Why Customer Service is Important For Your Business…

Why Customer Service is So Important for your Real Estate Business


If you’ve ever seen the movie Glen Gary Glen Ross, you’d see a strong precedence of how the public thinks of real estate professionals.

Pushy, two-faced, actors who treat their customers like idiotic pawns.

As the profession has evolved, some of that imagery has stuck, and includes the investor as well. Though there’s nothing wrong with an assertive sales style, the landscape of the entire business has shifted quite mightily. Busts have bled out the bottom-feeders, and those left or coming into the business will have to continuously strive for a customer-service based agenda. The world has grown and will continue to get smaller through the availability of instant information. Embracing the change will be inevitable, possibly critical to your business. Here’s why:

1) Customers Have More Options

The information age has nearly obliterated the old-school style of networking. If someone is looking to sell, buy, wholesale, or short sale, looking for qualified professionals in their area is a point and click away. Given, those who have been marketing to (that) segment may have a shoe-in, but often times prospects will be talking to 2-3 other people they think may be able to assist their situation.

You may have taken months to develop a relationship of sorts with a prospect, but if a better option comes along for them, they can be gone in an instant. If you were able to find them, in all probability, so were other competitors. The information is so readily available that you need to have a plan in place to attract and close customers in a timely manner, softly reminding them constantly of all the benefits you offer.

It’s not about you, it’s about them.

No matter how many degrees you have, houses you’ve closed, funds you’ve issued, etc, the customer only cares what’s in it for them. Treat them like you KNOW they have options, you’re grateful for the opportunity to earn their business, and if they choose you they’d have a wonderful experience with you and your company. Reflect that in your marketing, conversation, and closing pitch.

2) You’re Easier to Research

On the tail of the last point comes the fact, you’re easier to find out about these days.

If there’s not much to see about you online, or otherwise, that may be a turn-off for customers, as well. Even if it’s a Facebook Business Page, it’s important you have something.

If you haven’t already, for God’s sake, put up a web page. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is the bare minimum online store front for your business. Brandon Turner wrote a wonderful article on this very subject, if you’re still intimidated by the idea.

Secondly, Google yourself and see what comes up. Most likely, your LinkedIn profile, various social network profiles, and any articles that contained your name will come up. Check for reviews, feedback, customer service complaints, and things of these nature. A buzz, for better or worse, may have started about you online, and it’s important you monitor what’s being said. It will and can attract and detract future customers.

Don’t have a buzz, yet? Ask previous customers to write reviews on Yelp, Google Places, or even a simple email so you can post the testimonial online. You may promise the world to prospects, and be able to deliver, but people flock to the internet to check you out and read reviews about you to make their purchasing decision. Give them something to latch on to. Even if there’s negative feedback, address it in a professional manner and leave it up. All business’ face criticism or unpleasant customers, and it can be a wonderful example of how you handle conflict.

Realtor.com recently shut down an experimental algorithm-based tool that would ideally match up a customer with the perfect real estate agent for them, based on amount of sales, listing days on market, and other public data. This performance-based tool, AgentMatch, excludes information that can’t be found online, like off-market deals, or interpret between the lines of numerics. It has agents in an uproar, but, there is a gap missing for customers to get a full overview of their real estate professionals’ performance and capabilities. Point being, big data may be forming an opinion of you in the near future, so beat them to the punch to showcase your talents, satisfied customer base, and volume.

Got the time and customer base? Take a small camera and record 30-60 second testimonials from prior and current customers and post them on your website, social networks, etc. Videos go a long way for making an impression, so make it a goal in 2014 to at least post a handful of video testimonials to vouch for your company.


If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, or similar customer-based environment, it’s much easier to understand the idea of a “customer-first” mentality. Practicing and perfecting a confident sales style, backed with a top-notch customer service from you and your staff, will go a long way as the internet continues to sandwich your efforts with reviews, feedback, and exposure. What do you think?


Ways to Manage Credit When Searching For a Mortgage

Ways to Manage Credit When Seeking a Mortgage

obtain the credit to buy real...

By Scott Sheldon

Consumer debt: Many of us have it. And most who do, have a love/hate relationship with it. If you can't make the purchase with cash, do it with debt — right? We love to know we can still consume, but we hate the bill that comes 30 days later, along with the subsequent monthly payment. Ouch!

