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July 21, 2008

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Symantec Issues High-Priority Security Patch For Trulia Widgets, Called

May 8, 2008

trulia-in-computer.gifSymantec, the Internet security firm, today released what they described as a “code red” security patch for all real estate bloggers currently using the now-infamous “Google Juice Sucking” Trulia widget.

Tipped off by an anonymous Active Rain’er who had come across this discussion thread, which in turn had been prompted by good investigative sniffing [sniff one, sniff two, sniff three] by the pack at Bloodhound, Symantec’s elite Taskforce Realty Internet Permission Experts (TRIPE) worked through the night to come up with a patch. The head of TRIPE, Dr. Francois Viande-Fichu, released the following press statement:

With thanks to the ever-vigilant Active Rain-droppers for tipping us off, we were stunned to find some pretty damning evidence of foul play in Trulia’s widget, which unsuspecting Realtors have been deploying on their web sites in droves. Trojan Horses are one thing, but what they’ve come up with is something far more nefarious: a Peloponnesian Unicorn.

The Trulia widget does the following:

  • Sucks out the hosting web site’s Google Juice, especially the Raspberry flavor.
  • Decreases the hosting web site’s Google Page Rank to negative 5.
  • Installs a little Trulia MarkerMan on the desktop whose eyes follow you around as you surf, and they roll sarcastically whenever you visit Zillow’s site.
  • Automatically and instantaneously rises Trulia to the top of the Google rankings for all searches related to the host site.
  • Makes the web site owner/blogger start chanting Gregorian hymns in the original Latin.
  • Refers all incoming traffic to the hosting site’s owner’s fiercest competitor, in exchange for a 25% referral fee.

When challenged to provide evidence of the above, Dr. Viande-Fichu displayed the following code embedded into each Trulia Widget.

While {5>1 DO:
Trulia.PageRank = Site.PageRank*2 / Slurp.Giant.SuckingSound;
Install.Icon = http:/trulia.com/images/trulia_markermen_icon.gif; option bug eyes=”true”;
If Site.Visit=”Zillow” Do {Icon.Roll.Eyes And Sigh.Loudly};
Google.LocalSearchRankings.Site.City = “Truliawful”;
Trulia.LocalSearchRankings.Site.City = “TopOfFirstPage”;
Launch Latin.hymns.InstanceGregorian;
End Do}
?end Php>

Agents who’ve installed this widget are advised to uninstall it immediately, then put the following badge on their web site to protect them in the future:

To install this widget, do the following:

  1. Download this file to your computer.
  2. Open the file in Notepad or some other text editor.
  3. Copy and paste the contents of the file into a sidebar Text widget.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Full disclosure:

  1. I did a consulting project for Trulia last year.
  2. Trulia out-ranks my site for many Google searches.
  3. My site outranks Trulia for many other searches, including, most significantly, peace corps volunteer botswana real estate palo alto.
  4. Trulia’s no-follow policy applies, as far as I know, consistently across all broker’s listings, including mine.
  5. No animals, Realtors, or SERPS were harmed in the production of this post.
  6. Void where prohibited.
  7. Do not ingest.
  8. This blog is not a toy. Keep out of reach of children.

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As The Market Slows, Lawyers are Salivating, Part 2

April 14, 2008

Some of you will remember my post on the lawsuit in Southern California where the buyers of a home were suing their agent because they felt they overpaid, and the agent had acted to hide that information from them (Refresher available here).

This case had lawyers salivating, and brokers trembling, as it potentially could provide precedent and open the door to lawsuits by home buyers who purchased homes during the recent run-up in housing prices, and are now seeing their local markets stagnate or fall.

According to the following article released by the California Association of Realtors, the jury on the case found in favor of the real estate agent.

There was no mention of the issues that I flagged in my earlier post, namely that the agent didn’t share the appraisal or list of comparable properties with the client, or that he encouraged them to get their home loan through him and use his appraiser.

I’m sure that there are many real estate agents out there who also are great mortgage brokers. I’m not one of them. Frankly, I’m not smart enough to keep up with all the issues in real estate law and the local market, plus all the ongoing changes in the lending market.

