been working extremely hard on a new townhouse project in Healdsburg for over a year and the first four closed last week – WELL DONE TEAM GROVE! By the way, visit www.thegrovehealdsburg.com to see this beautiful project and part of their extraordinary marketing effort.Have a great week and send along those comments – press the “comment” box.

Jun 12th, 2007New Marketing Materials and more…

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Peter Rodgers, Director of Marketing for the “core company” gave a great presentation today in our combined Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley sales meeting. He will be doing a follow-up session for our Healdsburg, Windsor and Cloverdale agents in the near future, so plan to attend in Healdsburg if you didn’t make it this morning – we will advise you of the date.

Peter’s presentation covered new pdf documents that are available to support your client presentations, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and Luxury Portfolio matters and a new Powerpoint presentation available to agents who want to present themselves and their listing/sales capabilities digitally.

PDF support documents: Peter has created highly professional documents as pdf files for our use. The documents relate to a “Signature Service” checklist that sets us apart from our competition; A “History Timeline” of our 97 year old firm; A “Giving to the Community” document that highlights many of our community contributions, etc. We will be branding these with our Wine Country Group brand and posting on our Intranet along with our other pdf CMA materials in the Intranet File Cabinet. In the meantime, you can print the forms directly from the www.fhallen.com website under the “Why Us” block and the appropriate page for which you are looking. Call me or Susie if you have any questions.

LeadingRE and Luxury Portfolio: There are over 700 top independent brokers in 35 countries who are members of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. LeadingRE brokerages sell over 1.3 million homes per year with a value exceeding $400 billion – more than any other real estate company or network. Visit www.leadingre.com for more info.

Luxury Portfolio membership is made up of 200 of the top 700 firms that are members of LeadingRE. Frank Howard Allen Realtors and FHA-WCG are members of Luxury Portfolio. As such, our luxury residential listings with a value in excess of $1M are automatically picked up from our MLS and entered into the Luxury Portfolio award winning website: www.luxuryportfolio.com. Here’s the great part. We can enhance the photos and text on the LP website to better attract web searches for real estate. We can also submit our properties for inclusion on the front page of the LP website and for inclusion in the LP high end magazine ads (Town & Country, Departures, etc.) In addition, we get access to inexpensive ads in regional and international editions of The Wall Street Journal, Ultimate Homes, DuPont Registry and other publications.

Luxury Portfolio also has an on-line magazine (Luxe Trends) to which we can submit articles and a Luxe Blog where you can dialogue about luxury real estate. Interestingly, LP is the only real estate website that can be read in five different languages and which can translate real estate prices into 22 different currencies.

There are a lot of administrative features, like posting your own ads, tracking web statistics on your listings, enhancing your listings, etc.

For both Leading RE and Luxury Portfolio, we are virtually the exclusive member in our market areas. Call Susie for more details about this great marketing vehicle.

Locations for commercials: Along the luxury real estate front, Gina Corsi-Gutierrez in our Napa office passes along the following “Location Scout”: Jim Baldwin, www.baldwinproductions.com. There’s not much money in this for us or our client, but we can make nice PR out of being a photo shoot location for an L. L. Bean or Williams-Sonoma ad. Thanks, Gina, for the information.

Bull’s-eye Sales Training: Following closely on the heels of the Contract Training that begins this week, the next series of Bull’s-eye Sales Training (previously referred to as “Real Estate Boot Camp”) begins on Tuesday, June 26. This excellent sales training runs for 8 consecutive weeks from 1:30 to 3:30 in Frank Howard Allen’s San Rafael office. It is limited to the first fifty who sign up, so let me or your manager know asap if you are planning to attend – the last session was overbooked. I have a detailed itinerary of the training if you would like me to send you a copy.

Diversity Training: Frank Howard Allen also does periodic Diversity Training in cooperation with First American Title Company. Let me know if you like to attend a future training and I’ll get you more info.

Weekly Closings: Congratulations to the following for closings during the week of 6/4 to 6/9: Constance Sharpe; Hank Lane; Daniel Casabonne; Kip Zook and Jose Saldana. Great work!

Jun 8th, 2007Recent Risk Reduction Items

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

At a CRB luncheon today in Sacramento, Bill Jansen, Esq., presented “the latest” hot topics in Realtor risk reduction.

