Professional vs. Amateur Photos of Real Estate Agents

It’s ironic, because there are real estate professionals out there who are camera shy.

They are marketing geniuses who can sell a client’s home for a profit in the worst of times, and help clients buy homes for a steal in the best of times. Yet they post sub-par images of themselves on professional social networking sites and marketing material.

So just for fun, and using myself as an example, I want to talk about the difference between amateur and professional personal photos. 


Professional photo

  



Amateur photo

  

The photo on the left was taken by a friend on a decent quality digital camera. Cost: Free. Many professionals, even high-level executives in real estate and other businesses, only have this type of image on file.

The one on the right is a professional shot. About a year ago, I spent a couple hours with a fashion photographer. I wanted images that were different from those taken by portrait studios, and ones that could be used for professional and social networking purposes.

Cost: $200 for five different shots in different locations. This is just one.

Now if you were looking to sell your multi-million dollar home, which photo is a better piece of marketing material for the agent? (Just to be clear, I am not a real estate agent. I am just using my photos as examples.)

Personally, I think the professional shot is better. It shows the agent invested in quality versus settling for convenience.

You might be one of those people who relies on “friend shots,” and ticked off at this subject right about now. But the point is not to knock your value as a real estate agent. You might just be camera shy and have overlooked upgrading your personal photos.

Ironically, I’m a publicist who did the same thing for a long time. One day a friend recommended paying for a formal photo shoot. I agreed and was blown away by the results. The photographer brought out multiple sides to my look, personality and professionalism that I never expected.

Those photos have more than paid for themselves.

Investing in quality photos is a way to put your best foot forward in everything from marketing a home to marketing yourself. And one of these days you might be interviewed by a local newspaper about the real estate industry. Wouldn’t it be nice to send the reporter a photo that shines?

By Eric Billingsley

Ollie Brown, Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones and Real Estate

A bit of trivia for all you Gen Xers: What is the name of the pop music duo who made the hit song “There’s No Stopping Us,” title track for the 1984 dance movie Breakin’. Answer: Ollie & Jerry, the “Ollie” of whom is Rodeo Realty’s own Ollie Brown.
“We wrote that song in one day and dropped the record in two days, ” said Brown, a real estate agent with Rodeo’s Northridge office. “It happened so fast, we didn’t even have a name for the group so we just called ourselves Ollie & Jerry.”
Brown is still collecting royalties on that stroke of genius. “The song has definitely helped me through the ups and downs of the real estate business,” he said.
But “There’s No Stopping Us” is just one blip in Brown’s extensive musical career. He worked for many years as a record producer, and has played percussion for some of the biggest names in the music industry. And he said there are plenty of parallels between the music biz and real estate.
Prior to getting into real estate a decade or so ago, Brown was a senior vice president for a record label known as CLICK Records. The label signed notables such as the soul music vocal group The Spinners and pop music band The Association. Brown still does a bit of artist management on the side.
As a percussionist, one of his big breaks was working as Stevie Wonder’s drummer back in 1972 (See video below of Ollie on drums – Amazing!). During that time period, Wonder was opening for the Rolling Stones.
Then he was a percussionist with the Stone’s during 1975-1976. Mick Jagger and crew even had dinner at Brown’s mother’s house in Detroit, Michigan.
“They still my boys,” said Brown about The Rolling Stones. He went on to record with some of the best rock and soul artists of the time. He continues to do live performances with guitarist, songwriter and producer Ray Parker Jr.
Brown has carved a niche for himself in the real estate business working with celebrity clients. Making it in real estate is similar to cutting a record deal, he said. You have to market the heck out of the product, think outside of the box and not be “regular,” and work with each home as if it were a new artist.
Celebrities respect Brown’s track record in the entertainment business and understanding of how things work. “If I’m taking out a producer, he might get a call to go into the studio (or movie set) right in the middle of a showing,” said Brown. “I understand their flow. Been there, done that.” 
Ollie’s contact info: (818) 363-7945, ollie@olliewoodestates.com  

The Not-So-Obvious Mortgage Deal Killers

Since the economy tanked, it’s no secret banks have tightened their lending standards. Borrowers need to at least have good credit, down payment and a stable job to buy a home -a far cry from the easy money days of the real estate bubble. And that’s still no guarantee they’ll get financing.

So if a borrower has all of the above, what else could go wrong to prevent lenders from forking over the money for a home? I recently sat down with Arin Crews of L.A. Mortgage to discuss the issue. She brought up a few key red flags that she’s seeing slow down or kill deals altogether.

