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Sewer Lateral Update, Drone Photography and Novato Tour Meeting Feedback, MAR Monday Memo 07/14/14

Good morning MAR members!

It “needed killing.”

That phrase was ringing in my head for much of this week, and I tried to remember where I’d first heard it.  I wasn’t sure if it was in a movie, or some comedian, or what.

Upon a Google search, the second entry was the trusty Urban Dictionary, and I figured I’d leave it right there:

“Needed killing.  A regional term in the South and Southwest.  A person can become such a trial and burden on those around him that when someone finally shoots him, everyone who knew him says, ‘Well…He needed killing.’  It was often used in reference to outlaws when word arrived of their deaths.”

More on that in a moment.

A very busy week for everyone.  My office sure was humming with activity this week.  There were a lot more new listings than I’d expect in the second week of July, coming out of the holiday weekend.  It seemed more like a week in the fall with all the new places to go see.

Congratulations to our friends in Germany!!  Big win for them yesterday.  What fun the World Cup has been this past month.


MAR President-Elect Matt Hughes, Secretary Yoko Kasai, CEO Andy Fegley and I had a very productive meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary last Tuesday.  We are trying to get our arms around the ordinance they passed last month, with almost no public input, three business days after they announced the vote on their website.

Frankly, RVSD itself is trying to get its arms around what it passed.  We kept bringing up questions, many of which they had no answers for.

The cold, hard facts are these:  it’s going to get ugly.   And when it does get better, it’s still going to be tough.  We close around 500-600 properties in the Ross Valley Sanitary District every year.  When the new ordinance goes into effect on September 1 as it’s currently written, every single family home in the RVSD will need to (1) get a “pressure test” with an RVSD official present; (2) RVSD’s estimate is that 85% of the laterals will fail the “pressure test”, and will then need a camera inspection, also with an RVSD official present; (3) the findings of those inspections will need to be reviewed by the chief engineer of the district, who will determine if and when a replacement needs to occur; and (4) it’s unclear if the repair will need to be completed before COE.

The staff at the district doesn’t seem too keen on mandating a completed fix before COE, but the banks may well require that fix.  The ordinance is vague on this subject.  500-600 pressure tests, 500-600 camera inspections, and 500-600 determinations of whether it needs to be fixed or not, and (given their 85% failure rate) 425-510 sewer laterals replaced per year.

All starting on September 1 of this year.  About 45 days from now,

Aside from the RVSD bottleneck, who in the world is going to do all of these inspections, reports, reviews, and repairs?  RVSD currently has one person for on-site inspections.  They will be hiring one more.

The upshot is that they are finally seeking our input…after they passed the legislation with no input.  We will have several more meetings of the working group, and hopefully they will come up with policy and FAQ’s on the subject.  They have also agreed to a meeting with the entire membership for a big Q&A session.

It’s going to be tough.  I’ll keep you updated.


Yes, folks, that’s right.  The Wild West of drone photography is getting regulated.  Last summer, my wife received a call from a friend, who just had a drone crash into her roof, damaging the roof.  Earlier this year, a woman in San Quentin Village contacted me, angry about a drone being used to photograph a nearby house, and flying right over the large clear skylight above her bathtub.  She was angry about this invasion of privacy.

More and more of us are using drone photography as a service to our clients.  It’s been a rather revolutionary new offering.  Last week, two articles on this subject came to my attention:

The first CLICK HERE announces that the FAA is going to regulate “amateur/hobbyist” drone pilots who use them to take pictures of properties for sale.  They are contending that taking property pictures represents commercial activity, and thus will require a license and assorted regulation.  This means you, if you’re flying your own drone.

The second CLICK HERE has my broker Coldwell Banker’s parent company, NRT, not only agreeing with the FAA, but according to Forbes also now completely recommending against using drone photography at all…even that which is professionally done.

This is a new chapter in broker risk management, and MAR has no position on the matter…but we wanted to make you aware of some of the rumblings around the industry.


“Your voicemail is almost full…”  Don’t you love it when the nice woman’s voice from AT&T or Verizon tells you that?   She and I were in touch this week.  You folks chimed in on last week’s question…in detail.

Which brings me back to “He needed killing.”  Referring back to the Urban Dictionary definition, it seems that the Novato Tour meeting has “become such a trial and burden on those around” it.

For those of you who missed my memo from last week, I was recently approached by a number of Novato agents wondering if the Novato tour had run its course.  Not being a regular attendee, I put it out to the membership:  Is the Novato Tour meeting still useful?

A full 45 of you felt compelled to contact me directly, in addition to the approximately 10 folks I’d spoken with about it prior to last week.  You emailed, you called, you texted.  One of you told me that it was a topic of discussion at your weekly office meeting, with an overwhelming consensus.

Two of you supported the meeting going on as it does now.

Everyone else pretty much dislikes the meeting, 50+ of you.  Many of you absolutely, positively despise the meeting.  I heard from brokers.  I heard from managers.  I heard from agents. I heard from assistants.  I didn’t hear from many affiliates.

The responses were about 65% from Novato agents, plus a few agents who live in Novato and work somewhere else in the county but still do a large chunk of their business in Novato.  The balance were Central and Southern Marin agents.

Here are the gripes, in descending order of frequency:

-It’s not useful.  I specifically asked if it was, and nearly everyone used these or some form of those words.

-It’s not a good use of my time/it makes it hard for me to get to my broker’s open on time.

-They email the tour out to everyone, so no one goes to the meeting anymore.

-It’s only attended by people with open houses that day and affiliates.  Very few agents who don’t have a property to be held open come to the meeting…often none.  And the agents who do come to the meeting have a house to hold open, so they don’t come to my open house.

-It used to be more useful with relevant guest speakers from the city, etc, but not much anymore.

-Very regularly, properties are listed on the Novato tour and are not on the MLS tour.  That was one of the most passionate gripes, both from those who are sore that they miss out on listings if they don’t go to the meeting, and those who feel that it’s a disservice to sellers to not have the broker tour on the MLS and thus exposing it to the largest agent pool.

-Some of the Novato agents and managers said that it might not be as welcoming to non-Novato agents as it should be.  A little clubby.   Some of the Central and Southern Marin agents expressed this in a few different ways.

-Who is in charge of the money that gets collected, and where does it go?  For some of you, this was a big question.

-We have wonderful technology, so the meeting might not be as relevant as it use to be.

-And the brokers and managers talked about the effort and workload needed to keep it going.

Almost without exception, nearly everyone asked for the meeting to end.  Or begged for the meeting to end.

I still believe that there might be some of you who really love the tour meeting.  If you’re out there, it’s really is time to speak up.  Otherwise, you risk the rest of your colleagues shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, it needed killing.”

So I don’t know will happen next, but the preferred outcome seems to be shared by nearly everyone.  MAR does not sponsor nor control this meeting.  Maybe a monthly buy/sell meeting? But whoever is in charge of the meeting now knows what the membership thinks.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President