All Posts By

Blaine Morris

Realtor Safety and Housing Density AB-1537 Signed Into Law

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Now that’s more like it! I’ve got to say, I love the heat. But I don’t love the humidity. This has been a voodoo freaky summer here in Marin…sticky, sweaty, muggy. Finally, we’ve had some of that beautiful, humidity-free fall weather. In years past, I might be taking it for granted, but not this year. I’ve been enjoying every toasty moment. Keep it coming!

And let me get this out of the way right out front: LET’S GO GIANTS!! What a sports weekend, Giants, 49ers. Big win for Cal, sad loss for Stanford. Oh, and let’s not forget Utah’s stirring win over #8 UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. Sorry Kate Hamilton and all the rest of you Bruin fans (my sister included…).


With those light-hearted thoughts out of the way, time to get serious. We just finished up NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Month. So much has been said about the tragic death of REALTOR® colleague Beverly Carter. Horrible, horrible, horrible. This could have been any of us.

The news has hit all of us like a ton of bricks. Last week, it was the talk of our industry. Out on tour, in office meetings, in conversations with loved ones, friends and clients.

On Wednesday, I was previewing a listing of MAR member Beth Brody’s in Mill Valley. She was telling a story from years ago of an incident in Muir Beach where something just didn’t seem right with a supposed buyer. She reported the incident to the police, and a week later got a call from the FBI about REALTOR® murder in Sacramento with a description matching the guy she had reported. We think we’re all very safe here in beautiful Marin, but it happens here too.

As our sales meeting last week, the topic was REALTOR® safety. I reminded everyone that we have a local Marin emergency number that is quicker and better than 911…it’s 415-472-0911. You should definitely put that in your cell phone.

And as an industry, we need to SLOW THINGS DOWN sometimes. Showing homes to people we’ve not met, at empty houses, is simply a bad business practice. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being created by the so-called “on demand” society. At the Inman conference in SF earlier this summer, the founder of a large internet-based broker (one with a color in its name) was smugly boasting about how his business model is simply accommodating a need and expectation by the buyer community for “on demand” showing of real estate. Telling us that if we don’t do it, someone else will. There were a number of his agents at various breakout sessions throughout the day, each telling stories of “out-on-demanding” traditional REALTORS®.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon. There is tremendous competitive pressure to convert leads, often from buyers who want to look at a house right now/in an hour/sometime this morning. Particularly if you’re a new agent or an experienced agent trying to jumpstart your business…the expectation has been created, and if you don’t do it someone else will.

My advice: meet them at your office. These stories of incidents involving REALTORS® are not new, this one with Ms. Carter simply turned around so quickly and tragically it’s got all of our attention. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste…make a commitment to be careful! Here is the link to NAR’s REALTOR® Safety page HERE. Let’s take the attention of this tragedy with a new commitment to being safe.


Speaking of safety, MAR member Abby Tanem last week reported that she recognized a fake REALTOR® from several years ago who claims to be from Pacific Union’s Mill Valley office…but has no card. Abby remembered him, and called PU to confirm that no one by that name worked there. We all thought this guy was busted for theft a few years back, but he seems to have resurfaced. Please tell your clients to lock up valuables and medication…especially the kinds that lend themselves to abuse.

With that in mind, earlier this year I was approached by a local vendor who has a very affordable solution to medication theft…it’s something of a plastic “safe” with a combination lock. The safe isn’t really bullet-proof, but the form factor…about the size of a cookie jar…simply does not lend itself to popping into a pocket and walking out of the house like a small bottle of medication can. We’ve ordered a case of these for the MAR store, and should be in stock soon. They’re only $20, and will result in piece of mind for us and our clients.


Yes! Last week, Governor Brown signed AB1537 into law, providing a huge victory for common sense and Marin’s Assemblyman Marc Levine. AB1537 lowers Marin’s default density for affordable housing projects from 30 to 20 units per acre, and correctly reclassifies Marin as Suburban rather than Metropolitan.

MAR worked quite a bit in advocacy of this bill. We were among the earliest groups to endorse the measure, and both MAR CEO Andy Fegley and myself testified before Assembly and Senate committees in Sacramento in favor of the bill.

It is the right bill, for the right time in Marin’s housing future. It is effective on January 1, 2015, and will run for eight years through a full housing planning cycle.

Congratulations to Assemblyman Levine and his team, along with Supervisor Kate Sears who also worked tirelessly on this bill’s passage.

Finally, thank you to over 100 REALTORS® who attended the Flood Summit at the Marin Country Club last Tuesday. It was a big hit, and lots of very detailed info was shared. The info didn’t really make me feel better, but it did make me feel much better informed. Thank you to sponsors Steve Strickland of JCP-LGS Disclosures, and Kristy Militello of First American Home Warranty, and also thank you to MAR Education Chair Mary Kay Yamamoto for their collective work on this useful event.

That’s it for now, I’m off to the fall CAR Business Meetings and EXPO in Orange County in the morning on a 6:30 AM flight. I and the MAR CAR Director team return on Saturday and we will likely have a couple of week’s worth of reports for you.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week. Be careful out there.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

Flood Summit, SRES Certification and BAREIS SEL Form Update/Correction

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good day MAR members!

Tough weekend for Marin sports fans…Giants getting swept, 49ers and Raiders losing, Cal losing on a last second Hail Mary. At least the A’s took two out of three from the Phillies. It wasn’t a total loss for me, however, since my University of Utah Utes went into the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan and came away with a nice win to go to 3-0. But I won’t dwell on that, since no one cares about Utah football other than MAR CEO Andy Fegley, Cyd Gardner and myself.

Busy, busy, busy. Slowly but surely, they seem to be finishing all the road projects out there. The West End of San Rafael has been a bit of a war zone lately, with the main gas line replacement across Second and Third streets wreaking havoc, along with H Street on the edge of Forbes and Sun Valley. What a mess, detour central, and extra time needed for all. Though I don’t relish the arrival of the rainy season, at least the pending arrival of rain should cause all these streets to get closed up. Let’s hope so, anyway!


