commissionsThere has been a lot of discussion lately about Realtor commissions, and what sellers should expect for the commission they are going to pay. More and more startups are popping up to cut the Realtor out altogether.

So for our Aug. 3  Friday Question, we asked real estate professionals — and our readers — to tell us what they thought about commissions.

It didn’t take much to find a whole fistful of articles (some written by us, even), that discuss the topic of Realtor commissions and disruptors like Open Door and Door. In the past three years or so, we’ve written stories about Door and other companies looking to change the way people sell their homes.

And then there’s this article in Forbes this month, which asks, “Are Real Estate Agents Still Relevant In The Age Of Tech?” The article begins by talking about Zillow and other sites that allow prospective buyers to look through houses themselves, seeing multiple pictures, finding out all kinds of information about renovations, materials used, etc.

“But though tech has allowed homebuyers to do all this legwork themselves, in most cases, they’re still forced to go through agents to finalize the transaction,” the piece said. “And those agents? They get the same 3 percent commission they did decades ago—for seemingly doing a fraction of the work.” (more…)

cool downEver since reports that home sales in the Dallas-Fort Worth market (and nationally, too) slowed in June, there has been a steady flow of stories proclaiming doom for the market. But is it really a cool down?

For our July 27 Friday Question, we took to Facebook and asked our readers what they thought about the reports.

(more…)

Photo via Pinterest

Carpet in the bathroom. For us, a discussion about it started with a picture someone sent for a folder I keep of random godawfulness for a future Wednesday WTF piece.

I showed it to Executive Editor Joanna England, because this is how we torture each other during the workday. One thing led to another, and suddenly we had another Friday Question, which we posed on our Facebook page as a poll: “Carpet in the bathroom is a) Gross, stop it; or b) A perfectly lovely choice. (more…)

millennials real estate

Millennials use their smart phones extensively in the homebuying process and use apps for research. Photo: Garry Knight

For years, millennials have largely been thought of as renters, not buyers, but that has changed. Millennials, born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, now represent the largest group of homebuyers in the U.S. at 32 percent, taking over from Generation X, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, which evaluated the generational differences of recent home buyers and sellers.

This matters because the way millennials buy real estate is markedly more technology-driven than older generations, and Realtors need to adapt to their style if they want to keep up, says David Maez, Broker and Co-Owner at VIVO Realty.

“There’s lots of frustration among older agents in working with the millennials, but they’re not going away and agents need to learn to adapt,” Maez said. “It’s exciting because of all of the technology that’s available to us to make it easier to buy and sell properties. How people buy properties is going to continue to evolve on the technology level.”

millennials real estate

Take, for instance, the telephone. Many Realtors are used to speaking with clients, but millennials are much more into texting.

“With millennials, you have to communicate how they want to—they are big on texting and many don’t even answer their phones,” Maez said. “Some agents have had success using Facebook messaging because [their millennial clients] are not checking their email, either.”

The smartphone is key to a lot of the differences in millennial real estate patterns. More than half of them search for homes on their mobile phones and 26 percent of those buy a house they found that way, according to research from NAR.

(more…)

Millennials texting

Millennials use their smart phones extensively in the homebuying process and use apps for research. Photo: Garry Knight

For years, Millennials have largely been thought of as renters, not buyers, but that has changed. Millennials, born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, now represent the largest group of homebuyers in the U.S. at 32 percent, taking over from Generation X, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study released today, which evaluated the generational differences of recent home buyers and sellers.

This matters because the way Millennials buy real estate is markedly more technology-driven than older generations, and Realtors need to adapt to their style if they want to keep up, says David Maez, Broker and Co-Owner at VIVO Realty.

“There’s lots of frustration among older agents in working with the Millennials, but they’re not going away and agents need to learn to adapt,” Maez said. “It’s exciting because of all of the technology that’s available to us to make it easier to buy and sell properties. How people buy properties is going to continue to evolve on the technology level.”

NAR graph

Take, for instance, the telephone. Many Realtors are used to speaking with clients, but Millennials are much more into texting.

“With Millennials, you have to communicate how they want to—they are big on texting and many don’t even answer their phones,” Maez said. “Some agents have had success using Facebook messaging because [their Millennial clients] are not checking their email, either.”

The smartphone is key to a lot of the differences in Millennial real estate patterns. More than half of them search for homes on their mobile phones and 26 percent of those buy a house they found that way, according to research from NAR.

