What I’ve Learned from Being Hacked!

Cyber Fraud – It Happened to Me Last Week

Cyber FraudI received a panicked call ten days ago. The agent who listed the home my client was buying told me he needed to talk with me right away.

My client had signed his closing documents the day before and we were just waiting for the lender to transfer money to the title company and close the sale of the house. What could go wrong at this stage of the transaction?

The listing agent, Mike, told me that two hours after the sellers signed their closing documents, the title company received an email from him asking them to change the account where they were to send the seller proceeds. (The amount was approximately $200,000). The email was from Mike’s email address, had his exact signature block and even referenced the file number. Because Mike had a long relationship with the title company, and it was unusual to receive such a request, the escrow officer called Mike to confirm. Sure enough, someone had hacked into Mike’s email account and sent that email to the escrow officer. Mike and I both breathed a sigh of relief that the experienced escrow officer thwarted the criminal activity.

What would have happened if the proceeds had gone into a mysterious bank account instead of the sellers’ account? Would my buyer still owe a 30-year mortgage and have no house to live in? The ramifications were frightening to Mike and me. My client has no idea about this close call.

Exactly one week later, on October 12th, my gmail account was hacked. Hundreds of people received an email from me asking them to open a document. Every one of my saved emails was gone. It felt like someone had robbed my house. Fortunately, I learned of the hack 10 minutes after the fake email was sent and I was able to change my password and add 2-step verification to secure my account. I received tons of emails the day of the hack and the next day from people asking me if I had sent them the email, informing me I was hacked, etc. To say this was a distraction is an understatement.

So, what can we all learn from this?

  1. I’m no longer saving emails in my gmail account. It is not a safe place.
  2. Although my brokerage requires buyers and sellers to sign a “wire fraud” disclosure, I am having a verbal discussion with each client about the danger of wire fraud. Under no circumstances should clients wire money unless there is a verbal confirmation.
  3. I will coordinate very closely with the escrow officers involved in my transactions to ensure they understand that they should not wire proceeds without a verbal confirmation from the client. Generally the seller provides a hard copy of wiring instructions either in person or as part of a Fed Ex pack. Any instructions sent via email should always be confirmed verbally. Financial services companies have followed this protocol for years.

Cyber crime is here to stay. If a candidate running for President of the United States can be hacked, so can you. Take steps to secure your email account and verify all wire transfers to ensure you are not a victim of cybercrime.

Has your email ever been hacked or have you been a victim of cyber crime? Please comment.

Park City versus Aspen: Comparing 2 Resort Towns

Aspen, Colorado vs. Park City, Utah Real Estate (2016)

Aspen Colorado
Some of these things are not like Park City.

Two weeks ago, I attended the Luxury Real Estate conference in Aspen, Colorado. I was excited to attend the conference, in part, because I had never been to Aspen.

As I was warned, the airport landing was pretty dramatic. As I looked out the window, the golden hillside seemed close enough to touch. My clients have told me that the Aspen airport was a strong reason why they chose to invest in Park City vs. Aspen. Winter landings at the airport can be unpredictable and delays are typical.

While I was prepared to dislike Aspen, in all honesty, there were things about the town I loved. The aspen leaves were peaking and the town was visually stunning. I like how the town is flat and easy to navigate. I couldn’t believe how close it is to the slopes. The couture shops reminded me of the time I spent growing up near Rodeo Drive. Why does someone in a ski town need to shop for Louis Vuitton? If you look at the photo above, you’ll see a few other things Aspen has that Park City does not.

Aspen Compared to the Park City Real Estate Market

But let’s talk about Aspen real estate. I spoke with the owners of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s as well as brokers from Coldwell Banker Mason Morse. The word on the street is that Aspen just suffered its worst first half real estate market since 2010.

The Aspen real estate market is broken into two parts, similar to Park City’s market, “Aspen” and “Snowmass Village”. Each area has its own ski resort and character. Aspen is the more expensive and exclusive between the two.

