Join me for a Housing Market Conversation with Lawrence Yun

I don’t normally cross-post between and Rain City Guide, but tomorrow I’m having a conversation with the Chief Economist of the National Association of REALTORS that I think will interest many people in the Rain City Guide community.   We’re going to be talking about the effect that the recent news associated with the FDIC bailing out IndyMac and the Treasuring providing support to Freddie/Fannie will have on the housing market.

I fully expect this radio show to be interesting, lively and informative and welcome you to join.   As with Rain City Radio, there’ll be an associated chat, and I’ll be picking out questions from the chat room.   Please consider joining us!

Join us for a Ballard Conversation with Cory & Kate @ 4pm screenshotI’m really excited that today’s episode of Rain City Radio will feature Cory and Kate of MyBallard.   I have an obvious Ballard-bias because I think it is one of the best areas in all of Seattle, so it should be a lot of fun to explore this neighborhood with some of the best local bloggers!

You can listen to the conversation starting at 4pm by simply clicking on the play button on the radio widget on the right panel, or call-in to the program by following the instructions on the TalkShoe page.

Arrive with questions, concerns, and comments as I expect another great conversation like our previous calls with local bloggers like Tracy of West Seattle and Justin of Capitol Hill.


I thought it was a wondeful conversation with Cory and Kate of MyBallard!  You can listen to the entire conversation by using the “TalkShoe” widget to on the sidepanel of Rain City Guide!

We covered a mix of topics around both local blogging and their take on Ballard.   I found it particularly interesting that they both have only lived in Ballard for less than a year, and yet have quickly developed a strong connection to the neighborhood. Also interesting, is that like Tracy from the West Seattle blog, they both of journalism degrees and see this local blog as a future in terms of how news will spread through communities.

Join us for a Rain City conversation on Tuesday afternoon!

I’ve been having such a blast with the 4realz Roundtable conversations, that I’m going to bring the conversation to Rain City Guide!

a Rain City conversationThe idea: this Tuesday at 4pm, I’m going to host a conversation with the Rain City Guide community. There are many ways to join the conversation and all of them are easy. All the information you need is located at this website:, but here is a summary:

  1. You can call in to the # provided (724-444-7444), Call ID: 17904, to listen to the conversation.
  2. You can join the chat by going to the website that TalkShoe provides for a Rain City conversation any time during the scheduled call (4pm to 5pm on Tuesday)
  3. Getting fancier: You can sign up for a (free) account with TalkShoe and then join the chat (step #2). This will allow me (as the “host” of the show, I’ll be able to know who you are and identify your chats!
  4. Fanciest: You can sign up for an account (step #3), join the chat (step #2) and call in (step #1).

If you opt for step #4, then I can have you join in the conversation during our podcast!

The way that I’ve been managing the conversations during the 4realz Roundtable is that I invite a few “guests” who are unmuted during the entire show. And then, just to make sure things don’t get too overwhelming, I closely monitor the live “chat” during the show and if someone has a question or wants to make a point, then I “unmute” them. For people simply listening to the show, it sounds like a live radio interview show, but to the people taking waiting to “come on air” they can actively chat with all the others waiting to come on air.

So, for the first episode of a Rain City conversation, I’ve invited EVERY Rain City Guide contributor to be live on the call… The first order of business will be to go around the “virtual” roundtable and let each contributor talk for two minutes about what brought them to Rain City Guide.

Then quickly, I want to open up the mic to your comments, questions, tips, etc.

  • Are you moving to the Seattle area and want to ask about great neighborhoods?
  • Do you have a specific question for a contributor?
  • Want to share your experience with the Seattle real estate market?

My hope is that this first episode will be a lively and educational conversation, but it will only work if you join us! So, please consider taking an hour out of your Tuesday afternoon to take part in a Rain City conversation! I can’t wait to hear from you!

10 Great Interview Questions for Agents

The Dumb Little Man (who is anything but…) just listed 10 questions he asked real estate agents along with the answers he got and the answers he wanted to hear.

