Facebook效应正在硅谷周围创造另一个新兴的景象：秘密出售。美国房地产房源共享系统(Multiple Listing Service，简称MLS)一直是美国人出售房屋的主流渠道。但许多富裕的房主不想在屋前草坪上竖起“待售”标牌，也不想把房屋地址公开在经纪公司的房源清单上或者在网上发布自家卧室的照片。因此，一些经纪公司绕过MLS系统，转而使用自己的渠道搜寻潜在买家。“嘿……我为你准备了一套房子！”《帕洛阿尔托周报》（Palo Alto Weekly）最近发布的一则消息使用了这样一个毫无讽刺意味的标题。这篇报道配发了大量住宅照片，其中一栋位于扎克伯格的新家不远处，是一套7,732平方英尺的殖民地风格住宅（“售价还不到900万美元！”），另一栋建于1929年，售价1,150万美元的地中海风格住宅则位于乔布斯家正对面，
Facebook's looming public offering may mark high water in confidence around Silicon Valley these days. And it is surely is going to make a lot of techies very rich, likely in a few weeks. But there's a smaller, barely noticed effect of the IPO: an already hyperventilating local real estate market that's now going bonkers.
Though the number of actual prospective home buyers with Facebook connections is only a fraction of all buyers in the Valley, their psychological effect on the market is unmistakable. In Palo Alto, in particular -- which Mark Zuckerberg calls home --sellers are either keeping their homes off the market until the IPO or ramping up expectations. For the first quarter of 2012, according to BrokerMetrics, the median price of a single-family P.A. home went up 11%, whereas inventory declined 57%.
One broker, Michael Dreyfus, tells a story. He had a client with a house in Old Palo Alto -- one of the town's best neighborhoods (where Steve Jobs lived) -- and advised the client a few months ago the house would likely sell between $2.8 million and $3 million. Thinking that too conservative, the client priced it at $3.5 million. The unexceptional 3,500-square-foot home sold two months later for nearly $3.9 million. "The locals are all gaga over Facebook and how much their houses are going to be worth," Dreyfus says. "And they're holding their houses off the market."
That in turns generates an inventory problem, which drives prices up further. "Palo Alto Gold!" declared a post earlier this year on the website of Dreyfus's boutique residential brokerage. "Every real estate agent in town has a long list of buyers and you can almost feel the preparation for a spring frenzy. The hordes of buyers are going to overwhelm our meager supply."
But if the Facebook offering doesn't perform as well as expected -- and this week the company reported revenues were down -- then the housing market could face "a great big crash," according to Dreyfus. If the homeowners who are now waiting put their homes on the market anyway, worried over further declines, the market would go down more. If that happened, it could be the sign that the long-prognosticated bubble in the Valley may finally have appeared -- and burst.
The Facebook effect may be creating another burgeoning phenomenon around the Valley: secret sales. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has always been the mainstream way to sell your house in the U.S. But many wealthy homeowners don't want FOR SALE signs up on the front lawns or their addresses in public brokerage listings—or photos online of the master bedroom. So some brokers bypass MLS and use their own contacts to hunt for possible buyers. "Pssst…Have I got a house for you!" reads a recent unironically intended headline in the Palo Alto Weekly, The story comes complete with unprivate photos of that lovely 7,732-square-foot Colonial not far from Zuck's new place ("just under $9 million"!) or the 1929 Mediterranean for $11.5 million just across the street from Jobs's house.
One estate currently for sale by Dreyfus is on the private market for what he says will be the most expensive ever sold in Palo Alto -- more than a record $15 million. He might want to tell you more about it, but he can't. Even the price is private.