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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dance Monkey Dance!

San Francisco has always been a favorite place of mine to visit. I even lived there during a brief time in 1999 when the vacancy rate was less than half a percent!

One thing that always struck me about San Francisco was the homeless. Not simply the sheer volume of homeless but the lengths at which they'd go to siphon a dollar out of you. It wasn't enough to have a gimmick, but your gimmick had to be different or more creative than those of any other panhandlers in the downtown area.

There were singers, poets, rappers, jugglers, one-man marching bands, balancing and other forms of sidewalk gymnastics as well as some of the most creative signage anywhere (maybe the dot-comers could have hired these guys as marketing executives).

This story from the Seattle PI illustrates to what length some local realtors have gone to attract new clients.

Puck is upfront about his job.

"Let's face it, I'm a marketing ploy," the 5-year-old English bulldog writes on his page of Realtor Phoenix Rudner's Web site,

The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors has about 8,800 active members -- up more than 80 percent from 1999. The state Department of Licensing reports there are 13,747 licensed real estate salespeople in King County.

Many agents carve out a niche by focusing on a location, home type or a group of buyers and sellers. Others wear costumes, serve pie or distribute handy gifts.

"There are so many dog owners who need someone who understands their needs," he explained.
What the dog is really saying: "Ruff!" (What the next five to ten years of homeownership may be like as equity fades and people struggle to make their ballooning toxic loan mortgage payments)

RE/Max Northwest Realtor Ross Adams aims for a more exclusive group of buyers on his Web site,, which touts itself as the No. 1 Web site for law enforcement-friendly real estate services.

There's a picture of Adams, a reserve police officer, in his blue uniform, wearing his badge.

"In my years working as an officer, I've had the opportunity to get to know the men and women of law enforcement," the site says. "In addition to the great experiences I've shared, I've also grown to understand and appreciate the needs of the people in this profession."
Is it even possible for someone in law enforcement (or nearly everyone else for that matter) to purchase a home these days in this environment? How many police cars do you see parked outside Ballard 3/2's these days?

Realtor Melanie Meyer of Century 21 North Homes Realty puts a different slant on the cop angle at her site:

Meyer, a former sheriff's deputy in Charleston County, S.C., also has pictures of herself in uniform. But rather than aim for any particular group of clients, she proclaims on her site that she's "solving the real estate mystery" for the general public.

Meyer gave up her law-enforcement career and moved to Seattle in 2003 to marry a man she met playing "Dark Age of Camelot" online. She started working in real estate two years ago.

Meyer's business card shows her wearing a fedora and trench coat and carrying a magnifying glass.

Her Web site also notes that she has a pit bull named Megan and is a freelance writer for "Today's Astrologer" magazine.
I see a trend developing here. I wonder if King County is struggling to keep deputies that have been lured away by the "lucrative" Seattle real estate market.

Meyer claims to be Seattle's "first and only Special Agent Realtor." It seems she didn't have the scoop on Serena Heslop.

Photos illustrating various sections of her Web site show her in a trench coat, fedora and dark sunglasses; a safari hat (holding binoculars); a hard hat, fake mustache and overalls; and a wetsuit.

Heslop said she's been a "Special Agent Realtor" for four or five years but just got her Web site up a few months ago. It's a way to liven up the dry, boring world of real estate advertising and give prospective clients an idea of who they'd be dealing with, she said.

News of a competing special agent Realtor didn't seem to rattle Heslop or Meyer.

"I'm sure I'll run into her someday," Meyer said. "I hope she's as silly as I am."

"I'm gonna scratch her eyes out," Heslop joked.
One thing is for sure - in the coming months and years it's going to take a real sleuth to find more Greater Fools willing to buy at these prices. Maybe these three are on to something.

When Mary Schile switched to real estate two years ago, the former House of Blues contracts negotiator called herself the "Rock-and-Roll Realtor."

Schile, of RE/MAX Mutual Realty, now claims the title of "Pie and Coffee Realtor," as illustrated by the apple and cherry pies she served at a Phinney Ridge open house Sunday, and the espresso cart.

"I love pie," she said
Mmmmm. Pie.

Does it work?

Dominic Canterbury, owner of the Seattle marketing and public relations firm D/C Strategic, said niche real estate marketing can work, if done right.

"Most agents are awful with their marketing," he said. "That's why they've sort of become the used car salesmen of our time."
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle PI, 12-26-2006)


Eleua said...

