Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Zillow and Trulia Face Backlash from Realtors

It used to be a given for anyone selling their house – a realtor would put their listing on national real estate aggregator websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com to maximize exposure and sell homes quickly. But that could be changing fast as the two entities face off.

Since 2005 or so, realtors have shared data about homes they have for sale with those national sites, which have millions of visitors (Zillow, for example, had 32 million last month). But even though the sites have grown, sales haven't in the distressed housing market, and some agents believe the sites may not be helping. They accuse them of engaging in practices that give buyers inaccurate information that may hurt sales.

RELATED: 10 Ridiculously Desperate Real Estate Listings
 
Among their complaints are that the sites allow any agent, for a fee, to have their name and photo appear prominently beside homes listed for sale in a given region, even if they aren’t the agent who represents the seller. In reality, the agent in the photo may know little about the property or the neighborhood where the house is located, frustrating customers’ efforts to get accurate answers, according to a report last year by real estate consulting firm Clareity.

Some realtors also claim that many listings on the largest sites are inaccurate. “The wrong photos often appeared with our listings,” says San Diego realtor Jim Abbott, whose firm no longer shares data with the national sites. He also says that the sites kept up listings that were no longer on the market.

Clareity CEO Gregg Larson says Zillow and Trulia get information about the same property from multiple sources (like the listing agent, the local multiple listing service, and a syndication service). “The duplicates sneak through, and then you have [the same] listing with different prices, listed by different brokers.”

One Massachusetts realtor, Jack Attridge, notes in a letter to Inman News that because homes he’s listed appear on national sites, he’s often contacted by agents and customers well outside his area who have questions about those properties. Most of the time, they have wrong information, and none of those calls, Attridge wrote, have resulted in a sale.

These and other problems hurt realtors reputations and do nothing to sell houses, they say. Abbott argues that inaccurate web listings, combined with side-by-side links to realtors who know little about the property, frustrate potential buyers and may actually drive them to look elsewhere. He studied three years of his firm’s sales data and compared listings that the company didn’t share with national sites versus those they did. “Time after time, the listings that we did syndicate compared with the listings that we didn’t had no better outcomes,” he says. “In fact the ones we didn’t syndicate often sold faster” and closer to the asking price.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has fired back, asserting that an internal company study shows that homes that are in the top 10 percent of page views on Zillow sell more than a month faster than their counterparts in the bottom 10 percent of views and achieve sale prices closer to their asking price. He also says Zillow “invests massive resources in making our listings as accurate as possible.

Nevertheless, Abbott and a few others have opted out. Minnesota-based Realty fired the first shot in November by announcing they’ll no longer list their data on aggregator sites like Trulia and Realtor.

Abbott pulled out on January 27 with a hard-hitting web video announcing his company’s plans. Then on February 6, a bigger player weighed in. Denver-based Metrolist, a multiple-listing service (a member cooperative that realtors jointly buy into that advertises properties locally), announced they’ll no longer allow a Zillow subsidiary to use their data. Some realtors in larger metropolitan areas say they have better local listing service options. “It would only take a few good-sized brokers in every community before these sites either drastically changed how they do business or went away altogether,” says Abbott.

But other industry insiders worry that realtors will lose business by pulling out of the aggregator sites. “All it takes is [brokers who don’t share data] losing a few listings and having a couple of their top-selling agents complain,” Larson says, and “they’ll cave.”

Phoenix realtor Jay Thompson has chosen to continue listing with the sites. “Good luck explaining your decision to not market a listing on high traffic sites,” he writes on his blog. “I can assure you that if a Phoenix area brokerage chooses to do that, then we will use their decision to our advantage.”
Abbott argues the opposite could happen — since he posted his video, he’s had 12 people who were interviewing for an agent to sell their home ask him about his company’s new policy. “We got all 12 of those listings,” he says. Calls to the firm, he says, have “gone through the roof.”


The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments or external internet links are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of First Capital, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current, suitability, or validity of this information and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Any information provided does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to lend. Providing information to purchase does not guarantee a loan approval. All registered trademarks, copyright, images, or other items used are property of their respective owner and are used for editorial purposes only.
First Capital Mortgage is a subsidiary of PHH Home Loans LLC, a direct lender, Dept. of Corporations file #413-0713

Visit FirstCapital Online or call: 310-458-0010

Cheap home prices draw in new buyers and bolstering recovery.


