Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Is the Writing on the Wall?


Here's my homemade Memeorandum-style entry on the subject:

Mychael Urban / MLB.com
A's add Loaiza to the pitching mix
OAKLAND -- In a move that's sure to increase the speculation that lefty Barry Zito will be dealt this winter, the A's on Monday brought to seven the number of big-league starters on their roster when they announced the signing of free-agent righty Esteban Loaiza to a three-year deal through 2008 reported to be worth more than $21 million.
Discussion: AthleticsNation (1 & 2), Phishhook, AN Diaries (Sharon, Carp, oaktoon)

Billy's heading to the winter meetings loaded with pitching. It will interesting to see how this plays out.

You heard it here first: 2006 World Series: The Oakland A's ve The Milwaukee Brewers.

How sweet would that be?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bay Area Real Estate: Mortgage Rates Dip

Finally... Mortgage rates pulled back a bit last week after rising, or breaking even for the past 11 consecutive weeks.

Holden Lewis from Bankrate has the breakdown.

The recent rise in mortgage rates has been one of the factors in the recent cooldown in the housing market. As I detailed in this earlier post, rising interest rates can have a great effect on a buyer's purchasing power, which in turn could leave a lot of sellers disappointed in the returns from the sale of their property.

The numbers are still pointing towards a healthy local housing market. I'll have the exact, updated numbers for you on Wednesday.

Here's Morsa Aziz, she's our in-house mortgage broker/Jedi. If you're thinking about purchasing a piece of property and want to talk to a good lender. I'd recommend giving her a call. Her direct line is 510.528.4546 and her email is maziz@metrocitiesmtg.com

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Web 2.0 Validator

The Web 2.0 Validator has rated MyEastBayAgent a 5 out of 15 in it's Web 2.0 compliance.

Looks like I'm Web 1.33333

* Is in public beta? No
* Uses the prefix "meta" or "micro"? No
* Has a Blogline blogroll ? Yes!
* Uses Google Maps API? No
* Attempts to be XHTML Strict ? Yes!
* Refers to mash-ups ? No
* Appears to use AJAX ? No
* Appears to be built using Ruby on Rails ? No
* Refers to VCs ? No
* Refers to Flickr ? Yes!
* Mentions Ruby ? No
* Has prototype.js ? No
* Actually mentions Web 2.0 ? Yes!
* Refers to del.icio.us ? Yes!
* Mentions RDF and the Semantic Web? No

From limbo's Supr.c.ilio.us post:

How is it snarky? Let us count the ways.

1. Self referential? Yes!
2. Makes fun of everybody’s favorite version of the web? Yes!
3. Does not take itself (or indeed anyone else) seriously? Yes!
4. Would be a complete enigma to anyone outside the echo chamber? Yes!
5. Recognizes Supr.c.ilio.us: The Blog as 100% Web 2.0, Buzzword compliant(tm)? No

hat tips to Laughing Squid via Supr.c.ilio.us via Barb.

Technology, Real Estate, The Bay Area &Thanksgiving 2.0

So today is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite days of the year. I know because when I checked my email this morning, it was full of emails from real estate agents, investors and vendors blasting their email lists with a form letter.

So I thought, great idea but lets innovate the Thanksgiving form email. So here's my crack at it.

Thanksgiving 2.0

My life has changed more in the past 2 1/2 weeks, than I could have ever imagined. I've evolved from being a tech-enabled real estate agent on the verge of breaking through to... I don't even want to try to slap a label on it, but it's the next step and it's an amazing place to be. I'll be making a few major announcements in the next week, but that's a whole other series of posts. But stay tuned!

I've managed to evolve my business while creating my dream position. I'm eternally grateful that I found a company like Keller Williams and an office like ours in Berkeley where I'm encouraged to follow my passion and innovate. I love real estate and I love technology and these two passions are allowing me to position myself in a very unique place. The beautiful thing is that the owners of my office and my office manager are behind me 100% and that's a wonderful feeling.

I had one of the coolest things happen to me yesterday. A couple people who believe in what I'm doing so much that they drove me to Best Buy and dropped some serious loot on a gear upgrade for your's truly. So today is my first post coming from my new Toshiba Laptop/Tablet PC and I'm digging it.

I was running my whole operation off of a Celeron powered desktop computer & an ancient Sony digital camera with a broken viewfinder that took a photo 3 seconds after you pressed the button. I was a little embarassed to come clean to my bratpack 2.0 friends about my set-up, but they didn't hate. They had they same view as I did. It just goes to show that anyone can do it!

