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Tag Archives: The Stat Pack
If you are frequently on Facebook, the last two weeks have undoubtedly shown many repost from a site called www.Factcheck.org. I wanted to see what kind of traffic this “non-partisan” site was getting compared to others.
The answer apparently, is that now that the election is drawing near and the stakes are being raised daily, it’s getting a lot more traffic. Those giant spikes in activity of course are corresponding with first, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and second with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. The bully pulpit can spin compelling narrative based on nothing more than soaring rhetoric, spew lies, or tell the truth. People seeking to making an informed decision might enjoy “the who & why”; but they truly value “the what & how”.
Data is critical in formulating informed decisions.
We (Pikes Peak Urban Living) take everything Larry Kendall has to say to heart; when we first started allowing him to have an impact on our business in 2007, a major point that kept resurfacing was one made Mr. Kendall’s friend, from the founder of Kroll Factual Data (you might see that organization on a closing statement as producing a credit report or tax certificate): “after digitization only the REALTORS will survive; but only the ones that have access to and know what to do with the data.”
The internet continues to change everything. Then and now, Kroll Factual Data didn’t see real estate practitioners going extinct; but they did see (correctly) that the future of the business would provide a far greater benefit to those that had access to concrete data and were capable of intelligibly sharing that data with their client base (pricing skills; lifestyle thresholds; money leverage; supply and demand ratios; does this sound like The Stat Pack, yet?).
We have numerous friends and clients that work in the non-profit sector. The hamstrung economy has naturally crimped the flow of donations. As recipients of a lot of their marketing, much energy is being spent on re-tooling the message, refining the story and making a push on “the why”. Something that has struck us is that we are willing to give and already have an answer for “the why”; yet significant effort is spent on telling us again and again the reasons for our already confirmed “why”. Like many other ready-to-give consumers , we often lack an answer for “how effective will my donation be? There are multiple organizations that do what you do, I want to know who is making the deepest impact because that’s the work I want to fund.” People that give presently lack measurable answers to “how will my donation be used, and how much good will it do?” Enter data. Newdea’s software solutions are providing the answers.
Individuals donating a single dollar to a local fundraiser or a foundation making a multi-million dollar commitment need to know the specific value of their financial contribution. Newdea helps individuals, private organizations and governments make sure that each dollar they spend on philanthropy produces the highest level of impact.
We are putting this out there because we have seen success “after digitization”. Our sales grew by 10% in 2009, 8% in 2010, 12% in 2011, and this year we have already passed last year’s performance in closed sales. A major reason is our use of measurable data. Pikes Peak Urban Living has made a commitment to empowering consumers sharing data in a manner that consumers can interpret, so that can they make unbiased beneficial decisions.
Sharing data works. Consumers come to us already motivated to buy, sell, or just plain move. They get to their “why” without us. But they come to us because we are in flow with their decision-making, and when they ask someone they trust who to use, their friends and family point them our way, not because we are nice, but because we helped them make a complicated decision easier. We used data, and once satiated with the facts, the left-brain quieted down so the right-brain could go to work.
Pikes Peak Urban Living has a community building component. Look through our Facebook accounts and lots of non-profits, government workers and NGO’s are in there. We believe in organizations like Newdea, because they are in-flow with the consumer’s needs. Consumers want to feel good with their donation, but with cash scarce, any donation must make an impact. Donations must go where they are used most effectively. Having come across this organization and understanding what they’re about, we have no problem trumpeting their cause. Newdea is not a threat to anyone’s “why”; Newdea is making the “why” all the more effective.
Real-Life Stories of the Real Estate Professional. I’m out previewing on Monday, looking in N/E at two bank-owned properties that match the needs of two separate buyers, both ready to buy, now. Both seem exceptionally under-priced, one on Downhill at $139,000 with a four bedrooms and a two-car garage, and another on Bridle near the Garden Ranch Y at $111,000. When setting up the Downhill showing, I’m told there are two other showings during my requested showing window, and wanting no part of that, I re-arrange my afternoon to go by when there is less likely another looker. No such luck. I swung by around 4 pm, and standing in the doorway of the house was a nose-tackle-sized man, literally snarling at an approaching agent leaving his Audi with buyers in tow. It appeared that the man in the doorway was resorting to menacing looks of nastiness to scare away other suitors on his repo-dream. Since I was driving by representing both buyers three and four, when I notice a Yukon also parked in front with another set of buyers, I realize that’s buyer five. At 4 pm in the afternoon, there are five buyers looking at the same property. Supply and Demand at work.
