A Cinderella Story…. Russ and Natalie’s 5 Month Wait for Their Home

This past year has been very competitive for home buyers at every price point on the San Francisco Peninsula.  Then again, it’s been a competitive housing market since the we hit bottom back in ’09.

I recall in 2006 when my husband and I bought our first place, a one bedroom condo in Foster City, prices were moving up fast.  As a Realtor and first time buyer on a budget, I knew that if my husband and I didn’t buy soon we’d be priced out of the market…including condos.  Then there was the crash and poof….prices started falling.

By 2009 homes prices had fallen as low as they could go and people were starting to feel confident in investing in real estate again.  That’s when Russ and Natalie, who had just had twins, needed a home.  We started our journey together and it quickly became evident – they weren’t the only people buying homes in the Bay Area.  I feel like a broken record in 2012 when I say – they wrote a whole bunch of offers back then and got out bid by higher offers, offers with larger down payments or cash offers with quick timing.  It was tough.  Susan and I take the punches with each client when they don’t get an offer accepted.  Yet Russ and Natalie were troopers, got up, dusted off and got back on the horse.  Sue and I truly wanted to hand them the keys to their first home before the twins started to walk.  And they were starting to walk!

Around Thanksgiving a home that was previously pending came back on the market. It was a tricky short sale that fell apart.  As they can do.  We showed it as soon as we could.  Russ and Natalie were so great about being open to possibilities, ready to get their hands dirty and build some “sweat equity”.  They saw the possibilities this particular home had to offer.  It’s funny. I know the home you think you will buy and the home you actually buy are often very different.  Each buyers journey is unique.  I know my first time buying was not at all what I expected.

Anyway, I digress.  It was the holidays and had this home popped on the market any other week – maybe we would have been outbid.  Instead Russ and Natalie wrote a terrific offer and with the help of The Caton Team their offer was accepted.

That’s when the hard work really starts on a short sale property.  The Caton Team was very fortunate to work with Shirley Krause, whom represented the seller during what proved to be an almost 6 month group effort.

It’s a long wait – for everyone – when buying or selling a short sale.  Just around the twins birthday in the Spring Susan and I had the pleasure of handing the keys to Russ and Natalie.  Yes, they waited 5 months to get their house!

Moral of this Cinderella Story, don’t give up. Not now. Not if you want to call our gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area home sweet home.  So now as the malls fill up with shoppers and homes are sitting on the market ignored – give us a call – you never know the possibilities until you try.

Thank you Russ and Natalie for working with The Caton Team.  Here is to many happy years in your lovely home.

Happy Holidays!

Curious about my own buying and selling experiences?  Although I am a Realtor by trade, I’m no different than you when sitting in the buyer or seller seat.  Enjoy my journey through homeownership at: http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Funny – I was just writing my own blog about our local real estate market when I came across this article from San Diego.  It’s not local – but it hits home – thought I’d share and add my two cents….

SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Once Thanksgiving is over, the real estate world starts to wind down for the holidays and it typically reawakens after the Times Square ball drops and resolutions come to life.

But if you’re a potential homebuyer who’s prepared to close in today’s competitive market, you may want to keep shopping while everyone’s waiting for spring, some real estate agents suggest.

The Caton Team has found that buyers on a concrete budget find great values if they are flexible during the holidays.  We’re ready when you are.

That advice may be especially relevant this year for consumers who have repeatedly lost out on deals because of a limited and continually decreasing supply of homes, but remain persistent. Buying intensity typically cools down at the start of fall through early January, which could increase the odds for those with more patience.

Related: Report: We’re in the midst of a housing recovery

Home sales have increased from October to November only four times since 1988, when DataQuick began to track home sales and prices locally.

In the other years, transactions have fallen from anywhere between 0.2 percent and nearly 26 percent. Home listings have dropped off from 3 percent to 11 percent during those months in the past three years.

“During Christmas, people will be focused on the holidays and nothing really happens,” said Ken Pecus, co-founder of San Diego-based Ascent Real Estate and 20-plus-year real estate veteran.

“The first week of January, the new mindset kicks in, resolutions kick in, and in the second and third week, people look at their taxes, and almost overnight, by the end of January, you have almost twice the buyers in the market,” Pecus added.

