Real Estate App DreamCommerce Adds New E-Postcard Feature

Real Estate App DreamCommerceLuxury real estate agent Gary Gold recently discussed with trade publication Inman News a new feature available on the mobile real estate app he co-founded, DreamCommerce. Dubbed DreamCards, the new tool allows agents to send to their clients “e-postcards,” which are images of a particular home feature accompanied with lines of text.

DreamCards is just the latest innovative product from DreamCommerce to aid in the home shopping process, according to the Inman News report. Gold, who co-founded DreamCommerce with David Ragones, explained the benefits of DreamPro to the publication.

“DreamCards allow agents to send a personalized message with a beautiful listing photo to clients, leads, or their mobile farm in only a few taps on their smartphone or tablet,” Gold said.

This new tool has many intriguing possibilities, but at its core it fosters better and more timely communication between an agent and client. A DreamCard screenshot provided shows an image of a beautiful kitchen with hardwood floors, accompanied with this simple text:“the one?” Now, not only can agents provide pictures to their clients, but also things like analysis and thought-provoking questions.

According to Inman News, a free version of the DreamPro app allows an agent 25 DreamCards a month. The “Social Plus” edition at $15 a month provides agents with a custom referral code to brand the DreamHouse app, as well as 25 DreamCards. For $25 a month, the “Hero” edition provides the branding and 50 DreamCards.

The report also points out there are already thousands of consumers and hundreds of agents that take advantage of the DreamCommerce app.

‘Hipster-Flippers’ Making Mark on Los Angeles Real Estate

(Businessweek photo)

You can call them hipsters or, as the U.S. Census Bureau defines them, the “creative class,” but however you prefer to acknowledge this large segment of the Los Angeles community they are beginning to put their mark on the L.A. housing market.

According to a story in Businessweek, “hipster-flipper” shops with names like Better Shelter and ModOp Design “are bringing an artful take to the renovation game” in Los Angeles. What they are doing is entering formerly run-down segments of Los Angeles and refurbishing the homes there with that hipster flair.

“There’s an inexhaustible supply of hipsters in L.A.,” said real estate developer Steve Jones. “You saw the same thing happen in Brooklyn. The hipsters pushed out until they got to the water.”

Rather than the quick and cheap flips that are pervasive in real estate, L.A.’s creative class is making serious upgrades to homes that match their aesthetic. Jones said that has changed the face of Los Angeles real estate.

“What the market had been offering in terms of renovated homes was bad laminate flooring, granite countertops—the Home Depot school of remodeling,” Jones told Businessweek. “There had to be a buyer who appreciated better design.”

The U.S. Census Bureau defines L.A.’s creative class as people who work in the fields of tech, business, media, entertainment, law and health care. They earn in average of $81,000 a year and make up 34% of the workers in Los Angeles.

What’s really got the real estate world buzzing is these buyers are paying big money for homes “with a suitcase full of money.” One real estate professional told BusinessWeek people are paying over 10% of the asking price—all cash—and with no contingencies.

In fact, almost one-third of home sales in Los Angeles were all cash during the first quarter of the year. The median price of these purchases was $351,000.

With Real Estate in a Sellers Market, Time is of the Essence

sellers marketA similar story is emerging throughout the country: it’s a sellers market in real estate. From New York to Los Angeles, and mostly in between, bidding wars and cash offers are increasingly common enough that the New York Times has weighed-in on the development.

Broker Mickey Conlon expressed this sentiment to the Times after listing a New York home for $1.89 million and riding a bidding war to a cash payment of $2.16 million.

“It’s the kind of insanity you live for in this business,” Conlon said.

Of course, that’s a single instance, but the message is clear: real estate is back. Recent developments make it increasingly enticing to either go house shopping or to list your home on the housing market.

The Times offers its usual plethora of insight on the housing market in this article. Here are just a few takeaways from the piece:

–Always be on top of the latest listing

–Forget about getting a deal

–Don’t delay

–Be thorough

–Raise your down payment

–Set your ultimate price

–Sign your contract quickly

Additionally, even in a sellers market, having the right listing price is critically important. This means sellers should not think the sky’s the limit when putting a price on their home, nor go to low on their asking price.

So Why Hasn’t My Home Sold Yet?

If your home has been on the market and hasn’t sold, there are a few steps that can be taken to pre the reset button and get your home sold.

The most important is to make sure your home is show ready and doesn’t look “tired.” This can be achieved by removing any excess clutter in the home and making sure the furniture looks good. Next, change out the keypads of security systems and the thermostat if neccesary. If they are old and outdated they can really make a house look tired.

Some homes are more difficult to show than others for a variety reasons. When you can’t show a home it can make it very difficult to sell.
If your home is not drawing the interest you would like then you need to take a look at the asking price and how it is being marketed. As good as the marklet it’s the correctly priced homes that are moving and garnering multiple offers, often over asking price.

With regards to marketing, you want to ensure the copy describing your home hits on all the right points and all photography and/ video show the home in its best possible light. Remember, the greatest home in the world with mediocre photography is not going to get attention. It is also a good idea to switch up copy and photographs emphasizing different qualities of your home which ca n appeal to a whole new set of Buyers

You will also want to have your home prominently placed on real estate Websites in order to draw the most attention. In addition, it is critical that all technical aspects of the listing works, i.e. no missing photos or broken links. If this is not done correctly, your home could get overlooked simply based on a technical glitch.

How To Get A Great Buy In A Sellers Real Estate Market

It is now a Sellers Real Estate Market. Most listed homes are attracting multiple competitive offers and selling close to or over asking price. However, by following the tips you can get a great buy in this red hot market.

First and foremost you must know the market. Buyers that know the market don’t hesitate to write an offer when they see what they want and they make good decisions.

When making an offer, you want to act fast and push the seller for a quick response. You don’t want to get in a multiple offer situation if at all possible. To help avoid a bidding war, you will want to make a decisive offer and push the seller to make a decision quickly.

Next, you will want to zero-in on properties that have been on the market for a long time. Properties that are new to the market receive a lot of attention from potential buyers, but often you can find a better deal in a less-competitive environment for a home that has been listed for several months.

When preparing a bid for a home you also want to see if the seller has any special terms that need to be met. This could be a long escrow, short escrow or any number of other things. The good news is there might be something you can do that doesn’t cost anything, or very little, which could be the difference in you getting the property.

Another key to coming out on top in a seller’s market is having a good agent. Inexperienced and ineffective agents can end up costing you money and, perhaps even more importantly, in a multiple offer situation they can wind up costing you the deal.

Finally, remember that if a deal doesn’t happen there is always another property. Get back on the horse and find your dream home—it will be there.

Housing Market Offers Up More Encouraging News

housing marketThe Case-Shiller home price index, a closely-monitored monthly report from Standard & Poor, revealed home prices posted their biggest gains in seven years in April. For three months now, home prices have risen in each of the 20 major U.S. cities monitored in the report.

The New York Times offered up an encouraging view of the housing market in an article last week that cites continued increases in new and existing home sales as well as the number of building permits. As home prices continue to rise, construction companies are responding by ratcheting up building projects and hiring additional workers. Additionally, the Times reports consumer confidence is also on its way up.

The chief economist for RDQ Economics, John Ryding, spoke with the Times about the latest string of encouraging data.

“Five years after the start of the financial crisis in earnest, and four years and a week’s time from the beginning of the economic recovery, we’re finally starting to get more of a pickup,” Ryding told the Times. “It’s been a very drawn-out process, but you have to remember what we’ve been digging our way out of.”

The Case/Shiller home index showed home prices were up on average by 10.9% in April as compared to April 2012. The Times notes there are several factors driving the housing recovery, beginning with a loosening of the labor market. In fact, jobs have increased in each of the last 31 months, which means more people are able to spend on homes.

However, the current supply of available homes is low and with demand increasing, prices are of course going up. If that trend continues, more people are likely to in turn put their homes on the market and the recovery will accelerate even faster.

An economist with JP Morgan Chase told the Times that while home prices are likely to continue to rise in the coming months, it isn’t likely to be at the double-digit rate seen last month.

“You’ve had this dynamic that has been favorable for price increases now, but it’s also favorable for supply to come back on market, so that will mean some moderation in the pace of price increases,” Daniel Silver told the Times.

