Thursday, August 28, 2014

Narrowing the Gap [Analyze This]

by Osman Parvez

Boulder real estate is cheap.   

What's that you say?   Huh?

Oh sure, it's pricey when you compare it to places like Omaha and Kansas City.   Try comparing it to places you'd actually want to live -  communities with fantastic public schools, a healthy economy, amazing weather and outdoor rec opportunities, a highly educated population, a research university, and proximity to a major airport hub.  It's a short list. 

It's no secret why Boulder keeps attracting new residents (here's why). Despite the relentless demand, we're not building significant amounts of new housing within city limits.  This isn't going to change (thankfully).    High demand and constrained supply = higher prices.  It's economics 101  

Boulder is cheap when you compare it to other places you might consider living.  The more interesting question is how much and by how far has the gap narrowed with other desirable cities.   

Take a look at the following charts. 



You're looking at the median price for homes sold in the Denver MSA, Boulder, and San Francisco during July, 2014.   

Why San Francisco?      To be honest, it's a place I'd consider living if I weren't so infatuated with Boulder.  I'm also going on a trip there in a few weeks and I want to write it off I'm doing a little homework on the community.   

San Francisco is the center of our nation's technology industry, a hub of entrepreneurs and established tech giants.  It's a great place to start a company. Boulder has plenty of tech and a higher percentage of early stage companies.  It's also widely recognized as a great place to start a company (see How Boulder Became America's Startup Capitol). 

Note: Data sources for the chart above include IRES for Boulder and Zillow's Home Value Index for Denver and San Francisco    Yes, I've bashed the big Z several times in the past but they have also quietly been improving the quality of their data - enough so to include the Denver ZHV index at least (see Zillow Continues to Mislead for why you shouldn't trust their Boulder data, however).  

Keep in mind that the Denver MSA includes parts of Aurora and Lakewood you may not want to live in, not just the hip urban downtown center.  

The Denver MSA is about 43% less expensive than Boulder and San Francisco is 45% more expensive.   No surprise to anyone who has shopped for a home in both (shout out to you, Ben.) 



This next chart shows median rent.    Compared to Boulder, San Francisco is 31% more expensive.    The Denver MSA is 22% less expensive.  

Note:  Rental data for Denver and San Francisco is from Zillow.  Finding solid data for the Boulder rental market is challenging (even for me).  $2200 per month is an educated guess based on my market knowledge and assuming a typical 3 bedroom house in an average location worth about $475,000.    




These last two charts look at affordability and how it has changed over time.  

The first one is based on data that Zillow published last month.   They're taking median income from the US Census American Community Survey and simply showing what share of income would go towards the monthly payment on the median price house.    For comparison purposes, the bars above show the current share (brown) vs. the historic period (green)of 1995 to 1999 - prior to the real estate bubble. 

The Denver MSA has gotten a little more affordable.   If you bought a median priced house during the pre-bubble historic period,  21.6% of the median income would go towards your mortgage.   Today that share is down to 18.9%.   

San Francisco has gone the other direction.  The monthly payment on a median price house has increased from 37.7% to 42.6% of the local median income.   

It's safe to say that Boulder is somewhere in the middle, not quite nose-bleed prices of San Francisco but also not as cheap as the Denver MSA. 

note:  Don't ignore the difference in down payment.   In addition to the higher monthly carrying cost, you'd need to come up with $43,320 more in San Francisco than in Boulder - at the median. 




Here's the same chart for renters.   At the median, the portion of income that is going to rent has increased from 21.6% to 31.8% for the Denver mSA and from 28.1% to a eye popping 43.3% for San Francisco.     Not only has the relative cost for renting increased to a much larger share, vacancy is at near historic lows (read: Average Rent Spikes 17% in Ft. Collins, Boulder). 

Final Thoughts
Boulder is far more affordable than the benchmark San Francisco.  If it's not within reach of your budget, there are solid options within easy commuting distance (Broomfield, Erie, and Longmont for example).   From an investment perspective, Longmont in particular is set to boom.  I'll save that for another post. 

Entrepreneurship requires a healthy mix of talent and capital. Entrepreneurs also want to live in a place that is overflowing with outdoor recreation opportunities, has fantastic weather, and is a magnet for creative talent.  There's a reason it's happening here. 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Violet Park - What's the Vision?

by Osman Parvez

What does the future of this park look like?  