Would-be buyers historically have bowed out during the winter season because they are overwhelmed by holiday spending and commitments. There’s also the aversion of moving in the middle of a school year. Consumer interest typically picks back up again in the New Year and peaks in the spring.

Related: Demand for homes stays strong during the fall

Certain buyers may be well-served to buy during the winter because of sellers who must move because of:

• A job change or transfer.

• The possible sunsetting of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, said Donna Sanfilippo, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors. The potential expiration of the law, which lets certain home sellers get tax relief on mortgage debt forgiven by lenders, has pushed home sellers scrambling to list and short sell their homes before the end of the year.

In some cases though, the rush to do that is unwarranted. Consult a tax pro to determine if short selling is right for you.

• The fact they’ve been waiting to sell their home for a long time and need to buy something quickly. If you can wait a little longer to sell your home and want to maximize your profit, then wait until the peak spring months.

Even with the expected holiday homebuying slowdown, buyers should know that the inventory level may still be a challenge.

Right now, there are more than 4,700 active listings in the county, down 11 percent from October and down more than half from the same time a year ago, based on numbers from the San Diego Association of Realtors. The current level marks at least a three-year low.

In the San Francisco Peninsula – inventory has been low all year, fueling multiple offers on homes and driving prices up due to competition outweighing supply.   There has been moments, for example in San Carlos we had 25 listings and Redwood City had 36 – for the whole city.  That’s not enough homes for the volume of demand out here.

Buyers also may deal with the challenges of bidding against cash buyers and investors, who can look more attractive than traditional buyers.

The Caton Team has witnessed Cash Buyers at all price points – under $500,000 to over 1,500,000.  Sellers have the opportunity to pick the best offer among several.  And sellers are being savvy – taking higher down payments when possible.  When The Caton Team prepares an offer, it is more than just price.

Their share of the homebuying market has remained strong. Almost 28 percent of total homes sold in October were purchased by absentee buyers, many of whom are investors. That’s up from 27 percent logged a year ago and in September.

Hovering near the peak, almost one-third of buyers bought with cash in October.

“I’m expecting 60 to 70 people at my open house,” said San Diego Realtor Miguel Contreras before a recent Wednesday showing at a property in La Mesa. “The property is a fixer, so it’s mostly investors.”

Sounds familiar in the SF Peninsula market.  Open houses visitors are strong, and often there is enough activity to warrant an offer day before the following weekend.  I’ve seen homes have one open house and take offers on Monday.  That’s a break neck pace if you ask me, and I’m a veteran.  My first time buyers can’t move that fast.  And with prices climbing, the early bird get’s the worm if he can’t process the information fast enough.

Related: Another hurdle for short sales

Contreras, who worked during Thanksgiving week, said he’ll make himself available throughout the holidays to cater to what he expects to be a continued interest from investors, cash buyers and traditional buyers.

The same goes for Cherilyn Jones, another local real estate agent. Last week, she was preparing for two new listings to come online. Her most common clients are first-time homebuyers and investors.

“The investors have not slowed down,” Jones said. “We get holiday freeze, but not for investor clients. It’s hard to find them properties because their criteria is very, very specific … and the deals are not as good as they used to be.”

Article By: Lily Leung

Last Thoughts…

In our 25+ years of local Real Estate experience, buying during the holidays can truly benefit buyers who’ve been outbid all year.  We’ve found homes for buyers over the holiday season that would have been snapped up in a hot second during the spring or summer.  As long as buyers are flexible and open minded – there is definitely some Christmas Miracles in the making this time of year.  Keep a look out for my next Cinderella Stories about Russ and Natalie and the home we found over Thanksgiving!

I read this article at:  http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/dec/01/does-it-make-sense-buy-home-during-winter/?page=2#article

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

New Short-Sale Program Offers Relief for Underwater Homeowners…

Please enjoy this article I found interesting….

The Fannie-Freddie program allows short sales for owners who are current on loan payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

WASHINGTON — Though there are still some snares and drawbacks for participants, one of the federal government’s most important financial relief efforts for underwater homeowners started operating Nov. 1.

It’s a new short-sale program that targets the walking wounded among borrowers emerging from the housing downturn — owners who owe far more on their mortgages than their current home value but have stuck it out for years, resisted the temptation to strategically default and never fell seriously behind on their monthly payments.