 

How To Lease Your Home Best Practices

How to lease your home? If you decide you want to lease your home instead of sell, there are a few “best practices” you will want to take into consideration.

The top priority when leasing your home is to find a tenant that you like or can at least get along with on a professional level. Remember, you are going to be in a relationship with this person for six months, a year, or two years. Personalities, character and integrity really matter in a tenant-landlord situation. When you sell your home the relationship with the Buyer ends when deal closes, in a lease the relationship begins when the lease starts.

To that end, you will want to look at a person’s credit, character and assets before signing an agreement. People that possess all three of those attributes tend to pay their bills. Sometime you will find a potential tenant you like, but he or she may be lacking a bit in the area of credit. You can compensate for that a couple ways, either by getting all the money paid up front or by getting a strong co-signer.

If the home is going to be furnished, you will want to take an inventory of everything on the property. This will help alleviate any potential conflicts down the road. An inventory can be done either by writing a list of everything or by taking photos and/or video of the property.

Finally, if you decide to lease your home you will want to be in contact with your accountant. When you lease a home there are tax ramifications and you want to make sure you are using the best strategy available.

How To Win in Multiple Offers On A Home

Your guide to winning multiple offers on a home every time.

There are a few steps that can be taken to ensure your offer on a home with multiple offers will prevail and it is not always about price.

First and foremost is to write a strong and clean offer, with no confusing or extraneous terms. Instead, it should be clear and concise to convey the message that you mean business and are ready willing and able to buy. To that end, you should know that in today’s market most homes are selling within 2 to 3 offer of the asking price and often over the asking price. Any offer that falls below that threshold is highly unlikely to even be considered in a multiple offer situation.

When submitting an offer you also want to make sure all your financial information and records are in order. If making a cash offer, present a bank statement showing you have the cash; and if getting a loan, present a letter stating you have been pre-qualified.

To really make an impression on a seller, you may want to consider offering them free rent for 30 days after closing escrow. This will make their lives much easier and will quickly put you in their good graces.

Remember, when there are several buyers bidding it’s often based simply on who the seller likes better. Therefore it’s imperative you always be cordial, respectful to the point and leave the impression that you’ll be difficult to work with.

Being represented by a qualified and respected agent also will provide the seller comfort that you have good people around to get a deal done.

Marina Del Rey Redevelopment Readies for Massive Expansion

Marina Del Rey

Marina Del Rey is undergoing a major facelift.

Marina Del Rey redevelopment is poised to undergo an extensive redevelopment and expansion project that will add more than 1,100 residential units to the seaside community. The development will cater to young professionals, many of whom are being drawn to the area largely through the growing number of technology businesses that are cropping up on the Westside.

The Los Angeles Business Journal reports the Marina Del Rey project had been left on the county’s backburner for more 10 years, largely due to regulatory and economic issues. However, as the housing market and overall economy began to improve—coupled with the Westside’s increase in commercial activity—a flurry of projects have received the green light to commence.

Marina Del Rey was developed in the 1960s and consists of 804 acres. The Business Journal notes that the community housed a much younger demographic during its formative years, which is something it will try and at least partially recapture in the build-out. The thought is many young professionals who are being hired to work in the new tech businesses on the Westside will want to live close to work and may find Santa Monica to be too pricey and/or congested.

Real estate agent Gary Gold is bullish on the Marina Del Rey development.

“I moved here 12 years ago and the upside potential is huge,” Gold said. “I predict Marina Del Rey prices will rival or exceed Santa Monica in the next 10 years. Google has taken a huge position in Venice with offices. The few single family homes in Marina Del Rey west of Lincoln will be highly coveted.”

In addition to the 1,100 residential units, which will begin being completed in the coming months, the project will also entail a refurbishment of Fisherman’s Village retail center and the Marina West Shopping Center. All told, there is expected to be $680 million in construction in Marina Del Rey in the coming years.

“If you go around to the different shopping centers, the demographic is definitely getting younger,” one real estate professional told the Los Angeles Business Journal. “The people I talk to like the fact that they’re young professionals that are single and wanting to go out to eat and do things in the evening. I think that will continue to energize the area.”

Home that Inspired Beatles’ Classic ‘Blue Jay Way’ Sold by Charlize Theron

Blue Jay Way

1567 Blue Jay Way, Los Angeles (Zillow photo)

A home that moved its former owner, George Harrison, to pen the hit song “Blue Jay Way” was recently purchased for $3.8 million by a buyer represented by agent Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland. Located at 1567 Blue Jay Way in the Hollywood Hills, the property was most recently owned by actress Charlize Theron.

According to the Zillow Blog, the Blue Jay Way property was built in the late 1960s as part of the “Bird Streets” development in the Hollywood Hills that proved an instant hit among musicians and other celebrities. Part of its appeal is the fact the secluded neighborhood is elevated, providing breathtaking views of the city below. Other celebs to live on the “Bird Streets’ include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston and many other A-listers.

The Zillow Blog notes Harrison wrote “Blue Jay Way” during a brief moment of inspiration while sitting at an organ at the home while waiting for a friend to pick him up. It was later released on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album in 1967.

The home provides a perfect example of mid-century architecture, according to Zillow’s description. It is U-shaped and has 4,116 square feet of living space. It has three bedrooms an three bathrooms and features glass walls, media screening room, pool and those excellent views.

Theron paid $3.625 million for the home in 2009 and had been testing the market waters off and on during the last year. It was initially listed for $4.599 million, but that price was incrementally lowered during the next 10 months.

Home Prices Grew By 8.1 Percent in January

Home PricesA closely monitored study of sales activity in 20 U.S. cities revealed home prices rose by 8.1 percent in January on a year-over-year basis, which is the biggest such increase in prices since June 2006.

The S&P Case-Shiller index showed home prices rose across all cities monitored by the study in January. Phoenix led the way with a 23 percent increase and several other cities saw prices surge by double-digit percentage points, including Los Angeles. A CNNMoney report on the study noted cities that were particularly hard hit when the previous housing bubble burst are now leading the recovery.

Several factors have helped to spur the growth in home prices. Most notable of these are the current favorable buying conditions, which includes historically-low mortgage rates; a low inventory of available homes; a drop in foreclosures and an improving overall economy.

Analysts remain encouraged by the current direction of the housing market.

“The market still has a long way to go nationally, but the healing process—and a return to a normalized housing market—is definitely underway,” Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors told CNN Money.

To illustrate the point of the market still having a long way to go, CNNMoney noted the S&P Case-Shiller index remains 28.6 percent below its 2006 peak.

In another study released this week, the Commerce Department revealed the sales of new homes slowed slightly in February from the previous month, but was still up a healthy 12 percent from February 2012. Analysts cited bad weather in February as a potential reason for the slowdown. However, they stressed market fundamentals remain strong and home sales are expected to accelerate even faster in the coming months.

 

Surging Prices Beginning to Lead to a Sellers Market in Los Angeles

Luxury Real EstateReports continue to stream out confirming the current strong growth of the Los Angeles real estate market. In fact, home prices in Los Angeles last month were up by more than 20 percent as compared to in February 2012.

The Los Angeles real estate market has been particularly hot at the high-end level, especially on the Westside. Our friends over at the Valerie Fitzgerald Group gushed at the development in this following excerpt from a recent blog post:

“Wow! What an amazing 2012 we experienced in Westside residential sales,” Fitzgerald said. “2012 was the best year ever recorded for high end sales. A ‘buyers market’ turned into a ‘sellers’ market in most Westside neighborhoods in all price ranges.”

Helping to spur the rise in prices and the increase in sales activity has largely been an improving economy, favorable buying conditions and a supply shortage that has changed the real estate dynamics. Economist Lawrence Yun elaborated on the current state of the L.A. real estate market, noting pending home sales have been up each of the past 21 months on a year-over-year basis.

“Favorable affordability conditions and job growth have unleashed a pent-up demand,” Yun said. “Most areas are drawing down housing inventory which has shifted the supply/demand balance to sellers in much of the country. It’s also why we are experiencing the strongest price growth in more than seven years.”

According to statistics provided by the Valerie Fitzgerald Group, the average listing price for a home in Los Angeles for the week ending Feb 27 was $1,22,899, which was up 0.4 percent from the previous week.

From December 2012 thru February 2013, the median sales price of a home was $376,000. That marks a 27.6 percent increase from the previous year’s corresponding period.

