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Over 100 members attended Wednesday’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District meeting and listened to longtime appraiser Roger Miller from Taketa, Miller & Associates. Miller’s message was one of “guarded optimism” regarding 2011, but he is especially positive about this spring.

Appraiser Roger Miller

“Things are starting to turn around,” Miller remarked, and proceeded to share his data.

* At this time last year, there were 95 listings in Los Gatos; as of Tuesday evening, Miller indicated there were 111. A year ago, Saratoga had 73 listings; as of Tuesday night, it had 71.

* Pending sales in Los Gatos at this time last year were 39; they are 43 this year. Saratoga had 20 last year; it has 36 this year.

* 2010 home sales were up in Los Gatos 22 percent from 2009; Monte Sereno, up 42 percent; and Saratoga, up 25 percent.

* Homes priced at two million dollars and under are in a very strong market – 92 percent of last year’s home sales in Los Gatos were under $2 million; Monte Sereno, 65 percent; and Saratoga, 81 percent.

If a listing is under $2 million, if it’s priced right and in the Los Gatos school district, it will sell in one to two months or less. “If your listing is under a million (dollars) in Los Gatos and it hasn’t sold, there’s something wrong,” Miller told REALTORS®.

There is no question prices have dropped, some by as much as 20 percent, and others more, depending on the area. Miller said a home bought at the end of 2007 or at the beginning of 2008 would sell roughly for the same price today.

If there are many foreclosures and REOs in a neighborhood, the market will certainly be affected. This is not much of an issue in the Los Gatos area, according to Miller. There continue to be multiple offers in Silicon Valley – one home just received six offers recently. There are also a number of high-end homes that have sold in the $4 million and above range in Woodside, Atherton and Los Altos Hills.

Miller advised REALTORS® to always do a true history on comps and always check the absorption rate. In Los Gatos, for homes priced between $1 and 2 million, the absorption rate is three months; between $2 to 3 million, seven months; between $3 to 4 million, seven to10 months. In Saratoga, the absorption rate for homes priced under $1 million is one month; between $1 and 2 million, two months; between $2 and 3 million, eight months. Between $3 and 4 million, 5.5 months.

Miller said REALTORS® should NOT have to deal with out-of-town appraisers, unless the report is co-signed by an appraiser who knows the area. Speak with the bank manager; it is important to know the bank you are dealing with, he stressed.

There’s more optimism in the air, according to Miller. Here are some signs:
*Stocks have improved.
* The unemployment rate has gone down a bit – the unemployment rate in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA was 10.7 percent in December 2010, down from a revised 10.9 percent in November 2010, and below the year-ago estimate of 11.5 percent, according to the Employment Development Department.
* Google is hiring 6,000 new employees nationwide and 2,000 locally.
* Heavier traffic these days points to more activity and more people being employed.

“Everything is starting to turn,” Miller repeated.

Miller, who is well-known for his expertise in the business, said he is very confident that the housing market in the region will do well this spring. But time is of essence. He told REALTORS® if they have sellers who are sitting on the fence, “tell them to get their house on the market now, within the next two weeks.”


There’s an optimism in the air. It’s quite evident in attendance at the different SILVAR district meetings. It’s also evident in the attitudes and points of view of the various speakers at each of SILVAR’s districts.

Left to right: Chris Trapani (Sereno Group), John Thompson (Intero Real Estate), Bill Lewis (Alain Pinel Realtors) and Fred Hibbert (Coldwell Banker)

The first 2011 Los Altos/Mountain View District tour meeting took place last Friday with a good attendance and a broker/manager panel, which included Chris Trapani (Sereno Group), John Thompson (Intero Real Estate), Bill Lewis (Alain Pinel Realtors) and Fred Hibbert (Coldwell Banker). 2011 District Chair Denise Welsh, who served as moderator, asked the brokers to share their greatest challenges, advice to agents for positioning buyers (and sellers) in 2011, and valuable traits they look for in an agent.

For Fred Hibbert, the greatest challenge is managing expectations of buyers and sellers.

Bill Lewis said it’s staying on top of the market. “Success is preparation and opportunity. You need to know the market,” he stressed.

John Thompson said knowledge and skills in the industry are important. An agent needs to be objective and focus on what he/she should improve.

Chris Trapani said it’s important for him as a manager to see growth in his office. His goal is to have his agents succeed. He especially wants to coach agents who have not yet experienced levels of success and guide them to a place of stability.