Wait - where is Violet Park, again?

If you don't know, you're not alone.   It's located on Violet Avenue, just east of Broadway.   It's directly adjacent to Violet Crossing.  

Here's a map of the area.




For now, Violet park is city owned open space.  It's slated for a future park, however.  For nearby residents, the park has the potential to add serious value. It's also directly adjacent to the North Boulder Sub Community and Nobo Arts District

The 2014 approved budget shows $500,000 going into the park's development in 2019. 

As undeveloped open space, it was heavily ravaged by last September's floods.      Flood mitigation occurred this spring - a process of removing debris and sediment from the water channel. 



This shot was taken from Broadway, just north of Violet during the September flood.   Fourmile creek had overflown its banks, taken out the bike path, and carrying massive amounts of debris. 

Now here is what Violet Park looks like today.   Its' a weed patch. 


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Friday, August 22, 2014

How Tight Can You Squeeze? [Development]

by Osman Parvez

Earlier this week, Boulder City Council enacted a moratorium on building permits for multi-family housing on University Hill.  Did you catch it?    The (cough) emergency moratorium runs through March 18, 2015. 

Sound familiar?  

Long term blog readers may recall this was the very same tactic Council used in their opening salvo against view blocking large houses in Newlands.  It eventually led to the Compatible Development Ordinance - rules limiting house sizes and certain architectural design elements such as so called "looming walls."   

In economic circles, their current action is called squeezing the balloon.   CU plans to expand enrollment in coming years but not to build much new student housing.   Meanwhile, demand to live in Boulder from non-students has also never been higher driving housing availability to new record lows.  Investors have responded by building (Landmark Lofts, The Lux, Violet Crossing, The Residences on 29th Street, and Solana for example).   When council shuts down new development, it further restricts supply which will drive prices even higher.    Good news for landlords, bad news for anybody who pays rent in Boulder. 

Here's an excerpt from the City's FAQ

Why did the City Council take this action?
The market for student housing is strong. It’s very profitable for developers to create new student housing, and applications continue to be submitted. But the University Hill business district is an “activity center” in  the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) that is planned to have a mix of uses including business,  retail, and non-student residential. The moratorium allows time for the city to take a comprehensive look at its revitalization strategy to determine the appropriate mix of uses, the appropriate corridors for new development, and the impacts of converting existing structures into new student-oriented residential units. A moratorium provides the breathing room for an assessment and to come back to council with a more comprehensive revitalization approach.

Was this targeted towards one redevelopment project? 

No, it was in response to a current trend. It was important to enact the moratorium now to ensure the city can assess long-term revitalization and stability in the University Hill business district rather than approve projects that may have short-term financial gains at the expense of the long-term community development goals.

My read between the lines:    Planners were worried that the ramshackle old CU bookstore was going to turn into yet more high end student housing, so they shut it down before anything further got permitted.   Expect new rules before the moratorium expires in the Spring.   Landlords, enjoy the higher rent.   Sorry CU bookstore investors and developers, you're screwed you've been Boulderized. 

Additional Reading

The City's FAQ and Doublespeak  

DC: Concerned About Too Much Student Housing...

DC:  No Residential Building on the Hill

DC:  Putting Development on Pause


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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Boulder Council Approves Transportation Master Plan

by Osman Parvez
source:   Boulder Transportation Master Plan

The chart above shows the percentage of trips taken by single occupant vehicles in Boulder.   The blue line is the trajectory needed to meet our target of 25%.      


(My) Baby in Tow
Want to know how Boulder intends to reach our goal?  Check out the recently approved Transportation Master Plan (TMP).     25% SOV is just one of city's goals.

As a cyclist, I'm proud that Boulder bicycles at 20x the national average.  I'm also a heavy user of our bicycle infrastructure. 

 Resident cyclists are now at 19% of mode share.   The TMP calls for pushing ahead to 30% via continued infrastructure improvements and Transportation Demand Management.   

Here are the proposed targets. 


source:  Boulder Transportation Master Plan

The Real Estate Perspective
One of the most audacious and impactful goals in the new TMP is to increase the percentage of residents living in "complete neighborhoods" from the current level of 26% to 80%.  

What are complete neighborhoods?   These are locations within the city where it takes fifteen minutes or less to walk to a grocery store, restaurant, transit stop, or other daily amenity.   