Industry estimates put the number of underwater owners across the country at just under 11 million, or 22% of all homes with a mortgage. Of these, about 4.6 million have loans that are owned or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Eighty percent of these Fannie-Freddie borrowers, in turn, are current on their mortgage payments and meet the baseline eligibility test for the new short-sale effort.

Here’s how the program works and where the potential snares are. Traditionally short sales, where the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed and the house is sold to a new purchaser at a discounted price, are associated with extended periods of delinquency by the original owner. The new Fannie-Freddie program — designed by the companies’ overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency — breaks with tradition by allowing short sales for owners who are current on their payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

Say you are deeply underwater on your mortgage and recently lost your job or had your work hours reduced. Under the new program, you can contact your mortgage servicer and ask to participate in a Fannie-Freddie short sale for non-delinquent borrowers. You’ll need to find a qualified buyer for the house, typically with the help of a real estate broker or agent knowledgeable about short sales who will list the property and obtain an offer and communicate the details and documentation to the servicer. If the proposed short-sale package is acceptable, the deal would then proceed to closing weeks — or months — later.

Eligible hardships under the new program run the gamut: job loss or reduction in income; divorce or separation; death of a borrower or another wage earner who helps pay the mortgage; serious illness or disability; employment transfer of 50 miles or greater; natural or man-made disaster; a sudden increase in housing expenses beyond the borrower’s control; a business failure; and a you-name-it category called “other,” meaning a serious financial issue that isn’t one of the above.

Borrowers who take part in the new program can expect to rid themselves of the money-devouring albatross their mortgage has become — without going through the nightmares of foreclosure or bankruptcy — and to get a chance to start anew, better equipped to deal with the financial hardship that caused them to sell their house in the first place.

What about the snares in the program? There are several that participants need to consider.

•Credit score impact. Though officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency are working on possible solutions with the credit industry, at the moment it appears that borrowers who use the new program may be hit with significant penalties on their FICO credit scores — 150 points or more. This is because under current credit industry practices, short sales are lumped in with foreclosures. According to Laura Arce, a senior policy analyst at the agency, the government is in discussions with the credit industry to institute “a special comment code” for servicers who report the new Fannie-Freddie short sales to the national credit bureaus that would treat participants more fairly on FICO scores.

•Promissory notes and other “contributions.” In the majority of states where lenders can pursue deficiencies, Fannie and Freddie expect borrowers who have assets to either make upfront cash contributions covering some of the loan balance owed or sign a promissory note. This would be in exchange for an official waiver of the debt for credit reporting purposes, potentially producing a more favorable credit score for the sellers.

•Second lien hurdles. The program sets a $6,000 limit on what second lien holders — banks that have extended equity lines of credit or second mortgages on underwater properties — can collect out of the new short sales. Some banks, however, don’t consider this a sufficient amount and may threaten to torpedo sales if they can’t somehow extract more.

By Kenneth R. Harney Distributed by Washington Post Writers Group.

I read this article at: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2012/nov/11/business/la-fi-harney-20121111

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Fredric and Heather

When it came time to sell their first home Fredric and Heather called the Realtor who helped them their first go around – Susan Caton. By then, Susan and I (Sabrina) had partnered up and became The Caton Team.  It was an exciting meeting, sitting around the dinning room table planing for the sale of their home and discussing the hopes, dreams and reality of their next home.
In the competitive Bay Area real estate market a buyer needs to be ready to make a fantastic offer the moment a home pops on the market.  If a buyer has to sell their current home – writing an offer contingent on the sale of a home is not as attractive to the seller as a non-contingent offer.  Therefore, we agreed that the best course of action was to sell their current home to be prepared to pounce when their next home came on the market.
This can be a scary moment – where will the family live if we don’t find the next home.  Nonetheless, the hunt for their next home began way before the for sale sign showed up in their front yard.
So Heather and Fredric did a fantastic job getting their home ready for sale.  Before our first open house The Caton Team had wind of interested parties.  Within a week their home was in contract.  Oh my!
So the serious house hunting hits.  We’re out day and night checking out everything on the market, new and old…and we start writing offers.  Good offers, solid offers.  But we keep getting out bid, sometimes by all cash, sometimes just larger down payments or out of the the ballpark offers.  Regardless, the sweat starts beading.  Now we’re talking short term rentals as the close of escrow on their current home slowly approaches….and we are very thankful for the 30-days of rent back we negotiated to give us a little more time.  That was extremely helpful, but not enough.  So, a short term rental was located.  More offers.  Out bid.
Suddenly there is buzz around a certain Silicon Valley IPO.  The weeks leading up caused a mini boom on the peninsula.  Offer dates, multiple offers, no contingencies, all cash – you name it – things were a bit nuts.  Then the dust settled, and as a boom of new listings flooded the market a week old listing was suddenly overlooked.  We wrote an offer.  Out of the blue, another offer comes in.  This house was awesome.  We couldn’t let it get away.  Proud to say our reputation preceded us and the Selling Agents knew we’d get the job done – when it came down the the nitty gritty, we helped our friends and clients prepare a terrific offer package and in the end their offer was accepted.
The phone call to your clients when you get to share the good news that they got the home of their dreams – well, it’s one of the best phone calls around.
Thank you Fredric and Heather for trusting The Caton Team with all your real estate needs.  Here’s to many happy years in your new home.
Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.
Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com
Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/
Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:
Thanks for reading – Sabrina

