Aisling Swindell was paying so much for rent last year—$2,100 per month to live in a studio in Downtown LA—she figured she might as well buy a place.
“The house I ended up buying was $440,000, which is insane, right?” says Swindell, who works for an online fashion company.
That price tag, which is $178,000 below the median in LA County, sounds unbelievable, especially for what she bought: 870 square feet in the city, plus a little yard, lots of natural light, some stylish updates, and charming, 1930s-era details, like wainscoting and solid wood doors.
But while she’s no longer a renter, she still doesn’t, technically, own a house.
Her $440,000 bought her a share of a larger property: a triplex on an 8,344-square-foot lot in Jefferson Park. Her right to occupy the unit, and her responsibility for maintaining it, are spelled out in a contract with her neighbors, who live in the triplex and, with her, are its joint owners.
If you’re interested, I can deliver a cash offer to you today!
Here’s research on the costs:
But what, exactly, do iBuyers bring to the table for home sellers? And, can this business model survive the housing market downturn so many are predicting?
That’s what Collateral Analytics sought to answer in a recent paper on the topic, which offered a deep dive into the strength of the iBuying concept.
First introduced in Phoenix by Opendoor in 2014, the iBuying concept offers home sellers the opportunity to sell and close on their home within days, hassle-free. The iBuyer then completes any necessary repairs and lists the home for sale.
“For motivated sellers who want a predictable sale date and need to move, perhaps a long distance from the current location, there is no question that iBuyers have provided a welcome alternative to traditional brokerage,” Collateral Analytics pointed out.
But all that convenience comes at a cost. The paper dissected the math behind the model, estimating that sellers end up paying between 13% to 15% more when they work with an iBuyer. This covers a difference in fees that ranges from 2% to 5% greater than a traditional real estate agency, plus an allowance for repairs and another 3% to 5% to cover the iBuyer’s liquidity risks and carrying costs.
The paper also noted that the iBuying model makes these companies susceptible to a number of risks, including the need to safeguard vacant homes and the possibility that the automated valuation models they rely on will overvalue a property, resulting in a loss.
They could also face troubles if home prices decline.
“A downturn in home prices, not forecast by the iBuyer market analysts, could be devastating as they ramp up their business platforms, particularly if the cost of capital increases,” the paper stated. “At the same time, downturns are precisely when the most sellers would want this option.”
While Collateral Analytics lists several companies that are investing big in the iBuyer model – including Opendoor, OfferPad, Zillow Offers, Redfin, Realogy CataLIST, Perch and Keller Offers from Keller Williams – it also states that only the most efficient firms with enough capital and market share are likely to survive.
And of course, this all depends on how appealing the concept turns out to be, mainly, how many home sellers are willing to pay for convenience.
“For some sellers, needing to move or requiring quick extraction of equity, this is certainly worthwhile,” the paper stated, “but what percentage of the market will want this service remains to be seen.”
The big money and heavy competition is causing ibuyers to juice their offerings.
Opendoor will buy your house for cash, they will buy your next house, they have rebates, and now they will even buy your house back within 90 days if you don’t like it.
Our belief is that everyone should love the home they just purchased, and we are going to stand behind that. Opendoor guarantees buyers will love the experience and purchase the home of their dreams at the best price, or we will buy the home back within 90 days. This guarantee extends to qualifying homes in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Raleigh-Durham.
There are conditions, of course. This is the most intriguing (bold added):
In the case of a Third Party Home, we require a copy of a licensed general inspection report, and reserve the right not to offer the guarantee if there is any material defect identified in the report (e.g., foundation issues, roof damage, inoperable HVAC systems, unpermitted additions) or if Opendoor determines the purchase price is materially above the fair market value of the home. We will contact you within 24 hours of receipt of the report if this is the case.
They don’t have experienced, professional agents to represent you. Nope, just ‘tour assistants’ who open the door – so how will you know if you paid fair market value?
People will believe what they want to believe, and the company will help sway your opinion by having comments like this on their website:
A really good price, and a really good deal?
There will be buyers who jump at that!
These companies don’t want to get realtors involved, and the excuse is always because we cost too much.
But these disrupters don’t want the customer to know too much – either buyer or seller – so they can skim a few more bucks off them. It has the potential of creating an artificial market, where the companies tell you what the houses are worth – and you better like it!
The path forward is becoming more clear. Zillow is rapidly expanding their ibuying enterprise, and because they are so well-known, they have a shot at a major disruption.
In the video below, Mike describes how homeowners who used to rely on their zestimate for a home valuation are now getting a written quote from ibuyers – for free. In Phoenix, the center of the ibuying universe, 40% of homeowners get a quote from an ibuyer before selling their home.
In effect, ibuying is the new zestimate, and more tangible because if you like the number, you could sell your house instantly.
Sure, Zillow is losing money, but their first-year volume is remarkable:
Since launching Zillow Offers in April 2018, more than 170,000 homeowners have requested an offer through the program. In the second quarter alone, there were 70,000 requests.
