The contents of my blog are a reflection of my interests and the life that I lead living in two coastal cities in the U.S.: New York City & Portland, OR.

All aspects of real estate have fascinated me since I was a child and I have devoted all of my professional life to marketing, selling, buying, renovating, researching, and personal investing in real estate. My blog shares my recent real estate adventures and observations as well as the lifestyle experiences that I enjoy in these two vastly different urban environments.

The darker side of real estate, namely the lack of it that the homeless experience, is of great interest to me. I wish to explore and share with you the underlying causes of this plight that so many unfortunate individuals experience. I will also explore and suggest possible innovative solutions to this problem.

In addition, as an observer and shutter bug, I will post photographs that I take of the seasons, locations and events that occur in the many interesting places where I live, work and travel.

Housing Demographics 2014

Patricia CliffYounger people, the group that advertisers like to focus on, like to live close to where they work. They also value access to efficient public transportation. This is in part because they have little patience for traffic jams but also because many are interested in reducing the carbon footprint. Since people are working longer hours and harder, they also welcome the opportunity to live close to their places of business. They also prefer to live within walking distance of the shops and restaurants that they choose to frequent. Given that Mad Mothers Against Drunk Driving has made their inroads felt throughout the country, people also prefer to enjoy themselves on an evening out and be able to walk home or take public transportation without fear of incurring DWI infractions.

Tyson Corners, a regional shopping hub in Northern Virginia located 13 miles from downtown Washington D.C. will be welcoming an 11.7 mile extension of the regional Metro rail system called the Silver Line. The goal of developers is to transform what they have now named Tyson into an urban stand alone city. There are presently four new office towers under construction, 850 new apartment units which are scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, and considerably more in the planning stage. In addition, a consortium of developers and planners called Tysons Partnership aim to continue developing new housing and renovating older apartments in the area. What about some affordable housing in the mix? Nothing has been said about this to date but given the need for affordable housing in the beltway area, it certainly should be part of the mix.

The lesson to be learned here is the need for efficient public transportation combined with more easily accessible living arrangements that are close to the urban services that people use and frequent. The secondary advantage is to save many large scale malls around the country which are less frequented by consumers today and only accessible by car. These malls usually have large parking areas that could be developed for housing and office buildings by placing the parking underground.

Read the New York Times article about Tysons here.

Are there any malls in your city that would benefit from be transformed in this way?

Buying a Home in NYC: Digital vs Personal

HouseAnother big time international techie coder, Ori Allon, who has triple citizenship: Israel, Australia and the U.S. sold his prior business, Julpan to Twitter. Ori has now decided that he can turn the NYC residential real estate search solely into a total technology driven experience. He has created the website: urbancompass.com.

On Urbancompass.com, properties all over NYC can be searched regardless of which real estate company actually has the exclusive listing. Furthermore, the exclusive agents of these properties are not identified anywhere in search results.

When a property of interest has been found, detailed information is not available until the visitor signs in via email or Facebook (which of course allows Urbancompass access to your personal information.) At that point, an Urbancompass agent that they consider appropriate, based upon your personal profile is assigned to you.

Value your privacy? Care to spend a huge amount of money to purchase a home and miss out on the personal experience of dealing with an experienced agent of your choice who will unravel all of the issues that come along with the purchasing process? When was the last time that a hand jumped out of your computer, patted your hand and told you that everything was going to turn out okay? Not to worry? Not likely to happen.

Buying and selling real estate is a personal experience not an exercise in Google style technology!

Portland Home Remodelers | Neil Kelly

The owner of Portland, Oregon based Neil Kelly Co., a design and remodeling firm with a portfolio of environmentally responsible projects, Tom Kelly and his wife Barbara Woodford decided to built a mountain retreat for their family which would inspire others to build sustainable homes. Tom felt that “manufacturers won’t create sustainable products without demand, so it’s important for us to keep moving them forward”.

The 2,000 square foot home, which was completed in 2006, is as cutting edge today as it was eight years ago. They chose Alaska based architect, Liz Olberding to design the home, which has a great deal of their personal input and preferences. The result was the first West Coast Leeds Certified single family home.

