Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Attention local realtors: How NOT to seize the day!

Speaking of creative marketing campaigns for local real estate agents ... here's an example of how NOT to do it!

Janna Anderson, from Creative Property Services (CPS) in Graton at www.jannaanderson.com ran an advertisement in the January 17th edition of the West County Gazette on page 7, which reads as follows:
Now is the Right Time to Buy!
Take advantage of the softening market. I can help you find the best deals and foreclosures.
Nice, Ms. Anderson, real nice. I'm sure that all of the West County Gazette's readers (Hmmm ... Vesta now has a circulation of 16,000) who are facing the possibility of foreclosure -- or who KNOW people who do -- will find your advertisement to be utterly charming. NOT. Or perhaps foreclosures aren't an issue in Graton? The last thing we need are the flocks of vulture capitalists descending upon the carrion of our neighbors' misfortunes & predatory financing arrangements, whom your advertisement blatantly appears to target.

Your advertisement may also prove to be misleading. Yes, the real estate market is in a downturn, homes are lingering longer on the market, & there are some good deals to be had. However, there are several factors working against your marketing approach, because the majority of people who buy homes around here tend to be strongly entrenched in this community & are pretty danged determined to hang on to their property:

(1) Many folks bought their homes ages ago, have low mortgage & property tax payments; & can hence afford to take their homes off the market if their minimum price can't be met; (2) Those facing loan re-sets can & often do find a way to make these payments until they are able to refinance through extra jobs, & help from their friends, families, & their communities (I know of one family that started a non-profit for themselves & launched a fund raising campaign for their historic old house, & another which received funds collected by their church); (3) Some sellers choose to take advantage of the Internet & do For-Sale-By-Owner & owner financing deals & hedge their potential losses by refusing to pay commissions to realtors; (4) The sort of speculators whom you assume would be attracted by your advertisement are like sheep & they're running away from real estate investments just like everyone else; & (5) Purchasing foreclosed properties is a risky & arduous process which is not for the scantily-capitalized or faint of heart.

I'm sure you're a lovely person in real life, Ms. Anderson. Don't you also run that cute little grocery store in downtown Graton? Alas, you do do really need to have a nice chat with the person who does your copywriting. What works in a city like Santa Rosa might actually offend people in a more intimate, small-town setting like Western Sonoma County.

I feel that the bursting of the housing bubble could actually be a good thing for us River Rats & Rattinas of Western Sonoma County. Our housing market was totally out of whack. When local housing costs dramatically outstrip people's earning power in the local job market, a "market correction" is due. People have historically relocated to Western Sonoma County because it's beautiful, inexpensive, laid back, & is hence an ideal place to pursue our dreams & "do our own thing." This is why our community manages to be so vibrant & yet so livable. I would like to see home ownership opportunities once again be open to local residents & various dreamers.

Perhaps I sound like some sort of wild-eyed liberal communist, but I'm not. We bought our home at the height of the market in 2005 & wish it had appreciated enough for us to get a home equity loan in order to make a multitude of expensive & necessary repairs. But what the hey, we can keep placing plastic tarps over the leaks in our roof, & pray that the two redwood trees leaning against our roof don't burst into our kitchen one day for a few more years.

Home prices are bound to appreciate someday. But I love our community & immediate neighborhood & don't want prices to accelerate so quickly that nobody interesting can afford to live here any more. After all ... the towns of Berkeley & Sausalito used to be so fun, vibrant, creative & inspiring & look at them now. They can be nice to visit, but -- unless you're a multimillionaire -- they aren't terribly livable.

1 comment:

Russian River Rattina said...

Speaking of real estate, I forgot to mention this: Vesta Copestakes from the West County Gazette (www.westcountygazette.com) has written an informative series of articles on how to pull your credit & down-payment together to buy a fixer (& then survive living in it!) even if you don't have much money. The last one is on the stands, but you can read the other ones online or order a reprint via the Web site.