Zillow reported that it made $1,578 on each home it sold in the second quarter before interest expenses are calculated. After interest expenses, the company, on average, lost $2,916 per home. Barton believes that, eventually, the company will earn 400-500 basis points of return before interest expenses on homes it sells.
It’s an improvement, however, over the company’s first-quarter numbers, where it lost, on average, $3,268 per home it sold, after interest expenses.
“Over time, our unit economics should benefit more from other adjacent services, like mortgage origination, title and escrow,” Barton said in a letter to shareholders. “We expect to be able to leverage these services to support Zillow Offers and improve the consumer’s overall transaction experience, while also generating cost savings for Zillow and our customers.”
They are the only real estate company that has been willing to spend $100 million per year in advertising, and it’s what made them who they are today. It won’t matter if they charge 7% to 13% for their service, all that matters is that they advertise it – which may not be that costly.
Because many or most homeowners have saved their home on Zillow (giving up their email address), they will get regular solicitations to sell their house to Zillow.
Look how easy it is – one click and you get a cash offer…….just like 500+ others near you:
If you have 18 minutes to spare, Mike’s presentation below is a full examination:
Mike mentions that he thinks the companies who position themselves at the start of the consumer journey will win. Stay tuned for a Compass announcement shortly!
Maybe having a mortgage is going out of fashion now that the affluent have taken over real estate? Or do we just need to Get Good Help with filing taxes? (30%-40% of Americans prepare their own taxes)
The mortgage-interest deduction, a beloved tax break bound tightly to the American dream of homeownership, once seemed politically invincible. Then it nearly vanished in middle-class neighborhoods across the country, and it appears that hardly anyone noticed.
In places like Plainfield, a southwestern outpost in the area known locally as Chicagoland, the housing market is humming. The people selling and buying homes do not seem to care much that President Trump’s signature tax overhaul effectively, although indirectly, vaporized a longtime source of government support for homeowners and housing prices.
The 2017 law nearly doubled the standard deduction — to $24,000 for a couple filing jointly — on federal income taxes, giving millions of households an incentive to stop claiming itemized deductions.
As a result, far fewer families — and, in particular, far fewer middle-class families — are claiming the itemized deduction for mortgage interest. In 2018, about one in five taxpayers claimed the deduction, Internal Revenue Service statistics show. This year, that number fell to less than one in 10. For families earning less than $100,000, the decline was even more stark.
The benefit, as it remains, is largely for high earners, and more limited than it once was: The 2017 law capped the maximum value of new mortgage debt eligible for the deduction at $750,000, down from $1 million. There has been no audible public outcry, prompting some people in Washington to propose scrapping the tax break entirely.
For decades, the mortgage-interest deduction has been alternately hailed as a linchpin of support for homeownership (by the real estate industry) and reviled as a symbol of tax policy gone awry (by economists). What pretty much everyone agreed on, though, was that it was politically untouchable.
Nearly 30 million tax filers wrote off a collective $273 billion in mortgage interest in 2018. Repealing the deduction, the conventional wisdom presumed, would effectively mean raising taxes on millions of middle-class families spread across every congressional district. And if anyone were tempted to try, an army of real estate brokers, home builders and developers — and their lobbyists — were ready to rush to the deduction’s defense.
Now, critics of the deduction feel emboldened.
“The rejoinder was always, ‘Oh, but you’d never be able to get rid of the mortgage-interest deduction,’ but I certainly wouldn’t say never now,” said William G. Gale, an economist at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to President George H.W. Bush. “It used to be that this was a middle-class birthright or something like that, but it’s kind of hard to argue that when only 8 percent of households are taking the deduction.”
Brokerages are finding new ways to convince sellers to do in-house deals – an excerpt:
According to Charles Williams, CEO of Buyside, “the software we supply to Metro Brokers unlocks the power of their buyer data for agents so they can win more listings, become more profitable and command greater control over their inventory.”
Buyside’s core products include Home Valuation landing pages, which combines multiple automated home valuations with visualizations of real-time buyer intent; Buyer Match™ dashboard, which intelligently pairs homebuyers and sellers within a brokerage; and Real-Time Buyside Market Analysis (BMA), which arms a brokerage’s agents with insights on buyer demand to help them close more listing presentations.
“Our affiliation with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate provides our firm with outstanding analytics and business intelligence tools that are the cornerstone of excellence in any leading real estate firm today,” says McClelland. “We have tremendous success marketing properties for sale and leveraging the Zap platform for maturing homebuyers. Today’s homebuyers are shopping for about 240 days before closing. When securing a new listing, our agents use Buyside to explain that the likely buyer for that property has already been working with a Metro Brokers agent for months. The value proposition of our firm’s listing presentation is not how we will find buyers, but the number of homebuyers that we have looking for their home today. We don’t believe that any other brokerage in Georgia has more home buyers than Metro Brokers.”