Like it or not, your relationship with money can be best expressed on paper by how much debt you carry or don't carry, more specifically in the form of credit card debt. Credit card debt is a double-edged sword when it comes time to making high-ticket purchase like buying a home. On one end of the spectrum, having open trade lines with no debt increases a credit score, which can lower the cost of your mortgage. On the flipside, payment obligations reduce your ability to qualify, lowering how much house you're eligible for. So here's a quick guide to managing credit card debt when trying to get the holy grail (i.e. a mortgage):

How Credit Cards Help You Land a Mortgage: Credit cards that are paid current with no derogatory items or delinquencies improve and support a good credit score, which reduces your borrowing costs. Mortgage lenders typically want to see a borrower carry at least three open trade lines (and credit cards are a common form of a trade line). Examples of this would be a line limit with a department store for example or even basic Visa credit card.

Other ways credit cards help you in the mortgage process:

1. Credit cards are reported to the credit bureaus (sometimes just one or two bureaus), and are very beneficial to a credit score, assuming you have a perfect payment history.

2. Assuming you have no derogatory items or late payments, your credit card obligation can show a "pattern over time" of consistent satisfactory history.

3. If you carry no balances, this shows a lender that a person has "good character."

How Credit Cards Can Hurt Your Ability to Land a Mortgage: Credit cards, when not properly managed, have a greater effect on reducing your ability to land a mortgage than they do to improve it. Let's look at how they can do this:

1. Credit card companies are required by law to report the minimum monthly payment due, associated with any present balance carried. If the minimum payment is $100 per month, that's what will show up on the credit report, and that's the amount the lender will use, dollar for dollar. In other words, because the debt is present, how much you can borrow in terms of total house payment will be limited by $100 per month. Granted, $100 per month is small in the grand scheme of things, but the payment will reduce the amount of house payment you can take. (This goes for any minimum credit card payment.)

2. Multiple credit cards spread out with high balances and high payments limit your borrowing power because the minimum payment obligations are higher, thus reducing your potential allowed house payment.

3. Have a credit card late payment? This will tank your credit score, increasing the costs to borrow mortgage money, thereby making your home loan … drum roll, please … more pricey. (Note that a consistent pattern of lack of repayment over time is what really drops the credit score, which could also derail your loan approval.)

4. Credit card charge-offs still reporting a balance on your credit report will need to be zeroed out in order for you to successfully fund your new home loan. This will negatively impact your credit score. However, the negative effect of having an outstanding debt compounds due to the additional costs of paying off the previous charged-off balances, in addition to the higher interest for the mortgage from the lower credit score. Don't have the funds to pay off the previous bad debt? Then the loan won't happen.

Managing Credit Cards to Secure the Best Mortgage Terms: Because credit cards can either hinder or help your ability to get a mortgage, there is a fine line not to be crossed. The best scenario for your mortgage would be to have minimal or no credit card delinquencies of any kind in the past 12 months.

Are you paying off your credit card in full every month? Make sure you know when they report to the credit bureaus, so you can have the mortgage lender pull your credit report and credit score after that date so as to preserve high credit score. If there are multiple credit cards and you have the ability to consolidate the debt to reduce your minimum payment obligations, do it. Lenders are looking for cash flow after expenses. The more cash flow after expenses, the better your chances of a favorable credit decision with the lender.

Finally, if you know you want to buy a home in the near future, now is the time to get up to speed on your credit situation. Pull your credit reports and look for errors, signs of fraud, and areas that you need to work on (like payment history or debt usage, for example). You should also start monitoring your credit score so you can build your credit in order to get the best rates possible.

Consumers are allowed to get their credit reports for free once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also obtain your score using free credit score tools and services. (Credit.com offers a snapshot of your scores and a breakdown of your credit profile to help you determine what areas you need to work on.) Whether you use a free score or you buy one from a credit scoring service, know that the number you seemay differ somewhat from the score your mortgage lender will see, but it will nevertheless give you a helpful range to work within.


“Dirt” In Demand….

'Dirt' again in demand as housing recovers


Published: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013


Tim Gruber The New York Times Movers carry furniture into a newly built home in Otsego, Minn. The recovering housing market has sent land-hungry builders to suburbs like Otsego, located 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis, where new developments are bordered by cornfields.

MINNEAPOLIS – A few months ago, Michael N. Felix's phone started ringing again after four years of silence. Felix is a land broker whose business dried up when the housing marketcrashed.

But with home prices now rising faster than anyone expected, builders are again looking for what, in the land trade, is referred to as dirt.

