We attended the Compass REtreat in Los Angeles over the last day and a half.
It was a quick get-together to roll out the future plans, participate in four breakout sessions on the usual topics – social media, team-building, scripts, and risk management – and attend the thank-you party last night.
I appreciate the effort, because the party itself was pretty impressive. Gourmet-food stations, open bar, and a 12-piece live dance band for the 2,000 Compass agents who attended (out of 7,500).
But the thing I respected the most was that the CEO, Robert Reffkin, stood by himself at the entrance and personally greeted every agent as they arrived.
No assistant, no senior staffers or entourage – just Robert by himself, fully focused on expressing his appreciation to each of us. Nobody does that.
They will be investing a boatload of money into the business, primarily in support of the agents being more effective in the coming years.
But it is the human connection with the agents, and commitment to our future together that will make Compass the leader in the industry.
Compass offices, nationwide:
End of 2017: 30
End of 2018: 150
End of 2019: 300 (projected)
Six months ago the company goal of 20% market share in the Top 20 markets nationwide sounded far-fetched. Today it seems very real – we have offices in each of those Top 20 markets, and just need to grow further.
They should ditch the Park Hyatt Motor Lodge, bring back the Four Seasons, and have lunch today with Toll Brothers (who built 672 homes at the 200-acre Robertson Ranch). If they can build 500 homes on the roughly 200 acres of golf course, the dirt would be worth close to what the new owners paid for the whole package. They will have picked up a 327-room luxury resort with average room rate of $250-$300 per night….for practically nothing.
The upscale Park Hyatt Aviara resort, which was taken over by its lender more than a year ago following missed payments, is now under new ownership.
Xenia Hotels & Resorts, a Florida-based real estate investment trust that owns 41 hotels across 17 states, including the Andaz in downtown San Diego, announced last week that it paid $170 million for the 327-room resort and golf course.
The selling price is considerably below the $251 million paid by former owner Broadreach Capital Partners in 2007 to acquire a controlling interest.
Xenia CEO Marcel Verbaas acknowledged the price’s appeal in a news release.
“Our ability to purchase the resort at a price substantially below replacement cost and well below those of comparable resorts in the region provides a significant value creation opportunity for the company,” Verbaas said.
Xenia executives declined to discuss the sale or their plans for upgrading the 222-acre resort but hinted in the news release that there will be upcoming improvements.
“We see substantial opportunities to enhance financial performance at the resort through our asset management initiatives as well as a comprehensive capital plan to elevate the resort above its prior competitive positioning,” Verbaas said. “We look forward to working with Hyatt to improve the asset physically and operationally which we believe will improve the resort’s regional and national appeal and result in strong growth in revenues and profitability.”
Although it’s been almost 1 ½ years since the Park Hyatt was taken over by its lender, CW Capital Asset Management, a sale probably took longer because the property includes a golf course, speculates broker Alan Reay.
Increasingly, more and more golf courses are closing, and in California they can be expensive to operate given the dry conditions and the cost of water, said Reay, CEO of Atlas Hospitality.
“Most properties in San Diego are back at the peak levels of 2007 or above so it’s interesting that this property did not get back to that level, and one of the main reasons for that is the golf course,” he said. “Whenever we’re working on a hotel with a golf course associated with it, most buyers are not interested. It’s not what it used to be.”
“I think they’ll definitely get room rates up if they make improvements, but the big question is what do you do with the golf course,” Reay said. “In many instances, we’re seeing golf courses sold off and then people do residential or a different development on that.”
Kayla returned from Manhattan for the long Thanksgiving weekend, and we were talking about the sluggishness in New York City market, which has been going on for 2+ years. By now agents have learned that there’s no use fighting it – you have to learn to adapt.
It was in the year of her birth, 1991, when I experienced my first market slowdown. All I knew was that there wasn’t a buyer for miles, and with a newborn child, I need to hurry up and figure this out!
This is my third time around the block, so I offered her a few ideas.
First let’s acknowledge how it works in a seller’s market. Buyers find a house that is a good fit, and they buy it. Agents might offer up a strategy to get a discount, but for the most part, buyers pay the sellers’ price. It’s binary – it is yes or no, is this the right house? If it is, then pay the price.
Now it’s different, and if you can get a buyer to look at homes, their answer will be the same everywhere – ‘no’. Because they are looking for any reason not to buy – and every house has one – once they find it then it’s game over. But rather than just saying no to every house and never buying anything, let’s take it a step further.
At what price would you be a buyer?
Price will fix anything, and the price itself is usually the problem – it’s too high.
If the buyer would be interested at a lower price, then all you have to do is present a powerful case to the seller and listing agent to see if there is enough motivation to at least listen, and hopefully make a deal.