I headed over to Bridle. A roofing truck was leaving that place, there was a guy walking around the front yard aimlessly with an MLS sheet, and two of Hannah’s clients were standing outside their car waiting for Hannah. Dumb luck, I’m unknowingly showing what Hannah is showing, at the same time. Since I was driving a borrowed vehicle, I decided to have some fun at Hannah’s expense. Her buyers had not looked at houses in awhile and were awestruck by the circus-like atmosphere at this house with buyers coming and going everywhere. I pop out, said hi, and asked, “you know I’m looking at this too, and I have the combo. Do you want to join me?” They seized the chance, and I timed it perfectly so that I was just inside leading them through the door when Hannah pulled up. Sensing an agent out prowling the bank-owned’s looking to steal her buyers, Hannah leapt out of her car ready to scrap. She still about punched me when she found it was me pulling one over on her.
This is the world of inexpensive, bank-owned properties in Colorado Springs. They all have multiple offers, they all have lovely features like no 220 for a dryer or planked-over patio door because the entire deck is ripped off… and they all end up selling, way, way over asking price.
The reason is that supply is non-existant under $200,000 and there are almost as many buyers this year as there were in the tax-credit fueled season of 2010. That season was fueled by the false motivator of the $8000 tax-credit; it had a window of time before it expired, and the market went sour immediately after it expired. This season is fueled by the buyer’s perception that the market is appreciating. Re-read that statement: the perception (by buyers) that the market is appreciating. Now why do buyers believe this?
- There is nothing to buy. 3300 active single-family listings sounds like a lot, but inventory now is 27% lower than the same time 12 months ago.
- With scarcity comes panic. With panic comes emotional buying.
- With emotional buying comes a loss of negotiating power. Fear of loss says, “don’t mess around, buy the house.”
- As more and more houses sell and are removed from the market, buyers inevitably raise their buying price. When sellers don’t have to discount, and buyers move up to find them, appreciation happens.
This condition describes between 65 and 75% of the homes that sell each month, and 40% to 50% of the active listings for sale. Note, those are not the same numbers. Note, that is not the entire market. What is extra bizarre about April 2012, is that while parts of the real estate market finally return to sustainable appreciation, other parts of the market remain in decline: the over $500,000 market for the most part remains in over-supply and for the most part, is still experiencing depreciation.
Here is a graph from the April Stat Pack . This graph shows the crazy dysfunction at work, where within these popular MLS areas, there are up to four different markets at work:
- An Appreciating Seller’s Market with less than 4 months of inventory based on March sales rate (which is likely going to be dwarfed by the April sales rate, with 1723 pending and under contracts at the end of March, 2012)
- A Seller’s Market where the likelihood is high that the seller will sell and probably won’t have to make a price adjustment in order to sell, but it’s not appreciating yet because the months of inventory is between four and six months.
- A Buyer’s Market where there is six to nine months of supply, decent selection to choose from, and buyers have both the ability to negotiate a better price and sellers have the responsibility to continue to drop price until the find buyers. Note, these markets might be primed to convert over to A Seller’s Market later in the year as inventory diminishes from the lower price ranges and relocating buyer sales close.
- A Super Buyer’s Market where there is a genuine over-supply of listings for the scarcity of buyers. Sellers might have to reduce price just to get showings (usually 9+ months of inventory). Buyers might be tempted to avoid these areas as there is no promise of “a deal” because the bottom has not yet clearly been reached.