Thanks for reading . . .

After only two hours of deliberation yesterday, the jury unanimously vindicated a buyer’s agent accused by his clients of failing to disclose that two other homes in the neighborhood sold for less than what they paid. As a trial court case, this decision in Ummel v. Little is binding on the parties to the case, but has no binding authority for other cases. Moreover, the buyers may file an appeal.

This case involved a couple who bought a home in a coastal Carlsbad community in 2005 for $1.2 million. They regretted their purchase when they discovered that two other homes sold for about $150,000 less than theirs. They sued their real estate agent for negligent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty. Their lawsuit grabbed national attention, given the recent downturn in the real estate market.

At the trial, the agent’s attorney argued that there were valid reasons these two other properties sold for less. One home, for example, had a lap pool which was unappealing to many buyers, and the sellers wanted to rent back the home for two years.

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What Bad Housing Market? What We Need Are Tips On How To Win Multiple Offer Situations

April 4, 2008

Yes, the market is bad in many parts of the country — even many parts of the Bay Area.  But real estate, as the adage goes, is local, local, local — and in many of the good school district parts of the Bay, prices continue to go up and multiple offers are back in vogue.  Case in point — in the last week, there were at least two properties that sold with multiple offers — with “multiple” in this case meaning “more than 10.”

So, if you’re a buyer competing with other buyers, what should you do?  Our advice:  Pull out all the stops.  Here are some time-tested suggestions*:

  1. Bring a large manila envelope stuffed with 100 dollar bills to the offer presentation.  Discreetly slip it to the listing agent.
  2. Rename your first born after the owner of the property.  Bring said child to offer presentation, clearly labeled “I named him/her after you!”
  3. Offer a 15-year free rent-back to the sellers.
  4. Bring along your dream therapist.  Have him/her describe your last session in which you clearly saw yourself buying, owning, and living in the home.
  5. Lobby congress to make it illegal to not accept your offer.
  6. Stalk the seller for a few days ahead of the offer presentation.  Hold up signs saying, “Sell me your home!  Please!”
  7. Add an extra zero to the price you’re offering.
  8. Do a “presumptive close.”  The day of the offer presentation, show up with moving trucks, decorators, painters, and other assorted workmen.  Tell the current home owners you’re about to move in — didn’t they get the memo?
  9. Bring along your burly cousin to the offering.  Have him sit menacingly in the corner, swinging a baseball bat.  Make oblique comments about “keeping him happy” and “how disappointed he’ll be if I don’t win the house.”
  10. Put up a sign outside the offer presentation office saying, “The home has already sold!  Nah nah nah nah nah nah!”

* These suggestions are intended to be humorous.  Pleasure consult with your attorney and/or Realtor before following them.

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Dan Green Corners New .Blog Domain Market Within 2 Minutes Of Opening

April 1, 2008

Dan Green, the well-known — and very entrepreneurial — mortgage re.net 2.0 blogger, mortgage broker, businessman, and 50% of the brains behind the re.net’s “Associated Press of blogging” pinged me last night with some interesting, if perhaps geeky, news:  a new top-level domain .Blog has been announced and will be available starting today.

What does this mean?  Quite simple — if you’ve been thinking of starting a blog, you may have noticed that every single possible domain name has already been taken.  Seriously.  Trust me on this.  Say you’re in Wapatachee, WI.  WapatacheeBlog.com, the obvious choice, is already gone, as is its plural form.  WapatacheeHomeBlog and its plural twin — taken.  Same with WapatacheeRealEstateBlog[s].com, WapatacheeHomesForSaleBlog[s].com and so forth…you’d have to content yourself with something like WapatacheeRealEstateAndMortgageServicesInformationForYouFromMeYourTrustedRealtor[s].com

With the new .Blog domains available, you’ll now be able to settle for something much simpler and much more memorable.  Wapatachee.Blog, for instance, would be a good choice.

At just a few minutes after midnight, just after the domains had become available, I thought I’d reserve a few obvious choices for myself — 3Oceans.blog and 3OceansRealEstate.blog.  Guess what — taken!  I did some sleuthing and found both domains had been registered just minutes earlier by a company named DotBlog.Blog, headquartered in Cincinnati OH at 10979 Reed Hartman, Suite 118B.  Some more investigation proved my suspicion:  DotBlog.Blog’s head office is in the broom closet of Dan Green’s mortgage business.

You see, Dan Green is not, in fact, a mortgage broker.  He’s actually a domain cyber-squatter.  He got wind of the new .Blog domains a few days ago and took the time to write an automated blog that reserved every single conceivable re.net domain name within minutes of them becoming available.  Greg Swann — want Bloodhound.blog?  Sorry, Dan’s got it.  Joe — looking for Sellsius.blog?  Same news.

It turns out that through another of his nefarious shell Cayman Island-based shell companies, Dan has started another venture called BringTheMoolahForYourDomain.Blog.com  If you want to ransom your hijacked domain name, send $50 in crisp $3 notes to Dan Green’s West Coast office in Menlo Park.  Email me for the address.

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More Foreclosure News . . .Not Even The Rich Are Safe

February 28, 2008

I think we will file this under: “News of the Weird”, but I was stunned to see that even Michael Jackson has been unable to escape the clutches of the expanding foreclosure crisis. Apparently, The King of Pop’s has joined the thousands of homeowners across the country who are losing their homes to foreclosure.

Apparently, Jacko owes $24.5 million on the property and the county is planned to foreclose for non-payment of back taxes. The property is scheduled to be auctioned at the courthouse steps on March 19.

Michael - Contact our resident foreclosure and short sale expert, Bart Marchioni, right away. He can help you out.

For all you readers out there, help a reclusive, aging pop star out, go buy a 25th anniversary edition of Thriller. On sale now!

For CNN’s take on the story, click here.

Thanks for reading

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The Relationship Between The Super Bowl And Real Estate

February 2, 2008

At the risk of offending Jeff Brown, I’ve never been able to figure out why, in a sport called football, the ball in question spends almost no time in contact with, uh, the foot.  Be that as it may, there is apparently a major football game tomorrow — I think it’s called the Superbowl.

Given that a good chunk of the U.S. will be glued to the screen tomorrow, there’s an obvious question to us in the real estate business:  is this a good weekend to be buying or selling a house?

The general consensus is that it’s probably not a good use of your time to be hosting an open house tomorrow.  You’re not likely to have a lot of interested home buyers dropping by.

By the same logic, if you’re a home buyer, and you’re not really into the whole Superbowl thing, there may well not be a lot of open houses to see…but there will probably also not be much competition for the inventory that’s out there.  (Latter point will only make sense for those in the parts of the country — like here in Palo Alto — where it remains a seller’s market.)

Now it’s time to dust off a post of mine from last year:  The Top 10 Differences Between The Superbowl And My Real Estate Business.

10. It doesn’t cost $2M for a 30-second ad on my site.

9. I don’t need shoulder pads and a helmet to protect me from rough play in real estate.

8. I don’t have a 100 million people watching my every move.

7. There aren’t 10,000 web sites predicting the imminent demise of football.

6. I don’t get to call a timeout to figure out what to do next.

5. In football, there’s never any doubt about who’s on whose side.

4. Bad weather doesn’t bring the SuperBowl to a halt.

3. Prince doesn’t perform at my closings.

2. Not many of my competitors weigh 325 pounds.

…and the number 1 difference between the SuperBowl and my real estate business…

1. Real estate makes sense to me.

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A Lighthearted Start To Your Real Estate Day

January 29, 2008

The boys at Sellsius keep on finding these tasty treats.  Their latest one?  A pictorial comparing how the same home appears to different people.

Hint:  To your appraiser, it looks like a junker.   To the county tax assessor, your name is Oprah Winfrey.

Head on over there and check it out

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Another Meme Makes The Rounds

January 24, 2008

Warning:  This post is light, frivolous, low on calories, lean in content, and has absolutely nothing to do with real estate.

Arizona has its share of richly-monikered (or at least richly-nicknamed) real estate bloggers.  We have, for instance, the Jesuit Libertarian Bloodhound (I have to believe I’m not the only one who refers to Greg Swann thusly).  Then there’s Shailesh Ghimire, an Arizona-based mortgage broker, upon whom I hereby bestow the moniker Shailesh “Fried-Momo” Ghimire.

Every few months one of these silly little memes circulates around the re.net, and this time I’ve been tagged by Shailesh.  The rules are:  list 7 things about yourself, then tag 7 people.  Pretty straightforward.  Here we go:

  1. Shailesh may be the first Nepalese mortgage broker I’ve ever come across, but I’m probably the first triple-citizen real estate broker he’s ever met.  Through a confluence of differing citizenship laws, timing, and restless parents, I and my two younger siblings inherited American, Canadian, and Dutch citizenships — and we have the passports to prove it.
  2. I speak only about 50 words of Dutch, and 45 of them are rude.
  3. I know two African languages well enough to say the following tongue-twister:
    Setswana (spoken in southern Africa) — “Go goga ga gago ga go gontle.”
    Translation:  “Your smoking is not beautiful.”

    Hausa (spoken in northern Nigeria and environs) — “Ba ta taba tabata ba, ko ta taba taba taba, ko ba ta taba taba taba ba.”
    Translation:  She has never said for sure whether she’s ever touched a cigarette.”

    Both eminently useful phrases at United Nations cocktail parties where the conversation centers around carcinogenic habits.

  4. I spent part of Christmas morning 1995 flying over Mosi-oa-Tunya in a microlight.
  5. Said waterfall being near the confluence of four countries — Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia — I spent the rest of Christmas morning 1995 navigating 5 international border crossings:  Botswana to Zimbabwe to Zambia back to Zimbabwe back to Botswana and then over to Namibia.  Why?  Because then I could write about it 12 years later.
  6. I have no idea if I like fried mo-mo’s.  I do, however, like kosai and magwinya — neither of which are blessed with Wikipedia entries.  The latter are lovingly referred to in English as “Fat cakes” and that pretty much describes them:  kind of like donuts, only they have more sugar and are even more greasy.
  7. For reasons that only people who have ever lived within 200 miles of here will understand, I have never had the courage to try this (no doubt wholesome and delicious) food.

I believe I need to tag 7 people.  I’ll build up to it over the next few days, but for now I’ll tag Arn Cenedella, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Menlo Park.

No tag for this post.

Top 10 Real Estate Predictions for 2008

January 2, 2008

For my 2008 inaugural post, I thought I’d take a half-serious, half-whimsical look into my crystal ball and talk about what we can expect to see over the next 12 months.

  1. There will be a net outflow of agents out of the business, bringing Santa Clara county’s ratio of agents to annual transactions down to 3:1.
  2. Foreign investors will continue to snap up condos in the name-brand markets like San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and New York. $1.5M for a nice condo seems cheap if you’re buying in Euros or Sterling.
  3. CAR’s standard purchase contract will mushroom from 10 pages to 15 pages and in addition to the “Endangered California Red-Legged Frog Disclosure” contracts will now also include the “Errant Golf Ball Disclosure” and the “Don’t Eat Asbestos Disclosure.”
  4. Google’s stock will drop to $300. Facebook will step in and buy Google. Newly minted Facebook millionaires will wander the streets of Woodside and Atherton, looking for a $4M home.
  5. The San Jose Mercury news real estate editors will learn the difference between “median” and “mean”.
  6. The San Jose Mercury news real estate editors will learn the difference between “Palo Alto” and “Kansas City.”
  7. Countrywide will magnanimously forgive one year’s worth of interest to all homeowners in danger of losing their homes.
  8. Sellers in tough markets will spontaneously offer their listing agents a 10% commission.
  9. In an effort to attract more buyers, some sellers will resort to selling $1 lottery tickets to open house visitors; the winning ticket gets the keys to the home.
  10. In danger of losing a major revenue stream, California’s Department of Real Estate will ease licensing regulations, removing the previous (unreasonable) stipulation that required applicants to prove they were alive.

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