1. Buyers and Sellers are rushing deals. In this day and age of short sales and foreclosure sales, some buyers and real estate agents aren’t taking the time to learn about home’s major maintenance issues. And the fact is sellers aren’t always willing to pay for such repairs when push comes to shove.

Even though a buyer and seller have agreed on a sales price, lenders may back out of the deal at the last minute if issues like termites, foundation work, and others have not been addressed. Crews encourages agents and buyers to slow down and do as much homework as possible before getting too far into the deal.

2. Appraisals are coming in low. It’s still hard to tell if the residential real estate market has hit bottom in many locations. So appraisers are covering their bases, and those of lenders, by giving very conservative prices for homes. And the fact is lenders are not going to provide financing for more than the appraised price. Real estate agents should also familiarize themselves with the Home Valuation Code of Conduct.

3. Self-employed borrowers are having to prove long-term revenue. Some self-employed folks took a significant financial hit when the economy soured. Fortunately some of those same folks have rebounded and are in the market for a home.

But lenders generally look at finances over a couple year period of time. So somebody who is self employed may be making money hand over fist today and still get declined for a loan if his/her 2009 or 2008 revenues were down.

Crews said some lenders may be more lenient than others if an accountant can help show that the borrower’s other finances are in line.

4. Condominium HOAs need to be in the clear. Many lenders will not finance condo purchases in developments where the homeowners association has pending litigation.

Some of Rodeo Realty’s agents found a  niche last year selling only new construction condos. Sales were strong because builders have been liquidating condos, the HOAs are clean with no defaults, and the new developments are FHA approved.

Real Estate Agent Quotes About 2010 and the New Year

This will be the last blog entry for 2010. So it seemed fitting to ask a handful of our real estate agents about the past year and what they envision for 2011.

Kittean Little – Beverly Hills

“I felt 2010 was surprisingly brisk. I represent a lot of high net worth individuals, (entertainment) industry clientele and investors. I noticed a lot of these people were re-entering the marketplace. If we haven’t reached the bottom, we’re pretty close to it. In 2011, if you have money buy a house, because by 2012 and 2013 you’ll look back and wish you had.”

Brian Stevens – Studio City
“2010 was the best year ever. It was off-the-hook”

Scott Sorrentino – Calabasas and Studio City

“2011 will be a far superior year than 2010. Consumer confidence is likely to grow and trickle into the real estate market.”

Bud Mauro – Northridge
“In 2010, as in 2008 & 2009, I think most REALTORS®, were expecting the market to make a come-back; to rebound, even just a little. Something to build up some confidence in the minds of the novice Buyers. It just didn’t happen.

Of course, the seasoned veteran Buyers didn’t have that problem. The “veterans” were buying Short Sales and REO’s with 50% cash down, and in many cases, all cash. Veterans “know a deal” when they see it. The novice Buyer, not understanding the current market and fearful of market stability always seems to want to “low-ball” the Listed Price. By the time they get the message that home has gone to a veteran Buyer.

The Sellers in the 2010 market had adjusted to the current market values. They had a need to sell and respected their REALTORS® opinion of market value. The novice Buyer was not comfortable with values, whatever the price. All in all, the real estate value of average priced homes stayed quite level in 2010. Some showing a slight increase (maybe around 2%), while the higher end properties showed significant price reductions.

The market was haunted all year long by the threat of the foreclosures still to come (Shadow Inventory). That hasn’t happened. Inventory is still low. NOD filings have lessened for the time being. The threat of an over abundance of foreclosed properties is still in the mix. When they will “hit” the market is a mystery.

2011 should be a very interesting year. Buyers should not put off getting into a home. Home prices and Interest rates are just too good to pass up. There may not be another opportunity such as the current market prices for years to come. Think about it. We never saw this downturn coming and we won’t see the turnaround market until it is too late.” 
Ben Salem – Sherman Oaks
“(2010) has been an incredible year for me and my most successful to date. However, those successes do not come by accident. Market shifts have created new challenges for our industry, and with the help of a fantastic team we’ve put a great deal of effort into how we respond to those challenges.”

Carol Otero – Northridge

“2010 was the best move in my 20 years in real estate (She joined Rodeo Realty mid-year from another real estate firm). I doubled my income from the first six months of the year. The support at Rodeo is beyond belief; I have never had more people help me do what I need to do.”
Roger Perry – Beverly Hills
“I’m hopeful for the New Year! People just need to wake up and take advantage of the low interest rates and low asking prices. I plan on working hard in 2011.”

