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View from the Top: Touring San Francisco's New Tallest, Mixed-Use High-Rise

August 23, 2017

Earlier this month, APR’s director of career development for San Francisco, Marin and the Wine Country, Christi Willits, led an APR Master’s Training Group to one of the highest points in San Francisco to talk about the future.
From the 70th floor of 181 Fremont Residences in the city’s SOMA neighborhood, APR agents Nestle Lapena, Subhi Barakat and Adam Lash were introduced to the city’s tallest mixed-use high-rise with a behind-the-scenes hard-hat tour.

The APR Group (Pictured from Left to Right: Nestle Lapena, Subhi Barakat, Adam Lash, Rick Turley, and Christi Willits)
“The best way to see San Francisco’s future is to step foot into it and share these experiences with our clients,” said Willits of the tour. Touring the 70th floor, 7,000-square-foot penthouse, listed for sale for a record $42 million, the APR group also toured other to-be-completed floors of the building, and received an early preview of several two- and three-bedroom layouts planned for just above the building’s wrap-around observation terrace.
According to Willits, first-hand knowledge of San Francisco’s newest luxury developments – knowing the construction, the design elements and luxe-trends – will help prepare the area’s agents to be better informed about the changes and rapid developments across the Bay Area. “We’re experts in our industry,” said Willits. “The way we remain experts is to go beyond what we see on paper or online. We have to have these types of experiences and insights to best relate to the luxury buyer interested in new construction in the Bay Area and beyond.”
The APR Master’s Training Group was accompanied by APR Sales Manager Rick Turley, as well as representatives of 181 Fremont Residences.

Industry Insights

Spring Market Predictions: Another Hot & Steady Real Estate Market Cycle

February 23, 2017

The spring real estate market, like the season in many parts of the United States, is off to an early and hot start.
According to David Bellamy, chief financial officer of Alain Pinel Realtors, the bifurcated real estate market of 2016 is continuing at a steady pace as we head into the spring market.

David Bellamy, CFO & Chief Administrative Officer of APR.

“The entry-level, first-time home buyers’ market will continue to be competitive due to tight inventory and a slight uptick in mortgage rates,” said Bellamy of the 2017 spring market. “We’ll also continue to see buyers and sellers in the luxury market taking their time with purchase and sale decisions as they wait for the most opportune moment.”
Based on his analysis of the first two months of 2017, and despite heavy rains in the region dampening only the enthusiasm of prospective buyers to venture out to tour homes, Bellamy said all indications point to a strong spring market fueled by steady demand, limited inventory and modest increases in home prices. That was the case in communities like Atherton and Menlo Park at the end of last year, where the number of sales decreased modestly but home prices rose.
Rising prices in San Francisco, said Bellamy, will continue an eastward push as buyers priced out of that market continue to seek value and commutability in emerging hotspots such as Oakland, Alameda and Walnut Creek. Bellamy also doesn’t see a decrease in Bay Area home prices anytime soon as the tech industry continues its substantial growth.
“The tech industry remains a primary driver, and there is a lot of individual wealth in the region waiting to deploy, so this growth trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Bellamy.

Industry Insights

Staying Safe as an Agent

January 13, 2015

It’s always been important for agents to keep safety top of mind, especially when working alone. Unfortunate recent events, including last week’s kidnapping attempt in Elk Grove, have made it clear that being prepared and proactive about safety is more important than ever. Consider these tips from the International Self-Defense Institute in San Mateo to stay safe whether setting up an open house, meeting with a client, or giving a tour.