This creates some enormous opportunities for a seller in Briargate say, who has a nice home worth $285,000, but wants a larger home, or a home in the trees. They have scarce competition for their home, and if they want to move to Flying Horse or Bent Tree, they can utilize 4.00% interest rates and buy into a market that still has excess inventory and competitive pressure for price improvements. As long as they have the proceeds they want from their home sale, they’re probably selling, with a good selection to choose from and good negotiating power when they buy.
A buyer relocating from Nashville asked me today, “Ben, is the market just that much better in Colorado than it is here?” I had just video’ed a home for him that had listed the previous day, and told him that it might sell before the weekend was up. The buyer didn’t doubt my assessment, he had seen with his own eyes appealing homes list one day and go under contract the next, and seen this repeatedly. My explanation was that the market is a mess for those looking under $200,000, and if you consider than 81% of all sales year to date were less than $300,000, a big part of the market is looking at scant inventory. But the other problem is that there just aren’t that many great properties out there. That’s different than low inventory. It’s one thing if there is low inventory, but say you want N/W under $350,000 and you want a traditional two story home with about 3500 square feet and some updating. Well technically, you have a lot to choose from. But you don’t want a multi-level or split. You don’t want linoleum floors in the dining room or kitchen. You don’t want old windows. You’d like the deck to be serviceable for oh, I don’t know, three to five years. Well you my friend have ZERO homes to look at that fit that bill today. None. If you can stretch to $355,000 you find your first bogey on Oak Hills, and that’s a bit high for the area, but it is remodeled and they added stucco. While they’re probably over-priced, they’re probably selling soon, too because they have no competition. That’s how appreciation happens. It’s not so much that the cycle of supply and demand got reversed, and we went from over-supply to under-supply and under-demand to over-demand. We went to under-supply and even-demand, and among that supply are a mess of homes that are out-dated floorplans or exhibiting features no one wants. Many sellers still haven’t caught onto this. Another example: My wife and I were brushing our teeth last night, joking about if we sold our home, and Amy said “just price as it is and let someone do it the way they want.” I was stunned. My wife was speaking seller. I pointed at our lovely, faux-marble pink and taupe swirled counters, with integrated sinks with expanding cracks at the bottom, and said sarcastically, “Babe… they just don’t make these anymore. This is the kind of quality people line up for”. No one wants flippin’ pink swirl bath vanities, even if your shower and soaking tub match (that’s some extra sarcasm for those who can’t read sarcasm). You can be on the market, but if you offer what people don’t want, you might as well be off the market.
As the market heals, a necessary step is appreciation. Appreciation IS HAPPENING, it is just active under $200,000 (about 50% of all market sales). That market is moving up. Meanwhile, the average price on the market is also moving up, because the expensive, half million and up market remains sitting while the cheap, under $200,000 market flies off the shelf. In order to sell, this expensive stuff still has to come down in price. So overall, the average price of everything selling is barely showing any change, as it takes five appreciating home sales under $200,000 to cancel out the drop of two depreciating home sales over $500,000. When you further consider that last month there were 394 sales under $200,000 and all of 22 over $500,000, there isn’t much to fuel much of a leap in average price. In fact, average price can actually go down while prices are going up; it’s just not a good measure of what is actually selling.
If you want to see the new and improved Stat Pack, please visit www.COSRealEstate.com. (guess what? We renamed the Stat Pack, “The Stat Pack“. We are pretentious snobs at the Switzerland known as Selley Group, and are now emphasizing the “The”. Another report locally is using a very similar name, but they’ve only been cranking them out for 15 months, not 6 years, and we’re sticking with our permission-asset. We have dibs)
Imagine 32, 19 and 20 year olds learning (in some cases literally) at the feet of two professors who are married to each other in a class that covers everything in Western culture from The Bacchanalia to Freudian libido. It’s a large, sunny family room of a Victorian, mining-era home with wing chairs, chaise lounges, dreadlocked freshmen in thermarest loungers, towering first-line hockey players and a half dozen people who easily could have gone to Williams or Yale but thought the winters in New England would suck and therefore, came west to be intellectually fabulous and a mere two hour drive from Breck in their late model 4Runner. Everyone in the room is smarter than you. In the classroom are several future attorneys, surgeons, human rights activists, an individual that to this day is one of the brilliant political puppeteers in all of Colorado and yours truly. It’s the 1994 edition of Colorado College’s Greek History and Philosophy.