5 Smart Moves for First Time Homebuyers

I came across this article and felt it was very timely – I also added my 2 cents in italics.  Enjoy – Sabrina
As a first-time real estate buyer, you probably have no idea how the overall purchasing process works or how to make sure you’re making a smart decision to purchase. And you’ll probably be very surprised to learn how much work it really is just to buy a home. To get you started in the right direction, and this is just a start, here are a few tips that you should consider.
Get lender-qualified and find a good real estate agent
To start off, you should get qualified by a lender to see what price range you can realistically afford and interview some real estate agents to find the right person to represent you in your transaction.
Once you’re qualified and have your price range estimate in hand, you’ll be able to spend your time shopping in neighborhoods that you can afford. But remember: Just because the bank says you can qualify for a certain amount, that doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. Make sure you can actually afford the monthly payment, along with all your other bills.
For real estate sales professionals, you should get referrals for a full-time agent or broker who sells at least five or more properties per year and is well-educated on the process and location where you plan to live. You should call references, check that the agent’s state sales license is up to date and interview them to make sure you’ll be comfortable working with them.
My 2 cents – Buyers should work with a lender who picks up the phone and answers their e-mails and questions in a timely manner.  Unless a buyer is using all cash, the home loan is VERY  key to purchasing.  A buyer will find that during the hunt and offer process – they will need an updated lender approval letter about every 30 days and your Realtor will need questions answered as your home journey progresses.  If the lender doesn’t respond, it can throw the home transaction off.
Make sure you plan to be a long-term owner
Once you know your price range and have looked at some properties, it’s time to make sure that you believe you can find a property that you will own for a minimum of five years. If your price range doesn’t match where you want to live, you’d be better off staying a renter and saving some additional money until you can afford where you want to live. This is because an owner really doesn’t earn any equity, on average, in a property for at least five years. That’s the generalbreak-even point, and you really need to shoot for longer than that as an ownership strategy. The truth is, long-term real estate ownership can be a great way to earn wealth, but short-term ownership usually will diminish your wealth.
My 2 cents – Due to our SF Peninsula location, The Caton Team advises buyers that they will mostly likely be in their new home for more than 5 years – closer to 7+ years before they see enough equity to sell.  Real Estate is definitely a long-term investment!  In regards to sitting back and saving though – it all depends on the real estate market where the buyer is purchasing and how fast homes are appreciating.  That’s why a buyer needs a full time agent to help them sort this out.  
On the SF Peninsula, we hit bottom on prices in 2009 – though not many people knew that.  Since then, due to low inventory, historically low interest rates and high demand; prices are moving up quickly with each sale.  Around here sometimes the market appreciates faster than buyers can save – and the last thing any buyer wants to find out – is that they waited themselves out of the home purchase market. 
Since no one can control the market and where prices are going.  If a buyer is serious about purchasing on the SF Peninsula and the home they want is not in their price range, The Caton Team suggests they go back to the table and re-evaluate their wants and needs list.  Determine if they can settle on something they didn’t necessarily want but fulfills their need.  And in time, they will earn equity, be able to sell their first home and buy a home more to their wants list than their needs list.  This might be the hardest part about purchasing on the Peninsula.  Often it pushes a buyer away from buying a home and more towards buying a condo since the price is more affordable and often larger and in better areas than similarly priced homes. 
Educate yourself
Buying property is probably the most complex, riskiest and expensive thing you will ever do. Do your homework: Talk to real estate owners, go to first-time buyer seminars, check out online material and read some books to learn what to avoid in the buying process. The more you educate yourself, the better the chances that when things go wrong — and they will go wrong — they will only be minor issues, not major headaches.
My 2 cents – In our experience the pro-active buyer is the most successful.  A Realtors knowledge and experience cannot be downloaded, though we try to explain and guide – there is so much to cover.  When a buyer steps in the real estate market it is far different than they expected.  Knowledge is power.  The Caton Team will never push a buyer to sign their name to a price or contract unless they feel it is the right thing to do.  And that feeling comes from educating themselves.  Asking questions, driving through areas, going to open houses and also sitting in our car to discuss homes as we tour.  It does take a lot of work to buy a home – and a buyer must be up for it if they want to succeed.  The Realtor cannot do this alone – a buyer must work closely with their Realtor and communicate!  Communication is so key to a successful working relationship.  And let your Realtor know who you would like to communicate.  Phone Email Text?  Just let us know.
Find a nice affordable property
The real gems in real estate are the nice, decent shape, moderately priced, boring houses, town homes and condominiums that are within your budget. Most buyers stretch to purchase the most expensive property they can afford. What if you lose your job? How about saving some of your money for retirement? You want your home to be an asset you can afford, not a liability that leaves you with no additional funds over the cost of homeownership. Also, skip the fixers, prize properties or anything that sounds too good to be true: Those always end up having issues, and owners realize, after the fact, that the deal they thought they were getting really was just too good to be true!
My 2 cents – This really hits home.  Often times buyers are so focused on getting a “house” they tend to overlook the repairs.  Figuring they can fix it themselves.  Sounds great in theory – until the repairs cost more than expected and now the monthly budget is tighter than expected.
When I purchased my first place, a one-bedroom condo, it only required some cosmetic updates.  We did most of the work ourselves, but in the end it still cost us about $20,000 and that was a condo – not a home.  Home repairs can be expensive.  And remember – it’s not an unexpected home repair – it is an expected home repair.  Because, like everything else, homes will deteriorate and require lifelong maintenance.  HOA dues don’t seem so crazy anymore once you compare what a home repairs might cost!
I’d rather see a first time buyer buy a condo that needs updating than a home that needs a roof, foundation repair and new windows. 
It’s hard for first time buyers to gauge and understand the cost of home repair and maintenance.  Ask your parents or a trusted friend who owns their home to get an idea of what maintenance and repairs can be like and how they are discovered.  Better yet start practicing your skills at painting etc or start getting quotes to better understand the cost.  We call this homework.
 