It’s close to last call for these events, folks. The Flood Summit, with FEMA and others coming to give us an update on the flood zone and flood insurance world, is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Marin Country Club. There are still some seats left for this great event. The cost is $15, and will include a continental breakfast. You can click here to register. Many thanks to Steven Strickland of JCP-LGS Disclosures and Kristy Militello of First American Home Protection for sponsoring, and also to MAR Education Chair Mary Kay Yamamoto for their efforts to put this together.

Also, there are still some seats left for next months’ Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) certification training. All of us should have this certification, since such a large portion of our clients are facing aging-related housing decisions. I got the certification nearly three years ago, and the two days of the course were extremely productive in raising my awareness of these important issues, and also were helpful in making me more well-versed on the conversation itself. The certification training will be held at the MAR offices on October 6th and 7th, and registration closes this Thursday. The cost for the training and certification is $245, and you can click here to register.


As excited as I was earlier this month when informing you about BAREIS’ recent changes to the SEL form policy, I must admit that I passed along some incomplete information about the revised process. Over a period of several months and several reports to the MAR Board of Directors, BAREIS Class B Director and MAR Member Dave Egan had been sharing with us that a “streamlining” of the process was in the works.

It culminated at the MAR Board meeting last month, when the message that I heard…and reported to you in the “Tuesday Memo” after Labor Day…was that BAREIS had made a major and welcome revision to the process. It was my understanding that the much-loved SEL “exclusion” form still needed to be completed, but that your broker was responsible for ensuring compliance, along with all the other legal and procedural items your broker is responsible for. Dave shared that “hundreds” of SEL form compliance emails and phone calls will be “eliminated” or a “thing of the past” or something like that.

That was incorrect. Or at least I reported it incorrectly.

In BAREIS’ announcement of the change in SEL exclusion form policy sent to all of us via email on 8/28, the new process is defined. Yes, you do have to still get the form. Yes, you STILL need to send the form to BAREIS within three business days of taking the listing. You can avoid this step, however, if you SUBMIT the listing to BAREIS on the MLS with a FUTURE “ON MARKET” DATE. Which means you’ll need to totally complete the listing on the MLS, with all fields completed, within those three days.

Yup, that’s it…the “streamlining” of the process: either do what you’ve been doing (or should have been doing, unless you don’t mind paying fines) and send the SEL form to BAREIS within three business days, OR go through the entire process of uploading your listing, and submitting it with a “future” on-market date. This is beyond “incomplete” listing…it’s the whole enchilada.

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Once again, it’s important for me to remind the membership that neither I nor the MAR Board of Directors have any authority to effect change at BAREIS. That’s up to BAREIS’ Board and its executive leadership. We simply get feedback and share feedback through our Class B Board Member.

From my perspective, this so-called “revision” is just that…a revision, not an improvement nor a streamliningof the process. It’s certainly easier to go fax in the form, just like we always have, than it is to spend 45-60 minutes inputting the whole listing and submitting it as “complete”. Within three days.

I received a few calls this week from agents who misunderstood the “improved” process, and were enlightened by BAREIS. I’ll share this feedback with BAREIS Director Egan tomorrow, who I continue to believe does an outstanding job representing Marin at BAREIS. In the meantime, you can share your feedback yourself with BAREIS by clicking here.

That’s it for now, lots of new listings out there for our clients for this beautiful Indian Summer season, good selling!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.


Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Upcoming Residential Purchase Agreement and New Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Rules for Condos in Flood Zones

By | California Association of Realtors, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good day MAR members!

Another week of summer gently slides by, and just like that some of the kids are starting school this week! I was starting to get used to the lack of traffic, so I’m trying to brace myself for the crush of the next few weeks. Hopefully they will get all the road construction finished in time for school starting…otherwise we might be faced with a double whammy. So, please be patient and take your time out there MAR members…you’ll get to your meeting, it just might take you a little longer than it has been taking.

Another shorter summer-version memo this week, for quick reading as you scramble to finish up vacations and get the kids set for school…

Once again, we are reminded at the fragility of our time on this planet. In the years to come, many of us will remember where we were when we heard the news of Robin Williams’ passing. I know I will. We all considered Robin a fellow Marinite…a kindred spirit. He was young enough when he moved to Marin that it was not his choice to move here…but he DID make the choice to stay here, and moved back in recent years to his home county. Woodacre, Redwood High, College of Marin, Tiburon…Marin IS home.

Seeing Robin around town was not a celebrity sighting, Hollywood-style. It was simply seeing a familiar face. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Robin several years ago, as both of us were attending a local comedy show that was being presented by a mutual friend. We didn’t speak beyond pleasantries…but it was great to see him out enjoying and supporting other kindred spirits working their craft. Just a normal Marin guy.

As the emotion and stories have flooded all of us this week, one of the things that I’ve noticed is how he generously supported others in his artistic and comedy community. He gave service to his community. Let’s remember that folks. People are talking about his enormous talent, obviously. But after we all agreed on the huge artistic contributions, the story continues to come back to generosity and service. Our mutual friend even wrote about it, how Robin generously helped him get his business off the ground years ago. When all is said and done, the world will remember his talent and body of work. His family, friends and our community will remember the man, how he gave back, and how he made those around him feel.

It’s also good that as a community we are discussing mental health. I am hopeful that there is some good that can come out of this tragedy. We need to prop up those around us that need it, even if they don’t tell us so. Lend a helping hand, offer some encouragement, encourage people to get help when it’s needed. And always let those around you know how much you love them.

RIP Robin Williams.


It’s been a while since our last meeting, and in the spirit of our New Fall Season, let’s kick it off together on Tuesday, September 9th at Noon [check-in and networking begins at 11:30am]. Our featured speaker is Professor Robert Eyler, one of the leading economic minds in the North Bay, and the head of the Marin Economic Forum. His updates are always useful, and you will get local and up-to-date economic data that you can put to work with your clients immediately!

