Property Grunt

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lease Renewal

I recently received my new lease and attempted to negotiate the rent with my landlord who absolutely refused. He stated that fuel costs and taxes have hit the roof so there was no way in hell he could give me any concessions.

Despite the massive windfall that Bloomberg has gathered from real estate it seems that he is still squeezing every penny he can. Is anyone else having problems renegotiating their lease? Can any landlords or property managers bring any insight to this subject?

Yes. I am resigning the lease but I am looking to buy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A place that Mel Gibson can call home: Domino's Pizza founder creating all Catholic town

Religion, real estate and pizza. What's not to love?

According to this article this town will the ultimate haven for Catholics.

Abortions, pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles northwest of Miami.

Not suprisingly this has ruffled some feathers.

Yet civil rights activists and other watchdogs concerned about the separation of church and state are threatening lawsuits if Ave Maria attempts to enforce Catholic dogma. Environmentalists have also complained the town will restrict the habitat of the Florida panther, an endangered species.

But I don't think the founder of 30 minutes or less or its free could care less. Afterall Jeb Bush is giving his blessing to the new development.

The land on the western edge of the Everglades swamp will eventually house up to 30,000 people, with 5,000 students living on the university campus. Florida officials have declared the project a development bonanza for a depressed area, and Governor Jeb Bush attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new university earlier this month.

The Grunt featured on Inman News

Read the Inman News article on the Grunt and other esteemed bloggers including Jonathan Miller and the Rain City Guide. Jessica Swesey does a kick ass job getting into the heart and sould of real estate blogging.

A dirty little secret

In the latest Hunt the part that caught my eye was about Ms. Price.

By last spring, they were ready to move. They hoped for a sunny, quiet, one- or two-bedroom rental with a one-train commute to Midtown, where Ms. Rope works as a magazine researcher. Their budget was $1,500 to $1,700.

At the same time, Ms. Price was planning to leave her apartment. Her neighbor downstairs composed music, and she suffered day and night through the throbbing bass. At some point, the neighbor started smoking. Ms. Price found herself waking with a sore throat. She bought an air purifier, but nothing really helped.

"Smell privacy is really hard because people are allowed to do what they want in their apartment," said Ms. Price, a lawyer. "The smoke and noise wouldn't have gone away unless they evicted the guy. I think he was sort of depressed. It was hard to live above him."

Finally, she withheld rent, and the landlord took her to housing court.

Negotiations went well. The landlord was glad to forfeit the rent if Ms. Price vacated in two months. And did she know anyone who might want the apartment?

The dirty little secret about lawyers is that a considerable number of landlords would perfer not to have them as tenants because of their legal backgorund. I know some lawyers who try to skate around their occupation with landlords because of fear of getting their application rejected. I am not taking sides. This is just my observation. For all I know there may be more to the story with Ms. Price and her landlord besides a smelly tenant.

This all reminds me of a story I once heard. A woman took a landlord to court for discrimination because she was refused an apartment. The landlord brought in several tenants of different nationalities to court including a some who were of the same ethnic background of the woman. Then, the woman claimed that he was biased towards women. He responded by bringing several tenants who were women. Finally the judge asked why he refused the woman an apartment since she had great credit and had the funds to pay for her apartment. The landlord responded by stating that it was because she was a lawyer and that he had a horrible experience with a tenant who was a lawyer and he was not interested in taking another chance of repeating that scenario. The judge ruled in his favor.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Zombie real estate and Real Estate education

Those of you who are interested in entering commercial developement and have dreams of cashing in on commercial traffic, I give you Sounds like a name for a punk band doesn't it? Actually is a online record of retail establishments and malls that went under or are entering the DNR phase of the real estate cycle.

They even have a funky blog.

Another oldie but goodie is John T. Reed.

This should be a requirement for anyone interested investing in real estate. Before you blow your hard earned cash on real estate gurus you should look at Reed's Guru ratings and analysis chart which I feel is the most comprehensive guide that determiens who is the real deal and who is just out to make a quick buck.

Dear A**hole on the train.

Dear A**hole on train,

This subway is not your living room. The two seater on the train is not your LaZBoy where you can simply recline and do what you want. Learn to close your legs like a normal human being and acting passive aggressively by shoving your arm into me while turning the pages of your paper is really obnoxious. Btw, why do you have a newspaper? You're not fooling anyone since you obviously never got pass the first grade. I was hoping to give up your seat to a candidate for gastric bypass but apparently they don't get up this early but the lady I gave up my seat for looked really unstable so I was hoping for some early morning fireworks. But alas that did not happen. She must have had her prozac.

My only consolation is that in the future you are going to maintain your passive aggressive behavior and it will clash with someone who is bigger or stronger than you and is willing to express their displeasure through physical means.

My only regret is that I won't be there to laugh at you while that individual is stretching out your rectum with their size 12 shoe.

"My Life is full of irony. My life is a sitcom": Craigslist on NightLine

I am so happy that I DVRed the Nightline last night for it was the first Nightline interview ever of Craig Newmark.

Craig on customers.

"The really big lesson that I have learned from doing Craigslist customer service full-time, you know, interacting with a couple of hundred people a week or so is that people are overwhelmingly good and trustworthy," he said.

Craig on crime on Craigslist

"You see something really, really ugly, and it stays in your head," he said. "In my case, I have seen too much ugly stuff and it haunts me."

