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‘No More Showings’

We see it more and more these days – listing agents who shut down showings of their listings. I’m sure most would say, “What do you want me to do? I had 20-30 appointment times available, and they all booked up!”

When faced with having to work harder, smarter, or less, agents always seem to pick less.

  • But they owe it to their sellers to find a way to show their home to every possible buyer.
  • They owe it to their fellow agents too, and their buyers.

Work Harder:

An agent over the weekend was bombarded with requests to show a newer one-story home on a half-acre lot. She TRIPLE-BOOKED the whole weekend, and designated four stations – two inside, and two outside. As visitors arrived, she explained the process, and deftly guided everyone from station to station to keep the parade moving – and it went very smoothly.

Work Smarter:

Can we please require agents to produce YouTube video tours?

If you don’t like the way you sound or you’re afraid you might say something stupid, then just don’t talk. The video is a boost to understanding the flow of the floor plan, and and a way to highlight the biggest benefits. It’s not that hard to do – you’re doing videos of your grandkids every weekend, surely you can walk around a house with a videocam and pretend you’re showing the house to a buyer – of which you have plenty of practice!  Then the buyers who got shut out from an in-person appointment can view the video and have a fighting chance to compete.

Selling homes by video should have been commonplace by now. Let’s do it!

Pandemic Housing Fever…..With Regrets

There will be a whole new wave of lawsuits against listing agents who insist on rushing buyers through the process.  They think it’s a good thing to shorten the contingency periods and then make themselves scarce – and they are going to get what they have coming to them.

Get Good Help!

From the wsj and realtor.com:

Stella Guan spent months searching for a home to buy, getting outbid again and again in the white-hot real-estate market of the Los Angeles suburbs. Finally, her offer on a “beautiful” Santa Clarita house was accepted in August, she said. The graphic designer, 30, paid roughly $600,000 for the house. But after sleeping there for only a few nights, she had an unfortunate realization. “I was like ‘uh-oh, I hate this house,’ ” she recalled. “I hate this house so much.”

Looking back on it, she said, “I should have seen all of the warning signs, but the pandemic housing fever got the better of me.”

A house, unlike expensive jewelry or clothing, can’t be returned if the buyer is unhappy with it, so a cardinal rule of home buying is that you shouldn’t rush into a purchase. But in 2020, millions of Americans did just that.

Fleeing small apartments, buying vacation homes or simply looking for a change of scenery amid the crushing boredom of lockdowns, people scrambled to buy houses amid the pandemic, spurring bidding wars and supercharging real-estate markets across the country. Now, many are discovering the pitfalls of these hasty purchases, ranging from buyers’ remorse and financial strain to damage caused by unexpected problems.

This spring especially, “people were so panicked,” said Priscilla Holloway, a Douglas Elliman agent in the Hamptons, a popular spot for New Yorkers seeking refuge from the pandemic. “Buying a home is a huge commitment. You have to be thorough. But people were getting all crazy, and they weren’t as thorough as they usually are.”

Ms. Holloway said she helped a family move this summer after discovering that the Hamptons house they had just bought had an infestation of wasps nests in the backyard. The family didn’t find the wasps until after closing because they had waived the inspection in the midst of a bidding war, said Ms. Holloway, who wasn’t representing them at the time. Deciding the property was unsafe for their young children, they immediately put the Westhampton Beach home on the market. Ms. Holloway and a colleague helped them find another house to buy.

Nature had an unpleasant surprise in store for Richard and Meaghan Weiss when they bought their first home in Northern California after moving from Brooklyn.

When Covid hit, the couple left their Brooklyn apartment to stay with Ms. Weiss’s parents in Sonoma, Calif. Ms. Weiss was pregnant and they had a toddler at the time. “Being cooped up in an apartment, not being able to see people in New York, sounded like a miserable existence,” said Mr. Weiss, 40, who works in commercial real estate.