Negligent Referral: The case is a third party exchange company that closed it’s doors and disappeared with $125,000,000 in exchange escrow funds. A sixty four year old widowed woman’s net worth was tied up in an exchange and totally lost. Her attorney asked: “who recommended the exchange company to her”. She responded: “my Realtor”. You can see where this is going.

Safe practice is to recommend three vendors for any activity, be sure that the client understands the referral and makes the final decision and when you don’t have a specific referral, recommend a larger, established company that is not likely to close its doors overnight.

Home Equity Act Issues: Major penalties against agents and their brokers if the represent investor purchasers of owner occupied, single family/1 to 4 units, with NOD filed prior to closing. Buyer’s agent may accept a referral fee from the Listing agent, but can not represent the buyer. Only the buyer themselves, or an attorney, can represent the buyer. CAR has new forms HEAA & DBA to cancel agency and representation. Call me or your manager if this situation arises in any of your transactions.

More Short Sale Matters: Consider using a Short Sale Listing Addendum when there is the possibility for a short sale.

If you know you have a short sale when you list the property it is one of the times when you can place a conditional offer of compensation in the MLS confidential remarks as follows: “If short sale occurs, commissions shall be split 50-50 between the listing and selling offices”. This eliminates your listing side being wiped out in the short sale.

If you are using Property Profiles from title companies to screen your listings for NODs, be aware that most title companies do not include a search for NODs in their standard property profiles, but may do so under special request. This area is a problem for them as well and they are working on solutions.

The New Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (CAR-AVID) – USE THIS FORM! Effective with all open escrows, I’m asking that this new CAR form be completed by all agents in order to complete the file. This will be one of the forms that will trigger the holding of your check if we don’t have it in file, fully acknowledged by all parties. On the normal TDS form – write in: “See Attached form: CAR-AVID”.

Also, complete all sections of the form. If you see nothing in a particular area, state: “Nothing noted”, or put a dash or N/A.

Also, on the RETDS, page 1, Section I., we recommend that you counsel your sellers to check the two boxes under “Substituted Disclosures” and to provide any existing reports/disclosures under the second box.

Closings for the week of 5/28 to 6/01: A busy week, Lori is happy. Congratulations to the following for closings last week: Mari Johnson; Jana Jones; Steve and Marla Ericson; Tish Thames; Debbie Hendershot; Tammy Owens; Kip Zook; Beth Bruno; Rose Donner; Monica Courtman and Erin George. And a special, only happens once in your life, congratulation cheers to Kaeti Bailie who closed her first transaction as a real estate agent. Many more to come!

May 31st, 2007Land Issues and More

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

We’ve had two recent escrows (each in excess of $2,000,000) collapse over matters relating to the Williamson Act.  Both properties were covered by Williamson Act contracts which enables land to be preserved for agricultural use and receive tax benefits in exchange.  In the past couple of years, the state’s enforcement of the specific terms of the Williamson Act contracts has intensified leading to “audits” of the contracts in Sonoma County, and perhaps elsewhere, and lawsuits relating to WA properties.  If you are dealing with a property as either a listing or selling agent and the property is subject to a WA contract, please review it carefully with your manager to see that full disclosure is made and full understanding is obtained.


In connection with land deals, I was recently referred to an interesting web site:  http://www.dirtlawyer.com  It has a great deal of links relating to land and legal matters – check it out and put it on your bookmarks.


Speaking of bookmarks, the Broker Blog can now be found as a handy link on the FHA-WCG intranet site – so check it out anytime.


Contract Training:  I believe that you may have all heard about the latest session of Contract Training that begins on 6/15 in San Rafael.  Keep in mind that topics other than contracts are covered.  You might want to do a refresher on “Ethics/Procuring Cause” or “Presenting your Offer”, or “Risk Management and Home Warranties”.  You can drop in on these individual classes, just let your manager know so we can coordinate with the FHA trainers and management team.


FHA Ranked #73 on Power Broker Report:  We can all be proud of the fact that out of an estimated 300,000 real estate firms in the country, Frank Howard Allen Realtors ranks #73 in Sales Ranking.  That’s good stuff!