In Park City, we have 84060, which is Park City proper or within the city limits. We also have 84098, which is referred to as the “Snyderville Basin”. It is Park City mailbox and school district, but is located outside of the city limits.

The following compares Aspen, Snowmass, Park City 84060 & Park City 84098 numbers from January through August 31, 2016.


Year to date Sales – 107
Dollar Volume – $354,427,175
Listing inventory – 500 (38-month inventory: a buyer’s market)


Year to date Sales – 78
Dollar Volume – $166,305,975
Listing inventory – 286 (29-month inventory: a buyer’s market)

Park City Limits – 84060

Year to date Sales – 288
Dollar Volume – $392,215,585
Listing inventory – 410 (17 month inventory-a buyer’s market)

Park City Mailbox – 84098

Year to date Sales – 517
Dollar Volume – $653,028,702
Listing inventory – 557 (13-month inventory: a buyer’s market)

In Aspen, unit sales were down 43% from the previous year, yet Snowmass sales were down only 6%.

For Park City, I could only obtain comparisons through June of 2016. Our unit sales of single family homes and condominiums in 84060 were down 26% from the previous year; however single family homes in 84098 were down only 2% from the previous year and condo sales in 84098 were up 5%.

Sotheby’s Aspen Snowmass agent Tim Estin reported that Aspen prices are coming down and buyers are paying less. He notes the list-to-sale price of Aspen single family homes is 88%. In comparison, Park City has held at a steady 95% for many years.

What Does it All Mean?

In spite of the overall market slowdown in Aspen, one particular property, a penthouse downtown, set a record price/square foot when it closed at $15M, or $4,275/sf. In contrast, the most expensive condominiums in Park City real estate, (located at the St. Regis), are asking about $1800/sf and the most expensive homes are just over $3,000/sf.

In summary, it appears that Aspen buyers are looking at its more affordable Snowmass neighborhood, similar to Park City buyers who are choosing to buy properties outside of the city limits. Yes, there are always the people with plenty of money who will buy that one rare penthouse, but those buyers are a needle in a haystack. Aspen agent Estin advises his sellers to “get ahead of the downward trend and price accordingly, which means realistically.”

Will Park City follow Aspen’s trend? Our market is a little bit different. Aspen is almost a 100% resort/second home market (although I was told that is changing), but Park City is home to 20,000 full time residents. The median single family home price in Aspen is about double that of Park City’s. It will be interesting to see what the second half of the year brings. I was told that Aspen’s third quarter, especially in more affordable Snowmass, was excellent.

Have you been to Aspen? Have you shopped for real estate there? What are your thoughts?

What do Schools Have to do With Real Estate?

Can Park City’s Schools Do Better?

Park City SchoolsMany of Park City’s full time residents are thinking about education now that school has been is session for about a month. Last month, I wrote about the 4 school districts in the Park City area.

What do schools have to do with real estate? Park City’s excellent schools are a draw for families considering relocation to. They are a reason why executives working for Wasatch Front based companies commute down the canyon.

Today, I’d like to share a conversation that has started between the Park City School District, Park City Education Foundation, Park City Day School, and Weilenmann School of Discovery. That conversation revolves around the way we are educating and assessing students in Park City’s public and private schools.

This Thursday, September 29th, the Park City Film Series will screen the documentary “Beyond Measure”, a film by Vicki Abeles, based upon the book she wrote with the same name. The film asks us to consider what would happen if we imagined a more creative approach to public education, one that is student-centered and project-based.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring James Harvey, Executive Director for the National Superintendents Roundtable. James will moderate the discussion and share some innovative programs that are making a difference nationally.

Abby McNulty, Executive Director of the Park City Education Foundation, told me that the purpose of the screening is to promote a conversation about education and bring our community together through a partnership between all the schools in Park City.

I also spoke with Park City School District Superintendent, Dr. Ember Conley about the screening. She shared that this film provides “a map” for where we want to go in terms of the way students are taught and measured.