This meeting will also serve as the election for MAR’s 2015 leadership and Board of Directors.

You can click here to register on line, or click here for a flyer registration form. Our General Membership Meetings continue to sell out, so please make your reservation today so you won’t miss out. Hope to see you there!


Since early February, I’ve written several times about the new, improved and vastly re-written standard Residential Purchase Agreement from CAR. Lots and lots of changes. Folks, it’s just about here. It’s set to be rolled out in November.

CAR is sponsoring classes to educate the membership on the new RPA, and we’ve sold out the one we’ve scheduled at MAR. We are working to get back on the calendar. Many of you at the larger brokerages will be having training within your company. I’m pressing to get more classes on the calendar here at MAR to support our member community. Stay tuned.


One last thing I want to share this week is a new-this-year Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rule as it relates to condos in flood zones. I learned it the hard way. In the past, it’s not been unusual for condo complexes, where there are some units in flood zones, to have the individual units in the flood zone pay for their own flood insurance. You can still do that, but this year it’s become very difficult to obtain conventional financing that will be guaranteed by Freddie and Fannie unless the whole complex has a master flood policy. Like almost impossible. There are some portfolio lenders who will make an exception, but for the vast majority of loan products out there this new requirement has made conventional financing very difficult until the HOA gets a master flood policy for the entire complex.

It’s another way that Superstorm Sandy keeps on giving. If you’re listing a condo in a flood zone…or if you’re writing on a condo in a flood zone…make sure the association has a master flood policy. If they don’t have one, talk early to your lender to secure financing that will accommodate for the lack of the Fannie/Freddie requirement.

The flood zone and insurance requirements are changing all the time. Monthly. Weekly. Daily. These changes are very frustrating, and every week I hear from another member who is having difficulty with flood insurance. With this in mind, late next month MAR will be sponsoring a “flood summit” meeting (better title to come, I promise), with lenders, insurers, and hopefully FEMA itself in attendance. Date, time, and agenda are still coming together, but I am keen to educate the membership on this frustrating and constantly-changing corner of our industry.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.


Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Ross Valley Sanitary Continues to Work on Clarifying Admin Process for New Inspection Ordinance

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR members!

Here in the dog days of summer, not much to do except fret about the Ross Valley Sanitary District! For those of you more interested in “above ground” matters, enjoy the warm days and great weather. I’m trying not to get too bummed about the Giants’ latest struggles while I wait for the NFL and college football seasons to start. Those stories offer a simpler and inherently more pleasant subject matter.

Oh, but the sewers!! I promise at the end of this memo you will find some good news, so please read on.

Last Thursday morning, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, President-Elect Matt Hughes, and I were back at the Ross Valley Sanitary District offices at another “working group” meeting. District staff was happy to share with us their progress on creating a clear administrative process for the new ordinance. However, we quickly realized that the practical matter of how this ordinance will affect the sale of a home was still untouched.

It all comes down to the matter of items 10.1 and 10.2 of the ordinance, which state that the timeframe of repair is at the discretion of the district’s engineer. The district’s engineer was at the meeting, so Andy asked him what is going to trigger the need for an immediate repair. He couldn’t tell us. We asked if there was sewage flowing down a hillside, would an immediate repair be necessary, and he said yes. Beyond that, he couldn’t tell us when a repair would need to be completed. We spent the remainder of our meeting making a clear argument for removing the need for repair from the escrow process.

We were asked by one of the inspectors why everyone wouldn’t just get their sewer line replaced before going to market? I had to gently explain that everyone doesn’t have an extra $7-10k sitting around in addition to whatever money they were going to spend on painting, flooring, landscaping, staging, etc. The notion of a “liquidity event” at close of escrow had to get drilled in over and over. I explained that $7-10k…or $25k or more… on “above ground” improvements will offer a vast return on investment…tens of thousands…sometimes hundreds of thousands…of dollars in extra sales price if it’s spent in the right places on the house…money that can then be spent on paying for the sewer repair. Money that’s available at the liquidity event. At and after close of escrow. This finally clicked with the district.

The following email came from Greg Norby, the RVSD General Manager, on Friday afternoon – HERE. Net-net, they’re backing off for now. Though the RVSD Board will need to vote on it at their next meeting…on August 27th…Norby is going to propose a 30-60 day postponement of the implementation of the ordinance to either the beginning or end of October. I’m going to strongly advocate for the latter date, as that will take us into November and the holiday season is one of the slower times in the Marin real estate marketplace. That’s a much better time to roll out a new ordinance…rather than September, which is the start of Marin’s second busiest season for real estate.

Also, they’re starting to get it as it relates to the need to have a simple process, and it appears Norby is going to advocate for a 1-page form that buyer and seller will sign, acknowledging the need for a repair and promising to get it done as quickly after escrow as possible…without holding up escrow.

Hang in there MAR, we are hoping for a fully-baked process in the coming months, not a half-baked, figure-it-out-as-you-go process three weeks from now.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

Zillow Buys Trulia, But What Does that Mean for Realtors? MAR Monday Memo 08/04/14

By | California Association of Realtors, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Another quick memo for this week, the dog days of summer give us the quiet season for real estate…and news in general.

I’m back from vacation, re-entry was painful, but I survived. I love the summer here in Marin, as many folks are also out on vacation and thus it’s easy to get around, easy to get a reservation for dinner, easy to find parking. Well, easy to get around as long as you don’t get caught in one of our endless road construction projects around the county…everywhere you look, some road is dug up with a flagman…I guess I can stop calling it the quiet season and call it the road construction season!

While I was away, the big news was Zillow buying Trulia for $3.5 BILLION. Say that again…$3.5 BILLION. For a website.

