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Buyer-Agent’s Commission Exposed

This is nothing. What would be entertaining is if they required the listing agent’s commission to be exposed too.

The Department of Justice today filed a civil lawsuit against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) alleging that NAR established and enforced illegal restraints on the ways that REALTORS® compete.

The Antitrust Division simultaneously filed a proposed settlement that requires NAR to repeal and modify its rules to:

  • Provide greater transparency to home buyers about the commissions of brokers representing home buyers (buyer brokers),
  • Cease misrepresenting that buyer broker services are free,
  • Eliminate rules that prohibit filtering multiple listing services (MLS) listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions, and
  • Change its rules and policy which limit access to lockboxes to only NAR-affiliated real estate brokers.

If approved, the settlement will enhance competition in the real estate market, resulting in more choice and better service for consumers.

“Buying a home is one of life’s biggest and most important financial decisions,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Home buyers and sellers should be aware of all the broker fees they are paying. Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from impeding competition — including by internet-based methods of home buying and selling — by providing greater transparency to consumers about broker fees. This will increase price competition among brokers and lead to better quality of services for American home buyers and sellers.”

According to the complaint, NAR’s anticompetitive rules, policies, and practices include: (i) prohibiting MLSs that are affiliated with NAR from disclosing to prospective buyers the commission that the buyer broker will earn; (ii) allowing buyer brokers to misrepresent to buyers that a buyer broker’s services are free; (iii) enabling buyer brokers to filter MLS listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions offered; and (iv) limiting access to the lockboxes that provide licensed brokers with access to homes for sale to brokers who work for a NAR-affiliated MLS. These NAR rules, policies, practices have been widely adopted by NAR-affiliated MLSs resulting in decreased competition among real estate brokers.

NAR is a trade association of more than 1.4 million-member REALTORS® who are engaged in residential real estate brokerages across the United States. NAR has over 1,400 local associations (called “Member Boards”) organized as MLSs through which REALTORS® share information about homes for sale in their communities. Among other activities, NAR establishes and enforces rules, policies, and practices that are adopted by the Member Boards and their affiliated MLSs.

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-antitrust-case-and-simultaneous-settlement-requiring-national

More Frenzy Fuel

San Diego didn’t make the NAR list of vacation-home areas (counties where 20% of the housing stock is for seasonal use), but our market should be enjoying some additional second-home purchases:

Vacation home sales are outperforming total existing-home sales. Sales of homes intended for vacation use rose to 109,100 in the past three months of July-September, a 44% gain from the level of 75,600 sales during the same period last year, according to NAR estimates based on information gathered from the monthly REATORS® Confidence Index Survey and NAR’s existing-home sales estimates. In comparison, total existing-home sales during July-September rose 13% year-over-year (1.72 million in July-Sept 2020 vs. 1.52 million in July-Sept 2019).

The pandemic and low mortgage rates have increased the desirability and affordability of owning a vacation home. Buyers may be desiring a vacation home as a weekend getaway as urban-based leisure activities are still constrained by social distancing. The ability to work from home also means buyers who can work from home can spend more time at and enjoy their vacation home. Historically low mortgage rates have also made a home purchase more affordable, while rising prices in past years have yielded larger home equity gains that can be tapped (through say a home equity loan) to use for a down payment.

Link to Full Article

Agent Referral Networks

Have you been seeing more of this guy lately?

He wants to hook you up with the top agents in your area – AND only charge you a 2% commission.

They keep the 2% circle at the bottom of the advertisement for the entire 30 seconds to engrain in your head that they have some magic network of top agents who will work for the discount rate.

Don’t believe it.

The agreement they have with agents is that you will be presented with a 2% option, which is the typical For-Sale-By-Owner plan – if you find your own buyer, then the agent will handle your paperwork for 2%. At that point, you’ll probably wonder about the more traditional plans where your listing agent handles the whole process. The next thing you know, you’ll be signing the listing agreement at 6%.

Why will these listing agents insist on the more-expensive plan?

It’s because they have to pay a finder’s fee to the advertiser.

Whenever a corporate third-party is referring you to an agent, there is a fee paid by the agent – and it’s hefty. Whether it is a TV-advertiser, an internet pitch, or relocation company provided by your employer, they all take a big cut out of your agent’s commission – usually 25% to 30%.

