Thursday, March 31, 2016

Defining luxury; what you should look for in a high-end home

“Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.” – Iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright

These days, the word “luxury” is everywhere. The promise of high-end goods, services, and experiences is no longer reserved for the most affluent of Americans, but now available to just about everyone. We can easily buy luxury brands at the clothing store, drive luxury automobiles like Mercedes Benz and BMW – or similar facsimiles at fractional prices - and even buy a home that is described as ‘luxury.’

In fact, the L word designation is everywhere in advertising, as a recent survey approximated that the word ‘luxury’ comes up in 34% of real estate listing descriptions, up to 42% of appliance and furnishing ads, and 26% of clothing marketing. Googling a query like “How to write real estate descriptions that sell” will yield list after list including the words “luxury”, “distinguished,” “quality”, “exclusive”, etc.

So if we cast aside the watered-down marketing version of ‘luxury,’ what does it really mean? What should it represent?

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘luxury’ as:

A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense;

An inessential, desirable item which is expensive or difficult to obtain;

[In Singular] A pleasure obtained only rarely

When it comes to high-end and top-of-the-market homes, what makes a home ‘luxury?”  Is it merely having an abnormally steep price tag? Cavernous square footage? Fancy amenities that you don’t find in typical homes? All of those things may factor into luxury homes, but the certainly don’t define them – not in an age when high-end materials like vanity sinks and chandeliers are mass produced and offered at rock-bottom discounts at places like Home Depot and Ikea.

Too often, builders and home sellers take advantage of the public’s thirst for status and a superstar lifestyle, purposely including certain features that we associate with luxury, but are little more than a façade or marketing gimmick.

Likewise, adding expensive and frivolous features and fixtures to a mid or even up-market home doesn’t automatically propel it to the rarified air of luxury. Custom swimming pools, wine cellars and electronic self-closing blinds are great, but they are still no substitute for class.

But before we start defining luxury as a certain je ne sais quoi as the French say - that certain indefinable something - there are tangible elements we can pinpoint that most luxury homes enjoy.

1. Neighborhood:
The Locationx3 adage is a real estate cliché, but it’s also never been more true. You just KNOW when you’re in a luxury neighborhood – and so does everyone else. Over the last housing boom of the early 2000s, too many people bought into the dream of living in a luxury home and community by purchasing new(er) construction that had all of the bells and whistles. But research shows that established and mature homes and neighborhoods are actually of a higher building quality and retain their values better, as they have more long-time owners and a well-established exclusivity.

2. Uniqueness
It’s very rare that luxury homes are homogenous with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. They have unique characteristics, architecture, and design that set them apart and are hard – or impossible- to replicate. Beware of McMansions and “semi-custom” homes that builders slap up and then adorn with fancy facing and certain high-end amenities just to justify a higher price tag, but are basically still cookie cutter. When you are looking into any luxury home, it’s important to research the builder, ask around about their reputation, other projects they’ve completed, and make sure there is a unique “story” to the architect, the home, or the community that sets it apart.

3. The little things
If God is in the details, then take a close look at the small details in a home; if unequivocal quality extends to small touches like the millwork, doors, hardware, cabinets, fixtures, appliances, tile, grout lines, etc. then you know you’re surrounded by luxury. Our eye always gravitates towards signature show pieces like grand chef’s kitchens and dazzling room-size showers, but in a luxury home, the quality of construction and use of top-end materials and amenities won’t be compromised at all down to the smallest detail, even those people rarely see or use.

No matter where you are, most truly luxury homes have some sort of great view to set your eyes upon. Whether it be ocean and coastline, hills and valleys, a beautiful garden, park, or fountain, luxury homes that just stare out at the home across the street are almost unheard of. For this reason, authentically luxury homes are usually at higher elevations than their surroundings, or right on the waterfront.


Tune in for part two of this blog with the rest of the top 10 things to look for in a luxury home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

35 Facts about Linkedin, the world's biggest business network

Are you “Linkedin?”

If you’re sitting at work and online right now then there’s a great chance you are a member of the world’s biggest social networking site. But whether you’re a dedicated LinkedIn networker or just use the site every once and a while (i.e. when you’re looking for a new job), few people realize the scope and magnitude of LinkedIn’s growth since its formation in 2002.

These days, the Mountain View, California-based firm employs 7,600 people in 30 cities around the world, deriving most if its 2.99 billion dollar net revenues from selling access to user information to recruiters and sales professionals.

To prove to you just how prevalent LinkedIn has become, here are 35 facts about the social network that will shock and impress you. (All statistics have been updated as of February, 2016 or using the latest data.)

1. LinkedIn is a business focused social networking platform, by far the biggest of its kind in the world.

2. How popular is LinkedIn? LinkedIn now has 414 million acquired users.

3. In the United States alone there are 107 million LinkedIn users, which accounts for roughly half of the adult working population!

4. Every month, 100 million individual members visit LinkedIn.

5. The site gains 2 new users every second of every day, adding about 1 million new users every 12 days. Every day, more than 175,000 new LinkedIn profiles are created.

6. Currently one out of every three professionals and business people on the entire planet are on LinkedIn!

7. But that still pales in comparison to LinkedIn’s ultimate goal and vision: to have 3 billion registered users (which would be about 30-40% of the world’s total population depending on when they achieve this).

8. LinkedIn reported $2.21 billion in revenue in 2014.

9. Conceived in 2002 and launched on May 6, 2003, LinkedIn was the brainchild of Reid Garret Hoffman along with Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, Jean-Luc Vaillant, the founders of PayPal.

10. LinkedIn went public in May 19, 2011, and now trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol LNKD.

11. Jeff Weiner has been the CEO of LinkedIn since 2008 after serving prominent roles for Yahoo and Warner Brothers.

12. The social network has now expanded to 200 countries and territories all around the world.

13. In fact, 70% of LinkedIn users are now outside the U.S., including India (number two behind American for users), Brazil, Great Britain, and Canada, in that order.

14. To serve that diverse user base, the LinkedIn website is available in 24 languages, including: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Indonesian, Tagolog, Indonesian, Danish, German, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian and Malay.

15. LinkedIn is known for its Groups that connect and engage members. As of late, there are more than 1.5 million active LinkedIn Groups.

16. A big part of the social network’s experience is the endorsements users leave for each other. There are more than 1 billion endorsements to date at a rate of 10 million new endorsements every day.

17. The most recent estimate is that there have been more than 5 billion searches on LinkedIn to date.

18. As of Q2 of 2015 alone there were 35 billion LinkedIn member pageviews.

19. It’s now estimated that LinkedIn reaches 37% of the total U.S. digital population.

20. While many people realize sites like Facebook and Instagram are widely used on mobile devices, well over 50% of LinkedIn’s global traffic is from mobile users. In fact, LinkedIn has released five mobile apps to aid users: LinkedIn, LinkedIn Connected, LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn Recruiter and SlideShare.

21. All of those apps and mobile sites bring in 42 million unique mobile viewers every month, up 45% from only one year earlier.

22. Only a couple years ago, the majority of LinkedIn users were male, to a ratio of 56% to 44% female. But these days, the proportion is just about equal.

23. Who is the typical LinkedIn user? They are well educated, as 50% of LinkedIn users have Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

24. They also use social media differently, as 13% of LinkedIn users don’t have a Facebook account and 59% don’t have a Twitter account.

25. Executives from all Fortune 500 companies have a LinkedIn profile. (By the way, the average CEO has 930 connections on the site!) Likewise, 41% of all millionaires in the U.S. are on LinkedIn.

26. The average user has 393 connections on LinkedIn but 40% of users have between 50-200 connections only.

27. Paid accounts – called Premium – comprise 39% of all total LinkedIn users; a huge number compared to other social media platform’s paid users.

28. The average LinkedIn member spends only 17 minutes a month average in the site, and the average user has only 5 endorsements from others.

29. Millenials (America’s 18-34 generation, or Gen Y) are starting to flock to LinkedIn en masse, particularly when it comes time to hunt for a job or advance their careers. Reportedly, 13% of all Millenials use LinkedIn, and 39 million college students and recent grads have profiles on the social platform.

30. Research shows that LinkedIn is a valuable resource for both employers and job seekers. Interestingly, 89% of all recruiters have recruited someone off of LinkedIn.

31. And while 94% of all professional recruiters have profiles on LinkedIn, only 36% of job seekers use the site.

32. Last year, the top skills listed on LinkedIn profiles that led to people get hired were ‘Statistical Analysis and Data Mining.”

33. Your profile views will go up 11-fold if you post a profile picture

34. Listing your skills on your profile increases your views by 13 times.

35. LinkedIn is now a social media publishing platform as well, with 30,000 long form posts written and published every week.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Time to Sell; Why it’s a perfect time to list your home in the Sacramento region

Have you thought about selling your home but you’re not sure if it’s the right time? Well right now we’re in the midst of the perfect storm of economic and market factors in Sacramento that make this one of the absolute best times to sell. 

From red-hot demand to a severe shortage of inventory, and rapid price appreciation over the last couple years, homes that are listed now are usually selling quickly, for top dollar, and with multiple offers. 

So if you’re on the fence about whether to sell now, or have considered moving up to a bigger, nicer house, here are three things you’ll want to consider:

Demand is way up
There is no doubt that Sacramento has a shortage of affordable and middle-of-the-market housing, and that shortage is manifested with a fervent demand by homebuyers. Interest rates are still favorable, job and income numbers are strong, and the region is still growing steadily – all reasons why people are looking to buy homes.