I feel like I've found my calling. For the past few weeks I've been walking on air, trying to describe to my officemates at Keller Williams what is going on and why I'm so pumped about it. I'm in a unique position where I'm witnessing and becoming involved in ridiculous innovation, while still fully immersed in a different sub-culture. I feel that it's almost my civic duty to spread the word of these new ideas beyond the core group of users and my postion at Keller Williams is allowing me this opportunity.

Last week I held an informational session where I discussed the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon and how it pretains to our businesses. We had about 10-12 people at our first session on Tuesday. What surprised me is that for the next couple days, people kept approaching me genuinely excited thanking me for the class. As the word spread, the unlucky ones who missed my class asked me if I would be willing to lead another one (would I???, c'mon I live for this stuff). So last Friday, I had a new group of ten people to expose to Web 2.0.

Afterwards, we had a wildly successful organizational meeting for what is going to become the Keller Williams Golden Gate Berkeley blog. (Still pre-launch, but you'll be hearing plenty about it in the coming days).

I still had people coming up to me this week who missed the first two sessions wondering if I'd be willing to do it again. So, yes, this Friday at 11am, I'm going to do it again. So if you're in the area and are interested, please stop by. All of our training events have an open door policy & anyone who wants to learn is welcome to attend.

So that's what I'm thankful for.

Also, thank you MOM for sticking with me. I told you I was going to make it happen! Also... thanks to everyone else who thinks I'd thank them. I really appreciate you all, but I've got to end this post eventually.

On a side note, I'm going to be that guy that goes from Thanksgiving party to Thanksgiving party today & I'm hoping to do some live-blogging with my new toys, so feel free to follow along and leave comments.

Update: Flickr photosets: Thanksgiving & Thanksgiving2.0 subset

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thank You for Putting That in a Post

Tara Hunt has written an excellent post in HorsePigCow, dealing with: her successful viral marketing campaing for Riya, how technology is effecting our human interaction, the explosion of the blogosphere, and the creation of the Brat Pack 2.0.

Its right on and I'd recommend cheking it out.

BratPack2.0 Flickrstream

This Puts a Damper on the Evening

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Riya Launches!

On Friday night, I attended the Riya launch party at Michael Arrington's (above) house. By all accounts, it was a smashing success. Taking advantage of the amazing November weather that we've been having, 250 tech freaks took over Michael's Atherton residence for the latest TechCrunch Meetup.

This was the first time that I attended a Techcrunch event and it won't be the last. The energy at these events is just incredible. Also, like any good Web 2.0 event, there was free food & free beer.

I even managed to find someone else there who's actively practicing real estate, so I could fully geek out in both worlds. I'm usually operating in either the Real Estate or the Tech environment & it was way cool to connect fully on both ends for a change.

On my way in I saw that the Atherton fuzz was setting up a roadblock around the corner and was looking forward to breaking the scoop; but by the time I made it inside and grabbed a slice of pizza, the word was already making it's way around the event. It's tough to beat a crowd full of geeks & bloggers to the punch on a scoop, even when it's less than 15 minutes old.

As I immerse myself in the geek subculture, I'm starting to pick up a lot more on the tiny nuances of the scene & it totally adds to the experience.

I spent a good amount of my college years on tour with Phish, so this just seems like a natural evolution. Sort of like Phish lot 2.0, except the people at these events are changing the world and not just slinging veggie burritos & grilled cheese in order to make it to the next show. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Interested in more information on the service that Riya provides? Check out these Tech Crunch & Wired writeups.

Other Recaps:
Laughing Squid
Naked Conversations

Laughing Squid
Michael Arrington
Tara Hunt

On a side note, it was nice to pick up some swag in the form of a long sleeve t-shirt. Heading into winter, I needed a new one. Tara may be in it for the free beer, but I'm in it for the free T-shirts. You can quote me on it, but only if it's taken out of context.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I've Got Feeds Coming Out of My Ears

I just realized how absurd my blogroll is over at Bloglines.

I'm currently subscribed to 327 feeds and I'm always adding great new ones.

Somehow I manage to find the information that I need, but I'm going to have to reorganize sooner or later. It's sort of like having piles of papers on your desk, but you know exactly where that one page of notes is, just in case you need it.