The great listing agents – the ones you hope will sell your house for the most money – will pass along this finder’s fee to you. It means you’ll be presented with 6% or 7% options, and/or a commission that drastically discounts the buyer-agent’s side of the commission.

The agent-referral industry relies on the bait-and-switch.

If this guy said that he had the top agents in your area that charge 6%, would he get any calls?  No.

Coming-Soon Fines

The home-selling business is known for being the Wild, Wild West.

There are a few rules and ethics filed away in a drawer somewhere but there is no enforcement unless you do something really bad, like this guy – who only lost his real estate license a couple of months AFTER he was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail.

So when the Clear Cooperation Policy went into effect in May that stipulated an agent could input a listing into the MLS as ‘Coming Soon’, as long as they didn’t show it to anyone until it was marked as an active listing, many of us scoffed.

But apparently for our local association, this is the hill to die on:

  • During the short-sale era, agents defrauded banks out of millions of dollars, and all the association did was to produce a video of realtors talking about how to do short sales properly.
  • Bidding wars are regularly abused by listing agents who tilt the table in favor of themselves or a favored realtor, and the association doesn’t offer any solutions.
  • And the Clear Cooperation Policy still allows off-market listings to be sold within the same brokerage – and never offered to outside agents or the public.

There are plenty of more egregious violations of the consumers faith and trust, so why is the association selecting this rule to be the one to enforce, and issue heavy fines? They are dependent upon other agents ratting out the violators, so it’s not like there will be a MLS police, but will they start enforcing any other rules – and issuing heavy fines – while they are at it?  The agents who get convicted of other violations only get a letter in their file for six months.

If agents want to show their Coming Soons, they can always join the San Diego Association of Realtors instead, where the fines are limited to $500. Or if the purpose of your Coming Soon is to test the market, just enter your new listing as Active instead and answer your phone for a couple of days and you will have ample evidence of how the market feels about it.

Here’s another tepid response to an issue that bugs consumers and agents alike:

San Diego Top 5 Brokerages

The local recruiting effort by Compass has been very effective, and it’s really starting to show up in the numbers. With 1,200+ productive agents in San Diego County now (I was #160 in July 2018), we are taking away market share and becoming the dominant brokerage – especially in the coastal markets.

How will it all play out?

There could be a tectonic shift in the business if this lawsuit prevails.  The result will be that the commission rate paid by the seller to the buyer-agents will be revealed publicly (can’t find them now), and it could end up that buyers will have to pay their buyer-agent’s fee, instead of the seller:

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/a-challenge-to-real-estate-commissions-gains-ground/

This training video from a realtor seminar is expected to be a key piece of evidence:

If buyers have to pay their agent’s commission, hopefully they will take more interest in their qualifications, and ability to give good help! We’ll see which brokerages can survive then.

C.A.R. 2021 Forecast

The California Association of Realtors kicks off the 2021 forecast season! To show how far removed they are from reality, check their foreclosure forecast. Homeowners are flush with equity, and if they get in trouble, they will sell before they getting foreclosed because realtors will be soliciting them the minute their notice of default is recorded. Plus the banking laws were changed/ignored last time and lenders have figured it out – don’t foreclose on anyone unless there is ample equity so the bank doesn’t lose money.

Yet the association thinks that foreclosures will make up 5% to 30% of the market, and be discounted up to 40%??

My prediction? Foreclosures will make up less than 1% of the market next year, and no discounts.

Excerpts:

The number of homes on the market — down 50% in 2020 — are expected to stay low in the coming year, creating more upward pressure on prices.  Southern California likely will see a similar pattern to the statewide trend, Appleton-Young said.

This year’s median house price — or price at the midpoint of all sales — is projected to rise 8.1% from 2019, due in part to strong sales of higher-priced homes, pulling up the overall averages.

While home values rose in all price segments this year, the biggest price growth was in the top 20% of the market, Appleton-Young said. That’s because professionals and other high-income earners weren’t hit as hard by the pandemic as were renters and people working in the restaurant, hotel and hospitality sectors.

