Let me get this straight, you will pay me if it rains???

If you live in Seattle you will understand what I am talking about here. We had a client flying in to relocate to Seattle and with the weather we have been having, they have already had to cancel a home buying trip already. So watching the forecast the past week we decided this would be a good weekend to come buy a home in our beautiful city.

They flew in Friday night and we double checked with our local weather hero Walter Kelly (Q13) to make sure it would be ok for Saturday. About noon on Saturday we came to find out the 1000s of web sites out there that were predicting for mostly sunny skies all weekend were WRONG. Not only did we not have mostly sunny skies (like we did on Sunday) we had snow. That combined with the cold snap, our roads were not incredibly safe for driving all over the city. We did make it around and were able to make a joke out of it and were laughing about the fact that the weather ‘pros’ may very well be for pure entertainment. No matter what anyone says, it seems like there is never a 100% guarantee (actually, not even 75%).

Not only was it difficult for us to get around, but some the houses we were showing had tenants who had to leave while we showed. I started to think about my obligation to the client if we would have been snowed in and could not drive around. Of course I could not be held liable for what WE all felt was a good weekend, but you want to keep your customers as happy as you can.

[photopress:weatherbilllogo_sml.jpg,full,alignright]Then came as an answer to any agents prayers (or person with a wedding, outdoor BBQ, garage sale, etc), Weatherbill; a Web 2.0 launched today. They essentially are creating a market for that which cannot be controlled… weather. Their site puts it best and says, “WeatherBill sells Weather Contracts to eligible buyers. Weather Contracts can be used to protect your business from adverse weather conditions, by paying you when those adverse conditions occur.

Zestimates & Seasons Change

[photopress:weather.jpg,thumb,alignright]Well, I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on Real Property Associates and Preferred Real Estate (registration required and in beta) websites. I’m looking forward to taking some time off from consulting/coding and combining the best aspects of both sites in my next iteration of RCG’s Zearch. (so many cool ideas to implement, so little time). Anyway, if your RSS feeds start to break or things start to appear in Spanish, it’s all my fault. At any rate, if I implement something interesting, I’ll blog about it.

Anyway, it’s been an eventful month while I’ve been too busy to blog. Here’s the month’s highlights for me.

Zillow makes the big time
You know you’ve made it when somebody complains to the government about you or otherwise starts a legal action against you. Greg on the BloodhoundBlog and Joel on the Future of Real Estate Marketing has all the gory details and the play by play action on the NCRC complaint to the FTC regarding Zillow. Frankly, I prefer it when Zestimates are too low. It’s keeps downward pressure on the county assessor’s desire to collect all the property taxes he thinks he’s entitled to. I only want a high Zestimate when I sell the house, when I’m living in it (which the typical case), I want it to be low! Hopefully this will blow over like a winter storm. Besides, nobody complains when the local weather report is 10% off (which has a bigger day to day impact on me than an inaccurate zestimate does). Speaking of which, has anybody else started building their ark yet?

I’ll never trust an integrated NIC again
This past month, marked the 3rd time in the past 2 years that a machine with an integrated NIC (that’s just fancy way of saying the machine’s motherboard that has a built-in network adapter) died or otherwise corrupted Window’s network stack on me. When it happens on a personal machine, it’s very annoying and when it happens on a server with paying customers it’s much worse. Maybe having FIOS at home or running a server is much harder on a NIC, than a cable/DSL is. Whatever the cause, I’m tired of dealing with poorly debugged network cards & drivers. From now on, I’m paying the extra $20-$40 bucks for a stand-alone Intel or 3com network card and I’m only trusting NICs that MS includes drivers for on the Windows CD. (For what’s its worth, it’s seems Linux folks are having similar issues w/ nVidia chip set NICs too, so I know it’s not a case of Windows sucking since every Intel or 3Com NIC I used in the past 6 years hasn’t given me a single minute of grief). Oh well, I just had to vent since that mishap cost me a day of my life, I won’t get back.

Changing of the leaves and the tile servers
John L Scott’s PR folks informed me that their site now has Bird’s Eye images for Portland, OR. The more interesting thing is that MS appears to have updated a lot of their aerial imagery on Virtual Earth recently. If you visit a site that uses the newer Virtual Earth control (such as local.live.com), you notice that Seattle’s images appear to be have been updated with photography from a fall evening (with better resolution) while the Eastside’s images still appear to be photographed during a summer afternoon.

Perhaps future versions of Microsoft’s & Google’s map offerings will have night/day and seasonal maps/aerial photography? Either way, it’s interesting to see the changing of the map tile servers coincide the changing of the leaves. (regardless if it was intentional or accidental). Speaking of the mapping wars, it’s going to get a lot more interesting tomorrow since MS is releasing a new Virtual Earth control tomorrow.

Public Service Announcement

As a “Certified Emergency Response Team” Member here in Kirkland, I was invited to attend the class on being a “weather spotter”.

Not my cup of tea, but thought some of you might be interested.


