September 04, 2008
Flames of "irrational exuberance" burning Realtors, too
I've spend the morning deconstructing Realtors are not immune to foreclosure, an amazingly transparent blog post on a leading real estate web site. The author's concluding question -- Why did so many people, including Realtors, buy homes in 2005? -- has been and will continue to be the spring board for innumerable blog posts, talk show interviews, research by economists and parodies on YouTube. But now imagine what the authors of Freakonomics or Saturday Night Live could do with this admission that some real estate agents "helped people buy homes that they could not afford," and then repeated the same mistake themselves.
Personally, I'd love to see investigative reporters dig into the conflicts of interest in the real estate industry and expose how deceptive and manipulative business practices, like dual agency and blind bidding wars, fanned the flames of "irrational exuberance" and, as this highly respected blogger admits, ultimately burned Realtors themselves.
Perhaps industry regulators will create new disclosures to protect consumers and prevent another trillion dollar collapse of the housing market in the future. Were you aware that a Washington think tank estimated a "loss of almost $6 trillion in real housing wealth over the course of the year, an average of $85,000 per homeowner"? Historically, potential home buyers have been advised to ask agents about their sales volume, but now it's wiser to ask prospective buyer agents if any past clients are upside down on their mortgages or involved in foreclosure. What if a such a negative equity or "foreclosure disclosure" were required by law?
Outrageous some might scream, unrealistic others would argue but blogs have already created a decision-making tool for web-savvy home buyers to decide who will best protect their financial interest. Try this experiment, visit two real estate blogs and see what their authors have written about the housing bubble. Look at their posts during 2005 -- was your prospective buyer agent echoing NAR's "anti-bubble" spin or warning homebuyers about the coming meltdown?
My hope is this blogger's admission that Realtors are not immune to foreclosure will expand discussion about systemic flaws and conflicts of interest in the residential brokerage practices, and their cost not just to individual buyers and Realtors but to society. Who could imagine a better time and place for some "straight talk" about the need for real estate reforms than John McCain's speech tonight at the Republican Convention in this blogger's backyard?
02:03 PM in Defensive Homebuying, Dual Agency Detective, Foreclosures, Moblogging in Real Estate, Price trends, Real Estate Bubble, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Timing the market | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack
July 20, 2008
Part II: Million Dollar Markdowns coming to a neighborhood near you?
Follow-up to Part I: Housing slump hits Cambridge: 1 in 3 single family homes selling below assessed value
As graphed in the blog post above, homes selling below assessed value are increasingly common, but what was newsworthy about the Boston Globe's story last week is the magnitude of how far below. During the first six months of 2008, two homes in Cambridge sold for approximately $2 million below their original asking price. More significantly, both sold for more than $1 million below their assessed value based on our analysis of MLS data shown below.
Can you guess the address of these two properties in Cambridge?
Original asking price: $5,300,000
List price before offer accepted: $3,700,000
Price reduction Original vs list price: $1,600,000
Final sales price: $3,100,000
Price reduction below last asking price: $600,000
$2,200,000 Savings vs original asking price
% Savings vs original asking price: 42%
Assessed value: $4,122,100 (2007)
Saved vs assessed value: $1,022,100
Sales price / town assessment: 75%
% below assessed value: 25%
Guess how many days on market?
Are you seeing Million Dollar Markdowns in your local housing, elsewhere in Massachusetts, the US (or world)?
Original asking price: $5,500,000
List price before offer accepted: $3,995,000
Price reduction Original vs list price: $1,505,000
Final sales price: $3,650,000
Price reduction below last asking price: $345,000
Savings vs original asking price: $1,850,000
% Savings vs original asking price: 34%
Assessed value: $4,917,400 (2008)
Saved vs assessed value: $1,267,400
Sales price / town assessment: 74%
% below assessed value: 26%
Guess how many days on market?
As reported by the Boston Globe, The Real Estate Cafe has monitored "Million Dollar Markdowns" -- luxury homes which have sold at least $1 million below their original asking price -- on and offer during the past. See links in blog posts from 2007: Sweetest Deals of 2006 and MIT Professor: Housing prices could decline another 20%.
As McMansions become less desirable and the housing market drags the economy in recession, do you think "Million Dollar Markdowns" will become more common in your local housing market? Are owners already putting them on the market now to minimize their losses? Will the expiration of estate tax cuts enacted in 2001 cause the luxury housing market to collapse, or will Congress and the new president extend the tax cuts permanently?
July 17, 2008
If airlines have fare sales, should real estate agents? Part 2
Poking fun at the current cover story in Barron's Magazine, "Bottom's Up: This Real-Estate Rout May Be Short-Lived," Bill Apgar of the Harvard's Joint Center for Housing predicted, "There will be 10 articles a month [like that] until we hit the bottom, and the last one will be right."
When will it be the right time to buy? That's what all The Real Estate Cafe's clients are asking. Some of their house hunts began two years before the market peaked, and are now into the third year of falling prices. Nearly 50 of our active buyers have looked at more than 1,000 MLS page views. Twenty-one have looked at more than 1,000 MLS pages in the past year alone, but only four of them have paid any fees to The Real Estate Cafe.
Unlike listing agencies who represent sellers and charge 5% to 6% commissions, or dot.com start-ups that are venture funded, The Real Estate Cafe pays it's overhead almost entirely from hourly consulting fees paid by clients. With so many buyer waiting out the housing bubble, those fees have slowed to a trickle. Now, after 13 years, we need your financial support.
We constantly look for ways to help you save money, by learning more about the housing bubble and the latest technologies. Today, for example, we attended a seminar on State of the Nation's Housing and a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop. This weekend, we'll participate in PodCampBoston (for the third time.) Next week, we'd like to participate in two real estate technology conferences in San Francisco: REBarCamp and Real Estate Connect.
To do so, we need to raise $2,000 to $3,000 quickly. You can help us, help you save money by selecting one of the following special offers:
Money-saving offer #1: Fare sale
Repeat the Fare Sale we used successfully in 2007 to get two to three clients to prepay $500 to $1,000 in exchange for 1 to 3 hours additional work for FREE. Email for details.
Money-saving offer #2: Experiment with monthly fees
Introduce an optional monthly subscription fee. If you agree to pay $250 per month, we’ll slash our our consulting fees, normally $100 to $150 per hour, to $50 per hour for five hours—that’s a savings of 50% to nearly 70%! Like frequent flier miles, hours you prepay accumulate and you can use them any time you like. Email for details.
Money-saving offer #3. Attend educational seminars
Host a technology debriefing after our trip to San Francisco to share best money-saving tools and tips from the two real estate technology conferences. We would like to host two events, one for buyers and the other for FSBOs ("for sale by owner") within 10 days of the conferences at TogetherInMotion, One Broadway, Arlington, MA. $49 per household, per event. Email for details.
Finally, your best savings opportunity may already be part of our normal menu of fees & rebates. For example, one of our $3,000 flat fee options enables you to buy down our hourly consulting fee from $150 per hour (without retainer) to $75 for 40 hours - that's a 50% savings before payment of any performance bonus. (Contact us for more details on this option and others.)
We encourage buyers to wait for the housing prices to correct, but don't wait to take advantage of these savings opportunities. Once we raise $2,000 to $3,000, they'll be gone.
10:25 PM in "We" companies, Bubble Hour, Client Feedback, Fee-for-service, FSBO: Best Practices, Housing forecasts, Inside The Real Estate Cafe, Price trends, Real Estate Bubble, Savings & Rebates, Tech Trends, Timing the market | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 15, 2008
Part I: Housing slump hits Cambridge: 1 in 3 single family homes selling below assessed value
Part I: On Sunday, July 13, 2008, the Boston Globe published a lead story in City Weekly entitled, In real estate sales, not all cities are equal.
A blog post earlier today by Redfin stated that "several single-family houses sold for less than the assessed value" in Cambridge, but the magnitude of the price correction underway is far more substantial. As shown in the graph above, approximately one in three single family homes sold below their assessed value in Cambridge during the first six months of the past two years. (The Real Estate Cafe's analysis was limited to the first two quarters of each year because we assume that a higher percentage of homes sell below assessed value during the second half of each year.)
The Real Estate Cafe first began tracking sales below assessed value during the first quarter of 2006; and by September 7, 2006, our research was featured in a Boston Globe story entitled, "Priced below assessment." Contrary to Redfin's assertion that "a house would have to be ravaged by fire" to sell below assessed value, a map in the Globe story revealed that 37% of the single family homes sold in Brookline were below assessed value, compared to 22% of the single family homes sold in Cambridge at the time. (Click for sample of the homes selling below assessed value in Brookline in the past.)
Two years ago today, our first user added their own examples of falling house prices to our interactive real estate bubble map. Inman News also featured our map in a mini-series on Real Estate 2.0 innovations, and we need your financial support to attend their real estate technology conference next week to continue our 15 year tradition of helping real estate consumers save money.
