THE SECOND STORY | April 8th, 2010

Economic indicators….

Post photo: Dogwood in full bloom on Saint Charles on Tuesday. Gorgeous!

Post title: Want to see somebody you know? Get to Trader Joe’s! I bet you only have to hang out there less than 10 minutes and you’ll see somebody you know! I’ve had the most delightful and unexpected meetings in the last couple of weeks, running into former clients, now friends, as we see each other in the parking lot or checkout lines at TJ’s.

The friend who called to me as I was riding by on my bike to shop this evening, works for Pauline Pearsall Staging. She decided maybe 2-3 years ago she might be good at staging and called me for any ideas. I gave her a list from my database, and Beth got a job with Pauline! And Beth did a wonderful job coordinating the full-home staging at 1727 Clinton for my clients, which closed early this year.

As we were talking about all things real estate I realized her business was a rather amazing economic indicator. What makes Pauline’s biz a bit unique is that she owns her own warehouse, as well has the furnishings, and her moving trucks. Beth was in Brentwood today staging a popular rock band drummer’s large house. The drive distance is a drag but that is where a lot of the business is.

Pauline’s currently has 98 properties staged. Their normal max is just over 70. I was astounded! And yes, prices are down. And yes, they have work in Piedmont. And yes, the heartbreak of the stories of the not-so-rich are real and wrenching. Pauline’s contracts have always been for a bit longer than the competitors, three months, rather than two months, even in the good old days of list ’em, decorate ’em, and then round it all up and move it out to the next place all in 35 days or less.

So I was intrigued that the demands on the staging business were so strong. I asked how many sellers needed to extend their contracts and she said virtually none. The transactions close without needing time beyond the three months.

So what does Pauline’s business mean to you and me? I’m not sure, but I’ll take a stab.

First, I’ll say what doesn’t mean much to me. I really don’t understand why we need to know the national monthly real estate trends when those figures have nothing to do with the micro markets within which we live, wherever that may be! Those coast to coast numbers do nothing to help me as I try to help my clients understand where they fit into their immediate market. Likewise, I throw out sales trends for the state. Don’t these bean and parcel counters notice that the state varies kind of a lot end to end and all places in-between? Like a whole lot?

Second, I like that Pauline’s world is near where we live. That means it might mean something to us, right here, right now. The demand for her product says that the world is catching on that a coordinated nice look helps (note I said HELPS) sell the property. Staging does NOT sell the property. The price is what pulls the people in, and the staging just lets us delude ourselves about how we think we live. Duh, why have new home builders furnished model homes for decades? It’s to create illusions!

Her business says to me that sellers, with the guidance of their agents, are pricing properties to sell, and if they start high (always a mistake), they are willing to adjust quickly. So even in a ‘down’ market, in our areas that line the SF Bay, the pent up demand, the threat of rising interest rates (and they are up a bit to around 5% + 1 point for conforming loans), the tax credits heading out to the horizon and disappearing, plus an inventory that is not increasing dramatically, creates all the mini-markets around us.

Are these ‘real’ markets? Yes. Sustainable? I don’t have a clue. Will we, in our mini-markets, see a deluge of inventory coming toward us like a tsunami? I’m just not that good to know. I read my trade journals religiously but those don’t help me understand my market. As I tell my clients, I can’t make or create a market, I only work within it. And working it means knowing it. Often that means changing tunes and prices to meet the market where it is. And with the facts as we have them in our mini-markets, we can then determine if that market will meet the seller’s expectations. If it does, then we’ve got a sale. And we call the movers or Pauline’s to pack it up and move on.

Industry insights:

Doc-u-signs of the times: I’m talking about Docusign, the huge e-signature company I’ve been working with since last November, forced into the new technology by,of course, consumer demand! I LOVE IT! And it just keeps getting better. Today I received an email from the company that FHA has approved e-signatures for all of their real estate transactions including contracts. YAY! This is HUGE! It’s about security, convenience, efficiencies, and minimizing paper. YIPPEE!

What Women Want.…Chicks, you’ll get this quickly but the funniest part is the last paragraph of the article!

Alameda real estate this week….
2128-30 Buena Vista took less than 4 days to re-sell, once it came BOM (back on market) last Friday. This one, knock wood, should stick.

Active listings 154, 147 last report
Pending listings 92, 86 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday tour 13 with 2 repeats – all on the main island. Great day for a bike ride tour!

New 16

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 9

Pending 15



Withdrawn/canceled 3

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

The rest, oh well, no others deemed worthy this week, although I saw all but 1!

May you have a GREAT weekend! The outdoors is so terrific even with the chill of the evening – I looked like Nanuk from the North bundled up this evening riding my bike. But it is gorgeous!

Carry on! Make it work! That’s a wrap! best, marilyn

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I arrived in Alameda in 1973, as a new bride...with husband Carl Schumacher, both of us from Newport Beach. He was embarking on his career as a Naval Architect (i.e. yacht designer) under Gary Mull. Please see the 'ABOUT ME' page in this website! to see how it has all turned out! I'm so blessed!