Craig on keeping Craigslist free.

"It would be a deviation from our moral compass," he said. "I don't see right now a way to do it with some consistency, regarding our idea of what is right."

Of course the subject of Craigslist killing newspaper came up which Craigslist responsed unapologetically.

"You shouldn't take the money and run," Chronicle columnist Al Saracevic recently wrote about Newmark. You "need to give something back to society other than cheap apartment ads and funny, dirty personals." But Jim Buckmaster rejected the theory that Craigslist is slowly killing newspapers, saying younger readers increasingly seek their information online.

"We have to keep our eyes on the tens of millions of users who really weren't well-served by newspapers, as far as classified opportunities that existed in the past," he said.

Newspapers have to get through their thick skulls that the evolution has begun. Craigslist is the future. Adapt or die.

Go to this link if you want to read the transcript and see the video.

One of the cool things about Craigslist was their place of work. It is simple house with a Craigslist sign in front of it. And it appears that Craig and Jim share the same office.

And what is Craig's reaction to this publicity?

craigslist on nightline tonight?
Hey, I'm no big deal, but my people are, check out Jake Tapper's blog and from there to the ABC Nightline site.

(still woozy from the dentist here, aftereffects of ballet accident long time ago.)

Posted by craig at February 22, 2006 04:17 PM

Rock on!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rental Broker Solution?

I got this off of Inman

Classifieds site offers free rental listings to landlords
LiveDeal aims to connect renters with property owners
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Inman News

Local online classifieds site today rolled out a free rental listings service for landlords and rental agencies in cities across the United States.

The classifieds company enables landlords to post detailed property descriptions and photos of available apartments, condos, homes and vacation and commercial properties.

Renters can browse listings by city/state or ZIP code and will be shown properties within a 50-mile radius of their search entry. LiveDeal also offers e-mail alert systems to notify renters when new listings have been posted on the site.

"As more and more online classifieds sites migrate towards a pay-per-listing model, welcomes landlords and rental agencies who are looking for a free online classifieds solution to reach local renters," said Rajesh Navar, LiveDeal's CEO.

LiveDeal's classified listings include more than 400,000 items daily, according to the company. Key listings categories such as autos, furniture and real estate have grown in excess of 1,000 percent since August 2004, the company said.

This is obviously another reaction to Craigslist charging for ads to brokers. There is a opportunity and they are going for it. However will this site become a cesspool of bait and switch scams? It really depends how much effort they put in policing the site.

Monday, February 20, 2006

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the new condo development the Windsor located in Forest Hills.

Besides the fact that the picture is crappy can you figure out what is wrong with this building? I'll give you a hint. Something is missing.

Figured it out?

There are very few lights on which I find very odd considering the level of prestige the Windsor represents.

I did some legwork and found out that this condo bulding is now open to residents since primary construction has been completed. But apparently not lot of people have moved in.

There are two scenarios that I can think of. The Windsor has been having trouble selling their units which I think is highly unlikely considering that sales commenced during the height of the boom and Forest Hills is considered to be very prestigious.

The second scenario is that an assload of buyers snatched up as many units with money on their mind with either flipping or renting the units. But now that the boom has ended these units are now vacant since they are very few buyers or renters. I did a search on Craigslist and there are 24 ads about the Windsor.

Those of you who are looking for bargains, perhaps this might be the place to go this spring.

Another interesting fact about the Windsor is their architect Ismale Leyva has a tendency of pulling a Mike Brady by using the same design as much as possible.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Craigslist in Details Magazine

Ian Daly of Details magazine has done a profile on Craigslist but being details magazine the focus is not on craigslist charging for broker ads but the casual encounters section.

Ian Daly was interviewed today on Eyewitness This Morning and presented some interesting facts.

According to Ian:

1.Craigslist does not have any obligation to look at the ads.
2.They have less than 20 employees so that are unable to look at all of the ads
3.Causal Encounters was an of shoot of their online personal section because of
complaints from people who were looking for legitimate relationships
4.Law enforcement does patrol Craigslist looking for undesirable elements

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Condo Collapse

By now everyone has read Motoko Rich's article which has risen to #1 as the most emailed article in the New York Times and was featured in Curbed.

I recently received a link to this craigslist ad.


Reply to:
Date: 2006-02-17, 4:38PM EST

There are only 8 remaining 2 and 3 bedroom units in the Trump City center project. For more detail, please send a note with your contact information and best time to be reached.

Serious inquiries only.

this is in or around White Plains

no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

If they are advertising on craigslist then it is probably an indicator of how desperate they are.

But what I think sellers should be concerned about is the new mentality overtaking buyers like Tom Hinks.

For now, the bumper crop of properties is a boon to buyers. In San Diego, Tom Hinks, a 21-year-old who is looking to buy a condo downtown, has realized he can take his time.

His approach might scare some sellers. Since Mr. Hinks started looking four months ago, he has viewed 30 condos. "I've actually liked quite a few of them," he said. "But every day it seems like the prices are starting to trim down so I don't want to pay too much."

Friday, February 17, 2006

REBNY relevant?

