Luxury Insider: Hot Spot In The Cold


We all have memories of painful December moments in freezing cold temperatures. My favorite and personal such painful story (funny, actually, in hindsight) took place in Boston a few years back….

That icy-windy morning, I took the shuttle-boat from the South Shore to the Financial District to get to a meeting. I was dressed for an artic exploration. My phone rang. I was expecting a call, a big one, concerning an urgent matter. I was ready. Sort of. Just one problem: before I could find my way to the cell through 5 or 6 layers of clothing, the caller quit on me.
The phone rang again. By then, I had the phone right there in my hand, but, for the life of me I could not activate the call with my mega thick ski gloves.

Third (and final) ring: I am absolutely ready for it this time. I manage to slide my Yucon trapper fur hat sideways to uncover a fraction of my ear and I open my mouth to say hello, but not a sound comes out; my lips don’t move. Frozen. I lose the call…

So you know where I went this year to celebrate a few days off mid-December with my wife? Scottsdale, Arizona, the “West’s Most Western Town”. Life is too short. I like it hot.

Of course, I could not just relax and absorb the sun by the pool, I had to look at real estate. Part of my DNA. Lucky me, I got a terrific guide to take me on a grand tour of some of the most prestigious high-end listings in town. Cheryl Wamsley (that’s her name) is a Realtor at “Arizona Best”, a partner member of our Luxury Portfolio International network. Write her name down if you are shopping for a home in the Phoenix area.

We saw a good collection of exceptional properties in the exclusive sections of Scottsdale (Pinnacle Peak, Silverleaf, Arcadia) and Paradise Valley. If you are looking for a green lawn and citrus trees, Arcadia and Paradise Valley is where you want to go; if you are a desert lover and you can’t imagine living in Arizona without a mega cactus + a few agave in the back yard and a view of a mountain peak, the first two will make your day.

There is Plenty (notice the capital P?) of listed properties to choose from in and around Scottsdale, and prices are all over the map. You can find a nice townhouse or Patio home in a $300k to $800k price range, and you can spend up to $30M if you fancy better things in life. The price per square foot varies from roughly $200 at the lower-end to a maximum of $1000 at the top end.
The area is not suffering from a listing shortage. And the inventory keeps on growing. In the $3M+ range (true beginning of the luxury market here), it may take 2 years (based on the recent rate of sales) to find a buyer in Scottsdale, and around 3 in Paradise Valley. Over $5M, three hands are enough to count the transactions in a 12 month period. Over $10M, one hand should do, give or take a couple of fingers.

As far as I can tell, the local high-end market is suffering from 2 present supply & demand challenges. One is that at the $3M –and even $2M- level, there is only a small organic “move-up market”. Most of the buyers come from another state. Quite a few look for a nice “lock & leave” vacation pad in a gated community to warm up during the winter months. At the top of the market ($10M+), the challenge is of course far greater. In that price range, many of the would-be “typical” buyers are foreigners these days and Scottsdale is not (yet) an international destination. Besides, traditional marketing is not reaching them.

Among the properties Cheryl showed me, two trophy homes got my adrenaline flowing. My top pick is a $7,995,000 new “French Manor” in Arcadia, near magical Camelback. Usually, when I read something like “French chateau” on a brochure, I am “beaucoup” skeptical. Well, let me tell you, this “manor” is amazing. The real thing. Very rarely do I see a property where every square foot is so perfect and every detail so exquisite. Grandeur, quality & charm in the same package. Worth the trip, to be sure. Bring your checkbook.

The other property, also listed through Berkshire & Hathaway, is in beautiful Paradise Valley and priced at $25 million. What do you get for $25M? More than 25,000 square feet, consisting of 7 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a detached 2 bedroom guesthouse, a free-standing 1,800 sqft fitness facility….. on a 5 acre lot stretching at the foot of Mummy Mountain. Impressive but challenging. It’s bigger than big and the variety of styles and colors, from one room to the next, will only appeal to a one-of-a-kind buyer. Hefty task. One huge plus though: the grounds are simply magnificent. Go judge for yourself.

Wishing you, and those dear to you, a merry and warm Christmas, whether under the sun, or on the snow, or anywhere in between!

Intero Real Estate Services Inc. Opens Ventura County Office


One of the most creative and progressive real estate companies on the planet opens doors in Camarillo

Intero Real Estate Services Inc., (“Intero”), a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., has opened a net branch in Ventura County.