The whole thing has created an immense amount of chatter in our industry. When I was at the Inman SF Connect conference several weeks ago, everywhere I turned the term “Big 3” came up as it related to consumer-facing real estate websites. Conventional wisdom was the “Big 3” dominated and everyone else in the far distance as far as relevance (Big 3=Zillow, Trula and Move/ For a while, it was the possibility of Trulia buying Move. I guess that’s not happening…so now it’s the BIG 1 (Zulia?), the smaller 2 (Move/, and everyone else.

I find myself remarkably nonplussed by this development.

Yes, there are a lot of competing views on the acquisition. Given that it’s summer vacation, people need to talk about something. The best summation of the news, for me, came from Cameron Platt. Cameron is a recent past-president of the Oakland Association of REALTORS® and was last year’s CAR Chairman of the statewide YPN (Young Professionals Network). This year, he sits on the CAR Executive Committee. Last week Cameron posted on Facebook what he described as the best summation he’d heard about the Zillow/Trulia deal: “Let me get this straight, one website just acquired another website, and that means that I can’t sell real estate anymore?”


Yes, there is much industry chatter out there. Brad Inman, Publisher of Inman News, described the move as “checkmate” in his article about the merger. Click here to read. Brad Inman proclaimed that Zillow was going to become the next Amazon, with everyone else as a rounding error. There are lots of competing views on Inman’s website, summarized here.

Some think this is huge news, others think it’s not news at all. Steve Tobak of Valleybeat, who writes on technology business, was decidedly uninspired by the deal. Click here to read.

I think our very own MAR member Mark McLaughlin summed it up best in his piece on the acquisition. Click here.

His analysis of the comparisons of Zillow to Amazon clarify one thing: Zillow isn’t becoming Amazon anytime soon, and to do so they would need to take over all the revenue of the entire real estate industry. Not likely.

Now, I agree that Zillow and Trulia are incredibly attractive websites that our customers visit with great regularity. But when you look at the numbers…$3.5 billion!…for a one-third of a combined company with $340M in annual sales…and neither of which currently makes any money yet…you wonder how the numbers will add up. Is it really a $10B company?

At the Inman SF Connect conference a few weeks ago, I heard Trulia CEO Pete Flint tell the audience that they were going to do for agents what they had done for consumers…he was going to provide us with the same fantastic level of tools and features that consumers enjoy. Really? It seems to me that to find a return on that $3.5 billion investment, Zulia is going to need to find new and creative ways to squeeze more money out of the agent community. Don’t forget, we are the largest source of revenue for these companies…for their increasingly marginal-quality leads. Those marginal-quality leads are about to get more expensive, most likely. Zulia’s shareholders will demand it.

OK, enough on that. Let’s focus on selling some houses.

BAREIS Coming Soon Postings and the SEL Form – MAR Monday Memo, 07/28/14

By | Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good day MAR members!

A little late on the Monday Memo today.  And a short memo this week, vacation style.

Greetings from a secret location at 10,000 feet.  Well, not that secret.  But this is the first campground in the past week that is dark on the grid.  No cell service, no 3G, no email, no text.  So I’ve got to go find a signal somewhere to beam this back to MAR.

We’ve been everywhere this week, it seems!  We left straight from the MAR board meeting last Tuesday, headed out to a family reunion.  We did Highway 50 across Nevada, the Loneliest Road in America.  We camped at 10,000 feet at Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park.  We camped in the canyon at Zion National Park.  We came back across Nevada via the Extraterrestrial Highway, which is even lonelier than the Loneliest Road in America.  Now we’re on the fringes of Yosemite up near the treeline.  A great week!


Before I left, we had a great board meeting.  The highlight came early, when MAR Member and BAREIS Class B Director David Egan gave his report from BAREIS to the MAR Board of Directors.  Dave has been terrific in his role this year, bringing a spirited common sense perspective as an active member of MAR.

Dave was a leader in the effort to get many of the fines at BAREIS reduced earlier this year.  The last time we met with him, in May, both he and the MAR Board agreed that offering a “coming soon” feature to the MLS would resolve a great deal of the off-market sales activity.  They have this feature in San Francisco, using the exact same Rappatoni system.  During conversations I had with many of you, the majority agreed that this would be a good thing.  MAR President-elect Matt Hughes wrote a compelling rationale for the concept and shared it with Dave to share with BAREIS.

Dave took this back to BAREIS and told us the matter was discussed at length during the last BAREIS Board of Directors meeting.  It appears they are giving it some serious consideration.

Last week, BAREIS sent all of us an email asking for our input on the subject of Coming Soon listings.  I encourage all of you to HERE and let BAREIS know what you think about that concept.

The other thing that Dave reported back was BAREIS’ ever-evolving position on the much-beloved “Authorization to Exclude” (SEL) form.  If there is anything that will get a MAR member’s blood boiling, it’s a discussion over BAREIS’ “Authorization to Exclude” form.  I myself got fined by BAREIS earlier this year for mis-, mal-, or non-feasance in my use of that form.  For the record, I still have that fine under appeal (my first fine ever!), but the BAREIS appeal process is a byzantine process…to put it politely.   But I digress, and that’s for another memo.

Back to the Authorization to Exclude form.  It’s an enormously cumbersome bit of overhead.  Over the past couple of months, BAREIS has chosen to step it up a notch further, with the plan to require Brokers to sign every single SEL, a document that BAREIS requires to be in its hands within 3 days.

Dave told us that there is a discussion to do away with the “return-to-BAREIS-within-3-days” rule.  Or evolve it.  You’d still have to get the form signed, but with it being the brokers’ responsibility to collect that form.

That certainly makes sense to me.  It’s up to the brokers to police all the other forms in a transaction…most of which carry legal and risk management consequences.  I don’t see why brokers can’t police the SEL form as well.

Also, just think of the productivity boost to the entire North Bay Real Estate ecosystem, with all the agents and brokers and staff and BAREIS staff not be collectively worried about one little form getting from point-A to point-B within three days.  Maybe go sell some more real estate?  Or spend time servicing our clients?

This all certainly sounds like a good idea to me.

