Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan has published an open response to Derek Powazek's Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists defending the practice of search engine optimization, arguing that there's plenty of esoteric, useful, non-sleazy information that web-site-owners need to know to get their stuff recognized correctly by Google.
I think there's something to this, but I don't find most of Danny's examples very compelling. In Derek's original article, he mentions most of the sort of thing Danny cites here (distinctive page titles, for example). The Google Base bit is indeed esoteric and the kind of thing a pro can help you with, but I'd be more convinced if his article had more of this sort of thing and fewer straw-men.
But to really be real, let's remember that she's selling real estate in one of the most competitive areas of the country, Newport Beach, California. Her friends aren't all going to buy homes she's listing. Her "community" congregates on Google and does things like type in "newport beach homes for sale."
To succeed in attracting that audience, she should have a great site and great content -- agreed. But does she have individual listings? Then she probably needs to kick them out into Google Base, in order to fully be listed in Google. Does your mythical web developer deal with Google Base much? And where's her web site now? Is she running it off Blogger? Using her own domain? These have impacts on how both the search engines may see her as well as how she's perceived.
Does she have a blog in addition to a main site? That has an impact. Has she considered some unusual, creative ways to create content around real estate in her area, perhaps some catchy link bait, which may pull in the links she needs to rank better (which, by the way, is a recommended Google practice).
Does she have a local office? If so, has she claimed her listing in Google Local? If so, has she updated her title to reflect that perhaps she has "newport beach homes for sale?"