Located in Camarillo, Intero Ventura County will be managed by Katcha Burnett one of the pioneering agents at Intero Real Estate Services’ first office when the company was launched in 2002 by Gino Blefari, now incoming CEO of HomeServices of America, Inc. Trained in Silicon Valley in innovative marketing and sales techniques, Ms. Burnett has been recognized as part of Intero’s Chairman’s Circle (top 1% worldwide) multiple times, and in the spring of 2012 achieved #1 Listing Agent status amongst thousands of agents.

“Katcha’s trailblazing efforts, her vision, values, and great successes listing and selling properties makes her perfect for leading Intero’s Ventura County presence,” says Intero President and CEO, Tom Tognoli.

The Intero Ventura County office is a boutique-like environment where select agents receive individual mentoring, training in Intero’s cutting edge technology and systems, as well as participate in Intero’s powerful national and international networks. For further information, or to obtain a confidential interview, contact Katcha Burnett at 805-244-5555, or

Diana McGrogan Named to Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® Advisory Council


Diana McGrogan, Relocation Director for Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., has been appointed to the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® Advisory Council. This leadership group is comprised of top business development and relocation professionals from firms affiliated with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE), an international network of more than 500 market-leading real estate companies.

Diana McGrogan croppedCouncil members work closely with the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® management team on critical network initiatives, mentor other members, and serve as ambassadors for the organization’s extensive programs.

Members are elected by fellow council members to serve a three-year term and are chosen based on professional experience and reputation, willingness to share their expertise for the betterment of the network and dedication to LeadingRE. McGrogan’s term begins in March 2015.

McGrogan, who has been with Intero since 2006, is also a member of the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council, Relocation Directors Council and the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. She states, “My job is to connect our agents and clients with the best possible resources across the globe and make sure our needs are being met. By joining the Council of the largest international network, I’ll be able to bring the specific needs of our unique Silicon Valley market to the table.”

In addition to McGrogan, who is the only Council Member located on the west coast, other newly-elected council members include Ryan Carrell, Carpenter Realtors, Indianapolis, IN; Rachael Joyner, Joyner Fine Properties, Richmond, VA; and Carole Souza, NP Dodge Real Estate, Omaha, NE.

“We are delighted to strengthen the council with the addition of these highly-respected industry professionals,” comments LeadingRE Director of Network Services Brent Williams, who serves as the staff liaison to the group. “The Advisory Council is critical to our network’s continued success, as we rely on the group’s collective insights and guidance to help us offer services that support the overall success of our member firms.”

Also serving on the council are Chairperson Diane Howard, Real Estate One, Inc., Southfield, MI; Vice Chairperson Denise Talboy, The Keyes Company, Weston, FL; Dawn Fetherston, Diane Turton, Realtors, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ; Elizabeth Fowler, WestMark, Realtors, Lubbock, TX; Jane Gowarty, Smith & Associates Real Estate, Tampa, FL; Nancy Harmann, GARDNER, REALTORS, Metairie, LA; Pamela Metzger, Colorado Landmark, Realtors, Boulder, CO; Liz Nunan, Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate, Rye Brook, NY; Dawn Stevens, Jack Conway & Co. Inc., Norwell, MA; and Paige Thompson, Zeitlin & Company, Realtors, Nashville, TN.

Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® is a collection of over 500 leading residential real estate firms, represented by 4,000 offices and 120,000 associates in nearly 50 countries worldwide.
Collectively, the network produces more annual home sales than any other real estate network. LeadingRE provides its affiliates with an extensive range of brokerage services, which include lead generation, cross-market referrals, branding support, luxury marketing, online exposure, technology systems, and industry-leading professional development.

Another Office Added to Intero’s Southern California Catalog


Intero Franchise Services continues to grow under HomeServices of America ownership

Intero Franchise Services Inc., a company affiliated with Intero Real Estate Services, Inc. (“Intero”), a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., has opened a new Southern California offices expanding their coverage in the area to 7 from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Located in San Dimas, the new office is connected to Intero Rancho Cucamonga. This is the third office opened through this group owned by Danny Morel. The first office is located in Rancho Cucamonga proper and the second is a satellite branch in Downey. These three offices together create a trifecta of market coverage for the company throughout the entire Inland Empire.

“With Rancho Cucamonga 20 minutes west and our Downey office 20 minutes south this new office in San Dimas rounds out our service area,” says Morel. “Now anyone in the Inland Empire is close to a name and brand they can trust when it comes to their real estate needs.”

