Pacific Union Wins Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate of the Year Award

We’re very excited to announce the news that Christie’s International Real Estate has named Pacific Union its “Affiliate of the Year” for 2013.

Pacific Union, one of 139 global affiliates in the Christie’s network, won the top honor for its creative and effective marketing, superior branding, and innovation. Christie’s presented the award earlier this month at its annual global conference in Barcelona, Spain.

“A true industry leader, Pacific Union has long been known for its innovative programs and quality services, and we are proud to award the company with this prestigious distinction,” Bonnie Stone Sellers, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate said in a statement.

Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin calls the accolade a “deep honor” resulting from collaboration and teamwork.

“We are deeply honored to receive this award and look forward to continuing our fantastic collaboration with Christie’s for many years to come,” McLaughlin said. “Our exclusivity with this prestigious brand undoubtedly helps us deliver the very best in Northern California luxury real estate to clients from around the globe.”

PUI wins Christie's Award

From left to right: Pacific Union President Patrick Barber; CIRE CEO Bonnie Stone Sellers; Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin; CIRE Senior Vice President, Western Region Zachary Wright; and Pacific Union Vice President of Marketing Jessica Frushtick at the conference in Barcelona, Spain.

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Marin off-market home sales a hot topic

Susie Gamble looked for a house in Corte Madera for 10 months, but kept losing out in bidding wars. Then, in March, her agent learned of a Craftsman home that was not yet on the market and took her to see it. Gamble made an offer and her offer was accepted.

“It was all really easy. We didn’t have to go through a lot of jumping through hoops and negotiating. It was very quick,” said Gamble, who bought the house five days before she left the country on a trip to Peru.

Sales of homes that haven’t been entered into the Multiple Listing Service, also known as off-market sales or pocket listings, are a hot topic these days in Marin and the Bay Area. Such sales make up an increasing percentage of real estate activity in some parts of the Bay Area, and appear to have edged up slightly in Marin in 2013 compared with 2012.

In 2012, a total of 3,181 single-family homes and condos sold in Marin, according to the Marin County Assessor’s Office. That year, 2,997 homes sold through Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, the MLS serving Marin and the North Bay. Though this is just a rough estimate, the numbers suggest that around 184 homes, or 6 percent, sold off-market.

In contrast, in 2013, the assessor reported 3,452 sales, while 3,148 sold through the MLS. Hence, somewhere in the neighborhood of 304 homes sold off-market, about 9 percent, though this number does not account for factors such as sales between family members or neighbors and the like.

Gamble said she was pleased with the outcome of her off-market purchase.

“I got to stay in Corte Madera, where I have lived for 25 years and raised my daughters,” Gamble said. “They offered the house at a certain price, I countered and then we agreed on a price. It worked out great.”

“Because Susie made an all-cash offer, the sellers didn’t have to worry that the deal would fall through because of problems with the loan,” said Bob Ravasio, Gamble’s agent, who learned about the house in conversation with another agent. “You had a case here where everybody’s needs were met. The seller got the price they wanted without having to go on the MLS.”

The usual procedure in selling a house involves the agent listing the property with the MLS after signing a listing agreement with a client. Agents generally pay an annual fee to the MLS for listing their properties, and must list the home within a few days or else file an exclusion agreement signed by the client granting permission to withhold the listing.

“If you put a home on the MLS, Marin’s 1,400 agents will see it, and it will get maximum exposure,” said Marin agent Patti Cohn.

“The MLS is the first and best way to market a home, but there are absolutely clear and valid reasons to market the home outside the MLS system,” Ravasio said.

Susie Gamble gets into her car in front of her new house on Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2014, in Corte Madera, Calif. She bought the house off-market. It was never
Susie Gamble gets into her car in front of her new house on Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2014, in Corte Madera, Calif. She bought the house off-market. It was never listed on the Multiple Listing Service, which for decades has been the primary source of information about homes for sale. (Frankie Frost/Marin Independent Journal) Frankie Frost
At the moment, Cohn is handling two such sales, one of a $9.75 million duplex in Sausalito and one a $1.2 million Sleepy Hollow home. In the case of the duplex, Cohn said, the sellers wanted to sell off-MLS because there are tenants in both units, and trying to arrange showings would have been onerous.

