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My Christmas near the Fiscal Cliff


Well, it would appear that we avoided that whole “end of civilization” thingy. Phew. As one friend put it, if the Mayans were so smart, there would still be Mayans. I am relieved, nonetheless. I still have some unfinished year-end business – like posting something here before our three readers conclude that I have been abducted by evil-doers and write my off as a goner.

In the old days, back when our blog was just a baby and was fed on a more regularly basis, I relied heavily on the tax deductions I spawned for my best material, somehow finding ways to weave their wacky goings-on into real estate related musings. Alas, Daughters #1 and #2 are tax deductions no more, and I need GPS to locate them at any given moment. Over time, it has become increasingly hard to stitch amusing anecdotes together from a smattering of Instagram posts and Foursquare check-ins.

So it was that I was looking forward to this holiday season when we would finally have a quorum of the shared gene pool — a real warm blooded, nuclear family reunion! We collected #2 from at the airport on an incoming eighteen-hour flight from Madrid (the one in Spain) on the very eve of the end of the world. And having long ago relinquished my Mother of Year trophy, we plopped her on a redeye 48 hours later for some Forced Family Fun in our nation’s capitol. Child abuse? Perhaps. But holidays are times you spend with family, dang it, and ours happens to be currently strewn about like a really bad scatter diagram. She’ll get over it.

Daughter #1 is a Capitol Hill reporter and has been sequestered since August – first because of some silly elections and, more recently, because of some silly fiscal cliff. And since the idea of “A Very Texting Christmas” seemed a little, how do you say, pathetic and depressing, we decided to take Christmas to her.  

And what do a bevy of Bergs do as they dance in the frozen DC tundra at the edge of the fiscal abyss? They look at real estate, of course.

Real estate always occupies a sizable quadrant of my modest cerebral processing center, and for obvious reasons; it’s how I pay the pizza guy. But this time, I was pondering all things real estate while wearing my whimsical, “what if?” consumer hat.  That is because Daughter #1 is a renter, and calculating rents in Washington, DC requires one of those fancy calculators with an exponential function. For instance, if you were to ask what her current monthly rent is, the correct answer would be “$1.489e14.”

And that is when I remembered that interest rates are really, really low right now. As a trained professional, I also know that prices are not getting any lower anytime soon. So, assuming one had the down payment (or, as I like to call it, "my kitchen remodel”), one might be able to enjoy home ownership and a lower monthly payment – maybe something like $1.342e11.

Before I continue, I will briefly digress – like one of those little television flashbacks – and speak to our local market. (I’m doing this just in case one of our three readers lives west of Omaha and is here on purpose, not because he typed “Mayan kitchen remodel” into his search bar.)

The Case-Shiller home price index for October was recently released. In San Diego, they showed an increase in prices of 6.02% year-over-year. This was expected; we have been watching the price creep first hand as our own clients repeatedly experience the fun and frivolity of multiple offers. And by “multiple,” I don’t mean “two.” On the last two offers I wrote (on the first day the homes were on the market), there were ultimately 19 and 39 offers on the properties respectively. This has become our new normal.

Inventory is a real problem for us right now and, while we should see the usual increase in offerings after the holidays, I don’t expect the increase in inventory to be dramatic – at least not dramatic enough to satisfy the latent buyer demand.  In Scripps Ranch this morning (92131 Zip code), inventory is the lowest I remember since February, 2003. If you exclude Stonebridge Estates, there are 19 detached homes and 4 attached homes on the market – this from a total inventory on the ground of approximately 8,000 and 4,000 homes respectively.

Now, here is what I think we will see as we turn the corner into 2013. The supply side of the equation will get slightly better, but the overall supply/demand curve will still be off kilter, so prices will continue to rise, albeit gradually. The other thing I anticipate is longer market times, a by-product of what one of our agents calls “seller greedy eyes.” All of the buzz about rising prices will cause many sellers to be a little too over exuberant in their pricing, which will in turn cause buyers to resist.

Having dispensed with that bit of local flavor and prognostication, back to our regularly scheduled programming. I am a licensed broker in California; not so in Washington, DC.  And like any good do-it-yourselfer, I had a bit of a learning curve while familiarizing myself with real estate on foreign soil. Here are a few of the things that I learned while I was wearing my civilian clothing:

1.     Brokerage and agent sites that have a home search feature without a map search should be immediately nuked, as they are completely worthless to me. Yes, I am talking to you, big brand name brokerage! It's not hard; even little old San Diego Castles maps searches. You see, being 2500 miles away (give or take), I do not know U Street from 17th from North Capitol. A listicle is useless. On the other hand, I can find my daughter’s current home on a map, as I can find the public transit stops, the Capitol where she flashes her press badge every morning, and the Trader Joe’s she likes to frequent.

