William Lyon Homes Vineyard at Vista Del Mar -The Bordeaux

The homes in the new William Lyon Homes subdivision “Vineyard at Vista Del Mar are simply a cut above.  Guests enter through the formal living room dining room combination.

bordeux great rrom

This is not the only large open concept space on the first floor.  Just steps beyond the formal dining room area lies a kitchen dining area family room styled great room.  The configuring possibilities are endless.

bordeux kitchen

The home features a suite down, perfect for guests, in-law or au pair.  This room can also be configured as a den.

This home has my favorite features, which is when the master suite is located in such a way that occupants of the master suite can hear any one in the other bedrooms leaving the house.  This home has a galley style master bath situated between the master and the master walk in.

bordeux bath


Options exist upstairs as well.  There can be another bedroom or a loft.  If it is built out with the suite down and the bedroom up the home will have a total of 5 bedrooms and 3 baths.  All of the bedrooms are quite large.  Many of the homes in this subdivision will have Delta views due to the rolling hills of the neighborhood.

Bottom line, this is a big beautiful home in a brand new neighborhood.

If you could see yourself see yourself living in the gorgeous home, give me a call at 925-381-2998.  I’d love to show them to you.

Shea’s Montage Portico -The Regent

Shea’s Montage -Portico offers some great options for first time buyers including FHA loan approval on the project.

The Regent is a nice 1379 square foot home with the flexibility of 2 or 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  It offers a full two car garage.

There is an ample bonus room on the first floor as you enter the home.  This is also the optional third bedroom.  I see it as being a great den, maybe a man cave or someplace to put your teenagers and their video games.  The laundry is located on this level as well.

portico regent bonus

Your options are to go up from there to a great room kitchen combination.  Once again there is ample space and clear site lines.  The kitchen has a good amount of storage and is set up with an eating bar.  The model shows two different eating areas and a well lit living room.

portico regent kitchen

Both bedrooms upstairs are set up as suites.  The master suite has great natural light that you don’t normally see in attached homes.  There is a nice sized walk in close with a nicely appointed master bath.  The en suite is also a good size and has it’s own four piece bath.  It has a reach in closet and good natural light as well.

The Regent begins in the mid $5’s and is certainly a good option for a first time buyer.


Not everyone has a driver’s license

My favorite Realtor joke goes like this:

I’m driving down the 24 and I get pulled over by a CHP.  He ambles up to the window and says “Ma’am, could I have your real estate license and your registration?”  A little befuddled I say “Sir, don’t you mean my driver’s license?”  And he says “No, not everyone in California has a driver’s license”.

The real estate market is picking up and lots of people who couldn’t make it in a down market are returning to the industry.   This is good news and bad news.  It’s good that the market is back in good shape.  It’s bad that a lot of clients will make the wrong choice in their Realtor.

You.  Don’t.  Have.  To.  Hire.  Your.  Mom’s.  Best.  Friend.

And you shouldn’t.

I held a home open last weekend that was quite busy.  Over 30 parties through in 2 hours.  Busy.  I can’t tell you how many people had an “out of area” cousin, sister in law, friend of a friend “helping them”.  I know how that’s going to end.

A good friend of mine who is an excellent Realtor lost a listing to another agent last week.  The potential client told her that even though he was out of the area, they were going with the guy who sold the house to them.  I can appreciate loyalty, but….    They said they felt loyal to him because he spent five whole days in a row with them showing them houses.  If he had done a buyer’s consultation with them like I do, and knew the market, he could have shown them 3-6 homes and gotten them into the right home in an afternoon.  That’s what a professional does.  (side note: the market is different today) They also said he had sold 40 homes in the last seven years.  That’s about 7 homes per year.  Less than one a month.  My friend has been selling 30-40 homes per year for the five years I’ve known her.  When things get real who do you want fighting for you?  Someone with that kind of experience or a guy with a lot of time on their hands because they don’t sell that much?

My lender friend Zack Cooper speaks of a thing he calls “Deal IQ”.  I love that.  Zack has done so many loans that his experience just makes him smarter.  I’ve got Deal IQ as well.  I had a situation last week where the other agent kept telling my that my seller had to fix something because it was a “health and safety issue”.  It wasn’t a health or safety issue and it didn’t necessarily need fixing.  I finally had to tell her to quit using that phrase because it was not applicable.  Ultimately my seller chose to contribute towards eradicating the situation but only in the interest of not going back on the market.  She was in agreement that the request was a bit outlandish.