Economic Outlook for Sonoma County:  An economic outlook was presented this morning in conjunction with Sonoma State University.  It was a broad presentation with meaningful data and forecasts relating to our entire wine country/north bay region and with excellent specifics relating to residential real estate.  View the content of the outlook at http://www.sonoma-county.org/edb/pdf/2007/20070531msaa1.pdf.


Your Own Blog:  I never set out to have a Broker Blog, but now I like it.  Keep comments coming – they are published to each posting as they come in.  FHA-Reach makes it really, really simple to create a blog.  Just log-on to FHA-Reach (button on our Intranet) and go to Compose – Blogs.   You can name your blog and be in business in ten minutes.  Keep your clients informed on you own Agent Blog.  Call me or Susie if you need any help.


Closings for the Week of 5/21 to 5/25:


Congratulations for closings to:  Herb Heil, Cherie Stanley, Pat Brown and Corrie Sterbentz (dual ends) and to Ron and Jane Pavelka who had two sides close last week.  Looking forward to a busy end of the month and a really busy June.


Updates coming:  We have an update “refresher” coming to the FHA-WCG website in mid-June and an e-Flyer program within a few weeks.  Stay tuned for specifics regarding these great upgrades.


Talk to you soon.

May 24th, 2007Sonoma County Business Barometer

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Some of you will find some very interesting real estate data in the just released report from the Sonoma State Economics Development Board.  The report is called the Spring Business Barometer for Sonoma County and can be found at the following link:  http://www.sonoma-county.org/edb/pdf/2007/2007_q1_business_barometer.pdf.

May 24th, 2007Broker Blog – TrendGraphix update

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

You may have noticed the TrendGraphix report 3 over the years carried a bar graph of “Sales Price to List Price”.  This has always been calculated on the Sales Price to the last list price and not to the original list price.  I suggested to TrendGraphix that the current graph wasn’t very useful and they agreed.  So now, you have the option of looking at the ratio of the Sales Price to the last list price or the original list price. 


The difference is important.  For Sonoma County, the SP to LLP has been in the 98-99% range, however, for the SP to OLP, is in the range of 92%-95%.  For Napa County it is 96-97% compared to 88-92%.  These are significant differences that can be pointed out to sellers for any of the individual markets that you want to research.


Managers and administrators also have the ability to search individual brokerages, offices or agents based on their SP/OLP performance.  For instance, among the major competitors in Napa County, FHA-WCG ranks 2nd in SP/OLP performance at 95.2%.  Cherie Stanley, as an individual agent, performs at a 98.7% SP/OLP ratio compared to Jill Levy, the number one producing agent in Napa County, who performs at a 95% ratio.  I believe that that makes nice listing presentation material.


Let me or your manager know if you want some of these more specific details.


Luxury Portfolio – We have heard that some agents are ordering Luxury Portfolio flyers before their listing is fully qualified for Luxury Portfolio designation.  Please observe the following criteria for Luxury Portfolio properties:


1.  Priced at $1M or more – residential listings only, no land listings or “land heavy” listings with marginal residences


2.  A minimum of five (5) good quality, high resolution photos.  Floor plans can be added after five photos, but not substitute for photos


3.  Under construction and pre-construction are okay with high quality architectural renderings – check with Susie


4.  Grammatically correct ad copy and a detailed property description


Please don’t order LP flyers, or promise LP designation to your owner until you have met the above criteria and have no questions about the property’s qualification.  Thanks.


Sales for the past week:  Congratulations to Kendra Martin, Sargum Griffen, Kip Zook, Frank Trozzo, Jerry Roach and Felice Torri for closings last week.  Further congratulations to Robyn Makaruk and Barbara Sommerville cooperating on a double ended transaction and Jose Saldana and Erick Rothfeld also cooperating on a double ended transaction.  Well done by all.


Finally, we will be adding a button for the Broker Blog on the FHA-WCG intranet website to make it easier for you to access the blog.  I’ll let you know when it is up and running.


Comments are always welcome – click below.  Have a great and safe Memorial Day weekend.