Already, developers report that the cost of land in the most desirable areas is double what it was two years ago.

At least three golf courses in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are being carved into millions of dollars' worth of residential lots.

The race has even sent builders back to outer suburbs like Otsego, located 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis, where bulldozers are laying the groundwork for four-bedroom houses with three-car garages, in subdivisions that are bordered by cornfields.

"Lot buyers and sellers!!!!!!!!" Felix's website reads. "It is time to get moving again….!"

Or past time. The latest land rush is in full swing, as developers realize that they have failed to feed the zoning, permitting and platting pipeline, which can take months or years to turn raw fields into buildable lots.

They are realizing another thing, too: They have been sorely missed.

"For the first time, I've seen cities want to work to help figure it out, rather than doing us a favor all the time to let us develop," said Scott Carlston of Hunter Emerson, a development partnership.

Hunter Emerson won a victory when the city of Eagan, a suburb of Minneapolis, allowed Parkview Golf Club to be converted into a high-end single-family subdivision.

The hunt for dirt is not limited to the Twin Cities. After builders across the country spent decades feeding acre after acre of raw land into the maw of demand for single-family homes, the housing crash left them with a land surplus so large that lots were selling for pennies on the dollar.

At the peak of supply, in 2009, there were enough lots to last almost eight years, according to MetroStudy, a firm that tracks housing data.

Now there is less than four years' worth, and only about a quarter of that is in the more desirable A- or B-rated locations.

"We have gone from a situation where five years ago everyone was saying, 'There's too many lots,' to today, builders are literally crying on our shoulder saying, 'There's not enough lots. We can't find any,'" said Bradley Hunter, the chief economist at MetroStudy.

The shortage of lots is slowing the housing recovery, the National Association of Home Builderssaid last week. In August, 59 percent of builders surveyed reported that lot supply was low or very low, the association said.

Housing is a critical driver for the economy, not just because of the jobs and supplies needed to build homes but also the appliances and furnishings that new occupants purchase.

At the peak of the housing boom, builders were finishing more than 1.6 million single-family houses a year. That number plunged to less than half a million during the recession. This year, the industry is on track to complete more than 570,000 homes, still substantially below the level considered necessary to replace aging homes and provide for new households.

A return to more normal rates of construction would substantially lift the economy's anemic growth rate of about 2 percent over the past year.

Carlston said that some cities in the Twin Cities area had adjusted their rules to allow fewer parking spaces or smaller lots.

Otsego has lowered some of its development fees and allowed a developer to change an approved plan so that a partly built town house project could be finished with more salable detached homes.

Rick Packer, a land development manager for Centra Homes, said some suburbs were relaxing requirements that homes be made of brick or stucco.

Even the Sierra Club, which once placed Minneapolis among the top 10 sprawl-threatened cities, has backed off a bit. An annual bike ride by the local chapter, once known as the "Tour de Sprawl," has been given a less pejorative name and refocused to include not just threatened green space but what the group considers model development and transportation projects.

Mayor Mike Maguire of Eagan, a co-chairman of the Regional Council of Mayors Housing Initiative, said one reason his city had approved a land-use change for the golf course was that so little new housing was built in the past few years.

"When there's no new development, you have stock that's increasingly out of date and that tends to bring your home values down," he said. "That was one of the things we were hearing back from Realtors, was they had people who wanted to move to Eagan but couldn't find the home they wanted."

In 2012, Hunter Emerson agreed to pay $8.6 million for the golf course, wagering that the city would approve the land use change. The partnership sold the property to a national home builder for $13.1 million, Carlston said. The houses built on it will cost from $400,000 to $700,000, he said.

The excess left from the boom – land in various stages of development ranging from untouched to what builders call PVC farms, named for the hard plastic plumbing pipes that, with electrical lines, were virtually all that was on the lots – is quickly being absorbed.

Developers have gone from buying foreclosed acreage from banks to buying from farmers, family trusts, manufacturers and even homeowners with outdated homes on single lots.

"What we've seen is the inner ring of the suburbs, all those areas have come back," said Rod Just of Key Land Homes, a Twin Cities builder. "The outer ring, they've taken just a little bit longer because of gas prices, but they're going to come back."






Jump in mortgage rates hurts US sales of new homes…

Jump in mortgage rates hurts US sales of new homes


Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 – 7:19 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 – 7:03 am

Americans cut back sharply in July on their purchases of new homes, a sign that higher mortgage rates may slow the housing recovery.