Los Angeles Home Prices Faring Better Than Other Major Cities

The nation’s housing market may be headed towards a “double dip” slump, according to a press release from Standard & Poors. The good news is home prices in Los Angeles seem to be faring better than many other major cities in the U.S.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed home prices fell in 20 major cities in October 2010 compared to September 2010. The overall decline for the 20-City Composite was 1.3 percent. It was 1.2 percent for the 10-City Composite. Los Angeles posted a -0.7 percent drop, the fourth smallest drop of the 20 cities.

To view the full press release visit: http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/sp-case-shiller-home-price-indices/en/us/?indexId=spusa-cashpidff–p-us—-

“The double-dip is almost here, as six cities set new lows for the period since the 2006 peaks. There is no good news in October’s report. Home prices across the country continue to fall,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s.

“The trends we have seen over the past few months have not changed,” he added. “The tax incentives are over and the national economy remained lackluster in October, the month covered by these data. Existing homes sales and housing starts have been reported for both October and November, and neither is giving any sense of optimism.”

Six markets, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Portland (OR), Seattle and Tampa, hit their lowest levels since home prices started to fall in 2006 and 2007. This means average home prices in those markets have fallen beyond the recent lows seen in most other markets in the spring of 2009.

The 10-City Composite posted a +0.2% annual growth rate in October, whereas the 20-City Composite  was in negative territory, down 0.8% in October.

Only four major metro areas showed year-over-year home price gains in October, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Los Angeles and Washington D.C. posted the largest gains, 3.3 percent and 3.7 percent respectively.

Adaptation Key for Residential Real Estate Agents

There’s a lot of talk about how crummy the residential real estate market is and how agents had a rough go of it during 2010. There are fewer agents in the business compared to years prior and the ones who stayed are making a lot less money.

Seems like a logical result of the economic meltdown and real estate bubble burst. The only problem is it’s not true across the board. Agents are definitely working twice as hard for half the money. But there are plenty who adapted to the market and had huge years in 2010. Here are a couple of examples.
Carol Wolfe, a veteran agent in Encino, Calif., is on track to do more than $40 million in combined sales for the year. She has been in the business since the mid 1970s and said this is the second best year of her career. She sells homes from $140K condos to multi-million dollar estates.

The thing is she never stops the marketing machine, even in the good times. Name recognition, having an excellent reputation and providing a high level of customer service are key, she said.

She sends out approx. 5,000 postcards each month to her farm area, advertises on the Internet, advertises in local movie theaters, schools and car washes, and writes a weekly blog at: http://encino.patch.com/articles/keeping-the-slow-economic-recovery-in-perspective

Oh yeah, Wolfe knows the value of her work. She gets 6% commission on most listings where many competitors settle for 5%.
Ken Marker and Corey Brown, agents based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., closed more than 120 deals in 2010. The team sells property in the San Fernando Valley area ranging from condos to high-end estates. These guys are consistently top producers for Rodeo Realty.
In 2010, they adapted to the market by placing extra emphasis on selling new construction condos. Sales were strong because many builders have been liquidating condos. Many of the new developments are FHA approved, the HOAs are clean and there are no defaults. About 98% of the buyers are owner/users.
The new condo market will be less in 2011, they said, because there’s very little new construction happening in the San Fernando Valley. But Marker and Brown are sure to adapt and prosper.

SRAR Chooses Ben Salem as Good Samaritan of the Month

Looking for a good example of how to blend real estate and charitable giving? Check out the work of Ben Salem. The Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® (SRAR) recently chose him as Good Samaritan of the Month for December 2010. For the association’s announcement visit: http://www.srar.com/node/946
The following is an exerpt from SRAR’s announcement.
Working under the umbrella of Rodeo Realty, Ben Salem Properties donates 2% of every closed transaction to various charities. His colleagues have recognized him for his work educating industry professionals in the area of REO evictions and best practices. Ben has donated his time on a variety of panels that have been focused on borrowers’ rights; the difference between personal property and debris; techniques for occupancy determination; and how to break the ice with occupants.

In addition to the education he provides to his client base and peer group, Ben has become very active in an organization called “No Paws Left Behind”. “No Paws” is an organization that helps to care for abandoned animals that are victims of the current surge in foreclosures. They also work directly with families in foreclosure, providing assistance with vet bills, food, and help in finding pet-friendly alternative housing and money to cover deposits.

Ben teamed up with “No Paws” founder, Cheryl Lang to help raise awareness and funds to care for these animals by providing shelter until they can be transitioned into new homes. Lang estimates that nearly one million pets including dogs, cats, birds, horses and other animals are at risk as the foreclosure crisis mounts.