Preview of Part II: Homes selling below assessed value has clearly become more commonplace, but what was newsworthy about the Globe's recent story is the magnitude of how far below assessed value: During the first six months of 2008, two homes in Cambridge sold for approximately $2 million below their original asking price; and more significantly, more than $1 million below their assessed value (based on our analysis of MLS data. Watch for more details this week.
January 11, 2008
NOW, what do you think will happen to housing prices in 2008 & beyond?
Please take a few minutes to update this survey of housing price expectations in Massachusetts after a week of negative housing headlines. This survey is being conducted independently by The Real Estate Cafe but we are eager to share the results with the press.
CLICK HERE, not photo below, to start survey: What do YOU think will happen to housing prices in 2008 & beyond?
December 27, 2007
Survey BLITZ for TV News: Boston housing prices in 2008 & beyond
A local TV news department is working on a story today about the housing market, so The Real Estate Cafe and BostonBubble.com have volunteered to conduct a quick consumer survey to inform their reporting. What do YOU think will happen to housing prices in 2008 & beyond, and if you are in the housing market, how will that influence your home buying plans for 2008?
The survey takes just a few minutes and we need your opinion AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to enrich tonight's TV news!
October 31, 2007
Misleading medians understate savings opportunities for homebuyers
As some of your readers know, focusing on median sales prices can understate the magnitude of saving opportunities in the housing market. Like the image above, a closer look at sales behind the housing bubble reveals some surprising findings! If, for example, you focus on sales of single family homes in the 28 most expensive suburban communities in Greater Boston last month (Sept. 2007), these findings emerge from the MLS:
1. Sales were down nearly one third from last year: 216 sales in 9/07 versus 300 sales in 9/06;
3. Those who argue that prices are holding up in Greater Boston can point to these stats:
3.1 Twelve listings sold for over their original asking price or 1 in 20 listings;
3.2 Another 13 listings sold for their original asking price or 1 in 20 again;
4. In contrast, those who argue that median statistics are misleading would point to these stats:
4.1 One in four listings, or 53 of 216 single family homes in the most expensive suburban communities, sold for at least $99,000 less than the original asking price -- a trend we mapped last year;
5. Looking just at the 86 homes which sold below their assessed value, 1 in 3 sold for at least $99,000 off;
6. Switching from dollars saved to percent saved last month:
6. One in three listings sold for at least 10% less than their original asking price; and worse
7. One in ten sold for at least 17% below than their original asking price!
So, if you are a buyer, don't be too quick to base your assessment of market value, and hence your offer, on median sales prices or market indexes which are showing modest declines. Historically, one in five homes which go under agreement between Thanksgiving and New Years, sell for at least 10% below the original asking price. As the statistics above reveal, price reductions are likely to be deeper and more wide spread this year. We'll map them on our award-winning real estate bubble map. It's an open, interactive map so Real Estate Cafe clients can earn rebate bonuses by adding properties, too.
August 30, 2007
Wait 2.0: Negative cycle creating marginal or mega-savings for patient homebuyers?
“With home prices leveling, interest rates remaining low, inventory still plentiful and more sellers accepting market-based pricing, Bay State homebuyers have a special window of opportunity right now,” Mr. Wluka said. “We just don’t know how long the window will stay open, with factors remaining so favorable. For anyone trying to time the market, the waiting game may be a big mistake.”
Eight months later, a survey of economists and the interview below on Marketplace.org, suggest that waiting could create more savings opportunities for homebuyers from what economists call a "negative cycle." How much have you saved by delaying your home buying plans over the past year or two, and how much more do you think you can save my waiting longer? How long will you wait, or will you be bargain hunting this Fall and winter as seasonal markdowns accelerate savings opportunities?
Marketplace.org: "Ride Dow roller coaster, or sit it out? (8/30/07)
Links and excerpts selected by The Real Estate Cafe, audio online above (but no transcript yet):
Marketplace host: You get the feeling that investors can't seem to make up their minds? ...Once emotions loosen the markets, where it all ends, can be anyone's guess. ...That has a lot of us in some kind of limbo these days.
Steve Tripoli, Marketplace: Even well-healed potential buyers are thinking twice these days. Lois Vitt has written a book about real estate that focuses on buyer and seller psychology. She says "caution" is what happens when markets turn sharply south.
Dr. Lois Vitt, author: Fear is contagious and that's what's going on right now. People are afraid. And so they worry that they might get in trouble if they go ahead with their plans and so people are holding back.
Karl Case, housing economist: I've got a t-shirt that says, "Mr. Housing Bubble: I pop and you are done." There's just a lot of press, a lot of news about the mortgage market, about auctions, houses, about foreclosures. If you are in the market about to make a big decision about buying a large asset, that is going to scare you.
Steve Tripoli, Marketplace: It's not only that a house is a big asset, says Case, but it's one most buyers will hold for a long time.
Karl Case, housing economist: And they borrowed the money to do it. So they naturally have expectations about whether it's likely for it to go up or down, and it is clear that the demand is sensitive to those expectations.
Steve Tripoli, Marketplace: The problem with this negative market psychology is that it can be self-fulfilling. Buyers hold back, prices drop; so more mortgages exceed the home's value, and prices drop more. Then buyers pull back even more. I asked re Karl Case and Lois Vit, "Are we are in danger of that kind of negative feedback cycle right now?"
Karl Case, housing economist: Absolutely.
Dr .Lois Vitt, author: Absolutely.
Steve Tripoli, Marketplace: And all of the sophisticated computer models, and hedge fund managers in the world can't predict where that kind of negative thinking will take us. So fasten your seat belts. I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.
Listen to NPR's "All Things Considered" this evening for more insight into the negative cycle spiraling downward in the housing market. Here's a key pull quote:
Economists expect total declines of about 10 percent throughout many parts of the country — and up to 25 percent in some of the formerly hottest markets.
August 18, 2007
Mapping credit crunch casualties in Boston & beyond
Inspired by today's Boston Globe's cover story entitled, "Mortgage crisis may hurt sales this fall" and it's ominous subtitle -- "More buyers likely to be refused loans" -- The Real Estate Cafe is eager to begin adding credit crunch casualties to our award-winning real estate bubble map. Our first location has had three offers fall through over the past five months, including one last week. If we could mobilize an army of would-be homebuyers turned investigative reporters, we'd map several categories of credit crunch casualties:
- Properties "back on market" (both MLS listings and "for sale by owner")
- Buyers whose loan applications are refused
- Prices that are renegotiated after properties fail to appraise
- Canceled transactions because would-be buyers cannot sell their existing home
Will it be possible to identify and document enough case studies to create a credible "credit crunch map" or at least a subset of our existing real estate bubble map? We're not sure, but the financial reward of such a collective effort could be substantial: depending on one's price range, patient home buyers in Boston could save $10,000 to $25,000 per month over the next four to six months. In the meantime, we're willing to compensate clients who contribute content, see our Tipping Policy.
We agree: "an amazing scene [is] developing;" and we're eager to see if interactive mapping can help translate credit crunch casualties into clients savings. As the Globe wrote, "sellers who fear financing problems may jeopardize a deal are reducing their prices," and "Buyers 'are aware they have more choices, and down the line, their choices may increase exponentially...' "
Comments welcome below and / or in The Real Estate Cafe's Idea Bar.
August 15, 2007
Need your prediction: How far will rising cost of jumbo loans drive prices down?
If you are a home buyer or seller reluctant to drop your asking price, MarketPlace.org's segment tonight on jumbo loans is required listening: "Jumbo loans feel subprime weight."
During the past several weeks, The Real Estate Cafe has helped buyer clients in Greater Boston prepare offers on luxury condos and a single family homes in the jumbo price range. Thus far, sellers with broker listed properties have been reluctant to drop their prices, while FSBOs are ready to deal. Maybe it's too early for the trend documented below to show up in broker "comps" (ie. recent sales):
"...more than 10 percent of his deals have fallen through in the last few weeks — up from less than 1 percent. He says many people just can't get the loans they need. The same thing is happening in New York, Boston and San Jose."
Will the rising cost of jumbo loans drive housing prices down in Boston and beyond, or as one economist fears, have a broader "jumbo impact on the U.S. economy." What's your prediction? You can follow what real estate agents and others are saying on HomeThinking, what the public is predicting on My-Currency, and what the pros are modeling on Wall Street. You can also leave a comment below, or add the location of homes selling below their assessed value value on our Boston Bubble map or RealEstateBubbleMap wiki.
Before you make your prediction, take The Real Estate Cafe's analysis of seasonality in the past into consideration:
According to [our] analysis of listing data between 1996 and 2002, one in five Massachusetts properties that went under agreement between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day sold for at least 10 percent below the original asking price.
Cross-posted on The Real Estate Cafe's new, experimental social networking site.