Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PacUnion Cutting Edge Technology Scores Again!

Like any business looking to provide its clientele the best service, coupled with the most advanced technology, Pacific Union has always been at the forefront of real estate technology and service.  The latest example is the newly announced Coming Soon feature provided in conjunction with Zillow.

Zillow recently unveiled its Coming Soon feature, a forward-thinking initiative that lets real estate professionals advertise exclusive property listings up to 30 days before they are loaded into the MLS. While other companies in our industry may react to this disruptive move with fear and resistance, Pacific Union is choosing to test Zillow’s program and determine whether we can leverage it to our clients’ advantage.MarkMcLaughlin_small
According to Zillow’s own data, its website has 81 million monthly unique users, and traffic has grown by 50 percent since January. This is a huge community of consumers viewing homes for sale and an amazing opportunity for Pacific Union to test the quality of Zillow’s traffic. We do not yet know if Zillow’s user base consists of qualified buyers or simply consumers looking for remodeling ideas or viewing dream homes they likely cannot afford.
Subverting the MLS
With the Coming Soon program, Zillow has stepped in front of the MLS to fill a void in the industry and give consumers, as well as some real estate professionals and brokers, what they have been wanting. While some MLS operators share premarket listings privately with paid subscribers, none of them publicly display such listings.
If Zillow’s unique users are indeed qualified homebuyers, this move could be a wake-up call to MLS operators that to stay relevant, they must deliver what consumers and their members want rather than making decisions based on preserving their perceived control in the industry. This includes embracing technology that homebuyers and sellers describe a need for – like the Coming Soon listings.
Coming Soon listings may prove to have a particularly large impact in highly competitive real estate markets like the Bay Area. If Zillow’s traffic consists of serious homebuyers, real estate professionals will gain the ability to actively market their properties before uploading them to the MLS, which have many “rules” in place designed to maintain industry control instead of meeting market demand.
Qualified buyers, meanwhile, will have advanced time to research a home and prepare an offer, crucial ingredients to success, since many Bay Area homes go under contract as soon as they hit the market.
How We’re Approaching Zillow’s Coming Soon
Pacific Union believes that if Zillow’s traffic indeed comes from qualified buyers, giving our real estate professionals and their clients the ability to market homes before they are listed on the MLS is tremendously beneficial and represents yet another tool to help them succeed. To that end we’re implementing a technology interface in early August that will allow our professionals to seamlessly upload pre-MLS listings to Zillow’s Coming Soon offering at no cost.
Pacific Union primarily will be testing the quality of Zillow’s unique users. If the Coming Soon feature generates qualified buyers and closed escrows, we will value the service.
While technology will doubtlessly play a key role in our industry moving forward, we do not believe it can replace or remove the trust, knowledge, and advice that a Pacific Union real estate professional offers clients.
For example, Zillow’s Zestimates for eight of the nine Bay Area counties receive just two-star accuracy ratings and only come within 10 percent of the sales price about half of the time. And in San Francisco County Zillow’s margin for error comes in as high as 12 percent. Therefore, it remains clear to Pacific Union and our clients that the Zestimate is not currently a credible industry tool.
By contrast, seasoned real estate professionals can predict a home’s value with a much higher degree of certainty, as they provide a level of trusted local knowledge and expert neighborhood advice that a website simply cannot replicate.
Zillow’s Coming Soon feature is just the latest in a line of technology innovations designed to propel our industry forward. As technology continues to alter the way real estate professionals and brokerages do business, Pacific Union will evaluate each new innovation carefully and adopt the ones that we feel deliver the largest benefits to our clients.
We will know shortly if Coming Soon is a valuable industry innovation and whether Zillow’s huge user base really contains serious homebuyers.
Best of all, you, the client, will get the benefit without having to worry if your Realtor is keeping pace with the market!
Questions on the market? Want a no obligation valuation of your home? Call us! We'd be happy to assist. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Workers = Increasing Home Values

One factor always helping home values to improve is the underlying employment base. One thing that helps that item stay strong is happy workers and an accompanying desire on the part of workers to locate in such an area.

