Rick Turley, Coldwell Banker's president for the San Francisco Bay Area, was in China this week to tap into the growing desire affluent Chinese have for property in the U.S., especially Silicon Valley.
His two-city speaking tour is part of a new initiative the real estate giant is launching to attract Asian investors who want to invest in U.S. real estate or move here to launch companies and put their kids in good schools.
Before he left, Turley spoke with this newspaper about the initiative, the health of Silicon Valley's real estate market and the unusual career path he took before getting into real estate a quarter of a century ago. He now manages Coldwell Banker's 47 regional offices and 2,800 real estate professionals, but in a past life was an ice skating coach.
Q You have an unusual career path for a real estate executive -- professional skater with the Ice Follies, competitive skating coach for a decade. How did real estate come about?
A Though they don't seem that related, going from that competitive background to being a Realtor is not that uncommon. Just in Coldwell Banker, a number of our people competed at the same time I did in the '70s. My Burlingame manager, Leigh Whitten, and I coached at the same arena years ago and didn't know each other. Then we ended up at Coldwell Banker in two different cities and now I'm her boss and she's one of my top managers. If there's any lesson there to tap into, becoming a top Realtor takes a lot of drive, a lot of passion and you have to sharpen your tools and do it over and over again, not unlike a competitive sport.
Q We've heard lots about Asian investors buying Bay Area real estate. You're about to fly to China to speak to groups of investors in Shanghai and Hangzhou. What are they interested in when it comes to investing in the Bay Area?
A We're actually working on a pilot program to help more affluent Chinese who are looking to invest in key U.S. cities and possibly emigrate. We're partnering with an immigration company that is working with Chinese residents considering investing in the U.S., purchasing real estate and creating jobs here. Coldwell Banker is positioned in all the large metros that they're interested in on both coasts and Chicago and Dallas. They are very attracted to schools, to quality higher learning.
Q This sounds like the wave of the future.
A Exactly. This has happened on kind of a single basis here and there, where maybe a single agent has flown over and done a trade show. But this is the first time a company has recognized that we could provide a service and a clear path. I'm going to talk about six major cities of interest, of which San Francisco-Silicon Valley is probably highest on their radar.
Q Maybe this is obvious, but why are they so interested in this region?
A It's a real combination. Technology is on everyone's radar and they see the potential for growth. The technology and the universities such as Stanford also push the bar even higher for public schools, and they are very interested in public schools. Cupertino is high on the radar.
Q So how is the Bay Area housing market doing? By some measures it seems to be leading the recovery nationwide.
A Clearly, we're not able make any predictions, but we can simply state what we've seen in the last 12 months is very solid improvement in price and a very marked decline in inventory. If that continues to play out, we can predict that price will continue to go up. The good news for the Silicon Valley home seller is the appetite for their home is enormous. I think that whether it's the emigrating Chinese or any other buyer, it's getting harder. More and more people are losing out in multiple offers.
Q The valley seems to be a pretty resilient market, considering all it has been through in the past decade.
A Take a look at what happened in Silicon Valley. Even the tech bust in 2000 did very little to harm the real estate market. The financial crisis in 2008 definitely took the wind out of our sails, but far less in Silicon Valley than around the nation. And now, relatively speaking, we're so quickly seeing a return to some strong pricing that it speaks well for a long-term investment.
Think how really extreme the tech bubble in 2001 was, how many jobs were lost, that truly evaporated. You'd think that would wipe out a community's real estate for a decade. Instead, we just plowed right through that and took off. Those are the kinds of things I'm going to explain to the Chinese.
Q You're involved with several charities, such as Habitat for Humanity. Is volunteering something you encourage in your agents?
A Yes. Habitat for Humanity is our primary way to give back because we feel it is so related to what we do in housing. We're able to be some significant cash contributors to Habitat, and each of our offices once a year gets involved in a build. Agents will come out and build alongside the new homeowner, spending a whole day doing some flooring, framing some windows, painting. That's always our focus each and every year, plus a big financial fundraising drive.
Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419 and follow him at Twitter.com/petecarey
Birthplace: Bloomington, Ill., 1953
Past jobs: 1974-86, professional ice skater; 1986-99, real estate agent and broker with Coldwell Banker in Sacramento; 1999-present, Coldwell Banker real estate management in San Francisco
Education: Studied business administration at Illinois State University
Resides in: San Francisco
five things you didn't know about rick turley
1. He skated professionally with the Ice Follies, then coached ice skating for 10 years before going into real estate.
2. He became certified in scuba diving in his early '50s, and takes a diving trip every year.
3. He is an avid gymgoer, and does weight lifting every morning.
4. He was the real estate agent for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver when they were house hunting for a new governor's mansion.
5. He volunteers to build homes for Habitat for Humanity