We were talking with some friends last night about how much financial support is going towards kids, and how it will affect real estate in the future.
On one hand, it’s the Bank of Mom and Dad, and helping to keep the market afloat when funding home purchases at these lofty prices for those kids with regular jobs.
However, for those kids who never get to the point of financial stabilization, the selling of the parents home will become the lottery ticket to solve their money issues.
I suggested that this is where the ibuyers could do the most harm by taking advantage of people who want and need a quick sale and who aren’t that familiar with the values.
When we were in Las Vegas for that one-day vacation, I saw more than one ibuyer ad on TV, and they were very enticing. The kids who have been strapped for years and then inherit their parents’ house might jump at the chance to get their hands on quick money – and likely leave some on the table.
Will anyone step up to protect the unsuspecting? A new challenge/opportunity for realtors!
The traditional way of selling homes has been picked apart for years now, and the players of the future are emerging. It’s shaping up to be a competition between full-service brokerages vs. Redfin vs. ibuyers.
This article describes the power play, and features Compass as Case Study #1:
Compass has traded capital for rapid growth, raising a reported $1.2 billion and a valuation of $4.4 billion. With these resources at its disposal and not shy about losing money for the moment, Compass has been catalyzing growth by offering significant sign-on bonuses, investing deeply in technology, and doubling down on M&A.
Many observers have a hard time understanding how any brokerage can invest so aggressively, often complaining that “it’s not sustainable” – “it makes no sense” – “it’s not a profitable way to do business”.
It does make sense, however, if you consider the superpowers that a company gains by reaching the tipping point first and thus becoming a single, dominant company that can 1) grow by making the market and 2) differentiate and dominate through data.
For Compass, San Francisco is ground zero for this strategy, where the firm has about 36% of the market. Compass has expanded its local footprint quickly through acquisition, the latest being the March acquisition of Alain Pinel with its1,300 agents and $12.2 billion in 2017 sales volume—the third such acquisition in 8 months. According to Compass, the company is not only the biggest brokerage in the Bay Area, “it is now the largest residential brokerage in the country by sales volume, growing from $15 billion to more than $35 billion between January 2018 and January 2019.”
Compass has realized that market share makes their brokering power bigger. With more listings and more buyers, they can bolster your exclusive “coming soon,” “off-market,” and “in-house” transactions that the competition can’t match, creating a “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”) effect in both customers and agents.
If you’re a consumer or an agent looking at the screen below from compass.com, which shows Compass’ exclusive off-market and coming soon listings, how could you not work with Compass?
These tactics fuel the incentives for buyers to work with Compass because Compass has the exclusive listings. And that means sellers have to work with Compass because they have all the active buyers working with their brokerage. And finally, agents will have to work with Compass because that’s where the action is. Boosting agent recruitment then brings in more listings and buyers, fueling that superpower growth loop.
If you want access to the market, you now have to go to the company who has the greatest ability to make the market, and that, in San Francisco, is clearly Compass.
Compass is working off this specific strategy:
Hire the top listing agents in each market area.
Create a search portal that rivals Zillow and Redfin.
Offer Compass Concierge to get homes in top condition prior to selling.
Offer exclusive listings on compass.com for days/weeks in advance of MLS input.
Use strategy to attract buyers & sellers, and recruit more listing agents.
The not-so-obvious critical step is the creation of a national search portal that intends to be the dominant real estate website in America. The current version has a ways to go before deserving that attention, but after another year or two of development it could be worthy.
Notorious Rob explores Andrew’s article further here:
Today, Google is one of the Bay Area’s largest employers. Across the region, one issue stands out as particularly urgent and complex: housing. The lack of new supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents. As Google grows throughout the Bay Area—whether it’s in our home town of Mountain View, in San Francisco, or in our future developments in San Jose and Sunnyvale—we’ve invested in developing housing that meets the needs of these communities. But there’s more to do.
Today we’re announcing an additional $1 billion investment in housing across the Bay Area.
First, over the next 10 years, we’ll repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing. This will enable us to support the development of at least 15,000 new homes at all income levels in the Bay Area, including housing options for middle and low-income families. (By way of comparison, 3,000 total homes were built in the South Bay in 2018). We hope this plays a role in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents.
Second, we’ll establish a $250 million investment fund so that we can provide incentives to enable developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units across the market.
In addition to the increased supply of affordable housing these investments will help create, we will give $50 million in grants through Google.org to nonprofits focused on the issues of homelessness and displacement. This builds on the $18 million in grants we’ve given to help address homelessness over the last five years, including $3 million we gave to the newly openedSF Navigation Center and $1.5 million toaffordable housing for low income veterans and households in Mountain View.
Google started in the SF Bay Area, and we know our responsibility to help starts at home: we’re making a $1B investment to enable the development of 20K new homes in the region at all income levels, including affordable housing options in the next 10 years https://t.co/vVEYOFIUm5
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