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Inman News

Inman Connect Conference As A Social Object

August 6, 2007 | 12:36 am | |

Blue Monster from GapingVoid.com

After three days of real estate bliss at Inman Connect in San Francisco last week, I flew home early Friday afternoon.

Other than the:

  • 2-hour delay at SFO,
  • the lightning storm at JFK International that shut down all air traffic in the Northeast (so I heard),
  • taking a “bigger arc” over Chicago,
  • flying down to Virginia and staying in a holding pattern for another hour,
  • running so low on fuel the airplane had to make an unscheduled landing in Atlantic City,
  • waiting on the tarmac for another hour until about 2am,
  • and then finally arriving at JFK,
  • getting home at 3:30am, it was uneventful,

with one glaring exception: While trapped in the plane in Atlantic City, I got to spend about an hour speaking with Noah Rosenblatt, of Urbandigs.com, one of the smartest bloggers out there. It was 1am, and I am sure people around us thought we were insane, having excited discussions about the housing market, the economy, the fed to name a few. He’s an ex-Wall Street trader, current successful real estate broker who shared his insights with me about the turmoil in the financial markets.

We both saw the irony of the financial markets right now. Their volatility is driving a flight to quality so bond prices are rising, making yields fall…yet mortgage rates aren’t falling because of the credit crunch and diminishing liquidity.

I have felt strongly for the past year that the Fed would be forced to lower rates by the end of the year, but now its a real dilemna for them. Housing/mortgages have the potential to drag the economy down, spurring the fed to drop rates, yet, with rising oil prices, among other things, there are inflation concerns, causing the Fed to try to cool down the economy. The Fed’s position is probably going to have to remain neutral for a while, so perhaps the language in the upcoming FOMC meeting will be tweaked to show more neutrality.

but I digress…

Marketing is all about social objects.

Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void gave the keynote speech and he was incredibly refreshing. Of course his use of language was much broader than the audience was prepared for if you know what I mean, but he was so interesting, and I feel more…literate, and stuff… His blogging success story with Stormhoek wine was truly amazing.

Bloggers connect, the concurrent conference was a big success and I learned a lot.

I spoke to a bunch of really enthusiastic bloggers brimming with ideas and excitement over their craft including, but not all inclusive because its late: Joe and Rudy of Sellsius who survived their cross country rv tour, Dan Green, John Keith, Joel Burslem, Jessica, Brad (of course) and Glenn of Inman, Lockhart Steele, Pat Kitano, Kevin Boer, Heather Fernandez, Dustin Luther, Ardell DellaLoggia, Teresa Boardman, Hugh MacLeod, Jim Duncan, and Matt Heinz to name a few.


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Altitude Sickness: No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

August 1, 2007 | 12:54 am | |

Headed out to San Francisco for the Inman Conference. Ran into a colleague on the plane also going to the conference. According to Jet Blue, I am blogging at an altitude of 35,710 feet, at a relatively sane 532 miles per hour, but a personal record. Out with MapQuest. In with Google Maps. With a thinner atmosphere and faster speeds than my office desk, I anticipate a lot more typos and grammar mistakes.

Bad News for US Housing Market
Prices up? number of sales down? Thats the story as of late for the US housing market. With the stock market roller coaster over the past week, and fingers pointing at housing, the message is pretty clear. Its pretty darn confusing out there.

In Fannie Mae economist David Berson’s July 30th column: Home sales take it on the chin, again, he lays out the ugly housing details.

  • Existing home sales fell by 3.8 percent from the prior month and 11.4% below the number of sales last year at this time.
  • New home sales were down 6.6% from May and down by 22.3 percent from a year earlier).
  • The inventory/sales ratio of existing homes rose at their highest level since 1992, the highest for new homes since 1991.

Good News for US Housing Market (unedited, unsure, unknown version)
* Median sales prices for existing homes increased 0.3% in June, compared to the prior year.
* Median prices for new home sales increased 2.2% in June, compared to June of last year.

However, its all about the mix. To all those who see the US housing market as reaching some sort of bottom, its a good idea to drill down a little further.

First of all, the tightening credit at lending institutions, espcially subprime products has restricted the number of sales of lower-priced housing.

Secondly, the upper end of the market seems to be outperforming the balance of the market both in the number of sales and housing prices trends.

With a lower number of lower priced sales and more higher priced sales with rising prices are skewing the overall prices upward.

Berson provides some perspective to the low level of sales:

If sales over the second half of the year average what they did in June, then the total for the year would be very close to the 6.05 million units that would bring the magnitude of this downturn down to that of 1989-91. At this point, the odds of this occurring are pretty good.

Lessons learned
* US housing statistics have no reliable application whatsoever to local real estate markets. (ie: The NAR’s Metro Housing Study [pdf] showed a wide range of falling and rising markets.)
* Don’t rely on market statistics at face value without understanding the methodology and data behind them. (aka run, don’t walk, from black box approaches to measuring market value.)

Milton Friedman, the noted economist, popularized the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The US housing market has a ways to go before it regains its footing in the aftermath of the era of nearly free credit, and more importantly, I didn’t get fed lunch on the airplane.

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But Buyer Psychology Is Part Of Market Value

July 27, 2007 | 12:01 am | |

The NAR says consumer psychology is to blame.

“Homebuyers have been getting mixed signals about the housing market, which is causing some of them to hesitate”

Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist, who has taken torch from controversial former chief economist David Lereah, said some consumers are uncertain (yes, 1/3 fewer sales):

“Home buyers have been getting mixed signals about the housing market, which is causing some of them to hesitate,” he said. “Mortgage interest rates have risen recently, and tightening lending standards are continuing to hamper sales, but fewer risky loans will put the market on a healthier path. Although general buying conditions remain favorable for long-term home buyers, it appears some buyers are looking for more signs of stability before they have enough confidence to make an offer.”

Ok. Lun has moved beyond blaming the weather to blaming buyers. This strikes me as odd.

Lets look at the use of the word value.

The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.

Value is steeped in consumer psychology. Its about perception about a future benefit.

Consumer psychology is the study of how people relate to the products and services that they purchase or use.

So the measurement of how people relate to the housing market, is the value they place on it. So value is part psychology. When someone makes an offer on a house, its the amount they feel is justified and correlated to their perception of the benefit of ownership in the future (phew!).

In other words, Lun is blaming the value buyers place on the housing market as keeping them from buying them. Actually, its also a tired reference to blaming the media for housings’ troubles.

So a buyer won’t buy because the value they see in the property isn’t enough to make them want to buy. Isn’t this a circular reference?

or to put it another way…huh?


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Inman Connect Makes The San Fran Connection

July 20, 2007 | 1:20 pm | | Public |

One of the things I admire about Brad Inman and his Inman News is that the Real Estate Connect conferences put people together that are empowered to make decisions. Its always a refreshing experience and I have found the conferences to be amazingly productive. I have been going to the New York version, but this year I am making the trip to San Francisco (and an excuse to fly jetBlue).

Look for me as a panelist on Blogging Superstars Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m with very accomplished panelists, none of whom I have ever met, but, oh yeah, I actually read and am a fan of their online efforts and link them to my site.

I am scheduled for the Meet the Leaders/ Meet the Companies program, where I get to stand at a table and hope people come up to me and ask me questions. I did that in New York last year and got to meet a lot of people one on one. A lot of fun. Thursday, August 2, 12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

And lastly, I am moderating a panel of very smart people in the Innovation Tracks program on Thursday that runs on August 2, 2:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. My panel runs from 2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m and is called Data Mining: Information as Business Edge

Panelists: Travis Chow, Founder/CEO, Neighboroo
Ryan Slack, CEO, PropertyShark.com
Joanne Tiffany, Vice President, Strategic Relations, DataQuick
David Keillor, Chairman & CTO, Technology Concepts

See you there!

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[Media Pre-Holiday BBQ Coverage] 2Q 2007 Manhattan Market Overview

July 3, 2007 | 2:26 pm | | Public |

My firm released the 2Q 2007 Manhattan Market Overview [pretty version will be posted on Thursday] that we author for Prudential Douglas Elliman today. Its about all I have done over the past week, except for the quality time spent with my new iPhone, prepping for our family’s clam bake on July 4th and riding into Manhattan in an RV with the Joe and Rudy from Sellsius, so I have been largely absent from Matrix since the middle of last week.

The numbers were released and my summary of their interpretation were provided to the media for the coverage today. The actual data and charts will be available Thursday as well.

A little over a year ago, I began posting the links to the coverage of each report to see how each media outlet reports the market using the exact same data. I find it to be an interesting process.

This list of articles is presented basically when I found them. I also include some duplicate news feeds because I like to see what regions are interested in the story – I place those near the bottom because of the repetition. I’ll keep adding links through the end of the week.

The Link List

Manhattan Co-Op Prices Fall as Buyers Favor Condos [Bloomberg]
Manhattan apartments brush off U.S. housing slump [Reuters]
Co-ops Slip, but Condos Lead Rise in Manhattan Apartment Prices [NY Times]
New York home prices: No place but up [CNN/Money]
WALL ST. FUELS RUN IN APT. SALES [NY Post]
Manhattan apt. sales rise [NY Daily News]
Weak Dollar Fuels City Real Estate [NY Sun]
NYC a Bright Spot in Dismal U.S. Real Estate Market [TheStreet.com]
Manhattan Residential Market Indicates High Sales Volume, Declining Inventory, Rising Prices and Shorter Time on Market [RISMedia]
Curbed Roundtable: July State O’ the Market Report [Curbed]
Record Prices, Avoiding Co-ops in Manhattan [Gothamist]
Manhattan residential real estate market; falling inventory, rising prices and a record number of sales [Firstrung.com]
Manhattan Residential Market Indicates High Sales Volume, Declining Inventory, Rising Prices and Shorter Time on Market – Continued Strong Market Momentum against National Real Estate Trends [Digital50.com]
Manhattan apartments brush off U.S. housing slump [Reuters, India]
Housing Bubble and Real Estate Market Tracker [Seeking Alpha]
Real Estate Market Still Hot in NYC [WNYC]
Manhattan apartments brush off U.S. housing slump [Valuation Review]
Manhattan market still on the rise [Inman News]
Manhattan co-op prices fall as condos flourish [NorthJersey.com]

Radio and TV clips

[July 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV – On The Economy (Part I)
[July 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV – On The Economy (Part II)
[July 3, 2007] Bloomberg Radio

Have a great 4th of July!


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Inman Real Estate Connect Does What It Does Best: Connect

June 18, 2007 | 12:01 am | |

Brad Inman’s Inman News is one of the go to resources for real estate news and information. His blog, newswire, wiki and other resources are essential. One of the things that Inman does better than most is getting people together (hint: connect).

I have been attending or participating as a speaker or moderator in the New York Inman Connect conference since they were initiated a few years back. I hadn’t made the trip to the west coast for the original conference but this year I decided to go. The San Francisco conference is August 1-3 and I am going (I’ll come up with any excuse to fly jetBlue.). Whats so great about Inman conferences is that everyone is excited, there is so much useful information floating around and the participants are the decision-makers.

This year there is a really cool conference within a conference on blogging called, you guessed it, Blogger Connect, preceded by the Joe and Rudy’s Sellsius-fueled cross-country RV tour called, you guessed it, Blog Tour USA.

I am participating on the Blogging Superstars panel (Remember ABC’s Superstars in 1970s? Its not like that.) with three very sharp bloggers that I admire but have never met.

As a panelist
GENERAL SESSION
Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Blogging Superstars
* Teresa Boardman, Realtor/Broker, Keller Williams
* Kevin Boer, Principal, Domus Consulting Group
* Ardell DellaLoggia, Associate Broker, Sound Realty
* Jonathan J. Miller, President/CEO, Miller Samuel, Inc. & Chairman, Radar Logic Research

As a moderator
MLS Track
Thursday, August 2, 2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Data Mining: Information as Business Edge
* Travis Chow, Founder/CEO, Neighboroo
* Ryan Slack, CEO, PropertyShark.com
* Joanne Tiffany, Vice President, Strategic Relations, Data Quick
* David Keillor, Chairman & CTO, Technology Concepts

It should be fun.

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Booked: Diary of a Real Estate Rookie

June 9, 2007 | 10:18 pm | | Radio |

Alison Rogers, a talented writer and editor (who on occasion, points out my gramatical shortcomings with a distinct sense of glee, yet supports me when blog commenters stray from topic), launched the New York Post’s successful Real Estate Section on September 6, 2003.

Why she gave up the slow pace, low stress, high pay and luxurious office accommodations in 2005 that the New York Post is known for, only she will ever know (hint: sarcasm). But she did it and documented the drama of her new adventures along the way. You may have read her column on Inman over the past year.

Ali provided me with the announcement, which I’ll simply post here since I am not the talented writer that she is.

My new book launches today. It is the “Read” pick in Newsweek this week. Please buy it.

In order to explain to you why to buy it, I have compiled the following list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What’s your book about?
A: It’s about my adventures in my first year of real estate, which was also my first year of marriage. It’s called “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.” It’s also been called funny.

Q: Called “funny” — by you?
A: Actually, it got a starred review from Publishers’ Weekly, which is kind of a big deal. They called my dedication to Rupert Murdoch “cheeky.” Also, there’s a movie star, a heroin scene, and some condos.

Q: That sounds intriguing. What do you want me to do?
A: Go to here to buy the book. Also, please forward this e-mail to others. Finally, please use the following phrase as often as possible: “Hey, have you read ‘Diary of a Real Estate Rookie’ by Alison Rogers, available now at your finer local bookstores or on amazon.com? It’s fast-paced and funny and has lots of real estate tips!”

Q: Alrighty then. Where am I supposed to do that?
A: Great places to use this phrase are: in Graydon Carter’s office; while riding the Lexington Avenue Line; on urbanbaby.com; in Pop Culture Love Letters; within earshot of any Hollywood producer; on National Public Radio; near anyone who has ever met Oprah or Stephen Colbert . . .

Q: So this is the launch, did you forget to invite me to a party, you b*!ch?
A: No, in keeping with the speed of publication (Rookie was commissioned just last summer) there hasn’t been time to set up a launch party. Keep your eyes open for a “Thank You” event later in the summer . . .and thank you!

Q: I’d go to a party. What else can I do? A: Blog about the book (much gratitude to the editor of Fortune for kicking this off). Write about the book in a local or national publication (thank you to the editor of Money magazine for starting this one, please check out the August issue.) Leave the book on your desk or carry it on the subway (face out please). Come to the signing at McNally Robinson on July 23rd.

Q: Do I get a discount on a co-op if I do this?
A: We’ll talk.


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[In The Media] Inman TV Clip for 6-4-07

June 7, 2007 | 11:22 am | | Public |

Real estate media magnate Brad Inman invited me to do a segment for Inman TV. I touched on appraisal pressure, foreign investment in real estate and the cause of the booming NYC real estate market.

I got to actually meet Brownstoner.com legend Jonathan Butler who was taping before me. Lockhart Steele of Curbed followed me (I felt like the marshmallow in a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich). Brad is doing some very cool frontline reporting of all things real estate.


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5-Second Rule Means No Bologna Allowed In The House

May 29, 2007 | 12:01 am | |

With my four sons in my house, three of whom are 6 feet tall or more (my 4th is only 8 years old so give him time), my wife and I have realized that availability of large quanties of food is always essential. Our family has long been a proponent of the 5-second rule, that says that dropped food is safe to eat as long as its been on the ground for no more than 5 seconds (hat tip to Freakanomics). Of course, on the streets of Manhattan, the rule can be modified to 1-second.

I was thinking back a few years when we bought our current house. We knew that the house was right for us or at least in the running, within 5 seconds after entering the house. We had the same experience in our prior home purchase. There was no hard sell needed once we had that feeling.

I’d argue that buyers make up their mind almost immediately when they walk into a house, as to whether its within the realm of possibility as a future home. First impressions are everything.

It would seem to me that the broker’s skill in selling the house is made on or before that moment and not after. The need to fill the silence during the tour with statements like: “Here is the kitchen” drives me crazy.

According to a survey, Men (41%) more likely to put a premium on decor than women (30%) Here’s a useful list of items to focus on when selling a house that appeals to buyers.



Book ’em Dano: Real Estate Reading List+

May 10, 2007 | 7:50 am | |

With 4 kids, 3 businesses, the Yankees and a lot of things going on in between, I still wonder why I haven’t been reading as many books as I used to. My wife is a voracious book reader, but over the past few years, I haven’t kept pace.

I took on this self-loathing view point after attending Daniel Gross‘ book launch last night for Pop! Why bubbles are good for the economy. I spoke with him at his book launch party last night as well as met Barry Ritholtz, who, along with Dan, are among the smartest and most acessible writers and interpreters of economics out there.

I read a large portion of Dan’s new book on my train commute home. Really good…enjoyable. When I got home, I decided to take a look at my magazine and newspaper subscription list and I realized how large it has become. To examine my list…

I am not including papers I pick up for my commute home including the NY Post, NY Sun, NY Daily News or Newsday, or count copies of Metro or AM New York for the subway.

I am not includimg the 119 rss feeds coming into my bloglines account, the email blasts I subscribe to, nor the sites like Slate, Salon, CNN/Money, Curbed, TheStreet.com, Inman, WashingtonPost.com, SFGate.com (SF Chronicle), Bankrate.com, PIMCO, Forbes.com, Seeking Alpha and quite a few others I like to check in with every day.

Now there are a few on the list that are simply impossible to read everything or I choose not to (namely the New Yorker and The Economist because they are weekly and chock full of stories although I admit I look at every cartoon in the New Yorker.) I definitely don’t read all of these publications front to back. I included non-real estate subscriptions because, well, you never know.