After a few months they decided to relocate permanently to the Bay Area, where Ms. Weiss grew up, and started looking for a home to buy. They found the market to be “super-duper competitive,” Mr. Weiss said. They were outbid on one house and backed out of a contract on another when they found out it had serious foundation issues.

Finally, they were able to buy a four-bedroom house they loved in the East Bay, paying about $100,000 over the $1.89 million asking price to beat out another bidder. “We were a little bit overeager because we’d been burned twice,” he said. “We probably didn’t do the due diligence we should have and looked at everything as thoroughly as we probably should have.”

They closed on the hillside house in November. When they returned a few weeks later to move in, “we see all these holes in the siding,” Mr. Weiss said. On closer inspection, they found that the wood on one side of the house was “absolutely devastated,” with some 90 holes in it. It turned out that the culprits were acorn woodpeckers living in the large oak trees surrounding the house. “Come to find out, it’s a systemic problem in the neighborhood,” Mr. Weiss said.

The seller hadn’t said anything about the birds, he said, and coming from Brooklyn, he and his wife didn’t know to ask. Since then, they have tried various deterrent devices and consulted with exterminators, but the only permanent solution is to replace the home’s wooden siding with cement at a cost of roughly $150,000.

If it weren’t for the frothy pandemic market, Mr. Weiss believes they would have discovered the problem before closing. “I think we would have been slower and more thoughtful and more methodical,” he said. “Buying a home becomes emotional. Because we were emotional from losing the first two and the competitiveness, we just kind of dropped our level of diligence and plowed through.”

(more…)

Zillow & ShowingTime

Wouldn’t it be great if they published the number of showings publicly?  It would help buyers know how competitive the bidding will be (or not), and later it would help to qualify the comp. When pricing the next listing down the street, you never know if the sales being used were a result of open-market activity or if a crazy buyer paid too much when they didn’t have to.  Knowing how many times the home was shown would be quality intel for future buyers and agents.

SEATTLEFeb. 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow Group has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ShowingTime.com, Inc., an online scheduling platform for home showings, for $500 million. Touring is one of the most important steps in the home shopping and selling journey, and ShowingTime’s technology has streamlined and dramatically improved the touring experience. They are an industry leader, and Zillow Group will continue to invest in ShowingTime and increase its engagement among agents and partners.

“We have been impressed with ShowingTime’s ability to simplify a cumbersome but critical part of the home shopping experience by integrating with MLSs, agents and brokers, and giving buyers’ agents an easier way to schedule showings with listing agents,” said Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer at Zillow Group. “ShowingTime will remain an open platform available to all industry participants, and we expect to grow ShowingTime’s engagement through all channels to ensure touring is easier for the industry and consumers.”

ShowingTime has a network of nearly one million agents across North America and has developed relationships with hundreds of Multiple Listing Services (MLSs). ShowingTime coordinates schedules behind the scenes so that agents can seamlessly book a confirmed home showing online and focus on their clients, not coordinating a complicated process. In 2020, the company facilitated more than 50 million showings industry-wide. Agents can update their listings’ availability for showings through the network, enabling interested buyers’ agents to schedule home tours online with the click of a button.

ShowingTime’s industry-leading technology will help increase tour volume and transactions for industry partners, including Premier Agents. Many Zillow Premier Agents are already using ShowingTime and value the ease it brings in scheduling tours. Zillow shoppers who request tours are high-intent buyers, and ShowingTime’s service enables more seamless tours for those buyers and sellers.

“This is a pivotal moment in real estate, and customer expectations for a simplified, tech-enabled experience are rising,” said Mike Lane, President of ShowingTime. “The ShowingTime technology serves nearly a million real estate professionals, and we look forward to sharing our technology solutions with even more customers, enabling a truly seamless real estate transaction that is efficient and simple.”

The acquisition will accelerate adoption of ShowingTime’s technology as home shoppers and sellers, agents and industry partners move toward a more efficient, digital future.

Link to Press Release

Realtor MLS Club

Selling a house is different every time – it’s truly the wild, wild west.

Because there are no standard rules of engagement on how to sell a home, everyone does it differently.  I had an agent accost me on why my offer was so low (it was full price), to which I said that it’s my preference to save my bullets for the highest-and-best round. She responded, “WE NEVER COUNTER”.

You just never know what to expect.

With real estate, every house is different, and so are the players (sellers, buyers, and agents).  Mortgage rates go up and down, loan-qualifying affects buyers differently, and resolving the condition of the home is a wild card on every deal.  Even if there was a simple way to navigate those, you still have to contend with the emotions and egos of the human beings involved – which can be extreme when dealing with a life-changing decision that might have to last you forever.

Now add the low-supply/high-demand environment, and it’s never been so crucial to get good help.

Yet, Zillow, Redfin, and others want you to believe that they can dumb down the process into a paperwork shuffle. They pitch lower costs, but never consider that a home’s sales price depends on who is selling it – and there is a wide variance in today’s market.

The NAR doesn’t get it either. They are creating a national MLS to compete with Zillow, but unless they spend multi-millions of dollars on advertising (very doubtful) the buyers and sellers won’t know they exist.

What we need is for realtors to stand up and save the model that has worked the best for all parties.

Last year was all fun and games as we got used to the new intensity.  But now it’s obvious that the low inventory is causing a sea change among buyers. In the Under-$2,000,000 market, the comps don’t matter any more, and winning at any price becomes the only goal.

Once buyers figure that out, they will appreciate getting good help like never before – and hopefully before it’s too late. If a seller picks the wrong agent, it only means leaving money on the table, which is the cost of real estate ignorance.

The best chance to ensure that the traditional model endures is for realtors to create our own private listing club, and these guys are on to it. They had 700 agents on this call, which is impressive but it’s early and they would need to commit massive resources to reach the entire country.  The word-of-mouth among agents could take them a long way, however.

Here’s a peek behind the scenes.  Decide if you think they can sell it, or if they might hit the eject button when the heat gets hot – because the outsiders are going to challenge this idea:

Get Good Help!

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Zillow vs. Realtors

We wondered what might happen when Zillow changed from a search portal to a brokerage last week.

Zillow showed us who’s the boss.

They deleted the last 50-100 sales from EVERY agent I checked, and ALL active listings were wiped off the agent profile.

They also tweaked my headshot!

None of my past sales on Zillow had any connection to the MLS – they were all manually uploaded, so this wasn’t a MLS-related event.  So I guess Zillow deliberately removed the past sales and active listings!

They haven’t responded to requests as to why, or whether they will put them back.

The MLS-listed properties used to have the listing agent plus the three-headed combo of Premier Agents who were prominently featured in the right-hand column.  The PAs pay hefty advertising fees for placement, but now they are listed below the schools which is down towards the bottom of the listing.  They are called ‘personal guides’ now:

The listing agent does get a one-liner mention too.

Zillow demonstrated their killer instinct previously when they tried to squash Trulia by out-spending them on advertising. Then Zillow bought Trulia and made them a sidekick. Has anyone heard of Trulia lately?

The days of Zillow playing nice with agents are over.

Today’s realtors might survive as long as the baby boomers, who are the only people left who might remember – and appreciate – getting good help. After that, Zillow will declare that the cabal has been broken, and convince you that all you need is a transactional brokerage to handle your paperwork.

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Listing Photos Gone Wild

More crazy listing photos!

Thanks to the new fan-favorite Instagram page “Zillow Gone Wild,” we now have this hand-picked collection of seriously odd real estate findings that’ll make you look twice, thrice, and think of something nice to say about it. Because many times, money can get you a mansion, but it won’t buy you taste.

https://www.boredpanda.com/zillow-gone-wild-real-estate-company-findings/

https://www.instagram.com/zillowgonewild/

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

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