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Automated Scheduling of Showings

The industry has been abuzz over Zillow buying ShowingTime, our appointment-scheduling service.

Wouldn’t it be great if Zillow published the number of showings publicly? The intel that could be gathered would be of great interest to buyers, and help enhance the home-selling transparency.

The data is already available.

Buyer-agents who book their appointments to show on the ShowingTime mobile app can see the whole schedule of times already reserved by other agents. It also makes you wonder if listing agents are reserving a bunch of times to make their listing look more popular (no names or other info is given on the app).

If buyers knew how many showings were scheduled, it would help them decide how much to offer.

Same with the number of offers.

The trend is to do less for buyers, so when asked, most listing agents won’t discuss how many offers they’ve received – and they certainly won’t divulge the offer prices.

But they should.

It would give other buyers a number to shoot at, and that transparency alone makes them more likely to hit it, or even offer more.  It’s an old wives’ tale that you can’t divulge – the opposite is stated in the contract:

Another benefit of divulging the number of offers and their terms is you quickly eliminate the non-players.  Most buyers are comfortable offering the list price, and +/- 5%, so why not just tell them that you have an offer that is 12% over list and save them the trouble – and save the listing agent from having to process another offer that’s going nowhere.

You can then concentrate on having the real players compete against one another.

It sounds like an auction, doesn’t it?

JtR’s New Listing

10541 Galena Canyon Rd., San Diego 92127

6 br/5.5 ba, 3,780sf

7,316sf lot

LP = $1,599,000

Enjoy the American Dream of living on a quiet culdesac (rare in 4S Ranch) with big backyard that faces south for max natural light inside! This highly-upgraded and turnkey executive home in the estates by Mission Ranch has FOUR en-suite bedrooms (3 up and 1 down), hardwood floors, new carpet & paint, dual-zone A/C, three-car garage and is around the corner from Liberty Park and 1,000+ acres of open space!


Frenzy Report

Del Mar Heights has always been a sexy option – the access to beach/freeway/UCSD is excellent, and two of the best elementary schools in the county are a short walk. Like in other areas, the inventory has dried up, so when this one hit the market, it created a tsunami of interest.  Look at the number of views & saves:

They ended up with 42 offers!

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/13883-Boquita-Dr-Del-Mar-CA-92014/16764209_zpid/

Talk about perfect timing!  The day after the bidding concluded on the home above, this estate sale hit the market, and about half of the disappointed group ran over here to make an offer:

They received at least 19 offers!

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/14238-Minorca-Cv-Del-Mar-CA-92014/16764756_zpid/

We can expect both to be in the March double-digit-over-list group at 15% to 20% above.

If three-quarters of those unsuccessful buyers throw their hands up and decide to sit this out for a while, there will still be several competitors frothing at the mouth for the next one – even at $1,500,000+.

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Sell for the Zestimate?

Would you sell your house for the zestimate? They say their accuracy is within 1.9% with on-market homes – no kidding! Of course, they concoct the zestimate after the list price is published, just like Redfin does.

There’s been no shortage of news when it comes to Zillow, a company that kicked things off in the early 2000s with a home-search portal that consumers now recognize as the place to go for market inventory. Now, the Zestimate, introduced by the company in 2006, is the latest cog in a machine that has taken on an entirely new model: brokerage, iBuyer, lender, title and escrow service, and, most recently, showing service.

Zillow has just announced that it will be pairing its Zestimate with its iBuying arm, Zillow Offers, as the latest way to use technology to “simplify and streamline real estate transactions from beginning to end.”

The Zestimate is now available as an initial cash offer for eligible homes in the following cities:

  • Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.
  • Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.
  • Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Orlando and Tampa, Fla.
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento, Calif.
  • Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas
  • Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.

However, the cash offer for a property’s Zestimate is only available in a limited subset of homes in these markets. Those who own qualifying homes will see the cash offer displayed at the top of their property information on Zillow, the company reports. As Zillow Offers grows, the company expects to continue expanding the number of eligible homes for the Zestimate cash offer.

Additionally, the company states the initial offer is before taxes and fees and is subject to both eligibility and the accuracy of the property’s description.

“For 15 years, homeowners and home shoppers have come to rely on the Zestimate as an essential first step. This exciting advancement demonstrates the confidence we have in the Zestimate and the lengths we are willing to go to make selling your home truly seamless and easy,” said Zillow Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Wacksman in a statement. “This is a proud moment for Zillow’s tech team and speaks to the advancements they’ve made in machine learning and AI technology. Zillow is transforming the way people sell and buy homes. Presenting the Zestimate as a cash offer to qualifying homes up front will save time, reduce friction and provide greater transparency—getting us closer to our vision of helping customers transact with the click of a button.”

A hot-button issue in the past has been the accuracy of Zestimates. Real estate agents have long complained of sellers pushing back on proposed listing prices that don’t meet the expectations set by their Zestimate.

“Zillow’s move to use their Zestimate as the basis for a cash offer is bold, although I’m more amused than concerned. The accuracy of Zestimates have long been a running joke among the real estate community, but I wouldn’t put it past Zillow to make it work through careful selection and their continued acquisition of more data,” says Josh Harley, chairman and CEO of Fathom Realty.