What is the panel’s advice to agents for 2011? Hibbert advised agents to study the information, be knowledgeable about the market, and know the stats.

“Stats are important and talking points are important,” confirmed Lewis. Armed with this knowledge, Lewis said agents can discuss real estate and show their knowledge to everyone, even while waiting in line in the supermarket.

“Have patience,” Lewis added. “You have to understand your clients and help your clients understand the market and manage their expectations.”

Thompson said there’s no excuse for agents to be operating without stats. Agents have access to the data and need to be able to explain the short and long-term impact on value in the different neighborhoods.

As for valuable traits the managers look for in an agent, Trapani said he looks at the agent’s track record, and most of all, he looks for a “culture fit” in his company.

Thompson looks for intangibles, especially personality. “If a person knows what they want to get out of this business, I can help them with a business plan. They have to know what they want,” Thompson stressed.

Lewis looks for a high level of honesty, integrity and fair dealing in an agent. It’s his foundation to building a culture in the office. The agent would need to get along with others in the office.

Hibbert wants the agent to have a game plan and goals.

A red flag to these managers is when the agent immediately wants to know what the deal is, and does not express much interest in the company’s philosophy.

The brokers are very optimistic about 2011. Enjoy the ride, be prepared, focus on what you want, but you have to work. Get out there, get the inventory, get the listings, they said.

Menlo Park Mayor Richard Cline (far right) is pictured here with SILVAR President Gene Lentz and Menlo Park/Atherton District Chair Penelope Huang.

At their first meeting of the new year, Menlo Park Mayor Richard Cline told members of SILVAR’s Menlo Park/Atherton District that there is significant amount of activity in the city and he expects it to pick up well into this year.

Cline said the Menlo Gateway Project has been given the green light by voters. The City of Menlo Park has approved amendments to the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance and map proposed by the Bohannon Development Company to construct three office and R&D buildings, a hotel, health club, cafe/restaurant, neighborhood-serving retail and community facilities and three parking structures. The development would take place on two sites located near the US101/Marsh Road interchange.

Cline is optimistic the project will provide a good revenue stream for the city. “It will also redevelop an area  (eastern Menlo Park) that needs redevelopment,” Cline said.

Last November, voters also overwhelmingly said yes to Measure L, which will reduce pension benefits for all new employees, except police. Measure L will raise the retirement age for new city employees from 55 to 60. It also will cap the pension benefits received.

So far, there is no change to the downtown plan, said Cline. He said more collaboration is needed in coming to an agreement and it could take a while. “Lots of things keep us from doing it; it’s planning by politics … It depends on who is in the city council,” he remarked.

He noted a major problem encountered downtown is many property owners are not residents and they don’t keep up the buildings. They need to place more amenities and upgrades, so the downtown can attract new businesses.

Cline expressed his frustration regarding the debate about the city’s growth – between those that believe there is a need to revitalize the city and develop a successful long-range strategy of growth for the city and those who believe by doing so they will be sacrificing the “quality of life” residents currently enjoy.

Cline stressed the city needs revenue or it will stagnate. Older buildings downtown need to be revitalized. The city needs a long-range plan regarding how it will get there.

Lenders consider a consumer’s credit history or credit score when deciding whether, and at what cost, to extend credit. A new online Federal Reserve publication helps consumers better understand new notices they may receive from lenders when credit reports or credit scores affect a decision to grant credit.

The publication, “What You Need to Know: New Rules about Credit Decisions and Notices,” describes the types of notices consumers may receive and provides links to sample notices. It includes information about what consumers should do if they receive a notice, including instructions on how to dispute credit report errors.

The notices are required by rules issued by the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Trade Commission. The new rules, which took effect January 1, 2011, generally require a creditor to provide a consumer with a notice when, based on the consumer’s credit report, the creditor provides credit to the consumer on terms that are less favorable than those provided to other consumers. Consumers who receive this “risk-based pricing” notice will be able to obtain a free credit report to check the report’s accuracy.

As an alternative to providing risk-based pricing notices, creditors can choose to provide consumers who apply for credit with a free credit score and information about their score. Today, most consumers must pay a fee to obtain their credit score.

 The 2011 leadership team of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) was installed Jan. 13 at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton. California Association of REALTORS® President-elect LeFrancis Arnold administered the oath of office to 2011 SILVAR President E. H. “Gene” Lentz. The Honorable Quentin Kopp administered the oath of office to the local trade association’s 2011 officers and Board of Directors.