In April of this year, Ben and his Elite REO Team helped organize a Casino Night in Palm Springs that raised roughly $25,000.00 for “No Paws”. Funds raised for this event will cover costs including the care of pets left behind, support of local animal shelters, adoption, spaying, neutering and vaccinations. In many cases families are forced into choosing between buying groceries and caring for their pet.
A fact that SRAR did not mention is that Salem had one of the strongest years of his career in 2010. As of November, he had closed on the sale of 128 homes and was set to close an additional 13 by the end of the month. That’s a lot of money going to charity!

Real Estate Agent Blends Business and Charity

Congratulations to Ben Salem! The Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® (SRAR) chose him as Good Samaritan of the Month for December 2010. For the association’s announcement visit: http://www.srar.com/node/946

The SRAR Good Samaritan program is designed to feature REALTORS® that have made a difference in their community through charitable and/or volunteer endeavors, according to SRAR. Monthly recipients are featured in the REALTOR® Report and their name is added to the Good Samaritan plaque hanging in the front lobby of SRAR.

Salem has been a member of the association since 2003. The following is an exerpt from SRAR’s announcement.

Working under the umbrella of Rodeo Realty, Ben Salem Properties donates 2% of every closed transaction to various charities. His colleagues have recognized him for his work educating industry professionals in the area of REO evictions and best practices. Ben has donated his time on a variety of panels that have been focused on borrowers’ rights; the difference between personal property and debris; techniques for occupancy determination; and how to break the ice with occupants.

In addition to the education he provides to his client base and peer group, Ben has become very active in an organization called “No Paws Left Behind”. “No Paws” is an organization that helps to care for abandoned animals that are victims of the current surge in foreclosures. They also work directly with families in foreclosure, providing assistance with vet bills, food, and help in finding pet-friendly alternative housing and money to cover deposits.

Ben teamed up with “No Paws” founder, Cheryl Lang to help raise awareness and funds to care for these animals by providing shelter until they can be transitioned into new homes. Lang estimates that nearly one million pets including dogs, cats, birds, horses and other animals are at risk as the foreclosure crisis mounts.

In April of this year, Ben and his Elite REO Team helped organize a Casino Night in Palm Springs that raised roughly $25,000.00 for “No Paws”. Funds raised for this event will cover costs including the care of pets left behind, support of local animal shelters, adoption, spaying, neutering and vaccinations. In many cases families are forced into choosing between buying groceries and caring for their pet.

Bing Crosby Home in Brentwood

I know it’s a couple of days past Christmas, but I couldn’t resist sharing this Brentwood home with celebrity and holiday credentials.
Michael Barasch of Rodeo’s Encino office is listing a home that was once owned and designed by iconic crooner and actor Bing Crosby. As most of you know, Bing Crosby was well known for singing holiday favorites such as “White Christmas.”
The mini estate is set on almost 10,000 square feet of landscaped park like grounds. Built in 1937, it has almost 2,500 square feet of living space, 3 nice bedrooms, formal living room, separate family room, formal dining and a gourmet kitchen.
Additional features include hardwood floors, 2 fireplaces, crown molding, recessed lighting, sky lights, French doors, sparkling pool, outdoor kitchen, separate baths for each bedroom and a warm and inviting floor plan. The master suite features vaulted open beamed ceilings, a large walk-in closet and a master bath with steamer shower, separate tub, tumbled marble and much more.
The house was featured in a Christmas day Los Angeles Times story about other Bing Crosby homes on the market in L.A.: http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-hotprop-bing-crosby-20101225,0,316269.story
The property web site is: http://103anita.com/


California Home Sales for November 2010

An estimated 31,403 new and resale houses and condos were sold in Calfornia last month, according to MDA DataQuick. That was down 3.9 percent from 32,669 in October, and down 12.4 percent from 35,860 for November 2009.

For MDA DataQuick’s full breakdown for the month of November visit:
http://www.dqnews.com/Articles/2010/News/California/RRCA101216.aspx

The median price paid for a home last month was $255,000, down 0.4 percent from $256,000 in October, and down 2.3 percent from $261,000 for November a year ago. The year-over-year decrease was the second in a row after eleven months of increases.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 37.8 percent were properties that had been foreclosed on during the past year, said MDA DataQuick. That was up from a revised 36.7 percent in October and down from 40.1 percent in November a year ago. The all-time high was in February 2009 at 58.5 percent.

Alex Lazo at the Los Angeles Times also did a story on the November numbers that brings in a few more voices. Visit: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-home-sales-20101217,0,7438765.story