The film suggests that schools place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, communication, exploration, experimentation, collaboration, and creativity as the key to good education and less emphasis on standardized testing. Placing a greater emphasis on skills vs. memory recall creates better outcomes for students of all backgrounds and abilities.

The Park City School District has the PCCAPS Program, a project based learning program, for 11th and 12th graders. How does our community of schools bring project based learning to middle schoolers? This is an especially timely question since the PCSD is contemplating the construction of a new middle school.

“We have an educational system that people are comfortable with because we all went through it. Changing the way we teach students creates uncertainty”, says McNulty. Using the film “Beyond Measure” to initiate a community dialogue of possibilities in our educational system is a great first step. McNulty shared that James Harvey would be doing professional development to select teachers from the Park City School District, Park City Day School, and Weilenmann School of Discovery.

Having community discussions which revolve around the screening of this film, along with commentary and professional development by a national expert, is a great first step to ensuring that Park City’s schools remain on the cutting edge. “Beyond Measure” offers a positive picture of what’s possible in American education when communities decide they are ready for change.

Whether or not you have children in Park City schools, I encourage you to attend the free screening of “Beyond Measure” this Thursday, 9/29 at 6:30pm at the Jim Santy auditorium.

A Great Podcast of Things to do and see in Park City by Nancy Tallman for Discovery Map.

Nancy Tallman Featured on Park City Travel Podcast

Discovery Maps Travel PodcastOur own Nancy Tallman is this week’s guest on the popular Discovery Maps podcast series, and this episode is all about Park City! She may be known for real estate, but she also knows our town. Host Mark Ciociola and Nancy cover everything you’d want to know about PC basics and beyond: winter activities, summer activities, favorite special events, where to stay, getting around, family friendly activities, restaurants and much more. Take advice from a 13-year local on all things PC! If you or your out-of-town guests are looking for info on Park City travel, you’ll enjoy this 30-minute podcast at Bit.ly/DiscoveryMap.

Traffic and Parking Solutions on the Ballot this November…

Does Summit County, Utah Have a Transportation Problem?

LetsGo2If I had a nickel for every person who complained about parking and traffic in Park City, I’d be about 10 cents richer a week. And while I consent to the fact that there has been an obvious increase in cars over the years, I am also still grateful to be living here as opposed to dealing with the traffic of Los Angeles, where I endured commutes of up to 90 minutes each way to work. I’m pleased that many of our local leaders relocated to Park City from larger cities and understand that if we don’t have a plan in place to prevent further traffic issues, they will be more difficult and expensive to solve.

We haven’t become “No Park” City yet. And I’m glad for initiatives like the ones below to help us stay on top of our transportation needs. Transportation is a very important issue for our community.

Summit County Propositions 2 & 3

On August 17th, the Summit County Regional Transportation Initiative was presented to the Summit County Council.

The presentation outlined the need for a comprehensive approach to transportation in the area and explained funding. The initiative was approved by the Summit County Council & is scheduled to be voted upon as two separate transportation initiatives on the November ballot: Summit County Proposition 3 – Transit Enhancements and Summit County Proposition 2 – Road Enhancements. 


A central concern is growth in Park City and the surrounding areas like Summit County, Wasatch County and Salt Lake County. While growth in Park City has been comparatively low between 2000 and 2013 (the city grew 8%), other areas have seen accelerated growth at 20% in Salt Lake County and up to 74% in Wasatch County.

Looking forward, growth is a central concern. Population growth in Park City is projected to increase from 7,900 in 2015 to 10,000 by 2040 (26%). Wasatch County is projected to go from 26,000 to 59,000 within the same timeframe, a 123% increase.

Studies show that there are 35,000 trips per day within Summit County simply by calculating inbound commuters, outbound commuters and residents who work within the county. Note that these numbers only calculate employees, they don’t count school drop offs, running errands or tourist traffic.


The Transportation Initiative proposes a regional approach. The approach is three-prong and includes: 1) service enhancements, 2) infrastructure and transportation demand management and 3) active transportation.

