Luxury Insider: Is It Ok To Hold A Million Dollar Home Open Over the Weekend?

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I often hear from both home sellers and agents that it is not appropriate (and therefore not recommended) to hold a weekend open house for the public if the subject property is a multi-million dollar luxury home. In fact, I heard the comment so much over the years, that I almost got to the point of believing it! Well, I still don’t… generally speaking.

Before I dig deep into the arguments which may be used to validate one side or the other, let me state clearly that I understand the difference between an estate-quality property and a more standard home. I made a good living understanding and leveraging such difference. The marketing strategy and scope are indeed altogether different, because we are not dealing with the same buyers, in terms of means and needs, nor are we dealing with the same type of sellers. That’s why Intero has a “Prestigio” Division by the way.

However, if we agree to keep things simple, we will probably agree that, irrespective of means and needs, buyers, in all price ranges, are…buyers. They share the same emotions and desires. The same thing can be said of sellers. Principals, on either side, always appreciate when we facilitate & deliver on their respective ultimate objectives, whether it is to buy or sell.

If they wish to sell, their chances of winning largely depend on the number of prospective buyers who get to see the house. If they wish to buy, their chances of finding the right home largely depend on the opportunity they have to access the properties they may like. That is of course the value of the open house option. It is easy: buyers can look at various homes, with or without the family, whenever they have a little time and when they are in the mood.

Of course Realtors are best to guide buyers through the maze of options and explain the pros & cons of each location and each property. Still, sometimes, it is fine to stroll around town, relaxed, and do home shopping as we do window shopping in a mall. My wife loves to do both!

So what’s wrong, if anything, about an open house at the high end?

Here is a list of the legitimate arguments being presented by the critics or the skeptics among home-sellers, followed by the counter-arguments, whether legitimate or not:

  • Q- “It makes no sense to have an open house in my price range” – A- Maybe it does not but we should not disqualify the option. The open house could very well be attended by…wealthy people too.
  • Q- “My house is way too large to be held open” – A- If it is too big for one agent, it might not be for two. If pertinent, we can plan for three agents to be present.
  • Q- “I would rather have my agent welcome visitors and show them the house” – A- Sure, and this is exactly what is likely to happen, but this preference should not necessarily eliminate the open house option.
  • Q- “I don’t want undesirable people to see my house” – A- This one is a little tougher since we cannot judge people on a quick look. A wealthy friend of mine was prevented one day from entering The Ritz (where he had a room for the week) in Paris because he wore jeans! .. He canceled his reservation… Of course, on the seller’s advice and his consent, we can demand name, contact info and even proof of identity to visitors, whenever needed.
  • Q- “I have too many valuables” – A- When a house is for sale, whether open or not over the weekend, there are elementary precautions to take as to reduce or avoid altogether the risk of a visitor stealing pricey objects. Anything small and of great value, such as jewelry or art should not be offered to the eyes, they should be under lock or in a different place.

The open house option adds a new dimension to the marketing of a property. Many homes, regardless of price, sell on open house or as a direct result of an open house. This option needs to be discussed with a responsible agent on a case basis, rather than arbitrarily be discarded. Good luck.


Luxury Insider: A Digital Magazine for Intero’s Premier Properties

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PM_I13_COVER smThis month marks the release of the 13th issue of The Intero Prestigio Magazine. Composed of some of the finest luxury estates Intero has to offer, this Prestigio Virtual Magazine gives you a glimpse into the world of high-end properties. Since it is an online piece, feel free to enjoy it at your leisure, whenever you can take the time to relax and open your eyes to an album of beautiful homes. This also allows you to instantly share it with friends and family through social media, websites, or email. Browse through the gorgeous photos and find the property information and unique qualities of each one of the exceptional properties featured.

Prestigio is a division of Intero Real Estate Services, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, specializing in the marketing of high end homes and estates in all relevant markets, whether local, regional, state-wide, national and international. We offer a wide scope of marketing coverage multiplying the opportunities to reach out to the most qualified buyers globally.

Take a look at the beautiful homes that are the finest in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond… you just might fall in love with your next home!

View the virtual magazine for yourself here.