May 21st, 2007Industry Response to 60 Minutes segment

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Hello
all – there has been quite a industry “buzz” regarding the 60 Minutes
segment about the real estate industry that aired a week ago, Sunday.
NAR sent a letter of response that can be viewed at: www.realtor.org/about_nar/NAR_letter_to_60_minutes.html

A
letter from the president of Realogy Group’s franchise group (Coldwell
Banker, C-21, Realty Executives, Sotheby’s, etc.) follows:

May 16, 2007
Jeff Fager
Executive Producer
CBS News “60 Minutes”
555 West 57th, 9th Floor
New York, NY. 10019
Dear Mr. Fager:

Your story on the real estate industry that aired on May 13th had more holes than a leaky roof.

Putting aside the inaccuracies regarding “sacrosanct” commission
rates, lack of industry oversight and state governments conspiring to
stifle competition, the segment grossly oversimplified the complexity
of buying and selling a property.

Real estate brokerage is a performance-based industry. Clearly, not
all real estate companies are alike. Results will vary dramatically
based on a variety of factors, including the experience and track
record of the professional you select. Picking an agent to represent
you based solely on discount, rebate, or other cash back scheme may
seem like a good idea at first glance, but not always at the closing
table when all is said and done.

The bottom line is that consumers have ample choice when deciding
which real estate company and business model they prefer to represent
them in a transaction. Competition is good for the consumer and the
industry and is the basis of our free market economy. At the end of the
day, the companies that offer the best value proposition to home buyers
and sellers will prosper.

Respectfully,
Alex Perriello

Alex Perriello
President & CEO
Realogy Franchise Group

I
haven’t personally heard from any of our clients regarding the TV
segment, but I echo Mr. Perriello’s sentiments above – the service to
the client is highly predicated on the skill, experience level and
commitment of the agent and the agent’s company. This ain’t no “get
rich quick” scheme – it’s a lot of hard work and dedication. Thanks for
all that you do at FHA-WCG to earn us our excellent reputation.

Please comment if you have any thoughts on this matter, and take a look at comments to previous blogs – they are quite interesting. Have a great week.

Gerry

May 17th, 2007

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Interesting headlines in the newspapers today.  The Chronicle headline is:  “Bay Area housing prices up…”, and the Press Democrat headline is:  “Housing prices down for 10th month in a row”.   Who to believe?


Both to a degree.  The nine county Bay Area had a median price increase of 6.6% on a year to year basis comparing April ’06 to April ’07.  Sonoma County, within the nine county area, had a decline of 4.4% for the same period.  Interestingly, though, the markets in which our Wine Country Group are located in Sonoma County all had year to year median price increases, or were flat, excepting the Windsor market.  The major decline for the county occured in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.  In Napa County, the town of Napa was down, but the Up Valley markets were up.


I believe that this is reflected in the following quote from the Chronicle article:  “The median price is skewed by strong activity at the upper end. …affluent Bay Area housing markets are getting stronger…”.  This bodes well for the majority of our Wine Country markets.


One thing is certain, however, transaction volume is down, or flat.  For our offices, only in the Up Valley Napa market was volume higher on a year to year basis.  Last week, a top agent in the Peninsula market told me that multiple offers within three days on $1M plus properties was common.  My experience is that the Wine Country lags Peninsula and San Francisco activity – by as much as one year to eighteen months – so perhaps that is coming our way.


Re: FHA-Reach:  Susie published “local” e-News for each of our offices yesterday.  The news contains a local market graph with comments, news about the Wine Country and news about the company.  I hope you are taking advantage of the work we are putting into this new e-News format and sending it on to all the individuals in your sphere of influence.  If you have any questions about it, please contact Susie or me.


Re: closings – I missed the week of 4/21 and failed to mention closings by the following agents:  Helaine Forte, Alicia Robledo, Diana Tate, Randy Haak, Jana Jones, Ron and Jane Pavelka, Cheri Stanley, Faeli Vyn, Jeff McEachern and Dianne and Michelle Delfino.  Dee Grohmann had two closings for that week.


We remained busy for last week (5/7 to 5/11) with closings by:  Carol Lexa, Joyce Davison, Monica Steensma, Janet Anshutz, Gunter Pirchner, Bob Beckstrom, Debbie Delfino, and Lisa Ehreth.  Rico Ruthnick and Jeff McEachern both had two closings each and Daniel Casabonne closed 4 sides.  Special congratulations to David Reynolds in our Cloverdale office who had his first closing since becoming licensed.