U.S. sales of newly built homes dropped 13.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 394,000, the Commerce Department said Friday. That's the lowest in nine months. And sales fell from a rate of 455,000 in June, which was revised down from a previously reported 497,000.

The housing rebound that began last year has helped drive economic growth and create more construction jobs. But mortgage rates have climbed a full percentage point since May. The increase has begun to steal some momentum from the market.

Sales of new homes are still up 7 percent in the 12 months ending in July. Yet the annual pace remains well below the 700,000 that is consistent with a healthy market.

July's drop "may mark an uh-oh kind of moment for the housing recovery," said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

Homebuilder stocks declined sharply Friday, even as overall market indexes rose. Shares of Toll Brothers Inc., D.R. Horton Inc. and Lennar Corp. — three of the nation's largest builders — all fell more than 3 percent in afternoon trading.

And major homebuilders' shares have been dropping steadily since late May. The slide began after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled that the Fed might reduce its bond purchases later this year. The bond purchases have helped keep mortgage rates and other borrowing costs low.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage reached 4.58 percent this week, according to Freddie Mac. That's up from 3.35 percent in early May and the highest in two years.

The impact on would-be buyers' finances is significant.

Take someone who locked in the early May rate on a $200,000 mortgage. They would have a monthly payment of around $875. But the same mortgage at last week's average rate would cost $1,025 a month.

The difference adds up to $150 more each month — or $54,000 over the lifetime of a 30-year loan. The monthly figures don't include taxes, insurance or initial down payments.

Potential buyers appear to have noticed that financing a home purchase has become more expensive. The number of Americans applying for mortgages to buy homes has plummeted 16 percent since the end of April. And builders began work on the fewest single-family homes in eight months in July.

Still, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. The same $200,000 loan would cost a buyer $1,330 a month at a 7 percent rate, the average since 1985.

Most economists expect the housing recovery will continue, albeit at a slower pace.

"We've been spoiled by low rates," Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "People are gnashing their teeth now over a rate we had never seen four years ago." He notes that, based on their figures dating back to 1985, rates on the 30-year loan had never sunk below 5 percent until 2010.

The impact of higher mortgage rates has surfaced in the new-home market faster than the re-sale market because the new-home sales are measured when contracts are signed.

Higher rates may have also caused potential buyers to cancel some purchases of new homes. Vitner says that may explain why sales were revised down in May and June. Most of the revisions occurred in sales of homes not yet under construction. Buyers don't need mortgages until construction begins.

Sales of previously occupied homes reached a nearly four-year high last month. But that report measured completed sales, which typically reflects mortgage rates locked in a month or two earlier.

The jump likely reflected a rush by home buyers to lock in lower rates. Next week, a measure of contract signings in July will be released. Many economists expect that will drop.

Fed officials are closely watching the impact of higher mortgage rates on the housing recovery. The drop in sales could strengthen the hand of those Fed members who want to delay reducing the bond purchases.

Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the homebuilders association.

"The spike in mortgage rates is slowing the pace of improvement," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist for BTIG, an institutional brokerage, said in an email. "Given the speed at which housing was improving, and the growing talk of a renewed bubble, some moderation, assuming it doesn't materially worsen, is not a terrible outcome."



Davis Housing Project Must Overcome Cities Anti-Growth Streak…

Davis housing project must overcome city's anti-growth streak


Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 – 3:47 pm

housing development proposed for a former tomato cannery in Davis could be the last subdivision built in the university town, provided it can overcome the city's powerful anti-growth streak.

As planned, The Cannery project would include a 7-acre organic farm, a "market hall" filled with small eateries and artisan food vendors, a 2-mile bike loop and 547 apartments and single-family homes of varied types and sizes on roughly 100 acres.

Food giant ConAgra, which owns the property, is working with The New Home Co., a housing developer, to advance the project. The Davis Planning Commission and City Council are scheduled to take it up in a series of hearings in September and October.

Regional planners say The Cannery could serve as a model for future development across the greater Sacramento region.

"It really hits a lot of the marks in terms of the general principles of our Blueprint," said Mike McKeever, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the region's transportation planning agency. The Blueprint is SACOG's long-range plan that promotes compact, mixed-use development near jobs and public transportation.

The University of California, Davis, is expected to be one of the region's main job generators in the coming years – both in terms of direct employment and related businesses such as biotech, McKeever said. Davis, he said, needs more types of housing to accommodate young professionals, families and seniors.