U.S. home prices post decline

A key gauge of home values in the nation's largest cities fell in December to its lowest level since the start of the housing crisis in mid-2006.

 Although a bottom in home prices doesn’t appear imminent, several economists pointed to small improvements in the housing market -- including upticks in sales and new construction -- that could support a recovery.

 Home values in big U.S. cities have fallen to their lowest levels since the start of the housing bust, but cheap prices could draw in new buyers and bolster the chances of recovery, economists say.

A key gauge of home values in the nation's largest cities fell in December to its lowest level since the start of the housing crisis in mid-2006 — the latest evidence that real estate prices remain in a funk.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of 20 American cities, released Tuesday, fell 1.1% in December from November and 4% from December 2010. Eighteen out of the 20 cities tracked by the index posted declines while Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa, Fla., saw average home prices hit new lows.

Although a bottom in prices doesn't appear imminent, several economists pointed to small improvements in the housing market — including upticks in sales and new construction — that will start to support a recovery.

In addition, they say, values aren't in a free fall similar to the one that emerged after the subprime mortgage crisis and credit crunch of 2007. The drop in prices is largely because of foreclosures, economists said, which continue to ravage certain hard-hit neighborhoods while places with fewer distressed sales improve.

"If you are not in a neighborhood where foreclosures are a big problem, it's very likely that home prices are not dropping," said Patrick Newport, U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. "They are stabilizing or rising."

Celia Chen, a housing economist at Moody's Analytics, drew the distinction between a recovery in home sales and new construction, which appears to have begun, and an improvement in prices, which remains elusive and will probably continue to remain so through much of the year.
"Enough homes are in the foreclosure pipeline to keep house prices falling through much of this year," Chen said.

There are other indicators that may support a housing recovery, including increased household growth, record-high affordability, a tighter supply of homes on the market, low interest rates, a pickup in sales of previously owned homes and an increase in the number new units started by builders.

Housing remains road-blocked by persistent unemployment, the sheer number of foreclosures, the difficulties buyers are having securing mortgages and the large share of homes underwater, in which the owners owe more than the homes are worth.

"In terms of prices, the housing market ended 2011 on a very disappointing note," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. "While we thought we saw some signs of stabilization in the middle of 2011, it appears that neither the economy nor consumer confidence was strong enough to move the market in a positive direction as the year ended."

All the California cities in the index posted declines from the previous month. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco fell 1.1%, 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively. Only two metro areas posted monthly gains: Miami, up 0.2%, and Phoenix, up 0.8%.

A separate, national index published quarterly by S&P Case Shiller fell 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 and was down 4% compared with the fourth quarter of 2010.
Investors shrugged off the news of a new housing-price low and pushed U.S. stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average extended its recent gains to close past the 13,000 mark for the first time in four years.

"Although the rate at which house prices are falling accelerated at the end of last year, it may only be a few more months before the decline seen over the last five years comes to an end," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "We expect prices will be broadly unchanged this year and maybe next."

The severity and length of the housing depression — now more than five years in the offing — has surprised forecasters. Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, said over the weekend that he had been "dead wrong" predicting that a recovery in housing would have begun by now.

But even the biggest pessimists have softened their outlooks. Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University and co-creator of the index who raised eyebrows last year with comments that home prices could experience severe declines, said Tuesday that his outlook had grown slightly more optimistic.
 
The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments or external internet links are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of First Capital, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current, suitability, or validity of this information and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Any information provided does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to lend. Providing information to purchase does not guarantee a loan approval. All registered trademarks, copyright, images, or other items used are property of their respective owner and are used for editorial purposes only.
First Capital Mortgage is a subsidiary of PHH Home Loans LLC, a direct lender, Dept. of Corporations file #413-0713

Visit FirstCapital Online or call: 310-458-0010 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home prices hit new lows

Home prices continue to plummet in many parts of the U.S., including Los Angeles County. The Antelope Valley has been especially hard hit.

A key gauge of home prices in the nation's largest cities fell in December to its lowest level since the start of the housing crisis in mid-2006.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of 20 American cities fell 1.1% from November to December and 4% from December 2010. Eighteen out of the 20 cities tracked by the index posted declines and Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa,Fla., each saw average home prices hit new lows.