It is truly sad that in a vast, diverse (not a racial statement), advanced, resource rich country like the United States, people have to resort to these kinds of things to make a living.

Perhaps if we didn't have our manufacturing sector hollowed out by globalism, we could get jobs making things, rather than jobs schlepping bubble related commodities.

This next recession is going to be one that people read about in 200 years. RE agents are going to be on the first wave of pain.

Poor bastards...

B said...

While I might question your comment about "globalism" (globalization?) being the cause as to why so many people seem to subsist on what one might call "non-producing" jobs, I do agree with the general idea that it seems insane to organize an economy around selling one another used houses...

It seems that the point of globalisation is to promote trade -- but service/sales/realtors seems like so much fluff. I wonder how many of the huge number of people jumping on board the real estate bandwagon are moving less than two properties a year?

I have to say, if the unfortunate event of economic hardship did occur, I probably would't feel sorry for anyone in the bread line who gave up a real job to become a used-house-saleschick.

Eleua said...

My guess is the reason we have Cookie and Candi, the Wondertwin RE agents is not because they left a good job to schlep RE, but because the good job left them and went to Asia.

meshugy said...

Portland real estate prices buck national trend

The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index for 20 major markets in the United States released on Tuesday showed homes in Portland, along with its bigger Pacific Northwest neighbor Seattle, posting strong gains, 13.2 percent in Portland, 14.1 in Seattle.

meshugy said...

Tight Seattle office space now landlord's market

The office vacancy rate in downtown Seattle fell to 9.8 percent in the fourth quarter, a report released Wednesday by the Grubb & Ellis brokerage firm showed.

That was down from 13.4 percent a year ago.

A vacancy rate below 10 percent marks the point at which it becomes a landlord's market and developers begin discussing plans for new buildings, said Nick Pappa, a research analyst at Grubb & Ellis.

Landlords are now able to raise rents as leases come up for renewal.

Brokers say the current demand for office space is driven by job growth across a broad range of business sectors and reflects a more thoughtful approach.

MisterBubble said...

Meshugy, why don't you post your off-topic links in the open thread?

octopuswithafez said...

Sorry this is off-topic as well, but this comment by GetStucco on Ben's blog is a keeper:

“how could anyone want anything but a 30 year fixed”

That is a great question with a simple answer, once you run the numbers. By backloading the debt repayment schedule, suicide loans let you outbid other households of similar financial means. So long as readily-available suicide loan financing and a belief on the investment side that there is little risk in subprime lending remain part of the mortgage market landscape, GFs who don’t understand risk will be able to outbid old-fashioned precautious types in the competition for homes they cannot afford.

Cam said...

How about this specialty:

"I find morons with a million dollars to overpay for your POS house!"

Now that's a niche that looks to be in increasing demand in Seattle.

I'm seeing these absurd prices on renovations and McMansions shoved on short plats, and I can't fathom who would buy them. There can't be that many idiots out there with that kind of green. Usually you have to be at least reasonably smart to accumulate that amount of loose change.

For example:

Finding a buyer for this Shack with waterfall and granite appears to be a bit beyond Mr. Hopper's limited abilities. 240 days and counting. Perhaps it's time for Mr. Hopper to tell them that no matter how much granite and tasteless nik-naks they add to the 2300 sq/ft shack, it's not worth a million more than they paid to attempt to flip it 2 years ago. They even hijacked Zillow to state their case, tallying all the money the spent making the house "beautiful".

When are people going to realize that crappy updates don't increase the value of the place dollar for dollar. It's worth what people will pay, and anyone willing to pay more than half asking for this place is a moron, imho. These folks are finding out the hard way that most of the bigger fools have already been parted with their money.

Cam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cam said...

Example 2:

There are six of these McMansions going in; 3 shoved shoulder to shoulder on 2 plats right here and 3 more up the hill. I won't bother to mention the dozens of other McCrapman's across the city destroying neighborhoods and stealing views for fun and profit.

Hideous McCraftsman on a sliver of land for a paltry $1,350,000

Pathway to riches: They buy 2 plots for around 450K each, demolish the perfectly decent mid-century houses on the land, build straight up using very questionable quality, stealing the views of the homes behind (after promising they wouldn't), make sure to spend on the finishes, and collect 4 million minus building costs.

I hope these sit on the market for 5 years. Who in their right mind would buy these for that price?