 

Optimism Abounds in L.A. Real Estate Following Positive Reports

A trio of much-anticipated reports on the housing market showed the nationwide recovery continues with no signs of disruption on the horizon and the Los Angeles area is doing particularly well.

According to an analysis of the reports by the Daily News, home prices in the Los Angeles metro area were up 10.2 percent in December from the year prior. That was much better than the average gain of 6.8 percent for the country’s 20 largest metro areas measured by the S&P Case Schiller Home Price Index.

Analysts quoted in the Daily News story were understandably bullish after learning of the results. The continuing rise in home prices, which is partly the result of fewer distressed properties being on the market, isn’t likely to slow anytime soon.

“It was clear in the data that there was not going to be another (price)let down,” Craig Lazzara, senior director at S&P Dow Jones Indices told the Daily News. “And data on housing starts and permits confirm that the housing market is in pretty good shape.”

Local homebuilders told the paper that there have been waiting lists for new housing units under construction since last year when the steady climb in home prices began in earnest. In January, the sales of new homes was up 16 percent from the previous year.

There is also plenty of demand in the resale market, which is also partly the result of a lack of supply. Supply is down in part because of the number of homeowners that are still underwater on their mortgages. Most are waiting for prices to rise even more before offering their homes for sale.

That could be sooner than many think the way things are going. The data, general consensus and anecdotal evidence says its all—the L.A. housing market is firmly back on its feet.

Real Estate a Seller’s Market, Wall Street Journal Reports

With home prices back on the rise, it’s becoming abundantly clear that we’re in the midst of a seller’s market. The Wall Street Journal made the proclamation last week following an analysis of the the latest report from the National Association of Realtors.

Several factors have led to a continuous increase in home prices throughout the nation, not the least of which is a severe shortage supply. According to the N.A.R, the number of properties for sale fell by 4.9 percent in January on a month-by-month basis to 1.74 million. The total housing supply in the U.S. hasn’t reached such depths since December 2009. To give you a further idea on how supply has fallen, the Wall Street Journal points out there were 2.91 million homes on the market in January 2011.

As a result, this lack of supply—coupled with a growing number of buyers that includes a surge in investors—has helped to put home prices on a steady trajectory.

California has been among the states hit particularly hard by the supply shortage, the Wall Street Journal points out. Most experts believe the housing market could be growing even faster if there was an adequate supply. However, many homeowners in California remain underwater on their mortgages and are reluctant to sell until prices increase even further.

Many analysts are optimistic that nationwide home sales could reach 5.2 million units this year, which would represent a 12 percent increase from 2012. However, other concede that mark could prove elusive if supply doesn’t loosen and potential buyers are forced to hold on to their money.

2012 Saw Huge Jump in Sales of Million-Dollar Homes

While overall home sales in California increased by a solid 8.2 percent in 2012, it was the high-end of the real estate market that particularly surged. According to the Los Angeles Times, sales of million-dollar homes in the Golden State last year reached heights not seen since prior to the housing crash.

There was a 26.9 percent spike in the number of homes that sold for more than a $1 million in California last year. The 26,933 homes that sold past that threshold in 2012 was the most since 2007, but still far from the all-time mark of 54,773 million-dollar homes that were sold in 2005. Particularly pushing the increase was the sale of multi-million dollar homes, according to the Times’ analysis of a recently-released DataQuicks report.

To illustrate that point, the story notes the number of homes that sold for more than $5 million in California, 697, was a 42 percent jump from 2011.

Among the top 10 locales for million-dollar home sales in 2012 were Beverly Hills and the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. Silicon Valley was the site of the most homes that changed hands for a million dollars or more last year. That includes the highest-priced home sold in the state. A home in the Woodside section of Silicon Valley featuring 8,930-square-feet of living space and nine acres of land sold for $117.5 million.

DataQuick officials noted safe-haven investing and return on investments available given the current low interest rates played a key role in the surge of million-dollar home sales last year.

One final note–it was revealed that 7,791 high-end buyers paid cash for their homes, which is the highest number ever recorded and a big leap from 2011 when 5,082 million-dollar homebuyers paid cash.

 

Want to Buy a Home? Here’s a Step-by-Step Look at How It’s Done

Owning your own home has been part of the American Dream ever since the ‘shot heard round the world’ set off the American Revolution. To help make that dream a reality in 2013, Realtor.com has provided 10 resolutions to help in a successful quest.

  • Decide What You Want—Given the commitment of buying a home, the first step is to decide on EXACTLY what you are looking for in terms of location, price, and what kind of home you need.
  • Get Your Financial House in Order—This means to figure how much you will have available for a down payment and what your monthly budget would allow for a mortgage payment.
  • Get Your Pre-Approval Before House Hunting—Meet with a loan officer and get a pre-approval letter that states your financial records have been reviewed and you can readily qualify for a given loan amount.
  • Find Your Realtor—Given the complexity of purchasing a home, it is highly-recommended a real estate professional is hired to help guide you through the buying process.
  • Find Your New Home—You can go through online listing of homes for sale that match your exact specifications, and/or you can use a realtor to provide a list of suggested homes that match your criteria
  • Understand Your Mortgage Options—Buyers should learn as much as they can about the various mortgage options available, which will determine the ultimate cost of a home
  • Make An Offer—You have three options at this step, according to Realtor.com. They are accepting the listed price and drawing up a contract; make a counter-offer with different terms; or reject it and not make an offer
  • Protect Yourself with Insurance—Title insurance, which protects you in case it is later found the title of a property is actually invalid; and homeowners insurance, which protects against fire, theft and other liability
  • Close on your New Home—With advances in technology, this has become a more streamlined process, according to Realtor.com. In this step, you get one final chance to walk through the home to make sure there have been no changes in its condition since the sales agreement was signed
  • Tie Up Loose Ends—This step includes determining all of the utilities you will need to run the home. Additionally, be sure and hold on to all the paperwork of the sale as these can be used for tax purposes.

We hope this helps in your house search and that 2013 is the year you purchase your own home. Happy hunting.

As Confidence Grows, Number of New Households Continues to Surge

The housing meltdown of a few years back resulted in a myriad of consequences, not the least of which were many Americans were forced to delay entry into the housing market. That trend has now been flipped. Growing confidence of the U.S. housing market among Americans has resulted in a surge of new homes rising up across the country.

According to Reuters, the number of new homes came in at nearly 1.2 million in 2012, which was about 100,000 more than the previous year and a far cry from the output of 2008 thru 2010 when there was average of just 500,000 new homes being started. As a result, new home building is at its highest level in more than four years, which has turned housing “from the economy’s sorest spot to its brightest,” Reuters reports.

The increase in home building still hasn’t been able to keep pace with the increase in household formation. This has led to the much-chronicled supply shortage currently being felt, notes an economist for Stamford, Ct.-based RBS.

“The rise in household formation bodes well for the economy,” Guy Berger told Reuters. “Instead of having too many houses, we are turning to a situation where there aren’t enough.”

To illustrate this point, Reuters notes how many students that graduated during the depths of the recession were forced to move back in with their parents. Now, they are starting to set out to form their own households because of greater confidence in the greater U.S. economy.

The housing market is showing such marked improvement that analysts are predicting it will take over from manufacturing as a key driver of the U.S. economy. In fact, one economist for JP Morgan forecasts residential investment will increase 22 percent in 2013, which would be the biggest increase since the early 1980s.

 

Buying a property in the US – Frequently Asked Questions

Sellers Best Practices Beverly Hills, Bel Air & Sunset Strip Real Estate

Beverly Hills Real Estate Buyers Best Practices

New Income Tax Rates Likely to Impact Luxury Real Estate Market

2012 was a very good year for the luxury real estate market, but the question now is will that trend continue given the increase in taxes high-end buyers will face in 2013 as a result of the “fiscal cliff” deal reached in Washington D.C. earlier this month.

According to an examination of the situation by Forbes, sales of luxury homes reached a four-year high last year and the final quarter of 2012 was particularly active. That was largely the result of sellers desperate to close transactions prior to the tax rate increase. The “fiscal cliff” deal hammered out by Congress and President Obama increases the income tax on households earning more than $450,000 to 39.5 percent from 35 percent. Most observers quoted in the story believe the tax increase, along with the high-volume of activity in the final quarter of 2012, will likely lead to a slight slowdown during the opening months of 2013.