Take your time
Realistically it should take you six months or longer to buy a nice quality property that will add to your long-term wealth. Make sure you have a full understanding of what the marketplace has to offer in your price range and that you know what you’re doing.
Those are a few tips to get you started in the right direction. Real estate is buyer beware, so try to make sure you’re one of the buyers who is “aware” of how to make quality wealth-building real estate decisions. Down the road you’ll pat yourself on the back when things work out well.
My 2 cents – Be patient.  This is a journey not a race.  It will be frustrating.  At times a buyer will feel like this is just an uphill battle without any hope in sight.  Writing several offers and getting outbid will be stressful.  However, there is one thing we can say in our 25+ years of Real Estate experience.  If you want to buy a home and you are realistic, willing to adjust your wants and needs, taking the time to understand your financing options, your day to day expenses and doing your homework – you will get a home! 
Doris Day said it best – what will be will be.  Thanks for reading!
Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.
Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com
Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/
Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:
Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Warren Buffet is our New Boss!!!! Press Release!!!!

PRESS RELEASE !!!!!

Prudential, Real Living brands to be Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

Brookfield Asset Management remains a partner in new brand

BY INMAN NEWS, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012.

The nation’s second-biggest real estate broker, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. affiliate HomeServices of America Inc., has entered the franchising business by acquiring a majority interest in the Prudential Real Estate and Real Living brands from Brookfield Asset Management.

