Entries Tagged as 'Business of real estate'
Long-time Mortgage Mania readers, (aka Mortgage Maniacs) know that I’m an avid reader of the New York Times, so it should come as no surprise that I would have some comments on this article in the Friday June 6 edition regarding the continuing foreclosure crisis affecting consumers across the country.
Authors Bajaj and Grynbaum review some recent statistics on foreclosures, and then go on to predict another wave of foreclosures as the economy continues to slow and more consumers fall victim to layoffs and job cuts.
It’s easy to ignore these rumblings here in wealthy Silicon Valley where the local economy is still vibrant, even with nearly $5 a gallon gas, as it is still a minor impact on a budget with a $5,000 a month mortgage. It’s easy for us living in The Bubble of Unstoppable Real Estate (which I define as: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Altos, your mileage may vary) to say “it can’t happen here”.
Not so fast there pardner. A Short Sale in Atherton you say? It’s almost enough to make you drop your Grey Poupon.
This little number at 199 Selby Lane in Atherton recently listed by Lanny Dannenberg of Keller Williams is a short sale at $1,795,000. It has been on the market with a couple of different brokers for over two years, starting at $2,495,000 in March of 2006.
The good news is that the local market continues to be pretty strong, especially at the upper levels, above $3 million. Don’t take my word for it, check out this market data for the latest facts and figures on Palo Alto and surrounding communities.
Thanks for reading . . .
, economy, foreclosure
, new york times
, short sales
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Tags: 94027 · Atherton · Financing Process · Keller Williams · Market updates · Real estate
(photo credit: mop squad)
Kevin Costner was hot 20 years ago in Field of Dreams. So was that comment “If you build it, they will come.” I received a fantastic comment from a home buyer today for my previous post How Listing Agents Unintentionally Sabotage Their Own Staged Listings:
May 12th, 2008 at 10:51 am That is so true. As a potential buyer, I have been frustrated many times by Craigslist ads that have no picture. There are a ton of houses out there, and I’m trying to weed out the ones I don’t want to look at - it’s really impossible without a picture.I’ve seen so many places, staged or unstaged, that sounded great on paper and then turned out to be hideous-to-unlivable in person.More importantly, even though online listings at a place like Craigslist are free and offer almost unlimited space, a lot of sellers just put up one or two sentences and no pictures - and to me that says “I don’t have it together enough to actually market this house.”
And my experience has been that often, that means they don’t know how to deal with the paperwork, or with my questions, or even with basic social skills.I guess in a way it’s helpful to see a boring, picture-less, one-line house ad - because it tells me I don’t want to deal with that seller. But it’s still hilariously frustrating to see an ad online that says something like, “2 BR 1.5 BA NICE!!! MUST SEE CALL JAMES SMITH REALTOR 555-1414!”
This is a brilliant comment, it just goes to show that with that in this fast changing real estate market, our buyers’ behaviors have changed. The old attitude of “If you list it, they will come” no longer works. That worked in the movie Field of Dreams for Kevin Costner but guess what? Kevin Costner is OLD news now. That phrase was coined 20 years ago, so is that attitude. It’s freaking 20 years old. Shouldn’t we move on with the times?
A savvy marketer knows that today’s consumers are so de-sensitized by advertisements that they need more interactive and user-friendly contents [Note: "content," NOT "ads."] to make an educated decision before buying. You can see that through the fast rising numbers of business blogs and web 2.0 services. People want interaction, not sales agenda ramming down their throats.
Also, today’s agents no longer holds monopoly to MLS information. Internet has made today’s buyers more savvy, shrewed, efficient and much more likely to start their buying process without agents. Additionally, if the consumers cannot be satisfied by you, it’s very easy for them to go elsewhere. To be able to work in a competitive market, as a listing agent or FSBO (For Sale By Owners), you will need to get on with the time to provide a comprehensive and user-friendly marketing package.
To do so, here are a few tips as pointed out by Danika, our lovely buyer:
*Online presence is KEY. Staging the property will instantly make the home show-ready online. Once you have staged, having big & high quality photos is a must.
*Don’t just do 1 photo, if you are allowed to post 10, why not do 10?
*Place ONLY good quality photos that will entice buyers’ appetite. Photos like featuring the local eateries or parking lots are not really adding anything to your listing.
*Be creative, not boring and cookie cutter in your listing descriptions. “2Br for sale” is kind of a duh since anyone can read it from the sheet. Why not say something more descriptive that showcase the unique selling points of your listing?
*MOST IMPORTANT: Provide reasonable expectations for buyers. If your listing sounds like the “IT” property to buy and buyers walked into an ill-maintained home, they will turn around and leave immediately because you have wasted their time. If the house is staged, keep it staged while you sell. If you property was already on market then staged, showcase the staged photos online and on flyers and take out the old unstaged photos.
, Home selling
, Real estate
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Tags: Advertising · Buyer · Buyers · Home selling · Online advertising · Real estate · Strategy · Technology
Maybe it’s the frustrated business school professor in me, or the memories of sitting in Professor Barry Nalebuff’s classes during business school, but what has fascinated me the most about the ongoing debate about Trulia’s no-follow outbound listings links (started here by Galen Ward, then continued here, here, here, and here) is not the arcana of the no-follow tag, not the dissection of SEO intricacies, and not really even the question of what is or is not appropriate to do with listings online.
No, what really fascinates me about this debate is how it accentuates co-opetition in the real estate industry. Co-opetition is simply the notion that companies compete and co-operate simultaneously. Arch-rivals Northrup Grumman and Boeing go mano-a-mano to get a lucrative government contract … and the winner often subcontracts part of the project to its rival. Microsoft and Oracle have competing database platforms but often sell eachother’s products.
In our industry, co-opetition reaches nearly incestuous levels. For instance:
- Brokers John and Betty compete for the listing at 123 Main Street. Betty wins and puts the property on the MLS. The very next week John brings potential buyer clients to the property. Sure, he would rather have won the listing, but that’s in the past. Now he’s working with Betty to consummate the transaction. No hard feelings.
- Realtor Bob hangs his license with ABC Realty. He puts an ABC Realty sign on the front lawn of all his listings, and the ABC Realty logo is prominent in all his media ads. He’s co-operating with his real estate brokerage to promote their brand, and he in turn benefits from that brand awareness. Co-operation. A phone call from a prospective buyer of one of Bob’s listings, however, may well go through to the agent on “floor duty.” That agent turns this phone call into a client, who goes on to buy a different listing, not Bob’s. That’s competition — Bob would have loved to get that phone call and turn it into another client, but his competitor — the other agent, and to some extent his own broker — snagged that client. Co-operation plus competition = co-opetition.
- A thousand local brokers — each fierce competitors — co-operate to run a local MLS. They put their competing listings up on the MLS, and they compete to bring buyers to each of the listings. At the close of each transaction, we again have co-opetition — competing parties co-operating for the sake of the deal.
- Broker Tom snags a listing and puts it on the MLS. Via the wonders of IDX, that listing spreads its tentacles onto a thousand other sites, including that of arch-rival Broker Sarah. As long as Broker Sarah indicates that Tom is the broker of record, it’s all good. Her site is much better than Tom’s, so she gets more traffic and hence more clients online. The fodder that draws in those visitors? Listings … not only her own, but also Tom’s.
- Broker Rachel gets the listing at 789 Elm Street and puts it on the MLS. She also puts it on Trulia, which, like the MLS itself, exposes the listing to a much broader audience than she could reach on her own. She benefits from the increased exposure, and Trulia gets more inventory to display. It’s a win-win — co-operation at its finest. The next day, a prospective homebuyer passes 789 Elm Street and Googles the address to find out more. Who’s on the top page? Trulia and Broker Rachel’s listing site. Now they’re competing — for web traffic.
There really is nothing new under the sun. This business has always been a co-opetitive one, and we’ve always simultaneously co-operated with and competed against not only every other broker, but many of the third-party advertisers, aggregators, and media companies.
, Real estate
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Tags: * Export · Barry Nalebuff · Industry · MLS · Real estate · Trulia
As our resident expert, Kevin Boer noted in his April 1 posting, the housing market officially hit bottom a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who were skeptical of his information given the April 1 posting date, and Kevin’s well known reputation for satire and irony, the California Association of Realtors published some new market data yesterday (April 24) showing how real estate really is local, and that the local real estate market in Silicon Valley is humming along nicely, thank you:
In case you’ve been wondering why high-end real estate markets continue to perform relatively well: One out of every 10,000 American families has an annual income greater than $10.7 million, according to two university professors who study the super-rich. By their tally, there are some 15,000 Americans who fit into that category. These individuals also are getting an increasing share of the economic bounty: In 2006, the super-rich possessed 3.89 percent of total income, up from .87 percent in 1980 and the highest level since 1916.
Strong employment and wage growth are two factors that have helped the San Francisco Bay Area stave off the kind of home sales and price declines experienced in the inland regions of California. For example, Santa Clara County residents earn nearly double the nation’s average weekly wage and surpassed Manhattan as the county whose residents take home the largest paycheck, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Santa Clarans take home an average of $1,585 per week, slightly more than Manhattanites, who earn an average of $1,544 a week. San Mateo County ranks fifth in the nation at $1,322, while San Francisco is eighth at $1,286. Nationally, the average is $818. San Francisco ranked tenth in new-job generation, adding 18,000 jobs for the twelve months ending Sept. 30, 2007.
Despite the above, some worry that California’s technology sector may be in for another “dot bomb.” But experts say technology and Internet companies are better prepared to weather the storm this time around. Their reasoning? Many Web 2.0 companies learned a lesson from their free-spending predecessors and have discovered ways to operate with fewer employees and at lower costs. That appeals to venture capitalists, who have tightened their criteria but continue to seek companies with strong revenue models.
Lately, I have been describing the market as “upside down”, where I am seeing unusually strong sales activity in the over $3 million market, while under $1 million is about the same as last year, or a little off depending on the neighborhood. What is interesting, is the $1 million to $3 million market, what I call “tweeners”, because these homes are in-between the entry-level and high-end.
Gross simplification warning: Buyers of “tweener” homes have significant amounts of cash or equity to put down, but still need a mortgage, and often a significant one. As banks and other mortgage providers have tightened their lending guidelines from recent years, it has become harder to get a $1.5 - $2 million mortgage, and those have become more expensive. As a result, more people aren’t upgrading, or they are getting priced down from say, $2.5 million to $2 million. Thus reducing demand relative to supply and creating a soft spot in the market.
In my experience, in the $3 million and over market, Buyers have more cash, Euros, Rubles, Yuan, Dinars, stock, gold, trust money, etc. to use to purchase their new “executive home”, so they are less concerned or affected by interest rates and loan qualification hurdles.
Let’s hope that VC money mentioned in the article above keeps flowing so we can keep paying for our million dollar tract homes and $5 a gallon (you know it’s coming!) gas.
I know you will have an opinion or comment, share it here.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 real estate market
, housing market
, palo alto economy
, palo alto real estate market
, palo alto realtor
, silicon valley economy
, silicon valley real estate
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Tags: * Type of Content · Business of real estate · Buyer · Buyer and seller tips · Buyers · Consumer · For buyers · Industry · Mortgage · Mortgages · Real estate
Some of you will remember my post on the lawsuit in Southern California where the buyers of a home were suing their agent because they felt they overpaid, and the agent had acted to hide that information from them (Refresher available here).
This case had lawyers salivating, and brokers trembling, as it potentially could provide precedent and open the door to lawsuits by home buyers who purchased homes during the recent run-up in housing prices, and are now seeing their local markets stagnate or fall.
According to the following article released by the California Association of Realtors, the jury on the case found in favor of the real estate agent.
There was no mention of the issues that I flagged in my earlier post, namely that the agent didn’t share the appraisal or list of comparable properties with the client, or that he encouraged them to get their home loan through him and use his appraiser.
I’m sure that there are many real estate agents out there who also are great mortgage brokers. I’m not one of them. Frankly, I’m not smart enough to keep up with all the issues in real estate law and the local market, plus all the ongoing changes in the lending market.
Thanks for reading . . .
REALTOR® WINS HIGH PROFILE JURY TRIAL
After only two hours of deliberation yesterday, the jury unanimously vindicated a buyer’s agent accused by his clients of failing to disclose that two other homes in the neighborhood sold for less than what they paid. As a trial court case, this decision in Ummel v. Little is binding on the parties to the case, but has no binding authority for other cases. Moreover, the buyers may file an appeal.
This case involved a couple who bought a home in a coastal Carlsbad community in 2005 for $1.2 million. They regretted their purchase when they discovered that two other homes sold for about $150,000 less than theirs. They sued their real estate agent for negligent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty. Their lawsuit grabbed national attention, given the recent downturn in the real estate market.
At the trial, the agent’s attorney argued that there were valid reasons these two other properties sold for less. One home, for example, had a lap pool which was unappealing to many buyers, and the sellers wanted to rent back the home for two years.
Tags: agent sued over negligence
, carlsbad realtor lawsuit
, realtor lawsuit
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Tags: * Type of Content · Buyer · Consumer · Deceptive realtors · Disclosures · Humor · Industry · Mortgage · ReMax · Realtors who give the business a bad name · Transparency · Types of realtors
With surprisingly little fanfare, Redfin, that pesky little Seattle brokerage the real estate industry loves to hate, announced yesterday their “Redfin Select” program, which looks suspiciously more and more like … a traditional brokerage offering.
Redfin’s initial business model, which made great sense in the VC’s conference rooms, was to outsource a big chunk of the buying process to its clients in exchange for a big chunk of the buy-side commissions. For better or for worse, however, that model has continued to run dab-smack into the middle of the reality of real estate: the listing agent, though representing the seller, is not usually responsible for showing the property to every interested buyer. That service is usually provided by the agent representing the buyer. The problem? In order to make offers on a property, Redfin’s clients have to actually, well, see it. If they don’t manage to hustle there during an open house, then they’re SOL — unless a Realtor-magic-key-toting Redfin agent comes by to open it. And just like that, poof! goes half the business model.
Fast forward to today. If you’re a Redfin client and you want a regular set of property showings, just give up a portion of the commission that was coming due to you and have Redfin show you around, just like a traditional broker would do. Instead of getting 66% of the commission back, you get 50% back.
Possible explanations come from two different fronts:
First is my “Innovator’s Dilemma” proposition: Redfin as a classic disruptive company, will first figure out how to be profitable serving the lower end of the market, the price-conscious clients that traditional brokers don’t mind losing. Then it will move upmarket, charge more, and offer more service — ie. become more like a traditional brokerage, but with fatter margins.
At first glance, Redfin’s move seems to fit this pattern. However. by Redfin’s own admission, they’re not growing as quickly as they would like, their business model is not as scalable as they had hoped, and they certainly are too young of a company to have taken significant market share yet.
So perhaps the better explanation comes from Mike Simonsen over at Altos Research. Mike suggests it’s a simple pragmatic response to the harsh realities of the market place and their VC backers: they need to become a $100M company as quickly as possible, and doing it at $10000 rather than $5000 per transaction will bring that about more quickly.
Tags: Business models
, Glenn Kelman
, The Innovator's Dilemma
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Tags: * Export · Business models · Consumer · Industry · Innovators Dilemma · Redfin
February 19th, 2008 · 2 Comments
I’d like to thank Kristen Emery at Princeton Capital in Palo Alto for providing me with the first bit of information that actually explains what the changes to conforming loans will mean to someone in Silicon Valley trying to buy a home.
A little light reading for you:
We have seen a whirlwind of legislative activity these past few weeks! There is much confusion surrounding the recentlypassed Economic Stimulus Package and higher loan limits. Unfortunately, the new law can be confusing to decipher, andnot everyone will benefit. For this reason, we have provided an outline below that clarifies what this new law means for youand how you can benefit from the higher loan limits.
Description and Overview:An economic stimulus package just passed Congress on February 7, 2008 and was signed into law by the President onFebruary 13, 2008. This new law is effective immediately and includes a temporary increase in both the FHA andconforming loan limits to as high as $729,750 in high cost areas. This means that the interest rates on many mortgages willgo down because these loans are now eligible to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or insured by the FederalHousing Administration (FHA). Previously, the FHA was only allowed to insure loans with balances lower than $200,160 -$362,790, depending on the county where the property was located. Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were only allowedto purchase loans with balances at or below $417,000. This resulted in limited options and higher financing costs for thosewith loan balances above these limits. The new law substantially increases these limits in high cost areas and opens upnew options and lower financing costs for many people.
How to Determine “High Cost” AreasThere are two things you must know in order to determine if you are in a high cost area:
1. Understanding the Formula
If 125% of the local area median home price exceeds $417,000, the temporary loan limitwould be that 125% of the median home price with a cap of $729,750. Here are threeexamples to illustrate this concept: If the median home price in your area is $375,000, 125% of that number is$468,750. Thisis above the current $417k conforming loan limit. Therefore, the conforming loan limit inyour area WILL change and go up to $468,750. This number is also higher than thehighest FHA loan limits, so therefore your FHA loan limit will also go up to $468,750. If the median home price in your area is $650,000, 125% of that number is $812,500.This number is greater than the maximum cap of $729,250. Therefore, the conforming loan limit in your area willincrease to highest allowable amount under this new law which is $729,250. (Our median home price is $612,000 for Santa Clara County).
2. Determining the Median Home Price in Your Area
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will publish the median house prices within 30 days of the billgoing into effect (30 days from February 13, 2008). HUD does not have any interim stats or information for us to use. However, the bill also states that HUD can use any commercially available data if they are unable to compile theinformation on their own within the 30 day timeframe. With that in mind, it is likely that HUD’s numbers will be relativelyconsistent with the data published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which already has a solid track record oftracking and publishing this information on a quarterly basis. Therefore, until HUD actually publishes their version of the median home prices, the most accurate way to get thisinformation today is to utilize the data that is published by NAR. Ironically, NAR just released their latest median homeprice update for the 4th quarter of 2007 on February 14, 2008! Contact me today and I’ll research your info and let youknow exactly what the median home price is in your area and how you can benefit from this information.
What do all the dates mean?
There is some confusion because the bill has a provision that says the higher limits areonly effective for loans originated between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. Inshort, the reason it is effective beginning July 1, 2007, is because the credit crisis startedto unfold in July and August of 2007. Mortgage market conditions rapidly deterioratedalmost overnight. Many secondary market investors suddenly refused to purchase loansthat couldn’t be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (For more info on how this processworks, please see the article entitled Saga of the US Mortgage Industry.) Unfortunately, many mortgage banks had already funded these loans in their ownportfolio or through their warehouse lines of credit. Their intention was obviously to sellthese loans on the secondary market after the loans were funded. However, the creditcrisis prevented them from doing so, and they were stuck holding these loans in theirportfolio. The July 1, 2007 date in the bill is designed to allow these lenders to unloadthese mortgages and sell them on the secondary market to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
However, the July 1, 2007 date has no bearing whatsoever on new refinance transactions!
In other words, it doesn’tmatter when the loan you are refinancing was originated. The old loan could have been originated in 2005, 2006 oranytime before or after July 1, 2007 and it would have no effect whatsoever on your current purchase or refinancetransaction.
If you are refinancing a new loan today, whether it is a purchase or refinance transaction, that loan issubject to the new limits set forth in the bill.
The other date of December 31, 2008 means that the old limits will go back into effect after this year. In other words, now isthe perfect time to buy a new home or refinance your mortgage because after this year, your costs will be higher and youroptions more limited again.
When does this all go into effect?
February 13, 2008 – immediately upon the President’s signature. Therefore, HUD is obligated to publish the median homeprices within 30 days of that date. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and various wholesale lenders may have different policies as to how these new loans are going to be priced and underwritten.
- - - Information provided by:
Tags: 2008 real estate market
, Conforming Loans
, first-time buyer
, Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007
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Tags: * Type of Content · Analysis · Burlingame · Buyer · Buyer and seller tips · Buyers · Consumer · Financing Process · For buyers · Foster City · Loan Application · Market updates · Menlo Park · Mortgages · Mountain View · Palo Alto · Preapproval · Prequalification · Redwood City · Redwood Shores · San Carlos
Insomniac Dustin Luther couldn’t quite stay up late enough last night to witness the launch of the US version of Dothomes.com. But here it is, yet another real estate search site: dothomes.com, already live in South Africa and the UK.
I commented yesterday that recent property search entrant Roost.com’s business model is clever, unique, and possibly
illegal non-MLS-complaint. [1/30/08 update: I’ve been thinking about my choice of words, and “illegal” is definitely not the word I should have used. “Illegal” is mugging somebody, or stealing something. What Roost is doing is 100% legal and above-board. It may — and I emphasize may — be viewed by some as being non-MLS-compliant.]
A first glance at Dothomes suggests a similar, though unfortunately more damning verdict: extremely clever, very unique, and definitely
illegal non-MLS complaint. [1/30/08 update: What Dothomes is doing is absolutely 100% legal, but again may be interpreted by some as being non-MLS compliant.]
The clever and unique part is easy to see: they’ve managed to pull off what Google Base real estate could have been, and may well still become: a Google-ish type search experience — with a whimsical “I’m feeling wealthy” instead of “I’m feeling lucky” button — where instead of choosing your criteria from input boxes or sliders, you simply type in what you’re looking for.
Right-oh then, let’s give it a try, shall we?
And, as the Brits would say, “Bob’s your uncle!”
A quick glance at the 99 results confirmed that they all had 3 bedrooms and were under $850K. Pretty slick! (As a sidenote, many of the results were in South San Francisco, an entirely different city. But I’ll cut them some slack on what is, after all, a pretty new product.)
So that’s the clever and unique part. Here’s the (tragically)
illegal non-compliant part: per their own FAQ/blog, they get their data from either a feed that a broker sets up or by crawling the broker’s site.
From a feed the broker sets up: So far, so good…as long as it’s only that broker’s listings.
By crawling that broker’s site: At most MLS’s this is strictly verboten.
Most of the first few pages contained only listings from Realogy brands Coldwell Banker and Century 21. Since Realogy has been fairly open of late with distributing their inventory online — e.g. with Trulia — it is possible that Dothomes has an agreement with Realogy, though I have not heard such news.
A few pages later I see a few listings from my ex-Broker Alain Pinel Realtors. Now the warning bells sound. Unless things have changed dramatically since I left a few months ago, Alain Pinel would never ever distribute its listings to a non-IDX site — Trulia being the exception (probably because Sami is such a sweet talker!)
My prediction: tragically, Dothomes will be forced fairly quickly to adopt an alternate and legal listings acquisition strategy: either MLS-by-MLS, or broker-by-broker.
Tags: Alternative business models
, Century 21
, Coldwell Banker
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Tags: * Export · Business models · Industry · MLS
Trulia! Zillow! … and now Roost! Where do they come up with these names?
Roost, a new startup in the increasingly crowded real estate search space, launched last week to a cacophony of commentary from the re.net. Joel Burslem covered its feature set, its performance, and noted that Roost has the complete MLS inventory because it gets its listings from MLS’s, albeit indirectly. Greg Swann fawned over its business model and complete inventory.
If I understand Roost’s business model correctly, it intends to make money in a way that’s clever, unique, and possibly
illegal non-MLS-compliant. [1/30/08 update: I've been thinking about my choice of words, and "illegal" is definitely not the word I should have used. "Illegal" is mugging somebody, or stealing something. What Roost is doing is 100% legal and above-board. It may -- and I emphasize may -- be viewed by some as being non-MLS-compliant.]
The unique aspect of its business plan: it offers brokerages the opportunity to sponsor search results and get the resulting click-throughs to their own site. A search in Sacramento, for instance, reveals that the current sponsor is Sacramento heavyweight Lyon Real Estate.
The first three listings I see are from VM Group, Gold Financial Services, and Prudential CA Realty, all clearly identified in compliance with Sacramento’s Metrolist MLS services.
Here’s the tricky bit…if you want more information, you click on “View Details on Featured Broker’s Site.” When you do that for, say, the Prudential listing, you get information about the Prudential listing on the Lyon Real Estate site:
This sleight-of-hand is accomplished through a too-clever-by-half url manipulation, much to subtle to be noticed by the average consumer, but apparently kosher enough to pass muster from the Sacramento MLS — at least for now. What if Prudential gets upset that the click-through on one of their listings on a public MLS-ish site goes through to one of its competitors?
Here’s how (I believe) Roost and Lyon defend themselves: Look at the url. When you search in Sacramento, you’re not actually using the Roost site at all; you’re actually using the Lyon site (GoLyon.com). For as long as Lyon is the sponsoring broker, the search is being conducted at golyon.roost.com — a (sub)domain under the control of Lyon Real Estate — and hence in compliance with those silly old arcane MLS rules.
Watch what happens when you go back to the site. In my case, I ran another search, and this one was sponsored by Intero. Same results, same look and feel, but the search is now running at InteroRealEstateIDX.com…and sure enough, the click-through goes to Intero’s own site.