How are you going to advertise my home?
Why are you saying my home is worth $400K when I think its worth $325K?
Is your realty company placing pictures on your website and other listing services?
Will you be at the closing or will you send a lackey?
Show me your municipal reporting on the area?
What are your stats?
How accessible are you?
What is your commission?
How can I prepare to show my home?
Can I have the names and phone numbers of the last 3 people that listed with you?

Note that this blog post got picked up by lifehacker and there are some interesting conversations going on over there as well…

Update: Just noticed I was a little behind on this story as it was already covered by both Jonathan and Erik. 🙂

Interview with Ardell DellaLoggia of the Searching Seattle Blog

[photopress:ardell_mlsphoto.jpg,full,alignright]There is only one Ardell. She’s a top-notch blogger that shows up all over the place in the blogging world. In addition to RCG, she keeps up an ActiveRain blog and her solo blog at Searching Seattle. And while it might seem somewhat self-serving to interview one of our own contributors, I couldn’t resist the curiosity to unleash this interview on Ardell! 🙂

However, before I begin the interview, I have a HUGE announcement! Today marks Ardell’s one year anniversary as a Rain City Guide contributor. Her first words may have been “be gentle” but she has been much more disruptive than gentle on the real estate blogging world! Let me be the first to say thank for for giving us such a fabulous, fun, and fantastic year!

What inspired you to start blogging?

I wouldn’t call it an inspiration. I honestly was just doing my “good deed for the day”. A Microsoft employee named Noor, explained to me in his Toastmaster’s International speech at our club in Redmond/Bellevue, that a blog was a personal online journal, a web log, a log on the web. So when John Reilly of Internet Crusade emailed me on 1/1/07 and asked me to be one of the people to test their blog product, I had a basic idea of what he was asking. I said yes and just started typing away. I wasn’t really realizing others would read it, except John. I look back at those first articles and wonder why I chose to write on those topics. I mean, who is sitting around on New Year’s Day writing on such intense topics? I’m not a techie geek for sure, as you can tell by my huge print, color text, etc. But I am a real estate nerd.

Unlike other people who decided to blog, or who had an urge to be a writer, I was just typing out whatever I was thinking about. Just turned out to be TMI about real estate 🙂

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

I like to talk about the real estate process, real estate commissions especially the buyer agent fee, and how people and agents interact differently using technology and why that will make things easier and cheaper. I think people want to know a whole lot more about what they are getting themselves into. They may still want to hire someone to do “it” for them, but they want to know a whole lot more about what that “it” is, and why it costs so much and does it have to cost so much. I think talking about these things angers a lot of people, so I mix up other things in between. If I could, I’d only talk about those three things.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Personalize my blog? LOL That’s an oxymoron…I’m all over it. To read me is to know me. I think I need to learn how to DE-personalize it 🙂

[photopress:ardell_at_computer_small.jpg,full,alignright]Do you have any favorite posts?

I loved this post and I especially loved when the client commented. It totally surprised me. This was my favorite, but it just slid by. I must have been the only one who liked it…oh, and my sister loved it. Most people, like “Jack” in that first linked article, came to me from this one. So I’d have to say that is one of my favorites as well.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

My first instinct in answering this question would be to link to the Who’s Who of the Blogosphere and the Usual Suspects, but honestly I don’t like blogs…I like people. To me Sellsius is Joe and Rudy, Urban Digs is Noah, Urbnlivn is Matt and Property Monger is Jon. I like those people via their blog. The only blog I used to read regularly was Bloodhound, but it has gotten too confusing for me. Too many people with too many different viewpoints. If I could click on Kris and read all her stuff in sequence, and then click on Greg, etc , the way RainCityGuide functions when you click our pictures, I’d still read it. But I can’t keep up with all the people, and I like the people, not the blogs. If I read the blog and don’t like the person…I leave. If the blog doesn’t have a personality, I don’t read it.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

