Real Estate & Technology

April 27, 2007

Thank you Kevin, for the wonderful introduction!  I too am thrilled to be a part of your growing 3Oceans community here online.

Yes, it’s true - I am fascinated by technology.  Always have been.  To the point that my friends call me the ”gadget guy.”  Perhaps it’s just in my nature as someone who has always had the deep desire to “figure things out”, always wondering how things work, exploring, learning, finding ways to do things more efficiently.

Years ago, before becoming a Realtor, I worked in the high tech industry as a Product Marketing Manager, where I had the distinct pleasure of evaluating all kinds of nifty new gadgets, many of which had not even come to market yet.  Not only was I on the bleeding edge, I was there before the first cut drew any blood!

Today, as Kevin mentioned, I am using the latest technology tools in my real estate practice in order to make the process more streamlined & efficient, paperless & wireless, interactive & engaging, and most of all - fun!  The cornerstone of my technology arsenal is a Motion Computing TabletPC.  With the ability to sign documents electronically on it, I have become paperless.  With the always-on wireless broadband Internet connection, I have become truly mobile.  No longer must I say, “Let me run back to my office and look that up on the Web… Or fax that document… Or print that out.”  It’s become permanently attached to my hand — I don’t go many places without it.

My TabletPC also consistently draws the attention of people around me.  Gazes of wonder, inquisitive stares, plentiful questions & engaging conversations.  That’s undoubtedly the primary reason that Kevin and I were drawn to eachother that sunny afternoon a couple of years ago at a focus group in Palo Alto regarding real estate technology being conducted by our regional MLS company.  He noticing my Tablet, me noticing his.  It was a match made in Real Estate Technology heaven.

I look forward to contributing on 3Oceans, thank you for your invitation Kevin.


Introducing a New Contributor…Bart Marchioni

April 27, 2007

Bart Marchioni3 Oceans is thrilled to announce that Bart Marchioni, a Keller Williams agent and good friend, is coming on board.  Bart has the distinction of not only being a world-class Realtor with great insights, but also — gasp! — even more plugged in and wired than I am.  He’s figured out how to glean every ounce of productivity out of his nifty Tablet PC, his various phones and PDA’s, his Bluetooth paraphernalia, and a camera or two.  Oh yes, and in between all of that he guides all his clients through the arduous process of home-buying and selling in Silicon Valley.

I should note that this makes the score 2-2 between perennial rivals Alain Pinel Realtors and Keller Williams.

It’s all yours, Bart!


World’s First Virtual Open House

April 26, 2007

From 5pm to 7pm PST today, April 26th, 2007, I’ll be doing a twilight open house showing of 49 Missouri.  Concurrently, I’ll be doing what may be the world’s first virtual open house.

Come by here to take a look, ask questions, find out more about the property, or just to say hi.

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3Oceans Rises From the Depths

April 26, 2007

After a too-long blogging hiatus — brought on by a confluence of heavy work and personal commitments — I’m back…

One of the commitments keeping me busy was my “most Internet-marketed property…ever” listing. Let’s just say I underestimated how much time it would take to put property details up on some 80 sites…even though many of them auto-feed from But more on that later.

With the help of Jack Wimberly from West Valley Home Tours and the good folks from I’m proud to unveil my debut acting appearance in a video segment about the listing, which is at 49 Missouri Street in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

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What can a stager do for me? Part 4 of a 4-part series

April 19, 2007

Although this is the last installment of a 4-part series on what home stagers can do, don’t be fooled – there is an infinite number of things we property presentation consultants can do to help you market your property! However, I had to end it somewhere, and I’ve decided to talk about the least expensive way to stage your house: the staging consultation.

First off, the staging consultation is different from the staging quote. If you’re looking to stage a vacant property or have someone do redesign staging for you, a staging consultation is not for you. Instead, you need a stager to come out to your property and put together a quote. Usually stagers will not give out actual staging information while they’re visiting to put together a quote – most stagers in our area offer free quotes, so they’re not getting paid for this time. Their goal is to get as much info about your property in the shortest amount of time so they can prepare a fair proposal.

When you hire a stager for a consultation, he or she will walk through your property and give you an analysis of what needs to be done to the house to make it look best for selling. The stager can give advice on everything from repairs to color schemes to furniture placement. Often, you will have the choice of getting a written report from the stager (which usually costs a little more), or taking notes as the stager walks through with you. Personally, I think getting a written report is worth the extra amount. Many stagers will provide diagrams along with a step-by-step list of “to-dos” and suggestions for showing. It’s nice to have the report to refer to as you go along.

A staging consultation is best for:

  • ­ Sellers who will be living in the house while it’s on the market.
  • ­ Sellers on a budget (pricing depends on the size of the property and whether or not the stager prepares a written report).
  • ­Sellers who have time to do the work to stage themselves.

Not only is investing in a staging consultation a great deal for the do-it-yourselfer, but it is also a useful tool for Realtors. More and more often, Realtors are adding value to their services by providing a staging consultation for their clients. By bringing in a stager, Realtors demonstrate that they are invested in selling their client’s property. Furthermore, when a Realtor is faced with a client who doesn’t think fixing up or staging is necessary, a stager can provide a very helpful third-party evaluation.

Now that you know a little more about the major services stagers provide, feel free to post or e-mail any questions you may have about the process. I’d be happy to help!