  • Meet at the office first. Get new clients on your territory before you visit any property with them so you can learn more about them and collect personal information about them for your files.
  • Ask for identification. The public is used to having their identification checked, so don’t be reluctant to ask because you’re scared you’ll offend someone. Tell clients it is policy that all clients’ driver’s licenses are photocopied.
  • Introduce them to a coworker. When you meet them at the office, introduce them to at least one other person in your office. Criminals won’t like that others have seen them for identification purposes. Make eye contact with them.
  • Use the buddy system. There’s always strength in numbers. Whether you bring a coworker, spouse, or even your German Shepard, avoid going alone. When would-be assailants see two people at the front door, they’ll be less likely to go in. If you must go alone, have 911/the local police station on speed dial on your cell phone and keep your phone on you at all times.
  • Don’t go into confined places. Avoid basements and attics- it’s too easy to become trapped. Instead, know the selling points of these rooms and remain in the foyer on the first floor with the front door open as the buyer tours these areas. If you must join them in each room, always stay by the door, leaving doors open so you can flee more easily if necessary.
  • Walk behind. Let potential buyers take the lead when exploring a home, with you always following behind.
  • Let others know where you are. Tell them were you are going, when you will be back, and who you are with. Better yet: share this information while the client is with you so they know someone else knows where you are.
  • Have an excuse. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the person your cell phone went off and you have to call the office or let them know that another agent with buyers is on his or her way.
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’ll be showing the house so others know that you are there.
  • Watch for patterns. At an open house, note any patterns in arrivals, particularly near the end of the open house. One common scam: thieves come near the end of the open house, working as a team. They have “buyers” distract the agent as others steal valuables in the home. Trust your instincts if you feel uncomfortable with something.
  • Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop or wallet unattended on the counter in plain view. Keep them in the trunk of your car. However, always keep your cell phone on so you can call for help if you need to. Also, before the open house, tell your clients to put away all of their valuables, prescription drugs, and mail.
  • Watch what you wear. Only wear shoes and clothing you can run in. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Protect your personal information. Use your cell number and office address in your marketing so it can’t be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. Also, don’t reveal personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with – you can still build a relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal information.
  • Drive separately. Have the client follow you from listing to listing. If you absolutely have to take one car, then you should drive.
  • Watch where you park. Make sure your car won’t be blocked in and that you park in a place where you’ll be able to get out quickly. Park on the street or the curb if possible. You’’ attract more attention if you run and scream when fleeing and it will be easier to escape than having to back out of a driveway.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone or anything else. Be sure you know who is coming through the house and where they are.
  • Know the house. Walk the perimeter of the home before entering alone.
  • Be assertive. Don’t worry about being polite if someone is making you uncomfortable- let them know.
  • Be prepared. Have a flashlight that you can use to blind an assailant or use as a weapon. Be prepared with pepper spray or a taser. Just remember to take note of the wind direction if you are using it outside so you don’t harm yourself. If you don’t have a weapon, think about what you can use around you as a weapon (pen, purse, keys). You can also bring drop cams that wirelessly attach to your smartphone to monitor an open house and record what is going on.
  • Protect yourself physically. Keep distance from people. Focus on the face and groin when attacking- remember, you just have to buy enough time to get away. Self- defense classes are helpful ways to learn how to protect yourself.
Alain Pinel Realtors Insights Industry Insights

The Benefits of Paperless Transactions

October 19, 2014

Author: David Bellamy, Chief Financial Officer, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the Aug 8th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.

Photo Credit: Christian Schnettelker via Flikr.
Paperless transactions are becoming increasingly common in the real estate industry, and their advantages are many – making real estate agents more efficient, and ultimately benefiting their clients immensely.
Paperless transactions allow documents to be sent by an agent, and reviewed and signed by a client, any time of day, from anywhere in the world. Everything from contracts to disclosures to property reports are all able to be shared electronically, as well as signed digitally, making transactions faster, streamlined and more thorough.
In the competitive, swift-moving Bay Area real estate market, the need for efficient, fast transactions is paramount. With how common multiple offers and short transaction windows can be in our market, the ability to send, review, and sign documents electronically can put clients at a huge advantage. In fact, with many of our clients working in and around the technology industry in the Bay Area, it is frequently an expectation of buyers and sellers that their agent be able to conduct business via a digital rather than a paper-based process.
Additionally, with an influx of international buyers in the Bay Area, along with both buyers and sellers often travelling for work during a transaction, clients are often looking to do business in a more mobile way. In such cases, going paperless can help facilitate a more streamlined transaction, giving clients the ability to view and sign all forms wherever they are, even from their smart phone or tablet.
And of course, there is a significant environmental benefit, with this electronic shift removing the paper waste of a traditional transaction.
On the brokerage level, Alain Pinel Realtors has partnered with SkySlope, the industry leader in digital transaction management solutions. This tool gives APR agents access to completely paperless transaction processing. SkySlope allows agents to manage their transactions electronically, creates a platform for a more efficient review and feedback process between office managers and agents, and provides agents with a way to immediately share documents with their clients electronically. The tool also ensures that all necessary details have been taken care of from a contractual perspective, and that everything is in compliance with industry regulations.
When new tools such as this benefit clients, agents, brokerages, and the environment as a whole, it is hard to think of a downside. But going paperless still requires a shift in mentality from working with traditional hard copies of documents, and so, necessitates a different way of thinking among both clients and agents.
As a whole, while a period of adjustment is to be expected, the move to a more paperless world in real estate will help agents and clients on every level – from speed to mobility, the benefits are great.

About Author:

David Bellamy is the Chief Financial Officer at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees all accounting functions, budgeting processes, strategic planning, financial reporting, and human resources to support the organization. Prior to joining APR in 2007, Mr. Bellamy was in executive management with The Body Shop, most recently as its CFO, VP Finance, Real Estate & IT for the Americas Region.

Industry Insights Legal Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Drones in Real Estate – When Technology Surpasses Policy

July 22, 2014

Author: Tom Flanagan, Vice President of Technology, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the July 11th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Camera
When looking at some of the latest real estate tech trends, one that has the potential to have a significant impact in the industry is the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Photographers typically use these small remote controlled drones with a camera to take stills and video of a property, and their use is becoming increasingly commonplace in the real estate industry.
The use of drones for real estate purposes gives consumers, buyers in particular, a unique view into, or over, a listing. They are able to tell a story about a property that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved with traditional photography, and are wonderful for displaying waterfront properties and listings with a lot of acreage. From their vantage point of about 100 feet above a property, they are able to capture images that an airplane or helicopter would not, offering a truly unique perspective.
However, as an emerging technology, there is a tremendous amount of inaccurate information and confusion regarding their usage. Grey area and misinformation surrounding the legal use of drones abounds, and they have become a polarizing topic that often conjures images of military use or spying.
In reality though, UAVs and drones have been used with good intentions, primarily by hobbyists, for decades. But when it comes to commercial use, drones are an example of technology surpassing policy. Technology is moving at such a fast clip, it is difficult for government bodies to introduce legislation around them.
To date, there has only been one UAV pilot fined by the FAA. While the FAA did lose that case, they appealed it, which negated the win for the pilot. Additionally, a New York real estate brokerage was just subpoenaed by the FAA for drone use. Legislation surrounding use remains nebulous though, and Congress has issued a deadline to the FAA, requiring the agency to issue regulations and guidelines by 2015.
While government issues and questions about privacy remain, this medium offers tremendous value to real estate consumers, offering a sneak peek into a property that wouldn’t otherwise be available. There are safety concerns as well, and ensuring each drone operator is licensed after being properly trained, as with a motor vehicle, would be a responsible course of action. Finding this fine balance between legislation and innovation though will definitely pay off for the real estate consumer in the long run.

About Author:

Tom Flanagan is Vice President of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and is responsible for overall technology strategy and implementation throughout the company. With over a decade of experience in the technology industry, he brings a wide range of knowledge in technology, online platforms and new media, with an emphasis on design and usability. Tom is also a syndicated columnist for Inman News, the leading source of independent real estate news and information.

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Sales Insights

Are You Missing Potential Leads?

March 21, 2014

Author: Jolene Quinn, eBusiness Manager of Alain Pinel Realtors
Are you receiving calls on your listing and your listing is pending? What are you saying to these clients? “Thank you for calling but the property has an accepted offer”. Click
These are prospective clients that you can represent as buyers!  Your response should be “The property has an accepted offer but I know of a similar home in the area. Would you be interested in seeing it?”

  • If they are not working with an agent, offer to show them another home. This is a client who called you who needs assistance finding a home! This is a great lead!
  • Sometimes they already have an agent. Always be kind. You can answer a few questions then refer them back to their agent. If their agent drops the ball then they will think of you if they want to work with a different agent.

Not interested in representing buyers?

  • Refer them to a buyer’s agent in your office. Not only can you get a referral fee from the agent but you’re also building rapport with your peers.  Not to mention, helping the client!
  • When you speak to the client, tell them you work with a great buyer’s agent that you would be happy to refer them too. Make sure to let them know the name of the agent and give a nice introduction.  This makes it more comfortable for both the client and the agent.

Asking these questions before you pass them off to your buyer’s agent helps the agent:

  • What area are you looking in?
  • What price range would you like to stay under?
  • Are you pre-approved for your home loan should you need one?
  • How many beds and baths do you need?
  • Do you prefer a condo or single family home?
    • Do you have pets? (if interested in condo)

Above all, make sure you respond to client inquiries quickly!  In today’s world, clients expect a response within minutes and will quickly move on to another company if they don’t hear from you.  Have a process in place with your referring buyer’s agent so the agent understands a quick response is mandatory if you are to continue referring clients to them.