To give you an idea of how brisk activity in the luxury real estate market was at the end of 2012, Forbes notes sales in Manhattan in New York City were up 29 percent in the last quarter as compared to 2011. In Greenwich, Conn. the surge was even more pronounced. In December, sales were up a whopping 89 percent from December 2011.

Despite a potential slow down in activity during the short term, expert don’t believe it will subdue home prices. That’s because given the heavy action to close the year, supply has been squeezed which means prices should in fact still continue to increase.

A Los Angeles-based real estate professional echoed the sentiments, noting that, especially in Southern California, there is an influx of foreign buyers still looking to join L.A.’s well-heeled communities like Beverly Hills and Malibu.

 

Sales of High-End Homes Rose Dramatically in Los Angeles in 2012

 

The highest-price home sold in Los Angeles last year. (LA Times photo)

Helping to spur an improved housing market in Los Angeles in 2012 was a dramatic rise in sales of homes at the top of the market. According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of homes that sold for more than $5 million last year in L.A. reached a level that has not been seen since 2007.

Records from DataQuicks show that in the first 11 months of 2012, there were 296 homes that sold for more than $5 million in Los Angeles. Topping those purchases was the $36.944 million paid by Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison for a home in Malibu that was previously owned by Yahoo Inc. head Terry Semel.  The number of high-end homes sold last year was exactly double that of 2009 when the housing market collapsed, and nearly 100 more than in 2011.

The Times noted that several “A-list” celebrities landed luxury homes in Los Angeles last year, including Ryan Seacrest, Ellen DeGeneres and Jennifer Anniston among others. In fact, Seacrest paid the second highest-amount for a home in Los Angeles last year when going to $36.5 million for a Beverly Hills compound that was previously owned by DeGeneres. In turn, DeGeneres spent $17.4 million on an 8,500-square-foot home in Beverly Hills.

There was one other Los Angeles home that sold for more than $30 million in 2012. According to the Times, a 36,000 square-foot French Palladian-style mansion in Beverly Hills was bought for $34.5 million by C. Frederick Wehba, a founder of real estate investment firm Bentley Forbes.

As you would guess by the big jump in high-end home sales, plenty of others in the L.A. celebrity set are getting in on the real estate action in 2012. Among those are Leonardo DiCaprio, who is asking $23 million for his three-home compound in Malibu; and Jennifer Anniston, who paid $20.97 million for an 8,500 square-foot home that sits on three acres in Bel Air.

Opportunity Abounds in Housing Market for Both Buyers and Sellers

With home prices back on the rise, this is a perfect time for both buyers and sellers to get off the sidelines and back in on the action. That’s according to CNN, which this week offered an “action plan” outlining how to best take advantage of this long-awaited market upswing.

According to CNN, home prices are expected to rise by one percent across the nation in 2013—though Western locales such as Los Angeles are likely to see an even bigger increase. While that’s certainly a modest gain, it does suggest home prices have hit bottom and there are good deals to be had whether you are a buyer or seller.

To give you an idea on the expected increase in home-sale activity moving forward, the Mortgage Bankers Association projects new home loans are expected to jump by 55 percent (based in dollars) in 2013. That means there are plenty of people expected to jump back into the housing market.

If you are looking to take advantage of this increasing demand, CNN suggests two key elements for sellers to focus on. These include properly pricing your home and focusing on the appraisal.

As an example of properly pricing your home, CNN point out in San Francisco, one of the nation’s hottest seller’s markets, only properly priced homes are receiving multiple offers. That’s because buyers aren’t necessarily getting into bidding wars. The average home in San Francisco is selling for 103 percent of listing price, not the 120 percent level that was previously seen.

CNN suggests when having your home appraised that you always have your agent on hand. Appraisers should also be given an information package prepared by your agent that includes any upgrades or renovations to the home.

The main thing pointed out for buyers in the article was to be ready to make an offer if you’re looking for a home. One agent told CNN your first offer should be very close  to your best offer. The only change in that would be if the house has been on the market for at least three months. Then you could be a little more aggressive with your offer.

 

‘Tis The Season For Great Real Estate Deals

Good deals are often available during the Holiday season.

You may not have known it, but we are smack in the middle of the best two-week period of the year to make an offer on a house. That’s right, each year from Dec. 3 thru Dec. 14 bargains in the housing market are to be had thanks to a variety of reasons, according to the blog at The Deeper Pockets.

The online real estate magazine provided several tips to take advantage of year-end home-buying, one of which was to only make cash offers this time of year. First, though, let’s take a look at why this is such a good time to make an offer on a home.

As the story notes, by getting a bid in by December 14th you should have time to take all the steps necessary to get the deal closed by Dec. 31st. Why is this important? Largely because banks typically want to move excess supply prior to the new year. This means they will often accept drastically reduced offers.

One other interesting point The Bigger Pockets makes is that during this time of year, people are often enmeshed in the holiday season and other year-end projects. So,that widens the opportunity for those willing to put in the time.

In addition to only making cash offers, The Bigger Pockets also suggests that you keep the inspection period short and that you go back and make a re-offer on bids from earlier in the year that were denied.

Time is running short to take advantage of this early holiday gift, so let’s get going.

Is This Flippin’ Easy? Luxury Re-Sales Turning Big Profits in L.A.

High-end home flippers are currently making 20 percent and higher on their investment.

In case you need any more signs the housing market is getting back on track, the Los Angeles Times reported this week an increasing number of high-end homes are being “flipped” for lucrative profits.

The numbers in the article are staggering. For example, a mansion in Beverly Crest owned by Rihanna was purchased for $4.5 million last year and, following a modest upgrade, is back on the market with a price tag nearly double—$9.95 million.

Flipping homes—which is defined as a home being bought and resold within six monthsis up 25 percent from a year ago across the nation, according to the Times. It’s been particularly trending in the luxury market. The reason is simple. Flippers in the luxury real estate market are currently seeing returns on investment of more than 20 percent, one real estate analyst told the Times.

Leading the spike in profits is a shrinking supply of high-end homes and purchase terms that are agreeable even on a historic level.

“There’s a sentiment now that you don’t really want to miss the boat,” UCLA professor Paul Habibi told the Times.

Those looking to get in on the action probably need to act fast. To give you an idea of the supply shortage, the Times pointed out there are generally enough unsold homes to fill up to seven months of transactions. Right now there is only a 5.7 month supply of homes selling for a million dollars and up, a sharp downturn from last year when there was a 10.7 month supply.

Locales drawing attention from high-end flippers include Hollywood Hills, particularly the Birds Street area; West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Venice.

Report: Home Prices in Los Angeles Will Continue to Rise in 2013

A study reveals home prices in California will increase in 2013.

Home prices in the Los Angeles metro area have been on a steady climb since earlier this year and that trend is expected to continue throughout 2013, according to a report from Zillow.com.

In the next calendar year, home prices in the Los Angeles area are expected to increase another 3.5 percent. Home prices currently average $397,000 in Los Angeles and Orange counties. That is an increase of 2.7 percent from this time last year, Zillow reports.

Home prices in the L.A. area have been rising since the first quarter of 2012, according to the Times report. A look at the entire U.S. housing market shows home prices in Los Angeles are increasing faster than the national rate and will continue to do so next year. According to Zillow, home prices nationally increased by 1.3 percent from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports that is the biggest quarterly gain in the national housing market since March 2006.

As for 2013, the real estate web site expects home prices nationally to increase by another 1.7 percent. The current median price for a home in the United States is $153,800.

Celebrities Go to Great Lengths to Keep Real Estate Deals Quiet

Given today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, many stars of the entertainment and sports worlds are now going to great lengths to keep things quiet when putting their high-end homes up for sale. According to the Los Angeles Times, such tactics as “pocket listing” and selling under the name of a trust are being employed to keep the hard-charging celebrity media and others at bay.

Real estate agents that work with high-end properties told the Times celebrities more than ever are using “word-of-mouth marketing”, or pocket listing, instead of using online marketplaces like Realtor.com, Multiple Listing Service, or others.

One example given is the home of Madonna located in Beverly Hills. It is well-known among the deep-pocketed that the pop singer’s 16,500 square-foot mansion is currently for sale with an asking price of $28 million. However, you won’t find it listed on anything that is accessible to the general public.