“In terms of prices, the housing market ended 2011 on a very disappointing note,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. “While we thought we saw some signs of stabilization in the middle of 2011, it appears that neither the economy nor consumer confidence was strong enough to move the market in a positive direction as the year ended."

All of the California cities in the index posted declines from the prior month. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco fell 1.1%, 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively. The drop continues a slide that began last year as sales weakened and the jobs picture remained bleak.

In December, Miami and Phoenix were the only two metro areas that posted monthly gains, up 0.2% and 0.8%, respectively.
A separate, national index published quarterly by S&P Case Shiller, also released Tuesday, showed deterioration in home values. The national composite fell by 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 and was down 4.0% versus the fourth quarter of 2010.

The steep drops indicate that the housing market likely began 2012 in decline, as the broader economic recovery was not enough to lift home values. Home prices are now below their low hit in April 2009 -- reached during the depths of the financial crisis.

[Updated 7:53 a.m., Feb. 28: Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University and co-creator of the index, said in a conference call Tuesday he was slightly more optimistic about housing’s future than he was a year ago, “but not that optimistic.”

“We are in a situation where a lot of people think, long-term, this is great, home prices are low,” Shiller said. “But somehow they think in the short-run … we are still in a holding pattern.”

Karl E. Case, the other co-creator of the index and a professor at Wellesley College, said he was more optimistic that the housing market would begin to improve given that, according to Census data, more U.S. households are being created, meaning there will be more demand for housing. If demand remains high -- and supply relatively low -- the housing market should begin to improve, he said.

The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments or external internet links are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of First Capital, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current, suitability, or validity of this information and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Any information provided does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to lend. Providing information to purchase does not guarantee a loan approval. All registered trademarks, copyright, images, or other items used are property of their respective owner and are used for editorial purposes only.
First Capital Mortgage is a subsidiary of PHH Home Loans LLC, a direct lender, Dept. of Corporations file #413-0713

Visit First Capital Online or call: 310-458-0010

Monday, February 27, 2012

4 Ways to Cut Your Home Costs in 2012

January labor reports reveal that the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs during the first month of 2012.  This is a 133,000-person increase from the hiring numbers of January last year.

This data implies that many jobless Americans have indeed, gotten back to work. Yet, recent money-saving trends adopted by many homeowners show that Americans are still aiming to stretch their hard-earned money further than they did in previous years. With this in mind, I present to you four ways to cut your home costs in 2012.

Cut cable service and add Apple TV.
Digital media receivers, such as Apple TV or Roku Player, allow users to play digital content on computers or high-definition televisions.
The reason many homeowners are choosing to cut expensive cable service plans in favor of Smart TV is simply the competitive viewing selection it provides without a monthly bill!
Through the use of Apple TV, Bluray Player or Roku Player, users can view digital content originating from the following wide range of media:
  • Netflix
  • MobileMe
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • iTunes Store
  • NHL GameCenter
  • MLB.tv
  • NBA League Pass
The main complaint from Apple TV users is the fact that you can’t watch live sports on the device.  However, other Apple TV users stated that going to a restaurant or bar to watch a live sporting event is both more enjoyable and less expensive than paying a high cable bill every month.

Cancel your landline in favor of a smartphone.
With the current rate technology is advancing, it’s easy to understand how the home phone line is becoming more synonymous with the bag phone of 1992 with each year that passes.
Landlines have gotten a bad rep recently due to their involvement with expensive cable bundle packages that have persuaded many cash-strapped people to do away with cable and landlines all together.
The endless possibilities that apps have given smartphone users may have provided the perfect storm for the extinction of the home phone land line.

Clip coupons and cut cooking costs.
There are a number of Americans who have mastered the art of cutting and using coupons.  These people plan ahead to the point where they rarely pay full price for anything on their grocery lists.
Here are a few tips for the novice coupon cutter:
  • Make a grocery list.
  • Thumb through the grocery ads that appear in your mailbox or daily paper.
  • Do a quick Google search to determine what items from your list are on sale at the local grocery store.
  • Print or clip the coupons.
  • If possible, delay buying items on your list that are not currently on sale.
  • Monitor and record your savings.
Couponing is a growing trend with frugal homeowners.  With a newspaper and a pair of scissors, you can start cutting money off your weekly expenses today!