In the proposal, transportation improvements would be made over five years from 2017 to 2022 and include:

  • Expanded Transit Service: Increased use of current transit routes plus addition of neighborhoods like Summit Park and Silver Creek. Commuter busses to Kamas, Heber and Coalville. Expanded transit service to Salt Lake City. Better Transit centers, increased transit personnel and support.
  • Alternative Transportation: Bike shares and Electric bike stations, trail and sidewalk improvement/maintenance. Better signage and navigation and expanded Park and Rides throughout Park City, Kamas and Coalville.
  • Increased Road Capacity: Connecting neighborhood roads Bitner/Silver Creek Road and extending Landmark Drive to Bear Hollow. Widen Kilby Road between Ecker Hill and Pinebrook and creating bypasses and interchanges for more efficient traffic flow.

These implementations would bring an estimated 570,000 “Cars off the Road” per year.

Short Term Improvements:

Improvements would begin in 2017. Small Park and Ride lots would be designated and improvements to existing roads and trails would be implemented like HOV lanes and trail maintenance. Ride share programs and an e-bike share could start throughout the region. Grants would be available for small towns to improve local transportation.

The Small Municipality Transportation Improvement Fund Grant Program (TIFGP) is grant money designated for small towns to improve transportation within their city limits. Funding could go towards construction of roadways or other transportation improvements. Funding can be up to $250,000 annually through sales tax proceeds.

Resolution Funding:

The funding for the transportation resolution would come from a mix of sales tax and property tax within the city and county. Additionally, transient room tax and parking fees would also be used. The benefits of this funding structure are that visitors generate most of the funds and that revenue will grow with the economy.

Community Engagement:

There have been a number of presentations throughout Park City and the surrounding towns and other areas. There have been over 500 live and phone interviews throughout Summit County. Proponents of Proposition 3 like the transit based approach because it reduces the carbon foot print and takes cars off the of road. Simply expanding and maintaining roads allows for more cars, traffic and pollution.

No one likes to sit in traffic. Let’s keep Park City a great place to live. Please consider the Summit County Regional Transportation Initiative as a timely solution to a serious challenge that we all face. What are your thoughts?

How Important is Professional Real Estate Photography to Potential Buyers…VERY!

What 98% of Home Buyers Think of Real Estate Photography

Ninety-eight percent of buyers list real estate photography as “most important” when searching for a property. We know that almost all buyers today begin their home search online. That means a home’s “first showing” is online.

So, how does that explain this photo that I came across on the Park City MLS last week? This home is listed at over $5 million.

Bad Real Estate Photography
How NOT to take photographs of a multi-million dollar home (or any home).

According to a study by Redfin, homes shot with a DSLR* sell for over 10% more.

Is a High End Camera Enough?

Even if an agent owns a high end camera, that doesn’t mean he or she has the expertise to use it properly. Shooting architectural photography is an art and a science. The skilled professional knows how to use composition, color and lighting to make a photo more appealing. The photos used to market a home must not only be high quality, but “inspirational”. They have to connect with the buyer on an emotional level so the buyer will click through the tour and make an appointment to view the home.

The Agent’s Role in Real Estate Photography

At Summit Sotheby’s, we are the only Utah brokerage to employ in-house professional real estate photographers on staff. First, I work with my sellers to ensure their homes are decluttered and ready for photos. Second, I usually meet the photographer at the home to make certain the special features and highlights of the home are reflected in the photographs.

Next, the photos are edited by the photographer and only the best are included in the photo tour. Before the photos are published, I go through the tour myself to ensure the photos are displayed in a logical order. I want the best features of the home at the front of the tour and I want the photos displayed in a logical order so the buyer can understand the flow of the home.

Below is a photo from one of my high end listings. How does this one compare to the photo above?

Good Real Estate Photography
A better example of good real estate photography.

Photos are a critical component of a marketing plan. Buyers can tell the difference between a home that was photographed by an agent using an iPhone versus a home that was prepared for photography, professionally shot, and painstakingly edited. And buyers will pay more for the latter.

*DSLR stands for digital single-lense reflex, a digital camera that combines the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film.

New Development Coming to The Canyon’s at Park City Mountain

The Canyons Resort Master Plan (2016 Update)

canyons village master plan 2016It’s been just over three years since Vail signed the 50 year lease to run Canyons Ski Resort operations. We’re coming up on exactly two years since Vail bought Park City Mountain Resort. Both resorts now operate under the Park City Mountain nomenclature. Last year, we saw significant upgrades to the resort with the new Miner’s Camp mid-mountain restaurant and the Quicksilver Gondola connecting what was PCMR to what was Canyons.

If you were privy to Park City news in the early 2000’s, you’ll remember that the Canyons Golf Course was once just a pipe dream. It was something we were all told was in the works, but was always held up for one reason or another. But in 2015 under Vail’s direction, the course became a reality.

So What’s Next for Canyons?

Last week, an open house was held to discuss just that. Replay Resorts, the master developer of Canyons Village, showed a full house of attendees their master plan for the village. The 5 acres of new development will include:

  • Parking garage
  • Transit hub
  • 200,000 square feet of retail/commercial
  • New hotels
  • New condo buildings
  • Employee housing (300 units)
  • Conference center
  • Pedestrian connection
  • Aquatic center

Replay Resorts’ full plan can be found at http://canyonsvillageplan.com. The next public meeting will be September 10th. The final plan will be proposed to the planning commission this Fall.

What does this mean for real estate at Canyons Village?  There will be some excellent family and conference amenities attracting visitors to the area, which should boost nightly rentals. There is also approved zoning for additional condominium projects.  Based on current new projects at Canyons Village, It is doubtful prices will start under the $900,000 range.  There are still some affordable properties at Red Pine and Hidden Creek which are walking distance to the Canyons Cabriolet and some proposed amenities.  As a rising tide raises all boats, it seems that these projects could be positioned to appreciate in the future.

Questions? I’d be happy to answer them for you. Contact me at any time.

Happy Back to School! Here’s how the Park City Area Schools Stack up in the State of Utah

4 Park City Area School Districts Compared

Park City School DistrictsWhen discussing Park City, it’s not uncommon for the high quality school system to be mentioned. A respectable school system can mean major motivation to home buyers whether they currently have students, may be starting a family or are simply investing in a desirable location.

There are 47 school districts in the State of Utah. Here we look at school district statistics for Park City and the surrounding districts and how they rank in relation to the rest of the State.

Park City School District

Topping out at #1 in the State of Utah, the Park City School system has a lot going for it. The District has some of the best rated teachers in the state and a very high approval rate of academics overall. The teacher to student ratio is 20:1, a little higher than the national average of 16:1. Yet spending on students is higher than average at $12,870 per year. There are plenty of clubs and activities for students of any age and diversity is better than average for the State. 89% of students graduate high school. http://www.pcschools.us

Wasatch School District

The Wasatch School District comes in strong at #3. Heber, Midway and Hideout Canyon are all towns within this district. Teachers and academic rankings are strong as are sports and fitness. Diversity is similar to the Park City School District. Wasatch has a high graduation rate at 90% and a higher student to teacher ratio of 21:1. The Wasatch District has maintained a high level of achievement despite annual student spending that is comparatively lower at $8,670. http://www.wasatch.edu

North Summit School District

The North Summit School District proves strong and ranks #5 in the State. North Summit towns include Wanship, Coalville and Hoytsville. Teachers, academics and diversity all rank high. This district has the highest average SAT scores at 1410 out of the districts we have compared. The high school graduation rate is 87% and while teacher salaries are comparatively low, teacher to student ratio is better than area districts at 19:1. Annual per student spending is $10,089, the second highest in the area. http://www.nsummit.org

South Summit School District

The South Summit School District is ranked #19, putting it in the top 20 in the state. South Summit towns include Kamas, Francis, Oakley, Woodland and Marion. Academics, clubs and activities score high while teachers rank a little lower than other area districts. Spending per student is strong at $9,627, and student to teacher ratio follows regional trends at 20:1. Diversity is also a little lower than other school districts in the area while health and safety are favorable. http://www.ssummit.k12.ut.us

We are proud that this area boasts so many strong academic options. We can chalk this impressive line-up to just one more reason why we love this town. Our many thanks to the teachers, faculty and staff that make our schools so great!

Working with an expert is key to a successful home transaction.

6 Steps to a Stress-Free Home Purchase (Free Printable)

Stress Free Home Buying1. Work with a Trusted Expert

With so much information on the internet, you may wonder if you need professional assistance.  Just as you hire experts in tax, legal and medical fields, you deserve the best guidance and expertise available when it comes to investing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Your ten year old can find homes on the internet.  The value is the local market expertise and guidance an agent can provide.

A good real estate agent is like a secure investment that can save you thousands of dollars.  The best news is that the seller pays the buyer’s agents fees if the property is listed on the Multiple Listing Service.

2. Be a Loyal Client

In today’s low inventory market, agents find out about new listings before they are advertised on the Multiple Listing Service.  And who do you think they contact with this knowledge, their exclusive clients or the ones who are talking to 15 different agents?

Here is another way to look at it.  Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a listing agent and you have two parties interested in your listing. One is unrepresented and the other is represented by a buyer’s agent. Which would you rather work with? The party that will make you do twice the work for twice the liability? Or the party who is represented?

3. Have Your Financing Worked out Before You Look at Homes

If you don’t have all the cash necessary to buy a home, you will need to borrow the money.  You need to have a quick conversation with a local lender before you start looking at homes to feel confident that the homes you are looking at are in the correct price range.  What if you can afford more than you thought?  What if you fall in love with a home and then learn you won’t qualify for financing to buy it?  It just makes sense to get your finances in order first.

4. Write Realistic Offers

You have found a home you want to buy. The next step is to prepare and submit an offer.  Be realistic. Make an offer you want the other party to consider. Currently in Park City, most homes sell for an average of 95% of list price.

An experienced agent will guide you to write a realistic offer.  If the property is well priced, you may need to come in at or near asking price.  If the property is overpriced, there will be a need for more negotiation.

5. Contingencies

Almost all offers are written with a “due diligence” contingency.  Offers requiring financing include a financing and appraisal contingency.  The purpose of these contingencies is not to look for ways to renegotiate the purchase price.

The purpose of the due diligence contingency is for the buyer to make an informed decision about the property they are buying and for the seller to have the opportunity to correct major defects.  This includes issues that may arise during inspection or a review of the title report.

I have not heard of transactions falling through due to the appraisal contingency in the last several years.

6. Closing Strategies

The transaction isn’t over until the deed is transferred to your name.

A “closing” is where an escrow officer transfers title of the property title to you. Since many buyers of Park City property do not reside in Park City, many closings are done through the mail, usually via email or overnight service. Your closing can be in Park City or any other location that is convenient for you.

Skilled agents work behind the scenes with the title officer and lender handling your transaction. They will review the closing documents for accuracy before you see them and will ensure your transactions closes on time.

There is a lot more that goes into the purchase of a home than looking at photos on the internet and arranging a showing.  When you are making an investment of several hundred thousand dollars, doesn’t it make sense to obtain the best advice?  And remember, in most transactions, the seller pays for the buyer’s agent.

Summit Sotheby’s Nancy Tallman Featured on Park City Travel Podcast


Our own Nancy Tallman is this week’s guest on the popular Discovery Maps podcast series, and this episode is all about Park City! She may be known for real estate, but she also knows our town. Host Mark Ciociola and Nancy cover everything you’d want to know about PC basics and beyond: winter activities, summer activities, favorite special events, where to stay, getting around, family friendly activities, restaurants and much more. Take advice from a 13-year local on all things PC! If you or your out-of-town guests are looking for info on Park City travel, you’ll enjoy this 30-minute podcast at Bit.ly/DiscoveryMap.