The Prudential Real Estate and Real Living affiliate networks will be rolled into a new franchise brand, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, that will come online in 2013, the companies said.

HomeServices and Brookfield have formed a joint venture, HSF Affiliates LLC, to operate the Real Living and Prudential Real Estate affiliate networks, whose member brokers employ 53,000 sales associates and closed more than $72 billion in home sales last year.

HomeServices is the majority owner of HSF Affiliates, with Brookfield Asset Management retaining joint ownership. Brookfield’s relocation business, Brookfield Global Relocation Services, will remain wholly owned by Brookfield. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a new franchise brand built upon the financial strength and leadership of Brookfield and HomeServices,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in a statement. “I am confident that these partners will deliver value to the residential real estate industry, and I am pleased to have Berkshire Hathaway be a part of the new brand.”

Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of  HomeServices, said the company was “honored and proud to be entrusted with the use of the Berkshire Hathaway name as our new real estate franchise brand.”

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will be based in Irvine, Calif., and led by Earl Lee, who will serve as chief executive officer. Other key management executives named today are Chief Operating Officer Stephen Phillips, Chief Financial Officer Brian Peterson, and Chief Marketing Officer Aleya Chattopadhyay.

Lee has worked under the Prudential brand since his Hawaii-based company, Locations LLC, joined the Prudential network in 1995. He was president of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services when it was acquired by Brookfield Residential Property Services for $110 million last year.

Real Living founder and president Harley Rouda Jr. will take over as CEO of Trident Holdings Inc., the parent company of Ohio-based HER Realty Real Living. Rouda said HER Realty does not plan to be affiliated with Real Living or Prudential Real Estate.

Canadian-based Brookfield entered the U.S. market in 2008, by acquiring GMAC Real Estate and merging the company into Real Living the following year.

Phillips served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for GMAC Home Services from 2001 to 2006, and as interim CEO of the GMAC Relocation Services business. Peterson has 24 years of experience in the real estate brokerage and franchising business, including 14 years with Brookfield and GMAC. Chattopadhyay has been with Brookfield since 2003, holding roles in Canada, India and the U.K.

Peltier said that while Minneapolis-based HomeServices is getting into the franchising business to accelerate its growth and build a website that will be a destination for consumers, the company will continue to expand its company-owned brokerage operations.

“The business model we have used to grow for the last 15 years was to identify great companies, regardless of their brand, and own and operate those local companies,” Peltier said. 

Since HomeServices was acquired in 1998 by Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings Corp., the “independent brand” acquisition strategy has helped the company grow from 4,000 agents in three markets to more than 16,000 agents in 21 states who last year handled sales of homes valued at nearly $32 billion.

Peltier said that while HomeServices will continue to identify brokerages to acquire, own and operate, “being a franchisor, we’ll be in a lot of markets much quicker than (with the) existing strategy” alone.

With consumers typically starting their home search on the Internet, creating a single destination website under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand will benefit both company-owned brokerages and franchisees, Peltier said.

“At some point, you can’t ignore the fact that if you want to attract customer eyeballs, you have to have a presence on the Internet, and you can’t do it with local independent brands” alone, Peltier said. “You have to have a single brand.”

Company-owned brokerages that operate under independent brands will continue to have the option of pursuing that strategy, while still benefiting from the exposure they will receive from the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices website, he said.

“We will continue to grow and support the independent brand strategy as well,” Peltier said. “We’re adding to our strategy — this is not deleting.”

HomeServices of America’s business model now looks more like the one employed by competitor Realogy Holdings Corp. Although Realogy operates the nation’s largest brokerage company, NRT LLC, most of the company’s 2011 adjusted net earnings came from providing real estate franchise services to companies operating 13,800 offices under the Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker Commercial, and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brands.

HomeServices owns nine brokerages affiliated with Prudential Real Estate, including three acquired this year: Portland, Ore.-based Prudential Northwest Properties, acquired in February; Seattle-based Prudential Northwest Realty Associates, acquired in April; Prudential Connecticut Realty, also acquired in April.

The six other HomeServices brokerages affiliated with Prudential Real Estate are and Prudential California Realty (Southern California), Prudential First Realty (Iowa), Prudential Rhode Island Realty, Prudential Carolinas Realty, Prudential York Simpson Underwood Realty (North Carolina) and Prudential Yost and Little Realty (North Carolina).