Intero San Dimas will be managed by Alex Villasenor a team member of Morel’s for the past 11 years as well as the first agent on-boarded to the Intero Rancho Cucamonga office. Morel adds “Alex exudes the key qualities I would expect from anyone managing an Intero offices. He is a great real estate coach and is extremely patient with all of the agents. He lives and breathes to empower agents to be successful.”

“It’s great to see agents who have grown with Intero now branching off and running their own offices,” says Tom Tognoli, CEO and President of Intero Real Estate Services. “With the Intero values and principles already instilled in them, these leaders have the vision, experience, and expertise needed to be successful and continue the tradition of supplying the best real estate services in the industry.”

The office is already open for business:
Intero San Dimas
160 E. Via Verde
San Dimas, Ca 91773

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


PM_i15_COVER-SMThis month marks the release of the 15th issue of The Intero Prestigio International Magazine. Composed of some of the finest luxury estates Intero has to offer, this Prestigio International 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 International 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 the widest scope of marketing coverage to multiply the opportunities to reach out to the most qualified buyers.

It is wonderful to see how this global high-end marketing program has become the reference in the industry for this type of publication and the standard by which others are judged. The release of our fifteenth issue attests of the mark that Intero has established in this prestigious market. Take a look at the beautiful homes that are the finest in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond… you just might find your next home!

View the virtual magazine for yourself here.

Easy Holiday House Hunting Through Digital Magazine


Luxury home collection comes to you from Intero Real Estate Services’ Prestigio Division

Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., is releasing their holiday issue of Intero Prestigio International 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 everything from a Georgian Colonial Estate in Atherton, California to a Mountain Mansion equipped with Smart amenities in Evergreen, Colorado.

The 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 International collection, but also to exhibit their finest qualities. This piece only touches the surface of what is offered through the Prestigio International 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 Prestigio International as part of his goal of expanding Intero’s luxury brand. From local print advertising to international display, properties in the Prestigio International 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: What Are Your Resolutions for 2015?


No doubt the best time of the year for a business-minded person is the start of a new year. Actually, it is a few days or a few weeks before. It is just about Now. The present calendar year is stretching as much as it can to finish on a positive note, but time is running out of surprises or miracles. Time to move on. Time to feel the adrenaline bursting through the brain. Time to put on brand new running shoes and scratching the ground with impatience, to jump off the starting blocks come January 1.

The beauty of a new year, of a new beginning, is that you can start clean, regardless what happened the year before. The new year is going to be what we/you will make of it. You are the driver. What do you want 2015 to be? What are you going to do about it? What’s the plan? What are your new objectives, your resolutions?

In truth, we don’t really know what the real estate market will be like going forward. All we know –or should know- is what we can & will do to best to prepare for another 12 months, a month at a time, a day at a time. Every day counts if we are to scrupulously follow the plan’s itinerary with any reasonable hope of getting to our destination with the feeling of mission accomplished.

Let’s focus only on what we can control. It’s a lot. Forget about the odds, the doubts and the excuses. It is another year and another chance to do what we have not done before. Stay focused. Remember that resolutions are not dreams, they are commitments.

Good idea, at the high-end, for buyers, sellers and agents to do a quick reality check about the present market conditions to optimize their chances of winning in this new season. Here are a couple of suggestions that you may want to keep in mind when contemplating your next real estate move, whether for personal or business reasons:

  • Sellers – First, you need to recognize that the high-end market does not necessarily behave like the rest of the market. It has a life of its own. At the turn of the New Year, a snapshot around the country shows that, contrary to the “bread & butter” market where the demand far exceeds the supply, the luxury market is a bit erratic. At the top end, we have more listings than we have buyers. Don’t get me wrong, the market is good, but its velocity depends on such criteria as quality of the construction, style, layout, privacy, quietness, airiness…Not to mention location. In the most desirable areas, unit sales are flat while the average price is up, pulled by the most expensive properties. If you are in the best zip code and your home is top quality, you can pretty much name your price. Luxury is in high demand. If, however you count mostly on your prestigious city address to ask a hefty price, but the house is not up to par with the location, good luck. Chances are, it will not sell anywhere close to asking and it will grow old on the market. As we said in a previous blog, if the house is not a 10, the price is what will sell the house.
  • Buyers – What we just said above is your opportunity. If your budget is not elastic and your main focus is the address -with what it usually means in terms of price stability-, today’s high-end market is rich in opportunities. Much of the available inventory is made of A- or B properties which have already tested the market for a while and have been reduced a couple of times. Your chance of buying value at a fair price and living in the zip code of your choice, is as great as it has ever been. Now, if you are looking for the crème de la crème (A+) and can afford the very best, hurry up, it will not last long. Wealthy people have a nose for true luxury, and they have the money to buy it overnight and cash in hands. Either way, if these scenarios are tempting enough to start planning for them, make them happen. That’s what New Year resolutions are about.
  • Agents – If you specialize at the high-end, you are probably very good. But remember, it is not just about you, about who you are, it is about what you do. Perhaps you are good at getting a listing, but do you have –or does your company have- what it takes to actually get it sold? Don’t fool yourself and don’t fool your own clients. Your resolutions for the coming year are as much about quality as they are about quantity. Selling luxury real estate in this tight/ultra-competitive market is a serious challenge. Success, next year again, will be predicated on what activities you do to meet people, earn their trust, their business, and deliver on their expectations. At the end of the day, as stated above, you are only as good as what you do. Up to you to write your own 2015 success story.