Of course, only 26% of residents live in complete neighborhoods due to zoning or other restrictions that prohibit commercial use.   We also actively inhibit high density via height limits, occupancy rules, and allowing only a limited number of secondary dwellings.   I'm not sure how the city plans to increase the percentage of residents in complete neighborhoods without addressing these factors. 

p.s. Don't forget about Bicycle Rights!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

City Budget Swells to Supersize

by Osman Parvez

So - just how big is the City of Boulder's budget?    I don't know about you, but I find myself wondering every time I see our municipal fleet rolling around town. 

specialty vehicles for all!
In case you don't have time to sift through hundreds of pages of budget-ese, I'll tell you. The total 2014 budget is $269.5 million, or about $2,700 for each and every Boulder resident.  84% is for operating purposes, the rest allocated to capital improvements.  

Here's something that should concern you.  Boulder's budget has grown an average of 6.2% over the past two years, almost 3.5 times CPI over the same period.  And we don't even own a municipal utility, yet. 

Break the City budget down and you'll find that most of the cost growth is concentrated in capital improvements  - not operations.   I had a hard time finding a simple chart in all that bureaucratic reporting, so I put together my own.  

Take a look: 


The blue bars represent the city's capital improvement budget.   The orange line is the percent change from the previous year.    

In 2013, the capital improvement budget expanded to $33.4 million, a whopping 39% increase from the previous year.  In 2014, it grew another 26% to over $42 million.     

What are spending the money on?

The city owns and maintains 330 facilities, 1,880 acres of parkland, 44,921 acres of Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), 305 miles of streets, 159 miles of bike facilities, 78 underpasses, three water treatment facilities, and 800 miles of water and wastewater piping.   Worthy stuff, in my opinion.   This post isn't intended to bash our spending, it's important to keep investing in our city's infrastructure.  It's the pace of growth that is concerning.   

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Buyers and Sellers
This blog is (mostly) about real estate in Boulder.  If you're a buyer or seller, you should be aware of how capital improvements impact real estate supply and demand.  I'm specifically talking about zoning and infrastructure related to the North Boulder Subcommunity, Boulder Junction, Gunbarrel Community Center, Downtown, and Civic Area Plans.   

Frankly, it's too much to expect every buyer and seller to be well educated on these things.  That's where an experienced agent-adviser can guide you in the right direction.  

There are a lot of improvements planned for near future (some of which remain unfunded, by the way).   For buyers and sellers, there will be opportunities big and small.  Investors, homeowners, and developers - it's time to pay attention.   There will be winners and losers.   Knowing what's happening will help you make a smarter real estate decision.   

Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sorry Boulder Sellers, You Blew It.

by Osman Parvez

Ahh... Autumn's in the air.  If you're a boulder real estate seller, I've got bad news for you.  The summer selling season is OVER.  

The following charts show the percentage change in Inventory from about two months ago.   





As you can see in the charts above, active listings - those you can actually buy - have dropped nearly 10% for houses and a whopping 25% for attached dwellings (condos, townhomes, etc). 

Listings that are pending (about to close) or under contract have fallen a massive 38% for houses and 30% for attached dwellings, respectively. 

note:  Pending includes active/backup in these pie charts
What does this mean?   
The pie charts above tell the story.   

Many sellers remain on the market, looking for a buyer.   About 175 properties are available and ~200 properties are on track for closing in the next 30-60 days.    Selection is substantially better for houses than attached dwellings. 

Buyers:   Whether you're looking at houses or attached dwellings, the intense pressure to submit offers has lessened.  Yes, some newly listed property will still attract multiple offers but it's not like it was a few months ago.   You have breathing room.    Plan your strategy accordingly. 


Sellers:  If you've been on the market for the past few months without an offer, I have bad news for you.  The summer selling season is over.  

You blew it.   

Don't say I didn't warn you (read: Don't Wait, Adjust Your Strategy Now.)  Now, the horse has left the barn. 

Maybe you didn't have your house buttoned up and ready to sell.   Maybe you overpriced it.   Either way, you're now dealing with a much cooler market. As fall arrives, you'll have fewer showings.  

As we head into the end of the third quarter, smart buyer's agents should not encourage their clients to go all in with "highest and best" offers.    Sellers should accordingly be prepared to find themselves in a tougher negotiation.  Be ready to give up a little more to get it under contract. 