With new construction lagging far behind what you might find in comparable metropolitan cities around the country and low housing inventory (we’ll cover this next), there are only so many options or houses for sale to choose from.

Further fueling demand is the fact that rents are rising in the region. More renters than ever are paying at least 30% of their income towards housing expenses, and in 2015, we saw the first year that home ownership was only half as expensive as renting, as renters paid an average of 29.9% of their monthly income toward rent compared to an average of 15.3% for homeowners.

Older Millenials – 80 million strong - are starting to enter the housing market en masse, and Sacramento is no exception. Millennials now make up about a third of the home buying market and roughly about 30 percent of the population in the region.

Add it all up and 2016 will be even more expensive for Sacramento renters, creating a surge of demand for home buying and further stimulating the housing market. Good evidence of this is the fact that it took 12 less days for homes to sell this February compared to last February.

Housing inventory is really low
Sacramento is in the midst of one of the most profound housing shortages we’ve seen. We’ve seen a short supply of homes for sale before, but the market was padded by hundreds (and even thousands!) of short sales, foreclosures, and other distressed properties for sale that constituted almost the entire low end of the market. But now, with the banks working through most of their distressed housing inventory. In fact, in January 2016, conventional sales were up 11.6% compared to only one year earlier (meaning that distressed property sales were a smaller share of the housing inventory.)

But at the same time, overall inventory numbers have shrunk. The inventory in January 2016 was a jaw-dropping 27% less than in January of 2015, which was incredibly low to start with. Inventory further declined in February 2016!

While we might expect a seasonal uptick in homes listed for sale in the spring and summer months, as we can predict every year, the number of homes for sale are still astoundingly low in the Sacramento area.

Home values have increased
Demand is high, supply is low, and that can only lead to one thing: rising home prices. But the good news is that this housing recovery isn’t driven just by an imbalance of supply and demand, but a strong housing recovery fueled by an economic strength in a growing region, including downtown redevelopment and organic job growth.

In fact, the median home price in Sacramento rose by 11.2% over the past year and there’s not a lot of evidence that will stop any time soon. The median price of homes as of February 2016 is up 6.7% compared to the same month a year earlier, and the average price per square foot is also up 6% year-over-year. Sacramento was named one of the 10 hottest real estate markets in the country to watch in 2016, and the confidence seems justified, as the median home price in the Sacramento region went up by 2.5% just between January and February!

What about Placer and El Dorado Counties?
These general trends seem to extend into Placer Country, El Dorado County, and most of the greater Sacramento area. In fact, housing inventory is 17% lower than it was last year at the same time. The median price of homes in Placer went up by 2.5% over the last month, as well, and year-to-year values are up 11% from February 2015.

The Luxury Report; High-end real estate by the numbers

When it comes to the housing market, real estate prices, sales activity, and market trends vary greatly depending on the neighborhood you’re in. But there is another segment of the market that is usually a completely different animal than typical residential home sales: luxury homes sales.

Here is a synopsis of the current state of luxury home sales in the U.S., and also in the Greater Sacramento region.

This data is based on a survey of 22,922 luxury homes that are currently on the market in the U.S. These luxury homes are all listed for at least $500,000 in the top 10 zip codes in 31 major metropolitan housing markets around the U.S.

To put these numbers in perspective, the median list price in Sacramento is now $269,900, with an average price per square foot of $186 and

Median listing price for all luxury homes.

Current median price per square foot for all luxury homes for sale.

Average days on market for all current luxury home inventory.

Percentage of listed properties that have had at least one price reduction.

Percentage of properties that were relisted, effectively resetting their DOM (Days o Market)

Proportion of luxury homes that were flipped – or fixed up and relisted.

Average number of luxury homes that sell each week

Average new listings per week hitting the luxury market.

Median square footage of all luxury homes for sale

0.50 – 1.0
Property size in acres of median luxury home for sale

Age of average luxury home for sale

Percent of luxury homebuyers with household incomes of $200,000 or more

Percent of all buyers who purchased luxury homes worth $500,000 or more

Percent of buyers who purchased home with 3,501 or more square feet

Market Action Index rating for the luxury housing market. Any rating below 30 means it is a buyer’s market, but at 28, it is still relatively balanced

Median price for all luxury homes in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer counties and Lake Tahoe. (The Greater Sacramento region.)

Median square footage for all luxury homes in the Greater Sacramento region.

Number of luxury homes for sale in the Greater Sacramento region.

New luxury listings per week in the Greater Sacramento region.

Luxury homes sold weekly in the Greater Sacramento region.

Average days on market for all luxury listings in the Greater Sacramento region.