2.     Zillow’s data sucks just as much in The District as it does in San Diego. I knew that going in, of course, so I purposely avoided Zillow when I set out on my online window shopping expedition. However, as I was initially relying, as so many do, on the old Page One Google search returns, and given that the search results on the broker/agent sites read like the phone book, I eventually found myself on Zillow where I was forced to resort to a tedious forensic process. The process involved finding a home that met my search parameters, scouring the page with my magnifying glass to discover the listing agent and, if I was lucky, a link to his site, and following the link to discover that the home was either under contract or had sold during the Reagan administration. Out of shear frustration and fearful that I might die of old age before I uncovered a real listing, I remembered that…

3.     Washington, DC’s MLS, MRIS, has a consumer-facing website that rocks. And I mean “rocks” as in the information is time certain, correct, complete, and map based. Our own Sandicor does too, by the way, but you won’t find either site in your Page One search results, so you have to know (or remember) to go looking for them.

4.    Our San Diego closing costs are starting to seem downright cheap. Our rule of thumb for buyer closing costs in San Diego is 1% of the purchase price, not including loan fees or points. In DC? A minimum of 2.5%, I am told. As an example, here sellers generally pay for owner’s title insurance (the buyer pays for lender’s title); there, the buyer gets the honors for both. Their recordation tax alone is 1.1%. Yikes-a-rama. Make that two kitchen remodels.

5.    Real estate is local. OK, I didn’t learn that. I already knew that, but I was reminded in a big way. Their seasonal swings are different (if for no other reason than they have seasons), and their market swings are less wild in general, which I think has more than a little to do with all of those government jobs. Plus, this suburban California girl has a lot to learn about urban living. Stuff like co-op versus condo, presence or absence of an elevator or parking space, and (get this) distance to a thing they call “the Metro” all factor into value. I have a new appreciation for Walk Scores. And attached garages.

I don’t know how Kris’s Big East Coast Real Estate Adventure will end (I am still in the tedious “discovery” phase), but there is one thing I do know. Washington, DC is flipping COLD in December! You couldn’t pay me enough to be one of those snipers on the roof of the White House when it is sleeting sideways, even with the unobstructed view of Bo frolicking in the Rose Garden. Which is why I am fairly certain that if there is another crisis at the Capitol during the holidays next year, Daughter #1 will have to settle for “A Very Skyping Christmas.”


Partying like it’s 2003. Multiple offers – Aargh!

“What’s going on inside that house?” passers-by wonder. “Is it Black Friday again? Do they have cheap TV’s or free iPads? Is someone throwing a party, and we weren’t invited? Or maybe all those people are still waiting to vote. No, wait. That was Florida.”

Nah. Nothing to see here. It’s just a new listing.

Lately, those of us who commit random acts of real estate for a living have been partying like it’s 2003.  And by partying, I mean we have been spending our days and evenings and weekends lining up in various driveways waiting our turn to set our lascivious sights on a real, bona fide house for sale.

There aren’t many of those lately – houses for sale. And as we turn the corner on the brave new year of a recovering real estate market, the shortage of inventory will remain our biggest albatross.

Any agent with buyers in tow knows that the first thing one does when one sees a new listing hit the market is call the listing agent.

“How many offers do you have?” the buyer’s agent asks sheepishly, while simultaneously clinching a rabbit’s foot, rubbing Buddha’s belly, tossing a little salt over the shoulder, and praying for, if not redemption, a bit of good fortune. And granite counter tops.

“But we have only been on the market for seven minutes!” the listing agent replies.



OK. So I made that up. Sometimes the answer is “nine” or “fifteen,” but you get the idea. Supply and demand are just a teensy bit out of whack.

This morning in Scripps Ranch, for instance, there are a total of 27 detached and 8 attached homes on the market. Total homes on the ground? About 12,000. The last time I saw numbers like this was in 2003. Back in those days, God help you if the yard sign installer drove within five blocks of your home. The result was a thundering herd of agents and their buyer clients hurling purchase offers at your front door… just in case. People were afraid to roll their trash cans to the street lest they return accidentally under contract.

