Blog Archives

Lifeline or dead end: Can first-time homebuyers really compete with cash buyers?

Despite it’s laudable goals and a well-intended blog post today in Boston.com, my sense is that the First Look program in Massachusetts, particularly in Boston, is a dead end, not a lifeline.  Beyond the dearth of inventory in MA is

Posted in Buyer agent, Consumer protection, Extreme Househunting, Foreclosures, Poverty, Savings & Rebates

Dual agency: The illusion of individual savings & the real cost to society

BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH: Boston.com readers: Got Conflict? Click for info: Menu of Fees & Rebates (see WSJ article re 100% commission rebate) Listing agent report card (rebate up to one third of our referral fee) Exposing the hypocrisy

Posted in Defensive Homebuying, Dual Agency Detective, Foreclosures, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance

Will luxury “short sales” drive housing prices down across MA?

With hyperbole-filled housing headlines “soaring” across the internet in Boston, it’s important to take a sobering look at a “sleeper” trend that has the potential to pull down housing prices across Massachusetts in 2010 and beyond. Last Friday, Bloomberg published

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Posted in Bubble Hour, Defensive Homebuying, Foreclosures, Million Dollar Markdowns, Price trends, Real Estate Bubble, Savings & Rebates, Trend analysis

Proposal to turn ice cream truck into “Bailout Mobile” submitted to Awesome Awards

Background:  When The Real Estate Cafe bought an ice cream truck in January 2007, our hope was to repair the vehicle and create a mobile podcasting studio that could turn any open house into a BlockpARTy.  In addition to free

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Posted in ASAP: AIDS Shelter Alliance Partners, Creative class, Foreclosure Prevention, Foreclosures, Idea Bar

Obama’s Housing Plan: Protecting homebuyers / preventing future housing bubbles

Comments on NPR / WBUR talk show, Obama’s Housing Plan, cross-posted from Twitter: CLOSING QUESTION: Does Obama plan include long term reforms to prevent future housing bubble? Idea starters> http://tinyurl.com/REinventRE2 SHILLER: Says we need NEW market structures to protect consumers

Posted in Defensive Homebuying, Dual Agency Detective, Foreclosure Prevention, Foreclosures, Real Estate Bubble, Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights

Mobilizing spiritual & pyschological safety nets for those facing foreclosure / financial instability

Comment posted on Cardinal Sean’s blog, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Dear Cardinal Sean, I am so pleased to read that the Planning Office for Urban Affairs is “beginning work to help people facing foreclosures who may be at risk

Posted in Foreclosure Prevention, Foreclosures, Spiritual Home

Got questions or ideas about how to reform the real estate industry? Use #REinventRE

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire Got questions or ideas about how to reform the real estate industry? Please submit on Twitter using #REinventRE hashtag, before InmanNews Townhall Meeting today at 11am PCT,

Posted in Change Agents, Commission Reform, Dual Agency Detective, Extreme Househunting, Foreclosures, Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking

Flames of “irrational exuberance” burning Realtors, too

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I’ve spend the morning deconstructing Realtors are not immune to foreclosure, an amazingly transparent blog post on a leading real estate web site. The author’s concluding question — Why did so many people, including Realtors, buy homes in 2005? — has been and will continue to be the spring board for innumerable blog posts, talk show interviews, research by economists and parodies on YouTube. But now imagine what the authors of Freakonomics or Saturday Night Live could do with this admission that some real estate agents “helped people buy homes that they could not afford,” and then repeated the same mistake themselves.

Personally, I’d love to see investigative reporters dig into the conflicts of interest in the real estate industry and expose how deceptive and manipulative business practices, like dual agency and blind bidding wars, fanned the flames of “irrational exuberance” and, as this highly respected blogger admits, ultimately burned Realtors themselves.

Perhaps industry regulators will create new disclosures to protect consumers and prevent another trillion dollar collapse of the housing market in the future. Were you aware that a Washington think tank estimated a “loss of almost $6 trillion in real housing wealth over the course of the year, an average of $85,000 per homeowner”? Historically, potential home buyers have been advised to ask agents about their sales volume, but now it’s wiser to ask prospective buyer agents if any past clients are upside down on their mortgages or involved in foreclosure. What if a such a negative equity or “foreclosure disclosure” were required by law?