California Association of REALTORS® President-elect LeFrancis Arnold administered the oath of office to 2011 SILVAR President E. H. “Gene” Lentz. Lentz is a REALTOR® with Red Hawk Real Estate in Menlo Park.

In addition to Gene Lentz, a REALTOR® with Red Hawk Real Estate in Menlo Park, SILVAR’s 2011 officers include Suzanne Yost, a REALTOR® with Alain Pinel Realtors in Los Gatos, President-elect; and Phyllis Carmichael, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker in Los Altos, Treasurer.

The 2011 Board of Directors includes Jeff Bell (Coldwell Banker), Past President; Julia Truesdale Keady (Alain Pinel Realtors), Region 9 Chair; Bill Moody (Referral Realty), Cupertino/Sunnyvale District Chair; Denise Welsh (Intero Real Estate Services), Los Altos/Mountain View District Chair; Doug Evans (Coldwell Banker), Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair; Penelope Huang (RE/MAX Distinctive Properties), Menlo Park/Atherton District Chair; Nancy Macleod (, Palo Alto District Chair; Judy Ellis (Alain Pinel Realtors), National Association of REALTORS® Director; Alicia Nuzzo (Sereno Group), At-large; Dave Tonna (Alain Pinel Realtors), At-large; Carolyn Miller (RE/MAX Real Estate Services), At-large; Bill Rehbock (Coldwell Banker), At-large; Bryan Robertson (Sereno Group), At-large; and Jimmy Kang (Wells Fargo Home Mortgage), Affiliate Chair.

The Honorable Quentin Kopp administered the oath of office to SILVAR's 2011 officers and Board of Directors.

Lentz has worked in real estate for 15 years and is highly regarded for his intimate knowledge of his community and strong work ethic. An active member of the local trade association, Lentz has served as Menlo Park District Chair (2007), Political Action Committee Chair (2006, 2007), Menlo Park District Local Government Relations Committee Chair (2002-2009), and a member of the Menlo Park Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (FY 2005-2006). Lentz is also a member of the California Association of REALTORS® (Director 2007, 2008) and National Association of REALTORS®.

The 2010 Appreciation Awards were also presented by 2010 President Jeff Bell and Executive Officer Paul Cardus to Nina Yamaguchi (Coldwell Banker), REALTOR® of the Year; Chris Grammar (Allied Brokers Insurance), Affiliate of the Year; and Lisa Keith (Red Hawk Real Estate), Spirit of SILVAR. Past president Leannah Hunt (Coldwell Banker) was recognized for her work as 2010 Region 9 Chair.

Leannah Hunt, 2010 Region 9 Chair

Gerry Lawrence (Coldwell Banker), SILVAR’s treasurer for the past seven years, and longtime board director and past president John Tripp (Foundation Trust) were presented the special President’s award by Bell for their valuable guidance and assistance during his term of office and their continued contributions to the association.

Gerry Lawrence, 2010 President's Award recipient

John Tripp, 2010 President's Award recipient


Bell noted 2010 REALTOR® of the Year Nina Yamaguchi was instrumental in branding the “Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®.” Yamaguchi chairs the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation Scholarship Program, which has provided nearly $200,000 to 198 graduating seniors, since she established the program 11 years ago.

Nina Yamaguchi, 2010 REALTOR® of the Year

“By her leadership and example, she inspires us professionally and personally to be the best we can be and look beyond our successes and give back to others,” Bell said.

Bell commended 2010 Affiliate of the Year Chris Grammar for his generosity with his sponsorship support and being instrumental in coordinating and preparing tour sponsorships for several districts.

Chris Grammar, 2010 Affiliate of the Year

2010 Spirit of SILVAR recipient Lisa Keith was honored for her kindness and generosity, having supported the Charitable Foundation Trust as the annual golf and dinner/auction’s lead sponsor for two years in a row, serving as its inspiring chair and working tirelessly to make the 2010 fundraiser a success.

Lisa Keith, 2010 Spirit of SILVAR Award recipient

This year’s Installation Sponsors included SILVAR’s Menlo Park/Atherton District, MLSListings Inc., Supra, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage – Palo Alto, Alain Pinel Realtors – Los Gatos, Sereno Group, Steve Papapietro with Bank of America Home Loans and Keller Williams Realty – Palo Alto.

Thank you 2011 Installation Sponsors



SILVAR’s 2011 Installation Dinner is next Thursday, January 13, 6 to 10 p.m. at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane, Atherton.