A few months back we noted that San Jose and San Francisco ranked as the top two U.S. regions where residents were happiest with their lives. So it comes as little surprise that Bay Area employees are also the most satisfied in the country, an intangible that will surely help our region continue to attract highly skilled workers and drive fierce demand for housing.thumbs_up
Glassdoor’s annual Employment Satisfaction Report Card ranked San Jose as No. 1 in the U.S. for worker happiness, followed by San Francisco at No. 2. Both regions also topped 2013′s report in the same order.
The study, which measures employee contentedness on a scale from zero to five, gave San Jose an overall satisfaction rating of 3.5, up slightly from last year’s study. San Francisco received a rating of 3.4, unchanged from 2013.
San Jose also finished first in the compensation and benefits category and was the only U.S. region to notch a 3.5 in that department.
San Francisco employees were among the country’s most optimistic about the economy. Forty-eight percent of the city’s workforce believes that the economy will improve in the next six months, the third highest rate in the nation.
The number of companies hiring in both San Jose and San Francisco grew by 19 percent on an annual basis, when compared with figures from last year’s report. Software engineers are currently the most in-demand employees in both regions, underscoring the Bay Area economy’s reliance on the tech sector.
Indeed, Bay Area high-tech heavyweights fill five of the top 10 slots in Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards 2014, which rank companies based on employee-satisfaction rates. San Francisco-based Twitter came in at No. 2, while Mountain View’s LinkedIn placed third. Silicon Valley-based companies Facebook, Google, and Guidewire also cracked the top 10.
And while hefty salaries certainly don’t guarantee employee happiness, it’s difficult to dismiss the impact wages have on worker satisfaction, particularly in high-cost regions of the U.S. like the Bay Area.
California Employment Development Department data shows that the mean wages in our local regions are the highest of any metropolitan statistical area in the state. In the first quarter of 2013, San Jose area residents earned an annual mean wage of $70,502, the most in California. The San Francisco area had California’s second highest median wage — $66,858 – followed by Oakland at $59,886.
But salaries aren’t the only factor likely influencing job satisfaction here in the Bay Area. A March SFGate article details the kinds of perks some local tech startups offer employees, including unlimited vacation time, free house cleanings, and subsidized meals.
What doles this mean for you? If you're a homeowner, it bodes well for continued value increases. When you decide to sell, you should receive the benefit of this.
If you're a buyer, this still will benefit you as it gives you some assurance that your investment is in an area that should produce valuable returns for you with the passage of time.
Interested in the value of your home? Thinking of buying or selling? Give us a call--we'd be happy to assist you whatever your needs. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane; (415) 531-4091.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Marin Unemployment Drops Again--Leasing Solar Panels?

Hello again. Today we have two subjects to inform about. One is great news for homeowners, and the other is a cautionary note should you be considering leasing solar panels for your home.
In the fist situation, unemployment rates dropped again in all but one Bay Area county, with Marin having the lowest rate in the state of any county.
In news that is sure to inspire continued confidence in our region’s thriving real estate markets, unemployment claims dropped in eight of nine Bay Area counties in May, and all counties are back to their lowest levels since 2008.yellow_blue_up
According to the California Economic Development Department’s May unemployment report, jobless claims across the state were down month over month, falling to 7.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. The U.S. registered an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in May, unchanged from the previous month.
The California economy added 18,300 nonfarm positions in May, a big slowdown from April, which saw the creation of more than three times as many jobs. The construction sector continues to lead the state in annual job growth, which could provide some welcome relief to our local inventory-starved housing markets.
From April to May, unemployment claims dropped in every Bay Area county except San Francisco, where they held steady at 4.4 percent. Marin (3.8 percent) and San Mateo (4.1 percent) were the only two other California counties with better jobless rates.
Unemployment rates in all nine counties have now returned to levels recorded before the nation’s economic crisis, according to historical data from the EDD. Napa (4.5 percent), Sonoma (5.0 percent), Alameda (5.6 percent), Contra Costa (5.8 percent), and Solano (6.6 percent) counties saw jobless numbers dip to their lowest points since May 2008. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Now, on to solar panels. Solar is a great way to save on energy and help solve the growing global warming issue.  However, whether you buy or lease the panels can be quite a different thing.  Read on. Sure, solar panels are expensive to install, but a host of federal and state taxes helps lower costs considerably, even as increased production drives down the overall price of the equipment. (Last year, we reported on this blog that prices for solar systems dropped more than 25 percent in two years’ time.)
But a recent Bloomberg report adds a note of caution: Homeowners who choose to lease their solar systems, thereby avoiding thousands of dollars in upfront costs, might have trouble selling their houses years down the road.
That’s because the fine print in many such leasing contracts requires new homebuyers to assume the previous owner’s contract. It’s an added complexity that might scare off prospective buyers.
“Homeowners don’t understand what they’re signing when they get into this,” Sandy Adomatis, a home appraiser in Florida, told Bloomberg. “You’ve got another layer to add on top of finding a buyer for the house. It’s not a plus.”
An Arizona man said that the leased solar panels on his roof took 10 percent off the value of his home when he sold it in March. His solar contract had nearly 19 years remaining on it.
On the flip side, solar systems have been found to add value to a home — about $25,000 for California owners, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Leased systems, however, are considered personal property and not part of the house. As such, a solar lease could be considered a liability rather than an asset.
The solar industry counters that rooftop panels, whether owned or leased, make a home more attractive to buyers.
“They’re essentially moving into a home with a lower cost of ownership, a lower cost of energy,” Jonathan Bass, a spokesman for San Mateo-based SolarCity, told Bloomberg. “It becomes a selling point instead of a point of misunderstanding.”