According to SACOG, Davis needs to plan for more than 1,000 new homes by 2021 to meet its obligations under state law to house its share of the region's growing population.

Plans for The Cannery call for a variety of housing types at different price points, including 2,100- to 3,500-square-foot family homes and more-compact houses with small second units above the garage. Also part of the mix are row homes, low-income apartments and upscale "stacked flats" with elevator service intended to appeal to seniors.

Housing in Davis has become increasingly expensive and scarce since new construction stopped because of resident opposition and the recession. Enrollment in the local schools has been declining over the past decade.

UC Davis is building a neighborhood for faculty, students and staff on land it owns in unincorporated Yolo County, but it is only for those affiliated with the university.

The site of the former Hunt-Wesson cannery, about 2 miles from the main campus, is the last large parcel in Davis not zoned for agriculture or open space. That means it can be developed without a vote by Davis residents who, under the terms of a ballot measure first passed in 2000, must approve the rezoning of farmland for housing.

The ordinance, commonly referred to as Measure J, is unique in the Sacramento region. Only a handful of communities in the state have similar provisions; most of the others are in wealthy, coastal enclaves.

The Davis measure was renewed in 2010 as Measure R. It passed overwhelmingly, and it is expected to be renewed again in 2020.

Under Measure J, Davis voters defeated two subdivisions requiring votes in the past decade.

In 2005 they shot down Covell Village, which proposed nearly 1,900 housing units and retail shops on about 400 acres of farmland beyond the city's northern boundary. The project lost by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent.

In 2009, by a 3-to-1 ratio, they defeated a much smaller project called Wildhorse Ranch. It proposed 191 homes on the site of a 26-acre horse farm.

After the last development lost by a large margin – 75 percent to 25 percent – some developers and residents said Davis would never grow beyond its current boundaries as long as voters had their say.

The Cannery is an infill project that requires only City Council approval. Still, some residents are already vowing a fight at the ballot box, either by persuading council members to put it to a popular vote or by using the initiative process to force an election.

"If the council won't put it on the ballot, some Davis residents will put it on the ballot," said lawyer Michael Harrington, who said he thinks the land should remain zoned for commercial or industrial use.

Some say letting voters decide the fate of The Cannery would undermine the the purpose of Measure J, which was meant to protect farmland, not to require votes on infill development.

"The point is it shouldn't go to a vote because it isn't part of Measure J," said Eileen Samitz, a former Davis planning commissioner who championed the ballot measure and opposed prior developments on farmland. "It would be a misuse and could endanger the future of Measure J."

The Cannery's potential to accommodate new housing was used as an argument against both Covell Village and Wildhorse Ranch. Building it would largely fulfill the city's future growth needs, Samitz said.

"It's become a beautiful project which has had an enormous amount of community input," she said. "Now is the time to move forward."



Sales Surge in pricey Tahoe homes brings more hope to the market

Sales surge seen in pricey Tahoe homes


Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 

Evidence of a resurging real estate market is evident on the shores of Lake Tahoe, where premium-priced, high-end properties are moving.

Sierra Sotheby's International Realty's Lexi Cerretti recently closed her third lakefront home sale in Lake Tahoe this summer, with the sale prices at $11.8 million, $6.2 million and $5.3 million.

Sierra Sotheby's said lakefront sales in Incline Village and Crystal Bay have stepped up, with 11 lakefront homes and lakefront condos sold this year. Another half-dozen currently are pending sale.

By comparison, there were only 10 lakefront home and condo sales in all of 2012.

"Many high net-worth buyers are looking to either establish residency in Nevada or purchase second homes with plans to transition up to Lake Tahoe in the future from California," Cerretti said.



Inventory up in July

Local home inventory rises 21% in July


Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013

The number of homes on the market inSacramento County and the city of West Sacramento jumped by more than 21 percent in July compared with June, helping to ease a severe inventory shortage that has forced up prices this year, the Sacramento Association of Realtors said in its latest report.

In July, there were 2,071 active listings in the group's coverage area, up from 1,706 the month before and more than double the all-time low of 984 units in Jan- uary, the association said.

Housing inventory is typically measured as the time it would take to sell all the homes on the market. In July, there were 1.3 months of inventory, compared with 1.1 months in June. Earlier this year, there was less than a month of inventory on the market. Anything less than three months of inventory is considered a sellers' market.