If you're reading this and thinking, "What the hell is he talking about?" check these out: Syndication Educational Series & HOW TO: Getting Started with RSS

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Flickr credit: thomask used under a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Latest East Bay Housing Market Data

Hot of the e-presses, the new Bay Area housing numbers are out from Dataquick. It was largely what I expected: lower but historically high volume, 10-20% year-to-year appreciation, low foreclosure rates & a median price drop from September to October.
"We look at today's market as normalizing. Everybody seems to have gotten used to the records set last year and the year before. The fact is that last month was the third-strongest October since we started keeping records in 1988. It was about twenty percent above average," said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

Remember, these numbers are for October. As detailed in this post, we have been pulling current market data from the MLS and compiling the information in a speadsheet. Although we don't calculate the average median sales prices, we are able to accurately determine the momentum of the East Bay real estate market.

Berkeley's overall Pending/Active ratio has dipped back down to .827 on 11/15 after coming in at .848 a week earlier.

Oakland's overall pending/active ratio is sticking in the same range. It was .577 on 11/15 which was a tad bit higher than the .555 ratio on 11/8. Oakland has been hanging steady in this range for the past six weeks.

We also break it down into sub areas & above and below the 750K price barrier. I'll post those numbers in a separate post in the next couple days.

One last note. A quick shout out to the woman in the photo, Rayne Palmer. She has played a huge part in my development as a real estate professional & I thought I'd share a shot that I took a little while ago while we were out having fun.

Monday, November 14, 2005

EcoBuilding in Berkeley

If you read my earlier post covering the NAR convention in San Francisco, you'll know that my visit the EcoBroker booth piqued my attention. I've always had an interest in solar & alternative energies, but was largely unaware of the extent to which 'Green Buliding' has evolved into.

Last Tuesday, I was driving down San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, when I noticed the brand new sign on the EcoHome Improvement store and I just had to stop in and say hi.

It turns out Tuesday was their first day open to the public. While I talked to Taja di Leonardi, the managing partner, there was a steady stream of people stopping in to check it out. Looks like their 'soft launch' is off to a fast start.

Of course I told them that they should start blogging about their venture. We'll also be doing some co-marketing in the near future so that we can help each other expand our businesses. (That offer also goes for anybody else who's serious about building their business and is willing to come up with a win-win situation.)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Circuit

By day, I'm a next generation real estate consultant helping wonderful people buy and sell homes and investment property in the East Bay in California. But when the sun goes down, I'm on "The Circuit" and it's blowing my mind.

If you read this post last week, you'll know that I'm so pumped about what's going on with: my business, technology & all the amazing people that I'm connecting with that I'm sleeping a lot less than my body is used to. (Semi related post from Steve Pavlina's blog).

On Thursday, I was trying to decide whether I should stay home and recharge my batteries or head to the Supr.c.ilio.us Launch Party to End All Launch Parties. (flickr photostream)

I admit, if I didn't live three doors down from the BART station, I might not have made it. But I resisted the urge to rest and decided to go full speed ahead. I even managed to drag Nate out for the night.

Last night was the Laughing Squid 10th Anniversary Party. (flickr photostream) I met Scott through his flickr photostream of the brainjam event, which led me to subscribe to his blog, where I saw this post offering free tickets to the >play digital media conference, where I finally met him in person, then he put me on the list for his event. It's an amazing chain of events catalyzed by technology that keeps occuring.

Long story short. Both were awesome events. Met great people with incredible ideas.

"The Circuit" is amazing.

Anyways, gotta run. Wanted to get this off my chest while it's fresh.

Heading to Reno with the Granbergs, to watch the Packers.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Am I Really A Bear Fan Now?

Since moving to Berkeley from Wisconsin in 2002, it's been a tough 3 years trying to adjust to the world of Pac 10 football. I've had many opportunities to attend a Cal game, but for vaious reasons decided to pass. When my broker/owner, John Cashman offered a ticket to today's game against USC, I jumped all over the opportunity.

Reasons I am Pumped for Today:

One, I need to experience a Cal game. While attending the University of Wisconsin from 1994-2001, I missed one game. We won three Rose Bowls (None of which I attended (Thanks Phish! ;)))

Wisconsin has two football teams and we're passionate fans. There are few places on this earth that compare to Madison on Saturday and Green Bay on Sunday. The buzz, the energy, the passion, the excitement, the PARTY. You have to experience it to understand it. I'm looking forward to seeing how today's atmosphere will compare.

Two. I now have a connection with Cal. I've got three years under my belt in Berkeley. As a passionate football fan, I need to get onbaord with my local team. More importantly, Aaron Rodgers is now a Packer. Somehow this seems to validate my connection to Cal.

Third. Today's opponent, #1 USC has made me a fan of Pac 10 football. Pete Carroll has that program running on all cylinders. Gotta love it when a Heisman trophy winner & top draft pick Matt Leinhert skips a huge payday to stay in college for his senior year because he's having too much fun and wants to go for a 3-peat.

