Fast home sale tips

fast home sale
Average Days on Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Although the volume of home sales is below last year’s figures, most homes are still selling.  Of course, home sellers would prefer to have a fast home sale. When meeting with potential listing agents, home owners are typically overwhelmed by agents promoting their broker’s technology.  But the research is clear that it’s not technology that sells homes, but rather your MLS listing content and the audience that can sell your home fast.

Three years ago, I introduced cutting edge research by Allen, Cadena, Rutherford & Rutherford (Effects of real estate brokers’ marketing strategies: Public open houses, broker open houses, MLS virtual tours, and MLS photographs; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 2015; 37(3), 343-369).  Although the study focused on the listing agent’s motivations about spending money on promoting your home, it did shed light on the effectiveness of marketing staples such as: broker open houses, public open houses, MLS photos, and MLS virtual tours.  Although these tactics may not promote a fast home sale, the study revealed that all four methods used together positively influence the home sale price.

They found that having six or more MLS photos increases the probability of a selling your home, as well as positively influencing the sale price.  Having a virtual tour can decrease the home’s time on market as well as increasing the probability of selling.  Having open houses can help sell your home at a higher price, but can take longer to sell.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, having public open houses can increase your home’s time on market up to twenty-five days, while reducing the chances of it selling by 6.1 percent!  Broker open houses also adds to the time on market, however increases the likelihood of selling your home.  The conclusion was that all four tactics should be considered as a package if your goal is to get top dollar.  However, if your goal is a fast home sale, your focus should be elsewhere.

Do pictures help with a fast home sale? A number of studies found that MLS photos and virtual tours have positive effects to home sale price, but are conflicted with regard to time on market.  However, a study conducted by Benefield, Cain & Johnson (On the Relationship Between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service; The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics; 2011; 43(3), 401–422) indicated that having more photos of the home’s interior can increase the time on market.

A study published this year suggests that getting more real estate agents to view your MLS listing can sell your home faster.  Allen, Dare, & Lingxiao (MLS Information Sharing Intensity and Housing Market Outcomes; The Journal of Real Estate Finance & Economics; 2018; 57(2), 297-313) found that just increasing the MLS listing view by one unit can increase the probability of selling your home by 5.7 percent, increase the sale price by 0.2 percent, and reduce time on market by 1.6 days.

A fast home sale

So, what does all this research mean to you if you’re selling your home?  First, consider that your agent’s marketing strategy will certainly affect your home’s sale price and days on market.  While possibly helping to get a better sale price, the research has demonstrated that having a broad marketing plan could increase your home’s time on market.  To decrease the days on market and increase the probability of a sale, pay attention to the pictures and audience.  Make sure your agent places high-definition photos of your home in the MLS, but limiting shots to the most relevant.  Also, make sure your agent has a plan to get your MLS listing in front of other agents.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Real estate big tech

real estate big tech
Real estate tech (infographic from nar.realtor).

The business of real estate seems to be turning away from actually selling homes and wants to be housing big tech.  Nothing is as it seems.  Real estate companies are now technology companies, and technology companies want more of your information to control your opinion and behavior.

How much control should big tech have over what you think and do?  It’s a compelling controversy that is currently being debated.  It’s not clear when the discussion exactly began, but there have been many who have been wary of big tech for decades.  Even President Eisenhower had something to say about it in his second 1961 farewell speech (the first being famous for his warning of the military-industrial complex) he also warned. “…we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Once called paranoid, those who feared big tech are being vindicated by the acknowledgments of data collection and leaks to third party users.  Additionally, reports of censorship and behavioral control are slowly making its way to public awareness.  Sounding like a movie plot about a dystopian future, consider the internal Google video that was leaked by The Verge earlier this year (Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering; theverge.com; May 17, 2018).  The leaked video (seen here) discusses the use of data to not only change opinions and shape viewpoints that correspond with the company’s values, but to change behavior and shape society to “a directed result.”

Imagine being told where to buy a home, and which real estate services to use based on your behavioral data.  Big tech’s “guiding” of real estate consumers to homes and neighborhoods based on behavioral modeling algorithms seems like it could save time and effort for the consumer.  But it could also be considered steering, which is considered to be a fair housing no-no.

But big tech wants more of your data, at best to improve modeling algorithms.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (Facebook to Banks: Give Us Your Data, We’ll Give You Our Users; wsj.com; August 6, 2018), Facebook has been in conversations with banks to access users’ accounts and transactions.  The social media platform denied the story the next day.  However, the Wall Street Journal reporting by Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and AnnaMaria Andriotis is compelling given the report’s sources.  Some experts are also talking about Facebook wanting to become a consumer marketplace.

Zillow is also allegedly expanding its data usage.  Zillow announced this week of their acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America.  The purchase is said to boost Zillow’s “Offers” program, offering mortgages for home buyers making offers on the site.  However, GeekWire reported (Zillow acquires Mortgage Lenders of America, posts $325M in Q2 revenue, up 22%; geekwire.com; August 6, 2018) Zillow’s CEO Spencer Rascoff as saying in the company’s second-quarter earnings call:

We’re taking our huge advantages, which are our audience and our brand and our resources, and expanding into other business vertically… .”

And it’s not just big tech that wants your data.  Traditional companies are realizing the potential of behavioral modeling and guiding consumer behavior.  Inman reported earlier this year that co-founder Gary Keller proclaimed Keller Williams a tech company (What the hell is Keller Williams doing? Lingering questions from the Vision Speech; inman.com; February 28, 2018).  Keller proclaimed:

“We are a technology company. No. 1 that means we build the technology. No. 2 that means we hire the technologists … We are not a real estate company anymore.”

Big tech is losing touch with the average consumer.  Home buyers and sellers don’t want to be told what to do.  Rather, they want to make organic decisions. While large real estate brokers seem to be moving away from actually selling homes to be real estate big tech, home buyers and sellers are turning to human real estate agents.   Instead of algorithms, buyers and sellers value trusted Realtors to help with the process.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home buyer fatigue

Home Buyer Fatigue or Housing Derangement Syndrome?

home buyer fatigue
June Housing Stats (infographic from nar.realtor)

Although home prices remain strong, the volume of home sales has dropped off during June.  This is causing some in the media to exhibit “housing derangement syndrome” by reporting a pending housing collapse.   However, there is a more sensible answer and that may be “home buyer fatigue.”  Buyer fatigue is not solely used in real estate, rather it’s a term to describe consumers who do not engage in a market sector for a short duration for various reasons.  Home buyer fatigue has occurred multiple times since 2013 after a period of sustained home price increases.

Let’s look at the facts.

The National Association Realtors (nar.realtor) reported in a July 23rd press release that the total existing home sales for June decreased 0.6 percent, and is down 2.2 percent from the same time last year.  Home sales in Montgomery County have also been retreating.  The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) reported sales declines for single-family and condos during June (-3.4 percent and -13.9 percent respectively).  Year-to-date sales are also below last year’s transactions for the same time period.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun observed:

There continues to be a mismatch since the spring between the growing level of homebuyer demand in most of the country in relation to the actual pace of home sales, which are declining.

However, his explanation for the home sales retreat sounds like home buyer fatigue:

“The root cause is without a doubt the severe housing shortage that is not releasing its grip on the nation’s housing market. What is for sale in most areas is going under contract very fast and in many cases, has multiple offers. This dynamic is keeping home price growth elevated, pricing out would-be buyers and ultimately slowing sales.”

Although national home prices are increasing, the gains remain steady.  The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index reported on July 31st (spice-indices.com) indicated a 6.4 percent annual gain during May, which is the same as the previous month.  However, the 20 City Index showed a slight decline to 6.5 percent (from 6.7 percent).  Seattle, Las Vegas and San Francisco continue to lead the nation with double digit gains (13.6, 12.6 and 10.9 percent respectively). The Washington DC region, however, showed a modest annual home price growth of 3.06 percent.

As home sales decline, many contribute home buyer fatigue to increasing home prices and mortgage interest rates.  A few have already begun to ring the warning bells of bubble popping home price deflation citing Seattle and San Francisco’s housing woes.

However, those exhibiting housing derangement syndrome need to take a deep breath and look at the facts.  Most of the country’s home values are increasing at a sustainable rate.  Additionally, contrary to reports of inventory surpluses, home sale inventory continues to be low in most of the country (Montgomery County single-family and condo listings are below last year’s level by -9.3 and -12.8 percent respectively).

It’s also important to look deeper into what may be driving those overheated housing markets to experience the sharp price spikes and recent sale declines.  For example, Seattle’s housing juggernaut may be tied to Amazon’s nine years of a seemingly hiring frenzy.  According to reporting by Matt Day for The Seattle Times (Amazon’s employee count declines for first time since 2009; seattletimes.com; April 26, 2018), Amazon begun corporate layoffs, as well as a possible hiring freeze, earlier this year.

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Affordable housing

affordable housing
Affordable housing (graphic from montgomerycountymd.gov)

It’s no secret that housing is expensive.  Home prices are relentlessly marching forward, making it more difficult for first-time home buyers to purchase a home.  One of the contributing factors is the low inventory of homes for sale.  The deficiency of homes on the market is limiting options and stoking competition among determined home buyers, many of whom are willing to offer slightly more than then their cohorts.  All this puts upward pressure on home prices and impacting affordable housing.

Having enough for a down payment and closing costs is a hurdle for many first-time home buyers.  Home buying programs exist to help home ownership more affordable for home buyers.  The Maryland Mortgage Program (mmp.maryland.gov) offers down payment assistance in the form of loans, an employer match program, or financial grants.  In Montgomery County, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County (hocmc.org) offers several down payment assistance options, including the House Keys 4 Employees program for many Montgomery County Employees.  Of course, you must meet eligibility, so check with your lender and/or mortgage program.

