News Corp vs. Godzillow?

news corp logo

I don’t know what this means yet for consumers, but realtors have been losing control of our destiny all year – at least News Corp might put up a fight. 

From HW:

“This acquisition will accelerate News Corp’s digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio,” said Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp.

“We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbo-charge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the US,” Thomson added. “We are building on our existing real estate expertise and expect to leverage the potential of Move and its valuable connections with Realtors and consumers around the country.”

NAR puts their old-fashioned spin on it here:



In 1991, the National Association of REALTORS® made an “office of the future” video predicting what kinds of space-age technologies would change the home buying and selling process by the year 2000.

Jon Coile, broker-owner of Champion Realty in Severna Park, Md., dug this gem of a video out of the NAR archives for his presentation Wednesday at the Broker Summit in Atlanta:

Did NAR get the fashion wrong? Yes. (Is NAR really known for its fashion sense?) But how far off was the video, really?

Today we have AT&T Digital Life (the home automation mentioned in the video), Skype (video calls), thumb drives (mini discs), MLS with photos (home tour line drawings), smart appliances (“Microsoft Maytag software”), Siri (talking cars), and GPS (car navigation systems). “And they’re still going to need an agent – they got that right, too,” Coile said.

So this video begs the question: What does the next decade hold for the real estate industry?

Read full article here:

Demo Derby

Hat tip to MF for sending this in:

Fort Worth officials say the city has ceased all demolition operations until it can figure out how two buildings that were not supposed to be demolished were torn down by a contractor despite city oversight.

“It was human error,” said Fort Worth spokesperson Bill Begley. “There were two different types of human error.”

Association of Change

The board of realtors had me over for a chat, wondering if there were any ideas they could implement to improve their standing and ability to assist our fellow realtors before being run over by the ZillowTruliaRedfin truck.

So I laid out my favorite, plus I’ll add two more here – but I have no expectation of anything being any different:

  • Step up to the public microphone and announce your commitment to stop short-sale fraud amongst realtors, which would immediately improve your reputation in the public eye.
  • Put imformative youtubes on the association’s website to educate the public.
  • Publish the sales history of each agent.

Of course, when I brought up the incessant short-sale fraud being perpetrated by realtors everywhere, the president of the San Diego Board literally said that she wasn’t aware of it, and then tried to coax me into filing a complaint – and missed the whole point.  Just making a stand would improve your reputation, if you have a perp walk or two it would be icing on the cake.

The members of the local association in attendance, all of whom were busy working their phones and paying little attention, did give time to the one agent who complained that the emails sent from the association get lost in the hundreds she receives every day.  She requested that they do something different in the subject line of each email to alert her that it is an important email, and not spam.  These are the types of suggestions they really wanted, not ideas that would cause them to get off their duff.

Hammerin’ Climate Change?

I think daytrip sent this last month:,0,4776185.story

Addressing a gathering of real estate journalists downtown, kickoff speaker Howard Gelbtuch, chair of the Counselors of Real Estate, sees some bright spots for retail space despite the growth in online marketplaces.

howie“The Internet may be killing retail in some places but not New York City, which has some of the highest retails rates in the world right now,” Gelbtuch said. Another bright spot is Miami, where space in the Bal Harbour area is $3,000 a square foot compared with $300 a foot elsewhere in the region.

Buying opportunities include Sears/Kmart and J.C. Penney sites that have locked up rates at $4 a square foot where averages are $8. There’s an opportunity to buy out these “dowdy” retailers, he said, and replace them with government offices, call centers or dividing them into several stores such as PetSmart or Staples.

Globally, the next growth markets may be South Korea, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

In Latin America, demand is rising for U.S. style offices.

“Africa is where China was 20 years ago,” Gelbtuch said, as the consumer class grows.

Climate change will continue to hammer coastal property markets, increasing the cost of homeownership and building as more safeguards are added. Gelbtuch recently priced a full-house generator for his home at $32,000.


From NMN:

It has been mind-blowing to find out that lenders and servicers have been offering defaulted borrowers up to $45,000 to work with them in a variation on the old Cash for Keys program.

But sessions at the recent SourceMedia Loss Mitigation Conference in Dallas made this development more understandable.

It used to be that lenders might pay a borrower to leave the property. This was called Cash for Keys and generally involved a payment of $2,000 or $2,500, something to allow the borrower to get a lease on an apartment to move into.

