Notes from NYC

After almost a week here in Manhattan, I’ve noticed there is a general sense of economic health here.   Lots of shopping bags on 5th Avenue, restaurants that are completely booked, even a long line to get into a new series of shops and cafes that feature the best of Italy.   

One of the few signs of a change since the stock market crash is, ironically, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.   Our trader/guide said that a few years ago, there were 5,000 traders on the floor.  Now only 700, largely due to the ‘programmed’ trading that has risen dramatically.   The programmed trading has been responsible for some of the precipitous one-day drops as well.   Our friend was optimistic that the rules would require more human interaction as part of large trades again…. but it was not a sure thing.

A real estate agent I talked with said that after a 30% loss of value, things were picking up in recent months.

A Winter Window Tune Up

Shocked, shocked!   When my favorite ‘large company’ Marin painting contractor, Nick Kunst of Kunst Brothers, gave me the estimate for my stair patch and paint…and window touch-up.   Turns out, I had been turning a blind eye to spots on my windows (I still consider them new) that look like this:

As a real estate professional, I know that what happens when paint cracks, water infiltrates, and dry rot starts.   It’s not pretty and it grows… because it’s a FUNGUS!    Seriously people, don’t be in denial like your friendly neighborhood real estate agent down the street.  This problem gets worse, and the sooner you catch, patch, and paint spots like this, the longer your house will be a solid one.

Next week, on this same page, I’ll put together my recommended winter tune up list for the entire home, and contact information for my go-to people on all those items.

Top 10 Mistakes Buyers and Sellers Make


  • Using an out-of-town agent or relative who is not active, informed or connected in the area…or worse, expecting good advice from the agent representing the seller (who is paying the commission)
  • Starting to shop without first being pre-approved and having funds in place
  • Saving money by asking a friend or acquaintance to do inspections, rather than a qualified, thorough  inspector
  • Finally finding just the right home, fortunately it’s listed at a great price, and deciding it’s not a deal unless the sellers will take a random, fill-in-the-blank huge amount less.
  • Being reluctant to be the first one to move forward, then being put off if there are other offers


  • Not spending the money to make their home look inviting and chic from day one on the market
  • Neglecting to review agents’ marketing materials, ad plans, property websites and tech know-how prior to committing
  • Not strategically planning the debut date for maximum impact
  • ‘Trying out’ a price that will strike most buyers as too high, leaving a negative  impression of the home
  • Becoming offended about the price the home is actually bringing in — and counting on the fact that it will change in the near future

Why We LOVE Living in Marin!

Last week-end we enjoyed picture perfect fall weather.   Just a bit of crispness in the air to signal the change of season, some of our leaves turning, and no fog on the horizon!

Here in Marin, the Giants ferry left Larkspur Friday evening and delivered excited fans to the back door of the stadium for an eleven inning playoff game.   The next day, savvy residents hopped on the Tiburon ferry going to Pier 39  at 2:30 in the afternoon and enjoyed the Blue Angels flying overhead while they were on the Bay.   Back in time to enjoy Oktoberfest in Corte Madera, and then the Mill Valley Film Festival in the evening.   It doesn’t get any better!

Why Buyers Need Their OWN Agent (and a local one)

It’s a Sunday open that usually prompts a blog post like this.   It’s usually lost-looking potential buyers that come through after viewing homes that are completely wrong for them.   Inevitably, the buyers are ‘flying blind’, figuring they will find an agent later, or they feel loyal to an out-of-area agent, or they will use Aunt Millie from Manteca whose mouth is watering at the thought of a Marin-sized real estate commission.    Here are just a few reasons why, when you are ready to buy, it is a really good idea to have an honest, hard-working, local expert on your side.

– You save a lot of time because your agent can suggest itineraries for open homes based on your criteria

– Your agent will take you on a tour of the area if it is unfamiliar territory.   The good ones will include schools, pros and cons of various neighborhoods, micro-climate summaries, and the highlights of each town.

– A good local agent is up on all the latest news and regulations surrounding towns and transactions.  (Sewer line requirements, flood history, permit practices)

– If you make an offer, the last person you want writing the offer is the agent representing the seller.   Remember, the seller is paying the commission and has known the listing agent for much longer.   If you go into contract, will you have confidence in the agent’s recommendation against a fireplace or structural inspection?   Remember, the agent who does two sides of a deal has a lot at stake.   He or she will be doubly-motivated to make sure the deal goes through, possibly at your expense.

Take your time finding a knowledgeable, tough, straight-shooter to work with.   And make sure he or she is a likeable sort.   Why does ‘nice’ matter?  Because the listing agent is well aware of who may be more likely to act unethically during a transaction.    Buyer’s agents should be tough negotiators.   Walking away from the deal is your best weapon.  But as a buyer, you want to make sure that your agent doesn’t have the other side leaning away from you and toward another buyer before the negotiations even begin.