Wishing many more to come for Dave, and congratul-ations to all!


Have a great weekend and feel free to post your comments, if any, to the Blog.  

May 11th, 2007Broker Blog for 5/11/07

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Frank Howard Allen Realtors was just recognized as the “Best Real Estate Company” in the 2007 Northbay Biz magazine poll.  I believe that this is the sixth or seventh year in a row.  Congratulations to us all for our being recognized as the best in the North Bay.


We have reached some milestones – over $300,000,000 in combined openned escrows and listings as of 5/1/07.  Again, well done.  And, in last week’s MLS tour in the Sonoma Valley, we had nine of 22 properties on tour.  I like the percentages!


A couple of Escrow matters.  If sending documents to the Escrow Department via scanner/e-mail, use the defalult “tiff” configuration.  It is much easier for Regina and Sharon to separate the documents and put them in the right “slots”.  If you have one total report – i.e. a title report or inspection report – in a pdf format, that is fine, it can be handled easily if it is one document.


Also, please send your documentation in on a timely basis.  When everything is rushed at the end, Lori gets to hold your check and use the float.  It is always easiest to send documents to Escrow as soon as they are ratified by all parties – why wait?  And, please report extensions, modifications and cancelations on a timely basis.  Lori is counting on those escrows and if they are dead and she doesn’t know, it makes her unhappy.


The Frank Howard Allen Realtors company picnic is on Friday, June 22nd at Stafford Park in Novato – save the date and look for more details.


Recognizing the agents with closings for the period 4/30/07 through 5/4/07:


Rob Pursell had his first closing.  Congratulations!


Barbara Sommerville double ended a transaction.


Daniel Casabonne had two closings.


Holly Lee closed on her Healdsburg listing – yippee.


Chuck Post, Ron and Jane Pavelka, Jana Jones and Lisa Albertson also had closings.


Well done!


Please send comments, and talk to you soon.

Apr 26th, 2007Broker News – 4/26/07

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Congratulations to the following WCG agents for closings the week of 4/16 to 4/20:


Pam Guisto and Daniel Casabonne – Trinity Rd., Sonoma


Chuck Post – two closings in Sonoma


Ron and Jane Pavelka – two closings in Cloverdale


Troy Lucchesi – One closing in Santa Rosa


Doug Del Fava and Susan Parker – Kenwood – Two closings


Kendra Martin – One closing in Sonoma


Sheila Kelly in our Napa office – One closing on a condo in San Francisco


Deke DeKay and Diane Harris – One closing in Healdsburg


Bob Beckstrom – Double end in St. Helena/Deer Park


Well done by all.


A couple of pointers courtesy of Rich DeLuca:


   1.  Plan on attending at least three formal “seminars” per year – whether 2-3 hours or two days – to keep the batteries charged.


   2.  When in a seminar – draw a box on an open page and write “I Will Box” above it.  When an idea resounds with you – write it in you “I Will Box” and you have an immediate take away from the seminar.


 


The “comment” box has been added to the Broker Blog – so feel free to throw in your thoughts on any topic.  


Best,   Gerry

Apr 20th, 2007Welcome to Broker Blog

posted by Gerrett Snedaker

Hello – welcome to Gerry’s Broker Blog.  This is a place where I will share information about the company and the industry in general.  Feel free to post your comments and thoughts to the blog and we’ll just see how this goes.  Remember – you can create your own blog very simply through your FHA-Reach account.  Call Susie or me if you have any questions.


You will be receiving a note from Susie today that your “eNews” is ready.  This is our new, customized eNews for each office location and with a bright e-News template created by Lourdes to be consistent with our website look and feel.  We’re a little late getting this out, so the timing on some of the events sited in the eNews is upon us, but it’s still a nice newsletter and a postive “thing of value” for your SOI list and clients.  We are planning to get next month’s out to you around mid-May so it will contain the latest Trendgraphix graphs with April data.


Susie will be gone from this weekend through 5/7, so if you have any marketing questions, including your FHA-Reach account, please call me or Allyson.


Best,   Gerry