HomeServices also owns Koenig & Strey Real Living, a dominant brokerage in the metro Chicago area, which it acquired from Brookfield in 2009.

“This is not a new thought,” Peltier said of the decision to create a national franchise brand, noting that HomeServices was interested in acquiring the Prudential Real Estate brand two years ago. 

When Brookfield acquired the brand instead, it did so knowing it would eventually have to transition to another name — parent company Prudential Financial Inc. made that a condition of the sale.

“They were looking for a great brand, and we were fortunate in that we’d been given permission by our parent” company to use the Berkshire Hathaway name to create a new brand, Peltier said. It’s “an internationally recognized brand that’s currently not being used in commerce.”

According to an amended registration statement Prudential Real Estate Affiliates filed on Jan. 19 with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Brookfield was barred from signing up new franchisees to operate under the Prudential Real Estate name. Brookfield had the right to renew the right of existing franchisees to operate under the Prudential name for up to five years, but only if their franchise agreements expired on or before Dec. 6, 2013.

All rights to use the Prudential Real Estate name expired at the end of 2027 — when the franchise agreement with the longest term was set to expire — or on the date on which no franchise agreement is in effect, the registration statement said.

Brian Boero, a partner in the real estate technology consulting firm 1000watt, said in a blog post today that while many existing Prudential affiliates “are deeply invested” in the brand, “I think most will jump at the opportunity to associate with Berkshire Hathaway. I’ve heard from some already, and they’re enthused. A conversion process that could have taken a decade will be collapsed into months.”

In filing its updated registration statement with Minnesota regulators, Prudential Real Estate also disclosed recent litigation with several franchisees.

Last year, Prudential Real Estate said it received $1.9 million from Mason McDuffie Real Estate Inc. to settle a breach of contract lawsuit Prudential Real Estate filed against the Pleasanton, Calif.-based brokerage after it switched its franchise affiliation to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Prudential Real Estate also disclosed that it had received settlement payments in 2011 from Prudential Texas Properties and Missouri-based brokerage Carter Duffey Inc.

I read this article at: http://www.inman.com/news/2012/10/30/prudential-real-living-brands-be-berkshire-hathaway-homeservices

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Tatjana… A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

When Michael and Tatjana reached out to The Caton Team – we were very excited to be their Realtors for their first home purchase.  We got them preapproved with Melanie Flynn of First Priority Financial and hit the ground running.  They were so excited, started checking out properties and sooner than later, we began to write some offers.

With fingers crossed and prayers whispered we waited on pins and needles to hear back on their first offer… they didn’t get it.  The first time you lose a house – it’s the pits.  The second and third time it doesn’t get any easier.  Tatjana and Michael started to lose hope.  Who wouldn’t?

But The Caton Team wouldn’t let them lose out on their dream.  As full time Realtors, we’ve spent countless sleepless nights hoping and praying our client’s dreams come true.  We knew – you have to get back on the horse, try, try again….there are other fish in the sea.

And they did – but they had one request.  They no longer wanted to write a letter to the seller that included their adorable family photo.  In shock, I asked why.  They were adamant – ‘what’s the point?  The seller is looking for the most money and highest offer.’  I smiled.  We could hear the disappointment in their voice.  But we had faith.  We couldn’t change what we were doing.  The offer package The Caton Team prepares for each offer is thorough and it is successful.  Sometimes money talks.  But sometimes, it’s the other items in the offer package that get the recognition.

As we waited to hear back on their offer I was looking at the copy of the photo we sent of their family.  I’ve known Tatjana since the 6th grade and here she was, with her husband and two beautiful sons…  The phone rang, couldn’t get to it fast enough.  It was the seller’s agent.  I could hear the happiness in her hello.  They got the house.  Quickly she interjected – it wasn’t about being the highest price, they weren’t.  It was about the letter and the picture.  (It still brings tears to my eyes.)  Turns out the owner was deceased and had charged her best friend with handling her estate.  Her wish was for her home to be sold to a nice family – not an investor.  She had built that home from the ground up, raised her family there, and she wanted her best friend to pick the sweetest family for her home.  And boy they couldn’t have found a better family.

Sometimes it really isn’t just about the money.

Congratulations to Michael and Tatjana – to many happy years and memories in your new home!

 

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina