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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.

Buyer / Seller Information Market Updates

Possible Relief For Buyers? A Look at San Mateo County

July 2, 2013

Author: Rainy Hake, Executive Vice President, Alain Pinel Realtors

As the summer heats up – so has the market! At Alain Pinel Realtors, we just finished our best month on record – writing and closing just over $1 billion in a single month. This was aided in large part to the increases we are seeing in home prices across the Bay Area. According to DataQuick, a reporter of MLS data, the median home price in the nine-county Bay Area hit a 5-year high last month at $519,000. This is the highest median price seen since March 2008.

The story on the Peninsula is very similar, but magnified due to the highly desirable Peninsula neighborhoods and communities that are able to garner top dollar. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the most recent month in San Mateo County:

Prices are up. The numbers on the Peninsula are clear – prices are rising. In May 2013, the median price of sold homes hit $957,000 – not only a 25% increase from last year, this also marks the 4th consecutive month that prices are up over the previous month.

Sales are up. While sales overall are down slightly (2.9%) from last year, we are still seeing large increases month-to-month (up 13.7%). In fact, this month represents the 5th consecutive month that the number of sales has increased.

A lot of the numbers can be explained because of inventory. Inventory, measured by months of inventory (the amount of time it will take to eliminate all current inventory in the market based on current sales), has remained constrained for well over a year now. It currently stands at 1.3 months in San Mateo County and we have not seen anything higher than 1.8 in the past 15 months. 

With such low inventory, buyers have seen an incredibly competitive market that has driven up prices. It is worth noting that houses are still selling – they’re just selling at a very quick pace, not allowing the inventory to build up. This means there are still many new listings coming on the market for buyers; they just don’t stay long.

While the numbers are able to tell you a decent amount about the market today, we are starting to hear about some changes from our agents on the ground. Interestingly, while the past several months have been filled with stories of multiple offers, we’re hearing that is beginning to slow down. Instead of the 10 offers we have been seeing, our Palo Alto office has reported seeing 3-5 offers on well-priced homes. However, the buyers are still motivated, coming in with strong competitive offers. Hopefully for well qualified buyers, the slight drop in the number of multiple offers coming in offers some relief. Previously we were seeing buyers making around 9 offers before finally landing their dream home.

Another interesting development for buyers to watch is interest rates. According to FreddieMac, the rate of 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages ticked up to 3.93% earlier this month, whereas it has been hovering around 3.5% all year. While this is a minor uptick, it does emphasize a point we’ve made here before: these historically-low rates are not permanent. While I’ve noticed several articles about the interest rate increase that may scare off buyers, these rates are still incredibly low and should be taken advantage of. Increasing interest rates could still result in some buyers (especially investors) exiting the market.

While there are still great opportunities for sellers, there seems to be some movement opening opportunities for buyers. With the recent surge in prices, it likely will bring a surge of potential sellers, looking to list their home and take advantage of their new equity. There is no doubt about it – this still is a very competitive market. However, with some buyers exiting the market, a decrease in multiple offers, and a possible increase in inventory coming, we might finally be seeing some welcomed relief for potential buyers. While the overall effect all of this will have on the market will not be known for some months – it does seem that hints of change are in the air.

This article recently ran in the July 28th, 2013 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes.

About Author:

Rainy Hakecurrently serves as the Executive Vice President of Alain Pinel Realtors where she plays a role in managing the strategic direction of the company, and also oversees the Marketing, Technology, Training and Strategy departments. She has over 15 years of experience in the real estate industry and holds and MBA from the University of Oxford.