Foreclosures also are projected to rise next year, although not nearly to the degree they did during the Great Recession.

For example, CAR economists projected bank-owned homes will make up between 5% of next year’s listings in a best-case scenario to 30% in a worst-case scenario. By comparison, 60% of homes selling at the start of 2009 were bank-owned, with price discounts in the 60% range. A worst-case scenario for next year foresees discounts of 40% for foreclosed homes.

Ultimately, the housing market is ending 2020 in much better shape than anyone expected, Appleton-Young said. For example, house sales shifted from a 41% drop in May to a 15% gain in August, CAR figures show.

“The recovery coming back has been absolutely stunning,” Appleton-Young said. “There’s just a lot of uncertainty, so we tend to be conservative looking at next year.”

Link to Full Article Link to CAR Forecast

No More Love Letters

The time-honored tradition of buyers hoping to sway sellers with a personal introductory letter came to an abrupt halt this month with the new FHDA form (see snip above).

Not only has it been customary to submit a letter of introduction with your offer, but if you don’t, the listing agent usually asks about the buyers. I had one last week say, “Tell me their story” which probably wasn’t meant to gather information to use against them, but who knows?

Paragraph 8A mentions ‘actual or unconscious bias’.  Agents who are stuck in their ways may not realize how this information is being digested.

It’s not just for agents either. Paragraph 7 specifically includes sellers and landlords too.

Nobody reads these forms so the practice will probably continue for a while, which means that those who DON’T include a love letter could be hurting their chances if other agents keep doing it.

(hat tip Annabama)

Single Agency

The pandemic is still raging, the President of the United States is in the hospital, the election is right around the corner, and so are the holidays. The frenzy has to slow down at some point, doesn’t it?

So I schedule for 11am, and show up to find today’s list of showings taped to the front door:

The listing agent happens to be there, so we discuss the current market conditions. She is a long-time independent broker like myself (who now also works @ Compass) and we agree that the environment is ripe to convert to single agency naturally, and buyer-agents being eliminated.

It’s not because it’s what best for everyone involved, because clearly it’s not good for buyers and sellers – except maybe for those sellers who live in the house being barraged by showings the first few days on the market. It doesn’t sound like much of a price to pay, but for homebodies, or those with little kids & pets, it can be a major inconvenience.

Zillow is the only entity who spends eight or nine figures per year on advertising, so they will control our destiny – and with them setting up brokerage units manned by employee-agents in all 50 states, you can get a feel for what’s ahead.

In the meantime, consider these developments.

Today’s listing agents are making it harder to show and sell their listings, they are lowering the buyer-agent commissions (and taking the difference), and some realtors are advertising guaranteed cash offers as the better way to sell your house.

As is the case throughout America, the truth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how loud you can scream.

The greed displayed by these listing agents feeds upon itself, because other agents witness these practices happening without any reprimands, and they start to believe it’s acceptable…..and then they do the same thing. The game is evolving into how to beat the buyer-agents out of their commission.

In the short-term, realtors can justify this revolution by pointing to the commercial brokers who have practiced their real estate like this all along. Heck, less competition will slow down the rapid price increases we are experiencing, and help to trim the over-population of realtors everywhere too….so you can say there are good things about it.

But it all plays into the hands of Zillow, and eventually they will be who processes your order.

‘Swamp the Boat’ Offer

Here’s how I handle a hot one when I’m the listing agent.

My listing of 7206 Durango in Carlsbad was appropriately priced at $999,000, given what we were selling and the homeowners’ desire to move sooner, not later. What do I mean when I say ‘appropriately priced”?

Sure, it was 2,699sf but it wasn’t a standard tract house.

We had twelve showings in two days, and for those who had been used to seeing other similar-sized homes nearby in Aviara and La Costa Valley and expected the same….well, you could tell by the look on their face – even with a mask on!  They were stunned, and had trouble comprehending what they just saw.

It was because the house was a funky combination of a 1970s-built 1,517sf house with a pseudo-granny flat added on.

The challenges:

  • The original house was in decent shape, but not a full remodel like the last two comps.
  • The granny flat was one bedroom/one bath, and both were upstairs.
  • The granny flat had an unpermitted kitchen.
  • The granny flat was too big to be permitted as an ADU today.
  • The backyard was 15-20ft of concrete, then a slope that went up about 40 feet.