Multiple offers. Aargh! I have been on both the sending and receiving side too often lately. And believe me when I tell you that “fun” doesn’t begin to describe it, unless you consider watching the hopes and dreams of a dozen first-time buyers being extinguished in casual, reply-to-all fashion to be a real laugh fest.

So what is a would-be buyer to do? There is no magic formula to getting your offer accepted in a multiple situation, of course, but there are some things you should consider in order to have a fighting chance.

1.     Do NOT wait until you find your dream home to sit down with your agent and go through the contract. You won’t have time.  Do a dry run before you start looking. Familiarize yourself with the forms and the process. That way, when the time comes, you will be ready to point and shoot. Speed counts.

2.     Do NOT wait until you find your dream home to begin considering how nice the neighbors are, how great the local school test scores are, and how competitive the prices at the nearest dry cleaner might be. You won’t have time. While you are driving the commute route in the morning, the evening, and on weekends just to “make sure,” while you are canvassing the neighbors about barking dogs and other demographics, and while you are polling your friends and coworkers about the merits of homeownership in light of recent events in Syria, someone else has purchased the darn house.

3.     Do NOT wait until you find your dream home to submit all of your documentation to a lender. New listings – the good ones – last hours, not days or weeks. And no one will look at your offer without a solid pre-approval letter tethered to it.

4.     Comps, schmomps. Of course you need to understand neighborhood values and comparable sale prices. But do not forget that we are in an (albeit gradually) appreciating market. Granted, there are some external unknowns that may impact our real estate market (rising interest rates, fiscal cliffs). But, for the foreseeable future, prices are not going down. More to point, when there are many, many offers on a home, offering below asking price is not a good strategy, because the fact that this home at it’s current price and condition has attracted numerous interested buyers should tell you something about perceived market value. You aren’t going to steal it. Either you want it or you don’t.

5.     A home is worth what it is worth to you. Let me explain. I recently had clients ask me what the “right” price was for a home they were interested in, what it was “worth” – this, a home that already have four offers. A home is ultimately worth what a buyer is willing to pay, and with multiple offers, it will be worth something different to different people. The “right” price in a multiple situation is the price at which you would be happy to consummate the purchase if selected but would be comfortable sleeping nights knowing you gave it your best if your aren’t. In other words, take your best shot. You are not operating from a position of uber-strength here. The whole “let’s leave a little room for negotiating” strategy is not necessarily the best strategy in multiple offer scenarios, as you may never get the chance to don your Donald Trump hat.

6.     Do NOT muddy your offer with stupid stuff. If the seller says that their washer and dryer do not convey, do not write an offer asking for the washer/dryer, the pot rack, the sectional sofa and the family schnauzer. And give them stuff that doesn’t cost you anything – shorter timeframes or a larger deposit. Sometimes, it comes down to the devil being in the details.

7.     Pick a good – no – a GREAT agent. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a seasoned, experienced agent on your side. You see, a whole lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes. A great agent is lobbying for you – groveling, even, on your behalf. They are talking to the listing agent (I know; it’s crazy) — about the seller’s expectations, wants and needs, and about the nature of the competing offers before writing the offer so that yours might have the best chance of standing out. They are following up after submittal – to confirm receipt, yes, and to answer questions and generally ensure that, worst case, you get a counter offer. It is their job to try and keep you in the game. And the offer has to be well written. As a listing agent, I am always amazed at the offers I receive that are incomplete or incorrectly filled out. I am amazed at how many offers mysteriously show up in my inbox with no warning – no call or communication from the agent prior to or after submittal. This kind of stuff puts a buyer at a disadvantage, because no listing agent wants to work with a buyer’s agent that appears to be less than competent. They are going to have to live with them for the next 30 to 45 days.

Do all of these things, and you may still end up on the losing end of a multiple offer situation. If you need a loan and three other buyers are sitting on buckets of gifted cash, there simply isn’t much you can do about it. But, do these things, and you will have at least have a decent shot. 

photo by: Libertinus

Bank of America Short Sale Update – Let the Good Times Roll


From the OMG files, Bank of America (BAC) recently sent a new advisory to agents who handle short sales. And, as if short sales weren’t already enough fun (and by “fun” I mean “Oh-please-make-it-stop-I-should-have-been-a-ballerina”), BAC is now cautioning agents and sellers involved in their short sale process not to get too excited about the approval letter or scheduled closing date. Here is a partial screen shot of the love letter I received:


Says BAC, “Bank of America services mortgage loans for hundreds of investors. As a part of normal servicing, investors may decide to release or transfer servicing from Bank of America to another company… Real estate professionals should advise homeowners that, similar to foreclosure, a servicing transfer is a risk that may occur at any time during the short sale process.”

So, what? Responsibility for the servicing of your loan gets transferred. It happens all the time. Except, if you are in the throes of short sale fun, an ill-timed servicing transfer could derail your otherwise imminent short sale – you know, “similar to foreclosure.” Whatever.

According to BAC, “If an offer has already been accepted on your short sale, a closing has been set and an approval letter issued, the new servicer will determine if the short sale will continue.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, you’ve got nothing. Rinse and repeat.

Oh, and we are also to be advised that “it takes 30 days or more for the new servicer to access the loan.”

Good times.


What are those appraisers thinking? An Election Day rerun.


(Editor’s Note: If you are reading this, stop it right now and GO VOTE!)

From my inbox yesterday:

“Your site looks great, but I noticed that you've only had three blog posts since Wednesday, May 25, 2011. I'm sure you are just too busy to write blog posts every week!”

Why, yes. Lately, I have been a little busy. That’s not the point.

This was a fitting message on what was the eve of voting day – fitting, that is, because it is blatantly false. Why, just three weeks ago I wrote about… well, stuff. But, the point is, I have written about a lot of “stuff” since May 25, 2011.

Even though I knew in my heart as I read this little disciplinary note (a note, coincidentally, sent by a company who would love to blog for me for a small monthly fee), I found myself doubting myself. Much like the political ads we have been bombarded with of late are mostly absurd, if we are subjected to them often enough and for long enough, we start to question what we know to be true.

“Maybe that candidate does hate freedom and fuzzy kittens; maybe that other guy did knock off a liquor store in 1962.”

“Maybe I haven’t blogged since 2011.”

Fortunately, a few seconds of my own fact checking confirmed that our blog, while not exactly falling into the “breaking news” category lately, is alive and well. It was during this fact checking that I stumbled upon the following post worthy of a revisit. 

Appraisals. In this market of so many buyers and so few listings, in this market of multiple offers, fierce competition among would-be homebuyers, and appreciating prices, appraisals are once again becoming the bane of all folks who commit random acts of real estate for a living. Appraisals are also no picnic for sellers.

Your home is ultimately worth not what a buyer is willing to pay but what the appraiser says it is worth. I know, I know. Your house is special – way more special-er than the one that sold down the street last month. In this trip down memory lane, we’ll look at what bonus points an appraiser might award for each of those features of specialness.

This represents but one independent “poll,” of course. Your mileage may vary. The important thing to remember is that appraisers are like undecided voters. They are all different, and you can’t possible predict the voting outcome prior to Election Day. 


When pricing your home to sell, you have two audiences to consider. First, of course, there is the potential buyer. But remember, unless that buyer is Warren Buffett or some dude who has been cashing in his aluminum cans at the recycling center for a very long time, chances are he is going to need a loan. And before that buyer can get loan approval, the lender is going to want a neutral third party to confirm the value of the home. Enter the appraiser.

"But it has to appraise!" we find ourselves hollering a lot lately, often to a bunch of non-believers seated at the kitchen table. You see, you may know that you spent $247, 850.98 on all of your stunning improvements. Heck, you have receipts! And I may know that your wood floors are not just any wood floors, but made of materials hand-crafted by indigenous peoples of the exotic rain forests of Malaysia… or Burbank.

Guess what?

The appraiser doesn't care. He doesn't care if you selected the higher-end granite or popped for the pull-out cabinet shelves. She doesn't care if your windows were installed by a certified Pella specialist or by Gus from your golf foursome who has a booth at the swap meet on weekends.

All of this got me thinking. How much value, exactly, will an appraiser place on a home's various and sundry, unique qualities? So, I embarked on a little research project. With the help of our awesome San Diego Castles agents who provided me with much of the necessary research materials, I compiled a sampling of eleven recent appraisals. These appraisals were commissioned for transactions in which we represented either the buyer or seller. The results? A lot of confusion, I'm afraid, but I'm guessing the results might surprise you.