It’s turned it upside down, as you know. Most of my clients come from my writings now. It’s nice that they already “know me” when we first meet and there doesn’t seem to be much difference from “me on blog” to “me in person”. I like when they say “Oh, now I know what Dustin meant when he said he can see your hands moving in your writings”. I think Glenn Kelman was one of the ones who said that when we met. I am in person as I am on the blog…one of the benefits of “stream of consciousness” blogging.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

I added the podcast. Other than mispronouncing my name and calling me Ardle, I like it. I also want to make it easier for people to find specific topics of interest. More like an encyclopedia of real estate topics. Oops I mean wiki 😉 Right now you have to go to the archives, but I think that is one of the problems with a blog. The older it is the more you bury what people want to read. I indexed it last year, but I changed my categories so I have to get the index back up and linked. It’s a lot of work.

What is the one tool or feature that you wish your site had?

I actually like it the way it is. I’ve tried a lot of different platforms to test them. My Bloglines went caput the other day and I lost my entire Family Blog. It’s still there but it’s totally blank, so I’m never writing there again. Blogger is OK, but it bores me for some reason. I’ve tried it two or three times and can’t seem to be consistent there. I like having both WordPress and RealTown blogs. Word Press for Rain City Guide is THE best, but that’s because of what you, Dustin, have done to it. My other Word Press blog is not nearly as easy as this one. So best is Word Press after Dustin modifies it!

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

I think you will see some lawsuits, actually. A lot of people are writing like they are 12 year olds on My Space and ranting about things that border on slander. Making negative comments about competitors, badmouthing those who “discount”, some even say nasty things about their own clients. Of course after a law suit or two the blogs will become less colorful and will be “bought” from news sources. So enjoy reading the colorful ones while you still can!

Thank you Ardell for taking the time to answer these questions!

Interviews, interviews interviews:

Interview with Michael Simonsen of Altos Research

I first met Michael in person back at the Real Estate Connect conference in SF last summer and was immediately impressed.

[photopress:mike.jpg,thumb,alignright]The Altos Research blog has been rolling full-steam ahead with really solid analytical posts about changes in neighborhood value up and down the West Coast. At the same time, I could tell that his business running Altos Research must have been taking off because his widgets that track market value by neighborhoods were showing up all over the real estate blogosphere.

Needless to say, Michael’s posts just keep getting better and I’m extremely excited he agreed to this interview…

What inspired you to start blogging?

In mid-2005, the Altos Research platform was really kicking in for the first time. My co-founder, Jason, and I loved seeing the output of the analysis – geeking out on the data. The blog seemed like the best channel to start letting people know what we had. So in October 2005 we started. The process of blogging, it turns out, is crucial for me to actually figure out what we had and how people like to consume it.

[photopress:altos_logo.jpg,full,alignright]Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

Altos Research is all about analyzing real estate markets in real time. I think our blog is at it’s best when we identify and publish market information that no one else has.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Despite the fact that our blog is first and foremost a marketing channel to interact with our customers, the content is intensely personal.

There’s a fascinating disconnect between traditional corporate marketing and sales processes. Corporate marketing (or real estate marketing for that matter) is planned, structured, and homogeneous (read: stiff and impersonal). But everyone knows the adage that people buy from people they like. Sales is about personality. The blog is really the first time a marketing channel leverages personality. Many of my customers know me before they ever speak with me.

Do you have any favorite posts?

A couple months ago I did a quick post on our stats tracking flipped properties in a market (quick remodel and back on the market for more money.) I cited San Jose. The post got picked up in and some other heavy-traffic investment sites. We had huge (huge for us) traffic spikes.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

I read Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed every day. I’m an unabashed Silicon Valley-phile. I love the ethos and dynamics of the technology startup/venture capital culture and Paul is like mainlining for that addiction.