The ultra-tight supply of homes for sale has been a major factor in pushing prices skyward this year as buyers tried to take advantage of historically low interest rates and relatively low prices.

Hope You find this information useful.

Best regards, Capital Valley Real Estate



Investors scoop up 1,200 acres in Rancho Murieta

Investors scoop up 1,200 acres in Rancho Murieta


Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

One-third of Rancho Murieta has changed hands in a massive land sale by the union pension fund that developed the still-unfinished community 40 years ago in rural easternSacramento County.

A group led by current homeowners paid an undisclosed price for 1,200 acres at Rancho Murieta, including the two 18-hole golf courses and more than 700 acres of undeveloped land that's being eyed for hundreds of additional houses.

The deal, which closed Friday, is the latest chapter in the occasionally turbulent history of the isolated slice of suburbia 20 miles southeast of Sacramento along Highway 16.

Four decades after it was founded, the county's first master-planned community has only about 2,500 homes – half as many as originally planned. Part of the problem was unstable ownership; during the 1980s and early '90s, Rancho Murieta was controlled by a swashbuckling Yolo County agribusinessman who lost the property to foreclosure.

"People who live here love it," said John Sullivan, a Rancho Murieta homeowner and leader of the group that just made the big purchase. "We've had our turmoils in the past and it's our mission … to finish the job."

Sullivan's group wants to build hundreds of homes on the property. He also plans to build an 83-room hotel and other amenities on a separate parcel that he and other investors bought last year near the community's gas station on Highway 16.

The hotel, expected to cost around $12 million, would serve visitors to Rancho Murieta's equestrian center, Sullivan said.

"The closest hotel is 14 miles away – we're looking forward to getting that hotel finished as quickly as we can," he said.

The purchase serves as further evidence of recovery in the area's housing market, said Greg Paquin of the Gregory Group, a Folsom real estate consultant.

"Clearly that's part of the message – the market's good," Paquin said.

Sullivan said his group includes the owners of the equestrian center.

Sullivan has been involved in various leadership roles at Rancho Murieta for years and is associated with two development firms, Cosumnes River Land and Lone Pine Investments.

The housing and the hotel would require approval from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The housing project is probably two years away from securing approval, while the hotel proposal is much further along.

The county approved more than 600 new homes on different parcels at Rancho Murieta before thehousing market collapsed in 2007. Those plans are still pending, with permits held by several different developers.

Those 2007 approvals were controversial. The Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators questioned the potential loss of habitat. Some current residents were fiercely opposed, saying the new homes would violate earlier promises about open space.

The group that bought the land Friday could propose a development plan that would meet with fewer objections. The 700 acres could handle 1,100 new homes, but Sullivan said "our plan is to be somewhat lower in the density."The land is generally north of the Cosumnes River and east of the main entrance on Murieta Parkway.

"Most of the investors have been residents for decades," Sullivan added. "We've been in Rancho Murieta since almost the beginning, one way or another."

Rancho Murieta was developed by the pension trust fund of Operating Engineers Local 3, a major union based in the East Bay.

The union has operated an apprenticeship training program at Rancho Murieta for years. Union trainees operating heavy machinery carved out the golf courses, man-made lakes and other features of the property.

In 1985, the union pension fund sold the community to Jack Anderson, a highly successful tomato farmer from Davis.

Anderson added Rancho Murieta to a growing portfolio that included 200,000 acres of farmland, the Dunes casino in Las Vegas and the gleaming "Emerald Tower" office building on Capitol Mall in Sacramento.

The sale followed several years of litigation, in which Anderson claimed the pension fund had reneged on an earlier deal to sell him the property.

In 1993, the pension fund took Rancho Murieta back. It foreclosed on the property after Anderson defaulted on a $27 million note, one in a series of defaults and other financial troubles that would bring his empire to ruin by the end of the 1990s.

Officials with the union and its pension fund couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Ken Noack Jr., a Cornish and Carey Commercial broker who represented the pension fund in the sale, said he wasn't sure why the union wanted to unload the property.

Noack said the union will lease about 50 acres back from the new owners to continue running the training center.

"They'll be here for the foreseeable future," Sullivan said.



El Dorado slow-growth advocates fight new development projects

Wave of new El Dorado development projects fuels fight with slow-growth advocates


Published: Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 – 5:37 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 – 8:46 am

In the county that brought the Gold Rush, surging with newcomers and rough-hewn mining camps, prospects of another boom are unnerving the modern-day populace.