Outrageous some might scream, unrealistic others would argue but blogs have already created a decision-making tool for web-savvy home buyers to decide who will best protect their financial interest. Try this experiment, visit two real estate blogs and see what their authors have written about the housing bubble. Look at their posts during 2005 — was your prospective buyer agent echoing NAR’s “anti-bubble” spin or warning homebuyers about the coming meltdown?

In retrospect, this Real Estate Cafe blog post from April 2005 sounds prophetic: Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?

My hope is this blogger’s admission that Realtors are not immune to foreclosure will expand discussion about systemic flaws and conflicts of interest in the residential brokerage practices, and their cost not just to individual buyers and Realtors but to society. Who could imagine a better time and place for some “straight talk” about the need for real estate reforms than John McCain’s speech tonight at the Republican Convention in this blogger’s backyard?

Posted in Defensive Homebuying, Dual Agency Detective, Foreclosures, Moblogging in Real Estate, Price trends, Real Estate Bubble, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Timing the market

Organizing real estate rebels, educating home buyers & sellers

Unconference_051008_3
Richard Howe’s blog post, "Urban Rebels," provided a timely opportunity to use the 4th of July to update our rallying cry for a consumer revolution in real estate.  Howe is Register of Deeds for the Middlesex North District in Massachusetts, and has written extensively about foreclosures and their impact on neighborhoods and communities. 

Excellent, timely post. With three million households behind on
their mortgage payments, and a projected two million headed towards
foreclosure, could the time finally be ripe for a consumer revolution
in real estate?

Some of use have been talking about that for more than a decade, but
as Glaeser writes, industry insiders have had "strong incentives to
fight for their regime.”  (See WSJ editorial originally entitled "The Realtor Racket" and download study on "Bringing More Competition to Real Estate Brokerage.")

Collaborating with fellow real estate change agents, we hope to
invite home buyers and sellers in Greater Boston to restart
conversations begun 15 years ago at the “Consumer Revolution in Real
Estate
” at our experimental new location: One Broadway, Arlington, MA.

We’ll experiment with seminars, real estate round tables, and web
site demos. I’m particularly excited about reviving our Bubble Hours
and hosting support groups for FSBOs & households facing
foreclosure. Perhaps you can join us at an upcoming real estate unconference, or
even present a topic / lead a discussion.

Posted in "We" companies, Bubble Hour, Change Agents, Commission Reform, Foreclosures, FSBO: For Sale By Owner, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking

Unlisted properties represent opportunity for proactive home buyers

Mainventorypie_011008v6 This graph of active listings versus unlisted properties during the 4th quarter of 2007 reveals two significant trends behind today’s lead story in The Boston Globe: 

"Thousands in Mass. foreclosed on in ’07:
7,563 homes were seized, nearly 3 times the ’06 rate

TREND 1: The Globe reported that "…lenders initiated foreclosure proceedings against 7,467 Massachusetts homeowners" between July and September.  That means that foreclosure petitions during the 3rd quarter of 2007 were nearly equal to the total number of actual foreclosures year round.  Add that trend to the fact that foreclosure petitions topped 3,000 listings during October 2007, and you can see that the problem is growing.  In fact, the number of foreclosure petitions in October approached the number of MLS sales in December 2007 as graphed in a previous blog post.

TREND 2:  The inventory of unlisted properties or homes for "potentially for sale" across Massachusetts is also growing.  It’s difficult to identify how many expired and canceled listings have been already been relisted in the MLS, and we can only guess at how many homeowners facing foreclosure would be willing to sell.  Still, the inventory of homes "potentially for sale" may be approaching the number of active listings during this slow time of the year, as shown in the graph above. 

Should you wait for more homes to come onto the market or be more proactive?  The Real Estate Cafe is exploring ways to help home buyers search expired and canceled listings, and to approach homeowners with "unlisted" properties – particularly those who have received foreclosure petitions – with unsolicited offers.  If you’re a homeowner willing to consider an unsolicited offer, or rent your unlisted property until you put it back on the market later this year, please contact us.  Our qualified buyers are looking for ways to negotiate sales outside the MLS, and recognize that savings can be shared by doing so.  (PS.  Our menu of hourly and flat fees are modest by industry standards; and depending on negotiations, may be paid by our buyer clients so sellers retain more of their home equity.)

Posted in Commission Reform, Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, Foreclosures, FSBO: Best Practices, Savings & Rebates, Timing the market, Unbundling the Commission
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