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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.

2021 Moving Survey Results

The results are in!

We reached 1,692 people, of which 89 participated in the survey, which is about right.

Let’s go through each question.

Q1. Most of the participants (2/3) already live in San Diego County.  The question was passive in nature, but it was interesting that 10 out of 86 people have thought about moving here!

Q2. No surprise that 2/3s aren’t moving, but stunning that the next highest category was those who are selling and leaving California!  Of those who are moving, 37% are leaving the state!

Q3. (No chart) Their results chart was poorly formatted, but 10 out of 70 rated their likelihood of moving as an 8,9 or 10.

Q4. Of those who plan to move, 27% are jumping right on it in the first quarter of 2021!

Q5. Covid-19 only caused 5 people to change their plans about moving?

It’s still 7% of those surveyed, which is enough to change the outcome, especially if we had that much more inventory to sell. The tipping point is probably more like 15% to 20% additional inventory to sell – then buyers might take a step back to see where this is going.

Q6. A bit of a shocker here: Getting My Price was the least concern!  It may look easy, but getting your price in 2021 will require skill and some luck. Finding the Next Home is by far the biggest concern, and if we have more inventory it could grease the wheels a bit.

Q7. Those who aren’t moving would have selected the #4 answer, but glad to see the majority believe in good help!

Others left warm thoughts appreciating the blog and the effort. It’s my pleasure – thanks for participating!

2021 Frenzy Preview

While the 2020 is winding down and we look forward to next year, I’ll occasionally repost the unique factors that will have impact on the 2021 selling season. Let me know of any others:

Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates – Rates around 3% are expected to continue through 2021, and they are probably the #1 factor that keeps buyers interested – because you can buy more house!  This is especially helpful for those who are trying to move up – if their current rate is higher, then getting 3% or lower helps to offset the increase in price.

Vaccine News – Just the thought of Covid-19 coming to an end will energize the populace, and the motivated buyers & sellers will want to get a jump on it – even before any actual vaccine is readily available.

Work From Home – This trend frees up many to move.

Unemployment – Older homeowners will grapple with taking a pay cut or quitting the job-search altogether. Retiring earlier than expected won’t seem so bad when their home’s equity has never been so high, and more boomer moves that would have happened in 2022-2025 will be pulled forward.

Eviction Ban – With both tenants and landlords being affected, this new frustration could cause more transactions that are rushed (buyers pay too much/sellers giving it away).

Politics – No matter who wins the presidential election, it will be the last straw for some.

Divorce Rate is Up 34% YoY – Technically, this could add more buyers and sellers, but realistically those coming out of a divorce will be more likely to split their equity and take a break.

Prop 19 – Our association swears that more 55+ seniors will move if Prop 19 passes, so if it does, we’ll have more sellers and buyers. I still expect Prop 19 to be soundly defeated.

Capital-gains tax.  From the WSJ: Biden will raise the tax on the capital gains of high earners to the same rate as wage income, increasing the rate to 43.4% (39.6% plus Medicare 3.8% investment tax) from 23.8%. Mr. Biden on Thursday estimated that these increases on high earners would raise $92 billion, but that’s before they put their tax lawyers to work. Biden has also said he will eliminate the 1031 exchanges, but all of the above will need Congressional approval. Just the thought could cause landlords to hurry up their plans of selling.

Don’t Own Here Yet – Renters, first-timers, and out-of-towners have a different look at our home values because they don’t own here yet.  They are more motivated to get their hands on something, and will pay more than those who are just trying to do better than what they already own.  The market will hinge on buyers in this category!

Those are TEN reasons why 2021 will be the most exciting real estate market ever!

Get Good Help!

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)

Bad Time to Buy?

Here’s a sexy headline:

Red-hot home prices have more consumers saying now is a bad time to buy

Anyone out hunting for a house knows that bidding wars are no longer the exception, but the rule.  Demand for housing has been unusually strong, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and supply is historically lean. That is a recipe for high prices, which are now beginning to take their toll on potential homebuyers’ confidence.