From Coastal Estates To Family Farms, Prestigio’s Digital Magazine Has It All

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A mobile friendly way to experience Intero Prestigio International homes

Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., is releasing another issue of their Intero Prestigio digital magazine. The digital magazine is a combination of the innovative, tech savvy power of the Silicon Valley real estate company and their division specializing in high-end real estate, Intero Prestigio International. This issue includes a Craftsman Farmhouse located in Woodside on 6 acres with 2 guest houses and the historic Wilson House, a fully renovated 1870’s Italianate style home overlooking the city of Santa Cruz.

PM_I13_COVER smThe magazine offers enhanced and global promotion for Intero’s most exclusive homes and estates. Designed with ease of circulation in mind, it can instantly be shared through social media websites and email. As if reading a handheld magazine, online viewers can browse through gorgeous pictures and enjoy articles written by the luxury real estate icon, Alain Pinel. The digital magazine aims not only to raise awareness of properties offered in the Prestigio collection, but also to exhibit their finest qualities. This piece only touches the surface of what is offered through the Prestigio marketing program.

Renowned real estate entrepreneur Alain Pinel, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intero Prestigio international, is the primary mastermind who pioneered and launched Intero Prestigio as part of his goal of expanding Intero’s luxury brand. From local print advertising to international display, properties in the Intero Prestigio collection have an elevated level of exposure to help them sell quickly and efficiently.

“Technology has linked all corners of the world together on an unprecedented level and it is clear that we are only going to grow more connected,” states Alain Pinel. “We no longer have high-end buyers confining their search for luxury homes to their neighborhood––or even to their own country. Nor are people searching in the conventional ways of decades past. Globalization has been the buzzword for some time now, yet nowhere is it as real and apparent as in the high-end real estate market. We, at Intero, put the puzzle pieces together. That’s why, among a host of innovative tools and services, we created this online magazine to reach the worldwide audience using the digital means that connect us together.”

View the digital magazine for yourself here.

 


Luxury Insider: Understanding the Mind of Chinese Buyers

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If you were a freelance writer and you were turned down by a publisher on an article, how would you like to receive this kind of response:

“We have read your manuscript with bondless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and beg you a thousand times, to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

No means No, regardless how you spell it, but phrasing it that way is not quite the same blow to your self-esteem. While it is not likely you will ever receive this kind of reply (if you even get a reply…), it would not necessarily be uncommon if you were in China. Different people, different ways.

The above text was presented to me and 30 or so other real estate specialists attending the Luxury Portfolio Conference in Shanghai in July. It sets the tone for a captivating demonstration of how challenging cross-cultural communication can be, by an expert on the subject: Jeffrey Dong, a Chinese -born intercultural training consultant who spent years in the West.

The main take-away from the presentation is, of course, to not be misled by pre-judgments, stereotypes or generalizations when dealing with clients of a different culture. Ultimately, success, as a Realtor, is not based on how good we are at imposing our best style recipe to all clients, regardless of their cultural peculiarities, but to try to understand where they come from and adapt to them.

This is particularly critical when working with Chinese buyers. So, let’s try to study the “Chinese Mind”.

First, here is the list of the most common stereotypes associated with Chinese buyers in the West:

  • They “always” demand rebates, whether in the form of price, or commissions, or both
  • They take legal contracts lightly, occasionally “cancelling” a deal unilaterally
  • They like to work with the listing agent, even if they have another agency relationship
  • They have a tendency to work with several agents at the same time

You know what? If indeed there is some truth about some of the above traits, we are responsible for the misunderstanding. Why? Because we are often guilty of treating all clients as if they all had the same brain cells and heart beats as we. They don’t. They cannot understand our ways, our traditions, our standards of practice, our rules, our laws… Unless we take the time to explain them, and at the right time, that is as a preliminary discussion, before driving to the first home.