The Sausalito client was adamant about selling off-market, Cohn said. As for the Sleepy Hollow client, “I put it out to the top 10 percent of agents in Marin via (agent online forum) Top Agent Network, and 14 agents responded,” Cohn said.

“Many times, sellers can get a better price (off-market) by getting a preemptive offer from a buyer who is willing to pay what is asked and grateful for the opportunity, given today’s competitive market,” Cohn said.

“Some clients are concerned about privacy and don’t want a lot of people going through their homes (during open houses),” Ravasio said.

Other owners cringe at the thought of preparing their homes for sale, Ravasio said. The process can easily run $10,000 to $20,000 just for painting and repairs, clutter must be cleared and “the house must look pristine,” Ravasio said.

This may help explain why off-market sales jumped between 2012 and 2013 in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, the service area of MLSListings Inc.

“Within our five home counties, 2012 was about 15 percent off-market and in 2013 it jumped to about 20 percent. It’s definitely an increasing practice … It’s not going away, but there are definite pitfalls,” said James Harrison, chief executive of MLSListings.

In Marin, “it’s (off-market sales) happening more often,” Cohn said. “It’s easier to sell off-market these days because there is a strong seller’s market and agents are networking with each other more.”

Two online agent networking sites are Top Agent Network and Producers Forum. The former facilitates communication between agents in the top 10 percent of their respective markets, including Marin. Founder David Faudman estimates that about 30 percent of the discussions involve off-market listings.

“Pre- and non-MLS marketing of properties has been going on for decades,” Faudman said. “The MLS is a critically important marketing tool. We’re not in any way, shape or form trying to replace that. We take care of the period before it goes on the MLS, when it used to be whispered to a handful of people and now it’s broadcast to a greater number of clients.”

With Producers Forum, “We aggregate non-MLS data and buyers. We are complementing the MLS,” said founder Eric Trailer. Agents can access the site for free.

“Putting a listing on the MLS gives it maximum exposure,” Trailer said. “Whether it means higher prices has not been proven.”

“This whole off-market and non-MLS or pocket listings (issue) has been a big controversial story all over the country,” Faudman said.

“It’s (off-market sales) a sensitive subject across the industry,” said Blaine Morris, president of the Marin Association of Realtors.

“I had a listing, showed it to buyers who made an offer and were ultimately willing to pay $12,500 over asking price before it went on the MLS. The seller wanted a little more. The buyers tired of the negotiation and backed away, so the seller put the property on the MLS, got five offers, and got $67,500 more than the first buyer’s best offer, and it was a cash offer,” Morris said.

The California Association of Realtors’ position is that off-market sales negatively affect sellers’ chances of getting the best price. The association last year added a section to its residential listing agreement promoting the benefits of the MLS and warning against opting out. Sellers and brokers must initial the warning. The agreement is not required for California agents, but is widely used.

Ravasio said, “Our (agents’) job is to represent our clients’ best interests and goals.”

Off-market buyer Gamble said, “I think it’s a nice way for everybody to do it if you can. I was really happy to relax and go on my trip, knowing I had a home to return to.”

Smiling, Gamble added, “Now I have to get moved.”

Contact Janis Mara via email at Follow her at


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Phenomenal Article! Barbara Chambers at Home in Mill Valley

I loved this article featuring the personal garden of one of my favorite architects Barbara Chambers. She is simply amazing and creates beautiful homes.

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Pacific Union Named One of Fastest-Growing US Companies

August 21, 2013 by Pacific Union

Pacific Union is pleased to announce that we’ve been included in Inc.’s 5000 list, which ranks the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. based on revenue growth from 2009 to 2012.Inc5000

Our firm closed out 2012 with $92.4 million in revenue, a growth rate of 90 percent over the previous three years. Of the top 100 real estate firms included in the list, Pacific Union posted the fifth-largest 2012 revenue numbers. We also led the pack in terms of actual revenue for California-based companies in our sector.

In addition, Pacific Union is the only full-service real estate brokerage in the Bay Area included in this year’s Inc. 5000 list

Over the past three years, Pacific Union has added 50 real estate professionals, making us the third-fastest-growing company in terms of headcount of any California real estate firm named to the list that disclosed hiring numbers. Pacific Union had a total of 510 real estate professionals at the end of 2012, the second most of any of the 16 firms in our sector based in the state. Currently, Pacific Union has a total of 525 real estate professionals.