First, know that the majority of the time, we never see the appraisal. The appraisal belongs to the buyer, so if we are representing the seller, we aren't privy to the actual, written report. And even when we are representing the buyer, the lender will simply tell us that the appraisal "came in at price," and we march along our merry way toward closing.

The fact is that appraisals almost always comes in "at price." Buyers are so smart. It seems that in almost every case, the buyer has offered to pay exactly what the appraiser ultimately concludes the home is "worth." Super impressive! But, here's what you need to know. The point of the appraisal is to assure the bank that their investment is solid and that there is no funny business going on. We all know that coming up short on appraised value means no loan, which leaves us all scurrying to renegotiate. In the bank's eyes, a higher appraised value makes them equally nervous.

Without further ado, here are the results of my compare-and-contrast take-home assignment. First the spreadsheet, and then I shall perform a little interpretive dance. Keep in mind that appraisals work like this: The home being appraised is the "subject" and the sale prices of all of the "comparables" are adjusted either up or down to reflect the varying features with the goal that, ultimately, the appraiser is comparing like fruits. (Note: For line items where no adjustment value is given, the properties were either considered to be equivalent or the appraiser didn't consider that particular feature relevant to value.)


This one was a stand-out as being fairly consistent among appraisals. They will generally give you props to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 for having one, and it doesn't matter if your pools is a simple rectangular concrete watering hole or something reminiscent of a scene from Blue Lagoon.


I have never seen an appraiser give credit for a built-in backyard barbecue. Never, that is, until my most recent appraisal. This time, we were awarded 10,000 bonus points. Practically speaking, don't expect the same treatment. This was an anomaly. And, it is worth mentioning, that we got this credit for a barbecue we didn't even have.


This one might be the biggest surprise of the bunch. Buyers, sellers and agents know that there is a world of difference between a three-bedroom and four-bedroom home — so much so that these properties attract different buyer pools altogether. However, appraisers only look at "room count." So, whether that extra room is a bedroom or bath (or half bath, because they round up!) makes no difference. With one exception, our appraisers considered the extra room worth between $1,500 and $5,000. The exception? One appraiser gave a $35,000 credit for having an extra bedroom. Like my barbecue, don't count on this.


Most of our appraisers didn't care. A patio is a patio, they concluded, so no credit was given. One appraiser did consider that having a patio or balcony versus none was worth $1,000. Another (our lover of the outdoor barbecue), gave a $10,000 credit simply because our patio was covered and the others were not. (Punch line: $10,000 is very close to the estimate we received from the termite company to replace the patio cover that was the victim of much wood rot.)


This one is oh-so subjective, so any credits will be dependent on the appraiser you are assigned. One appraiser dinged a home by $20,000 for backing to a road but made no adjustment to the home that's side yard abutted a busy road and gave no concession for a cul-de-sac location. Another thought the cul-de-sac was worth $5,000. And our beach property? The appraiser made upward adjustments of between $50,000 to $100,000 the closer a property was to the big blue wet thing. Eight appraisers ignored location altogether.

Lot Size

I have always found this one slightly flawed. Usability, design, quality of landscaping and hardscaping, the fact that the rear neighbors' homes are slightly elevated giving you that charming "amphitheater" feel — those things are rarely considered. On the other hand, the lot size shown on your Assessor's record will get you between $1 and $6 per square foot in our study.

Home Size

We've already adjusted for room count, but here is our double-whammy. Square footage of the home will be adjusted. By how much? Beats me. Our appraisers applied values of between $35/square foot and $135/per square foot. This one is a turkey shoot at best.


$1,000 to $5,000, depending on… well, I'm not sure.


You will be awarded $4,000 to $5,000 for an extra garage stall. If you have a garage versus a parking space, the difference could be between $2,500 and $5,000.

Air Conditioning

Credits here were between $1,000 and $3,000, and while you might think it varied due to size of the home, it did not.


"How much is my view worth?" This is one we get all the time. The answer is that you will get some credit, but it won't be anywhere near the view premium you paid the builder when you bought that premium lot. First, we have our little beach pad. The beach is different. Here, our appraiser awarded price tiers of $50,000 for varying degrees of ocean view. Our barbecue enthusiast considered a view of Miramar Lake (the home was a first-tier, lake view home) worth $50,000, but gave our home no credit for having an open space view. With those two exceptions, "view" premiums ran between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on just how pleasant the particular appraiser considered the particular views.