What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

I’m a huge fan of HitTail. More than any other analytics tools I’ve found, HitTail provides a clean, clear presentation of how people find you and guides thinking about what people want you to write about.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

Blogging, believe it or not, is nearly 100% of our marketing to date. Our sales come either from our passionate clients recommending our services to their friends or from people who read the blog. We’ll augment our marketing with other techniques as we grow, but it’s hard to imagine any single approach more effective.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

The biggest key for me is to post more. I tend to be a long-form poster: I try to find a topic, formulate a thesis for a post, construct the argument, get supporting images and links, edit, edit, edit. That process takes me several hours, when I’m thorough. I need to sleep less or something.

What is the one tool or feature that you wish your site had?

I wish the damn system of trackbacks or Technorati or something worked reliably. The effectiveness of these types of features is just plain random.

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

We’re still really, really early in real estate blogging. Real estate is a relationship business. You know how to build relationships off line. But the Internet is where 70% of people start the home search. The blog is the premier mechanism for building relationships over the Internet.

The good news is that the real estate blogosphere will never be overcrowded. It is self regulating. Many Realtors will never start because the evidence of lousy performance sticks around for ever. If you are a lousy networker off line, that’s ephemeral, no one ever knows. The fear of failure will keep this space open to those who are dedicated and enthusiastic. Rock on.

Thanks again to Michael for your insight!

Want more interviews? Try one of these on for size:

Yahoo Responds to Our Questions!

Based on my request for questions a few days ago, I put together a slew of questions for Yahoo to answer about their new real estate site. I must say that I was a little bit disappointed in the number of times they state “we can’t comment on future releases or upgrades”, but otherwise, I think there are some nuggets of gold in their answers. (Note that I also added a few questions in the beginning to get them talking about their service before I hit them with the agent-specific stuff. 🙂 )

1) What are the three best features of the new site?

1. Integration with Yahoo! Local & Maps:

Yahoo! Real Estate has added maps with satellite imagery so house hunters can easily see where homes for sale or rentals are located and their proximity to roads and other landmarks. In addition, integration with Yahoo! Local allows users to also see “inside information

You've got real estate questions, we've got answers!

I thought I’d try something new and open this thread up to your real estate questions…

Do you have a question about the Seattle market? Real estate technology? Legal issues? Loan issues? Photography? Neighborhoods? Do you worry about Hanan? 😉 While there’s no guarantee we’ll know the answer, it is pretty rare that a good question goes unanswered on Rain City Guide.

Our current crop of real estate agents, mortgage brokers, real estate lawyers, real estate photographers, and real estate technology consultants are all motived to de-mystify the real estate industry, so hit us with some good questions and we’ll likely provide some interesting answers!

horse head statue

10 Questions for Home Buyers to ask a Real Estate Agent

I pulled these ten questions from a handout that the national Realtor organization published. There are good questions and, if used by a buyer, they should definitely give you a feel for the quality of the agent. So as not to be above the fray, I’m planning on adding my response to each of these questions as time permits.

1. Are you a full-time professional Realtor? How long have you worked full time in real estate? How long have you been representing buyers? What professional designations do you have?

  • Knowing whether or not your Realtor practices real estate on a full-time basis can give you a piece of the puzzle in foreseeing scheduling conflicts and, overall, his or her commitment to your transaction. As with any profession, the number of years a person has been in the business does not necessarily reflect the level of service you can expect, but it is a good starting point for your discussion. The same issue can apply to professional designations.

2. Do you have a personal assistant, team, or staff to handle different parts of the purchase transaction? What are their names and how will each of them help me in my transaction? How do I communicate with them?

  • It is not uncommon for high real estate sales producers to hire people to work for them or with them. They typically work on a referral basis, and, as their businesses grow, they must be able to deliver the same or higher quality service to more clients.
  • You may want to be clear about who on the team will take part in your transaction, and what role each person will play. You may even want to meet the other team members before you decide to work with the team overall. If you needed help with a certain part of your home purchase, who should you talk to and how would you communicate? If you have a question about fees on your closing statement, who would handle that? Who will show up to your closing? These are just a few of the many important considerations in working with a team.

3. Do you and/or your company each have a website that will provide me with useful information for research, services, and how you work with buyers? Can I have those Web addresses now? And who does the emails? Can I have the email address now?