Thank you in advance to the following installation sponsors: SILVAR’s Menlo Park/Atherton District,  MLSListings Inc., Supra, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (Palo Alto), Alain Pinel Realtors (Los Gatos), Sereno Group, Keller Williams Realty (Palo Alto) and Steve Papapietro with Bank of America Home Loans.

Thank you 2011 Installation Sponsors!

At this special event, SILVAR’S 2011 President E. H. “Gene” Lentz and the 2011 Board of Directors will officially take the oath of office. In addition to Lentz, the 2011 Board of Directors includes: Suzanne Yost, President-elect; Phyllis Carmichael, Treasurer; Jeff Bell, Past President; Julia Keady, Region 9 Chair; Bill Moody, Cupertino/Sunnyvale District Chair; Denise Welsh, Los Altos/Mountain View District Chair; Doug Evans, Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair; Penelope Huang, Menlo Park/Atherton District Chair; Nancy Macleod, Palo Alto District Chair; Judy Ellis, NAR Director; Alicia Nuzzo, At-large; Dave Tonna, At-large; Carolyn Miller, At-large; Bill Rehbock, At-large; Bryan Robertson, At-large; and Jimmy Kang, Affiliate Chair.

The special awards for REALTOR® of the Year, Affiliate of the Year and Spirit of SILVAR will also be presented during the evening.

Members and their guests are invited to this very special event. For more information on the installation call SILVAR at (408) 200-0100.

As the 2010 market moved at a snail’s pace to recover, SILVAR members received important advice on how to manage their business during this challenging time from speakers and panels of experts at tour meetings. Here are just some highlights:

Experts like Carole Rodoni, DRE Commissioner Jeff Davi, Dr. Lawrence Yun (at the October general meeting), Leslie Appleton Young (at the November Los Gatos/Saratoga meeting) assured REALTORS® 2010 would be better for real estate, that the market has improved, but recovery will be slow, and it’s the local market that matters.

Carole Rodoni already emphasized at the Palo Alto and Los Gatos/Saratoga District tour meetings in January: “There is no ‘national market.’ What only matters is the local market, and in it there could be as many as 50 sub-set markets, depending on inventory, assets, profiles, appraisals. It’s for sale to the highest bidder. Cash is king and almost guarantees a 10-day close.”

Moise Nahouraii

Moise Nahouraii of Referral Realty on market trends at a Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting in February:  “Whenever you consult with your clients and they tell you the housing market here is going down the drain, tell them ‘There’s no way it will. This area is gold country.’ …You need to be put the information in a format that is understandable to your client. Knowledge is power.”

Beginning in March and throughout the year, real estate attorneys Harry Price and David Hamerslough, Edward Lear, Esq., founder of Century Law Group LLP, Victoria Naidorf and Bill Jansen, alerted REALTORS® on critical issues pertaining to short sales and REOs:  identify the potential risks to the buyer from the very beginning, don’t give legal advice, always consult a lawyer and tax accountant who can give the client their expert advice, and most important, document, document, document.

From a Los Gatos/Saratoga District Top Producer Panel:

  • Mary Pope-Handy (Sereno Group): achieve success through blogging and social media. “These sites allow people to get to know you, like you, trust you.”
  • Jerry Houston (Coldwell Banker): “You first have to establish friendship. Integrity and knowledge are important and will show you can handle a transaction well. Your clients will come back.”
  • George Montanari (Alain Pinel Realtors): “You need to grow your business or you die. The competition will eat you up… You need to adapt, learn, change.”

Brian Crane (Intero Real Estate) offered three strategies from: time management, time blocking and bring family, exercise, meditation, prayer and work into balance.

In April and again a few months later, managing broker for Coldwell Banker Northern California’s Cupertino office, Nina Yamaguchi shared “the good, the bad and the ugly” experiences of managing brokers have encountered. Lessons learned: do not be a property manager; if you recommend vendors, make sure they are licensed and make sure you recommend more than one; pay attention to escrow instructions; do not be too helpful; never advertise what is not or what it could be; follow the law.

In May, national sales trainer Davin Hope at the Los Altos/Mountain District tour meeting said the key to a good listing presentation lies in the science of communication. In Palo Alto, professional speech coach Patricia Fripp also stressed REALTORS® need to “practice, practice, practice.”