Finally! This is where nearly every seller thinks they will get the standing O's. But, and I can't say this loudly enough, THERE ARE JUST THREE CATEGORIES OF CONDITION. They go by different names, but there are only three. You are either worse than, equal to, or better than the other homes in terms of upgrades in the eyes of the appraiser. Our credits were at least ballpark-consistent. Again, our one outlier was Sam the Cooking Man. He conceded a total swing of $60,000 between the homes in the poorest versus best condition. (In retrospect, he was quite generous on almost all fronts — and we still came up short on value.) As for the others, the pristine homes with the shiny new kitchens and remodeled baths were considered to carry only a $20,000 to $40,000 premium over their poorly maintained, under-improved counterparts.

There are other line items and considerations in the appraisal report, of course. "Year built" is a zinger and one for which, for the life of me, I can't decipher the formula. It appears to involve dreidels, Ouija boards, and a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Those "extra rooms" are always fun. Our client who paid $50,000 for the fanciest California Room I have ever seen (complete with real Pella windows, cable, electrical, closets and ceiling fans) got a $5,000 credit and lost their buyer in the process.

Finally, there is a curious line item in the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report titled "Energy efficient items." I say curious, because I have never seen an appraiser take energy efficiency into account. Such was the case for Property 1 (remember the barbecue?). This home had a $50,000 energy system. The owner worked out of the home, and thus it was lit up like a runway every hour of every day. His heating and air conditioning systems worked non-stop, as he had a two-degree temperature span, and he heated his pool in December. Despite all of this, most months he sold energy back to the utility company. Appraiser's credit? Zip.

And what happens if your appraisal misses? You can appeal it, right? Of course! And we do. With the new appraisal rules, here is how the process works. We can't speak to the appraiser directly. He's neutral, remember? So, we prepare our thoughtful appeal and submit it to the lender who, in turn, will submit it to the appraiser. He will carefully consider our appeal, including all of the errors and oversights that you we respectfully pointed out. He will "duly note" those points that we have raised, and then he will give us a big, middle-finger wave.

The bottom line is that we can talk all day about what your home is worth to a buyer. We can talk about return on kitchen versus bath remodels and new roofs versus crown molding. But the reality is, your home is first worth what a buyer is willing to pay but ultimately, what an appraiser says you are worth.





A Few Take-Aways From That Time My Email Was Down (Random Musings)

I could almost hear the mournful, whistling theme song – the one that plays in every Western movie right before the gunfight scene. I could almost see the tumbleweeds dancing playfully across the desolate badlands of my computer screen.

Life without email is a lonely existence.

For nearly twenty-four hours, we found ourselves without email. Twenty email boxes in all were affected. The first stage of the mourning process is panic, of course. I imagined the emails I had been missing. “I would like to sell my $4 bazillion home. If I don’t hear back from you in five minutes, I will be listing with someone else. And I will call you bad names on Yelp.”

Stage Two is where you become The Problem Solver. You spend two hours on hold with your mail server’s crack technical support team, a team whose only support is to provide you with an unending barrage of “support numbers” while your case is being “escalated,” during which time you are forced to listen to Pachalbel’s Cannon on an infinite loop until you are compelled to impale yourself on a two-hole punch, if only you still had one of those throwbacks to simpler times.

During the third stage of mourning, you (and “you” would be “me”) become very angry, at which point you start tweeting mean things about an unnamed mail host (Network Solutions), hoping to harness the power of social media to force some divine intervention. And you post mean things on Facebook, too, because you have a lot of free time on your hands.

Finally, comes acceptance. You accept that your husband is really tired of your whining and may actually make good on his threats to find “a replacement wife.” You accept that while you may in fact lose a couple of business opportunities, no one is going to die. And you remember that an unnamed mail host intent on ruining your life and livelihood (Network Solutions) can’t keep you down. You are better than that. You still have Internet.

A victim of circumstances, I spent a lot of time catching up on reading. Mostly, I read Facebook and Twitter – until my eyes glazed over and to the point where I now consider myself the world’s foremost expert on “trending topics.” Oh, and I also managed to avert my eyes from the little black box and get out to show a home or two. So, in the spirit of sharing, I now bring you:

A Few Take-Aways From That Time My Email Was Down

1.     “The effect that political signs in yards has on buyers’ evaluations of the neighborhood should not be under estimated.” This was tweeted by one of my friends and colleagues in Virginia. Cosign!!

