Friday, August 17, 2007

Put Me In, Coach!

Friday is here, and it is nice to write about some non-real-estate topics sometimes as we head into the weekend. Let's talk about coaching. Not leading the team to win the World Series or Super Bowl, but life and career coaching. Coaching has made a tremendous difference in my career and life, and I highly encourage it.

A coach is someone you can meet with to help you establish a strategy for your work and your life. It might sound like therapy, but it is not. A coach helps you identify goals that you want to achieve and then create a plan to tackle them. My coach helps me to better understand my goals, to better articulate them, and to refine them so that my goals are achievable. Coaches challenge you with new ideas, and they provide a healthy dose of accountability. For most people, it is just too easy to set goals, only to forget about them later. A coach stays on you until you achieve success.

If you are new to this concept, you might be thinking, "Oh great, something else to do!" But, it can be as simple as a phone call or a coffee meeting every 2-3 weeks for just 20 minutes. Plus, it really helps you focus your time management so that you are working smarter, not harder. You'll barely even notice the time commitment, but you'll definitely notice the positive results.

I get all my coaching through Buffini & Company, a real estate training and coaching company. In fact, I'm off to our annual Mastermind training retreat in San Diego for the next few days. I really look forward to it every year. If you have questions about coaching or would like help finding the right coach for you here in the East Bay, let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Real Estate 101

So, What is the Difference Between Real Estate Agents and Realtors?

Real estate professionals reading this blog might be rolling their eyes about covering such a basic topic, but I still get asked all the time what is the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor. Most people use the terms interchangably, like calling a tissue a Kleenex or a Canon copier a Xerox.

All Realtors are agents, but not all agents are Realtors. An agent is merely someone who has passed the state licensing requirements to buy and sell real estate. The main difference between a Realtor and an agent is that Realtors (like myself!) follow a strict code of ethics and belong to a Realtor board. Perhaps a good comparison is the difference between a licensed doctor and being a board-certified doctor.

There are 17 rules in the Realtor code of ethics, including such items as:
  • Put the buyers' and sellers' interests ahead of their own

  • Refrain from exaggeration and misrepresentation, and investigate and disclose problems

  • Cooperate with other Realtors, agents and brokers

  • Make sure all written documents and contracts are clear and easy to read and understand

  • And many more. For a complete list of the code of ethics, click here.

In addition to a strict code of ethics, Realtors can help you assess your financial readiness, assist with negotiations, provide market analysis, and more. To see the National Association of Realtors' complete guide and resources, please visit

With such expensive transactions, it is best to work with the highest level of professionalism possible, whether the market is thriving or rocky. Trust a Realtor to help you out. And, yes, I am a Realtor. If you need help buying or selling a home, I would be happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

(PS. Go Danny!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trulia & Zillow & You


The real estate consumer is becoming more and more web savvy (otherwise you wouldn't be reading a real estate blog, now would you?), and two of the more popular sites are and What are they and how can they be of use to you? Or, are they of no use at all?

Both sites collect and analyze real estate information in many different urban metropolitan centers, including the Bay Area. Both sites offer current listings, data on recent sales, and valuations on properties. Trulia tends to have more of an emphasis on current listings and includes a nice interactive Q&A function called "Trulia Voices." And, Zillow seems to have the edge in providing valuation information.

I recently read that 85% of real estate consumer begin their journey with web searches. Are these two sites the best place to start? I think they are a fine place to start in order to get a snapshot of the market, but I highly encourage you to work with a realtor for your transaction.

Both sites have an incomplete inventory of homes for sale, mostly including just those from the chain brokerages and those actively submitted by agents. You are better off using a more complete site like And, working with a realtor will help you find the gems in the neighborhood or to best market your home.

As for valuations, the sites use algorithms and applications that lack human eye and intellect. The comparables they include are not very realistic, sometimes comparing small 2 bedroom condos to large 2 bedroom single family homes in the same neighborhood. The value of a home is truly determined by the buyer and the seller negotiating in the free market. If the buyer makes an offer and the seller accepts it, then that is the value. If a home is listed too high, especially in this changing market, no one will buy it. And that means the list price is not that house's value.

So, Trulia and Zillow are fine for market pictures and to do basic research--even I look at them sometimes. But for real guidance in the real estate world, rely on a realtor with expertise in your neighborhood. If you need expertise and guidance in Berkeley, Oakland or other East Bay neighborhoods, let me know. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Monday, August 13, 2007

Real Estate 101

Dual Agency--Yea or Nay?

Whether you are a home buyer or seller, it is important for you to understand the legal nature of the agency relationship you have with your agent. We must act in your best interest while representing you in a real estate transaction. This gets complicated if you find yourself in a "dual agency" situation.

What is dual agency? Basically, it means that a real estate agent is representing both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction, which is legal in California (but not in all states). A real estate agent who is working as a dual agent could easily find herself in a conflict of interest by trying to represent the best interests of both parties. On the other hand, if the agent has a sound understanding of everyone's goals and works in a highly ethical manner, there shouldn't be a problem.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in a dual agency transaction? First, insist on clear communication at all times. Second, be explicit with the agent about your needs in the transaction. Third, check with the agent's broker if you have any questions or concerns.

If all the involved parties work hard toward a smooth close of escrow (like they always should!), dual agency doesn't need to be a problem. But, it is your right and responsibility to ask questions and make sure it is the right representation for you. It can be a complicated situation, so if you have questions or want more information about dual agency, please let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or