Tackling the Single-Property Website Conundrum

April 11, 2007

For my upcoming “most Internet-advertised” listing, I — naturally — want a website for the property. There are lots of opinions out there about the efficacy of single-property websites (see, for instance, what Mary McKnight, Greg Swann, and Joel Burslem have said).

Here’s my take: they provide

  1. Great property marketing — If done well, a website provides a convenient place to get out your marketing message. The property I reviewed yesterday, for instance, has its own web site — — which is very easy to remember.
  2. Terrible SEO — No matter how well done, a single property web site is not going to have good SEO since it’ll be competing with sites like Movoto and Trulia for searches like, “Menlo Park Fair Oaks real estate” and “Homes in Fair Oaks neighborhood” and “655 14th Ave Menlo Park.” Remember: Real estate professionals and experienced home buyers and sellers may well know where the local MLS site is, but many people go to the same place they always do to get information: Google or Yahoo.

As an example, consider the property I reviewed yesterday. A search on Google for 655 14th Ave Menlo Park lists

  2. (the company hosting, but clicking on the link gives you all recently created ListingProducer sites, and the property in question quickly gets buried)
  3. My write-up from yesterday

The actual web site itself is nowhere to be found!

So how do you combine the marketing cachet of a single-property web site with the SEO benefits of an established blog?

Matt Dunlap from Realivent recommended purchasing an appropriately-named domain, and then redirecting that domain to a subdomain under an existing well-established site, and that’s what I’ll be doing for this project. will be redirected to

I’m looking forward to building this site, using some of Matt’s expertise, widgets and plugins.

Stay tuned!

Update:  Matt gives more of his thoughts on his blog.

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Mortgage Mania - Part 3

April 11, 2007

Last week I mentioned an article written by friend and colleague, Rachel Van Emon at OPES Advisors on the ripple effects of the sub-prime lending crisis and impending changes in lending guidelines.

Things move quickly in this market and industry, so I wanted to draw your attention to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News saying that the impact will be minimal in the local market, except for some first - time buyers. The sky isn’t falling.

However, the article goes on to note that lenders have changed their guidelines, and that highly leveraged loans that are the bread and butter of first-time homebuyers are going away.

Quote: “He cited a recent young client with a credit score of just over 660 but a relatively short credit history, who is looking to buy her first condominium using 100 percent financing.

“With the guidelines changing, now some of the lenders who would have taken that three weeks ago … can’t do it today,” he said.”

Assuming this young buyer has good cash flow and a salary-based job, she should be a pretty good credit risk for a mortgage. That is how I bought my first home. Local prices are sky-high already, and this could be another barrier to entry for many.

It’s not only first-time buyers who are short on savings and didn’t pick their parents well who are affected. Bay Area buyers are financially sophisticated, and have used interest-only and other non-traditional loans to allow them to divert cash that would be spent on traditional mortgages into higher return investments. Reducing their ability to do that could dampen some of the enthusiam that is contributing to the currently hot market.

Thank for reading, and I welcome your comments.

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A Fair Oaks Castle

April 10, 2007

Fair Oaks is one of my favorite Menlo Park neighborhoods, partly because of the unpredictable mix of properties. There is a sprinkling — but only a sprinkling, mind you — of McMansions, but the rest are a melange of cottages, Victorians, Craftsmen, bungalows, and small Ranches.

Today’s tour offered a surprise in the form of 655 14th Ave, brought to the market by friend and colleague Shelly Roberson, wife of 3Oceans contributor David Roberson. I’ve driven by the home many times and found the exterior square-castle look intriguing, but the inside is even more so.

Though 1900 sq ft in size — larger that most Fair Oaks homes — the inside has a warm, cozy feel, brought about by the owners’ artistic flair and Shelly’s own staging handiwork. (She’s one of a handful of agents who stage their own properties. Trust me, you don’t want me doing that for you!)

My favorite touch was the Tintin poster on the wall in the upstair’s kid’s bedroom, which brought back nostalgic childhood memories — which I suppose was the intent! (If you did not grow up in the UK, France, or a former colony of either, you may not be familiar with the Tintin series. Do yourself a favor and buy a couple comic books. While you’re at it, get some from the Asterix series as well.)

This listing looked like a good excuse to try out the Popup Image Gallery Wordpress plugin from Yellow Swordfish (not to be confused with Redfin).

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Killer Buy vs. Rent Calculator

April 10, 2007

I long ago put together a buy vs. rent calculator and it served as the basis for my buy vs. rent series.

The New York times has just come out with a pretty good buy vs. rent calculator of their own (might soon disappear behind a paid firewall.)

Buy vs. rent calculator

Its conclusions are basically the same as mine:  Assuming roughly the same rental cost vs. property price ratio as we have here in the Bay Area, you’re better off owning than renting over a 4 year or greater period if property prices appreciate by 5% per year or more.

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Holy Smokes, Batman, That Was Fast!

April 10, 2007

Within 3 hours after my post noting that, quite rightly, 3Oceans doesn't rank for the search term, "San Francisco Potrero Hill Real Estate" … Google has picked it up, and we're now at number 14.

Yahoo and MSN often take a bit longer to index new content, so for now we don't yet rank with them.

The power of good SEO… 


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