Tax Reform Winners and Losers

The folks at JBREC have completed their own tax-reform study:

Link to Article

They say the high-earners who buy a million-dollar house are the losers, but those folks can still deduct the roughly $30,000 per year in mortgage-interest paid on a loan amount of $750,000 (though if they were renting previously they now have to pay property taxes).

Reasons for High-Earners to Buy a House:

  1. Deduct mortgage interest of $30,000 paid on your $750,000 loan (or higher).
  2. Secure where you are going to live over the next 5-50 years.
  3. Build equity with each payment.
  4. Gamble that the value will go up.
  5. Make the family happy.

Reasons for High-Earners Not to Buy a House:

  1. Have landlord pay property taxes, HOA, etc.
  2. Have landlord fix stuff.
  3. Stay flexible on where to live.
  4. Hope prices go down and buy later.

Numbers 1-4 on both lists probably offset each other, so the focus is on #5.

Compass Concierge

Are you thinking of selling your home, and curious about the idea of out-fitting it for a multi-gen buyer?  Or want help in getting the home into top condition in order to sell it for top dollar?

We’re here for you!

The Compass Concierge program is willing to pay for repairs/improvements to your home, and be reimbursed at the close of escrow.  At first, the program was just for the basics, but it’s been expanded to include virtually everything!

And it’s free – the service comes with listing your home with us, at no extra charge!

Here are examples of what’s been done lately:

In Los Angeles, an agent used Compass Concierge to buy — not stage, but buy outright — $900,000 worth of furniture in order to win two listings, one worth $23 million and the other worth $87 million.

In Philadelphia, an agent was in the midst of a contentious divorce sale. The husband and wife weren’t talking and neither wanted to pay for the staging, painting, and cosmetic repairs the home needed. So the agent pitched Concierge as the solution, and solved the problem!

There was a buyer looking at a million-dollar property listed by a Compass agent that needed a lot of work, but the buyer couldn’t afford to pay a $200K down payment and then shell out another $200K in cash for remodeling. The seller and buyer came to an agreement that the seller would use Concierge to do a $200K remodel first — raising the sale price to $1.2 million but only increasing the down payment by $40K. The buyer was floored.

To get started, click below:

https://www.bubbleinfo.com/compass-concierge/

Sweeteners

A combination of mine and Leonard’s lists of sweeteners:

In an increasingly competitive environment – especially on the high end – it may be wise to sweeten the package you are selling by including some value or time-savings item.

Some mega-homes include expensive fancy cars or artwork and other gimmicks, but of course those items are factored into the purchase price and often appear as somewhat desperate. Some may want to increase the commission incentive for the buyer’s agent.

It may be wiser to include certain items that are more focused on time-savings…..and something that may have practical value to make a buyer feel there is less to be spent after closing.  Here are 10 ideas:

1.  A buydown of the mortgage rate probably has the best financial impact – it can last for 30 years!

2.  Pre-paid real estate taxes for the first year could be appealing, or paying HOA/Mello-Roos fees.

3.  How about $5-10,000 worth of new landscaping, or window coverings?

4.  One year’s worth of weekly yard maintenance would be appreciated.

5.  $1,000 worth of Home Depot, Amazon, or UBER dollars could be appealing.

6.  If a home has gorgeous views and big windows, include a year’s worth of window cleaning.

7.  Offer to have the interior painted to colors of the buyer’s choice at closing.

8.  Pay for a maid service to come weekly for a year.

9.  If the house is staged, offer a price list of all the furnishings that could be bought. The buyer may see great time-savings value in not having to furnish themselves.

10. Lower the price!

These are just some simple ideas that may make your listing more memorable and more appealing to some buyers…..and possibly sweeten the deal enough to make them choose your listing over another one!

Zillow Local Predictions

Here are the histories, and forecasts, of our local Zillow Home-Value-Index for each area:

They are forecasting flat or declining prices in three of our larger areas – and they are also predicting a drop-off in values as the selling season will be getting underway in March, 2020 (which sounds far-fetched).

Their track record hasn’t been that great though.  Here is their Carlsbad prediction in December, 2015, when they expected a 1.9% increase for 2016 – the actual was +7%:

The Carlsbad HVI has risen 19% since the beginning of 2016!

Can we agree on one likelihood? Prices probably won’t be going up much in the next year or two.

https://www.zillow.com/home-values/

Is This It?

More data released today on pricing trends, and though San Diego didn’t make this chart, we’re probably in the normal range with Los Angeles because our Case-Shiller indicies have been similar (+1.8% vs +1.1% YoY in SD).  Interesting that they call San Francisco ‘undervalued’.

Both the HPI and the Case-Shiller Index were the February readings.  There is optimism that YoY pricing will pick up as the selling season rolls on, but they are predicting that prices will decline from March to April, which is unusual:

Looking ahead, after some initial moderation in early 2019, the CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices will begin to pick up and increase by 4.8% on a year-over-year basis from March 2019 to March 2020. On a month-over-month basis, home prices are expected to decrease by 0.3% from March 2019 to April 2019. The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices calculated using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.

These guys don’t make their data public. Using the Case-Shiller Index instead, we see that the last time we had a drop between March and April was in 2009, at the bottom:

Zillow is predicting virtually-flat MoM results too.

Flat pricing during the prime selling season, and after we had six months of declines at the end of 2018?  Could this be where we top out, exactly ten years later?

If you’re thinking of selling, contact me today!

Link to Press Release

Net Migration Turning Negative

Hat tip to CB Mark for sending in another article on people leaving California – I added the U.S. Census stats for San Diego County at the bottom:

People have long dreamed of moving to California, but increasingly the people in the state are looking to get out.

According to recently released data from the US Census, about 38,000 more people left California than entered it in 2018. This is the second straight year that migration to the state was negative, and it’s a trend that is speeding up. Every year since 2014, net migration has fallen.

California’s population did still increase in 2018 by almost 160,000 people, largely due to the 480,000 people born in the state. But while migration out of the state has accelerated over the past few years, the number of annual births has been steady. The trend suggests in the next decade California’s population will begin to decline.

Besides births, the main reason California’s population hasn’t already started falling has been international migration into the state. Every year since 2011, net domestic migration has been negative—i.e., more people leave California than move in from other states. But from 2011 to 2016, the number of international migrants moving into California was larger than the number of locals who were moving out.

Since then, however, domestic departures have outstripped international arrivals.  In 2018, 156,000 locals left the state, compared to 118,000 international who came.

Link to full article:

https://qz.com/1599150/californias-population-could-start-shrinking-very-soon/

The exodus from San Diego County is picking up steam.  Where the cumulative total of domestic migration over the last eight years was only 46,596 (avg. 5,825 per year), we had 10,835 leave in the most recent 12 month segment – and the international arrivals have slowed considerably too:

Bonsall Horse Ranch

Check out my listing of a complete 5.5-acre horse ranch with two huge riding arenas, equicisor, 2 tack rooms, fenced pasture areas and stalls for 17 with plans/materials for 12 more!

Two detached cottages, each with their own kitchens, updated bathrooms, and individual septic systems make an ideal set-up for the owner-user.

Three electric gates for easy access to the whole property, 10,000-gallon water tank with a working well that pumps 70 GPM, plus access to riding trails too! Zoning allows ten horses per acre.

LP = $995,000.

Price Reductions Already

The percentages are quite a bit higher this year. The title of the graph could be ‘Sellers Who Are Having No Showings’ because most are (overly) optimistic this early in the selling season and hold tight on price until later.  Something must be rattling them – like no showings.

An excerpt from the UT article:

Home price reductions are still common when the market is red hot. It is sometimes a selling tactic — although not usually considered a good one — to price a home higher and then come down so the buyer feels like they are getting a deal. But, the number of reductions recently shows a big change.

For instance, 8.5 percent of homes had price reductions in November 2016. In November 2018, there were 29.4 percent.

Jason Cassity, a real estate agent based downtown, said the industry has a problem shifting when there has been a big change — such as a downturn in sales at the end of last year. He said some agents are operating like there will still be a bidding war.

“If you continue pricing like it is 2016, it is going to sit on the market a long time,” he said. “Or you are going to be one of those 20 percent (in February) that have to price reduce.”

He said a lot of the reductions he has seen were listings marked up too high out of the gate, something a lot of agents could get away with for years. He said sometimes homes are priced overly high just to meet sellers’ expectation of a huge payday, not the actual value.

Cassity said he presents news articles about the real estate market to clients before they decide on what price they are going to market with.

Link to Full Article

Street-Level Impact

Let’s examine what happens when a hot new listing gets taken by one of the big real estate teams in 2019.

What qualifies as a hot listing?

I think we can say that 70% to 80% of listings are priced at full retail or higher, so the rest are either priced attractively or have unique features that propel them into the ‘hot’ category – great location, newer, remodeled, one-story, etc.

First, let’s note that the leaders of the big real estate teams have hired several newby agents to carry the load.  The leaders do their best to train and supervise, but once the system is up and running, everyone gets too busy to pay much attention to how the sausage is made.

The lead agent takes the hot new listing, and hands it off to the assistants.

  1. They start the selling process with the Coming Soon round, which lasts for days or weeks.  While the bosses intend this to be a pre-marketing campaign, if a buyer contacts the assistant-squad during the Coming Soon period and wants to buy it….well, then, heck – let’s make a deal.  If an outside agent wants to show or sell it, they are told to wait until it’s on the open market.
  2. If the Coming Soon round is unsuccessful, then the listing goes into the MLS and onto the open market.  The quality of the remarks and photos can tell you a lot.  If they are brief, it’s another sign that the squad is trying to couch the listing so outsiders might miss it.
  3. Now the games begin. This happened to me this week. Following the showing instructions, I call and text the agent, but no response.  I persist, and finally catch a squad member answering the phone. He says “the occupant needs more notice to show”, even though I had begun my inquiry six hours prior, to which there was no response.  He says he’ll get back to me once he can schedule something with the occupant. This goes on for two days, until he finally answers his phone again…..and you know what’s coming. “Oh, we just accepted an offer on that one!”

The team leader insulates himself from the gritty details by not publishing his phone number.  For showings, they list a separate phone number in the MLS so they know it’s an agent calling.  Then the squad gets just a little too busy to call back those inquiries.

The seller has no clue how the squad’s actions denied him the chance to get more offers – heck, he’s just glad it sold quick.  The broker doesn’t supervise that closely and really doesn’t want to know, and the team leader looks the other way, because this was part of the recruiting process to build the squad, and take more vacation.

Price Reductions – How Much?

Home sellers who have been on the market for 30 or more days and are tired of not selling may eventually consider a price reduction – but by how much?

There are a number of reasons why a home isn’t selling.  Thankfully, you don’t have to be an expert on why – because price will fix anything:

  1. Inferior location
  2. Funky floor plan
  3. Repairs needed
  4. Market conditions
  5. Few or no comps
  6. Struggling economy
  7. Low zestimate
  8. Listing agent
  9. Bad weather
  10. Bad neighbors

Buyers are willing to pay within 5% of the list price.  So if you are getting showings and offers, then the list price is about right.

If you’re not getting offers, then the list price must be more than 5% wrong.

Won’t buyers make an offer, even a low one? No – it’s too easy for buyers to stay on the fence while they wait-and-see, rather than make a low offer.  In fact, we rarely see an offer that is lower than 5% below the list price because buyers would rather not bother – plus they don’t want to offend anyone.

A proper price reduction re-ignites the urgency and enthusiasm in buyers, which makes them want to write a good offer.

How much is needed to get buyers to engage?

Lower the price by 5%.

You see sellers lowering their price by 1% or less, but that’s not impressing the buyers – if anything, it reminds them that your price is still wrong because it still looks too much like the old price.

Lowering the price by 5% not only re-engages the existing buyers who are considering your home, but it also picks up a new set of buyers who weren’t looking as high as your previous price.

It may sound bold, but what else can a seller do to regain momentum?

Two things: a) Complete repairs/improvements to bring the home’s value up, or b) cancel the listing and try again a few month later.

If you don’t want to bother with repairs and really want to sell now, then do this exercise:

How does your home compare to the active listings priced at 5% below their current price – are you winning that test?  Is your house the best of that bunch?  Find the group of active listings where your house is the obvious winner, and you’ll know the price that will work.

If 5% sounds like too much, and waiting longer for that perfect couple with 2.2 kids to come along is easier to swallow, then no problem.  It could happen.

But if you’re tired of waiting and will consider a price reduction, then 5% is the recommended amount – which isn’t giving it away.  It’s just recognizing that the initial list price was too optimistic, and a more-realistic price is needed.

Smaller reductions won’t cause buyers into doing anything different than they’ve been doing – waiting for a fair price/value for today’s market.

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