As we all know the real estate world is up in arms over recent developments including the popularity of Zillow over the Olympics, the alliances of real estate services countering Zillow and the aftermath of craigslist charging for broker ads. What it all comes down to is information and who has access to it. I predict there will be a boom in online real estate services that offer information about properties and areas resulting in the weakening of the broker. But I also can see REBNY slowly lose its standing in the brokerage world.

As I have stated before, REBNY’s tool to keep the brokerages in line is their R.O.L.E.X database that shares all the listing from brokers across town. Play by their rules and you get to play their game. If you don’t like the rules, well there’s the door.

But if the information that R.O.L.E.X provides is already available for free or for a much lower cost than what is the incentive for brokerages to pay their membership dues? REBNY has no leverage if brokers can elsewhere for their information. Brokers would not only save more money by not paying dues but they would be able to operate under their own rules by leaving REBNY. The end result would be brokers running wild in the streets.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another Alliance

Wow. It seems that other real estate services are getting in on the merger kick.


Kelly Kreth, Kreth Communications



Partnership Offers Potential Largest Single Database of “Human Verified” Real Estate Listings in NYC and Surrounding Metro Areas

Created in Response to Craiglist’s New Fee for Posting Real Estate Listings

New York, February 16,, a real estate portal, announces that it has partnered with RealtyMx to have the potentially largest single database of “human verified” real estate and apartment listings in New York City and the surrounding metro areas.

The service is free for individual brokers; there is a minor fee for agencies after a free trial. It also provides exclusive leads to agents. In addition, the shared leads are a great free service for tenants and buyers as they can contact all brokers with one form.

“As you know has become an extremely popular starting point for many tenants and buyers. Unfortunately, a few bad brokers abused the system and spammed it out. Starting March 1st, Craigslist will start charging $10 per ad per broker. This may help the quality of listings, but it will likely hurt many individual brokers and smaller agencies, and variety will be severely reduced,” comments Michael Zittel, president of and creator of

“We are always trying to create successful relationships with real estate marketplaces for the benefit of our clients. The integration with, a well established real estate portal, is even more important at the current time, while our users are looking for effective marketing alternatives. has proven itself over the last few years as an efficient and reliable web site for both clients and real estate brokers. The RealtyMX system now has a new channel of listings distribution, and we shall keep providing the cutting edge tools for the real estate professionals who have chosen us,” says David Elgrabli, president of Apply Media Inc., creators of the RealtyMX system.”

To respond to the urgent needs of brokers and agencies for a free place to post apartment listings on a site that is spam free, randomizes the listings that are never more than seven days old. Combined with human verification, this effectively reduces spam 100%, yet still provides a wide assortment of listings.

Additionally, provides a "BLAST SEARCH." This means when a tenant or buyer posts a "BLAST SEARCH" it is sent to ALL preferred members, up to 50 real estate firms. This forces the brokers to be competitive in their rates and pricing. It functions similarly to e-loans where the mortgage brokers compete for the customers business. Of course, if a client prefers, they can just browse and contact individual brokers, no fee agents and real estate brokers directly.

Also, all listings and search results are converted to RSS (XML), so tenants can add the searches to their News Readers, or Yahoo, AOL, MSN or Google home pages and cell phones. There are two benefits to this: the tenant doesn't have to go to the site to see what's new and the client doesn't have to send email, which is often blocked with spam blockers.

“I wanted to provide an easy, low-cost way for bulk uploads and have successfully incorporated this into the site--500 listing with the click of a mouse, rotating tile ads, shared and exclusive leads, and profile pages. Preferred membership for an entire firm is only $59.95 per month,” expounds Zittel.

Zittel is also working on a directory of "EXCLUSIVE" broker buildings. Any member of who EXCLUSIVELY represents a building, will be profiled on In short order , will offer an extensive directory of EXCLUSIVE BROKER properties not found elsewhere.

In addition to, the service will soon be completely rolled out nationwide, state by state with an emphasis on major cities on a site called

Interesting response to craigslist fees. But also this is an indication of another trend where companies will create their own database. Is R.O.L.E.X R.E.D.U.N.A.N.T?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The White House shotguns bubble theory.

Now a message from the White House that doesn't involve firearms.

White House Sees Slow Drop for Home Sales By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
Mon Feb 13, 6:14 PM ET

The high-flying housing market should make a safe landing by gradually losing altitude, the White House suggested Monday.

Housing has been an important source of power for the economy as home sales hit record highs in the past five years running. Low mortgage rates were a factor behind brisk housing activity.

"A gradual slowing of homebuilding appears more likely than a sharp drop because the elevated level of house prices will sustain homebuilding as a profitable enterprise for some time," according to President Bush's annual economic report to Congress.

The direction of the housing market is being closely watched. Most private analysts also are expecting gradual moderation. If the housing market were to collapse, it would pose grave dangers to the country's overall economic health.

House prices, which have risen rapidly in value, also will probably see slower growth this year, Matthew Slaughter, a member of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, said during a briefing on the report.

Even with a housing slowdown, the economy is expected to log respectable economic growth this year, according to the White House's projections.

The president's report projects that the economy will grow by 3.4 percent as measured from the fourth quarter of last year to the fourth quarter of this year. In 2007, the economy should register another solid year, growing by 3.3 percent, the report said.

The president's report examines economic conditions as well as challenges. These include rising health care costs, the massive strain on federal resources that will come from the looming retirement of millions of baby boomers, and bloated trade and budget deficits.

