Matrix Blog

Brokers, Agents, MLS, NAR

Cluttering Luxury Housing Markets with Listings Made for TV – Manhattan Edition

June 28, 2014 | 4:55 pm | wsjlogo |

wsjbpcphlistingterrace
[Source: WSJ]

A little over a week ago the WSJ’s Candace Taylor broke the story about 3 contiguous listings to be marketed together at the top of a 15-year old ground lease condo in Battery Park City for $118,500,000.  At 15,434 square feet, that works out to $7,678 per square foot.  CNBC’s Robert Frank provides more details in a video tour that was broadcast shortly after the story broke.

Normally I don’t bother to do the math on this sort of thing but after the Cityspire listing a while back, I thought I’d tweak my thinking a bit as the luxury market gets more than its fair share of confusing “milestones.”

Doing the Math
Here’s my listing price logic using content in the near viral news coverage of the record Battery Park City listing – I break down the 3 units:

$56,500,000 ($7,406/sqft) listing - 7,628 sqft 5-bed listed last year for 5 days and removed.

$11,700,000 ($3,330/sqft) purchase - 3,513 3-bed in April 2014.

$19,000,000 ($4,425/sqft) listing – 4,293 sqft 4-bed $23M January listing dropped to $19M, then removed.

$87,200,000 is the aggregate total for the 3 units that total 15,434 square feet ($5,640/sqft). The current list price of $118,500,000 represents a $31,300,000 premium for the combination of all 3 units before we might assume the millions in renovations to combine if you believe that the $87,200,000 total is what aggregate of the individual properties are worth.

Given the $3,330 ppsf recent sales price of the 3-bed and the unable to be sold for $4,293 ppsf after 6 months on market 4-bed and the not-market tested 5 day listing period 5-bed at $7,406, I can’t figure out how the listing agent gets to $7,678 ppsf as an asking price for all 3 together before the cost of renovation to combine? Perhaps the seller set the price.

The listing broker tells us that the pricing “is justified by the square footage“, as well as the views and building’s amenities.”

Got it.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Gold Jacket: How Does The Real Estate Brokerage Industry Change Its Image?

June 28, 2014 | 11:52 am |

I’m not sure we needed all of the (Century 21 – style) gold jackets, 4 women to 1 (bumbling) man ratio and house pocket logo imagery to get the stereotype being portrayed in this AT&T Mobile television commercial.  It is played over and over and I find it really annoying. The gold jacket stereotype has appeared in movies, ie War Games, Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore.

This tv ad use of props to convert the stereotype is intended to insure that the viewers understand that these people are aggressive, almost cartoonish, real estate sales agents. There are plenty of sales related industries with exaggerated stereotypes like used car salesman, stock brokers and insurance salesmen (of course some would argue they are accurate portrayals).

abcgoldjacket

The gold jacket was a marketing idea from the 1970s designed to thwart another company’s use of red jackets. And do you remember ABC’s Wide World of Sports Blazer?

Appraisers are also stereotyped as wearing polyester blazers (infers they are out of touch), carrying clipboards (most still do) and a “wheel” or tape measure.  All fairly benign when compared to the C21 gold jacket.

I wrote about this back in 2006 back in the early days of this Matrix blog.

Century 21 ended the gold jack requirement way back in 1996 but tried to implement again in what one would argue as a failed 2008 rebranding – but the stereotype lives on.

Should the real estate brokerage industry combat this portrayal? Is it too late? Does it even matter?

Tags: , ,


New Angle: Blame Low Mortgage Rates

June 23, 2014 | 10:37 am |

mnd30year6-2014

The National Association of Real Estate Editors just held their annual conference and one of the experts was Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

Admittedly he has always seen the real estate world through different lenses than I so I am often thrown for a loop when I come across some of the rationale for the current state of the housing market.

A local media outlet recapped his NAREE speech but since I didn’t attend and there is no transcript, I’ll go with the following paraphrasing:

Mortgage rates reached record lows in 2012 and 2013 of around 3.3 percent for 30-year home loans. Homeowners don’t want to let go of those once-in-a-lifetime bargain mortgages, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. So homeowners avoid putting their homes on the market in order to keep those low mortgage rates and that has resulted in super low inventories of home for sale. Although rates are still low (less than 5 percent) many people are opting to rent out their houses so they can hang onto great mortgages, Yun says.

Here’s another way to look at what he says is happening:

Yun – Home sales are not rising (year-over-year) because mortgage rates are so low that would-be sellers won’t sell. They simply love their low mortgage rate more than moving.

My view – Home sales are not rising (year-over-year) because of a combination of rapidly rising home prices that reduces affordability and historically tight mortgage lending standards that resulted record low inventory. Tight credit keeps the roughly 40% of home owners with low or negative equity from selling because they don’t qualify for the next mortgage. Hence, sales fall.

There is clearly way too much emphasis on mortgage rates in our housing economy.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Status Quo Bias: ‘Linear” Thinking in the Real Estate Industry

June 8, 2014 | 8:09 pm |

linearcharts
[source]

When we look at forecasting, planning, trending or anything that includes a look out over the future, I find the real estate industry (i.e. appraisers, real estate agents & brokers) generally thinks along linear lines.

For example:

  • When housing prices rise…they will rise forever.
  • When housing prices fall…they will fall forever.
  • When sales activity rises…they will rise for ever.
  • When inventory falls…it will fall forever.
  • When rental prices rise…they will rise forever.

…and so on.

Where does this status quo bias come from?

I don’t think this bias only specific to the real estate industry – but I describe it through the industry only because it simply happens to be my area of focus. I do find that real estate professionals can be quite disconnected from the mindset of their clients when the market is at extreme points in the trend i.e. peak and trough.

For example, in the dark days following the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, I was giving a speech to a large group of New York real estate agents in October of 2008. Roughly a dozen agents approached me before and after my presentation saying they were getting offers on their listings at roughly 30% below ask, characterizing the offers as “lowball.” It was quite amazing to hear all the agents use a similar characterization of the post-Lehman market. Of course when nearly all buyers are behaving in the same manner, that becomes the new market condition.

Towards the end of 2008, I found that New York real estate agents rapidly changed their view on the market as sales contract activity fell by 75% YoY. The real estate agent disconnect with the consumer was evident by the early spring of 2009 when it was apparent that buyers were not as negative in their outlook of the coming real estate year as the typical agent was. Needless to say that the market did see a significant rebound over the following year and the consumers were ultimately right.

My takeaway from all of this is never to get too comfortable with a trend. Although we like to say “the trend is your friend,” it is only your friend “until it ends.”

I would think this “status quo bias” behavior manifests itself more strongly in professions that are sales commission heavy, i.e. where commission incentives and generally over-the-top positive thinking are the norm and the agent tries to feel like they have some control over the impact of the market on their livelihood.

Of course the real estate market could care less what anyone thinks.


I was away last week, invited by the US Army to participate in a seminar at the US Army War College in Carlisle Pennsylvania after they heard me give a speech about the evolution of our company. Last week was a complete strategic immersion at the college and frankly I didn’t think a whole lot about the housing market or social media. I met an impressive group of accomplished military veterans who are furthering their careers. I also got to meet civilians like me from around the country that were also invited to participate. I gained invaluable strategic insights and friendships from this event that have made a real impact on me and how I interpret information that is presented to me.

Tags: , ,


NAR Pending Home Sales Had Biggest “February to March” Jump in 4 Years

April 28, 2014 | 4:52 pm | irslogo |

4-28-14PHSI
[click to expand]

After all the housing news drama of the past month, I thought it was interesting to see the negative streak broken. Still, sales are below year ago levels after what I described as a “release of pent-up demand” that was caused by the expiration of the “fiscal cliff” and the looming rise in mortgage rates last year.

Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.

All the indices NAR publishes bother me because they include seasonal adjustments and those adjustments can be very severe. The chart above has no seasonal adjustments so you can see how much adjusting has to take place to smooth out the line. I thought I’d take a look at the month-over-month data that wasn’t seasonally adjusted to see if the same pattern occurred.

4-28-14PHSIfebtomarch

Yes, month-over-month pending sales rose the most since 2010 when the market was wildly skewed (higher) as a result of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (federal first time buyer and homeowner tax credit).

February to March 2014 had the largest increase in contracts than the same period in each year since 2010.

Tags: , , , , ,


How Real Estate Brokers Can Negotiate With Foreign Buyers, Illustrated

March 29, 2014 | 12:33 pm |

Saw this visual over at Business Insider that shows how communication patterns differ around the world – from Richard D. Lewis’s book “When Cultures Collide“.

3-14communicationpatterns
[Source: Crossculture.com Click to expand]

I haven’t read the Lewis book yet but I’ve always been fascinated by the topic of communication and linguistics – another book got me interested in the topic: That’s Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations with Others by Deborah Tannen circa 1992. I’ve read it three times.

Tags: , , , , , ,


On Bloomberg TV’s ‘Bottom Line’ 2-12-14 Talking US Housing Slowdown

February 14, 2014 | 5:24 pm | bloomberglogo | Videos |

Had a great discussion with Mark Crumpton on his show “Bottom Line” about the slowing US housing market. You can see this in the quarterly results:

The median existing single-family home price increased in 73 percent of measured markets, with 119 out of 164 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the fourth quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. Forty-two areas, 26 percent, had double-digit increases, two were unchanged and 43 recorded lower median prices.

The storyline of the last 2 years has been “Housing is Back!” yet prices were rising based on fed policy, not due to fundamentals like income, employment and access to credit. I have been labeled as a bit bearish on the “recovery” but I’m really not. I look at this slow down as a good thing for the long view on housing. We need to have sustainable housing growth (ie sales and prices) and 13.7% YoY price gains are in start contrast to economic fundamentals.

During our interview we were interrupted by the signing ceremony with President Obama for the new minimum wage act, so Bloomberg TV spliced the two parts together quite nicely. This is the second or third time one of my interviews has been interrupted by the President of the United States. Yes, I’m ok with that. ;)

Tags: , , ,


NAR Pending Home Sale Index Sort of Goes Negative

October 28, 2013 | 7:31 pm | nytlogo | Charts |


[click to expand]

According the National Association of Realtors, their Pending Home Sales Index fell 5.6% from August to September 2013 (seasonally adjusted), the largest monthly drop since May 2010 after the artificial prop of the 2009-2010 federal homebuyers tax credit expiration caused contracts to drop by nearly 1/3 from bloated levels.

Removing seasonality from the results makes the year-over-year adjustment show nominally 1.1% higher contract volume from September 2013 than in 2012 rather than a 1.2% decline. Still, the results were weak.

Why did pending sales post weaker results?

  • Don’t blame the partial government shutdown – that came later.
  • After the May 2013 Fed surprise announcement, fence sitters surged to the market to lock in before mortgage rates rose further, bloating contract volume over the summer (and why month-over-month seasonal adjustments to this data are so very misleading).
  • The surge in summer sales “poached” from future organic volume that we would have seen in September so we were already expecting a slow down in volume. Didn’t we learn in 2010 what happens when unusual circumstances press volume sharply higher only to see volume fall sharply when that circumstance disappears?

Weaker conditions prevail, but its really not as bad a report result as being discussed – namely because the seasonal adjustments paint a weaker picture than what actually happened, and we expected a decline in activity because the prior several months were artificially pushed higher with so many more buyers rushing to the market to beat rising rates (or the perception of rising rates).

Tags: , , , , ,


NAR July 2013 US Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Rise 6.5% M-O-M

August 21, 2013 | 12:08 pm |


Source: NAR

After slipping in June, NAR’s Existing Home Sales for July jumped 6.5% unexpectedly from the prior month. Last month the results showed an slight decline (and were adjusted downward for this release) and the thinking was that the market is starting to cool off with the introduction of rising rates to the market in May. The bulk of May contracts probably closed in July, the likely basis of this most recent release. However it looks like the market continued to see a rise in demand in June, following the May bump in rates as people looked to get in the market before rates rose further.

Still, this month over month stuff is pretty ridiculous to place a lot of faith in. The year over year surge of 20.7% (non-seasonally adjusted) and 17.2% jump (seasonally adjusted) is much more telling of the long term market change.

Here are a few other charts to review. Inventory is much lower than a year ago while showing some gains in excess of seasonal trends. Median sales price growth is off the hook. 13.7% YoY growth is not sustainable with flat income, tight credit and high unemployment and underemployment. Thanks goodness for rising rates.


Source: NAR


Source: NAR

Tags: , ,


NAR: “The Home Price Growth Is Too Fast”

July 1, 2013 | 11:30 am |

When I saw this quote by Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist two weeks ago in the Existing Home Sale Press Release, I was surprised. I didn’t write about it but ran into someone a few days ago who pointed out the same thing so I was inspired.

The home price growth is too fast, and only additional supply from new homebuilding can moderate future price growth.

My reaction:

  1. I agree that price growth is too fast. Incomes are stagnant.
  2. This partially makes up for him classifying the housing slowdown as temporary back in 2007.
  3. When someone who is generally biased towards the positive, goes negative, that’s a red flag.

Tags: , ,