Buy energy-efficient products to save on utility costs.
There are many energy-efficient household products such as energy-saving light bulbs, mica thermic space heaters, and solar radio systems that may lower your monthly utility bills.
While the higher cost of an energy-efficient furnace may persuade you to reconsider your options, reports show that these furnace owners can save $787 annually on utility costs.
Websites such as Buy Energy Efficient assist frugal homeowners in lowering their monthly utility bills by informing them about the wide range of energy-efficient household products available.
The economy is recovering, but if your home is full of energy vampires, your personal finances could get sucked dry.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know of another great way to save on home costs: refinancing. Rates are still silly low, so find out which refinance option is best for you, and your hard-earned money could last a lot longer.

The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments or external internet links are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of First Capital, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current, suitability, or validity of this information and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Any information provided does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to lend. Providing information to purchase does not guarantee a loan approval. All registered trademarks, copyright, images, or other items used are property of their respective owner and are used for editorial purposes only.
First Capital Mortgage is a subsidiary of PHH Home Loans LLC, a direct lender, Dept. of Corporations file #413-0713

Visit FirstCapital Online or call: 310-458-0010

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UPDATE - US home resales at 1-1/2 yr-high, supply falls

* Home sales up 4.3 percent to 1-1/2 year-high

* Inventory of homes falls to 7-year low

* Median home price lowest in 10 years



WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - U.S. home resales rose to a 1-1/2-year high in January, pushing the supply of properties on the market to the lowest level in almost seven years in a hopeful sign for the housing sector.


The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday existing home sales increased 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.57 million units last month, the fastest pace since May 2010.

It was the latest indication the housing market may be coming off the floor. While economists attributed some of the rise to unseasonably warm winter weather, they also said it signaled genuine improvement.


Sales were up across all four regions of the country, with the West recording the biggest gain -- an 8.8 percent increase.


"At least some of the improvement in the last few months could have reflected milder winter weather, but for the most part, it seems that the housing sector may have turned the corner," said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut

The tenor of the report was weakened somewhat by a sharp downward revision to December's sales data to show only a 4.38 million unit sales rate rather than the previously reported 4.61 million unit pace.


A brightening economic outlook, marked by a strengthening labor market and buoyant factories, is giving the housing market some lift. Confidence among homebuilders is near five-year highs and they are breaking more ground on new housing projects.



Residential construction is expected to contribute to growth this year for the first time since 2005.

Robert Toll, executive chairman of luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers, welcomed that progress even as his company announced a surprise quarterly loss on Wednesday.


"Since the new home industry is coming off several years of historic low levels of production, we are encouraged by the recent improvement," he said in a statement.


The data did little to lift U.S. stock market sentiment, with shares ending down after weak data on European business activity. Prices for U.S. government debt rose on concerns Greece might not be able to avert a messy default even with a fresh bailout.

The dollar rose against a basket of currencies.


INVENTORY DWINDLING
The Federal Reserve, which has suggested a number of ways other policymakers could step in to help the beaten-up market, is considering purchasing more mortgage-backed securities to drive mortgages rates even lower.


But some economists are skeptical that would do much good.


"I don't think the problem in the mortgage market is high interest rates or availability of liquidity. The problem is lack of jobs and very strict lending standards," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands.


Distressed properties, foreclosures and short sales, which typically occur at deep discounts, accounted for 35 percent of overall sales last month, up from 32 percent in December.


A third of pending existing home sales contracts were canceled, the NAR said. Investors bought 23 percent of homes in January, with first-time buyers accounting for a third of the transactions.

"We expect the spring selling season to show some improvement, but we believe it risks disappointing relative to market expectations," said Michelle Meyer, a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. By Lucia Mutikani


The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments or external internet links are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of First Capital, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current, suitability, or validity of this information and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Any information provided does not constitute an offer or a solicitation to lend. Providing information to purchase does not guarantee a loan approval. All registered trademarks, copyright, images, or other items used are property of their respective owner and are used for editorial purposes only.
First Capital Mortgage is a subsidiary of PHH Home Loans LLC, a direct lender, Dept. of Corporations file #413-0713

Visit First Capital Online or call: 310-458-0010