About Author:

Jolene Quinn is the eBusiness Manager at Alain Pinel Realtors. She has almost 20 years in real estate and over 13 years working directly with internet leads. Prior to working with APR she managed the eBusiness department of a large real estate company that spanned 3 states. She was responsible for taking the department from ground level to one of the most successful eBusiness departments in the nation. 

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Where Do Buyers and Sellers Find Agents?

March 18, 2014

According to data in the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)’s annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, home buyers and sellers consistently report that they truly rely on referrals from friends and family to find an agent or they use an agent they have worked with before.
Take a look at these stats:

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of buyers and sixty-four percent (64%) of sellers found their agent through a personal referral from neighbors, friends or relatives or they used an agent they had previously worked with.
  • The next closest way a buyer or seller found their agent was through an online website; however, this was merely nine percent (9%) of buyers and four percent (4%) of sellers.

With these statistics, it’s more clear than ever that an integral part of your business’s success relies on good relationship with your past clients. How are you staying in contact with your past clients to build your relationships with them? Here are some ways:

  • Connect on Social Networks. Are you connected with your past clients on social network? Did you just add them but never interact? Social media opens a wealth of opportunities to interact with your clients in ways that was previously impossible. Learn about their interests, connect on a different level, and at your convenience. Dropping a comment, sending a gift, or even “liking” something they post – keeps you on their radar.
  • Monthly Newsletter. Are you regularly sending out information that is beneficial for your past clients? Are you keeping them up-to-date about their community and market?
  • Drip-Email Marketing. Staying in contact and making yourself a resource is crucial. Putting together a strong homeowners drip email campaign can be useful and establish yourself as an expert.
  • Be personal-able. While newsletters, email campaigns, direct marketing does reach consumers – often your clients want more from you – especially if they’re going to refer you to their friends. When’s the last time you reached out on an individual-level? Do you ask them about their families? Do you remember their hobbies? Did the birthday card you sent them include more than a generic message? No one likes to feel like they’re getting cookie-cutter service – so prove to them you’re not.

There’s many ways to reach out to past clients, but there’s no denying how important it is! Finding new ways to connect will ensure your business continues to grow.

Announcements Industry Insights

Private Mortgage Advisors Now Partnering With Stearns Lending

March 12, 2014

Alain Pinel Realtors, California’s largest privately-owned residential real estate company and the 5th largest real estate firm in the nation*, has sold a 50% interest in its mortgage affiliate, Private Mortgage Advisors, LLC, to Stearns Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Stearns Lending, Inc., one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage lenders**.
For the past decade, Private Mortgage Advisors has offered a competitive set of mortgage loan options and outstanding service to Bay Area clients.  With Stearns Ventures’ ownership, Private Mortgage Advisors will have access to offer an even wider array of products and benefits including:
•            Both fixed- and adjustable-rate jumbo*** loans up to $3 million.
•            Loan pre-approvals subject only to limited conditions.
•            New construction loans with flexible rate locks.
“A strong mortgage company is a key component of today’s successful real estate company,” said Paul Hulme, CEO and President of Alain Pinel Realtors. “Whether purchasing or refinancing, Private Mortgage Advisors represents a solid, secure mortgage lender.”
Private Mortgage Advisors’ mortgage loan officers are conveniently located throughout the Bay Area, offering competitive pricing and a wide range of loan products. To learn more about Private Mortgage Advisors, and the power behind them, please visit and
 *2013 Real Trends, based on volume. ** Reported in 2013 Mortgage Executives Magazine ***Limited to certain jumbo programs. Private Mortgage Advisors, LLC is a California limited liability company headquartered at 601 Sycamore Valley Rd. W, Floor 1, Danville, California 94526. Company NMLS# 460151. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (RMLA# 4150080). We offer many loan products, contact a representative to learn more. This is not a commitment to lend. Stearns Lending, Inc. is regulated by the California Division of Real Estate. NMLS# 1854.