From a panel from Coldwell Banker Northern California’s Cupertino office:

  • Dave Clark: “Always give something of value; be creative,”
  • Rebecca Yen: “You need to give your clients information they need, such as the value of their home. Put yourself in the shoes of the owner.”
  • Dave Meunier: “Persistence is the key,” ….
  • Mary Tran: “Things are changing so fast in the high tech. Young buyers and sellers are very high tech today.” …

In June, Los Altos/Mountain View District tour meeting, Iris Harrell of Harrell Remodeling said REALTORS® who become more knowledgeable about these latest housing trends can serve well as their clients’ trusted advisor because green building is the hottest trend. Green homes sell faster and at higher prices than traditional homes, Belmont designer and stager Jean Cary also emphasized at a Palo Alto monthly tour meeting later in the year.

A lender panel with Terri Bertrand (Loan Source), Neil Reid (Wells Fargo), Joe Edens (MetLife) and Judy Hamilton (Skyline Financial) in Los Gatos advised REALTORS® to know and have a good relationship with their lender so miscommunication doesn’t occur and the transaction is smooth.

In July, author and historian Michael Svanevik took SILVAR members back in time and recounted how the city of Menlo Park came to be, with interesting anecdotes on Stanford University founders Leland and Jane Stanford, the origin of neighboring cities like Palo Alto and Atherton.

Mark Messimer

Throughout the year, MLSListings Inc. with MLSListings Inc. Director of Outreach Services Mark Messimer and Director of Marketing Jim Herrera stepped up its outreach to all districts regarding MLSListings’ new home page on, Matrix search tools and products which can provide that can help members in their business.

In August, the Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting featured an affiliate panel specializing on  insurance, design, escrow, inspections and mortgage loans with Walt Rowley of  Liberty Mutual Group, BJ Hardin of BJ Hardin Designs, Linda Bentson of Old Republic Title, Allen Dugan of AMD Home Inspections and Kenneth Chan of HSBC, who addressed specific scenarios pertaining to their area of expertise.

Members learned more about PRDS Forms’ transition to Instanet Solutions from PRDS Board of Directors President Mark Burns, who walked them through the basics.

REALTOR® Tech Fair Trilogy was offered August through October by SILVAR REALTORS® from the districts of Los Altos/Mountain View, Palo Alto and Menlo Park/Atherton. The meetings focused on the best smartphones and applications for real estate, including social media business strategies from Chris Alston, CEO of Keller Williams Realty – Cupertino and Ken DeLeon (Keller Williams) and from Aaron Wheeler (Oakville Properties).

From Keller Williams-Cupertino, Chuck Blair and Chen-Chen Wu, top agents on lead generation, shared tips: computers don’t do all the work; buyers need the excitement of you finding the right house for them, so face-to-face contact is important; leads are generated through signs, other listings, some open houses, meeting people, being involved in charity work, and in your organization.

In September, Sgt. Greg Davis of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Chief Scott Seaman also this year stressed the importance of being safe. “When you’re in the kind of business you’re in, there will be people scamming you,” Davis warned. “Be watchful of who’s coming through the properties. Be watchful of your own personal belongings.”

In Los Altos, brokers Chris Trapani (Sereno Group) and John Thompson (Intero Real Estate Services) shared books that give insights to being better professionals and successful in the business.

In October, Carol Burnett, broker with Alain Pinel Realtors, introduced her “Superstar Panel” with Berta Bower, Mark Wong and Kevin Cole, who stressed the importance of having a referral business noting a referral business depends on building personal relationships with people.

In November, Palo Alto local brokers each conveyed their message about current market conditions and expectations.

  • Tim Foy (Midtown Realty): “It’s an outstanding time to buy. Don’t wait for your competition, don’t wait for interest rates to rise, get your property out there now,” said Foy.
  • Robert Stelzer (Keller Williams Realty): Agents have a duty as members of the MLS, and they have an obligation in their best interests of their clients, to share their listings in the MLS.
  • Bob Taylor (Taylor Properties): Not all agents do business the same way. Silicon Valley agents need to continue to “be diligent in our business, and not casual as in other places.”
  • Michael Dreyfus (Dreyfus Properties): Consumers need to refocus their goals on buying a home in Palo Alto “because it’s a great home and a great place to live,” instead of how quick and how much the home will appreciate.

In Cupertino, an affiliate panel with Mark Falcone, mortgage consultant with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, spoke on loan tune-ups; Kenneth Chan with HSBC shared important points about portfolio lending; and Thao Benioff, mortgage planner with RPM Mortgage, again stressed: “Make sure you communicate well with your lender.”

January 2011


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