If you just make a lower offer without justification, I can already tell you what the answer will be: “No, and get off my lawn”.
To get something, you have to give a little. Here are ideas:
Make an clean offer with quick close date. These work best on vacant properties where sellers might be eating an extra payment.
Make an offer using older comps, and point out that the Case-Shiller pricing (or other) has retreated back where it was X months ago.
Make an offer based on the cost of the needed improvements, and include contractor quotes when possible.
In all cases, include a photo of the family and pets, and an introduction that explains the offer. Usually the listing agent will just forward the explanation right to the sellers, so it’s a way to have influence over the outcome. Without an introduction and explanation, the listing agent has to justify the low price himself, and he won’t try too hard and risk looking bad.
We need price discovery!
The only way to find out what the seller might take is to put an offer on the table. It may seem risky to be among the first to take the plunge, but by April/May we should see more people finding a way to make a deal. Those will probably be with the sellers who have been trying to sell for 90+ days, and are tired of the process. Let’s give it a shot!
With deductible mortgage interest now capped at $750,000 by the I.R.S., buyers who are concerned about write-offs will want to keep their new loan balance in the $700,000s.
The strict equation is $750,000/80% = $937,500.
If buyers find a house priced higher, they could come up with more cash to make up the difference, or they could get a jumbo loan at roughly the same interest rate and live with the non-deductible interest paid on the loan amount above $750,000.
It makes the ideal purchase price in the $1,000,000-$1,100,000 range.
If the tax reform is a big concern for buyers as some have suggested, the homes priced in the $1,100,000 – $1,500,000 might feel it. Buyers above that range weren’t expecting as much benefit anyway, and probably won’t be as impacted – but theoretically there are fewer buyers the higher we go.
Out of curiosity, let’s keep an eye on the NSDCC stats.
Today’s NSDCC Actives and Pendings:
$700,000-$1,100,000: 121/72 = 1.68
$1,100,000-$1,500,000: 157/75 = 2.09
$1,500,000-$2,500,000: 243/81 = 3.00
$2,500,000 and higher: 399/44 = 9.07
The market has been healthy up to $1,500,000 roughly, and like Rob Dawg said yesterday, potential buyers may not know the exact impact of the tax reform until they start on their 2018 tax returns in spring.
The San Diego Case-Shiller Index dropped for the third month in a row, and is now almost 1% below where it was in June. It’s not a surprise to hear that we have tougher sledding in the off-season (see above).
We will probably lose another 1% or 2% between now and Spring, 2019, which would put the index back to about where it was in February.
What happens in next year’s selling season will be the real test.
This isn’t a sign that the bottom is falling out of the market. Instead, after years of rapid price increases, experts say the market is becoming more stable and for the first time in quite a long time, it is shifting in favor of buyers.
That shift is most evident when you look at the number of times sellers have reduced prices. The share of home listings with a price cut grew to its highest level in at least eight years, says a recent analysis from Trulia.San Diego had the most reductions — 20.5 percent — of the 100 biggest metro areas in the United States so far this year. (It tied with Tampa, which also saw 20.5 percent of homes with a price cut.)
7171 Terra Cotta Road — $545,000. The four-bedroom house (1,804 square feet) in the Bay Terraces area has had four price reductions, starting at $569,000 at the beginning of November.
4225 Florida St., Unit 4 — $395,000. The two-bedroom condo (794 square feet) in University Heights has had three price reductions, starting at $425,000 in mid-October.
3655 Ash St., Unit 2 — $322,100. The two-bedroom condo (824 square feet) in Fairmount Park has had six price reductions, starting at $330,000 in mid-September.
Listing agent April Khamphasouk said the tough thing about selling the house at 2873 Upas St. is that it is basically two homes in one (the property is 1,698-square-feet and has a guest suite above the garage).
She first listed the home for $1.1 million in early October. By mid-October, the price was lowered by $19,000. There were three more price reductions and by Nov.12, the asking price for the home had decreased by $55,900. It is still on the market.
Khamphasouk said the recent price reduction seemed to be greatly increasing interest. Still, she said a lot of the issues in the past month have been related to rising mortgage interest rates.
No mention was made about the Upas property selling for $775,000 in May. The Terra Cotta house just had a model-match sell for $415,000 nearby, and the Florida St. condo is on the corner of El Cajon Blvd. and next to a paint store. If these homes represent the types of properties that need to lower their price, then the shock is that only 20% needed a price reduction.
The real news was that nearly 80% of the listings didn’t lower their price!
The Inventory Watch started during the last week of November in 2013, as we were coming off a blistering frenzy. Here are the number of active listings logged for the last reading in November:
Total Number of Active Listings, End of November
The 2017 market will go down as one of the best years ever! Like we saw towards the end of 2014, the previous frenzy conditions created overly-optimistic sellers, which is reflected in the higher amount of unsold listings.