Kit Fitzgerald, regional designated broker for the Kit Fitzgerald Team at Equity Northwest Real Estate, says that because the Zestimate is algorithm-based, it’s impossible to get the same accuracy that a living person such as a REALTOR® can provide. “It plugs in a bunch of numbers, zip codes, mapping, etc., and spits out a general number,” says Fitzgerald, who adds that without going inside of a home, assessing the overall condition of a home, the layout, amenities, street scene, etc., the accuracy is just not there.

According to Zillow, the Zestimate is available for nearly 100 million homes in the U.S. with a “nationwide median error rate for on-market homes of 1.9%.” To come up with a property Zestimate, Zillow reportedly uses data from public records, multiple listings services, brokers and artificial intelligence that pulls information from photographs.

Is photo-based data enough to support neighborhood comparables to come up with a home valuation, however? Michael Hickman, CEO and president of Seven Gables Real Estate, a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, doesn’t think so.

“The issue with Zestimates is the interior,” says Hickman. “Any AI can look at comps, but what about the interior improvements that an AI would not pick up? Without AI scanning interior upgrades, the Zestimate will never be accurate.”

As Harley suggests, Zillow’s recent endeavors suggest the company is seeking out more data to build out their capabilities, and according to David Serle, broker/owner of RE/MAX Services, this could be a good thing—at least when it comes to Zestimates.

“I think this is a positive thing. There have been concerns since 2006, when Zestimates first became available, about the accuracy of these valuations,” says Serle. “This will create greater transparency for the consumer and the real estate industry.”

What it comes down to, however, is that Zillow’s iBuyer solution won’t meet the needs of every home seller, according to brokers and agents, regardless of whether or not they are offering an initial cash offer based off the Zestimate.

“There is a certain amount of people who would gravitate to an iBuyer sale and many who will not,” says Serle. “Typically, a cash offer in most iBuyer programs could be as much as 10-15% off the market value, especially in a ‘hot’ seller’s market around the country. I do not believe real estate brokers or agents are competing against iBuyer programs or consumer portals; we are relationship driven and strive to push forth the best consumer experience possible. All of these tools cannot replace what an experienced, knowledgeable and excellent real estate agent does.”

In today’s market, for example, Cathy Strittmater—team leader of Cathy’s Home Team of Keller Williams Solutions—says sellers can expect multiple-offer scenarios, and that should impact decisions about going on the market or accepting an instant cash offer.

“In today’s market of multiple offers on properties, and values rising quickly, it’s in sellers’ best interests to sell their home on the open market rather than sell to a single vendor who is also ascertaining value,” says Strittmater. “I would personally consider that a conflict of interest—no differently than dual agency is also a conflict of interest.”

Fitzgerald is of the same mindset, stating a Zestimate might give sellers a general idea of their pricing ballpark, but it’s not a great overall tool to assess value.

“In an ever-changing real estate market, you’d hate to potentially leave money on the table by not opening up the sale of your home to a much larger number of well-qualified buyers,” says Fitzgerald. “The instant purchase is a good tool for some, but I believe that for the vast majority of homeowners, the open market provides more healthy competition for your home.”

While the iBuyer model won’t appeal to all, Harley does caution that industry practitioners should maintain a competitive stance when it comes to Zillow and these instant-cash business models.

“They’re smart and they are a monster of our own creation,” says Harley. “We allowed it to happen and now agents are shocked that the foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists were actually right. iBuyer programs have a long, long way to go before they are a real threat. Right now, it’s more smoke than fire, but if we’re not careful and figure out ways to compete effectively and provide a true value exchange for our services, REALTORS® and their clients will be the ones who get burned.”

Link to Article

Low Inventory, More Sales

The NYT has another article lamenting the drop in the number of homes for sale, and offered some reasons, like covid reluctance, sellers skittish about finding their next home, forbearance relief, the lack of building new homes, and people keeping their old home as an investment property when they buy a new one.

But who cares about inventory when we’re having MORE SALES THAN EVER.

It’s true that the number of new listings this year is about 23% behind where it was last year at this time.

The other day I compared just to 2020, but here’s a look at the last ten years:

NSDCC Closed Sales Jan 1 – Feb 15

Year
# of Sales
Median Sales Price
2011
158
$810,500
2012
153
$749,000
2013
197
$845,000
2014
261
$1,007,500
2015
252
$1,200,000
2016
253
$1,125,000
2017
260
$1,200,000
2018
231
$1,300,000
2019
242
$1,288,000
2020
254
$1,394,775
2021
299
$1,695,000
% Change, YoY
+18%
+22%

We haven’t had this big of a jump in number of sales AND median sales price to start the year since the Frenzy of 2013 bled into early 2014 when we had a 32% increase in sales and +19% in median sales price. Back in 2004, we had a 26% increase in the median sales price (from $635,000 to $799,000), but the number of sales dropped from 253 to 209.

This is the new reality – more people chasing fewer homes for sale.

Buyers who might think we’re going to get a pullback because rates have gone up are going to get a good lesson on who’s in charge here. Sellers don’t care about rate hikes, lack of inventory, or your lease expiring. They just want their money, and if they don’t get it today, they will wait until they do.

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Zillow Offers

The talk about the cost of home-selling is reaching new heights, yet if you have a zillion-dollar marketing budget and brand recognition, you can get away with charging twice as much and get away with it.

All they have to do is feature advertisements like this one with loveable people singing their praises, and homeowners with more equity than they ever imagined will be happy just to call the dream-weavers.

There is NO mention of the cost of doing business here, but it is double what I charge – and I push the sales price to the extreme, while they convince you that their price is all you’ll ever get:

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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