Democrats contend the administration is short on answers. The report "reveals little about how the president's policies would actually help average families or bring down the deficit," said Sen. Jack Reed (news, bio, voting record), D-R.I.

In other matters, the report said:

_The decline in Americans' personal savings rate "may not be cause for much alarm for retirement preparedness." The personal savings rate last year dropped to its lowest point since the Great Depression. The savings-rate measure doesn't provide a complete picture of households' finances because it does not capture gains from such things as higher real-estate values or financial investments, the White House report and private analysts say.

• Limiting the massive portfolio holdings of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would decrease "the likelihood of systemic problems with little adverse impact on the liquidity of the market." Proposals before Congress would curb the mortgage giants' holdings.

Looking back at last year, Bush marveled at the economy's sturdiness after being jolted by the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes and high energy prices. "The United States economy continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience, flexibility and growth," the report said.

The unemployment rate, which averaged 5.1 percent in 2005, should dip to 5 percent this year and hold steady at that rate next year, the White House forecast.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, also should moderate this year. Consumers prices, which rose by 3.4 percent in 2005 — the most in five years_ are expected to go up by no more than 2.4 percent this year and next year, the report said.

Addressing the government's balance sheets, Bush said the administration remains on track to cut the federal budget deficit in half by 2009. The president, who is urging Congress to make his tax cuts permanent, would seek to slash the deficit by cutting spending.

The government ran up a $319 billion budget deficit last year. The administration is estimating the deficit for this year to hit a record in dollar terms of $423 billion, surpassing the record set in 2004. The worsening picture reflects increased spending for hurricane relief and the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration says.

The president's report also said he would continue to push for trade deals that would make it easier for U.S. companies to sell their goods in global markets.

The U.S. trade deficit soared to $725.8 billion last year, the fourth year in a row the deficit hit a record high. The country's trade shortfall with China last year came to $201.6 billion, the highest deficit ever recorded with any single country. The report urged China to move ahead on a more flexible currency policy.

Democrats, unions and other critics blame Bush's free-trade policies for the loss of U.S. jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.

Ok. The floor is open. All responses are welcome. Let's not shoot anyone down.

Aftermath of Zillow: PropertyShark and Truglia form an unholy alliance

Actually, I only wrote in "unholy" because it sounded cool. I got this from Kreth Kommunications. AND TRULIA FORM A STRATEGIC PARTNERShIP

PropertyShark provides data for Trulia’s Recent NYC Launch

New York City, February 15, 2006 –, a leading data analytical tool for property search and Trulia, a real estate listings metasearch service based in San Francisco, announced their partnership today.

“We have a bilateral cross linking relationship which allows Trulia to enhance its search results with PropertyShark data, helping to make it a better service for home researchers. In return, we use Trulia search results in PropertyShark reports, giving our users a good sense of what nearby properties are for sale. We also jointly promote each other,” comments chief executive officer of, Ryan Slack.

Trulia’s co-founder, Pete Flint adds, “The Internet real estate researcher is hungry for the most comprehensive and accurate information. With this integrated partnership, we can offer consumers a more informed search experience while supporting the sales process for brokers and agents.”

PropertyShark founder, Matthew Haines, further explains, “As the real-estate data market heats up, with lavishly-funded start-ups like Zillow joining the fray, it is essential that focused players like Trulia and PropertyShark partner to provide consumers and professionals with a soup-to-nuts offering of sales, leads, and property data and tools."”

The two companies have already partnered in Los Angeles and New York City markets and plan to tackle other key cities in coming months.


Example of PropertyShark on Trulia: (see section under map)

Example of Trulia on PropertyShark:
(scroll down to For Sale Nearby by

Propertyshark has been going through bags of clean underwear ever since Zillow came into play so I am not suprised by this move.I wonder if they were conversations between PropertyShark and Zillow.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Ladies and gentleman, those real estate maniancs of Haurte Living have signed a deal to get their magazine distributed in the Big Apple.



Miami, FL—February 18, 2006- Haute Living, has signed a contract with Mitchell's NY for distribution rights to luxury residences throughout Manhattan. Over 200 residential buildings will receive the Jan-Feb. edition of Haute Living, featuring real estate magnate Giuseppe Cipriani within the next 10 days to two weeks.

"We are very excited to introduce NYC to Haute Living," comments Publisher Seth Semilof. "To hit 200 of the Most Exclusive Buildings will basically build our brand overnight," comments Publisher Kamal Hotchandani. "Plus, it is huge for our advertisers to reach the elite of South Florida and New York.," adds Hotchandani.

Catering to high-end consumers, Mitchell's services will bring Haute Living directly to high-end residences throughout the Big Apple, with over 5,000 issues being delivered prior to Haute Living's New York magazine launch in June. This collaboration ensures advertisers that Haute Living will be distributed at residential buildings in Manhattan.

"To hit 200 of the Most Exclusive Buildings in NYC will allow our advertisers to reach the hands of the wealthy in Miami, Palm Beach, and now New York City.

About Haute Living
Haute Living is the standard for luxury real estate and design. Haute Living features the finest in luxury real estate, chic interior design, gourmet cuisine and luxury goods, while highlighting South Florida and New York's sizzling real estate news. With its contemporary design and targeted distribution, Haute Living appeals to both domestic and international luxury real estate investors.