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Connecting Clients and Technology

January 30, 2014

Author: Jolene Quinn, eBusiness Manager of Alain Pinel Realtors
As a sales associate, you need to be flexible and have a breadth of knowledge. In today’s market with limited inventory and tight credit standards, working with a buyer will most likely be a long-term process. Yes – you will be looking at homes with them, but you also need a way to stay engaged with them should nothing come to the market that fits their needs for any extended period of time.
In 2014, I suspect we’ll see many changes in the real estate industry – especially when it comes to technology in the home. You can use this as a benefit and use these developments as a reason to stay in touch with your clients.  No matter how much or how little technology a client is familiar with, show them that you’re the expert with all of today’s home advancements. With technology moving so fast, you won’t run out of material!
To stay on top of the latest developments, check out and Both are great resources for information on the latest technology in real estate and smart devices around the home. You can subscribe and get daily emails – plus it’s free.
How many of you attended or read about the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that took place in Las Vegas a few weeks ago? Some items I read about that were a hit at the show were wearable technology and smart devices around the home. Take a look at some of these examples:

  • Door knobs that’ll know when someone is at the door
  • Toothbrushes will tell people how clean their teeth are
  • Refrigerators that can text you a shopping list
  • Drones that can give aerial images of properties that aren’t too far away like helicopters
  • Bendable TV’s that enhance viewing
  • Curved glass phones – flexible so it fits your face and lies flat on a table
  • Self-healing glass surfaces (scratches magically disappear!)
  • Washing machines that you can run from your smartphone
  • Smart light bulbs that can save energy, slowly put you to sleep, and more
  • Health monitors that track eye strain, glucose, asthma etc.

These are just a few – and more are being developed every day. If you can name it, someone has or is creating a device to help monitor it, track it, watch it, park it, or even create it (like 3D printers)!
We already see Nest (great closing gifts!) and Floored starting to influence the home and real estate – we can only begin to scratch the surface of what’s next. Start telling your clients about them!
Remember, no matter what is going on in real estate and technology, establishing a long-term relationship is key. The most important things to your clients are honesty, integrity, knowledge and responsiveness to their needs. Building qualities still need to be at the forefront to building a good relationship.

About Author:

Jolene Quinn is the eBusiness Manager at Alain Pinel Realtors. She has almost 20 years in real estate and over 13 years working directly with internet leads. Prior to working with APR she managed the eBusiness department of a large real estate company that spanned 3 states. She was responsible for taking the department from ground level to one of the most successful eBusiness departments in the nation. 

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

New Year Social Media Clean Up

January 7, 2014

Take the time right now to look at all your online and social media profiles – and I mean ALL:
LinkedIn, Facebook, Zillow, Trulia, Twitter, Google+, your profile on your broker’s website, YouTube, Trulia, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever else you’re on (google yourself if you can’t remember!).

When is the last time you did this? Often times, even active users of social media create their accounts, fill out their info, and never look at their “profile” or “personal” information again.  I’m not talking about how many times you post a status or connect with someone on LinkedIn – I’m talking about the actual meat of your profile.  What do people that are looking at your profile for the first time see?
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your first impression of your profile? Does it look like how you remember it? Did they change the layout from last time you were here and you haven’t adjusted accordingly?
  2. Is your contact information updated? There are a lot of wrong phone numbers, broken website links, and bad email addresses out there. Make sure yours isn’t one of them!
  3. Is your “About Me” or “Bio” updated? Does you real estate bio say what everyone else’s does? Does it mention the areas you specialize in? Does it reflect your experience in the industry – or do you mention things from decades ago?
  4. Is your education / work experience updated? Does it have your current brokerage? Your current position? It’s shocking how many agents don’t change their profiles, logos, etc. when they have career changes.
  5. Does your picture look like you? Sorry folks – your 80’s hairdo and shoulder pads need to go. Still holding on to that old picture because you look younger? People notice. Don’t become a joke.
  6. Most importantly – does your profile reflect who you are? Do you seem just like any same-old, all-the-same REALTOR®? Or does it show a bit of who you are as an individual? Start connecting with people on that level. People are buying homes – it’s a personal process. Be personable.

Chances are as you went through this list, you found a few things that are out of date, no longer reflect you or your business, or just things that could use a little freshening up. Whether you plan to take yourself to the next level this year on social media (you should) or your just want to get your feet wet again (jump in!) – make sure you’re starting 2014 off right. Reviewing and updating your profiles on (at the very, very minimum) an annual basis is necessary. Happy New Year.