Remember:  If you'd like to talk about your real estate strategy, don't hesitate to contact me.  I've added a shiny new schedule app.  Please, schedule an appointment

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Sending A Message

by Osman Parvez

Back to back showings the other day.   Both houses had those cute decorative keys. 


So do you feel like gambling or taking a trip back to the 60's?   I'm not sure either is a message you should send potential buyers.   

Bonus point.  Guess which one had THIS shower?





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It's Time to Preserve Long's Gardens [Speak Up!]

by Osman Parvez

The Hawthorn Community Garden is located on Long's Farm
Long’s Gardens is a third generation, family owned and operated iris farm in the middle of Boulder.   This near 100 year old farm is situated on about 25 acres at 3480 Broadway, essentially the heart of Boulder.  It's also home to Growing Gardens, a Boulder-based non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of our community through sustainable urban agriculture (Full disclosure:  I serve on the Board for Growing Gardens)

City Council has a public discussion scheduled for tomorrow at 6pm on preservation efforts at Long's Gardens.  Please take the opportunity to learn and add your opinion. 

Here's a letter from Peter Mayer and Amanda Bickel (emphasis added): 

Dear Friends of Long's Gardens,

City Council Member Mary Young has requested that City Council discuss preservation of the 25-acre Long's Gardens at the regular meeting on Tues. 8/19, which begins at 6:00 pm. This is an important moment to remind City Council and city staff about how essential this property is to the community.

If you haven't written a letter to Council recently about Long's, please write them soon to remind them how important this property is to you and that you want the City to negotiate with the Long Family to preserve the land.  The Council email:   council@bouldercolorado.gov

Please attend the Council meeting on Tuesday, August 19 at 6:00 and speak to the Council for a couple of minutes about what the property means to you.  Encourage the City to negotiate with the Long Family for a conservation easement to protect the land.

Both the City Council and the Long Family have indicated that they wish to have this land preserved in perpetuity for agriculture and agricultural education projects such as the Long's iris gardens, the Hawthorn community gardens, Cultiva youth programs, the Children's Peace Garden, and Mountain Flower Goat Dairy. However, there has not thus far been effective negotiation on how to do this.  The Long Family offered to sell the City a conservation easement a couple of years ago.  The City responded by conducting an appraisal and then, in August 2013, offered to buy the property outright. The Longs had previously indicated that they did not wish to sell the land, and they politely rejected that offer:  They do not believe sale to the City will ensure the land is preserved in agriculture, which is, for them, the central goal.   There was no progress for over a year.  

There is now potential to move the discussion forward.  The family will be sitting down with the City Attorney in the next week to discuss the issue further.  Whether or not negotiations move forward will depend in large part on whether there is any flexibility in negotiating a creative solution.  We believe a good faith negotiation could achieve a solution that works well for the City, the Long Family, and the citizens of Boulder.

The meeting on Tuesday could be important because some City staff appear unwilling to negotiate for anything except an outright purchase and have sought Council authority for this position. This appears to go against the previously stated position of the Council from the 6/18/2013 meeting at which Staff was instructed to negotiate with the Long Family, even though the Family had indicated it was not interested in selling the property outright.

In recent meeting minutes, ambiguous language was used to describe City Attorney Tom Carr's negotiating instructions:  From the Aug. 4 Council Agenda Committee (CAC) meeting minutes:

City Attorney Carr asked that the City Attorney’s Office be given the chance to continue negotiations as directed by the council. He described the challenges of conservation easement enforcement that the city faced in other instances and noted that the only way to ensure that the Long’s property would be limited to agriculture use would be if the city purchased the property. CAC agreed that was the appropriate course of action to take. 

The minutes are concerning because in reality there are numerous mechanisms available to the City for preserving the land in agriculture and the CAC is not purposed to give formal direction to staff.  Mary Young has requested the whole Council weigh in on the direction the City should take regarding Long's Gardens at the meeting on Tuesday, which is why we think it is important to once again make our voices heard.

If you can come to the Tuesday, August 19 Council Meeting:
The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 pm in Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway.
Longs will likely come up under Matters from Mayor and Members of Council (Agenda Item #8).  This may be late in the evening.  However, there is also an opportunity to speak near the beginning of the meeting during the 45 minute Open Comment period (agenda Item #2), as well as at the end of "Matters".  If you wish to speak during Open Comment, please sign up on line here as soon as possible:

http://www.eventbrite.com/org/782576959?s=12605786

You will have 2-3 minutes to speak.  