To keep it simple, here’s a Wikipedia synopsis of Aeschylus’ amazing Orestia, specifically Agamemnon.
The play Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων, Agamemnōn) details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon’s absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family, who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.
You wonder why the Greeks are rioting. They used to be great. Clytemnestra is a 2600 year-old example that life is not resolved in a P&L. Agamemnon just won the flipping Trojan War people… he’s the conquering hero of the age. Clytemnestra, if motivated by a profit-motivation, is in the proverbial catbird seat. Her man is home, and her man owes. Instead, cause does not equal a neat and tidy effect, and she murders him. You really have to read Aeschylus (preferably out-loud with others, make some spanikopita, get some grape leaves and wine, it’s fun) to get the full effect of this early heroine of feminism’s motivation. Let’s just say it is timeless because life doesn’t work in mechanical input-equals-output ways. It is timeless because it is eerily true in a way that surprises us with it’s unpredictable familiarity. To accelerate the gamut of emotions, it’s something like this: “Wait… she did what? That way? Wow. Yeah. I could see that. Wow.”
Fast forward two decades and Aeschylus is as relevant as he was 2600 years ago. My advisor at CC said “there is truth, and then there is the meta-truth”. She was talking about the dot and the dot and the dot that people see as life’s datapoints… and then the artistry that was woven between those dots. To use math language, what if the dot and the dot and the dot that we see from a distance on one plain as a triangle are actually being influenced by poles on two additional planes… how will we know to even look for those poles? Well, immersion in the Classics (and Philosophy, and Political Theory and Ancient Language and all four major epochs of western history) has a way of getting one’s brain past simple face value. We read the Orestia in a night, then read large chunks in the round with assigned parts, and debated and tore it apart for three hours straight with two phenomenal teachers who usually didn’t agree with each other. Sure, knowing the facts and details is important for the bucket list of education; but knowing why it all worked the way it did, and how other examples can later unfold, that’s something else entirely different and far more potent.
People who buy their residence based on Excel are usually the same ones selling a year later. They came to a vital decision in what academia calls STEM-thinking (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). STEM-thinking allows you to see clearly all the objective pieces (the dots), even all the objective pieces interacting on the board. But it doesn’t tell you how they might interact on the board, why they interact, why things are not always mechanical or systematic… and it also doesn’t tell you to look for outside influences that can break down the relational structures. Mechanical STEM-thinking hates things like “personality”.
And if this all sounds like high-minded, ivory-tower horse pucky, well, it is horse pucky, but it ain’t ivory tower. A social psychology professor friend (CC ’97, represent!) posted this great article from The Economist today on Facebook, the need for more anthropologists on Wall Street. The Economist, an international standard-bearer of rational, empirical thought, is puffing up a colleague over at The Financial Times, another standard-bearer of the left-brain P&L crowd. And one of the sharpest tacks out there is a Cambridge educated Ph.D in… anthropology. Gillian Tett predicted a credit-default-fueled implosion in 2005, largely because she understood inter-personal relationships. To quote: “But the other thing is, if you come from an anthropology background, you also try and put finance in a cultural context. Bankers like to imagine that money and the profit motive is as universal as gravity. They think it’s basically a given and they think it’s completely apersonal. And it’s not. What they do in finance is all about culture and interaction.” This line of thought sees financial crises before they happen. It explains why banks, who are in the money of usury, are not lending money to suitable borrowers (inventing metrics for trust and relationships). It explains the political ramifications and vendettas of our present day.