The news comes just two weeks after we celebrated our fourth anniversary under our current ownership and several months after Pacific Union received additional accolades from the media and industry. In March, The San Francisco Business Times named us the third-largest residential real estate firm in Northern California, with gross sales of $3.3 billion. In April RISMedia ranked Pacific Union 18th on its top Power Brokers list, and the following month, REAL Trends rated us third in the U.S. for average home sales price.

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Cottages & Gardens magazine comes to San Francisco!

I love that East Coast favorite Cottages & Gardens Magazine has come to the Bay Area and brought their real estate inside scoop column Deeds and Dont’s!

You can see the magazine online at:

Walkable San Francisco Neighborhoods

The inside scoop on Bay Area real estate

By Lydia Lee

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LUXURY THESE DAYS? We’re hearing over and over again from top Realtors in the area that it’s all about walkability. “It’s a return to the village,” explains Janet Feinberg Schindler with Sotheby’s in San Francisco. “People really want to be within a few blocks so they can walk to coffee.” In San Francisco, one of the most desirable areas is Pacific Heights near Alta Plaza; it’s reasonably flat and close to all the numerous delights of Fillmore Street, which include the gourmet outposts Delfina and SPQR. Meanwhile, Sea Cliff, which boasts impressive ocean views and splendid estates, also has a lot of steep streets and a dearth of restaurants, making it a somewhat harder sell.

To help determine walkability for a given house, Ira Serkes, with Pacific Union/Christie’s in Berkeley, has it down to a science. In addition to a house’s Walk Score, he also figures out the elevation gain for a typical route around the house, which might include a stop at the French Hotel for coffee and the Cheese Board for bread and pastries. He uses an exercise app called RunKeeper (see sidebar, right) to calculate the change in grade. “I like to see a Walk Score of 80 or more and an elevation gain of no more than a couple hundred feet,” says Serkes.

Further north, Ross, in Marin County, is hugely popular with families because of the small-town atmosphere that’s coupled with exceptional public schools. “It’s the kind of place where kids can bike to town, and Eddie’s—the local grocery store—still has charge accounts,” says Carey Hagglund Condy with Pacific Union/Christie’s in Marin. She handled the second-biggest sale in the county last year, a $15 million traditional home with park-like acreage in Ross; one of the big attractions was that it was “dead flat and within walking distance to everything, while offering complete privacy,” according to Condy.
In Wine Country, Sonoma still has its original charm, but sports amenities that are on a par with those in the city, which is a mere 50 minutes away. A key calculation for any property here is its distance from the historic central plaza, featuring eateries such as the popular Cafe La Haye and Basque Boulangerie. “At the east end of town,” according to Donald Van de Mark with Sotheby’s in Sonoma, “you can walk to the plaza and take part in town activities without getting in the car, which is quite a rarity.”


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Gap Between Most, Least Expensive Housing Markets Still Wide

By: CONOR DOUGHERTY It’s a familiar conversation among couples on the nation’s coasts: Can you imagine what kind of house we could get if we could keep our jobs and move somewhere cheaper? That idea hangs over Wednesday’s Journal article about how some of the nation’s frothiest housing markets are easing back a bit. As the story notes, there’s a fear among many realtors — especially those on the coasts — that the real estate market has come back so swiftly that homes are suddenly unaffordable again.

The idea of a widening price gap was even more evident in the National Association of Realtors’ annual affordability survey, which it published Tuesday as part of its fourth quarter release on Metropolitan home prices. For most of the nation, homes are extremely affordable, even among those in the struggling middle class. But the coasts — and in particular California — have reverted to an old pattern of having too many people, not enough homes and price growth that outstrip income growth. Renters have it even worse.

After Honolulu, the nation’s least affordable markets were Orange County, San Jose, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, according to NAR. All had an affordability index lower than 100, which is the level at which a median-income household has exactly enough income to qualify for a purchase of a median-priced existing single family home. Not everyone loves NAR’s affordability index — by that metric, there was only one month during the housing bubble when homes were considered unaffordable — but it gives a sense of how things have changed and where they’re going.