What do you think?  You can let me know…or better-yet, you can let Dave Egan, our BAREIS Director, know by clicking HERE.  Just think of all the things we could all do with the “found time” we’d get back from the universe if the SEL process were streamlined?


In another bit of business at MAR, it is with great pleasure that I get to report that the MAR Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint MAR member Sharon Luce to fill an open board seat for the remainder of 2014.  Sharon has previously served on the board, and we are excited to have her smart voice back in the room.

That’s it for this week, now back to my vacation

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

City of San Rafael Resale Inspection Reform – MAR Monday Memo 06/30/14

By | Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

“It was twenty years ago today…”  That’s how one of my favorite Beatles albums, Sgt. Pepper, starts out.  Well, it was twenty years ago today that my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife Heather and I moved to Marin…and Fairfax.  I’d moved around a lot throughout my life, and the duplex unit at 42 Manor Road in Fairfax was the 29th address I’d lived at…and I was only 28 at the time.  Little did I know that Heather and I would plant roots in Marin.  We bought our house less than two years later, my 30th and final address to date at age 30.  Eighteen+ years later, we’re still there.

Marin is a terrific place to put down roots, as we all know.  We are so happy here in our adopted county!

1994 was quite a memorable year for a lot of reasons.  It seemed to be the beginning of our new reality-based media system, with both  the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco at the Olympics kind of kicking it off, and then the even-more-memorable OJ Simpson low-speed chase.  OJ was amazing really.  As part of our move to Marin, Heather and I drove to her native Colorado to get some of her belongings from her mom’s house.  While we were driving across Highway 50…the “Loneliest Road in America”…we were scrambling for radio contact with the outside world to keep tabs on OJ.  Really, we missed the whole thing other than “live” reports on the radio.

Also upon arriving in Marin in the summer of 1994, we were greeted by the excitement of the World Cup being played right here in the Bay Area with Stanford Stadium being one of the host venues.  It was at Stanford on July 4th 1994 that the US was knocked out by eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 16.  It’s so exciting to see the success of the US team in this year’s Cup!  Round of 16 again tomorrow vs. Belgium!

This summer we will be again driving across the “Loneliest Road in America” to a family reunion next month.   This time, rather than chasing radio stations down, I’m more wondering what it will be like to be off the grid with my phone for an extended period.  It will probably be a blessing, really…  Phone silence in the middle of the desert!


Earlier this year, it became clear to me that the City of San Rafael’s residential resale inspection process was broken.  Many, many of you shared your frustrated stories, and a number of you came before MAR’s Board of Directors and Governmental Affairs committee to share your experiences.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I began a months-long process to bring this issue to the attention of leadership at the City of San Rafael.

Many meetings later, I’m happy to report that the City of San Rafael has released to us their new policy for the Residential Building Report (RBR).  You can check out the document by clicking HERE.  It’s revolutionary.  It’s the product of a lot of months of hard work, led by Paul Jensen, San Rafael’s Director of Community Development.  Nancy Mackle, City Manager, and Thomas Ahrens, Building Inspector also played key roles.

Net-net, it’s a new day in the relationship between MAR and the City of San Rafael.  Many thanks to the key stakeholders at San Rafael.  This was a fantastic example of city government working to be responsive to the needs and desires of both its residents in the community and business in the community.

As a part of the process for rolling out these new policies and procedures, MAR has committed to educate our members of the changes.  Also, San Rafael will be conducting interactive educational sessions with all interested parties as a part of their, “Coffee and Codes” program.  Stay tuned for more details.


You’ll be relieved to know that I don’t have much of a sewer update this week. We’re on it, and Ross Valley Sanitary District voted 5-0 last Wednesday night to postpone the implementation of their sewer lateral point-of-sale requirement for 60 days.  In addition, they have reached out to MAR to form a working group to massage their ordinance to make its implementation feasible.


Speaking of votes, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I drove to Sacramento last Tuesday to testify before the California Senate Housing and Transportation Committee in favor of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which reduces the default housing density in Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre.

Heading into that hearing, the outcome was anything but assured.  The committee chairman, Mark DeSaulnier of Contra Costa County was openly against the bill.  His senior staffer on the committee was most definitely against the bill.  We were worried that it was going to die in the Senate committee.

Ultimately, the team from Marin, including Board of Supervisors President Kate Sears, plus one of the senior members of ABAG and several affordable housing advocates from Marin, along with MAR, was able to convince and prevail with most of the committee.  We were overjoyed that the vote was 8-1 in favor of the bill, with Chairman DeSaulnier being the lone dissenting vote.

The Senate will now be on recess through the end of July.  The matter will come up again before the Senate Appropriations Committee sometime in August, which is the last month of the 2-year legislative agenda.  MAR will continue to work with other stakeholders to make sure this important bill makes it to a full note on the Senate before adjournment.  MAR congratulates Assemblyman Levine for his progress so far, and we’ve been delighted to be part of the process.

Today is also the official “halfway” point of my presidency at MAR.  It’s been an honor to serve the MAR membership community.  I’m hopeful for the second half of 2014, and I expect that we will keep the momentum going forward!

I’ll leave it at that for now, as the quiet season is upon us here in Marin.  Hoping to see many of you at the Marin County Fair this weekend.  Still trying to convince Heather that Night Ranger on Saturday is the right call.

Safe travels to all for this upcoming holiday weekend!  Happy Birthday USA!  And GO TEAM USA in tomorrow’s World Cup match with Belgium!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Sewer Wars of 2014 – The Day the Music Died – MAR Monday Memo 06/23/14

By | Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members! Blaine Morris

What a week…what a week… Near perfect weather here in Marin obscured the storm clouds that are developing around those of us that practice real estate here in Marin…

Long memo this week, my apologies in advance.

