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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.

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