The share of buyers who say they think it’s a good time to buy fell in September, from 59% to 54%, according to a new survey from Fannie Mae.

Home values were up nearly 6% annually, according to CoreLogic, a data analytics firm. More consumers now expect those price gains to grow.

The percentage of respondents to the Fannie Mae survey who says prices will go up in the next year increased from 33% to 41%, while the share who said prices would go down decreased from 26% to just 17%.

More people do think now is a good time to sell a home, which is an improvement from the first months of the pandemic, when potential sellers didn’t want shoppers in their homes and worried about the state of the overall economy.

If seller sentiment improves substantially, that could help bolster supply and take away at least some of the heat in prices.

“Going forward, we believe the wild card to be whether enough sellers enter the market to continue to meet the strong homebuying demand,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “The home purchase market requires the proper mix of home price growth and continued economic recovery to achieve sustainable levels of housing activity.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/08/red-hot-home-prices-have-more-consumers-saying-now-is-a-bad-time-to-buy.html

A bad time to buy? When you can get a mortgage rate under 3%?

Any possible declines in home prices will be offset by higher mortgage rates, so there won’t be much, if any, savings in your payment if prices did come down – but fewer people in the survey think that’s going to happen. You would pay less property taxes, however.

Saying it’s ‘a tough time to buy’ would be more accurate.  Finding the right house, at the right price, is extremely difficult – but many signs point to the supply increasing next year.  Stay engaged, regardless of what the talking heads tell you about the general market. You only need one!

Brittany Forrest Sold

On Monday, the sale of our Carmel Valley listing on Brittany Forrest closed escrow.

I had discussed previously the valuation challenge when a recent seller had dumped on price and became the comp.  It was a model-match that closed for $1,880,000 in May with a similar view but was in all-original condition, so for those who were just looking at the numbers, my $2,250,000 list price looked high.

I needed to deliver a compelling case on value, which I did – and we closed at $2,200,000.

I want to tell a story from when I was showing the home.  I had received the offer from the eventual buyer, and knew we had a good chance of making the deal because I already had the chance to discuss the comps with him and his agent, and they saw the light.

But two other showings were scheduled the next day, and one was by a Redfin agent.

I want to give every buyer a chance to compete, so I got back to both agents and told them I had received a very good offer the night before, and to bring their A-game later that afternoon.

The Redfin agent arrived before her buyers did, so we had a chance to talk:

JtR: Are you new at Redfin?

Redfin agent: No, this is my second week!

JtR: Are you one of the showing agents who makes $50 per door, or an agent who writes offers?

Redfin agent: I’m a showing agent, and we make $50 to $80 per door opened, depending on price.  I’m making $80 on this one.

JtR: Did you relay to your buyers or to an experienced agent in your office that I have received a good offer?

Redfin agent: I did tell our office agent, and they were going to try and join us, but it didn’t work out.

The buyers clearly had some interest, judging by their deliberate review of the home. They begin the critical walk to the front door, where good agents know that it’s time to ask the right questions, the right way, at the right time…for the buyers’ sake!  We are here to politely assist buyers in making the right real estate decisions for them.

Because the Redfin model only includes opening doors on the front side, there isn’t a relationship between this inexperienced agent, and the clients.  They’ve never met before.  Her response in crunch time?

Redfin agent:  Nice to meet you!

I jumped in and mentioned that we had received a good offer, and asked them if they wanted to buy the home.  They waved, and walked off.

The sale is in the preparation.  If they had been told before they arrived that they would need to make a decision promptly, they would look at the house differently – or cancelled the showing.  I’m sure they will have other opportunities to buy a home, so it isn’t the end of the world, but they might not buy one this nice for this price – and they deserved to know that from the beginning.