Fourth. A Saturday afternoon hanging with "The Cash-Man" = Priceless.

Fifth and Finally. I get to do some advanced scouting for my beloved Pack. The way that things are going this year, I'm secretly pining for the Pack to run the rest of the schedule in reverse so that we can deaft Reggie freakin Bush. Time for the second coming of REGGIE, REGGIE, REGGIE!

I think this is the equation: Reggie Bush + Javon Walker playing for a huge contact in 07 + Brett Favre still being a jedi + Jim Bates continuing to whip the defense in shape + another year for the O line to get in-sync + injury karma that we're building up this year + Big Irv & Reggie White smiling on us from above = One more for #4 who can retire on top like he deserves.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sleepless in Berkeley

I was just putting the finishing touched on my post on the >play media conference last night, when I got an email from Dustin over the Rain City Guide letting me know that he just wrote something that I'd be interested in.

Working out of Seattle, Dustin has been writing some awesome posts on the subject of real estate search and this one didn't disappoint.

First, the news:
Homestore, Inc., the leading provider of real estate media and technology solutions, today announced that Elevation Partners, a private equity firm, has agreed to invest $100 million in Homestore in the form of convertible preferred stock.

Homestore Inc. is important because they have an exclusive agreement with the National Assoication of REALTORS® to operate the largest real estate portal in the nation, Realtor.com.

$100,000,000 is a lot of Cheddar. It has been widely rumored that Homestore wasn't doing too well financially and now it looks like they have the capital to do some serious innovation.

With tech based upstarts such as Trulia & Zillow as well as Google looking to crack into real estate, this move sends the signal that the company representing the NAR is willing to innovate along with them.

No excuses fellas, our clients along with us tech savvy agents want REAL innovation. It's happening, the question is this: Do we (NAR, Homestore) want to be a part of the solution, or is this going to be an attempt to keep a walled garden. This is a huge opportunity, lets not screw it up.

I know a lot of REALTORS® aren't too pleased with Realtor.com and their business practices, but this seems like a logical step to evolve the current system to provide more value. I don't pay the ridiculous fees that they charge agents for premium placement on Realtor.com, but I do know that for a small fee you can link a virtual tour to your listing and get tons of extra exposure.

From Dustin's post.
Now mix together (1) the only complete nationwide MLS database (that I’m aware of), (2) $100M to improve operations, and (3) some VERY accomplished tech visionaries, and I’d imagine that expectations are set very high.

For Homestore, Elevation Partners brings a former Apple star, a former Electronic Arts star, a Silicon Valley star, and of course, a rock star (freakin Bono!)… There are enough opportunities to make one’s head buzz… I’m thinking:

* Real estate listings on my iPod
* Simcity interface for home search
* Home listings videos done MTV-style
Right on Dustin! I'm glad that I'm not alone in thinking along these lines.

Then I finished the post.

Part III: Your Mission Should you Wish to Accept It
Imagine that you’ve been invited to 2800 Sand Hill Road to discuss the future of real estate with Roger McNamee, Fred Anderson, Bono, John Riccitiello, John Doerr, and Joe Hanauer.

What do you tell them? What features do you want to see in real estate search? If you are an agent, what is the biggest pain that someone could fix with a technical solution? If you are a buyer, what are the major gaps you see in the current system? What information do you wish you had?

I know that some of my readers have some great ideas. Please share as much as you’re willing. Remember that these guys want to work “within” the current system (i.e. cooperate with real estate agents!), and, most importantly, these people are thinking huge… $100M huge!

This sent my head spinning. I was just about to crash after a LONG day, and after reading my mission, I knew that I wouldn't be falling asleep anytime soon. I collected what thoughts I could and posted a comment and we've been going back and forth.

We'd love to hear what anyone else's thoughts on the subject. Come on over and participate in the conversation.

Flickr credit: Alex Olshansky under a Creative Commons license.

Don't Forget to Vote

I almost did. Today is our Governator's big special election.

Thankfully, I decided to stop at home before heading back to the office & my next door neighbor happened to host a polling location. (I was wondering why they had a flag on the sidewallk in front of their house.)

I even got to cast a paper ballot. Those diebold machines are shady and I felt better voting the old fashioned way. Retro voting!

They were nice enough to pose for a photo.

Notice that I'm keeping it real even though my beloved Green Bay Packers are 1-7.

Monday, November 07, 2005

>Play (ing) in Berkeley

I stepped out of the world or Bay Area real estate & spent most of the day on Saturday at the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley attending >play: The Digital Media Conference.