Luxury Insider: Luxury Buyers Should Be Hard To Please (They Are)


The high-end question of the day: who are wealthy buyers trusting with the search for a new home and the expert negotiation needed to finalize the transaction? What brokerage firms? What agents? Why?

A few years ago, as I recall, “Luxury Portfolio International”, our partner for global high-end marketing, released a White Paper on the subject, titled a mouth full “How Today’s Highly Affluent U.S. Consumer Selects Luxury Real Estate Associates and Brokerages”. Reading this type of study is always an education as 5 years of a recession still very present on our minds, changed consumers’ mindsets, motivations, expectations and market sensibilities.

Today’s luxury buyers & sellers know the difference between actual acts & empty promises, between the brokers who can deliver and those who wish they could, although they are not admitting that much to their clients.

Because, as the study suggests, high net worth individuals are savvy, sophisticated and used to conducting their own research online on domestic and international markets, agents need to be able to serve as a resource by having both a global perspective and an even greater store of research and information at their fingertips. Few do. Few can. That goes especially for service, which is predicated on the brokerage’ and the agent’s ability to market high-end properties globally, in a meaningful and effective way.

The wealthy, today, want to feel that they have made an instant profit the day they close on a purchase. And they know what they are talking about; they have money to prove it. The access to internet research has empowered them to access information which, many moons ago, resided only with the professionals. The luxury market is not to be confused with all other price segments. Six out of ten consumers say that an agent who specializes in high-end real estate is important to them.

They want their agent to be affiliated with a strong organization and credible marketing partners. Intero, through our Prestigio International luxury division and through the Luxury Portfolio International’s website, helps its agents meet this criterion, as the bulk of the showcased listings are priced in the multi-million dollar price range.

According to the White Paper, internet presence, high visibility print and reporting tools are key. 71% of the affluent consumers say that it is critical for their listings to appear in Google search results. 48% wish to see placements in Unique Homes and 47% in the Wall Street Journal. 38% say representation in the DuPont Registry is important. Consumers are also interested in receiving customized & personalized reports showing where their property is being marketed.

Good reporting on all marketing tools and services is indeed critical. We should note in that respect that Luxury Portfolio International is the only luxury real estate program that gives agents the ability to report on comprehensive listing metrics, from inquiries and views down to which city, state & country, a visitor came from, and even what language or currency they use. It is as good as Luxury Marketing gets.

Happy hunting!

Intero Real Estate Services Open’s San Francisco Office


Tim Murray joins fastest growing real estate company in the country

Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America, Inc., has opened a new location in San Francisco. Tim Murray will take the helm as Vice President and Managing Officer of the San Francisco regional area.

Tim MurrayKicking off Intero’s Northern expansion with an office near Levi Plaza, Murray and his team will focus on the high-end introducing Intero’s luxury division, Prestigio International. In addition to the city by the bay, the initial office will serve South San Francisco, as well as the North Bay areas of Marin and Sonoma County and will act as the launching pad for Intero’s continued growth within this market.

“With Tim’s vast experience in paving the way for new ventures in the San Francisco area, we are thrilled to have him joining the Intero team,” says Intero Real Estate Services Founder, President and CEO Tom Tognoli. “He is a seasoned real estate veteran, and extremely well networked within the north bay. With his experience I’m confident Tim will lead us to success and solidify the Intero brand in this new region.”