Amid an improving real estate economy, developers are proposing nearly 7,000 new houses for the western slope of El Dorado County.

The new wave of potential major projects is emerging after a 2004 county general plan that promised to preserve the county's rural character while anticipating up to 21,000 additional houses.

In a region renowned for perhaps the most bitter growth battles in the lower Sierra Nevada,current residents are pushing back. Where miners once ravaged land for gold, determined homeowners are digging in for a protracted political fight to protect rustic lifestyles from new people, more houses and increased traffic.

Slow-growth advocates are now threatening a 2014 vote to limit new construction.

"We are shaking our heads and saying there is no way these can fly," said Bill Center, an environmental activist and former county supervisor.

The last time the county pondered such a development surge – approving ongoing projects that are bringing 11,000 new houses to El Dorado Hills – voters revolted by passing Measure Y in 1998. It prohibited any residential project of five or more units that caused or worsened traffic gridlock during peak commuting hours. Voters reaffirmed a follow-up measure 10 years later.

Wary of resistance, major investors, including the developer of the upscale Serrano community in El Dorado Hills, are now promising nature-friendly "agri-suburbia" residential projects.

They pledge to respect oak woodlands, wildlife passageways and local traditions of winemaking and apple growing while paying for new roads and building the future of El Dorado County.

In the biggest project, Parker Development Co., the Serrano developer, is seeking to build 3,236 homes and townhouses, a shopping center and an outdoor pavilion amid oak trees, a quarry lake and rusted iron remnants of a turn-of-the-century limestone mine.

Another development firm, tied to the Gallo winemaking family, is planning 800 houses nearby. The two projects pledge to set aside 640 acres for a regional park, more than half the size of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

"We're going to present the Board of Supervisors with a first-class plan," said Bill Parker, president of Parker Development, who expects a vote next summer. "We hope they realize there is no more logical piece of land to develop than Marble Valley."

In this corner of El Dorado County's growth politics, Thomas Howard, Parker Development's vice president of construction, leads a tour in a picturesque valley, past limestone outcroppings and golden, tree-shaded vistas.

He describes a future gateway road to a residential community – with wine grapes to be planted on roadsides and the center median – and a winery and bed-and-breakfast cottages to be built in grasslands ahead. "Everybody who lives in this community will be able to say, 'I own a winery,' " Howard says.

A few miles higher in the foothills, a line of hand-painted roadside signs screams in urgency over another proposed subdivision called San Stino.

On Mother Lode Drive, amid country houses and roadside farms, a sign reads, "HELP US." Three more follow: "Stop." "1,045." "Houses."

At their nearby "dream house" with a wine cellar and a balcony offering spectacular views of their 10-acre parcel, Kristine and Greg Killeen look out and fear the future.

"Oh I hate it," says Kristine Killeen, gazing to the back of their property and the boundary of the planned 645-acre San Stino development. "Too many cars, too many people. They're going to double the population of Shingle Springs."

Greg Killeen said the subdivision construction would disrupt what the couple felt they were promised eight years ago when they moved to the area from San Jose: a quiet life amid large acreage properties.

Next-door neighbor Walt LaFranchi, who moved his family there from San Francisco in 1990, says, "I would say, 'No San Stino' and, literally, 'Not in My Backyard.'

"Why is this development leapfrogging El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park and going right into the heart of Shingle Springs?"

The San Stino property, between French Creek and Old French Town roads, is zoned for houses on 5-acre parcels. But the community designation says developers may seek approval from the county for higher-density construction there.

Attorney Joel Korotkin, a partner in the San Stino project, argued the development is thoughtfully planned – with suburban houses on clustered lots to set aside 40 percent of the land as open space.

"This represents a progressive idea of developing the land," said Korotkin, who says he's hoping to address neighbors' concerns. "You stay off slopes. You preserve the tree cover and the wetlands. You try what you can do to fit in."

El Dorado County, which topped 20,000 residents in 1850, two years after James Marshalldiscovered gold in Coloma, didn't surpass 30,000 people until after 1960. But since 1980, it has more than doubled in population to over 180,000.

Real estate market forecasts suggest nearly 12,000 homes could be built in El Dorado County over the next two decades. And just across the border with Sacramento County, Folsom is planning to add 10,000 houses south of Highway 50, adding to potential regional congestion.