This has led some high-end real estate professionals to focus their businesses almost entirely on the emerging trend of pocket listings. Their selling points to celebrity clients are pocket listings will maintain privacy and also put them in the loop when the best homes are quietly place on the market.

Another tactic celebrities employ to protect their privacy is by buying properties under the name of a trust. It can be named anything, but it’s usually a good idea to give the trust a generic title, said one professional in the luxury real estate market. The Times offered Britney Spears as an example supporting that premise. The singer apparently bought and sold homes under Love Shack Trust, but that was eventually traced back to Spears because of its association with the pop star.

One professional suggested generic names are really ideal because a Google search would result in millions of hits.

 

Sale of U.S. Real Estate To Foreign Buyers Up 24 Percent In Last Year

Foreign buyers are coming to America. (NBC photo)

More evidence of the strength of foreign buyers in the U.S. housing market revealed itself in a report by NBC News this week. The network was the latest to bring to light how in recent months well-off home-buyers from around the globe are snatching up real estate in the United States, often because it is considered a safe place to put their money.

According to NBC, buyers from Canada, Mexico and China are at the forefront of the foreign invasion. As one broker said in the report, “Their money is safe here. Even if they only break even on a property they know they can get their money out.”

Foreign buyers are scouring all levels of the United States real estate market, but particularly in the “luxury” sector. As pointed out in the story, the National Association of Realtors reported purchases of U.S. homes by foreign buyers reached $82.5 billion between March 2011 and March 2012, a 24 percent increase from the previous year .

Areas that have seen a major influx of foreign money includes several cities in Florida, which tend to be favored by South American buyers; Texas, which typically attracts buyers from Mexico; and California, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles, which have seen an influx of Chinese buyers.

The numbers break-down like this: Canadians led all international buyers with nearly 24 percent of all foreign sales, which equates to about $16 billion; China was next with 11 percent of all foreign sales totaling $9 billion; and Mexico is third with about $6.5 billion in purchases.

The article goes on to point out most foreign buyers are looking to buy larger homes—or “McMansions,” as they are referred—than the average American. The exception are buyers from Mexico, who buy homes that are actually slightly smaller than the average American buys.

A ‘Global Billionaires’ Club’ Joins New York’s Midtown Skyline at One57

View from One57 Tower in Midtown New York. (MSNBC photo)

The borough of Manhattan in New York City is known for its high-priced residences, but it’s never seen anything like the new 1,004-foot “global billionaires’ club” that is near completion along Central Park in Midtown.

According to the New York Times, One57 will become the tallest building in New York with residential units when it opens. In the meantime, apartments in the building are being snapped up at staggering costs by some of the world’s most well-heeled buyers. According to the Times, since units were put up for sale in November contracts totaling more than $1 billion have been signed. The most expensive unit is an 11,000-square-foot duplex that sold for $95 million, which is a new record for a New York penthouse.

As has been well-chronicled of late, the luxury real-estate market in New York has been booming throughout 2012. The Times’ illustrates that point by noting there have been a string of record-breaking sales this year in Manhattan, topped by the $88 million paid for a penthouse by the daughter of a Russian billionaire in March. That record was shattered by the $95 million duplex at One57.

Some New York real estate professionals have signaled their amazement in the amount of wealth that’s converged on One57. As noted, high-end buyers have flocked to New York real estate this year and One57 has not been an exception.

The president of property appraiser Miller Samuel, Jonathan J. Miller, described the scene to the Times.

“The scale of wealth in this building is just unheard of,” Miller said. “Despite all the problems economically, you are seeing these people invest in real estate unlike any other period that has ever happened.

One57 cost $1.5 billion to build. Its apartments offer 360-degree views of the city with sight-lines to many of New York’s landmarks, beginning with Central Park directly below and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.  According to the Times, “fewer than 40” of the 92 apartments at One57 are still on the market. This includes four full-floor apartments that cost a minimum of $50 million each.

International Buyers Help Lead to Increased Demand For $10 Million Homes

Wehba Mansion

A quartet of California ZIP codes, led by Beverly Hills 90210, saw a flurry of action in the sale of homes for $10 million and up during the 12-month period ending in June 2012.

According to a study by Coldwell Banker Previews International, 21 of 56 homes that were listed for at least $10 million during that one-year period in Beverly Hills were ultimately sold. Other California ZIP codes that saw heavy sales activity at the $10 million and up level included Malibu (90265), Bel Air (90077) and Santa Barbara (93108).

Among the high-end sales made in Beverly Hills were a $37 million compound that comedian Ellen DeGeneres sold to Ryan Seacrest, as well as the Wehba Mansion on Sunset Boulevard that sold for $34.5 million. This is according to a Forbes analysis of the Coldwell report.

In nearby Bel Air, a total of 41 homes were listed for at least $10 million and ten of those were sold. The most notable of the Bel Air real estate deals was the Fleur de Lys mansion, which brought a cool $125 million.

Malibu was well-populated with $10 million homes as well, but sales activity hasn’t been as brisk as in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Of the 66 listings of $10 million or more in Malibu, ten were sold including the La Villa Contenta for $54 million and Rocky Oaks Estate for $43 million.

Other communities across the United States that provide an ample supply of $10 million homes include Aspen, Colo. , Miami Beach, Fla., and the borough of Manhattan in New York City.

Forbes reported the major catalyst for the increasing activity in this end of the real estate market has been an influx of foreign buyers who want to put their money into hard assets in this country, especially in coastal cities.

“The luxury real estate market is becoming more global and interconnected than ever before,” Coldwell Bankers President Betty Graham told Forbes. The vast majority of international buyers are coming from Asia, Russia and Brazil, Graham added.

Puttin’ On The Ritz—Finally, Buyers Beginning To Fill L.A. Live’s Ritz-Carlton Residence

Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles

photo provided by latimes.com

At long last, it appears the once-booming downtown Los Angeles condominium market is back on the upswing. That’s according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, which cites the fact the presumed crown jewel of downtown’s $2.5-billion L.A. Live re-devlopment project—the Ritz-Carlton Residence—has now sold more than half of its units.

The Ritz-Carlton Residence, which sits on the top 25 floors of L.A. Live’s signature skyscraper, opened in 2011 and houses 224 condominiums. For more than a year the condos remained largely empty. However, a declining supply of available condos in the area and the continued rise in the cost of apartment rentals has caused the sale of downtown condominiums such as the Ritz-Carlton to gather steam.

According to the Los Angeles Times, about one-third of Ritz-Carlton Residence buyers live full-time in the building. However, an even higher percentage of buyers are investors, largely from China and Korea that are buying the condos to serve as homes for their children while they attend colleges and universities in the area, the Times reports. For even further evidence of the rebounding Los Angeles condo market, it seems noteworthy that three investors plunged for a total 63 units in the Ritz-Carlton Residences that they intend to turn into rentals. That may not be such a bad idea when you consider the the average price for a condo in downtown L.A. is currently $619 a square foot, a sharp 18 percent increase from this time last year.

AEG Vice President Kimberly Lucero told the Times thatshe expects at least three-quarters of the Ritz-Carlton Residence units to be sold and off the market by the end of the year. Condos in the Ritz-Carlton Residences begin at $1.3 million with the most expensive unit, a large two-story penthouse on the 52nd floor, on the market for $9.3 million.

Tune Into Gary’s Latest Interview with Zillow

Zillow presents a first look phone interview with Gary Gold. Learn best practices and tips from successful Beverly Hills real estate agent, Gary Gold. Check out the video now.

Catch Gary Starring in the Latest Episode of HGTV’s Hit Show Selling LA

GARY GOLD STARRING IN SEASON TWO OF HGTV’S SELLING LA “LOOKING FOR A PROJECT”. In Gary’s latest episode he works with renown architects John Finton & William Hefner, helping them find their next project. If things go right Gary could have not one, but two deals out of this when they finish the project and put it on market to sell.

 

New Pocket Listing in the Bird Streets of the Sunset Strip

Take a look at this new video I put together for a new pocket listing I have in the Bird Streets of the Sunset Strip!  This house has it all:  Killer Views. Fantastic Layout and Awesome Quality!  This is the quintessential Hollywood Hills home.

STUNNING NEW CONSTRUCTION VIEW ESTATE IN SUNSET STRIP from Gary Gold Luxury Real Estate on Vimeo.

