Monthly Archives: March 2009

Agents Can Lead the Way

Seth Godin asks “Where have all the agents gone?” in a recent post and makes the point that the anonymous middleman is fast becoming unessential for a good portion of the population. Agents today (real estate, travel, stock brokers, publishing, etc.) are competing with a substitute for their services in many markets – the internet. Customers now have access to information whenever they want it thus allowing them to not only shop around for the best price but complete the transaction themselves.

Godin states:
“To thrive in a world of self-service, agents have to hyperspecialize, have to stand for something, have to have the guts to say no far more than they say yes.”

With so much information available today, consumers will most certainly try to educate themselves as much as possible. It will be up to the agent to add value to the service they provide so the customer will want to deal with them regardless of the amount of homework they have done.

Seth also comments that “When markets change, agents can lead the way, not follow along grudgingly.” Markets are definitely changing but so are relationships, especially with the onset of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging. The agents that will survive in this new era of the self-serving customer will be able to form these new types of relationships, build a sense of trust with their customers and provide a service that the customer could not obtain from strictly dealing with a computer.

Have you relied on a middleman for a service lately? If so, did you find value in this relationship?

Satellite Images of Homes

A new home brochure or an MLS listing will provide you with a good deal of information about a new home but sometimes it’s beneficial (and fun) to experience a view of the property from space i.e., a satellite image. Where is your home in relation to the nearby school, highway or shopping centre? If you are relocating to another city and don’t have the luxury of researching the surroundings in person, then viewing a satellite image is a very worthwhile task.

One of the most popular means to view satellite imagery is Google Earth which allows visitors to travel over and zoom in on stitched together satellite photos of the world. In addition to viewing a home, Google Earth can be used to find driving directions, local restaurants and other points of interest, determine the distance between two locations and research various destinations around the world. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured searches and share the information with others.

Google Earth 5.0 was released on February 2, 2009 as a free version available for download. It can even be downloaded to your iPhone and iPod Touch with the same features as the desktop version.

How to View a Satellite Image of Your Home:

– In the Search Panel on the left of the screen, click Fly To
Enter the address of the home in the input box and click the Search button
– In the search results, double click the address
– Google Earth will now fly you to this location
– Zoom in and out, turn the map or tilt the view by using the tool in the top right corner
– In the Layers Panel on the left side, you have the ability to turn on or off (by checking the boxes) certain layers of geographic content. Some layers are not visible until you zoom into an area. Some examples of layers are roads, borders and labels, schools, parks and shopping.

Google Earth acquires imagery which is approximately one to three years old. The approximate date of the displayed imagery can be found in the status bar at the bottom of the 3D viewer. Up-to-date satellite image sets are more expensive the newer they are so Google Earth, being a free product, uses images that are a little older. Google Earth allows you to print, save and email your searched images and views as a placemark in Google Earth or regular JPG image.

Many of the features of Google Earth and now being incorporated into Google Maps, so it is not entirely necessary to download it. If you want to view a location through Google Maps, just type in the address as you would normally and when the location appears, click on “Satellite” in the top right corner. You still have the ability to view or hide layers, although you can’t specify which ones.

If you’ve tried to view a satellite image of your home or another location, did you find it useful?

Most Expensive Homes in the World

Is it strange to be comforted by the fact that even home sellers with properties approaching or over $100 million are experiencing some degree of difficulty in this tough financial market? Three of the properties which appeared on last year’s Forbes Magazine list of the world’s most expensive homes have been de-listed and one sold with a $25 million price reduction (this happened to be Donald Trump’s residence in Palm Beach, Florida). Although, you must contain your grin as the property still sold for $100 million and earned him close to a $60 million profit in four years.

The Forbes list comes from property listings, high-end brokerages and discussions with real estate brokers and agents. It includes only publicly listed properties currently on the market. Privately listed luxury estates and mansions, found mostly in Europe, may have made the list but they are sold with undisclosed prices.

Here is a selection of homes which made the list this past year:

The 45,000 square foot estate called Fleur de Lys in Beverly Hills, California is modeled after Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles and is listed for $125 million.

Leona Helmsley’s 40 acre, 21,897 square foot estate in Greenwich, Connecticut is also listed at $125 million.

England’s most expensive property, a 58 acre country estate in Windlesham, Surrey, is listed at $110 million. It includes a bowling alley, indoor squash court and 50-foot theatre. At this time last year, the home was listed at $138 million.

This Lake Tahoe, Nevada home situated on 210 acres was built by Joel Horowitz, a co-founder of Tommy Hilfiger, and is listed at $100 million. It has 20,000 square feet and includes an indoor swimming pool and movie theatre.

The Eurasia estate located in Moscow, Russia is listed at $100 million. It includes an 11,700 square foot main house, two 4,000 square foot guest houses and a 91,000 square foot recreation complex.

Do you think this market will really suffer in the long run, or will there always be those who can step up and purchase luxury (or image) at any cost?

The Silver Lining

Contrary to popular belief, Canada’s chartered banks are well-positioned to help the country ride out the current financial crisis. In his post, Banking on Canada, Gair Maxwell addresses a recent Newsweek article, praising the Canadian banking system as the global standard, and writes:

Did you know?:

– Canada is the only country in the industrialized world that has not faced a single bank failure during the current financial crisis.

– The World Economic Forum recently ranked Canada’s banking system the healthiest in the world. America’s ranked 40th. Britain’s 44th.

– Over the past 15 years, as the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on financial industries, Canada refused to follow suit, seeing the old rules as useful shock absorbers.

– Canadian banks are typically leveraged at 18 to 1 compared with U.S. banks at 26 to 1 and European banks at a frightening 61 to 1.

Do you think the strong position of Canada’s banks will be enough?