About Mitchells NY Home Delivery Service
Mitchell's NY is the largest independent publication distributor in the United States. Mitchell's NY has faithfully served the New York City market every day since 1946 and is family owned and operated. In addition to offering over 2,000 titles and delivering in excess of 100,000 time sensitive newspapers each morning to New York residences and offices, Mitchell's NY is the market leader offering publishers reliable lobby and mailroom distribution at the most prestigious addresses in all neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Money doesn't buy happiness

Acoording to this article> some Australian researchers with alot of time on their hands determined the following:

Money doesn't buy happiness, and now there's a study to prove it. Australian researchers found that people in well-off Sydney are among the most miserable in the country, while those in some of the poorest areas are much more satisfied with their lives.

My response to that is a question my Mother used to pose to me.

"Would you rather rich and unhappy or poor and unhappy?"

I'll take the rich and misery please

Thoughts on Snow and Stupidity

As everyone knows it seems we have just been bombarded by the next ice age. Soto brighten your day I have two articles for you.

The first one is about a $400 million house in Indiana and the second is about how LA has more in common with Manhattan than we thought. I misplaced this link. Will have it up and running by the end of the day if I can find it. It is a Washington Post article on how urban sprawl is affecting LA.
No open house reports today since I wasn't crazy enough to be out yesterday. Was anyone out there brave enough to go out?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A salute to Michelle Kwan

I turned on the computer this morning to find out that Michelle Kwan just dropped out of the Olympic games due to her injury. Honestly, I am saddend by this turn of events because like many others I was hoping that she would win gold.

Michelle Kwan is an example of the true Olympic spirit of pushing yourself beyond your limits and enduring the endurable. But she also has the courage and honor to walk way when she realized she could not perform to her own expectations and gave up her spot for another future Olympian.

You are always a winner in my heart and millions of others, Michelle. Shed no tears Michelle, for you have have nothing to be sad about.

Friday, February 10, 2006

More light reading for the weekend

Below are links for some light reading.

Ziprealty will advertise nationally with Zillow. This is best
combination of a discount broker with Zillow since chocolate
and peanut butter.

Those of you who can't get enough of Zillow, here is ton of articles
courtesy of Yahoo News! and the Zillow blog where your comments will answered by Lloyd Frink, the big cheese of Zillow.

And if you feel like getting really depressed during the blizzard of 2006, read the
Northern New Jersey Real Estate Bubble Blog's retrospective of the real estate bubble of the 1980's through the New York Times called "Home Prices Do Fall". Seriously, this should be required reading for all of you buyers and sellers.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Craigslist being sued for housing discrimination

BREAKING NEWS! Craigslist is being sued for housing bias.

I am going to investigate this further before I present my analysis. I will say this much. Craig has always presented himself as a standup guy who fights for the right of consumers so I am a little suprised about this lawsuit. This also falls in the realm of law and as many of you know I am not a lawyer so I am going to have to do some research on the subject. But I still believe in the integrity of Craig Newmark and his people and I think this will be cleared up very quickly.

Craigslist sued over housing ad bias

Online classified site's standards in question

By Mike Hughlett
Tribune staff reporter
February 8, 2006

A Chicago fair housing group has sued groundbreaking Web site Craigslist for allegedly publishing discriminatory advertisements, a case that could test the legal liabilities of online ad venues.

The suit is part of an emerging attempt by housing watchdogs nationally to hold online classified sites to the same strict standards as the publishers of print classifieds, such as newspapers.

The suit is potentially significant because it suggests that the rules for an Internet site should be the same as for a traditional publisher, in which every ad should be vetted to conform with the law. But that notion contradicts the way the Internet has blossomed, where informal communities tend to police themselves and free expression is valued.

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sued San Francisco-based Craigslist, claiming that during a six-month period beginning in July, the site ran more than 100 ads in Chicago that violated the federal Fair Housing Act.

The committee, a public interest consortium of the city's leading law firms, said in a federal suit that those ads discriminated on race, religion, sex, family status or national origin.

Among the ads cited in the suit: "Non-women of Color NEED NOT APPLY"; "African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won't work out"; and "Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male."

Craigslist acknowledges that completely screening its vast classified listings--which range from babysitters seeking work to people selling tickets to White Sox games--would be "physically impossible," Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's chief executive officer, said in an e-mail interview Tuesday.

The site doesn't pre-screen or approve ads, he said, and 8 million new classified ads are submitted each month.

Craigslist does have a system in which its own users can flag inappropriate or illegal ads for removal. Such inappropriate ads are quickly removed, Buckmaster said.

The site, founded 10 years ago by computer programmer Craig Newmark, is remaking the classified-ad business.

Once a listing of services for San Francisco residents, Craigslist now covers the nation and has helped erode the print classifieds business at newspapers.

Craigslist charges employers for help-wanted listings in three cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. But the rest of its ads are free.

The privately held company, which has 19 employees, does not disclose its revenue, and estimates vary.

But one 2004 study by consultant Classified Intelligence said the Web site has cost Bay Area newspapers $50 million to $65 million in annual revenues for employment ads.

Buckmaster said the site is "very concerned about discrimination in housing ads."

Craigslist's voluntary efforts to promote fair housing on its site go "well beyond" what's required by federal law, he noted. And he said fair housing groups have praised Craigslist for educating its users about fair housing issues.