The point is, do your due diligence and hire somebody who knows what they are doing.  If your cousin wants to represent you in a transaction 50 miles away from their office, ask them to refer you to someone who knows that area.  Time in the business is sometimes a good start, but over the last five years I’ve sold nearly 100 homes. Mr. 40 in 7 looks pretty weak.  He’s probably not supporting his family with those sorts of numbers and more likely than not he has a second job.  Yes, ask if they have another job.  That matters.  It’s the largest financial asset most of us own.  And it’s the one thing where a lot of people are really pretty willy nilly about who they hire.  Your Realtor matters.  Hire a professional.

Orinda Grove by Pulte The Best of Both Worlds

In one of the first major project in Orinda in quite a while Pulte Homes brings BMR (Below Market Rate) housing to Orinda.  The project was originally approved in 2008 but construction did not start in earnest for another four years.  There will be 8 BMR units amongst the 65 at market rate units in the project.  This project is well thought out, well laid out and will provide a nice new community for Orinda.

I have always been a fan of Pulte Homes.  When I see the shield embedded in the concrete on the porch I know I am selling my clients a quality product.  Orinda Grove is no exception.

Villa Six is a fine example of design meeting craftsmanship.  The home is bright and airy as you walk in.  In the model they have left bedroom five to the right open in an office/den configuration.  It could easily be a suite for guests or perhaps a family member who wanted to be on the first floor.  The first room is a great room large enough to have a formal sitting area and a formal dining room.  The genius of this model is a second larger great room that includes the kitchen.

Evernote Snapshot 20140225 151507 Evernote Snapshot 20140225 151844

The Kitchen, Dining Area, Family Room area feels like a great room too and provides an open entertainment area with numerous seating options, including island seating.  I could see sitting 20+ comfortably for dinner in this home.  Certainly an entertainer’s delight.

Downstairs there is a storage area and the garage.  A valet area, Pulte calls it “flex space” sits outside of the garage large enough for outdoor toys for every age group, the dog’s leash and the cat’s box.  All the things you don’t want outside but you don’t want inside will fit either in the valet area or the massive crawl space area next to the garage.  Or if you’re like me, it’s wine storage!

Pulte Homes did a beautiful job with the master suite in this home.  The floor plan is such that there is good separation from the other bedrooms with the laundry room serving as a buffer.  An ample walk in closet, which I have found is the most asked for amenity as of late.  Three other bedrooms finish out the upper floor of this home each with large closets and good light exposure.

Orinda Grove by Pulte Homes will be a nice addition to the City of Orinda and will create a little affordability for eight lucky buyers who work in the City of Orinda.

For information on the BMR units, click here.

Standard Pacific’s The Summit at Schaefer Ranch, Almost Sold Out!

I stopped by Standard Pacific’s community at Schaefer Ranch last week.  They are almost sold out but some great homes are still available.  Why?  Because they deliberately held the best for last.

The Lassen model is a 4 bedroom based home with options for the fourth bedroom as a master retreat or the loft as a fifth bedroom.  The home consists of a very well laid out 3164 square feet.  There is a suite down, the great room that all buyers desire and a well appointed kitchen with an island.

lassen kitchen


Standard Pacific has built in some really nice features that make these homes extremely user friendly.  One of my favorites is the built in valet.  They have left an alcove between the garage and the home and have filled it with space to store all of that stuff that normally ends up strewn around the house.  Put your jacket here.  Put your keys here.  Keep the kids soccer boots here.

valet standard pacific


I love that Standard Pacific has taken a look at how people live their lives and has created accouterments to make life easier.

The natural light in the model I saw was amazing.  Every room was bright and airy.  The home, while quite ample felt much larger than it was.

Every home has the option for a loft at the top of the stairs.  Standard Pacific calls this a “flex room”.  I like it as it gives a more intimate area to be together.  The great room with it’s high ceilings large windows and openness provides a great space to entertain but when it’s all said and done, you can head upstairs and have some quality time with those you really care about.

The master had his and her closets, a bathroom as big as my first apartment.  Another great touch is the location of the second and third bedroom, which is a goodly distance from the master which contributes to the serenity of the master suite.  Those bedrooms have a Jack and Jill bathroom.

This home starts at $1,159,900 without options.  I really liked the location and all homes in Schaefer Ranch fill to Dublin’s Distinguished School system.

Toll Brothers Schaefer Ranch Community provides a luxurious retreat -The Tiburon

Last week I had the pleasure of previewing the models at Toll Brother’s Schaefer Ranch community.  Words that popped into my mind were luxurious, elegant and gorgeous.  Toll Brothers hit the mark in this community.

Toll Brothers chose the names of five great California communities to assign to their models, the Hillsborough, the Atherton, the Larkspur, the Sausalito and the Tiburon.  Today I’d like to talk about a  home I just loved, the Tiburon.

The model I saw was 4010 square feet.  As you entered a staircase swooped up to the left.  Your eye was drawn to the amazing wooded wall on the right.  It said to me “You have entered a luxury home”.  Not a high priced home, not an over priced home, not an ostentatious home, but a luxury home.  It was the perfect touch.

photo (18)


The wooded columns and recessed lighting added warmth and ambiance of the entry.   Over to the right is a powder room, just beyond that is a large suite down.   This would be the perfect set up for the inlaws or out of town visitors.  It provides a comfortable space that is completely contained and private on the main floor of the house.  The owner would not have to worry about Grandma navigating the stairs when she came to visit and what a peace of mind that could be!

The living room has a nice area which Toll Brothers have staged as a formal dining room.   I really like this as the “every day” dining area is off the kitchen and easily seats 10.  That reminds me of when I was a kid and my Uncle used to leave the adult table and come and sit with us kids and ask us about our school and other endeavors.  I could imagine my raucous extended family having Thanksgiving here.   After all there is a reason we call it the Crowell Family Massacre, with a nod to Arlo Guthrie.  There is room for a lot of people to have a lot of different conversations, yet it also feels intimate at the same time.  Certainly a brilliant floor plan by Toll Brothers.

Each one of the floor plans features a loft at the top of the stairs.   I imagined this to be a place where the family could get together in the evening after dinner and spend some quality time hanging out together.   There is a covered balcony off of the loft that could allow a nice summer breeze to waft through the home.

The master suite is ample with a large walk in closet that is almost as big as my first apartment!  Bedroom 2 and 3 adjoin with a Jack and Jill bath and a fourth upstairs bedroom is actually a smaller suite.  Being the oldest in my family I am certain that is the gift awarded to the eldest child.

As the Schaefer Ranch community is built out there will be other amazing homes but if I were shopping for a great home that just exudes luxury, I’d be looking at this Tiburon before they were sold out.

Children living in the Schaefer Ranch community go to Dublin’s distinguished schools.  This community and this home is a win win.

If you’d like more information about the Schaefer Ranch community, please feel free to contact me at 925-381-2998, text or voice so I can show you what luxurious living truly looks and feels like.



Selling the American Dream

Not so fast there Bucko.

A lot of my colleagues will tell you they are selling the American Dream.  Client’s get in the car and go looking for their Dream Home.  I hear that and I want to throw up a little bit.  If I am selling someone their dream home, either they need to dream bigger or I’m lying to them.  Or I’m finding Cher her next estate.

My dream home is an estate on the bluffs in San Diego overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The entire back of the house is glass and opens up to let the ocean air in.  It’s got a Spanish or Tuscan feel to it.  The floors are hand cut stone, the ceiling are high.  The yard is gorgeous thick wonderful grass and the pool is an infinity pool.  And tennis courts.  And a basketball court.  I watch sunsets from the balcony of the master that overlooks the entire estate.  There is a bar in my bedroom.  The kitchen is bigger than my current house and has two dishwashers, several sinks, convection ovens, warmers, a monster cooktop and a wall of subzero wine storage.   And a cook named Consuela who makes me fresh tortillas, because I love fresh tortillas.  I have a pool boy that looks like Brad Pitt.  My dream home is not a little rancher in Concord.  So can we please stop lying about what we do?

I find nice people great houses that fit their lives.   If there is something that a client “has always wanted” I try to get that for them if it’s in their range.  If not, let’s have a frank conversation of what they can and cannot afford, just like Greg Minton told me not to over build a pool 10 years ago.  Then we talk about how to ultimately get what they want.  And yes, I do ultimately want that beachfront home.

In my current home I wanted hardwood.  I have carpet.  I had to redo the flooring so it should have been a no brainer…right?  Carpet was $3600 and somebody else installed it.  Hardwood was $9000 and three weeks worth of work and another week for it to set.  I needed to move in 10 days.  At the time it wasn’t the right choice.  Now that I’ve lived in the home for a while I know that I want to knock out a wall.  I’m glad I didn’t do hardwood for the additional cost because it’s all coming out next year.   It wasn’t what I wanted but it was the right choice.  Twice.  Once the remodel is done it still won’t be my dream house, but it will be pretty darned nice.  At the end of the day, isn’t that really what it’s about?

Regrets, I’ve had a few OR Buyers! Don’t let this happen to you!

Back in 1993 there was a project in San Francisco called the Clocktower Lofts.  Lofts had gone from artists hijacking electricity to live in old buildings they had “liberated” to rehab projects by industrious and forward thinking developers.  At the time the Clocktower Lofts were the crown jewel in San Francisco.  They wanted to sell me a loft for around $320,000.  At the time I could afford it.  But it was only one bedroom.  And the freeway was right there.  And what if I needed a roommate?  And that was a lot of rent to pay.  Because I was still thinking like a renter.  Does any of that sound familiar?  Feel familiar?  Well, I passed.  I have regretted that decision from just about the moment I made it.  Currently there isn’t a Clocktower loft on the market.  The last one listed at $1,440,000.  I used to be the smartest guy in the room.  Whenever I think of that loft I passed on, I know I’m not.  I wish I owned that loft today.  Right now.

Buyers.  If you found this, you’re on the internet.  The internet is your best friend and your worst enemy.  I didn’t have the internet in 1993 when I made the wrong call on that loft.  All I had was the voices in my head who were saying “What if you get laid off?” “What if something happens?”  “Can you rent it out and cover the note if you have to?”  Those were my drunk monkeys back then.  In reality, I didn’t lose my job for another 15 years.  By then I could have paid the mortgage with my eyes closed, my income had doubled.  As a matter of fact, by then I probably would have paid that mortgage off all together.  Even for the two years while the real estate sector was in a free fall and I was building my real estate career I only missed a few house payments but was able to catch them up.  At the end of the day, I never lost a house.  But y’all have the internet to be your drunk monkey.  “Now is not the time to buy”, “The market is going to pull back” “Interest rates are going up” “Interest rates are going down”, you can even find articles out there telling you our President is a communist and plans to take all of your real estate and turn this country into China.  All of this adds to the natural fear of making such a large decision, but very little of it has anything to do with any one of us.

I get that this is scary stuff.  Since then I’ve bought three properties, all in the East Bay.  I could not get back into San Francisco.  The first one I bought for $136,000 and sold for $242,500.  The next one I bought for $215,000 and sold for $555,000.  This one I bought for $489,000 after the market and contracted about 20%, this neighborhood used to be $620,000-ish.  Then in contracted again and homes in this neighborhood were going for $250,000.  Three years later, the current value is around $500,000.  I’ve done well, but I could have done a lot better if I had better advice in the beginning.

The thing is, over the last five years I’ve had a lot of buyers.  Some of them are living in homes and some are still renting.  Many of those who are still renting are done.  The market has passed them by.  They made a decision that seemed correct at the time, like not buying a Clocktower Loft, and it has come back and bitten them in the butt.  Several of these buyers I’ve had as closes as $5000 to owning a home and the market has gone up $20k, $25k, $100k and they are out of the market and won’t be able to get back in until something very major happens in their financial situation.  Those 3.25% interest rates are gone for a long long time.  And I feel bad for them.

The difference in their situation and mine is that I know they had proper advice.  One guy was certain there was going to be a “double dip”.  I knew it was unlikely.  We are still waiting for that double dip five years later.  He’s out of the market by about $100k.  Another family didn’t want their payment over a certain amount.  Their rent has gone up that much since I worked with them.  They are priced out of the market and in no position to save any more.  Several wanted to save more down.  That down isn’t going to help them now.  I know all have our own journey.  Theirs isn’t going to involve home ownership for a while.

Salaries are not keeping pace with growth in the housing market.  It reminds me of the line from Boiler Room.  “I just wanted in”.  Once you’re in the door, you’re in.   Initiation is scary and sometimes brings some pain.  I promise, it’s worth it.

It’s like seeing Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster on the same hike.

multi yoy


This is a graph of the year over year sold price for the Walnut Creek, Concord, Pleasant Hill and Martinez area.  The median sold price is up to $455,750 from $320,000 the year before.  That’s a 42% increase.

WOW.  Now before we all start dancing and singing “Happy Days are Here Again” let’s take a step back.  This is a rear view mirror perspective on the market.  For all of those naysayers out there who thought the market was going to double dip, I hope you have a lot of MRE’s in your survivalist cellar because your double dip isn’t happening for another 5-6 years.  However, what we are seeing is, well, it’s like a siting of Big Foot or Nessie.  It’s a balanced market.

What is a balanced market?  Most agents wouldn’t know one if it walked up to them with a glittery name tag on.  It’s a  strange place where equilibrium lives.  There are equal buyers and sellers.  Supply equals demand.  And crazy need not apply.

I’m going to enjoy this market.  I’m going to use it to get some of my battle weary buyers into contract.  Because nothing makes me happier than handing over the keys to new buyers.

I’d like you to represent me…

Facts are fun.

Fact.  Agents, your buyers are calling the listing agents and asking the following question: “Will you write this offer for me?” in hopes of getting their offer accepted.

Fact.  There are some unscrupulous agents out there who will justify away writing this offer all day long.

Fact.  It is wrong.  Always has been, always will be. Most of us subscribe to a Code of Ethics and all the excusing away in the world will not make this good or right.  Or Ethical.

Last week I took one of my listings pending.  It was a red hot listing.  Screaming red hot.  I got two or three phone calls per hour on this listing.  The fact that it was on the market for a full ten days was excruciating to me.  It was the right thing to do for my seller.  I needed to get as many people by that listing as possible to get her the best possible price.  I did that.  In spades.  But I also witnessed the soft underbelly of our business and it’s not pretty.

I took 31 offers on this listing.  It was a bit of a nightmare.  I priced it back in May and due to some machinations within the family I couldn’t take it to market until the Fourth of July.  At that point I should have repriced it, but I chose to go with the price we decided on when everyone was all together and let it fly.  And fly it did.

  • As a side note to all those cash buyers out there.  You know who you are.  The phone call goes like this “I see your listing for $300k.  I am a cash buyer.  We can close quickly”  Followed with a long pause that I assume is where I am supposed to acknowledge their awesomeness.  Except I got around 50 calls like that, so after the third or fourth call their awesomeness was kind of pedestrian.  I ended up with over a dozen cash offers and the other half financed.

Back to our story.  For the five people who truly did not have an agent and needed representation, I handed those five, yes, FIVE buyers off to other agents in the office.  That creates what I call a Chinese Wall.  (I learned that term when I was studying for the Series 7)  Obviously I can’t toss out a softball to all five of them so they will have to work with their agent to bring their best offer.  That keeps it fair.  Can you imagine how much time I would spend in front of the grievance committee if I wrote the winning offer when there was 31 other offers?  Me either.  It’s painful to think of.

Fact.  Getting your offer accepted is only half of the battle.  I don’t believe in doing away with dual agency, but I don’t believe in representing the winning buyer in a multiple offer situation.  I know very honest and scrupulous agents who have done it with a couple of offers in and I believe they handled it properly.  I don’t believe there are very many agents who can or will handle it honestly and honorably.  Especially after last week.  I would behave honorably and honestly, but I don’t do it anyway, just to keep me and my license and reputation crystal sparkly clean.

What happens when a deal gets to that hinky place where a meeting of the minds is but a distant memory?  I just finished my first dual agency deal.  I felt like a Flying Wallenda.  At the end of the day, both parties were very easy going.  The home had been on the market for 45 days and had no other offers.  I got the buyer up to a place where I thought the seller would accept and it was off to the races.  But in this market situations like that are rare.  It was the best thing for my seller who was out of money and needed out of the home.

With that, let me present….


  1. Find a great agent you can trust.  Someone who will tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not.
  2. Listen to them.  I can’t tell you how many clients could have had the first house they really wanted if they had only listened to me.*
  3. Be loyal.  Karma.  Don’t invite her into your life if you don’t have to.
  4. If you find it’s not working, be honest with the agent about your concerns.  It’s either a miscommunication or a bad fit.  One is correctable, the other is not.  Good agents will make the adjustment.  Or if it’s not a good fit chances are they are feeling it too.  If you don’t like confrontation, break up in an email.  Or text.  It’s just business
  5. Turn off HGTV.  They rarely film in the Bay Area.   That’s the way things work in Ohio.  Or Phoenix.  Or Texas.  Not the San Francisco Bay Area.
  6. If you find yourself in need of real estate services in the San Francisco Bay Area call me.  If I don’t work the area I will tell you honestly that I don’t know that area and refer you to a tried and true professional that does.  925-381-2998