The Chinese, from what I observed over the years and learned from Jeffrey Dong’s presentation, are very complex people. The Chinese mind has been molded over some 5,000 years of unbroken civilization and influenced by several philosophies, dogmas and social systems. Sometimes those work in harmony; sometimes they are conflicting. The three main doctrines can be grossly defined as follows:

  • Confucianism: Order is a key word here. Strict adherence to a hierarchical system. Knowledge is power. Education is the path to knowledge. Among other things, it teaches respect, modesty and humility. Family/Community/Country represent the foundation of life.
  • Daoism: Follows the way of nature. More room here for individualism, spontaneity, personal thoughts and feelings. Be yourself, as we would say in the West.
  • Buddhism: Don’t worry about people’ imperfections and life being sometimes painful. Conserve your ethics, mindfulness & wisdom through meditation and enlightenment.

The mix of these teachings (particularly Confucianism), explain the Chinese’ values, beliefs and attitudes. It explains their patterns of thinking and communicating. As an example, Realtors often complain that the Chinese do not give straight answers. Maybe they don’t, and it is often out of politeness & respect. “Yes” is not commonly used and has many meanings; “No” very rarely expressed. Nothing is black or white. The truth is in the middle, it is grey in a world of ambiguity.

Although it may be a bit too simplistic, it is tempting to compare the key dimensions of culture between “American characteristics” and those most Chinese people share:

  • Individualism vs. Collectivism
  • Need for certainty vs. Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Short term attention/goals vs. Long term
  • Task vs. Relationship
  • Informality vs. Formality

If you are in real estate and you have the ambition of becoming a star, chances are you will work more and more with Chinese buyers, just because there are more & more of them and they buy more & more of what you list & sell. Accordingly, you will have to adjust your ways to that of the clients whose trust you need to succeed.

Understand that, even though you feel most comfortable being straight, direct, impatient and sometimes argumentative and even confrontational… You will need to adapt your style for those clients who are more indirect, elusive and require both more understanding and a longer warm-up time. My advice? Read Confucius.


Luxury Insider: What Does The Name Berkshire Hathaway Mean To You?

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As you “heard” me say a couple of times in this column, real estate companies were not born equal. Some were born with a silver spoon. Some got a plastic spoon. So is life for all business ventures.

Even if all companies were alike on the starting line, they sure would not grow at the same speed or in the same direction. Some flourish and some falter. The difference? Basically 2 magic words: vision & means. A mix of both gives you the reason for being there in the first place, and then the power to stay there, survive challenges and sustain a growth momentum.

With this in mind, it is particularly comforting to know that our very dear company, Intero, was recently acquired by Home Services of America Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate. Yes, Berkshire Hathaway. You know the name. You know the man behind the name: Warren Buffett. Both the man & the brand are synonymous of trust & success.

If you don’t mind, I am going to break my rules and indulge in self-satisfaction for a little while. You see, I, as most everyone working there, like Intero. We are proud of our firm. For good reasons. For one, it was celebrated as the fastest growing real estate company in the country. In just a few short years after it came about (2002), it became a leader in the Silicon Valley, arguably the most competitive market in the country.

Perhaps more significantly, Intero’s growth, in terms of volume of sales and revenues, grew organically, each & every year, uninterrupted. Someone noticed. The expert.

Generally speaking, real estate companies do not think of selling while planning to open shop or on their date of birth. They are fiercely independent. Then, like all of us, they grow up. They see the future differently. They sometimes choose another path for growth, in the interest of their associates, their managers, their staff…And mostly in the interest of their customers and clients.

When Berkshire Hathaway Home Services rings your bell, you open the door. You listen. Nobody in the real estate business (or any business for that matter) knows more than they do. No other firm inspires the same respect. Last year, the brand was voted the best real estate firm in the country by people best qualified to judge: buyers & sellers.

Warren Buffett, judging by the many books I read about him, has a simple, sane & safe business way to look at potential acquisitions. He wants to buy success and growth potential (Hard to find in the real estate field full of land mines these days). Then, he wants to meet and get to know the owners, those who are running the show. The meeting of the minds is based on trust, mutual respect…. And the numbers of course.

The reason for all that is quite simple: he wants the people who built the success story to stay on the jobs, the same jobs; to keep on running the firm. He does not want to do it or does not care to put new people at the helm. Why make waves; why make a change if all goes well? It’s a win-win.

My favorite Warren Buffett‘s quote about keeping the same leadership team in place says it all: “If my job was to manage a golf team, and if Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer were willing to play for me, neither would get a lot of directives from me about how to swing.” Makes sense, don’t you think?

So here we are, a proud affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway. We were strong; we are stronger. We are moving forward. In a way, it is life as usual for all of us, except that we are now playing on a bigger field, with the best ownership, the best players and the best resources, financial means, tools & services. All that for the most important reason of all: to satisfy, more than ever, the needs & ambition of our clients, in the Silicon Valley and worldwide.


The Luxury Insider: The Shanghai Express

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No doubt the best place from which to see Shanghai is to stand on The Bund and watch the post-card view of Pudong, on the other side of the Huangpu River.

Perhaps the best time to see Shanghai is at the crack of dawn, when the sun plays hide & seek between the skyscrapers of Pudong, enveloping what looks like an island in a cloud of haze. Or is it in the late afternoon, when the special effects of the sun transform Pudong in the make-believe décor of a movie studio?

Shanghai

Or again, the best photo-op may be when the sky turns dark and Pudong is lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, with an explosion of colors on the Oriental Pearl Tower and dancing lights & forms on the glass façade of the skyscrapers.

No matter the time of day, no matter the day, Shanghai looks magical, strikingly beautiful, incredibly powerful, and yet So mysterious. It is China, at least it is the new window, the new pulse, the new symbol of a new & proud China.

I spent a few days there, at the end of July, to attend a conference organized by The Luxury Portfolio International, our global high-end marketing partner. It was quite an education. It was an eye-opener.

For all of us, real estate professionals focusing on the high-end, it is only a fact that the Chinese have become the leading buying power at the top end of the US luxury market. From what I learned at the Shanghai conference, we’ve seen nothing yet.

One word is enough to understand the new China: “wealth” is that word. It creates, within the country as well as overseas, a major paradigm shift in the way the Chinese see themselves, see others, and act accordingly on their needs or desires. Traditions are deep in China but so are aspirations.

Fred Lam, one of our top luxury market specialists in California and one of my travel companions in Shanghai, explained to me what we may call the Chinese philosophy of life. All their life, he said, the Chinese see themselves as pushing a massive heavy ball uphill. There is no stopping, no matter the fatigue, because the ball cannot stand still.

This “tale” says a lot about the Chinese insatiable drive to excellence. Excellence usually translates into success and money. Money is flowing today. At this point, China counts around 2.9M $millionaires, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, one of our speakers at the conference and chairman of the Hurun Research Institute. Perhaps more telling about the new wealth is the fact that the number of Chinese $billionaires, 358 on the books, is in fact more like 650, meaning more than any other country.

For the most part, their fortune has been fueled by real estate. For the most part, their fortune is spent in real estate. It is a game-changer, there, here and everywhere.

In Shanghai, a town of roughly 30 million that keeps on growing, real estate is on fire. Prices have gone up vertically in recent years and managed to gain another 12.6% this year, according to the Hurun Luxury Consumer Price Index. In Shanghai, $1M buys roughly 1,000 square feet in an “average” neighborhood. If you are looking for a nice pad in the pricey French Concession, you are looking at $5M and up. If you fancy a brand-new luxury condo in one of the Pudong towers facing The Bund and with a view forever, you better be ready to break the bank.

One such unit (a penthouse suite) is available: 7,534 sqft, 4 BR/1 maidroom/5BA/2HalfBA. The price? $32.3M USD, i.o.w. $4,287/sqft. Still breathing? Now, if you want a beautiful Mediterranean-type villa in a gated country club community, we can offer you a nice one only 20 minutes from the Pudong Financial District. For $86,300,000 USD, you get 9,289 sqft (yes, 9,290/sqft…), 6BR & 4BA. And don’t forget to pay an additional $740/mo in HOA.

Finally, please keep in mind that you don’t really own the place. You are actually leasing it for 70 years, no more. That’s the deal in China. After that, it is supposed to revert back to the State. If you think that luxury homes are expensive in the US, think again.

What does it mean to us? A lot. I kind of know who is going to buy trophy homes in the US in the years to come. Today, China is already the N.1 buyer of US real estate in $volume. That represents a mere $22B, over 25% of all international sales. 76% of these transactions are cash. The Chinese buyers are already setting the price in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.

More is in the cards. You just have to look at the number of Chinese students enrolled in US schools. There are more than 200,000, including 90,000 in California. FYI, one of the main reasons why the Chinese buy here is to give their kids a place to live while getting an education. Parents are following, as 60% of the wealthy Chinese are emigrating to Western countries; mainly in the US.

The question of the year is: if you consider that in many luxury markets, something like 50% of the residential sales over $10M involve Chinese buyers and the number of such buyers (together with the dollar amounts invested) may grow as much as 20% a year, what do you think the picture will be at the high-end in 5 years?…

A piece of advice to the top guns of the luxury market: time to learn how to speak Chinese.


Luxury Insider: Pricing Right: Strategy, Tactics, or Black Magic?

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The market, over the last two years, has been so hot (after being so cold) that a good many home-sellers and Realtors got to thinking that price does not matter much nowadays when dozens of anxious buyers are waiting in line with a bid in their hands, hoping to get a house. Well, wake up. Price matters.

Typically, one of the most agonizing questions both sellers and their agents dread the most (aside from the commission issue…) is indeed “What price should we put on the listing to produce the fastest sale at the best price?” Today, this question is very relevant, perhaps more than ever. Depending on the local market, the uniqueness of the property and its price range, you may explore different approaches to maximize your chances.

The choices have always been and will always be the same:

  • Overprice: deliberately or by ignorance
  • Underprice: deliberately or by ignorance
  • Price at what we perceive to be “market value”

Remember that there is no magic recipe that works every time. Again, you need to take the pulse of the market at that very moment and understand that what works at the low-end rarely works at the high-end. Just supply & demand common sense. Let’s look at the three options and briefly analyze the pros & cons of each one.

  1. Overpricing: Hard to define what is an overpriced listing. As far as I am concerned, an overpriced listing is one that does not sell! In other words, , a property is not “overpriced” if a buyer buys it, even if we thought it was when we put the For Sale sign on the front lawn. The supply & demand dance can do strange things in a good market. Want an example? Look at what happened in the Silicon Valley over the last 30 months or so: very little inventory, huge pent up demand, cheap mortgage money, reassuring economic news , more stable job market, wave of rich IPO’s, etc. Results: in the mid range of the market, between $1M & $2M, selling prices have jumped, on average, well over 10% per year. Now, before you get too carried away, let’s use a little wisdom that only experience gives us. In the real estate business, the past is not necessarily a good guide to predict the future. It is not because prices have jumped yesterday that we can count on the same thing tomorrow. What we can say, looking backwards, is that if a house in that region has been on the market more than a month and did not sell yet, chances are it is indeed overpriced. Overpricing, in any market, is a dangerous idea. In my book, it is a terrible idea. If the market is slow, it makes no sense. If the market is hot but the house does not move quickly, it will soon grow old and collect dust as Realtors will always prefer showing new listings rather than those which have been aging on the shelves. Your choice.
  2. Underpricing: Talk about dangerous games!… You must have a strong heart to deal with that option. It can work to the sellers’ advantage. It can hurt just as well. In the hot market we have been enjoying for a while in the Silicon Valley and many other markets throughout the US, underpricing is getting to be as popular (and risky) a sport as bungee jumping. The idea is to tease anxious buyers with a price 5 to 10% lower than what we perceive to be the market price and manufacture a bidding war which may result in multiple offers and an ultimate sales price well over the asking (and presumably over what we the house would normally sell for…). Some agents make a good living advising their clients to take a chance. They may even win more listings using such gimmick with some degree of success. That, of course, is a bit deceptive since it is a strategy that can backfire. Keep in mind that underpricing does not guarantee a higher price. It could go the other way. Do I like this option? No. I just don’t like to play games. Your choice.
  3. Pricing at “market”: If you, as a home seller or as an agent, think you know at what price a buyer and a seller are likely to come to terms in any market, because you have a bunch of reliable comps (recent local sales of similar properties, active listings…) I suggest you use that option rather than play with a grenade. You may put a tiny cushion on top of the price to allow for possible negotiation. If the price is too high, you will soon know and you will cut some right away. If the price is too low, well, you will benefit from a buyers’ frenzy. If the price is right, you will obtain a quick & easy sale. A win-win. I like that. We all sleep better when we do business that way. Your choice.

 


Luxury Insider: One More Half To Go!

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I don’t want to get too deep into psychology 101 (too hot today for heavy thinking) but I believe that the way each one of us behaves during the month of July says a lot about what kind of business minds we have, how alert & motivated we are, and what degree of success we can look forward to, from here to the end of the year.

So far, after 6 months of fast & furious real estate activity across the country, most Realtors are on their knees. Some don’t feel the pain because they accumulated listings & sales. Others have been running and sweating just as much but have little to celebrate in the way of rewards. It’s OK, there is another year starting in the month of July.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of a challenge for many agents to feel energized and mobilized when the outside temperature flirts with the 90’s. A ride to the ocean or the lake is so tempting. Lying on a couch facing a big screen and watching the Summer special treats like Wimbledon, le Tour de France or the soccer World Cup are pretty tempting as well.

So many choices…So many distractions… How do you see the month of July? Is it just a quiet transition between June and September, or the true beginning of the battle for the second half of the year? Do you feel a bit somnolent & in need of a rest, or are you anxious to put the Summer months to good use now that it is easier to win since so many agents are out of the race, on vacation or in a margarita-state of mind?

Business goes on. No matter what; no matter when. It will not wait for any of us. Not this year. Real estate activity is not slowing down much. Forget about your typical July. It is not a typical year. 2014 started with a bang and has been relentless ever since. Keep your running shoes on. We have another half to go, and from what we can observe out-there, it’s going to be the first 6 months all over again.

Regardless where you live on the map, homes are selling well & fast, way better than most economists and real estate specialists expected. The lack of inventory, which has been particularly severe in the West, is easing a bit, which translated in a more moderate price growth. Welcome news. In California, however, the median home price has gone up 28 months in a row and just concluded its 24th straight month of double-digit annual appreciation.

Aside from a major surprise, we don’t see anything on the horizon that might disrupt a happy-ending scenario this year. The economic outlook is actually as good as we have seen it since the beginning of the so-called recovery, in 2010. All indicators are pointing in the right direction. The stock market is bullish. The Dow crossed the 17000 mark the first time ever and investors are betting that the run is far from over.

On the job front, the news are just as positive. Unemployment is down to 6.1%, which is better than where we thought we would be at the start of the year. Consumer confidence is up. We like it. Gee, pretty soon, if we are not careful, we might learn to become optimistic again! ?

OK, we must admit that it takes more than finding a job to feel so confident about the future that you feel the urge of buying a new home. It takes money to do that, and many of the newly created jobs are not all that juicy. No doubt that part-time work, limited contract work and low-paid work (retail & hospitality) represent the lion’s share of the growth. But we’ll take it anyway. It goes in the right direction. Keep the faith.

Year-to-date, every segment of the real estate price ladder has shown gains & momentum. Some significant differences are worth mentioning though. The most notable is at the high-end. I would caution today’s home sellers not to get too demanding. Prices, lately, at the top end of the market, have gone in all directions, including down.

Yes, top quality homes in top locations are appreciating greatly and moving fast off the shelves, but if the construction quality is not up to par with the location, or the location up to par with the quality, the luxury market is the most discriminating and unpredictable I have seen in years.


Intero Real Estate Services Inc, Announces New Leadership within the San Francisco Peninsula Region

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Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., announced a number of leadership changes that will further advance the company’s growth strategies. Effective immediately, Dave Hobson, former VP/Sales Manager of McGuire Real Estate’s Peninsula Office, assumes the role as VP and Managing Officer of the Intero San Mateo Office. Hobson replaces Larry Klapow, who will be transferring to the Intero Saratoga Office as Tom Tognoli moves into this new role as CEO.

In addition, Alain Pinel, who is General Manager of Intero Prestigio International and currently manages the Woodside and Menlo Park offices, will now oversee the growth of the Peninsula region in San Mateo, San Carlos, Woodside, Menlo Park and any new upcoming locations.

Dave.Larry,Alain

Hobson joins Intero with over 20 years of real estate experience throughout the San Francisco Peninsula including 10 years managing the Coldwell Banker Menlo Park office. He has overseen the details of nearly 5,000 listing and sales transactions in the most expensive and sought after zip codes in America. “Dave’s deep knowledge of the Peninsula luxury market along with his focus on mentoring and training will continue to strengthen Intero’s brand name in San Mateo and the upper Peninsula,” states Tom Tognoli, CEO and President of Intero Real Estate Services.

Klapow, who has managed the Intero San Mateo office for the last 3 years, has over 20 years of experience in Bay Area real estate. Prior to his time at Intero, Klapow held various leadership roles at Coldwell Banker. “The Intero Saratoga Office has been my home for the last 10 years. It’s hard to leave but with Larry at the helm, I have complete faith this office will flourish from his veteran business acumen, his vibrant personality, and his proven leadership,” says Tognoli.

He adds, “With Larry taking over in Saratoga, the addition of Dave to our team and with Alain overseeing the development of San Mateo County, we are now positioned to further expand into the main Peninsula markets and continue to grow our luxury home market share through Prestigio International.”


Luxury Insider: Believe It Or Not

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One word of warning before you read this blog: if you are a Realtor and you have a weak heart, best you avoid the unnecessary emotional trauma the blog may cause…?

Here is the shocker: Real Trends and The Wall Street Journal just released the results of their annual survey on “The Top 1000 Real Estate Professionals in 2013”. The numbers are amazing. “Amazing” is a euphemism in this case. Hard to believe, when you look at the stats, that we are still suffering from a weak economy. Some people are doing well, whether buyers or sellers, and their respective real estate agents are doing very well indeed. Judge for yourselves.

The top gun in the industry, for last year, is an agent by the name of Ben Caballero. Yes, the same guy who led the pack the year before. He is good, and he has a job on my team anytime he wants to. Here is why: Ben, a proud Texan from the town of Addison, sold an all-time record of $737,163,298! OK to read it again if you think your eyes are failing you or playing games.

Even more impressive (surreal?) is the fact that the $737M we are talking about consisted of….2095 sales! Yes, 2095 sales in just 1 year. That’s about 6 per day, including weekends. It would take something like 400 years for an average agent to duplicate the effort. Difficult.

Ben was ranked in the “Individual” category for the sake of this survey, but unless he tells me otherwise, I am going to assume that he has an army of team players helping him. Short of that, 365 full days & nights may not be enough to produce that kind of business.

Aside from this stratospheric achievement, the report for year 2013 mirrors, for the most part, what we observed the year before. You have two ways to look at & evaluate success in real estate: number of units/sales and dollar volume. Both are good. Dollar volume is better. Units don’t pay the bills; dollars do. Given the choice, agents would rather sell a $20M property than 100 homes at $200k a piece.

So let’s talk $ volume. Last year, 81 agents exceeded the magic threshold of $100M in volume. They were “only” 67 at accomplishing such feat in 2012. That’s one way to measure the extent of a healthy price appreciation all-over the country last year.

Sure enough, the pros who made the top dollar volume list are not anywhere close to the trophy list based on units, except for our friend Ben Caballero that is. I tried to find another top 10 dollar volume-agent in the units-category but, after reading the first 250 names with not a single match, my vision was getting blurry. I quit.

As was the case in 2012, two States stole the lion’s share of the high-end market, the usual suspects: California and New York. Together, they accounted for 65% of the top 100 winners. California finished ahead by many lengths, with 44 super-heroes, including 31 just in Southern California. The North was lagging behind at 13. Not a bad score considering the listings drought in the Bay Area.

New York had also a good showing, with 21 of their real estate pros among the top 100. Following, we find Florida with 13 top guns (more than twice as many as the year before), Illinois (5) and Massachusetts (4).

So much for last year. We are now beyond the midway point in 2014 and the market is holding up pretty good. We had a few hiccups along the way, but this year is shaping up to be another vintage year in the residential arena. With the challenging listing market that we have to deal with, sales are down in many parts of the country, but prices more than make up for the loss of units.

With this as a background, I bet that, with the exception of a few bright & ambitious newcomers, the top guns of 2014 will be the same agents who claimed the top honors last year. That’s how it goes in the real estate business. The best are getting better. Places are limited at the top.