"We need to have balanced growth," said Supervisor Ron Mikulaco of El Dorado Hills, who says he also worries about development drying up water supplies. "But I'm not hearing people say shut the gate behind us. I hear people say, 'We've got to be smart.' "

The six-county Sacramento Area Council of Governments has adopted regional planning principles that recommend managing new growth with "sustainable communities" that protect open space and are close to transportation and other amenities.

One project included in the SACOG regional plan is the Marble Valley custom home, townhouse and residential development in El Dorado Hills. SACOG Chief Executive Mike McKeever said it meets the agency's "blueprint principles," including diverse housing types and "preserving natural resources."

Center says the Marble Valley plan reflects an "urbanist perspective" that is "appropriate for midtown Sacramento." But he calls it a disaster for El Dorado County that would gridlock Highway 50.

Similar sentiments are being voiced on other projects as residents are creating anti-development Facebook pages, rallying neighbors and giving fits to would-be builders.

"We're going to see a lot of pressure on politicians when they get hit with 500 emails," said Craig Sandberg, an attorney for Tilden Park, a proposed hotel, commercial and residential development near Highway 50 that is also drawing the ire of residents in Shingle Springs. "Social media has made it a whole new world."

It was the San Stino project, one of the first of the proposed developments to go before county planners, that particularly revealed residents' growth-averse pulse.

Heeding neighbors' protests, supervisors refused to approve a county contract for an environmental study for the project – even though the developer was to pick up the costs.

Korotkin, who says he is continuing to work to win support for San Stino, said he went ahead and hired a consultant to prepare the document.

His development group is also seeking approval to build 605 houses south of Green Valley Road in El Dorado Hills. That project – Dixon Ranch – faces resistance from a neighbors' group called the Green Valley Alliance.

Another project by Parker Development – which would build a total of 1,028 homes on the former El Dorado Hills Golf Course and a second site – is also stirring controversy.

"It has conjured up all the warring factions," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs, who was elected in 2006 on a platform of keeping the county rural.

Briggs said supervisors are going to have to face major decisions on the county's future over the next two years.

Seeking consensus, Briggs is trying to keep the developers talking with the "no (traffic) gridlock people" who passed Measure Y. He also says he wants to include voices of the "new element" – recent residents who bought homes expecting newfound rural lifestyles to be preserved.

"They say they want economic growth and sane development, but just don't do it here," Briggs said.


Rapid Home Prices May Slow

Rapid home price gains will slow

  @CNNMoney August 1, 2013: 5:14 PM E

san jose house sale

San Jose, Calif., saw huge home price gains during the 12 months that ended March 2013, but it's expected to gain just 7.4% in the current period.


Home prices have been seeing rapid gains in recent months, but don't expect that to continue.

While double digit gains have been common, home appreciation is projected to drop to 6.5% during the 12 months ending March 31, 2014, according to a report released Thursday. That will follow a 10.2% jump for the preceding 12 months, the first double-digit increase since the peak of the housing boom seven years ago.

The forecast is based on the CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price indexes and covers 384 metro areas and more than 80% of the total U.S. housing market.

Related: 10 most expensive cities in the world

Dr. David Stiff, chief economist for CoreLogic Case-Shiller, expects home prices in most markets to continue to increase significantly for several months before slowing down.

"Record levels of affordability, a slowly improving job market and very small inventories of new and existing homes for sale will continue to drive U.S. home price appreciation during the summer," he said.

In the handful of markets where prices have recently declined, Stiff said they'll likely turn positive before the year is out. Even with the dramatic price increase recently, he remained unconcerned about a new bubble, as "home prices remain 26% below their peak nationally and are even lower in some metro areas."

Related: Housing markets where cash is king

San Jose, Calif., was the biggest winner over the 12 months that ended in March 2013, with an increase of 23.7%, but it's forecast to gain just 7.4% in the current period.

Phoenix and Sacramento will also see a significant slowdown, with price gains dropping from above 20% to the single digits.

Related: 10 big, booming cities

Other markets will take up some of the slack. Prices in Hartford, Conn., should increase by 9.8% after recording a 1.2% year-over-year gain through March 2013. Baltimore and Philadelphia will also see their prices jump.

Stiff has consistently projected stagnation in Florida housing markets, and this year is no different. He thinks prices will dip in Miami by 2.7%; Fort Lauderdale by 2.6%; and Orlando by 1.6%. Tampa is a lone bright spot, where prices are expected to rise 2.3%. To top of page