But Buckmaster also wrote that it is "our understanding that Internet Web sites such as a Craigslist do not have the same legal liability as print media in terms of the Fair Housing Act."

Craigslist is not a publisher in the same sense of a newspaper, he wrote. "Rather, it is an Internet site where users can publish their own postings."

Therein lies the key legal issue: Is an Internet site like Craigslist a publisher?

The answer is "less than clear," said Michael Overing, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California and an attorney specializing in Internet law.

Publishers exercise control over their content, whether it is advertising or news columns. They screen ads and stories, looking for violations of laws like the federal housing discrimination statute.

Overing said Web sites like Craigslist can argue that they don't need to screen because a federal law passed in the 1990s doesn't treat them as publishers, but merely as distributors of content.

"Online, we are in a different realm," he said.

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee is essentially arguing that Internet sites do have the same liabilities as print publishers. If the case goes to trial and the committee prevails, it could have "wide-ranging implications," Overing said.

He noted that if Craigslist lost, other groups could be emboldened to use the Fair Housing Act--a broadly defined law--to pursue discrimination claims against a range of Internet sites, even so-called "hate" sites.

Laurie Wardell, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Lawyers' Committee, said landlords realize that the Internet has a lower bar for housing ads. "You just shift to the Internet if you want to discriminate," she said.

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee has 44 member firms whose lawyers do pro bono work for civil rights, particularly for housing and hate crime issues, according to the group's Web site.

It's not clear if the suit, which was filed in Chicago on Friday, is the first of its kind. The Chicago Lawyers' Committee said it believes Craigslist has been sued on fair housing issues and has settled those cases. Wardell said settlement talks with Craigslist failed.

Buckmaster said Craigslist hasn't been sued for such issues.

Clearly, though, fair-housing watchdogs are scanning Craigslist's trove of housing ads.

About five other fair-housing watchdogs in other states are examining Craigslist for discrimination, said Anne Houghtaling, director of enforcement for the non-profit National Fair Housing Alliance. (The Chicago Lawyers Committee is its local affiliate.)

"Some of our members in other states have had issues with Craigslist," Houghtaling said. "It's more than just Chicago."

It's also more than just Craigslist.

Wardell said the group has found similar discriminatory ads at other online sites, though she declined to name them.

Meanwhile, a Louisiana affiliate of the National Fair Housing Alliance recently filed a federal complaint against, a hurricane relief site that includes housing classifieds.

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center found 68 allegedly discriminatory ads, including ones that reportedly said "gays and lesbians not welcome" and "applicants must be gay, white or light-skinned Hispanic males."

More Zillow stuff than you can shake a stick at

If you are interested in a more in depth perspective about Zillow then go straight to Spencer Rascoff's personal blog where he gives all of us the run down on Zillow.

Spencer serves as one of the master chiefs of Zillow where he reigns as CFO and VP of Marketing. Feel free to drop him a line.

Zillow: Kinking it out

I just received this reply from Zillow regarding their status:

We WERE up for about 12 hours, but now we’re down due to traffic. The traffic is ridiculously overwhelming. The routers (not the web application) can’t handle it. We’re working on it feverishly.

It appears Zillow is getting carpet bombed senseless with traffic that most bloggers would give their left nipple for. So if is obvious that there is no stopping them now.

They also stated to me that their current business model utilizes advertising but I predict, no, I guarantee that once the paperless transaction is perfected, they will provide an e-commerce solution that will cost the fraction of what broker's charge.

Zillow Tease: Giving everyone the real estate blue balls

Waiting for Zillow? Well wait no longer. Here it is at this link.

Yeah. Even for a beta launch you would expect a bit more. But boy, was I excited when I got this email.


Champagne corks are popping in our confetti-strewn office tonight … The beta site launched and we are proud of it!

The project that has consumed my life for the last 11 months has finally hatched. We've been secretive, but you can see it's not so mysterious after all:

• Instantly get valuations for homes in the U.S.

• See historical sales and comps of nearby homes

• Refine the valuation estimate for a home

• Determine how future remodeling can impact resale value

All this will help you avoid overpaying for a home, determine the right selling price, or just track the value of your most important asset. It’s also fun to see what other people’s houses are worth, and what they paid for their house…

Check it out at – remember, it's a beta and we have a few kinks to work out. Some cities – particularly on the west coast -- work very well. Other cities (notably New York) are still a work-in-progress. Also, please note that the site requires Flash, which some corporate firewalls don’t permit.

Raise your glass - here's to the future of I'll keep you posted on the features we'll be launching as we grow.

My guess is that they are still working the kinks out. But I strongly feel that this site will play a pivotal role in the real estate market.

The Online Real Estate Wars

Damon Darlin recently did a badass article on how everyone in the real estate industry is holding their nuts trying to protect themselves from the repeated 100 mile an hour crotch shots coming from Zillow and Redfin.

Below are the juicy bits along with my witilicious commentary.

February 8, 2006
2 Web Sites Push Further Into Services Real Estate Agents Offer
Two real estate Web sites are starting to offer services that could change the way real estate is bought and sold online.

One site,, which will be introduced today, will help consumers obtain more accurate real estate sales information — to the consternation of some real estate agents.

A smaller site,, introduced an unusual new service last week that might be even more disruptive to the real estate industry: the feature automates the process of bidding on a house online.

Eventually Zillow will have this feature. And when that it happens, it will be all she wrote for the real estate brokerage industry since people will realize how much money they can save by doing their transactions online.

Zillow is attracting a lot of attention because it obtained $32 million in venture capital financing and its chief executive, Rich Barton, was a creator of Expedia, the online travel agency.

Once that revenue starts to roll in investors will lob bails of money to get a piece of that action. Also there will most likely be a ton of copy cats who will try to utilize the Zillow formula.

The new site provides data like previous sales prices and the prices of similar properties on 60 million residential properties, information that real estate agents do not display in the public multiple listing service. The site also includes price appreciation (or depreciation) data in a form that resembles stock charts. "It's a lot of data to make you smarter," Mr. Barton said.

One of the key points of utilizig a broker is the information they possess. That is why alot of brokers specialize in a particular area because it makes them more valuable and it makes things alot easier for them instead of running around like a chicken with their head cut off.

In addition, Zillow uses software to offer a free home-value estimator. The "Zestimate" service tries to do what has been a primary function of the real estate agent. And in contrast to many other real estate Web sites, like, run by the National Association of Realtors, or Home, owned by Housevalues Inc., Zillow does not try to connect its users with agents.

Do you see what is going on here? Do you see what they are doing? Their focus is on the customer. Not the broker. They don't want anything to interfere with relationship because Zillow is setting up the foundation when they implement their e-commerce solution.

The most important thing that Zillow needs to do is create a brand and instill brand loyalty into their consumers and they are on a great start. Then Zillow will be able to go further in their efforts in providing more services for the consumer.

Many real estate agents worry that Zillow could be a first step in an online evolution that could threaten their $60 billion commission-based business, just as Expedia, Travelocity and other online sites disrupted the business of travel agents.

Mr. Barton said it was not his intent to take part of the agent's commission, which averages slightly less than 6 percent and is split between the buyer's and seller's agents. Instead, Zillow is an advertising-supported site.

Yeah. Mr. Barton is really going to ignore a $60 billion business. The only reason why Mr. Barton hasn't implemented anything is because they haven't perfected it as of yet. It may not be his intent but it will become a reality.

Mr. Barton said he expected to sell advertising on the site because the information there will create in nearly every American city a community of people interested in real estate. New York City will be the notable exclusion, because of the complexity of mapping multistory multiowner condominiums.

Zillow's sizable capitalization is already causing anxiety among online companies that match real estate listings with interactive maps and other data., a site that began with New York City listings and has since expanded to 15 other cities, for instance, is wary of Zillow because of its venture backing.

PropertyShark has no outside financing. "It is scary, and frustrating and nerve-racking," said Matthew Haines, the site's founder. "It made it quite clear that we are underfunded."

Propertyshark has nothing to worry about. As long as they stay true to their brand they should be alright. For all we know Zillow might make an alliance with Property Shark since they have pretty much established a beach head in the area. Why make more work for themselves? In fact if I was Zillow I would be in talks to buy out Propertyshark.

Redfin, though less well financed than Zillow, is perhaps even more ambitious in its aim to take on the work of agents. The site, which maps listings with other sources of real estate data for Seattle, added a feature last week that allows a visitor to buy a property online.

A real estate agent is not cut out of the process; in fact, Redfin is itself a real estate brokerage company. But the site automates the paperwork of making a bid and then rebates to the buyer two-thirds of the buyer's agent's commission, which is usually 3 percent. Redfin, as the buyer's agent, takes only a 1 percent commission.

Redfin shows the potential savings on every listing. For instance, the "direct savings" on a $699,000 house currently for sale in the Queen Anne district in Seattle is $13,980. The buyer gets the money at closing so it can be used for the down payment or to pass to the seller if it was used to sweeten an offer.

Right below the description of that property are two buttons, one to "see it" and the other to "buy it." A click on the see button helps the potential buyer arrange a tour of the property. Clicking on the buy button leads the visitor through online forms that generate the paperwork for an offer.

"We won't replace the agent," said Glenn Kelman, Redfin's chief executive. "We let people who are self-reliant do the legwork and gain 2 percent." Redfin has been financed with $1.25 million, with most of that coming from the Madrona Venture Group of Seattle. The company said it was seeking additional financing to expand to other cities.

This is the future. NAR and REBNY should be looking at Redfin very, very closely and figure how to adapt to this new business model instead if engaging in anti-competeive practices and dismissing new trends in real estate.

All of these real estate sites are chipping away at the agent's business of matching clients with a property and then negotiating a deal. The Web is already displacing the initial contact that agents have with customers. A recent National Association of Realtors survey found that 77 percent of home buyers use the Internet to search for a home. About 24 percent said they first learned of a home from the Internet, up from 15 percent in a 2004 survey.

Mr. Barton does not exclude the possibility that the role of the agent, and his site, may change.

"People want Realtors," he said. "But is it rational to pay Realtors what they are paid?" He says he thinks they are overpaid because customers are doing more of the work themselves.

Zillow, for instance, has a number of other features that do the work of the agent. Someone wanting to compare properties can use pull-down menus to estimate the value of remodeling projects that are not reflected in the price. Because of the Internet, agents are spending less time with clients, Mr. Barton said. "Agents have to ask, What kind of value am I adding?"