Discovering that California is 1) beautiful and 2) expensive is a generational rite that happens over and over again. But the affordability data beg the question: Did it always cost an insane amount of money to live in California? And is the city to city disparity in home prices growing? To answer this question we looked at some data provided by Jed Kolko, chief economist of Trulia. As a proxy for geographical price disparities, he used FHFA regional home price data to calculate a contemporaneous ratio of the nation’s 10th most expensive home market to the nation’s 90th expensive home market. “In 2013, for instance, the 10th most expensive metro (which was Boston in 2013) cost 2.86 times per foot as much as the 90th most expensive metro (which was Cincinnati in 2013),” Mr. Kolko wrote in an e-mail. As the graph shows, the nation’s geographical home price gap was widest in 2007, the peak of the housing bubble. It narrowed during the housing bust — in part because prices cratered so much in expensive markets like California — and has now stabilized.

The gap grew a tiny bit wider last year, and many of the most expensive markets in 2013 saw outsized increases, as measured by Trulia’s home price monitor. So, yes, it’s always been more expensive to buy a home in the nation’s priciest home markets. But after a brief respite during the housing bust, the cost of not living somewhere else appears to be widening once again.


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Luxury Homes That Are Better, Not Bigger

When Joanne and Bruce Montgomery built a vacation home on Washington’s Whidbey Island, they thought big: sweeping views of the Puget Sound, mahogany-framed windows, heated Brazilian teak floors and other high-end amenities. Their budget was an ample $875,000.

Little Houses

The only thing they skimped on was size. The house measures 1,888 square feet—downright tiny in the luxury real-estate market.

“I think smaller has many more advantages than larger,” said Ms. Montgomery. “You want to have a place that is beautiful but not overbearing on your life, especially if you have multiple homes.” The couple—he is a pulmonologist and pharmaceutical entrepreneur and she is a retired nurse—also are finishing construction on a 4,000-square-foot primary residence in Medina, Wash., perhaps best known as the site of Microsoft MSFT +1.05% founder Bill Gates’s 66,000-square-foot mansion. The Montgomerys’ $800-per-square-foot budget, including landscaping, could buy a house at least 50% larger in the neighborhood, said Lisa Whittaker, a local broker for Coldwell Banker Bain.

Nothing but the size was skimped on by the owners and architect for this 1,888-square-foot luxury home on Whidbey Island in Washington. Wiqan Ang for The Wall Street Journal

Luxury in American homes has long been defined by size—a newly built home grew from an average of 1,660 square feet in 1973 to over 2,500 square feet today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Now, top-end real-estate brokers say more clients want to shave off square footage and give priority to luxe finishes, green building and smart design. Of course, some high-end homeowners define “scaling back” as going from 14,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. But others, like the Montgomerys, find that 2,000 square feet, well designed, can feel like an indulgence of space.

Last year, Heidi Brunet, a mortgage banker in the Peninsula area of Dallas, built a 2,085-square-foot home with soy-based, energy-efficient insulation, stained concrete floors and a $48,000 LED lighting system. Though she economized on size, Ms. Brunet said her dream house wasn’t cheap: It has an $8,000 Miele refrigerator, a $57,000 plunge pool and $35,000 in landscaping.

“For what I spent, I could have bought a McMansion for sure,” said Ms. Brunet, who declined to specify the total budget for her house. “I wanted the house to be everything I needed it to be and nothing more.” She splurged—in terms of both space and dollars—on a 1,000-square-foot deck, the pool and the yard because, she said, “the outdoor space is really where I spend my time.”

Ms. Brunet’s instinct to design her house around the way she lives is the cornerstone of a design movement perhaps best summed up in “The Not So Big House,” a series of best-selling books by Raleigh, N.C.-based architect Sarah Susanka.

After more than a decade of writing about thoughtful use of space, in 2012 Ms. Susanka built her ideas into a “Not So Big Showhouse” in Libertyville, Ill. During the six months when the 2,450-square-foot house was open to the public, it attracted 8,000 visitors. It sold for $750,000. Ms. Susanka also recently released a “Not So Big Bungalow” kit with basic building components for a 1,600-square-foot bungalow. Another key player in size-consciousness is the Montgomerys’ architect, Ross Chapin, who typically designs homes between 1,000 and 2,400 square feet, but has built houses as small as 350 square feet.

“I jettison the formal dining room, formal living room and hallways that don’t need to be there,” said Mr. Chapin, who is based in Langley, Wash.