I'm really digging these events; especially the ones located in Berkeley a mile and a half from my place. I took advantage of the beautiful weather to throw on the iPod and listen to some of the new music that I had downloaded from last week's Vegoose festival in Las Vegas.

After grabbing a choice seat for the first keynote, I ran into Chris Heuer. Chris is the driving force behind the Brainjams events and an all around genuine guy. He's started laying the groundwork for the next Brainjam which is going to be held December 3rd (upcoming listing).

Here's a shot taken of me & Chris @ the Long Tail panel. (What's that face I'm making)

The format alternated between keynote presentations & panels. During the presentations, audience members could text SMS messages in real time to screens which allowed for a good amount of interactivity between the audience and the presenters throughout the day.

I caught the Mobile Multimedia for the Masses and the Discovering the Long Tail panels & picked up some good infromation.

I think free muni wi-fi combined with mobile devices is going to a huge tipping point in the way that we interact & I can't wait to apply that to the Real Estate industry. Which sort of leads into Cammie Dunaway's keynote.

Cammie's the Chief Marketing Officer with Yahoo, who committed to the event unaware that the date co-incided with her tenth wedding anniversary (whoops). She gave an hour long keynote on how broadband penetration is changing the way that consumers use the internet.

It was nice to see some quantification of the phenomenon, but I was hoping for a little more from Yahoo. It's easy to get caught up and forget that not everyone has had broadband for the past 4 or 5 years. It's amazing how much it changes your life. I can only imagine how our usage will evolve with free muni wi-fi and the next generation of mobile devices.

The Long Tail panel was jammed full of people. Nothing earth shattering, but it was entertaining. But I got to see Chris Anderson in action...way cool!

Again, I met tons of great people and walked away some serious gadget envy. I can't wait to close my next few deals so that I can get up to speed.

Anyways, thanks to Scott Beale at Laughing Squid for the free invite & the awesome flickr shots in this post (his playconference photostream) I wouldn't have made it without him hooking it up.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Search the East Bay MLS

Woo Hoo! The "Search the East Bay MLS" is finally back.

I apologize for the delay, but I think you'll enjoy the new interface.

If it's your first time searching, don't forget to check out this post first.

If you have any feedback, don't be shy to let me know. I'm constantly striving to make this site into a great resource and the more I hear from back from you, the better I can make it.

Photo credit U2Mel under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Want to Start Blogging?

I was at the Berkeley Association of REALTORS® earlier today leading a roundtable discussion on Blogging for Real Estate Professionals.

One question that kept coming up was, How do I start? My response was to get signed up with Blogger, pick a template, start posting, and learn as you go. That's what I did and it has worked for me so far.

When I got home from work and started reading through some of my feeds at Bloglines, I saw this post from Rajesh Setty in his Life Beyond Code blog and knew that I had to pass it on.

I didn't get a chance to meet him personally, but Rajesh made an appearance at the Web 2.1 Brainjam that I attended a few weeks ago. Not only did he make an appearance, he gave each attendee a copy of his latest book Beyond Code, which by the way is an amazing book.

Anyways, he's compiled a great how-to checklist on how to get started with your own blog.

Hey Rajesh, you should have posted this a day earlier. It would have really come in handy earlier today :)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Stretching to Buy Your First Home in the Bay Area

Since I'm a full time REALTOR® working in the East Bay Area in California (Berkeley, Oakland, Albany etc.) where the average median home priceis approaching $600,000, I'm well aware that oftentimes buyers are using every resource available to them in order to sqeeze into their first home.

I was reading this "Incomes falling short of home prices" post by Janis Mara in the Inman blog and these lines jumped out at me.

For the sake of the common person, it seems like a price drop could be a godsend. Interestingly, a few Realtors at the National Association of Realtors convention last weekend said something similar.

It reminded me of an unwritten post that I've had in my head for a while now.

Here's the short version:

A drop in housing prices would most likely be coupled with higher interest rates. Assuming home buyer's (especially 1st timers) are strecthing themselves to qualify for a loan at a certain monthly payment, each 1.5% rise in interest rates translates in a 17% reduction in buying power.

Taking the recent upward movement of interest rates (which were at historic lows) in account, my feeling is that any potential gain in housing affordability from falling prices will be offset by rising interest rates.

So, if you're a potential 1st time homebuyer trying to decide if the time is right to buy, the question you should be asking yourself is this, "What is more likely to happen. Are interest rates going to rise 1.5% or are housing prices going to fall 17%?" The mortgage payment will be the same.

Not to mention, you may lose some tax benefits if you wait.

Flickr credit PPDIGITAL, under Creative Commons license