If you don't wish to speak but wish to show support, please come anyway.  We will likely be looking for people who are willing to pool (give) time to other speakers.  We encourage you to wear Long's T's or other green shirts, and, we will ask for supporters to stand up during the comment period.
Please let us know if you are planning to come, as it will help us to organize and prepare (peter.mayer@waterdm.com).

Key points to bring up in public comments are:
Please proceed with negotiations to preserve Long's Garden's for agriculture and agricultural education.

All options for conserving the property should be on the table including conservation easement, open space designation, city charter amendment, or other mechanism for retiring the development rights, among others.  

We are out of state at the moment and will not be able to attend the Tuesday meeting, but we will contact members directly in the coming days.  If you are able to speak at the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. on Tues. 8/19, it would be very much appreciated.

Thanks for your continued support.  We remain optimistic that this land can and will be preserved for agriculture.

Warm regards,

Peter Mayer and Amanda Bickel

Additional Reading
Boulder Reopens Talks on Preserving Long's Garden
Strengthening Urban Agriculture in Boulder
Preserve Long's Garden
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tear the Roof Off the Sucker

by Osman Parvez


Rubble, rubble everywhere.

Boom!   1301 Walnut is no more.   The old historic building is gone and construction is now underway for a new four-story office building in downtown Boulder.

The future 63,000-square-foot commercial building will feature class A office space (upper levels), flexible space at the street level, and yet more offices below grade.  It will also be LEED Gold certified

Here's what the future building will look like. 



Meh.   The Planning Board somehow gave this project unanimous approval, but it looks soulless to me.   We need more high quality office space in downtown Boulder, but I'll miss the character of the old building.

Now here's the rub.   From what I've read, only ten parking spaces are being provided on the east side of the first floor (against the Colorado Building). Access to this one-way parking lot will be from Walnut on the east side of the site, and cars will exit into the alley and then head west to 13th Street.   

So... expect to see more of this and probably more of this, too.   That's my truck getting ticketed, by the way. 

OK, bring the funk. 




Additional Resources: 
BCBR Article
Architect's Project Page
House Einstein's Boulder Development Map
House Einstein's Wencel Building Photo Set
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Development Update - Gunbarrel Edition

by Osman Parvez
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Here are images of ongoing development in Boulder.   The following projects are located in Gunbarrel.      Pics were taken August 12, 2014. 


Apex 5510 nears completion

Apex 5510 (details):  Rent starts at about $1,100 for a studio.  100% rentals. Photo Album

Boulder View Apartments (6653 Lookout Rd) nears completion
Boulder View Apartments (details)
Building A: 3 story multifamily building containing 20 units. To include 8 single car garages on main level totaling 1,873 square feet, 21,047 square feet for residential units on three levels, and 1,325 square feet in decks and porches

Building B: 3 story multifamily building containing 32 units. To include 12 single car garages on main level totaling 2,789 square feet, 1,002 square foot leasing office, 34,262 square feet for residential units on three levels.

Building C: 3 story multifamily building containing 16 units. To include 11 single car garages on main level totaling 1,883 square feet, 16,342 square feet for residential units on three levels, and 1,079 square feet in 

decks and porches.

100% rentals.   Price range:  $1050 to $2,000 per month. 

Construction underway at Gunbarrel Center (6685 Gunpark Drive)
Gunbarrel Center details):  9.27 acre development with 251 dwellings and approximately 25,000 sf of new retail and commercial space in addition to a new park and central community hub.   Pricing yet to be announced.   Photo album.

Additional Resources: 
Boulder Development Map


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Hey, My Buddy is a Roofer...

by Osman Parvez

The moment we stepped into the backyard, I saw it.    My buyers didn't notice but I sure did.    

At some point, the current (or previous) homeowner decided it was time for a new roof but didn't want to pay the additional expense to remove the old one.   It's not uncommon to see multiple shingle layers in Boulder, but have you ever seen composite shingles installed over shake shingle?  


It's not easy being green
Now you have.   Something tells me this installation wasn't to code.  Check out the moss and rot!

My buyers were contemplating making an offer on this house in the University Hill neighborhood, but after I pointed the roof, they wondered what other short cuts the seller may have taken.    Of course, any offer would now need to take into account a full roof replacement and any lender would probably want to see it done before closing.    