I knew from the beginning that the buyer pool for this combo was going to be much smaller than it was for the last two comps that both closed for $1,115,000.  They were both fully-remodeled one-story homes on culdesacs, and we were the opposite.

One of the showings on Day Two was a single guy who came with his mom and an older-guy agent.  The agent had only been licensed for four years (his license number on his card was over 2000000), and because they had sincere interest, he asked me what would it take to buy the property.

This is where I differ greatly from virtually all other agents.

Most agents will make some vague reference to how hot the property has been based on the number of showings, and tell you to do your best. If you ask about their rules of engagement, it gets more vague because they usually don’t have a strategy, other than spreading out all the offers on the dining-room table and telling the seller to pick one.

I gave the buyer, his mom, and his agent a couple of ideas. I told them that I had received an offer of $1,000,000 on the first day, and two other parties told me they would be writing offers too.

Then I described his two choices:

Idea #1: Either you can write an initial offer around list price or higher, and I will conduct a highest-and-best round.  You can probably expect that there will be at least one buyer who will pay 5% over list, so it you offer that much or a little more, you might win.

Idea #2:  You can swamp the boat. Make an offer so outrageously high that no one else will touch it.

An hour later, I received his offer for $1,125,000, with no appraisal! On a $999,000 list price!

I shopped the price around with the other three contenders, but nobody wanted a piece of that.

It was a fair and transparent process where everyone had a chance to buy the property.  It’s what is best for the sellers, plus none of the buyers thought they were robbed – they had a fair chance to buy it.

The Realtor Trojan Horse

This sounds like a document-processing center where trainees guide consumers through the paperwork and hope they don’t ask too many questions. Sound familiar? They are going to walk right in and take over while the industry stands by idly – and we’ll look up in a few years and wonder what happened, just like we did when they began.

Over the last several years, Zillow has been transitioning from a real estate search portal into a streamlined buying-and-selling entity that offers iBuying services through Zillow Offers, and mortgage, title and escrow services through Zillow Home Loans and Zillow Closing Services. Now, the company has taken a big step further by starting its own licensed brokerage: Zillow Homes.

Zillow Group’s Chief Industry Development Officer Errol Samuelson provided details about the new brokerage in a video:

According to Zillow, starting in January 2021, Zillow Offers customers in Atlanta, Phoenix and Tucson will be working directly with a licensed employee of Zillow Homes. In addition, any Zillow-owned homes in these three markets will be listed by Zillow Homes employees. Although the services will be limited to these three locations to start, the company says it plans to expand into additional markets later in 2021.

In the video, Samuelson emphasizes that Zillow Homes will not be recruiting agents from other companies, but instead will be licensing existing Zillow employees under the Zillow Homes entity.

“We’re excited to add another important link in the Zillow Offers transaction chain to offer our customers greater choice and convenience when considering a move,” said Jeremy Wacksman, president of Zillow, in a statement. “At Zillow, our mission is to give people the power to unlock life’s next chapter and we want to help them on their journey home through a range of services that meet their preferences—whether through Zillow Offers or through a trusted Zillow Premier Agent partner.”

Zillow Offers launched in 2018 and is now available in 25 markets. According to the company, Zillow Homes will be “the brokerage of record for Zillow Offers transactions.” The move also frees up the company from using “thousands of disparate data feeds,” allowing them instead to pull from “MLS Internet Data Exchange, or IDX feeds,” according to the video statement.

“We look forward to working more closely with our agents, industry and MLS partners to efficiently serve our mutual customers,” added Wacksman. “Together, we will push to keep the real estate industry moving forward, and adapt to changing consumer preferences and virtual technologies.”

Zillow says it has plans to join local real estate associations, as well as the National Association of REALTORS®. The company also says it will continue investing and expanding its Premier Agent business—through which buyers and sellers can get connected to Zillow Premier Agents—and added that it expects this to be the “preference of the majority of Zillow’s customers.”

https://rismedia.com/2020/09/23/from-portal-to-brokerage-zillow-takes-massive-next-step-into-all-in-one-real-estate-services/

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