The NSDCC median sales price for November, 2013 was $1,030,000, and the average mortgage rate was 3.99%.
This month, the median sales price is $1,310,000 (which is +27% from 2013), and today’s mortgage rate is 4.94%!
Home sellers and agents will conveniently write off today’s market sluggishness as typical year-end slowdown, and in 2019 they will simply do what they’ve always done – put a bloated list price on their real estate.
You can’t blame them – it’s their chance to win lottery-type money. If you got to name any price, you’d want more, not less, right? It is a common mistake to over-price a home though, and homebuyers need to beware.
But over-pricing has been around since the beginning, and is just a reflection of how motivated the sellers are – which in 2019 will be ‘not much’.
What are the additional challenges that will be with us in 2019?
A. The realtor industry favors the home-sellers. Realtors have a contract with the sellers, so no surprise that listings are the name of the game. But now that realtor teams dominate the landscape, the new and inexperienced agents are dispatched to represent the buyers – who won’t be too impressed with the lack of quality assistance offered on today’s market conditions. Buyers without proper guidance will be happy to stay on the fence, unless they find the perfect home, and then they will….
B. More Buyers Will Go Direct to Listing Agent. With fewer experienced agents being willing and able to represent the buyers, we’ll see single agency (disguised as dual agency) become more popular than ever. Consumers don’t really seem to care, as long as the deal gets done, and listing agents encourage the idea. Expect more blatant attempts to exploit the practice, like…..
Glenn first played the race card and tried to disguise his coming-soon plan as a ploy to reach all consumers, rich and poor (but was going to refer low-income people to outside agents). Now he is trying to force N.A.R. to insist on prominently displaying the listing agent on all websites, with a link back to their website. If passed, will be the final dagger in the buyers getting their own representation.
Here he attempts to sell the concept as fair and clear (start at bottom):
C. Coming Soon. The traditional brokerages are promoting their listings on their company websites before putting them on the MLS/open market, and you can’t blame them. Zillow and Redfin started it (see above), and now it’s a war.
But what are buyers going to do, monitor every real estate website? Yes, at least the ones that allow you to set up auto-notifications. If you see one you like, and you inquire with the listing office/agent – who do you get? The faceless internet agent who reps the seller but will process your order as long as it’s reasonable. It gets worse – there is one listing agent in north county who insists that you do a 30-minute, in-person consultation and then agree to see at least two of their listings before they will show you their coming-soon listing advertised on Zillow (and not in the MLS).
D. Sea Change in the Home-Selling Business. The market plateau will cause more desperation among realtors, and the disruption that everyone has been predicting will finally arrive – it will just look differently than people expected. Eliminating the traditional buyer agents will be uncomfortable, especially for older consumers who were used to having their own agent represent them in previous transactions. We should see fewer sales as a result.
E. Fewer Sales Means Fewer Comps. We had 10% fewer sales in 2018, which means fewer comps to help buyers easily reach a conclusion on values. Add in the built-in reluctance to trust the listing agent and we could have a downward spiral of fewer sales….which leads to even fewer comps. Stagnant City!
F. Creampuffs only. At these lofty prices and with fewer comps to justify exact values, nobody will want a fixer unless they can get a real deal. There should be a price gap of roughly 10% between the ‘puffs and the fixers in older neighborhoods, but will sellers agree? Will buyers be willing to pay +10% for a creampuff when they see a fixer down the street not selling, even when priced for less? They did in a frenzy, but now?
G. Prices Might Not Change Much. Buyers going directly to the listing agent won’t find much of an audience for lowball offers. Going direct only means you have an inside shot at buying the house at the sellers’ price, not that you’re going to get a deal – unless it’s been on the market for months.
H. No Help Anywhere in Sight. You won’t hear about any of these market changers in the mainstream media – instead, we will be pelted with reminders that homes are unaffordable and other doomy assumptions to explain fewer sales. Nobody will look beyond the usual excuses – instead, we’ll see more reflections back to previous cycles that have no relation.
Example: This guy compares the 1990s bust caused by the S&L crisis – but ignores that we bail out the banks now, so no bank bust is coming:
Conclusion: In 2019, potential home buyers will be hearing more doom talk and getting less help. They will see more listings at higher prices, and more escrows falling out. It will be natural for them to proceed cautiously, and be resigned to the fact that if they don’t buy this year, prices aren’t going up much so let’s be picky and wait it out – maybe another year or two!
Sellers might get miffed, but they will shrug it off and blame the market or their agent for no sale. Prices won’t be going down much (mostly because only the superior homes will be selling…and getting their price). Sellers will be picky and wait it out – maybe for another year or two!
In the meantime, the industry will be transitioning into single agency.