Still, Mr. Barton said, "it is not our intent to dislocate the agent."

Mr. Kelman of Redfin said he recognized that change might be difficult. "We are like the penguins on the edge of an iceberg when no one wants to jump in first. Redfin is going in first," he said. "Maybe that isn't such a good analogy. The first penguin in usually gets eaten by sharks or something."

Whatever happens, I think these new advances in real estate media and technology will only serve to help the consumer by educating them and forcing the real estate industry to reinvent itself. These advances will accelerate if we ecounter the big R and people need to liquidate ASAP and want to cut their overheard which means reducing the broker's commission.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Kelly Kreth Karate Chops Her Way Back To The Real Estate Game

Remember this story?

Well I got an email from Ms. Kreth regarding her new business venture Kreth Communications. Here is the release.

Contact: Kelly Kreth, Kreth Communications, (201) 417-8691

Public Relations and Marketing Communications Firm Launches With Four Clients

New York, February 1, 2006—Kreth Communications, a public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in servicing the real estate industry, announced its official launch today.

Founded by Kelly Kreth, 35, a business professional with over 13 years of marketing communications and public relations experience, Kreth Communications will offer specialized service to those within the real estate industry seeking public relations representation.

Explains Kreth, “For years I held marketing management positions in other industries, but when I first started working in the New York real estate industry several years ago, something just clicked. I had finally found the industry that truly excites me. I use that enthusiasm to fuel the way I work for my clients. Much of real estate deals with numbers, but it is hard to quantify a human experience. I try to pitch stories that capture the human element in real estate.”

Kreth Communications’ high-profile client list of industry leaders includes:, a data provider of building information as well as advanced mapping techniques, City Connections Realty, a residential and commercial real estate services firm, and TitleVest, a firm that offers a full range of title insurance products and real estate services.

Says Matthew Haines, founder of, “Kelly got us in the New York Times not once, but twice on the same weekend, in the real estate section as well as the front page of the business section! Since then it has been a whirlwind tour of the journalism world, with visits to every major publication in New York City and beyond and many of the minor ones. Every week PropertyShark is in the press. Before we hired Kelly we were mentioned in the press maybe three times in the previous two years.”

David Schlamm, president of City Connections Realty, agrees, “Kelly has been very instrumental in getting the PR we needed for our new business model. Her relationships and connections to the press/media have gotten us more press than we ever imagined. She is also instrumental in designing all of our marketing tools from our website to our recruitment brochures. We are very happy to have her working with us and look forward to a long lasting relationship.”

Kreth is formerly the director of marketing and public relations for The Quest Group, a real estate services firm located in Manhattan, the U.S. senior marketing specialist for Syntegra, a division of British Telecommunications and has much experience in the non-profit sector, recently receiving national recognition for her charity public relations efforts. She appears in a case study in a book soon to be published about the value of public relations in non-profit environments.

Kelly had been talking about this for awhile so I am not surprised she has pulled it off. But looking at the area code it seems she has relocated to Jersey. Quite a comeback for a woman who was drop kicked out of DQ in a very messy and public fashion. Best of luck to you.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Open House Reports

As many you have noticed I have not posted any recent open house reports. Due to a recent development I am unable to provided that information. Don't worry. I wasn't dooced, I am not coming out of the closet and I haven't been fired. But at this time I am unable to provide any intel for all of you.

Therefore I am asking for volunteers to who have been attending open houses to provide information. Feel free to submit to comments or email it to me. I think it will be a great asset to all of us out there.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ok. Can we panic now?

It appears Bloomberg's concern regarding the New York real estate market was justified. Thanks for the tip DC.

The Mayor's office just released their preliminary budget for 2007 and the part I think you will all find a bit alarming is the section on economic growth.

Continued Economic Growth:
New York City’s economy continues to strengthen in the short-term and jobs are being created throughout the City. The Administration’s five borough economic development strategy has helped push unemployment to 5.8%, the lowest level since 2000. Wall Street’s revenues have rebounded to pre-September 11th levels, reaching $225 billion, an increase of nearly 50% between calendar year 2004 and 2005. The securities sector bonus pool is forecasted to top $20 billion in calendar year 2005 and 2006, the highest levels ever. However, rising interest rates will slow Wall Street’s advances and profits have declined this year. Visitors to New York topped 41 million in 2005 and employment in the tourism sector topped 305,000 in 2005. The City’s commercial occupancy rate is the highest in the nation. New York’s real estate market is expected to slow, however, with a 10% decline in home prices, a 14% decline in home sales over the next few years and a significant decline in real estate transaction taxes that have buoyed the City’s tax revenue in the last few fiscal years.

I dare you, I double dog dare any of you out there to say Bloomberg is wrong. I dare you to say that the Wall Street bonuses are going put some juice back into the market. I dare you to say that the spring season will rejuvenate the market. I dare you to tell me that that people including myself are a bunch of chicken littles for calling bubble. Please. Do it. Because I am in the mood put foot to ass to someone who thinks that the market is still going strong.

This reality check has been a long time coming and now is not the time to submerge ourselves in the delusions of real estate grandeur. This is the time to take a good hard look at ourselves and try to figure out a way to ride the storm. This is the time to make hard decisions.