 

Gary’s Great Interview on What Agents Need to be Doing in Today’s Market

Gary Gold, Executive Vice President of Hilton & Hyland and star on HGTV’s hit show, “Selling L.A.” is on track to complete 42 transactions this year.  Watch this great interview he did for Inman – where he’ll be a featured speaker Friday, August 3rd in San Francisco, where he gives some great and honest advice on what agents need to be doing in order to compete and stay relevant in today’s real estate market.

HGTV SELLING LA “MOVING FROM MONTECITO”

In Gary’s last episode on Selling LA, Gary works with his client Kathy to put her beautiful Montecito estate on the market.  He also has to help her find a new place to live in Los Angeles giving him the opportunity to make two deals happen!

Gary Gold Starring In HGTV Selling LA “$10 Million Estate”

Gary Gold’s client Michael Beaudry has recently redone an incredibly gorgeous $10 million estate, which he wants to flip ASAP. If Gary can get people out to the estate and make a sale, he will earn a massive 6-figure commission. But if not, he will not only lose out on this deal, but might drop out of the running for Michael’s next big flip.

 

Business Week

Catch Me At My Speaking Appearance At The Real Estate Marketing Summit In San Diego December 14, 2011

I am looking forward to speaking at the prestigious Real Estate Marketing Summit in San Diego at the Hotel Del Coronado this Wednesday.  Some of the sharpest and most innovative marketing experts will be speaking there. I am honored they asked me to speak on marketing luxury real estate.  Real Estate Brokerage is in the midst of a paradigm shift no less profound than what the Travel and Music Industry have already experienced.  Real Estate Agents that have embraced this shift, have an unfair advantage over the old guard and provide their clients with superior representation.  I am excited to drill down into the details with attendees this Wednesday.

http://realestatemarketingsummit.com/2011/12/02/gary-gold-paves-the-way-to-luxury-real-estate-marketing/

Trulia Shows Some Love For Selling LA

In response to my appearance on HGTV’s hit show Selling LA, real estate website Trulia.com was kind enough to put up this fantastic post on their Trulia Luxe Living Blog and the video I created for the that episode’s featured property – 2300 Kimridge Road in Beverly Hills.  Much thanks to Cristin Zweig over at Trulia’s PR department.  Below is the link to the post as well as a link to the video I created that was featured in that episode.  Take a look!

Trulia Luxe Living:  http://luxe.truliablog.com/2011/12/selling-la-property-beverly-hills/

2300 Kimridge Road Video: http://vimeo.com/user2792633/review/27888109/6ff7cc23e1

 

 

 

 

No Boom, No Bust

Showbiz Wealth Management Report 2011

Aaron Spelling's mansionAaron Spelling’s mansion recently sold for $85 mil, well below the $150 million asking price but still indicating a robust high-end market.

Traditionally, real estate has been a hedge against the vagaries of the stock market and other sometimes volatile investments, but that hasn’t always been the case during what has come to be known as the Great Recession that began in 2008.

 

Yet, despite dropping housing prices across most regions, savvy investors have found blue chip properties that have resisted the downward pressure and even managed to rise in value. And the showbiz elite in Los Angeles has taken advantages of some rock-solid opportunities in its own backyard.

“Generally speaking, the world is thinking that the United States is on sale right now,” says Billy Rose, prexy of the Agency, a Los Angeles-based real-estate brokerage firm. But his own experience belies that belief.

The former agent is in expansion mode as his appropriately named company opens offices worldwide in order to reach international buyers seeking security. “Most everyone wants to invest in North America; both the U.S. and Canada are perceived as stable,” he adds.

Much of that worldwide interest is focused on Los Angeles and in particular, Beverly Hills, one of the world’s strongest markets.

BevHills arose as a bedroom community for industryites in the 1920s, and remains embedded in Hollywood’s homeowner and real estate investor psyche. “We’re seeing a lot of second, third, fourth and fifth home buyers,” says Rose pointing, to five $13 million home sales in the past two months to buyers who won’t be living in the properties full time.

Gary Gold, exec VP of Beverly Hills luxury real estate firm Hilton & Hyland, echoes that assessment. “A trophy (Beverly Hills) property, beautifully done, is selling more than it’s ever sold for,” he says. “Beverly Hills real estate is a flight to quality.” He notes that some of residential real estate’s current marquee properties are found in the flats of Beverly Hills, Trousdale Estates and the bird-named streets above the Sunset Strip. He recommends either buying “an ultra premium property or buy the best site and re-do it,” which not for everybody.

Los Angeles’ high-end properties are not the world’s most expensive. Comparatively, London, Hong Kong and Gotham per-square-foot rates exceed those of BevHills — which only increases its attractiveness to investors.

International buyers are driving the high-end market, Gold says. L.A.’s (and Hilton & Hyland’s) priciest home sale in 2010 — $85 million for the mansion that belonged to the late TV tycoon Aaron Spelling — went to an international buyer.

Adding to Beverly Hills’ desirability for investors, as opposed to even Malibu or Hawaii, is its access to commerce, per Gold.

“Any major metropolitan city is always attractive to investment,” says Rose, who recently analyzed the real estate market in Toronto, a boom town in part due to the Canadian government’s conservative fiscal policy.

However, Toronto’s 138 condominium tower projects under construction might raise concerns for investors, as too much of the same kind of product often results in a glut. (Miami’s condo towers or Las Vegas’ housing developments are two examples of too much of the same kind of inventory outstripping demand.)

“Property in L.A. is valuable because there is not a lot of copy-and-paste,” Rose says. “There’s not wide-scale development; every property is different from the next.” To investors, that’s a major positive on a potential investment property’s balance sheet.

Watch My Debut On HGTV’s Hit Show Selling LA Tonight At 10PM On HGTV

I will be making my debut on HGTV’s hit show Selling LA tonight at 10PM on HGTV.  Take some time out to watch and let me know what you think!  Below is a link for the video I crafted that was used in tonight’s episode.  Take a look!

http://vimeo.com/user2792633/review/27888109/6ff7cc23e1

 

 

 

Jeweler To The Stars Michael Beaudry Lists Mediterranean-Style Home

Date:June 24, 2011 Author:Erika Riggs
What do Warren Buffett, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Barbra Streisand have in common?

For one, each of them has worked with Beverly Hills diamond cutter and jewelry designer Michael Beaudry.

“We have enjoyed a long list of celebrities and distinguished entrepreneurs that we have designed pieces for,” says Beaudry.

While the name Beaudry is primarily associated with one-of-a-kind diamond pieces, he’s also making a name for himself in home design with the launch of his home collection. The collection is featured at the Beaudry Flagship Salon at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“I’m a frustrated architect,” Beaudry explained. “If I wasn’t a diamond cutter, I would have been an architect.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than Beaudry’s home overlooking Los Angeles, just listed on the Beverly Hills real estate market for $10,995,000.

It’s the third house that Beaudry and his wife Laura, also a jewelry designer, (who recently worked with Halle Berry), have lived in and renovated before selling.

“When we transform a property our goal is to show people how to live in it, by handcrafting or acquiring the right furniture and fixtures and spending a lot of time getting to know the bones of each home.” said Beaudry. “Our idea here was to bring in an authentic European sensibility and validate the architecture of the home so that it feels like an original early era Los Angeles estate.”

The two of them plastered the walls, added historic elements — like the 17th-century mantle in the great room and reclaimed stone from Greece in the motor court — as well as designed textiles, tile, and the landscape, turning the 2001 home into a Old World Mediterranean villa.

Listing agent Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland describes the home as a piece of jewelry.

“The home…is beyond belief, from the lighting to the custom wall treatments. [It] has the same sensibility as his jewelry does,” said Gold.”He sells it like he sells his jewelry.”

The home is situated on a premium bluff location — something that Gold says is rare in Beverly Hills real estate, especially for a newer construction.

“Most of it [Beverly Hills] was built up in the ’20s,” Gold said. “If you want a new home you are mostly likely tearing an old home down.”

The bluff location gives the house unobstructed views of the city skyline and Pacific Ocean beyond.

Beyond prime views on a very private lot, the 6-bedroom home, 9-bath home features a media room, gym, 1,500-bottle wine cellar and tasting room, library and master bedroom with his-and-her bathrooms, a study and multiple terraces. The home also has a pool with entertaining area and comes complete with an outdoor theater, fireplace, commercial bar, grill and putting green.

After renovating this house, Beaudry says he and Laura already have ideas for another home project.

“We currently have our eye on other properties, but this one will always be special,” he said.

 

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Video House Tours: Have They Gone Too Far?

video house toursSome real estate agents are looking to transform the industry by turning virtual video house tours into online mini-movies, complete with actors — or just starring themselves.

Video house tours are said to help peak a buyer’s interest in a property. In fact, the 2010 National Assocation of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows that 61 percent of homebuyers say virtual tours are very useful, right after photos and detailed information about the property.

However, the tours we know are mostly just moving versions of a slide show montage and some agents seek to spice things up.

The videos from those agents delving into this medium tend to be walkthroughs of the property. They range from the professionally produced with music to homemade with a handheld camera.

“Video can be a wonderful marketing tool, but it’s only as good as the quality of the presentation,” says Tom Postilio, a cast member on the current season of Selling New York, and the managing director and associate broker at full service real estate agency Core Group NYC. “Sometimes photographs are better at capturing the very essence of a thing than video.”

AOL Real Estate asked Postilio and three other well known luxury real estateagents to critique three home tour videos by their colleagues to see if they make the cut. Take a peek to see if you agree with the experts.

Cigar Distraction
New York, New YorkMax Dobens, senior vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York, creates broker-generated video with a handheld camera and posts the videos to his Facebook site and to his YouTube channel. His representative said he’s had luck with them (if not, why do them, right?), and one couple even saw one of the videos and wanted him to handle the sale of their apartment.

Glad to hear it appeals to sellers. But does it appeal to buyers? In one of his videos for a $1.195 million condo on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he walks through the 1,133-square-foot unit, cigar in hand, telling viewers about this home on the 22nd floor of the Dunhill.

Although cigars are often associated with luxury, for me, to see the agent talking to me, waving a tobacco wrap in what could be my new home just does not appeal. Even though Dobens cigar did not appear to be lit, it was just a big turnoff. When I moved into my current place it took me two weeks to fumigate the cigarette smell that had penetrated the walls and carpet (my trick, fabric softener sheets and baking soda). I wouldn’t wish that experience on others.

Diane Saatchi, a senior vice president of Saunders & Associates in Bridgehampton, N.Y., agrees with me. In her email critique she wrote: “OMG, the cigar was the first turn off. I would not want to be in an elevator, taxi or apartment with someone likely to smell of cigar smoke.”

Former Apprentice Wade Hanson, who sells luxury real estate for Re/Max Results in the Twin Cities, exclaimed, “Really, a cigar! Is that really necessary? Is a buyer going to purchase this home because the Realtor is holding a cigar?”

Hanson, who knows a thing or two about appearing on-air after his stint on NBC, also thinks Dobens could’ve benefited from having a script, while the second turnoff about the home for Saatchi was the noisy street, which she says was apparent when Dobens struggled to open the terrace door.

But taken from someone who knows Dobens personally as a “great guy and a great broker,” Postilio says Dobens presentation is personable, informative, and professional. “I only wish the quality of the video were more refined. Also, I believe that some of the rooms might show better in person than they do in the video.”

Postilio says that he feels the video, however, “does its job because if I were looking for an apartment that fits this description, [it] would entice me to call the broker for a showing.”

You Sexy Thing
Manhattan Beach, Calif.

In this piece, conceived by Sotheby’s International agent Gerard Bisignano, not only is a brief tour of the $12.5 million listing shown, but so is the beachfront and street life as the prospective homebuyer, portrayed by an actress, speaks on the phone to a friend describing that she has just found the perfect home.

“The ad is clever in that it does not rely on an agent yakking about the obvious,” says Saatchi. “It has appeal to a young, wealthy buyer and if that were me, I would be interested enough to want to see the house.”

And that’s the goal, to get people to want to see the home. Listing agent Bisignano tells AOL Real Estate that when he first received the listing he started to think about a unique marketing strategy for this Ray Kappe-designed home.

“Almost all real estate videos are the same; the agent brings you for a tour pointing out the kitchen, master bathroom, et cetera,” says Bisignano. “Though I’ve seen some well produced videos, I felt this house was the perfect canvas to do something creative and totally ‘out-of-

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the-box.’ It is my job to make my listings stand out above all the clamor and this was a natural result of trying to achieve that goal.”

The piece definitely stands out. The actress portraying the homebuyer sounds as if she works for a sex phone line. Although there are no intimate bedroom shots, and she is dressed in business casual, the sound of her voice just makes you think you were watching something x-rated. When the camera cut to the bath faucet, I just knew it would show water gush out (it didn’t though). One blogger put it this way: “Vaguely adult themes… it’s probably best to be sure the kids aren’t watching.”

As for Postilio, his reaction when he saw the video was “Wow.” He added, “In the business, we frequently refer to the term ‘real estate porn’ to describe photos of exceptionally beautiful properties, but this takes the cake. Apparently, the broker is confident that the ultimate purchaser of this property will be a man who frequents gentlemen’s clubs.”

Gary Gold, a top producer and executive vice president at Hilton & Hyland, a Beverly Hills’ preeminent luxury real estate firm with over $1 billion in annual sales, says that “Buyers have images in their head of what they are looking for and they are scouring the Internet looking for those images, whether it is a perfect kitchen or large yard or city view.” (And in this case, perhaps it’s a home on the beach.)

He says the Manhattan Beach house video seems to be “well thought-out” and “effective,” as “it told a story of the house and of the Manhattan Beach lifestyle.” But overall, Gold, who believes in the power of Internet marketing and has featured hundreds of virtual tours such as the one for this $1.3 million gated country estate, says ultimately, “it does not matter if it is a video or virtual tour as long as the photography is superb, the photos or video is assembled in a logical sequence and it is short and to the point.”

Postilio adds, “What fuels our home-buying dreams is our ability to imagine ourselves living in the home of our dreams. The human imagination is capable of creating its own storyline; there’s no need to impose a prefabricated lifestyle on buyers.”

Classic Style
Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Video production company, VisitMyLuxuryHome.com, produces online video walk-through of the home using a professional presenter. The style is classy, and focused on the home. It has the feel of a Sunday morning home showcase infomercial. The website says: “Obviously, nothing is as good as walking through the house yourself, but our online video is the next best thing.” Our expert agents agree.

“These videos seem to put more of a focus on the home,” says Hanson. “They are classy and give a complete tour of the home. These are nicely done and won’t turn buyers off like a few of the others.” However, he says he would like to see more video rather than just still shots.

For Saatchi, who also thinks this is the better of the bunch, but says the four-plus minute video was way too long for her taste. “I lost interest after one minute, would have stayed for two. I find customers view real estate ads at work or while watching TV and keep the sound off. Our customers tend to be impatient, have short attention for details and like to be in control. They do not like to be told the obvious and especially have no interest in being told to ‘lounge at the pool, relax in the over-sized tub or prepare gourmet meals in the professional style kitchen.’ However, once someone has decided on a house, they like to have the videos to show to their friends.

She says, “I have not yet seen any great video ads. Still ads and videos err on giving too much information and generally provide enough information to help the shopper decide not to see the property or use the agent.” She adds, “Real estate is hard to advertise; well-priced products generally sell themselves.”

sheree r. curry


Sheree R. Curry
, who loves trolling the Internet for homes for sale, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the
Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She’s been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher — or at least a lender who’ll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.

More on AOL Real Estate:

What Celebrities Want In A Home

What Celebrities Want in a Home

By Erika Riggs, Zillow
May 6, 2011
Provided by:
Tyler Perry’s home lounge means never having to reserve a table.
Photo: Zillow
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We have our list of must-haves when looking to buy a home, but what do celebrities want in a home? A pool? Perhaps a home theater, gourmet kitchen and wine cellar?

Yes, all of those, but chances are, if you’re an A-List movie star, sports star, or chart-topping musician/singer, your number one priority is privacy.

 

Gates and Privacy

Stars such as Billy Dee Williams seek gated privacy
Photo: Zillow

“It’s a huge issue,” emphasized Coldwell Banker agent Jade Mills, who has worked with Jennifer Aniston. “They want to be able to come home and get away from the paparazzi and want privacy when they go into their yard. They usually have foliage [and] hedges so that people can’t look in.”

Or, said Beverly Hills real estate agent Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland, they want gates.

“It’s either got to be a gated, secure area or a gated community,” explained Gold, who currently holds the listing for Ashton Kutcher’s bachelor pad. “If you’re behind gates, no one can follow you home.”

This home, currently owned by Star Wars star Billy Dee Williams, is on the Beverly Hills real estate market for $4,195,000. Although the “Zen-like” mansion has 5,295 square feet of living space, its biggest draw for celebrities is the gate and foliage surrounding the property.

Everything Under One Roof

The celebrity kitchen is for entertaining.
Photo: Zillow

Also, celebs require having everything under one roof. Unlike most people, running over to the gym or grabbing a bite to eat at a café isn’t always possible.

“If you’re a big celeb and going out to lunch, to dinner, to the gym can be a hassle and something you don’t want to do,” Gold said. “These are people who don’t go out but entertain at home more than the typical person.”

Rather than the formal dining room, some celebrities love to go the way of a gourmet kitchen with room to entertain there, Mills said.

This gourmet eat-in kitchen, pictured above, is in Mischa Barton’s home in Los Angeles. This piece of Beverly Hills real estate is currently listed at $8,695,000.

Home Theaters

What could be more essential than a proper home theater?
Photo: Zillow

For movie stars, home theaters are the next item on the home checklist, said Los Angeles real estate agent Mauricio Umansky of Hilton & Hyland. “They’re in that business and they expect it.”

Burt Reynolds’ former home (above) features a home theater with seating for thirty. The mid-century modern house is listed on the Beverly Hills real estate market for $10.9 million.

Pool, Hair Salon and Guest Homes

Molly Sims’ home office is a great retreat
Photo: Zillow

A pool, hair salon, and guest house are additional celebrity must-haves.

Many celebrities today are not just singers or actors, but product spokesmen, designers and producers and thus ask for additional space for a home office.

“Each [celebrity] has their own thing and needs a hobby room, a studio, a dark room, or a computer room,” explained Umansky.

Molly Sims’ home, on the Hollywood Hills real estate market for $2.8 million, has a personal office, redesigned specifically for Sims to work on her jewelry line. The space was featured in InStyle magazine in 2009.

Dog run, night club and other uncommon amenities:

But of course, there are always a few unusual requests.

Mills said she often looks for homes that have plenty of space for a client’s dog.

“Some people won’t buy if there isn’t an appropriate area for a dog to have a little run, or a little area,” she said.

Gold said he’s had to try to find a place that would take a 9-month-old mountain lion.

“Slash (of Guns and Roses) was a client of a mine and he wanted to remodel his house and needed a luxury rental for a year. He needed somewhere that would allow his 160-pound mountain lion named Curtis.”

Umansky said his oddest request was to find a piece of real estate that would allow for a nightclub in the home.

Apparently night clubs aren’t that altogether uncommon. Tyler Perry’s LA home does indeed feature a basement nightclub, as well as gym, screening room, and dine-in wine cellar. His house has been on the Hollywood Hills real estate market for nearly a year and is now listed at $11,595,000.

So far, no one’s asked for a helipad.

“Not here in Los Angeles, but out in Malibu where the ranches or vineyards [are] — that’s a different story,” Umansky said. “That’s more of a billionaire must-have.”

Click here to see more What Do Celebrities Want in a Home?

Ashton Kutcher Sells House, Beats Out Charlie Sheen Yet Again

Tuesday, July 5, 2011, by Adrian Glick Kudler

2011.07_kutcher.jpg

Soon-to-be Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher has sold the house that he (partially) built with his own two hands–it was on and off the market in just under five months. In 2004, Kutcher paid $1 million for the house high above the Sunset Strip and with help from dad undertook a major Duncan McIntosh-designed renovation. Instead of moving in, he married Demi Moore, and finally listed the house for sale in February, asking $2.6 million. He also opened it up for tours, with proceeds going to the Demi and Ashton Foundation to fight human trafficking, and announced that part of the agent’s commission would also go to the Foundation (round of applause for Hilton & Hyland’s Gary Gold). The four bedroom house closed escrow last week, with a final sale price of $2.35 million. It’ll be fun to see whether ousted Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen can do any better with his house in the Mulholland Estates, which he listed in May for $7.2 million.
· Ashton Kutcher Selling Charity Tours of Hills House He Built Himself [Curbed LA]

Bought Single Family Home In 2011 In The Hollywood Hills, California

Mr Gold and his office are a great team and simply know how to close deals and deliver the goods. In our case we had the added challenge of being based in Europe but that didnt effect anything and we closed well before the anticipated date. No problem recommending his services.

One Less House, One New Role: Actor Ashton Kutcher Has Sold His Sunset Strip-Area Bachelor Pad

By Lauren Beale, Los Angeles TimesJuly 16, 2011

One less house, one new role

Update: Actor Ashton Kutcher has sold his Sunset Strip-area bachelor pad for $2.35 million.

The updated Craftsman features a home theater and a two-story wine tower that holds 210 bottles. The 3,235-square-foot house has four bedrooms and 41/2 bathrooms. It sits on nearly an acre with an infinity-edge pool and spa.

This fall, Kutcher, 33, will join the cast of “Two and a Half Men,” which fired star Charlie Sheen earlier this year. Kutcher starred on “That ’70s Show” (1998-2006) and in the films “Killers” (2010) and “No Strings Attached” (2011).

He bought the house in 2004 for $1 million, rebuilt it but never moved in. Instead, Kutcher married actress Demi Moore in 2005.

Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills, was the listing agent. Steve Sanders of Coldwell Banker’s Sunset Boulevard office represented the buyer.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Ashton Kutcher Puts Bachelor Pad On The Market for $2.6 Million

Ashton Kutcher Bachelor Pad

Via Zillow: Ashton Kutcher has listed his old bachelor pad for a modest $2.6 million (by Hollywood standards). Described as a “modern craftsman,” this home features four bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, a home theater, and a two-story wine cooler that can hold 210 bottles. The indoor/outdoor floorplan allows visitors to flow outside to an infinity-edge spa, pool, and waterfall. The estate sits on just under an acre of landscaped grounds behind a gated drive, allowing for privacy. After purchasing the home in 2004, the actor and his father, Larry, renovated and expanded it from roughly 2,000 square feet to 3,235 square feet.

Zillow reports that the star will not just sell his labor of love, but will also have “an online home listing and designer showcase to benefit the Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA), a non-profit organization that raises awareness about child sex slavery and helps in the rehabilitation of the victims.” Gilt.com is now selling tours of the home, which has been staged by five LA designers, at $250 per person. All proceeds from the home tour ticket sales–as well as a portion of listing agent Gary Gold’s commission from the home’s sale–will go directly to DNA. To purchase a ticket to see this celebrity pad, visit Gilt City Los Angeles.

How Much Would You Pay To Sleep In Ashton Kutcher’s House

 

 

Ashton Kutcher Bachelor Pad

From a sales listing for a Brooklyn apartment:

…2BR/2BA Duplex Loft Condo W/Parking!

Be a part of “Hollywood History”! Remember the bank in the 1975 Al Pacino classic movie “Dog Day Afternoon”? Well, be the owner of a lovely 2BR/2BA open layout loft in the very same “bank”! :-)

             Dog Day Afternoon is a about a gay man who robs a bank to pay for his partner’s sex change. It’s dark and gritty. It’s not a “:-)” kind of movie.

But the Realtor who is selling the apartment is highlighting the fact that the movie was filmed in the building, which was turned into condos a few decades back.

Dog Day Afternoon is a about a gay man who robs a bank to pay for his partner’s sex change. It’s dark and gritty. It’s not a “:-)” kind of movie.

But the Realtor who is selling the apartment is highlighting the fact that the movie was filmed in the building, which was turned into condos a few decades back.

Along with routine real-estate photos (fireplace, stairway), the listing includes a picture of cops pointing guns at Al Pacino.

“It’s kind of scary, but it’s Al Pacino,” says Celeste Moses, the Realtor. “It’s an attention getter.”

Does the celebrity connection matter in real estate? For an answer, I called the capital of celebrity real estate — Los Angeles.

“I currently have Ashton Kutcher’s house for sale, and we did get a lot of exposure,” says Gary Gold, who has been selling homes in Southern California for 30 years.

“I probably had at least twice as many showings than I would have normally,” he says. “If you get more exposure and more potential buyers see the property, you have a better opportunity to get more money.”