(more…)

gentrification demonstration

As Silicon Valley buyers moved in to San Francisco, prices for rentals and single-family properties have pushed sky-high. As Candy reported, the bus routes that shuttle employees to and from the Facebook and Google campuses have been protested and picketed by folks fed up with increasing cost of living and being pushed out of the city.

But two laws that went into effect this year to slow speculation and perhaps curb the high rate of evictions under the Ellis Act, which allows owners to evict renters in the case they no longer wish to be landlords. The city is prohibited from issuing permits on Ellis Act properties for 10 years after an eviction, or for five years if the owners chooses to move back into a property.

Realtors have filed suit, saying the law restricts property owners from seeing the full benefit of their real estate ownership. Here’s what they said in the SF Examiner story:

“The San Francisco Association of Realtors supports the rights of private property owners for the free use of their property as their needs suit them. This legislation only exacerbates the problems families face in finding adequate housing and drives out the families that have created the diversity we want and celebrate in our city,” said Walt Baczkowski, the trade group’s CEO, in a statement.

The question still remains — at what point does the city step in when housing prices grow so out of control to threaten the very makeup of the city? If you haven’t already, read Candy’s thoughtful breakdown on the matter and tell us: Do Realtors have a leg to stand on in this fight? Or is the city’s mandate too harsh in that it impedes development?

 

Museum Tower J. SughrueStop whatever you are doing and read this column by The Observer’s Jim Schutze. He asks the very same question I had when I first read the Dallas Morning News story over a week ago about Mike Snyder’s fake Facebook accounts. The question is: if the Dallas Morning News analyzed Snyder’s IP addresses (those are numbers that link on-line comments to the source of the commenting, like a crumb trail) on his comments on the Dallas Morning News website, which are supposed to be anonymous, did they also check on others? In other words, did any “fake” comments or fake people make up comments on behalf of the Nasher? Did anyone check?

“I asked Rodrigue why the paper thought it was fair play to use information from its servers to out Snyder but made no equivalent effort to out another frequent pseudonymous commenter, “Wylie H.,” a fake-name warrior who fights on the side of the Nasher. By the way, my own very inexpert Internet sleuthing last week showed me that Wylie H. has accessed Facebook from within City Hall but also from within The Dallas Morning News building.

We do not know. The News traced only one side. They analyzed comments and saw similarities in some of the ones made by Mike himself and the fake persona. “

With apologies to Wylie H. Dallas, I generally do not like anonymous commenters. I think people can get carried away when they post anonymously and say things they might not say if they were looking you in the eye. Then the discussion gets mean and nasty, and begets more anonymous mud-slinging, especially is passion is involved. I also like to do one-on-one interviews, but that’s because I’m old-fashioned.

But here’s what people tell me: “I cannot use my name, it will get me in trouble. I’m a (insert occupation) professional.” Using anonymous comments with Realtors is like opening Pandora’s box because of the competitive nature of the biz. Can you imagine? Someone could post: “This home has bad juju” or “the owners are about to file for bankruptcy” or Lord knows what. I want some accountability, so we use Facebook-registered comments here, and I pray they are legit. This has not, however, stopped people from sending anonymous emails alerting me to things of which I need to know or, perhaps, check out.

Because that’s something else Jim Schutze points out: anonymous information can be very valuable and even lead to a revolution! Read this:

First of all, is there something intrinsically wrong, morally or ethically, with anonymous speech or its trickier cousin, pseudonymous speech, in which the speaker assumes a fake name to further camouflage his own identity?

Hope not. Anonymous and pseudonymous speech are stitched deep in the American concept of free speech, as they were woven into the very origins of our nation. The first public discussion of freedom and liberty in the colonies began when the letters of “Cato” (not his real name) began to appear in American newspapers in 1720.

Tom Paine‘s pamphlet, “Common Sense,” published in 1776, one of the most important sources of the popular concept of American liberty, did not include anywhere on its pages the name Thomas Paine. It was signed “An Englishman.”

From the beginning of our nation, American courts and especially the Supreme Court have protected anonymous and pseudonymous speech as essential to the preservation of liberty. The idea has always been that you should be able to challenge the legitimacy of the crown — or even say the king’s a fool — and not pay with your head, your livelihood or your freedom.

Ah, yes, American History 101, it’s eeking back: now this has me totally re-thinking my position. Suffice it to say that you can send me anonymous emails, and I will go to court to protect my sources if I have to! But when you get down to it, every move we make, every stroke we take, is traceable. I am on my cell phone 24/7. It’s not just a blueprint to my life, it’s a damn map! My husband tells me he is working on an app that will alert him whenever I walk into Neimans!