Murray comes to Intero with an extensive background in luxury real estate specifically in the San Francisco area. Prior to coming on with Intero, he established and grew Alain Pinel Realtors as the Regional Manager for San Francisco, Marin and the Wine Country from 2007-2014. He was President and CEO of Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate from September 2003 to early 2007 – a firm he started with in 1978 by selling condominiums. After his first stint with Pacific Union, Tim left the company for a management position with McGuire Real Estate in 1989. There, he managed the downtown office and two prestigious condominium developments on Russian Hill and Nob Hill. Tim subsequently went on to open two offices in Lake Tahoe for Dickson Realty, the largest independent real estate firm in Northern Nevada. Tim returned to San Francisco in March 2003 when he accepted the position of VP Branch Manager at Pacific Union’s Civic Center branch.

“I’m excited to take on the challenge of establishing the innovative and influential name of Intero into The City.” States Murray. “My passion for this business combined with a progressive leadership team will surely put Intero on the map in the high-end of San Francisco and the North Bay.”

In addition to his extensive background, Murray has also served on numerous luxury real estate panels in the U.S., England, and New Zealand. He set up an apprenticeship program in London at Christie’s Great Estates, an 18-month, state-of-the-art apprenticeship program that teaches agents to sell and market exceptional properties. Tim was a member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Association of Realtors and serves on the advisory council for the Board of Regents, Bay Area Chapter, of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate.

Murray is also very committed to public service and local philanthropy having served on multiple boards and councils and contributed to organizations both locally and internationally. Murray currently serves on the board of directors for Mercy Housing of California and serves on the President’s Council of Gladstone Institutes in Mission Bay.

Tim Murray
Vice President & Managing Officer
1700 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Luxury Insider: Why Would You Need A Realtor?


Every so often, when I feel like feeding my brain with more professional knowledge (or when I want to justify the hefty dues I have to pay to the National Association of Realtors), I read the “Economists’ Outlook” blog. Some time ago, one caught my eye. The title and the content were not particularly new or earthshaking but I still read the piece twice. I guess I liked it. You’ll know why when I unveil the title. Here it is: “Home Buyers Use of an Agent in Transaction Has Risen For The Past Decade”. Music to my ears.

As a Realtor, I like being liked. There is nothing like recognition for a job well done. Sure it is self-serving but it’s nice to see that home sellers are more aware now than ever of the value of trusting and using a Realtor for the sale or the purchase of a home. You see, even a guy like me needs a pro. I have been around the block a few times, I bought & sold many homes for my own account and personal use, but when my money is concerned, I need an objective expert opinion and someone who can negotiate on my behalf. I need a Realtor.

Buying or selling a home is highly emotional. You don’t want to be emotional and confused when you sign a listing or a purchase contract. It’s your money that we are talking about. It is your home. It’s where you and your family lived or will soon live. Buying or selling is also a very difficult task, judging by the number of attorneys who specialize in the discipline and make a good living at it. At the high-end, using a pro is not an option: there is way too much at stake, too much to win or to lose. Playing Russian roulette is not a game to play in a real estate transaction.

According an NAR study “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” from a couple of years ago, a record 89% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. On one hand, I am pleased to know that the percentage is moving up; on the other, I honestly wonder who on earth are the 11% of buyers who did not get the message!… Promise me you will never do that again!

In 2001, “only” 69% of the buyers bought through a Realtor. I guess those who did not learned their lesson quickly because, as we mentioned above, the percentage has gone up ever since, with the strange exception of 2009 when it dropped a few notches to 77%, after 81% the year before. My take on this anomaly is that after a couple of lousy years when properties did not move and values went the other way, some home sellers blamed their agent and decided to go “For sale by owner”. That lasted only as long as a New England winter (about 6 months).

Actually, the NAR study suggests that only 4% of the buyers bought directly from the previous owners (It was 15% in 2001). The other 7% missing bought from a builder or a builder’s agent. When you look at the trend over a 10 year stretch of time, you’ve got to feel good if you are a Realtor. At that tempo, if we are not careful, we may get well over 100% in another 10 years!…

It is particularly comforting to note that many crystal ball readers, years ago, were predicting that Realtors would phase out, as more and more knowledge about the business, about the inventory of homes, about values, about financing, about contracts…was dispensed online for the public to read, learn and use. Obviously it did not happen that way. Quite the opposite in fact. At a time when buyers and sellers know as much as they do, the more they know, the more they know….. what they don’t know. That’s why Realtors are more relevant and essential than ever. Thank you.