Hi, I'm Dave

By Dave Fratello | June 14th, 2010
Hi, I'm Dave.

You've known me for some time as MB Watcher, and I'll still use that handle in the future.

But since I'm going public, it's time to tell you a bit about myself.

This being MBC, the first issue is probably real estate.

My wife and I had the good luck to buy and sell twice in Manhattan Beach during the local boom years, buying our first home in 2001 and selling our second in early 2007. We put away the proceeds and rented after that.

But no, I don't think I'm a brilliant market timer. We had our own reasons for selling when we did, and just one was our fear that the market was about to decline, threatening our equity.

MBC's warning in early 2007, that "prices are going down in Manhattan Beach," was born of experience. Certainly I believed that national trends would eventually hit MB. But more personally, I'd seen it happen from a front-row seat. We listed our house in the second half of 2006, just as things turned strange and prices began to decline locally. We took less than we'd hoped for when we finally sold, but in time that deal looked fine.

MB home prices then tumbled about 25% after MBC's launch.

MBC exists because I wished for something like it when I was last active in the real estate market. What I wanted was data, analysis, better tools. I wanted someone to try to provide a useful description of what was happening and what it meant. I liked and respected my own real estate agent (and still do), who handled three transactions for us well. But my own craving for information went far deeper than anything I could find from readily available sources.

Being the sort of person I am, I realized I needed to put together the kind of information and analysis I wanted. I had the notion that if I did, others would appreciate it.

That's MBC's birth in a nutshell. I've learned a lot since the early days. What I found in tracking the market was that there were big obstacles to developing one's own independent dataset. And yet there was value in it. 

I found that there were a lot of great stories about local real estate to tell. And lots more I could never tell. (I often feel buried in details I simply can't use.)

In short, I found that it's possible to write about real estate like it's news, add some pep and opinion, and that people would enjoy that and join the discussion. Once I learned that I had readers, and that readership grew and provided a great deal of feedback, I guess I'd say I was hooked on the "job" of producing MBC the best way I could. So here we are.

In my "real job," I am a political consultant, meaning I manage campaigns, mainly on statewide ballot measures. My background is all in PR and communications, but to succeed I'm always immersed in data. I have had a lot of success in that field from simple hard work and creativity, and thanks to good mentors and teammates.

Applying my skills to writing about real estate isn't such a great leap. But it was always a hobby – albeit one that consumed virtually all of my "free time," hammering some old-fashioned habits like reading books.

It was a hobby until recently.

My "coming out" is, indeed, about improving and expanding what I do here at MBC, just as I explained in "No More 'Secret Agent?'" But it also allows me, perhaps, to begin to compensate for the time, costs and energy I've put in over the years in producing the site and maintaining the data. I haven't been able to sell paid display ads, for instance, because my anonymity got in the way – people wanted to know who they would be paying.

I'm also starting up at least one new gig branching off from MBC. Starting Saturday, I began a weekly column for the new real estate section of the Daily Breeze, under my own name. (Click here for the debut column.) I'll be broadening my focus to the whole of the South Bay. There's a new site, too, South Bay Confidential, which I'll work to develop, gradually, into something like we've got here for SFRs west of Sepulveda in the 90266.

And finally... are you ready for this?

I went and got a real estate license. I was convinced that I was lacking in some basic knowledge of real estate, despite my experience in transactions and my immersion in all things MB/West of Sepulveda. I wasn't analyzing everything as well as I could have. The flap over one of the MBC "pricing polls" finally convinced me that I needed the formal training, particularly in appraisal.

I'm not planning to practice as a real estate agent, nor am I joining the Realtors' association. I may work on some deals here and there, but I am keeping my day job. If I am to earn money from real estate, it will probably come mainly from providing agent referrals – a service that I began recently, after having provided several (unpaid) referrals over the years prior. The referral service is something I take seriously, and is worth a further discussion separately.

Now, really, enough about me. This isn't one of those blogs that's about the author. I'll be happy to slide back into the background after this post.

Last point: There are going to be fair questions about whether I can maintain the independent posture and voice of MBC if I actually earn any money from the business of real estate. But the truth is, I am committed to what I began here three years ago. If I were to fall off into writing puffery and to stop providing useful data, I would be as disappointed as you. Let's not let that happen. Stick with MBC, we'll keep it interesting.

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