The house was cute but with a half dozen or more attractive options in the $800,000 to $1,000,000 range, it was easy to focus attention elsewhere. My buyers weren't in a rush, they could afford to be patient. 

Buy side advice:  Think about how obvious inspection issues will likely play out before writing the offer.  A competent buyer's agent can help you.  While the contract protects your earnest money, you will still incur significant due diligence costs.  The seller may or may not budge when you later ask for price reductions or repairs related to inspection issues, flushing your inspection costs into the proverbial money hole. 

Sell side advice:  Either correct the problem now or be prepared for the issue to arise later on inspection.   By law, any knowledge of the issue must be described on the Seller's Property Disclosure.   Obvious and glaring issues should always be corrected before listing - it's far cheaper when you can control the choice of contractor and the timeline.  As the seller, you also look like a rock star when you fix stuff properly and fully disclose the repair to potential buyers.   

Remember, ethical behavior engenders trust - a critical factor in high dollar negotiations.  

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Honey, Meet the Neighbors

by Osman Parvez
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I took clients to see a few Boulder properties this afternoon.   This was the view from the front yard of one of the houses we saw.  

Guess what sort of impression this made?

Of course, you can't control your neighbors but if you're trying to sell a house, this sort of stuff is detrimental.   If it were my $1M+ listing ... I'd offer to share the cost with neighbor for getting this painted.   Remember, there is no such thing as a second first impression.


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Friday, August 08, 2014

Why We Live Here

by Osman Parvez

The real estate busy season is starting to wrap up.  Although it never fully stops, it slows down which means I have time for more blog posts, meetups, and other non real estate adventures.  

Here's a hike report for Quandary Peak - my eleventh Fourteener.   This is why we live here. 


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Friday, August 01, 2014

Zillow + Trulia = Bad Idea?

by Osman Parvez

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop by the Boulder area MLS aimed at educating employing brokers on listing syndication.   It was a very informative meeting.   


We spent a lot of time talking about how listings disperse from the MLS to Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and other third party websites.  We also talked about the importance of educating buyers and sellers on the pros/cons of these sites.   

This week, Zillow announced it has agreed to purchase Trulia for $3.5Bn.  

As a Consumer, Should You Care? 
Short answer:  Yes.

Pros:  There is no mistaking the innovation that Zillow and Trulia provide.   These sites are better designed and more intuitive than the majority of access points to the MLS (colorproperty.com is the direct access to our MLS).  This is especially true of the mapping features and the smart phone apps.   

Cons: The information provided by Zillow/Trulia remains grossly inaccurate (see: What's Wrong with Zillow, Wise up).  For casual observers, the inaccuracy is largely irrelevant but if you're serious about buying or selling, it has a huge impact - especially in a small market like Boulder.

I often find myself fielding emails about erroneous Zestimates (no, they're not appraisals and not even close to true market value:  read MORE).  I also spend a lot of time tracking down Zillow listings for buyers on the hunt for a house. Zillow will often show phantom listings of properties which sold years ago.   

After the third or fourth Zillow wild goose chase, my clients usually get the message:  The MLS is a better source for information on real estate listings.  It's faster, it's also far more accurate. 

Zillow creates a lot of busy work for real estate professionals because of this misleading information... and then they have the balls to call and pitch us on advertising.  As a Realtor, it's mildly annoying.   

Zillow - The New MLS?
Z vs the S&P 500 (click for larger image)
Zillow and Trulia don't really care about accuracy (read Zillow Continues to Mislead) as much as they care about eyeballs.  These companies are in the business of selling potential buyers and sellers to real estate agents.   Realtors are their customers.   

Don't take it from me.   Read Zillow's annual report:  "Our current financial model depends on advertising revenue generated primarily through sales to real estate agents and brokerages, mortgage lenders, rental professionals and advertisers in categories relevant to real estate."

It's also clear they don't care about making money - at least for now.   They care about growth.   Zillow lost $12.5MM last year on gross revenue of about $197.5MM.  Meanwhile gross revenue grew about 70% and they spent $147MM on SG&A (those annoying sales calls we Realtors keep getting).   They also spent nearly $50MM on R&D. 