In the summer of 1972 as a six-year-old, I remember driving up to Red Rock swimming hole above Santa Barbara with my mom and one of her friends and a bunch of kids in a station wagon. A new song by Don McLean, “American Pie” was playing on the radio and all of us in the car were singing along with the chorus…a summertime memory for the rest of my life! It starts out with ” A long long time ago…” and later leads into the chorus with “The Day the Music Died…”

I heard that song on the radio a few weeks back. I had not heard it in a long time, and the long ago summer memories came flooding back. As it can be with songs like this, I just couldn’t shake it, and it was clanging around in my head for weeks…to the point where you want it to go away.

It all came together this week with a pair of developments in what we may look back upon as the “2014 Summer of Sewer Wars” here in the Marin real estate community. We just might look back fondly on the recent past as “a long long time ago” and realize that “The Day the Music Died” was on or about June 14, 2014, at least as it relates to what we may remember as “easy” Real Estate transactions in the Ross Valley. I’ll get to that in a minute.


First up, how about some good news? Last Wednesday night, the Larkspur City Council voted unanimously to scrap the controversial Station Area Plan, with its 900+ units of high-density housing at Larkspur Landing. While MAR never took an official position on this plan, we have been watching it very closely because so many members of the community were dead-set against it. Well beyond Larkspur itself, the Station Area Plan was being debated in Kentfield, San Anselmo and Fairfax. When the candidates for Marin County Supervisor came before MAR to seek our endorsement in the June election, MAR implored all of them to show leadership on the issue, as it was going to affect all of us, not just Larkspur residents.

In a big surprise, the elected leaders of Larkspur heard the collective voice of the community. Well done! Score another win for MAR’s stated policy of favoring local control over planning decisions vs. top-down dictating of local planning from agencies like ABAG. From Marinwood to Fairfax to Larkspur, Marin is rightfully taking back control of local planning decisions.


Now, on to the 2014 Summer of Sewer Wars. I’m sorry I have to keep talking about this decidedly unsexy subject, and the metaphors flow like spring water. In a nutshell, something really hit the fan this past week.

MAR has been closely watching the activities of both the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) and the Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD). Both are in a heap of trouble over sewage spills over the past number of years. SASM has been soliciting MAR’s input on a draft ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. At the same time, we’ve been aware that Ross Valley has been working to uphold the requirements of a cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued against them by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). We knew something was coming from them as well, but RVSD’s lack of contact with MAR made us believe that it was still crafting its plans.

On May 13th, RVSD’s General Manager Greg Norby responded to MAR’s CEO Andy Fegley’s letter voicing our concerns with the staff report issued in early April. Norby suggested that they get together to discuss RVSD’s plans for sewer lateral inspections. Andy immediately replied that was a great idea, and then set about to reach Mr. Norby to schedule the meeting. Andy emailed. And called. And emailed again. And called again. He was never able to reach Mr. Norby.


On Tuesday, I received a call from the Marin IJ wanting to know what MAR thought about the recent Marin Grand Jury report that was released last Monday, chronicling “The Scoop on Marin County Sewer Systems”…the state of the sewer systems in Marin. The Grand Jury strongly advocated for point-of-sale sewer line inspections. The reporter knew that SASM was considering point-of-sale, and wanted to know what MAR thought. I agreed that Marin has a huge problem, but told him that MAR is strongly opposed to point-of-sale ordinances because it will take 40+ years to solve an immediate problem via point of sale.

I told the reporter that MAR leadership was planning to attend last Thursday’s SASM board meeting to voice our concerns to the entire board. The board was planning to vote on the model ordinance that night.


What I did not know was at that exact time, the RVSD board was quietly planning to vote on its own point of sale ordinance last Wednesday night. Again, MAR had diligently been trying to get up to speed with RVSD’s plans for over a month, but no calls or emails were returned. Also note that there was an election in the middle of all of this, with existing board member Pam Meigs up for re-election. Ms. Meigs put off voting on the recently-passed massive rate increase until the week before the election…where she finally voted yes.

The net of all of this is that late on Friday, June 13, RVSD posted its agenda for last week’s meeting, which included the CDO-mandated point-of-sale ordinance (NOTE: this was the first time the public was given a glimpse at the ordinance). And with virtually no public input, and less than 72 hours of business time, they voted to adopt this very ordinance the following Wednesday. The Marin IJ didn’t know about it. Heck, the IJ still hasn’t mentioned it. And RVSD really doesn’t even know what they voted for.

We immediately contacted RSVD and successfully made the case for postponing the implementation of the point-of-sale requirement. A 60-day postponement will be voted on Wednesday night. We have assurances from staff and RVSD President Mary Sylla that it will pass.

As we learn more, we will get more info to you.


Which brings me to the culmination of all of our efforts to dissuade the SASM board to not vote to pass a
Model Ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections in and around Mill Valley. At the SASM board meeting last Thursday night, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Board member Gene Laico, MAR past president (and current CAR Region 4 Chair) Katie Beacock and I all attended and testified against the proposed point-of-sale plan.

In a nutshell, the board heard us, and then went ahead and voted unanimously to pass their draft legislation. Now this plan needs to be voted on by the individual member sewer boards before it becomes law…so nothing changes for now. There will be more votes.

We all told them they needed a real plan to fix the problem now, not fix it over the next 40 years. One board member agreed with me that it’s just not politically viable to come up with a real plan. They also told us how much better their plan was going to be than the “terrible” plan that RVSD passed the night before. On that subject I can agree with them.

To SASM’s credit, they have taken MAR’s concerns into account: (1) upon receipt of the inspection, SASM will commit to a 3-day turnaround to determine whether a lateral repair or replacement is required; and (2) the sale of the house can continue, but if a repair is mandated it must be completed within 180 days of COE.

The RVSD plan is murky on that aspect, with extremely vague language about when a repair needs to be completed…it’s a subjective decision about whether it needs to be done by COE.


I would much rather have something better to tell you. The lack of transparency with the RVSD plan is amazing. They literally have no idea how they will implement it, but apparently they had to get a law on the books by June 30th to avoid sanctions and further legal action as a condition of the CDO. The language in the new ordinance is virtually a copy-and-paste of the language contained in the CDO with no thought of the practicality of the requirements. MAR will work with RVSD to mitigate the affects on homeowners and the real estate community.