From 1997 to 2007, Mr. Chapin designed six Puget Sound, Wash., neighborhoods in which houses ranged from 700 to 2,500 square feet, and sold for between $200,000 and $890,000, said Linda Pruitt, owner of the Cottage Co., which built the projects. His site plans for 15 similar neighborhoods have also been built or are under construction in Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana and elsewhere, he said.

Smaller luxury homes are gaining traction even in big-house country, such as Atlanta and Dallas. Real-estate broker Mikel Muffley, of Muffley & Assoc., custom builds small homes in Atlanta designed by some top local architects. Most of the houses range from 2,200 to 3,200 square feet, and cost between $450,000 to $1.8 million, Mr. Muffley said.

“I’ve sold a lot of massive houses in my 20 years. My clients typically tell me when they go to sell, ‘We will never need that much space again,’ ” Mr. Muffley said. In Dallas, Robbie Briggs, chief executive of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, did a brisk business a decade ago selling 12,000-square-foot houses, he said.

“Today, someone who wants a big family house is probably happy at 7,500 square feet,” Mr. Briggs said. Current buyers value outdoor amenities, such as fountains and kitchens, rather former status symbols like cavernous media rooms, he said.

Some regions are attempting to regulate home size with new ordinances. In 2006, city planners in Austin, Texas, created what is known as “McMansion ordinance,” which limits floor area to 40% of lot size. As of 2010 in Marin County, Calif., any plans to double an existing home size to more than 3,000 square feet have to undergo a design review. To avoid this step, some architects are designing smaller homes, the planning division said.

In Los Angeles, a 2005 ordinance allowed a number of home lots in the city to be subdivided. Kevin and Hardy Wronske of Heyday Partnership have built, or are in the process of building, 58 homes in Los Angeles designed for these smaller lots. In December, they went into contract at $1.635 million for a 2,000-square-foot home they built on a 6,000-square-foot lot in Venice, Calif.—one of three similarly sized homes being built on same lot.

The houses have no yards, but do have roof decks with views—on a clear day—of the ocean and mountains. Twelve-foot ceilings, Bosch kitchen appliances and Caesarstone quartz countertops will provide luxury. Solar power and LEED platinum certification, a top green-building standard, burnish the properties’ environment-friendly credentials, said Kevin Wronske.

Jason and Monica Schroeder of Libertyville, Ill., both school administrators, went house hunting two years ago, and stumbled on a property they considered an upgrade from their previous 3,000-square-foot home in a nearby town. The new house: a 1,680-square-footer with an unfinished basement, which they bought for $551,000, a budget that could have gotten them nearly twice the size in the area.

“Our new home doesn’t feel smaller,” said Mr. Schroeder, 39. “There’s no wasted space. All the spaces are usable and you live in all of them.” The Schroeders’ house is on School Street, where Ms. Susanka built her show house.

The developer, John McLinden of StreetScape Development in Libertyville, is in the early stages of developing 27 customizable homes in Skokie, Ill., and 24 houses in Steamboat Springs, Colo., which will start at $700,000. Most homes will be around 1,800 to 3,500 square feet, and lots will be no bigger than 30 feet across, he said.

Mr. Schroeder loves the craftsmanship and layout of his new house, he said. But he also values certain intangibles, such as being close enough to neighbors that they can chat from porch-to-porch and watching local kids play in their front yards. “It makes you feel like you’re connected to something bigger than yourself,” Mr. Schroeder said.

Write to Katy McLaughlin at


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Real Estate Update: House of the Year 2013: Lake Tahoe Condo Wins

I loved seeing the Wall Street Journal House of the Year in the Friday Mansion section. This year’s winner is a 4,100 square-foot condo at Fleur du Lac Estates on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. This part of the world is near and dear to me as it is where I have always spent my summers. My grandparents had a home down the road and my family does as well. Henry Kaiser built a fabulous lake front estate on this 15 acre prized location. It was legendary and his original boat house still stands. I remember when they filmed The Godfather, Part II at Mr. Kaiser’s property as my grandmother intended to be an extra in the movie.