Its apparent that anyone can get so involved in reading news, it could become a full time job. Where’s Evelyn Wood when I need her?

I feel like a sieve, with a slew of these publications going through my brain and the parts that stick, end up in my blog and in my understanding of the real estate market, the economy, and of course, make intelligent picks for next year’s March Madness tourney.

I suspect I am missing a few but don’t have time to check…too many to things to read. Here are the subscriptions I can think of and these are in no particular order.

new york times
wall street journal
barrons
financial times
new yorker
city journal
new york observer
crains
the economist
new york magazine
new york living
time out new york
the real deal
sports illustrated
portfolio
wired
hemmings muscle car
excellence (porsche)
panorama (porsche)
businessweek
american banker
valuation review
real estate weekly
yankees magazine
2 local weekly newspapers

The quantity has cut into my book reading time, that’s for sure. Its a good thing I have invented more time in the day (no time to explain). Suggestions for additions are welcome (no lesson learned from this exercise).

Hey did you hear about that new magazine that came out the other day….?

UPDATE: Here’s a few I forgot to mention:
rolling stone
haute living
new york home
appraisal today
real estate valuation magazine
appraisal journal


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Who Took My Square Feet?

March 23, 2007 | 12:05 am | |

In Robert J. Bruss’ column on Inman News Where’s my missing 28 square feet? [Subscr]

DEAR BOB: In August 2004, I purchased a junior one-bedroom condo, advertised as “approximately 551 square feet.” A week ago, I receive a list of recent sales in my building from the realty agent who sold my unit. It listed the condo like mine three floors above me, which sold at 523 square feet. That is 28 square feet smaller than I was lead to believe. If my math is correct, based on my purchase price I overpaid by $11,180 in square-foot value. Is “approximately” a common wording realty agents use to inflate the square footage and price? Should buyers be responsible for verifying this? The appraisal didn’t evaluate size. What advice do you have on recouping the misrepresented square footage and associated value? –Daniel R.

DEAR DANIEL: Have you measured the square footage of your unit? Maybe the upstairs unit is different. Unless you can prove you paid on the basis of the advertised square footage, such as $200 per square foot, you would have a very weak case to prove misrepresentation.

Most real estate listing information includes “weasel word” disclaimers such as “Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.” You said your condo was advertised as “approximately” 551 square feet, indicating there was no specific representation.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Who says the other unit size was correct? (My cynical side says it was).
  • Most condo markets likely don’t show this type of precision.
  • Offering plan methodologies for square footage measurements might vary building by building unless there are specific local government restrictions.
  • An appraiser is not an architect. In condominiums, the appraiser will measure but test against the recorded measurement in public record or approved by the government authority that oversees the offering. In New York, its the attorney general. How could the appraiser not look at square footage?
  • Some developers (in New York) have been including common areas in the interior calculations. While legal if disclosed, it strikes me as unethical.
  • Shouldn’t the figure in public record always be used as the official number? I am surprised how often this number isn’t used.
  • Why would the broker use a smaller square footage later if they were systematically exagerating as the complainer infers?

I don’t see how this buyer can do anything if all those disclaimers were used. I would bet that any two architects, any two brokers, any two appraisers who measured this unit would not come up with the exact same result.



Inman Becomes InMatrix…Well, Not Really

January 15, 2007 | 12:01 am | | Public |

I have to say I got a lot out of the Inman Connect conference in New York last week. I found the attendees were mainly decision-makers, which was refreshing, and everyone I spoke with was excited to be there. I met a slew of bloggers and real estate technology companies I follow and respect, got to moderate a well-attended panel discussion on valuation with four real sharp people, do an interview on video, see some new publications, and most importantly, got several different trade show carry-on bags (to be stored in a closet for a theoretical later use).

I could also say everyone at the conference was insulated from reality because I had to close my office Tuesday morning. We were all feeling the effects of the not-actually-gas-but-it-still-burned-your-eyes-and-made-you-feel-dizzy-and-naseaus leak and yet my office was only 4 blocks away.

Just before the conference, Jessica Swesey, Managing Editor of Inman News invited about a half dozen bloggers to expand the Inman blog content by providing contributions. I am happy to say Matrix is one of them. We actually log-in directly to their blog and provide unedited content, much of which will also be presented on our own blogs.

The other bloggers that were invited (and are also my blog-roll and are daily reads), were Bloodhound Blog, Transparent RE, Mortgage Reports and 360 Digest.


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