If this ordinance were to go into effect next week as originally written, the most immediate outcome will be that the real estate business in the Ross Valley would slam to a halt until answers come from RVSD. And when I say Ross Valley, that’s Greenbrae, Kentfield, Ross, Larkspur, San Anselmo and Fairfax. That’s a pretty darn big chunk of the market in Marin.

So, as I said, we will all look back fondly on “A long, long time ago” when it was a far simpler time to close real estate transactions in Ross Valley. June 18th, 2014 may well be remembered as “The Day the Music Died”.

I really hate to be so corny…

That’s all for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

SASM Vote Thursday Night, Sunny Hills Services Community Support and Gumballs, MAR Monday Memo 06/16/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Happy Summer (yes, I know it’s not until Saturday, but I try to extend summer however I can!).  I love planning summer;  the most pressing decision for me is:  Which day will I be attending the Marin County Fair?  Huey Lewis on Wednesday 7/2?  The Wailers on Thursday 7/3?  Night Ranger on Saturday 7/5?  Or Joan Jett on Sunday 7/6?  It’s a spirited discussion in our household, with Heather voting for Joan Jett, and I’m pulling for Night Ranger.  I pointed out that we saw Joan Jett at the Marin fair only a couple of years ago…to which Heather says, “So?”  Maybe we’ll just go every day, but I have a feeling I know who will win this little argument…

New this week:  Gumballs.  Personal property gumballs.  More on that later…

Also:  Sewer lateral point of sale SASM board meeting this Thursday, to vote on draft legislation.  More on that later too.

At the MAR Installation last December, I devoted much of my speech to the subject of service.  Service to each other, to ourselves and to our community.  Both the Marin community at large and to the real estate community as well.  I encouraged each of us to give of ourselves in service.

To that end, this year we created the MAR Community Service Committee, one that I hope will continue long after my term as MAR President is finished.  Judy LeMarr and Jennifer Boesel graciously offered to be the co-chairs and launch this committee, and the group has been meeting for much of the year working to get this off the ground.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Image for Success last month.  MAR supported the Women’s Council of Realtors and a number of brokerages, and the response was terrific.  By collecting clothes and accessories, our real estate community supported Image for Success, a non-profit organization, who provides wardrobes for disenfranchised men, women, and children transitioning towards self-reliance and/ or success in their careers.

Our next venture is Sunny Hills Services and their Guardian Scholars program for former foster children.  It’s a travesty with the county foster children program, which pretty much dries up support for these kids when they turn 18.  Really, how many 18-year-olds are prepared to support themselves while they work on their education and position themselves for a successful future?  A travesty.

Sunny Hills Services provides support to these kids.   Here is a link to their website:   Sunny Hills and College of Marin have created a program to help emancipated foster kids, 18-21, make an easier transition into adulthood by providing housing and education.  The young adults will live at the San Anselmo site and go to school at COM.

This is a 3 year program with the initial launch of 8 newly renovated units this summer- July/August-working up to 24 units in the 3 years.  Each young adult will have their own bedroom and will share a communal kitchen area and living room.  These young adults have never had anything of their own and it will be very special to have this fresh start.  The items should be new or furniture gently worn.  Bedding, mattresses- twin long, kitchen items for starting a new household.

You can review the “wish list” here.   If you’d like to participate, please call Anastasia at Sunny Hills Services at 415-457-3200 or  You can drop off, or they can arrange for pickup.  And they’re hoping to have this in place by July 1, so time is of the essence.

Thank you, MAR members, for supporting your community!

Now, on to the weekly sewer lateral update!  Super exciting stuff, I know!  Thanks to all of you who participated in MAR’s Red Alert to the leadership of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) last week.  Over 150 of you participated, which resulted in over 800 letters going out to the SASM Board and leadership.

SASM will be meeting on Thursday night to vote on adopting draft legislation mandating point of sale sewer lateral inspections for Mill Valley and the surrounding area.  MAR had invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs committee prior to the vote.  They had not responded to that invitation until the Red Alert went out this week.  Late on Wednesday night, SASM contacted MAR CEO Andy Fegley and asked if they could come to last Friday’s committee meeting.  Of course, we cleared the agenda and had them in.

Attending the meeting were SASM President Lew Kious and Mill Valley City Manager Jim McCann.  As you might imagine, it was a super spirited meeting…  Mr. Kious and Mr. McCann were gracious enough to give MAR 90 minutes of their time, and they certainly got an earful.

They sure do sound intent on pushing this through.  MAR’s position is that if this is such an emergency and a public health matter, then the agency should come up with a 20-year plan that addresses the problem throughout the community, and not relying on the real estate community to do their implementation.  Frankly, by singling out property owners who are selling, they are discriminating against these very citizens.  If it’s a problem, it’s everyone’s problem, not just those who are selling their house.

We agree, it’s a big problem.  A public health crisis.  So why is it only getting addressed by those who are selling their house?  SASM needs a real plan, a holistic plan for the entire community.  I asked if the reason that there wasn’t a more comprehensive plan was because raising the rates to deal with it was not politically viable?  They didn’t really answer the question, but I got the strong impression that was the exact problem.

Doing point of sale inspections will take 47 years in Mill Valley for all the housing to turn over and to solve the problem.  I also pointed out that as a best practice most of the real estate community is already doing sewer lateral inspections.  Mandating it via point of sale is going to insert a bureaucracy into a process that’s already happening.

SASM claims it’s not a big deal, because the real estate transaction will be able to close, and the repair just needs to occur within 6 months.  We asked how long it would take for SASM to review the reports and lateral video to determine whether it’s a mandatory fix or not, and they did not know.  This means that there will be (1) a mandatory inspection and report; (2) a possible mandatory fix; and (3) a currently undefined turnaround on when SASM decides whether the repair needs to take place or not.