You see, people have biases. They like people who are like them. Which is the same reason it is poor form to leave family photo galleries or religious artifacts on display when showing your home. And it is the reason all of those agents I see on Facebook espousing their political views are violating the first rule of business development: Don’t alienate half of your potential clients.

2. “We’re at the bottom, but it will be long and flat.” This was tweeted by my “BFF’s” at Zillow and is a quote from their chief economist, Stan Humphries. Actually, the concept is being tweeted by nearly everyone in the industry. And they are right.

Inventory is nearly non-existent in our market, and buyer demand is crazy-strong. Case in point: When I pulled myself away from my depths of email-less despair to show a new listing to client, one that was being held open (the listing, not the client), we thought we had mistakenly stumbled into an Apple store on Free iPhone Day.

3. “I’ve been stuck on a plane, and was too timid to pull an Alec Baldwin.” The point here is that my Twitter-prolific daughter is apparently flying somewhere. Good to know. If not for social media, I would have no clue where the girls are or what they are up to.

4. “If you are meeting someone for the first time, and you have no idea what they look like or what kind of car they drive, don’t make assumptions.”  That’s from me. At that same open house (see #2 above), I was meeting a new client for the first time. Did I mention that this open house was well attended? And let’s assume that I was meeting “Dave” at 1:00. So, at precisely 1:00, I stood in the driveway clutching my MLS printout and wearing my best, “happy to meet you” grin.

And as each car slowed in front of the home around 1:00, all seventy-two of them, I proceeded to wave them into the nearest parking spot, greet them at the driver’s side door, and enthusiastically pump their hand. “Hi, I’m Kris!” I said, seventy-two times. “Hi!” they replied, looking rather confused. “I’m William (or Suresh or Daniel or, well, just insert seventy-two names here that AREN’T Dave). When “Dave” did finally arrive (there were no parking spaces left), the home was full of people talking about some whack job out front who must be running for office or something.

5. “Welcome to Akin country. Webster Groves, Mo.” Ah! So that’s where she was going. My daughter-the-political-journalist is in Missouri. Again, good to know.

6. “How to See 20% More Listings, One Week Faster,” tweeted Refin. The link was to the Redfin Blog where they talked about a recent study they commissioned that found that (gasp!) the listing inventory on major national, third-party portals like Trulia and Zillow are fraught with errors, incomplete and lagging. I could have saved them the trouble of paying an outside consultant. 

I do have to give them kudos for the spin they put on the findings, however. “The study found that Redfin has 20% more agent-listing homes for sale, and gets new listings 7 – 9 days faster,” they wrote (emphasis theirs). Well, that is true. But, here is the other true part: The same holds true for all other broker, agent and MLS websites with a search-for-homes features – including OURS. It’s through the magic of a little thing called IDX (Internet Data Exchange), and Redfin doesn’t have a corner on the purest, most time-certain listing data; the entire brokerage community does. Just sayin’.

7.  And speaking of IPO’s (were we?), Realogy Corp. just had their own IPO. As reported by Inman News, Realogy, franchise giant behind brands including as Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and Better Homes and Gardens, “has said it will use proceeds from the IPO to pay down more than $7 billion in outstanding debt.”

Zillow, Trulia and now Realogy. I am starting to think that I should do one of those IPO thingies like all the cool kids. Sure, San Diego Castles Realty has no debt, but what the heck. Who couldn’t use a little cash infusion? Maybe I could buy myself a new toaster oven or something. I’ll have to chew on that one.

8. “All my dreams of never becoming First Horse are finally coming true,” wrote @RafalcaRomney. Trust me, I am not getting all political here. As we covered in #1 above, it would be foolish of me to tip my hand as to my own political leanings. It’s just that I find it hysterically funny that a fake Twitter account for a Presidential candidate’s horse has 8,897 followers, so I can’t help but “follow” him myself. (I find it equally funny that I have over 5,000 followers, but that is puzzle to be solved another time.) 

photo by: K W Reinsch

Office Location

  • San Diego Castles Realty
  • 12265 Scripps Poway Parkway, Suite 115
  • Poway, CA 92064
  • P: 858.530.2374
  • F: 858.876.1701
  • E: info (at)
  • CA BRE# 01853496

Broker Information

  • Kris Berg, Broker
  • CA BRE #01241572