It saddens me that the industry is going this way. Zillow will follow with the same model, and there are plenty of realtors currently that don’t aspire to any greater heights, either.

The worst part – and the only reason I bring it up – is that the unsuspecting buyers and sellers don’t know the difference between realtors, and there is no attempt by anyone in the industry to tell them.

They deserve to Get Good Help!

Doom?

After another weekend of multiple-offer situations where the listing agents made no attempt whatsoever to create a bidding war, and instead just shut down the showings, it’s hard to believe there is any downturn coming our way. When you can get a mortgage rate in the twos, the demand is unyielding.

But some authors still want you to believe that doom is around the corner – they should talk to realtors on the street!  An excerpt:

The price of low-tier housing in San Diego County skyrocketed after the latter half of 2012. 2015 experienced another price increase, due to the boost given by decreased mortgage rates throughout 2015 and 2016. Lower mortgage rates free up more of a buyer’s monthly mortgage payment to put towards a bigger principal. Thus, San Diego’s high home prices continued to find fuel from increased buyer purchasing power.

But in 2018, home price increases sharply declined in reaction to slowing sales and rising interest rates, which began in late-2017. Home prices have since turned back up, but today lack the fundamental support of home sales volume to continue.  The annual pace of increase is now just 5%, lower than in recent years when the annual rise averaged around 10%.

Accurate home price reports run about two months behind current events. Even when caught up, sticky prices tend to persist several months beyond the moment when home sales volume begins to slow. Starting in March 2020, economic volatility and shelter-in-place orders caused home sales volume to decline dramatically. However, historically low interest rates have provided a boost for buyer purchasing power, which has propped up home prices thus far.

Later in 2020, the impact of record job losses will see downward pressure on home prices. The overall home price trend for the next couple of years will be down, the result of job losses and plummeting sales volume. As during the 2008 recession, the drop in sales volume and prices will first be most volatile on the coast, before rippling outward to inland areas.

Link to Article

Sales and pricing should be directly connected to inventory.

When there is hardly anything to buy, sales may decline, but pricing would stay the same or go higher because only the quality homes would be selling.  A surge of homes-for-sale in 2021 would fuel the demand and energize the marketplace…..to a point.

There will be a fine line between frenzy and glut!

Get Good Help!

Dear Homebuyer

Have you been searching for homes all summer, and still haven’t bought one?

Do you feel like the inventory has been mostly garbage that you wouldn’t buy at any price? Then once or twice a month you see a nice buy that turns into a bidding war and you don’t win it?  It happens, and unfortunately it might keep happening so be resilient.

This is the time of year when buyers want to give up.

It’s easy to get discouraged because you aren’t seeing as many new listings come to market these days – it’s hard to pay attention when days or weeks can pass without seeing a decent house.

Here are reasons why you should hang in there:

  1. Competition is waning. Some of the people we’ve been competing against have bought houses, but most importantly, more buyers have given up on 2020, and will wait for 2021.
  2. Inventory is dry, but you only need one.
  3. You can still get a mortgage rate that starts with a 2.
  4. It will be worse next year.

Looking at houses has never been more annoying. Agents have gone nuts with their demands for masks, gloves, booties, bank statements, preapproval letters and your first-born just to see a house. Many aren’t even nice about it – they have plenty of showing requests, so their attitude is if you don’t like it, kiss off.

If it bothers you that much, just wait a couple of weeks – they get more accommodating the longer the house is on the market.  But know that these demands have become a tactic to screen out buyers so they don’t have to work as much. I heard a listing agent complain recently about having to process paperwork for 52 showings – you know many just stop answering their phone.

While it is a hassle, you must see the best homes in person in case it’s a winner and you want to grab it.

What can you do to make the search more bearable?

Here are a few tips:

  • Revise your auto-searches. They are ‘upgrading’ the MLS this weekend, and our realtor auto-searches will need to be re-inputted. It will be a good time to re-visit yours to make sure they weren’t affected, and while you are there, bump your price up. It’s the best way to see better quality!
  • Use the 3D tours to save time. You’ve heard me say that Matterport 3D tours are terrible for sellers because agents rely on them to do the selling.  But the 3D tours are fantastic for buyers – be patient with them and remember that you will find something wrong with every house.
  • Use Google Street Views to cruise the neighborhoods.  How many times to you roll up to a new listing and the immediate neighbors make you want to keep driving? Avoid those time-wasters by viewing the neighborhood online.
  • Accept the fact that every house will need $25,000 to $50,000 in improvements/upgrades.  You will have to compromise somewhere – don’t give up on a house just because you find a defect. Money will fix everything except location – rejoice when you find something to fix!
  • Be prepared to make strong offers. Know the comps, have a solid preapproval letter, and shorten contingency timelines – which I hate to do but it’s one of the addictions now.
  • The market isn’t going to go down. Today’s inventory is almost entirely full of the homes that have been passed over for weeks or months.  Longer market times and price reductions only mean that those are dogs, not that the market is suffering. You want to buy a premium property anyway, and those will always be in fashion.

Keep the goal simple: Buy the right house, at the right price.

Be picky, rely on your tools, keep a laser focus and remember that it only takes one.

Future of San Diego Real Estate 2

The turnover and upgrading of neighborhoods is commonly called gentrification, and what it means around here is that the affluent buyers (many, if not most, from outside the county) take over the real estate market, one house at a time.

Their money does the talking – they pay more for houses because they can.

Those with the most horsepower tend to gravitate towards the coast, and once they arrive, they stay – heck, it’s paradise!  This has been happening for the last 100 years.

As a result, the North San Diego County coastal region is comprised of older homes, and homeowners who have lived here for 20, 30 or 40 years.  We are overdue for more turnover!

Who will be selling in the next 1-2 years?

Homeowners used to be more mobile when real estate was civil.  There were up & down cycles that kept a throttle on pricing, and moving up was more feasible. For example, you could have bought a home in the mid-to-late 1980s, had a kid or two, and then in the mid-to-late 1990s move up to a bigger home without too much financial strain because the market took a dip in between.  But if you bought anytime before 2015, it is extremely tough now to justify a move-up today due to the much-higher home prices and property taxes – unless you really need it.

Once the covid & politics simmer down (i.e., Spring, 2021), we should have more boomer liquidations.

We have to – they own all the houses around here, and they will be the only ones moving – they are the market.  We will be dependent upon how many of them will be clearing out.

Oh, you say, “Boomers are settled in, and they’re not moving!”

It certainly has been the trend for the last ten years, but we’re all much older now.  Isn’t it inevitable that more boomers – or their kids – will be selling?  Each day, 12,000 Americans celebrate their 60th birthday – look how it’s stacking up:

Even if the vast majority of boomers don’t sell in the next 1-2 years, there will be more selling than we’ve had recently.  Covid-19 has added a new dimension that held back the majority of boomers – 57% are waiting to put their home on the market, which means a potential surge next spring:

The number of boomers selling will be different in each neighborhood, and they will be selling for different reasons besides just being old:

  • Be closer to grandkids.
  • They need the money.
  • Kids need the money.
  • Neighborhood has changed.
  • Tired of the maintenance.
  • Politics.

We’ll have the usual number of home sales due to death, divorce, and job transfers (The Big Three).  It will be the number of younger boomers, ages 60-75, that move for the reasons above that will supplement the supply and create more balance between sellers and buyers than we’ve had in recent years.

More balance = more sales, and less pressure on prices.

It’s a fine line though. A few more sales would build more comps to keep prices rising faster. But if we get 57% more listings in one spring, the competition will settle down and pricing will do the same.

Results will vary in each neighborhood.  Just do a count – how many homeowners around you are 60+ years old? Don’t be surprised if you see more of them move in the next 1-2 years than ever before.

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