House of the Year


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Love Letters: Marin County

Karin Swanson is a UCLA alum and the current Ignite Good Fellow for the Huffington Post. She was born and raised in downtown Mill Valley where she treated Mt. Tam as her personal backyard playground. She now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she wears her Joe’s Taco’s tee-shirt to bed and dreams of garlic plantains.

Love Letter to Marin

Dear Marin,

Each day for the past 8,487 days I have fallen in love with you all over again.

I love you for being so damn authentic. True, you have your flaws — some roll their eyes at your plethora of yoginis and scold your affluence as excessive — but you never try to be someone you’re not (unlike that Southern California city).

To me, you are the perfect love child of an outdoorsy philanthropist and a progressive hippy — a lovely contradiction. A land built on the dreams of true hippies who (partially) retired their peace signs and swapped Berkeley for Fairfax and hot tubs for BMWs. A cultural mecca where Tupac grew up and The Grateful Dead lives on. Where San Quentin and Skywalker Ranch both share roots. Where the fog meets the Purple Haze.

I love that “compost” was part of my kindergarten vocabulary. I love that the teenager blasting Mac Dre in his car waves at the senior citizen from the Redwoods protesting the war on the street corner. I love that In-N-Out’s lack of drive thru means you’ll likely run into your old volleyball coach or your middle school crush. I love that 101 is your main artery, where Priuses outnumber SUVs and it’s nearly impossible to drive without spotting a “Keep Tahoe Blue” or “Free Tibet” bumper sticker.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the old days — when going to the Village meant a slice at Sbarro’s with friends and Mill Valley’s Sake’s Alive was the go-to source for cheap party favors. But a core part of your admirable character lies in your ability to adapt. You evolve as the world does, incorporating change without sacrificing too much of your genuine identity. Your steadfast loyalty to the Peso and the Deuce amidst the burgeoning likes of Blue Barn and Beerworks attest to this admirable attribute.

You offer so much and ask for very little in return. You nurture me, providing me with so many opportunities to explore your vast geography. In one day, I can bodysurf the modest waves of Stinson Beach, hike beneath the lofty canopies of Redwoods, bike past the iconic Sausalito houseboats, picnic in the Headlands’ barracks that Jack Kerouac once called home, and kayak beside Great Whites on Tomales Bay.

Being in love with you might have made me overweight, Marin, if you weren’t so damn health conscious. Only you could overwhelm the foodies of San Francisco with so many options. From the lime green facade on 3rd Street that signifies a slice of Puerto Rican flavor to the familiar faces behind the magic of Stefano’s — and all the organic goodness in between.

Regardless of the season, you appeal to me. I love you in summer, when you greet me with brunch at Parkside and leave me with Headlands’ sunsets. I love you in fall, when Blue Angels decorate the sky and the lingering heat is abated by an afternoon dip at Three Wells. I love you in spring, when Samuel P. Taylor comes alive and you seduce me with Lavender Honey Vanilla ice cream. I even love you in winter, when rain glitters on Phoenix Lake and Ghiradelli hot chocolate is just a bridge away.

Above all, I love that your iconic symbol is a mountain. To the sleeping lady who protects us all with her comforting presence, Mt. Tam, I owe you my heart. Your endless hiking trails crisscross the mountain in a poetic maze of natural wonderment. Under a cloudless canopy, you rise like a celestial beacon, tit for tat with your eastern rival, Mt. Diablo — two sentinels beside the Bay.

I remember the time it snowed on your peak my junior year of high school, meager but majestic flakes. We clambered into our cars and raced to the top, blasting “Electric Feel” with that unique Marin smell wafting through the open sunroof.

Throughout all, I love that you remain you — one of the most forward thinking and naturally beautiful places I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Your authenticity never ceases to amaze me.

Marin, if I could, I would keep you for myself — blot out Bolinas from the map, barricade the Dipsea steps, smother any whispers of the Lava House, and stop telling hopelessly lost tourists on Blazing Saddles bikes where “the tall trees” are.

But, alas, I am far from being the only one that loves you. And damn, if that doesn’t make me love you even more.

Peace and love,


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Pacific Union Q4 2013 Newsletter

Marin County: Q4 Results
The supply of available homes tightened noticeably in the fourth quarter, but sales activity in our Marin County region remained strong until the last weeks of December, when holiday plans typically crowd out homebuying considerations. Sales were particularly strong in Corte Madera, followed by San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley, and Kentfield. Activity was slower in Sausalito, Belvedere, and Tiburon.