What Hannah and I do in real estate, finance, economics, is far more about culture and interaction then it is about a gravitational attraction to profit. Today I got to speak to someone that was looking for 500 acres to lease for wild horse habitat. There is, let’s see, exactly no money to be made in this project if I’m thinking like a banker. Like, um, nothing. And since most 500 acre land owners in eastern Colorado subscribe to the theory of highest and best use (see Banning-Lewis Ranch and it’s dangerous infatuation with gas leases of late) putting a very small number of horses that need huge range on an oversized property is what economists call “a sunk cost”. How do Hannah and I see that? First, educate on the prevailing winds of sunk cost, but then flush out the angle of what the opportunity cost looks like: Good will. Story-telling. Common hearts. Who are the players. How do we get Catamount Institute involved? Who in CC’s Environmental Science Department might be a catalyst? Can we get media, the visuals are superb, but media will likely have to pay for a night’s lodging with the day long drive to Montana so we really need to craft a home run here to get them on-board… etc. What will Hannah and/or I make on this? Are you serious? Anything? Probably nothing. In the short-term.
Will we learn something? In the short and long-term, we will.
We don’t have it nailed. Goodness no, we don’t. That’s why we don’t do this blog for SEO. We do it for a finite audience that wants something different, who doesn’t trust easy answers and wants to make lasting decisions of value.
The Stat Pack is well into it’s sixth year, bigger, fuller, richer with more data than ever. About 85% of the Stat Pack is data and charts. What we do differently is that 15% of subjective. It allows us to craft lessons and strategies that are not as universal as gravity and are completely personal.
For those not yet indoctrinated in all-things Stat Pack…
This month I enjoyed another laugh at the “wisdom of crowds / conventional wisdom folks” by saying that:
The informed consumer should read Bloomberg,, MSNBC, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Case- Shiller, The Gazette, The Denver Post and whatever else big media wants to throw out there about how horrible the economy is doing, how poor the job creation is, how volatile import/export balance sheets are, and what the Fed Policy decisions will do to the dollar against foreign currencies.
They should do that: as long as they temper that with simple observations, like a glance at what is going on in local pricing. Pricing has been marching unmistakably all year to a place of balance.
What color is the sky?
Both of these questions have obvious answers. The sky is still blue, and price is climbing.
In the world of data-crunching, it’s important to stick to data and not to headlines. In the world of data-crunching, there is excess hyperbole. In the world of data-crunching, nothing sells quite like fear.
Buyers and sellers like to say right now that prices are coming down.
Sellers see their neighbors coming down in price.
So why are sold prices going… UP?
Here is a quote about the Pikes Peak Market from the October 2010 Stat Pack (You can link to the November Stat Pack – posted today – RIGHT HERE).
Sellers are so frustrated that they are quitting the market, so prices logically are going… up? How is that possible? The reason is that the buyers who see this as an opportunity are often ones who focus on their interest savings, interest that won’t change for 15 to 30 years. At 4.375% – the going-rate on a 30-year mortgage – every $1000 increase in price represents a mere $5 a month in payment to a buyer. So a buyer who increases their search by $20,000 only ends up paying $100 a month more (or $1200 a year) for a home that is probably significantly “more” in every way. With the low taxes of the Pikes Peak Region, a $200,000 30-year fixed mortgage usually has less than a $1200 monthly payment, even with taxes and insurance escrows.
The hidden story here is that buyers end up reaching, and what they end up buying are homes that previously were considerably more expensive. Take a home in N/E, where the average time to sell was around 100 days last month at and average price of $234,000. The buyer of that home might have capped initially at $220,000, not found what they were looking for, and stretched in price to $240,000. There, they found a home that initially started at $259,000, reduced to $250,000, then $245,000, before finally getting to the right price at $239,900. With a 97.3% price differential (the sold price divided by the final asking price), they were able to settle at a very-near-all-market-average price of $234,000. The data on the story is really this: the buyer came up $14,000 and the seller came down $26,000; the headline is that prices are going up. Here, reality and headlines are not really the same thing.
Don’t buy the headlines. Don’t buy the hysteria. Unpack the data. Look for simple answers. Watch for trends. That’s the Stat Pack.
I was just asked a superb question via Facebook by my neighbor, Lt. Col. Scott Touney:
Ben, I have a question. If foreclosures are being de facto “frozen” due to legal proceedings, are those homes essentially taken out of the available supply? If they are out of the supply of existing homes, does that afford an opportunity for housing prices to increase during the period that those homes are frozen in legal proceedings?
Here is my Podcast Answer: