Drought and Real Estate

This latest survey by realtor.com shows that only 11% of homebuyers are concerned about the drought (just edging out the sinkholes!):

Homeowners were the most concerned about tornadoes, at 39%; severe cold or winter storms, at 38%; flooding, at 35%; hurricanes, at 29%; earthquakes, at 21%; wildfires, at 17%; droughts, at 11%; and sinkholes, at 8%.

According to drought.com, 87.9% of California is enduring ‘Extreme Drought’ conditions today, but San Diego County isn’t part of it:

Link to Drought.com/sandiego

The last severe drought peaked in 2014, and it was only after the fact that we found out that San Diego had plenty of water. This year, the governor has urged Californians to voluntarily cut domestic water use by 15%, and more restrictions are likely to follow.

How will it affect the real estate market?

Hopefully it will cause more buyers and sellers to seek out the truth – that San Diego is in better shape than most of the state.  There is a very affluent demand for homes here, and water will always be available….at some price. Buyers with bigger and better reasons to move here won’t be deterred, and besides, what’s the alternative?  Move to Florida?

It might cause a few more potential sellers to add one more reason to their list of why they should move, but the fear of water drying up won’t be enough to overwhelm the reasons to stay – weather, it’s-more-comfortable-to-stay, don’t-need-to-move, don’t want to go through my stuff, kids-are-here, etc.  Maybe some additional inventory hits the market in selected areas, but don’t expect a flood.

Doug had thoughts about the drought in 2015:

Doug Harwood’s Birthday Today

Happy Birthday Doug; it’s hard to believe you’ve been gone for four years already – we miss you, and I wish you would have been here for this insanity! Here we are discussing the 2013 frenzy slowdown, and he was right with his prediction:

Another thought by Doug that didn’t make the video:

The number of oceanfront properties doesn’t change, yet how many millionaires are created daily?

(it’s at least 1,700 in the USA)

Goodbye Doug

The Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe was packed today – over 500 people by my count – to pay our respects to Doug Harwood.  Five people spoke from the pulpit, but it seemed like everyone there could tell a story or two about Doug.

I’ll tell my favorite here.

A few years back, I had tracked down the owner of a house that was in default, and told him I had a buyer. Because the loan balance exceeded the value, and the owner didn’t live in the house, he had nothing to gain really.  He was an upstanding citizen who was beset by medical issues that prevented him from working, and had gotten behind.

He said he’d be willing to work out a deal, but he wanted his agent to help.  Great, who’s your agent?  “Doug Harwood”, he said.

Though we had done business before, I didn’t know Doug that well.  We arrange a meeting at the owner’s residence, and I came wearing my usual tie and driving the luxury sedan.

Doug pulls up in his older Suburban, and jumps out wearing the big hat he made famous.  He then introduces me to his passenger.

“Jim, I want you to meet me Dad.  We’re on our way to our weekly lunch.”  I had just lost my Dad, and I remember how envious I was for them – and recognized that this wasn’t going to be the usual business meeting.

Selling houses was the byproduct of Doug’s relationship-building.  Sure, we would need to get to some paperwork details later, but first – and more importantly – Doug engaged in a jovial conversation between all of us.  Most agents would never think of letting you speak with their client, but Doug insisted. We even joked that if the short-sale went bad and the bank screwed us out of the commission, we’d just swap weekends driving the seller’s old Ferrari around!

It was obvious today that this was how Doug treated everyone.  Shannon told the great story of how Doug would approach a homeless person.  He wouldn’t ask if they were homeless; instead he’d ask if they were ‘living outside’ – and then reel off a hundred-dollar bill to make their day.

David Miller said that Doug loved the ‘Word of the Day’, and recently the word was nexus, which perfectly described Doug. He was the center of the community, judging by the 500 people who attended today, and there will never be another one like him – which makes our memory of Doug even more special.

I cut my favorite passage of our talks here:

Doug Harwood, R.I.P.

Doug’ s self-portrait

Our favorite realtor has left us – another cancer victim.  Doug and I go back to 1994 on Shore Drive in Carlsbad, and there hasn’t been a more gregarious guy in the business since. I have the utmost respect.

I appreciate his willingness to go on camera and share his thoughts.  His talks are the best real estate video you will ever see.

Here’s one of our first together from July 14, 2015, plus a link to others:


Doug’s final words to me:

“After the many years, it’s the good friends I have made in real estate that brings me the most joy.”

His Facebook page today:

Selling Real Estate – Then & Now

2016-04-22 06.00.25

I stopped by to see Doug Harwood’s new listing on Neptune on Wednesday.  Doug had his Fuji Instax camera, which is like the old Polaroid cameras that produce the photo right there so you can hand it off.

It made us ponder how the real estate selling game has changed over the years.

Much of the selling process is the same, and realtors like it like that.

Things that haven’t changed much:

  1. Open houses.
  2. The back-and-forth negotiations.
  3.  Listing agents trying to hustle up their own buyers for their new listings.

The Differences:

  1. We both sang the praises of Docusign, the electronic-signature process.  This used to be a real night job, where I’d be spending hours at people’s homes writing up listings and offers in person.  But now virtually all signing is done electronically.
  2. No more fax machines. In the beginning, we wrote and signed contracts in person, and then hand-delivered them to the other agent – and sometimes got to present them to their clients. too.  Then the fax machine came out – and much like Docusign – everyone wondered if it was a legitimate contract if it was ‘faxed’.
  3.  It used to take a few days to get photos ‘developed’, and then distributed for flyers and MLS use. Now the digital photos are instantly sent.
  4.  We used to have trouble with photo quality. Now with Photoshop, they are overly-enhanced!
  5.  Newspaper advertising used to be a big deal – and agents used to complain about their company’s ads not being big enough.
  6.  I used to carry a briefcase of real estate forms in my trunk – and when I ran out, I was out of business. I’ve written two contracts in person in the last eight years.
  7.  Remember the Montblanc pens?  I don’t even carry pens any more.
  8.  Up until recently, we collected a personal check from buyers for their good-faith deposit, and had to keep a hand-written record of trust funds. Now we don’t touch money.
  9.  On closing day, the escrow companies hand-delivered the commission checks to the brokerages (some still do). Then I would feel a sense of accomplishment by walking my check into the bank.  But now all money is wired – I haven’t been inside a bank in years.
  10.  We used to have a problem with storing all the files and documentation.  Now the old filing cabinets are just used to collect magnets. 2016-04-22 06.59.53
  11.  The camaraderie between agents played an important role in getting deals done.  But now there are so many agents and companies spread out that we are forced to create instant relationships.
  12.  There is complete dependence on the mobile devices – email and text are more common than actually calling the other agent.  In fact, we have closed sales without ever actually speaking to the other agent.

It’s not as personal as it used to be, but much more efficient!

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