Most sales were for homes priced less than $500,000, while most listings were for homes in the $500,000-to-$1 million range. Homes in the $2 million-to-$5 million bracket sold well but gave buyers more of an advantage in negotiations. Sales prices cooled somewhat from the heated rise seen earlier in the year, in part because of a dip in the number of multiple offers.

Looking Forward: We expect that the coming of spring will bring an influx of homes back on the market, driving sales activity even higher. The market will be influenced by outside factors such as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and possible changes to loan regulations, but Marin County will remain a popular destination. Bright prospects for the Bay Area economy, meanwhile, will keep buyers and sellers busy throughout the first quarter and beyond.

Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the charts below includes single-family homes in these communities.

Median Sales Price
The median sales price represents the midpoint in the range of all prices paid. It indicates that half the prices paid were higher than this number, and half were lower. It is not the same measure as “average” sales price.

Months’ Supply of Inventory
The months’ supply of inventory is a measure of how quickly the current supply of homes would be sold at the current sales rate, assuming no more homes came on the market. In general, an MSI below 4 is considered a seller’s market; between 4 and 6 is a balanced market; and above 6 is a buyer’s market.

Average Days on the Market
Average days on the market is a measure that indicates the pace of sales activity. It tracks, on average, the number of days a listing is active until it reaches “pending” status, meaning all contingencies have been removed and both parties are just waiting to close.

Percentage of Properties Under Contract
Percentage of properties under contract is a forward-looking indicator of sales activity. It tracks expected home sales before the paperwork is completed and the sale actually closes.

Sales Price as a Percentage of Original Price
Measuring the sales price as a percentage of the final list price, which may include price reductions from the original list price, determines the success of a seller in receiving the hoped-for sales amount. It also indicates the level of sales activity in a region.

A Closer Look at Marin County

Bay Area Real Estate Markets to Enjoy
Continued Vibrancy and Velocity in 2014
Fasten your seat belts, because 2014 will outpace 2013 in the San Francisco Bay Area residential housing market. The calm of the past 60 days, when we saw multiple-offer situations dissipate, will ramp up toward the end of the first quarter to robustly outperform Q1 2013 in units sold.

In 2013, units sold experienced double-digit-percent increases in all Bay Area markets. References to “lack of inventory” need to be shaped in the context of exceptionally high buyer demand. While inventory seems scarce, vibrant demand and limited days on the market are creating these intense conditions.

Our regionally unique housing demand is driven by a robust job market: California generated over 300,000 new jobs in 2013 and saw unemployment rates settle in at 8.5 percent by the end of November.

The strength of the Northern California job market has consistently been driven by technology, social-media, and professional-service firms and is now joined by the retail sector. This job growth was fueled in 2012 and 2013 by three western Bay Area counties (San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin), all of which currently enjoy unemployment rates of about 5 percent. Job growth is now taking hold in the northern and eastern counties of Sonoma, Napa, Alameda, and Contra Costa, where unemployment rates range from 6.0 to 6.8 percent, also well below the state average.

Interest rates remain near historical lows, and multiple new lenders are returning to the jumbo-mortgage market. One dynamic we anticipated in 2013 that did not materialize in force was the mobilization of the “move-up buyer.” If this segment of buyers engages the market this spring, we expect to see additional inventory in the form of their sales and significant movement in the high-end and second-home markets.

As we noted back in October, we have a robust outlook for 2014 and 2015. We expect to see records set for units sold and near double-digit-percent price appreciation throughout the Bay Area. Municipal building departments are seeing enormous activity in new-housing and major remodeling permits, an exceptional leading indicator of consumer confidence, buyer demand, and a vibrant real estate market.

Please remember that real estate is hyperlocal. While information is widely available and opinions on real estate markets are plentiful, there is generally only one set of facts. In a market that is experiencing record-setting velocity, it is particularly important to find the best real estate professional to provide you with the keenest insight, knowledge, advice, and decision support.

Thanks for your confidence in Pacific Union.

Mark A. McLaughlin, CEO, Pacific Union

Bay Area 10-Year Overview
Here’s a look at home sales in the Bay Area’s real estate markets in the fourth quarter of 2013, with a glance back at the 10 preceding fourth quarters.


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