BY RICK WEINBERG, CALIFORNIA BUSINESS JOURNAL
When Craig Ackerman steps into a home, his mind begins to race as he envisions all the innovative ways he can improve the property and sell it for maximum profitability.
He looks at homes – and “resurfacing” them, as he calls it – in the same way Mozart looked at a piano, the way Monet looked at a Parisian garden, the way Steve Jobs looked at a computer.
Unique minds immediately analyze, calculate and imagine all the possibilities.
Ackerman, who carved quite a name for himself as San Francisco’s leading independent single-office real estate broker, sees a home as his canvas, where he envisions executing another masterful piece of art.
There is an art in preparing and selling a home – especially in some of San Francisco’s most exclusive neighborhoods – and Ackerman has mastered the technique to maximize value and sales price while completing the transaction much quicker than clients can ever imagine.
With a sophisticated and proven formula to rapidly resurface a home to generate urgent demand, multiple offers and maximum value, Ackerman has emerged as a remarkable success story. He has sold over 300 San Francisco area homes since he launched his unique entrepreneurial independent brokerage firm in 2003. He averages 30 transactions annually (1.7 per month) for an annual sales average of $32.6 million. His sales price exceeds the list price by an average of 121 percent and his homes are on the market for an average of only 17.8 days. In this year alone, he already has $20 million in escrow.
He works with a diverse clientele throughout San Francisco, yet his specialty is working in trust administration and probate properties with attorneys. He even wrote a book about it – “Selling Grandma’s Home: Streamlining Trust Home Sales For San Francisco Attorneys and Trustees.”
Ackerman’s unprecedented results as an independent broker is because of a conglomeration of skills that he has developed throughout his lifetime that includes remodeling, financing, marketing and real estate. By the age of 11, he was already remodeling homes with his father and brother, digging holes for septic systems, laying tile, replacing sinks and fixtures and painting.
“My business model is different from other real estate brokers,” he says. “We take a different approach. We’re a 2.0 version. I created a set of rules that help produce the maximum sales price in the shortest amount of time. It can be such an overwhelming, dread-inducing task, especially with trusts and estates, so I was compelled to design a very organized method.”
The results from applying his “strict set of rules” are impressive. For instance:
260 Dolores Street went on the market at $3.9 million and sold — all cash and no contingencies — for $4.2 million, making it one of the highest-dollar sales price ever achieved in the neighborhood at over $1,300 a square foot.
1118 Deharo St. in San Francisco not only sold for $1.25M – $251,000 more than the asking price – but it sold in just four hours. This was after it sat on the market for 77 days with another broker.
2001 Sacramento St. in San Francisco sold for $1.1M in just three days — and the ROI from resurfacing the property was 310 percent. Comparatively, an adjacent property was on the market for 259 days and — after four price reductions — it sold for $23,000 less than Ackerman’s transaction.
101 Sausalito Blvd. in Sausalito sold for $1.145M after just 22 days on the market – and for 310 percent more than what the owners anticipated. One of the primary reasons was because Ackerman immediately ordered 14 45-foot cypress trees trimmed, restoring striking views of Angel Island and San Francisco Bay.
Examples of Ackerman’s success stories go on and on. So do accolades from his gratified clients.
“Craig is beyond amazing,” says Vivian Holley, whose Pacific Heights home presented quite a challenge for Ackerman. Her neighbor’s home had lingered on the market for 243 days. After transforming Ms. Holley’s property into “a showcase home,” Ackerman had it sold in just 72 hours. “I was floored,” she says.
As trustee of a trust that held a multimillion dollar home in Mill Valley, attorney Edward Trucker was under pressure as the heirs of the estate were closely watching how he was going to handle the sale.
There were 33 other Mill Valley homes priced near this particular property. The average sale time was 189 days — and many of the homes lingered on the market for over a year.
But on Day 1, Ackerman had 65 brokers come through the property. The home received multiple offers, went into contract in nine days, sold for more than asking and closed in three weeks.
“The beneficiaries thought I was a rock star,” Trucker says.
When Ackerman resurfaced Carolyn Reinholdt’s Bernal Heights home, they received 11 offers within a week as 71 brokers marched through during the broker’s tour. When it sold with a 10-day closing, it was an all-cash transaction — $126,000 over asking.
She calls Ackerman “a force of nature” who “takes control” of every aspect of the process.
He took firm control when he decided to focus 60 percent of his business on trust estates with attorneys, which led to the inspiration for his book.
“Once I sold a few properties in trust administration, I started to see a pattern in my practice,” he says. “Attorneys and CPAs from all over San Francisco were bringing me in to assist their overwhelmed clients in selling homes.”
Selling “Grandma’s house,” as Ackerman calls it, can be the ultimate grind for most brokers, but certainly not for Ackerman himself.
“My philosophy is replacing ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ with creative, entrepreneurial methods of upgrading and selling homes and restoring it to its old glory,” he says.
“Trustees want to toss the key to someone knowing they’re going to get a 300-500 percent return on the investment in resurfacing the home,” he adds.
Typically, the formula is this: if a client invests $20,000 in resurfacing the property, they’ll get $60,000 to $90,000 back — a 300-500 percent return “if they’re honest about the true current condition of the property,” Ackerman says.
The resurfacing process is quick and efficient. Ackerman’s team is ‘in and out’ of a house within an hour with a cost/benefit analysis to help clients understand what potential upgrades will make the biggest impact.
Ackerman raves about his team of stagers, contractors, landscapers and electricians — “they’re the heroes” — yet Ackerman is the quarterback of the organized process.
“I’m a logistic freak,” he says with a laugh. “When you’re organized, speed is a very competitive weapon.”
After spending 10 years in China and Singapore as the marketing manager for Milliken & Company, Ackerman moved to San Francisco to start a new chapter of his life. Yet he wound up returning to his roots: buying real estate and remodeling, just like his father.
He first bought a single-family home in Bernal Heights for $539,000 and renovated it. He interviewed three agents to sell it, but wasn’t impressed with any of them. It was at that moment, “I realized I could do a much better job,” he says. He quickly sold the property for $850,000.
His next property cost $850,000 – and he quickly sold that for $1.375M.
That led to his decision to start his own independent firm.
“I created this firm as an alternative to inflexible corporate brokerages,” he says. “I’m a disrupter. I don’t like the beauty contest of our industry – the ‘here’s my beautiful white teeth and my nice tight suit’ type of broker. I only care about how I can add value.
“I don’t specialize in neighborhoods,” he goes on to say. “I specialize in situations. If you have a home and you want more money for it in one-third the time, I’m your guy. My job isn’t necessarily to sell the house — it’s to get multiple offers so the seller has a choice.”
[Editor’s note: To read the PDF version of this article, click on the image below.]
Ackerman Realty Group
1177 Polk Street, Suite 302B
San Francisco, CA 94109
Craig Ackerman’s YouTube Channel:
Craig on YouTube