Site: Redmond Public Safety Bldg – Redmond, Wa
(8701 160th Ave NE – see map below)
Date: Monday, November 20, 2006
Time: 6:30 – 9:00 PM
RSVP: Lt. Charlie Gorman, Redmond Police Dept. (425) 556-2566 or e-mail: cgorman@redmond.gov

The National Weather Service will train new and veteran spotters, including interested citizens, amateur radio, CERT, citizen corps, and law enforcement staff, on how to look for and report significant weather events. Training includes video demonstrations. Spotters are needed, particularly in rural parts of King County, as well as those who have weather instrumentation, such as an anemometer.

If planning to attend this spotter training session, please RSVP so an appropriate number of handout materials can be on hand. Class capacity is 60, so sign up early! We look forward to seeing you at this or other Skywarn Weather Spotter training sessions, and receiving your hazardous weather reports.

Clever marketing

I’m back from a crazy contract job in New Orleans and a great vacation in the Copper Canyon, Mexico, where the real estate agents must walk eight hours up a steep arroyo just to talk to their rural clients. I’m guessing there aen’t a lot of buyers for precariously perched tiny houses serviced only by burros. I recommend the trip and I am a big proponent of a trip to a hot sunny place every Seattle March.

[photopress:Fortunes.JPG,thumb,alignright] On to real estate: Normally I’m not into cutesy marketing, but these fortunes cracked me up. Bonnie’s dedicated client served her fortune cookies after a great dinner and noted that they really matched Bonnie’s style, which got me to thinking about the basics of any kind of marketing; your marketing (including your blog) should match your style. If you’re outgoing and funny, your marketing should be outgoing and funny. If you’re a brain, it should be more like the puzzle a friend of mine got from his money manager last year. Which just happens to bring me to a new real estate blog that sings to the bean counter in me: Altos Research. Charts and graphs, oh my!

Disclaimer: Mike is the relative of a friend of my relative.

10 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Seattle

Where do you find inspiration?

Out of all the places to find inspiration for a blog post, my current favorite is deep within the RCG stats where I can find the search terms that people use to reach this site. Today, someone came to RCG looking for: [things+you+should+know+before+moving+to+Seattle], and while we likely disappointed that particular visitor, I would like to make amends by offering up this list of ten things you should know before moving to Seattle:

rain in Seattle1) It rains.

2) No really, it rains a lot here. Despite what they say about it raining more in Atlanta, Boston, or D.C., the rain in Seattle can be like a slow trickle that never turns off. But the rain is okay… really… because one day… some day… it stops. And on those first few warm, sunny spring days, all of life is good in a way that Californians will never understand (unless they move to Seattle).

3) Seattle isn’t always comfortable being a high-tech town. Sure we design operating systems, sell stuff online, try to appraise every home in America and stream lots of music and movies, but a substantial portion of the population relates much more to the art of building airplanes.

4) Consensus Rules. Just agree with me on this one or I’ll never be able to get to #5.

5) Traffic Rules. People in Seattle talk a lot more about traffic than the weather. Depending on where you are moving from, traffic will either be horrible or a non-issue. Most blue-state people will laugh at Seattle traffic because you can normally get between any two points in the City in under a half-hour at all times of the day. Red-state people see the parking lot known as SR 520 and wonder why we haven’t build another bridge yet (see #4 for a hint at the answer).

6) Seattle is not that big. We have all the stuff associated with life in a major city: Theaters, traffic, ballets, sports teams, traffic, skyscrapers, music, etc., but you really don’t have to travel far to feel like you are in rural America.

7) Seattle is closer to Asia than Mexico. If one of the staples of your diet consists of cheap and tasty Mexican food, then you will eventually replace that staple with Pho. The sooner you accept this (and the sooner you stop saying “The Mexican food is so much better in California”), the sooner Seattleites will let you know about the good Asian restaurants. (And by the way, since we’re talking about good food, I feel obliged to mention that the Mexican food I remember growing up with in California was so much better than anything you can find in Seattle…)

8) The intersection of NE 50th St and 40th Ave NE is about a mile away from 50th Ave NE and NE 40th St. In the Seattle area, all the street names are numbered and given one of nine directions (NW, N, NE, SW, S, SE, E, W or blank). The numbers begin at 1 in downtown Seattle and radiate out wards. The directions also radiate out, but are city specific, unless, of course, they aren’t… Like at the intersection of 244th St SW, 100th Ave W, N 205th St and 8th Ave NW. There is logic to the entire street system and if you live here long enough, you will understand. Until then, you will be confused and miss appointments, meetings, birthdays, etc.. On a related real estate note, if you are new to Seattle, do not attempt to search for a home without a real estate agent. The street system was designed by a committee of real estate agents who wanted to ensure that you need their help to locate a home. 😉 Also on a related note, Redfin has proposed new street names (featuring real names) for all streets in a effort to ensure the viability of their business model, but at this point, they are still very far from getting consensus on their proposed naming convention.

9) Paul Allen.

10) Despite what you might have read in Wired, Fremont is the Center of the Universe.

Have I covered everything?