We explained to them that this loose end about SASM deciding whether the repair needs to take place will grind escrows to a halt while we all wait for the results of the bureaucratic review.  It’s a $5k, $10k, even $20k swing in the transaction that needs to be accounted for, and they were not sure how long it would take to get back to everyone on whether a fix is needed.

This is unacceptable.  SASM needs a real plan to fix this problem across the community.  MAR is strongly against point-of -sale as the solution.  I intend to attend the SASM board meeting this Thursday, and I encourage MAR members to do the same.

Enough on that.

Now, about those gumballs…  I was fortunate to put a lovely piece of property into escrow for a San Francisco family this past week.  They were overjoyed, it’s the perfect place for the couple and their 5-year-old son Oscar.  Oscar’s mom told him on Tuesday night that they had finally won out, and that they were going to be moving soon.  Oscar asked which house it was, and his mom told him.  “Is that the house with the gumball machine?” Oscar asked???  Yes, it’s the house with the gumball machine.  This house had an antique gumball machine in the garage with the much of the owner’s personal property.

Upon hearing of Oscar’s affection for the gumballs, the owner graciously offered to leave the gumball machine for Oscar.  As you might imagine, Oscar and his parents are thrilled, each for their own reasons.

Once again, that’s what it’s all about.

And that’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.


RED ALERT – SASM, SPAWN/Turtle Island – Developers? MAR Monday Memo 06/09/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

It was feeling very much like summer last Blaine Morris week, inventory-wise. After seeing a bit of an uptick in new listings as the spring wore on, the last couple of weeks have seemed much quieter for new properties on the market. While holding open a new listing of my own this past week, agents were coming in and bemoaning what they perceived as a bit of a slowdown in the market. I think it’s just the normal Marin summer breather. The good news is that buyers will face a little less competition if they do find a house they like.

I hope most of you got out and voted in last week’s exciting election. There were few surprises on the statewide level, but lots of intrigue locally. REALTOR®-supported candidates Marc Levine (Assembly), Mike McGuire (State Senate) and Damon Connelly (Supervisor in Marin District 1) all staged decisive wins last week. In Supervisor District 5, MAR member Toni Shroyer staged an impressive challenge to incumbent Judy Arnold. Shroyer conceded the race late Friday afternoon after updated results were released showing Arnold with the lead.

MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Treasurer Arun Burrell and I made the rounds on election night, visiting the victory parties of both Marc Levine and Damon Connelly. I’d never done that before, and it was great to congratulate REALTOR® endorsed candidates. Connelly won outright, he’s the new Supervisor replacing Susan Adams in January, 2015. Assemblyman Levine now faces what looks to be an interesting race in the “Top 2” format. He will be facing Diane Conte, another Democratic candidate who narrowly beat out Republican Gregory Allen. Though Levine had a decisive first place showing, the November election will provide intrigue given the fact that Ms. Conte will be running to the left of Levine in progressive Marin and part of Sonoma County. Assemblyman Levine still has work to do.

Housing Density Bill AB1537 (Levine)
Speaking of Assemblyman Levine, his housing density bill AB1537 now moves to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. CAR has long been a supporter of the Chairman of that committee, Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Assemblyman Levine’s staff knows this, and MAR will continue to do what we can to advance this important bill. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Watch for MAR RED ALERT Later Today
On to the next matter, point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. Surprisingly, MAR’s membership has been rather quiet on this subject, at least as it relates to feedback to me. Is this an important subject for you? The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) has its next board meeting a week from Thursday. It is our understanding that they will be taking up the issue of mandatory sewer lateral inspections at this meeting. That is why MAR is issuing a RED ALERT later today.

We are asking every member to answer this call for action to let SASM leadership know that a real plan is needed to address the needs of the community.

With point-of-sale, it will take 50 years to solve the problem. And the problem needs fixing today. All point-of-sale does is give the appearance of trying to do something, but it is not a real solution. All the sewer agencies, SASM, Ross Valley and all the rest need to come up with a real solution that will protect the communities before 2065, which is how long the point-of-sale solution will take. Point-of-sale simply will massively complicate the process of selling a home, initiating a public works project with every sale, tearing up the street on every sale. AND IT WON’T FIX THE PROBLEM FOR FIFTY YEARS.

MAR member and Corte Madera Councilman Bob Ravasio called me last week to make sure that MAR was on the right side of this issue. He spoke of the environmental consequences of the failed sewer system countywide. He said that something needs to be done. MAR couldn’t agree more. It’s just that point-of-sale lateral inspections is not the way to fix the problem. Bob conceded that Corte Madera has a 20-year plan in place to replace all the faulty sewer laterals throughout the town…and not a point-of- sale requirement. That’s EXACTLY the type of solution that MAR would like to see…a REAL plan.

SASM needs a real plan, and MAR and its members need to be vocal about this. Please make sure to answer the call for action in the RED ALERT coming to your inboxes later today.

MAR has invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs Committee this Friday, but so far they’ve not responded.

SPAWN/Turtle Island-Developers?
One last thing: Did you know that SPAWN/Turtle Island, they of the San Geronimo Valley building moratorium, they of fierce opposition to the Marin
Countywide Streamside Conservation Ordinance, and they of protecting the San Geronimo Valley’s salmon population from “development” are now seeking to become the biggest developer in the San Geronimo Valley?

That’s right, you can read about it by clicking here.
I guess that’s what happens when you have millions of dollars in your bank account and can’t figure out what to do with it. According to Executive Director Todd Steiner they want to buy land and homes, restore the habitat, and return the homes to market with some sort of permanent environmental covenant. Funny, how the single biggest advocate for not being able to do anything with your property in the Valley now wants to buy and rehabilitate those very homes.

This is all very new, but certainly worth watching. Perhaps we will see a future where the only people who can buy and rehabilitate homes in the Valley are SPAWN themselves.

I couldn’t have made this up if I tried.

That’s it for now!


Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President