Very, very clever. I really like this part of their business model, for reasons I’ve explained before: The current real estate business model heavily favors the listing side of the equation, and I’ve been clamoring to the likes of Zillow and Trulia to think about buy-side advertising offerings. If I’m a small brokerage in Sacramento, and I currently only have, say, 5 listings, I could decide to spend, say, $5000 sponsoring X number of real estate searches in that market. The number one bait that still seems to draw eyeballs in real estate is listings, listings, listings, and if I don’t have many of my own, why not leverage those of my competitors?
Now for the questions of MLS
legality compliance …without going into all the details, I tried something like this trick about 2 years ago. It involved subtle manipulation of a url so that searches on a heavily-trafficked site were done — technically — using a url that was under my control. A good lawyer could easily have argued that this was in strict compliance with all the MLS rules. No dice. Within hours I got slapped down — not just by the MLS, but by my own broker!
I certainly wish Roost all the best, but I’m afraid they’d better put a sign on their front door that says, “Couriers please deliver cease and desist letters here.” Any business model that requires MLS compliance involves by definition an order of magnitude more headache. Why do you think Trulia and Zillow decided to get their listing feeds straight from the brokers?
And still more commentary:
* At the last Inman, Brian and I finally answered that great conundrum: Did his ancestors add on “o” or did mine drop an “o” at Ellis Island? The answer: neither. His ancestors are Italian, and mine Dutch. So no, we’re not related — except of course, through Lucy.
Tags: Alternative business models
, Real estate
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Tags: * Export · Consumer · MLS · Roost · Trulia · Zillow
January 22nd, 2008 · 9 Comments
Well, it was just a matter of time before someone who bought at the top of the market sued their agent because they paid too much for their house. In this article in today’s New York Times, we learn of the sad story of the Ummels who bought a retirement home in Carlsbad, CA to be near their children.
The Ummels worked with a Buyer’s Agent who had a fiduciary responsibility to assist them in finding and purchasing their home. They looked for quite a while, fired one agent and then canceled contracts on two other homes that they had written offers on. I’m sure nerves were getting a little frayed for all concerned by the time they finally bought their home.
“Ms. Ummel claims that the agent hid the information that similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for less because he feared she would back out and he would lose his $30,000 commission.”
Where things get interesting, and their agent, Mike Little, makes the rest of us look bad is stated further on in the article:
“Mr. Little also worked as a mortgage broker. The Ummels say he encouraged them to get their loan through him. Mr. Little ordered an appraisal of the house but did not respond to the couple’s requests to see it, the suit charges.
A few days after the couple moved in, in August 2005, they got a flier on their door from another realty agent. It showed a house up the street had just sold for $105,000 less than theirs, even though it was the same size.
Then they finally got their appraisal, which told them the house up the street was not only cheaper but had a pool. Another flier in early October mentioned a house down the street that was the same size and closed the same day as the Ummels’ but went for $175,000 less.
The Ummels accuse Mr. Little not only of withholding information but of exaggerating the virtues of their house to push them into a deal.
Ms. Ummel said in her deposition that Mr. Little had told them “many times that it was a very good buy.”
The mortgage brokerage that funded the loan, and the appraisal company both settled out of court, but Mr. Little fights on. I bounced this off of fellow contributor Eric Trailer, and we saw a couple of red flags waving.
1) Mr. Little acted as the agent and loan broker. This is legal, but as noted in the article, he now has twice the motivation to get the deal done.
2) He urged them to get their loan through him - again legal, but the ice in sunny Carlsbad is getting thinner.
3) Mr. Little’s appraiser found the house to be worth $1,150,000 to $1,200,000 in the summer of 2005, the Ummels’ appraiser valued the house at $1,050,000. This is about 10-15%, which is pretty significant, but within the realm of possibilities. I’m getting nervous if I’m Mr. Little’s broker however.
4) Mr. Little didn’t share his appraisal the Ummels. (His broker is drinking heavily at this point.)
Long story somewhat less long . . . The Ummels (plaintiffs) are suing because they didn’t get what they felt was appropriate representation from their agent. This is what many consumers expect of Realtors, and books like Freakonomics don’t help.
One of the things we contributors to 3Oceans preach is Transparency in Real Estate. We share the information and tools that we use with our clients, provide data from unbiased sources like Altos Research, and don’t try to do loans and sell houses at the same time.
End of rant, let the comments fly!
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