Today, the stock market thinks Zillow is worth $5.5Bn and looks the other way when the CEO not only pays himself half a million a year in salary, but cashes out nearly $20MM in equity.   The analyst in me shudders. 

Forget the obscene market cap. Zillow's growth and continued investment is no joke.   Zillow is spending serious cash in its mission to become the new MLS and acquiring Trulia is part of the game plan.  The legacy MLS systems across the country are right to view Zillow/Trulia as a threat. 

 Nearly half of Boulder area Realtors think it has little or no impact.   source: IRESIS
Realtors, Wake Up! 
Real estate professionals already know that people are increasingly going to these sites. I've heard from reliable sources that Zillow and Trulia are now seeing anywhere from 40% to 60% of generic real estate related web traffic.  

You should also know that stats on inquiries from the web to Realtors clearly show that serious buyers and sellers still primarily use the MLS.   Listings on Zillow and Trulia get very few serious real estate inquiries compared to the MLS itself - at least in the Boulder area.  

For now, nearly half of Boulder area Realtors using our MLS don't think the merger will have any impact (see survey above).    

What About Investors? 

image:  Venturist
I'm no longer a stock analyst, but I'll end this post by waving a caution flag at potential Zillow investors.    

Remember that workshop for managing brokers?  During the event, organizers asked if we currently pay for advertising on Zillow or Trulia.   Several hands shot in the air.   I just had to know, so I blurted out my own question: "Who's tried it and then stopped paying?"   Even more hands shot up (including mine).  

A surprising number of managing brokers reached the conclusion that paying to advertise on Zillow/Trulia doesn't make sense because the cost is high and the few leads generated are low quality.   Meanwhile, managing brokers are starting to see Zillow and Trulia not as a business partner but as a serious threat to our industry.   Who wants to pay for a competitor to eat your lunch?  
From the risk factor section of Zillow's 10K:   
"We May Not Be Able to Maintain or Establish Relationships With Real Estate Brokerages, Real Estate Listing Aggregators, Multiple Listing Services, Property Management Companies, Home Builders and Other Third-Party Listing Providers, Which Could Limit the Information We Are Able to Provide to Our Users."

Final point:  if you're still chomping at the bit to buy Z stock, remember that real estate boards and powerful brokerages across the country control access to the MLS and they can turn it off with a switch (read:  Edina Realty Pulls the Plug).   

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Like this analysis?    Subscribe to my research.          Ready to buy or sell?  Call me at 303.746.6896. As always, your referrals are deeply appreciated.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Don't Wait, Adjust Your Strategy NOW

by Osman Parvez

Heads up.  The summer real estate season in Boulder is coming to a close.  If you're still in the market to buy or sell, it's time to adjust your strategy. 

Take a look at inventory trends during the month of July. 


The chart above shows attached dwelling inventory (i.e. town homes and condos) in the City of Boulder from the end of June through today, July 30.     The blue line is available, the orange line is under contract, and the grey line is pending. 

Since the end of June, available attached dwellings have dropped 18% and property under contract has dropped 19%.   Pending sales (i.e. under contract and anticipated to close shortly), have increased about 13%

Now let's look at traditional detached single family houses.



Since the end of June, available inventory has dropped about 6% while property under contract has dropped nearly 22%.    Pending sales have fallen only about 4%.  

Adjust Your Strategy
I've already advised my active buyers and sellers of the shift in market conditions underway.   Your agent should have already called you, but if not... here's a few thoughts. 

Buyers: in general, inventory has dropped for available attached dwellings but under contract has dropped in lock-step.   The market should feel about the same as a month ago for most condo and town home buyers.    Buyers of traditional houses meanwhile have slightly less selection but property under contract has fallen much further, suggesting less buyer competition for the most attractive houses and possibly fewer bidding wars.  

Sellers:  Summer has another month to go, but the real estate market is already cooling.   If you haven't gotten an acceptable offer on your listing, I strongly advise reviewing your marketing strategy with your agent.  If you're thinking about making a price drop, now is the time.  Take a careful look at recent sales and your current competition.  Act accordingly. 

Don't forget, this is a analysis that includes all price ranges and locations in the City of Boulder.   If you're looking for advice for your specific situation, call me at 303.746.6896.    
   
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Like this analysis?    Subscribe to my research.          Ready to buy or sell?  Call me at 303.746.6896. As always, your referrals are deeply appreciated.    image:  Budi Nusyirwan