Affordable housing is not only an issue for home buyers.  It’s also an issue for renters.  According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates results (census.gov), the median rent in the US increased about $21.  That does not sound life changing, however, it is the result of an analysis of nationwide monthly rents.  Results of the Survey indicated that, “Of the 382 metropolitan areas in the United States, the median gross rent in 156 areas did not change between 2007 to 2011 and 2012 to 2016…”  However, “Of the 219 that did change, increases outnumbered decreases four to one with 175 increases and 44 decreases.

Some areas had a decrease in rent, while others faced increases.  Among some of the areas with top increases include Andrews TX and McKenzie County ND, where monthly rents increased an average of $352 and $397 respectively.

The Census Bureau recent survey on rent concludes that “gross rents are on the rise.”  Other Census data indicates that 2017 had the lowest percentage of renters move since 1988.  The combination of fewer available rentals and increased rents are making it difficult to find an affordable rental.

Although “affordable housing” has been tossed about like a football, it wasn’t until Mary Schwartz and Ellen Wilson’s (US Census Bureau) analysis of the 2006 American Community Survey that really gave it meaning (Who Can Afford To Live in a Home?: A look at data from the 2006 American Community Survey; census.gov).  The analysis revealed the percentage of income that is spent towards housing.

The report indicated that forty-six percent of renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs.  Compare that to home owners: thirty-seven percent of owners with mortgages and sixteen percent of owners without spent 30 percent or more of their income on housing.  Schwartz and Wilson came up with the “30 percent standard,” and discussed that thirty percent or more of income spent on housing is considered a “housing-cost burden.”

Addressing affordable housing for renters, Representative Joe Crowley introduced H.R.3670 – Rent Relief Act of 2017 to help renters with their housing-cost burden.  The credit would only be available for taxpayers whose gross income is less than $125,000.  The bill allows for a refundable tax credit when rent exceeds 30 percent of the individual’s gross income for the taxable year.  Depending on the renter’s gross income, the amount of the credit could range from 10 to 100 percent of the excess (above 30 percent).  One caveat is that if the tenant’s rent exceeds 150 percent of the fair market rent for that specific residence, the excess above 150 percent won’t be included for the purpose of determining the amount of the credit.  Government-subsidized renters would be able to claim a credit equal to 1/12 of the rent paid by the taxpayer.  Although the bill was last heard in the House Committee on Ways and Means, at the time of this article, it is being prepared by Senator Kamala Harris to be introduced in the Senate.

Maryland offers tax credits for some renters, check with the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (marylandtaxcredit.com) for qualifying information.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Open house and carry on

Open House Still Part of Home Buying Process

open house
Stats from NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2017 (infographic from nar.realtor)

The tradition of having an open house, like other real estate customs, has recently become a source of debate over its value and effectiveness.  According to Rachel Stults, the tradition began over one hundred years ago when brokers allowed prospective buyers to “inspect” the house by having it open to the public (A Brief History of Opening Our Homes to Total Strangers; realtor.com; April 21st, 2015).  The house was advertised as “open for inspection.”  Of course, it was a much different time. Home buyers were not represented, and there was no home inspection as we know it today.  Hence, the “open house,” as first conceived, served an important function for the both the buyer and the seller.

As the housing industry evolved, visiting an open house morphed into a Sunday tradition.  Open houses were not just for home buyers, as it also became a form of Sunday afternoon entertainment for the general public.  The internet changed the tradition by virtually opening the house to the public through pictures and tours and allowing buyers to identify the specific homes they want to visit.

There is disagreement among real estate agents and other housing experts on the merit and effectiveness of the open house.  Additionally, home buyers have significantly changed how they use the open house over the last two decades.  According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor), twenty-eight percent of home buyers surveyed in 1999 indicated they found their home by visiting an open house, compared to only seven percent in 2017.

Adding doubt is a recent study that indicates having a public open house actually decreases the probability of selling a home by about 6.1 percent (Allen, Cadena, Rutherford & Rutherford; Effects of Real Estate Brokers’ Marketing Strategies: Public Open Houses, Broker Open Houses, MLS Virtual Tours, and MLS Photographs. Journal of Real Estate Research: 2015, 37:3, 343-369).  The authors indicated that having a public open house can increase your home’s days on market up to twenty-five days.

Although the open house may have lost its clout as a selling tool, it is still a major aspect of the home buying process.  Open house data from NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicated:

-48 percent of all buyers surveyed used the open house as part of their home search process.
-Repeat home buyers are more likely to find their home from an open house compared to first-time buyers.
-The income bracket most likely to frequent an open house has a median income between $250,000 and $499,999.
-Home buyers below the age of 65 (but older than 24) are more likely to frequent an open.
-The Northeast and West regions of the US have more successful open houses.
-Buyers seeking a new home visit open houses more than those seeking a re-sale.
-Couples (married and unmarried) are more likely to visit open houses than single home buyers.
-And, ninety-two percent of home buyers surveyed indicated that open houses were at least “somewhat useful.”

If you decide to have an open house, put away your valuables and medications so as not to tempt thieves who may wander into your home.  Have a discussion with your agent about focusing on selling your home, instead of trying to get more clients.  And finally, don’t distract from your home by having an “event,” which employs food trucks, bounce houses, and other open house gimmicks.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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