There is a Great Need for Affordable Housing Right in our Nation’s Capital

Calendar mark  with Pay rentIn Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital there is a severe lack of affordable housing in all parts of the city. It’s the working poor who are especially affected. How can a single mother make meaningful efforts to elevate herself and her children from poverty when her housing choices are living either living in shelters or being victimized by aggressive landlords who fail to make necessary repairs and deliver sub-standard housing?

Read more at NPR’s Lack Of Affordable Housing Puts The Squeeze On Poor Families by Pam Fessler.

Affordable Housing: What We Need Beyond Shelter

There are many noble efforts being made to feed and care for the homeless in Portland, which is indeed commendable. In Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, the city council recently voted to exempt three new affordable housing projects from property taxes. Read the full article here. These properties include 223 apartments. This is the type of permanent affordable housing which is needed. Congratulations Beaverton for being creative about providing this type of housing. It shows a great creativity in engaging the private sector to fulfill a public need.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosures were filed against close to 3 million American homeowners in 2010 and in increasing numbers in 2012. The preferred model should be Affordable Housing that offers permanent homes to the needy combined with support services that will enable the less fortunate in our society to lay roots, become part of the community and to thrive.

The Obama Administration program “Opening Doors” has made it their goal to provide mainstream housing, combined with health care, education and human service programs, which must be fully integrated and coordinated in order to prevent and end homelessness. Your support for this model to end homelessness is important for the healthy growth of our communities and the eradication of poverty in our country.

The New 21st Century Art of Selling Real Estate

The art of selling real estate and of selling almost every other product has changed dramatically in the 21st century. Since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, it is imperative to re-tool your sales skills and move forward with a new soft sell. This is an approach that is extremely focused on the client’s needs and not the agent self-promotion.

Interesting Careers in Real Estate Today

Many people assume that the only role for a real estate agent is to sell residential space, i.e. homes. While this can be a very profitable and interesting way to earn a living, there are many other diverse careers in the real estate field that should be examined before making a final choice of which aspect of real estate would best suit one’s personality and talents.

Effective Real Estate Teams Shouldn’t Be Large

Team Building Tip: Keep your team small with clearly delineated roles and your team will maximize its effectiveness. Here is the year end holiday photograph of our successful “CGC Team” at Corcoran. From left to right: John Gasdaska, Jonathan Conlon, me, along with our marvelous “take charge” office manager and admin, Mellissa Shabanaj. In 2013, we racked up over $80M in sales, which was only possible because of our very cohesive team.

2013 Team photo

The Demographics of Who is Buying Residential Real Estate Today

Whenever I’m asked to discuss the current state of the real estate market, either locally or nationally, I’m reminded of the fact that the demographics play a great deal in assessing where the market is at a particular time.

In other words, which group is actively buying a home, i.e. seniors who are downsizing are a pretty constant group of buyers and sellers because they have the money to take a position in the market but not the unlimited time to wait for the perfect time to buy or sell. Younger buyers are more dependent upon the economy and the security of their jobs, etc. In other words, to get a full picture of where the real estate market is presently and where it is headed in the immediate future, it’s important to understand who has the money and motivation to buy or sell in real time.

Who Owns Antarctica Anyway?

2013-12-30 04.05.53The simple and pragmatic answer is the wildlife: most especially the penguins – hundreds of thousands of them in every species imaginable and the seals and the whales in the Antarctic waters.

As far as humans are concerned, the Continent of Antarctica and the adjacent areas are a Title Insurance Company’s nightmare! There are seven countries who have asserted territorial sovereignty claims to this region during the first half of the 20th Century, based upon the great period of discovery of the region: the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Norway, Australia, Chile and Argentina. The exploratory endeavors of Shackleton in 1907 and Admiral Byrd in the 1930s are just a few of the more well known of these expeditions.

The International Antarctic Treaty of 1959 protects the area for scientific studies and prevents any territorial claims from being effectuated. Signed by 42 countries, it preserves the environment and prevents further land claims during its duration. Nevertheless, Argentina and Chile have attempted to solidify their sovereignty by insuring that citizens of their countries gave birth to infants on their scientific stations in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, pro-creation on any sizable scale there has once again reverted to the penguin population.