  • Many homebuyers prefer to search online for homes and home buying information. There are certain privacy and comfort levels that you might appreciate in starting a preliminary search this way, and often it is just a matter of convenience, having 24-hour access to information. By searching the Realtor’s and the company’s Web sites, you will get a clear picture of how much work you would be able to accomplish online, and whether or not that suits your preferences. When I have a question, how quickly do you respond to emails?

4. Will you show me properties from other companies’ listings?

  • Some real estate companies do offer their buyers’ agents a higher commission if they are able to sell “in-house” listings. In such circumstances, there can be added incentive to show you a more limited range of homes than you might consider. If this is the case with your Realtor, you should be very clear on how this will impact your home search, if at all. You also should determine it this affects how much your buyer agents fee will be.

5. Will you represent me or will you represent the seller? May I have that in writing? How will you represent me, and what is the direct benefit of having you represent me?

  • The goal here is to ascertain to whom the Realtor has legal fiduciary obligation, which may vary from state to state or even locale to locale. In the past, Realtors always worked for sellers. Then the listing broker was responsible for paying the agent or sub-agent that brought a suitable buyer for the home. And even though the buyer worked ‘with’ an agent, the agent still represented and owed their fiduciary duty to the seller.
  • An additional situation in some states is dual agency. This is where the buyer decides to have the listing agent prepare the offer for him. A knowledgeable buyer may elect this situation which should be fully disclosed to all parties. In some states it also affects the broker’s/agent’s fiduciary responsibilities to the seller.
  • Although Realtors today almost always have a sense of moral obligation to buyers, this original type of seller agency still exists in certain areas. In other areas, a formal method of buyer representation called Buyer Agency exists to protect buyers. Find out what is available in your area and make yourself comfortable with the extent to which you will be represented.

6. How will you get paid? How are your fees structured? May I have that in writing?

  • This is an issue that can also be related to agency. In many areas, the seller still customarily pays all Realtor commissions through the listing broker. Sometimes, Realtors will have other small fees, such as administrative or special service fees, that are charged to clients, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. Be aware of the big picture before you sign any agreements. Ask for an estimate of buyer costs from any agent you contemplate employing.

7. What distinguishes you from other Realtors? What is your negotiating style and how does it differ from those of other Realtors? What geographic areas to you specialize in?

  • It should be important to know that your Realtor has unique methods of overcoming obstacles and is an effective negotiator on your behalf, but most importantly that your Realtor can advocate for you in the most effective ways.

8. Will you give me names of past clients who will give references for you?

  • Interviewing a Realtor to help you buy a home can be very similar to interviewing someone to work in your office. Contacting a Realtor’s references can be a reliable way for you to understand how he or she works, and whether or not this style is compatible with your own.

9. Do you have a performance guarantee? If I am not satisfied with your performance, can I terminate our Buyer Agency Agreement?

  • Understand that, especially in the heavily regulated world of real estate, it can be increasingly difficult for a Realtor to offer a performance guarantee. Sometimes you may find a Realtor who is willing to guarantee that if you are dissatisfied in any way with their service they will terminate your Buyer Agency Agreement. If your Realtor does not have a performance guarantee available in writing, it is not an indication that he or she is not committed to perform, but rather that he or she is willing to verbally promise some kind of performance standard. In fact, Realtors at Keller Williams Realty understand the importance of win-win business relationships, and that the Realtor does not benefit if the client does not also benefit.

10. How will you keep in contact with me during the buying process, and how often?

  • It’s a good idea for you to set your expectations reasonably in accordance with how your Realtor conducts business. You may be looking for an agent to call, fax, or email you every evening to tell you about properties that meet your criteria which are new on the market. On the other hand, your Realtor may have access to systems that will notify clients of new properties as they come on the market (which could happen several times a day or several times a week). Asking this extra question can help you to reconcile your needs with your Realtor’s systems, which makes for a far more satisfying relationship.