Nowadays, with people staying in homes for years after defaulting, it takes a lot more than $2,500 to get borrowers to leave. But the much higher payments aren’t wholly the result of calculation on the borrowers’ part.

Nowadays such programs are called Cash for Cooperation. The idea is to get the borrower’s cooperation in disposing of the property as quickly as possible, such as through a short sale. The borrower lists the property promptly and acts as a kind of property manager through the process. When the sale is made, she gets her check from the lender and moves on with her life (hopefully not using it as a downpayment on another mortgage!).

It’s good, though, that the lender and the borrower are cooperating to dispose of the property quickly and with the minimum amount of disruption. Lenders benefit by having their costs lowered. Attendees of the meeting heard that recoveries are at least $25,000 more on a short sale and in some cases over $50,000. Obviously these are properties that are still worth a fair amount despite their default status.

Attendees heard from Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, that short sales have nearly overtaken REO. In the first quarter of 2012, he said, there were 123,778 REO sales and 109,521 short sales, a boost of 25%. Short sales outnumbered REO sales in 12 states.

Prices, however, dropped 10% to the lowest since 2005. Short sales closed an average of 319 days after the foreclosure start, he said (that was as of the second quarter of this year).

Some of the states with the biggest percentage jumps in short sales include Kentucky, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Of the 8.5 million foreclosure starts since the beginning of the housing crisis, REO still commanded 49% of the market, to 20% for short sales, RealtyTrac data show.

It’s clear, though, that the preforeclosure solution is the one lenders and borrowers prefer.

Pushing Principal Reductions

An excerpt from, about respected Laurie Goodman, the current record holder for highest estimate of expected foreclosures across the country:

On top of the 2.5 million homes that have already fallen to foreclosure since the bubble burst, another 4.5 million mortgage holders have given up paying and are likely to lose their homes, she calculates.

Millions more are underwater — owing more than their home is worth — and may give up if things don’t improve soon. All told, Goodman warns that more than 10 million of the nation’s 55 million mortgage holders could default by 2018. If home prices fall much more than the 6% or so she’s projecting over the next 12 to 18 months, the picture worsens, as more foreclosures drive prices down further, in turn causing more sheriffs’ sales.

Goodman’s research into who defaults shows that many governmental and private efforts at saving borrowers — and reducing investors’ losses — by modifying mortgages weren’t helping because they only extended payments or reduced interest rates. They didn’t fix the fundamental problem of unsupportable debt loads.

Goodman found that investors lose as much as 70% when the homes underlying their subprime MBS are foreclosed upon. Lenders that tried to rehabilitate delinquent borrowers by reducing the principal (or total amount owed) by an average of 26% were far less likely to have to foreclose, and they actually provided MBS investors higher returns. “If you save a borrower, you save an investor,” Goodman says.

To avoid the “moral hazard” of rewarding foolish borrowers, Goodman recommends that lenders swap immediate principal reductions for shares of any gains on the mortgaged house when it is sold.

Many mortgage holders, including giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are refusing any kind of principal-reduction deals, however. Some don’t want to have to take the immediate write-downs that would be required, preferring to delay the financial pain and hope for a rebound.

‘One bailout = endless bailouts’

Many servicers refuse to consider them because their fees are tied to the amount of principal rather than to the ultimate payback to investors. And banks often hold second mortgages for the loans that they service. Principal reductions typically require them to take total losses on those notes.

In short, banks “are ridden with conflicts of interest” that pit them against the interests of borrowers and investors, Goodman says. “Many of the rules in place now are extremely large-bank-friendly, but borrower- and investor-unfriendly.”

Goodman’s firm, of course, is decidedly on the side of the MBS investor in this fight. Nevertheless, ideas she’s been advocating since 2008 are catching on.

The Treasury Department and several state attorneys general are encouraging lenders to offer principal-reduction options. And “shared appreciation mortgage” (SAM) modifications have won support from big thinkers such as Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who warned of a housing bubble in 2005. Roubini, who cites Goodman’s work in his own, recently co-wrote a report suggesting that SAMS could help “unclog the real estate and financial arteries and restore healthy circulation.”

At least one private servicer, Atlanta-based Ocwen Financial Corp., has started to try this “share the pain and gain” option. “Progress is slow,” Goodman says, “but I feel like I am getting some traction.”

Pin It on Pinterest