Intero corporate offices are in Cupertino, but Mr. Pinel is heading up the Peninsula to focus on the company's Menlo Park and new Woodside offices. The Woodside office, located at the corner of Woodside and Canada roads, will open in March with Tom Dallas and David Kelsey already on board.
The Menlo Park office, now located at 807 Santa Cruz Ave., will likely move to larger quarters. Mr. Pinel's focus in both locations will be the luxury market, nationally and internationally.
How do you define a luxury home? It depends on location, he says. A luxury home in Woodside, Hillsborough or Pebble Beach would be in the $3.5 million price range. In Menlo Park it's $2.5 million. The minimum price for a luxury home locally is $1.5 million.
Expertise in representing exclusive properties is how Mr. Pinel first made his reputation in real estate. "I've always thought that the market is propelled by the high-end," he said in a 2002 interview with The Almanac.
Despite real estate disasters in other parts of the country, our local luxury market is strong. "People who can live anywhere choose Northern California because of its weather, lifestyle, Silicon Valley, and great universities. It has everything," says Mr. Pinel.
He says the market has never been more global, and that foreign investors are going to be looking at the U.S., particularly Silicon Valley, as a stable place for their money.
Best of Both Worlds
"The Best of Both Worlds USA/Europe" is how Mr. Pinel headlines his website, which cites his "eternal quest for business excellence." Today, that quest brings him back for another foray into Peninsula real estate, a quest that began back in 1976 when he started his real estate career with Fox & Carskadon.
Before becoming a Realtor, Mr. Pinel was a French journalist. In 1972, he, his wife, and 1-year-old son, moved to California. After several business ventures, he went to work for Fox & Carskadon, eventually becoming executive vice president and general sales manager in the company.
He formed Alain Pinel Realtors Inc. in 1990. The next year, he sold the company and returned to France, where he served as sales and marketing director for a real estate investment corporation.
Coldwell Banker wooed him back to the Bay Area in 1995 to become senior vice president and regional manager for the San Francisco, Peninsula and Silicon Valley region.
Seven years later, he and his, wife, Corinne, returned to Europe once more, settling in the South of France. But a leisurely life on the Riviera was not to be. Together with three partners, Mr. Pinel founded Iminence, a startup that changed the way real estate is done in France, with a core business built around the multiple listing system, he said.
Mr. Pinel's odyssey in the United States continued when a 2007 visit to Massachusetts evolved into another chapter in his real estate career. He and his wife bought a pied-a-terre in the coastal village of Cohasset and, six months later, decided to leave the Riviera for East Coast living. He soon became senior vice president and general manager in Massachusetts for William Reveis, the 10th largest real estate firm in the U.S.
Although now living in a condo in San Jose, Mr. Pinel and his wife will be looking for a home further up the Peninsula. Both children live in the U.S.: their son on the East Coast; their daughter in Rancho Santa Fe.
Now 67, Mr. Pinel is enthusiastic about his return to the Peninsula, where he "knows everybody." He is positive about real estate prospects in 2012, "I can smell the market. And I like what I smell."