Please note,  I am NOT taking sides here. In my opinion, both parties should be spanked: Museum Tower failed to think of the future ramifications of it’s height and the energy-efficient building design. The Nasher was certainly here first and is a treasure to our city, but does that give them control over the whole neighborhood? Maybe each side should give in a little and see what happens. This is very much like two neighbors sparring over a property line or tree disagreement or house shadow or whatever. What bugs me is that that the media-based blogosphere, which Schutze says amounts to about 80 people,  seems to have taken one side quite firmly, screaming loudly.

In his weekly radio program with Eric Celeste, Schutze said “Dallas is a one-horse town.”

Well, it’s about time we got some more horses, because we are going NOWHERE with just one!

MuseumTower-rendering-2.350w_263hI have been mulling on this story all week, ever since last Sunday when it ran in the Dallas Morning News: Fake Social Media Profiles part of  Dallas pension fund’s public relations fight with Nasher (sub req). 

Aside: What has happened to capital letters in headlines?

Brandon Eley and Barry Schwartz were the names on the two fake Facebook files former newscaster Mike Snyder set up and used as “sock puppets”, just like Shari Lewis’ cutie pie Lamb Chops in the 1950’s. By the way, there really is a physician in Dallas named Barry Schwartz, an ObGyn — did Mike’s Barry tell gyno jokes and host couth lessons for fourth year Parkland residents?

puppets-lamb-chop-290x400The term “sock puppet” refers to the creation of fake commentary on blogs, using fake names that act as pro or nay-sayers. According to the Urban Dictionary, a sock puppet is “a fake personality, usually a ‘friend’ or ‘sister,’ created by a drama queen/king for the sake of defending him/herself against others in an online forum.” People do this for many reasons: to promote, defend, or just dang it be right and look more popular. Not that it’s a justification, but some of these blog threads can get mighty nasty, super snarky, and half the commenters have “avatars” and fake names. Some take online forums way too seriously, mostly people without substantial employment.

It’s been said that we never really leave high school.

Sometimes it is done for defamation. In fact, in the lawsuit brewing between Grand Estates Auctions and Concierge Auctions, Concierge has charged that Grand Estates sought to defame the competitive auction house by setting up fake email accounts to publish “false and defamatory” stories (what we call troll comments, by sock puppets) about its competitor and steer business to Grand Estates.  Course, Grand Estates says Concierge allegedly misrepresented its sales numbers and used web crawlers to inflate its Internet traffic. My point: welcome to the internet age and web-related problemos.

The sock puppetry was pretty dumb. But I have a feeling this happens a lot more than we realize, often without us even knowing it. Social media experts offer a multitude of services — you can actually hire people to comment on sites on your behalf, vote on your behalf in web popularity contests, buy Twitter followers, buy reviews, do everything to slather your name all over the web. I get three to five emails a day from people who want to post on this site, as if we are desperate for content, “free” stories and in return, they just ask for an embedded link. SEO experts write and publish all day trying to boost a clients’ google rankings, bring up positive press, squash down negative. Steve Thompson and Gary Jacobson’s reporting was stellar and diligent, we need more. I may be wrong, but they only got one side’s emails through the open records request, from the Pension fund.

Are there any “sock puppets” on the Nasher side — and if so, how many fake comments did they write? Because I don’t think either side has been Ivory Snow pure in this battle.

More concerning to me was the scary legal letter sent to Christina Rees. And her employer. Perhaps I am just a bit more sensitive about blogger’s personal rights, journalist’s sources and freedom of speech these days, but the threat of tortuous/tortious interference on a real estate transaction from a Facebook posting both fascinated and frightened me. What if someone were buying a home and they asked my opinion of it before closing? What if I said, well, I wouldn’t buy it: dislike the lot size, the neighborhood stinks, and it has only one bathroom for the price you are going to pay.

Could the seller and seller’s agent sue me for tortuous/tortious interference if the buyer backed out of the contract because I gave my opinion and it was negative?

I could care less how it is spelled, I just want to know what IS tortious interference in a real estate transaction?

If I am a seller, and my buyer needs access to my house for inspections to further the contract he has on my home that I have signed and agreed to, and I block such access, I am interfering with the forward progression of the contract — correct? I risk being sued for tortious interference. So tortious interference requires that the plaintiff has a contract with another party, the defendant knew or should have known of that contract’s existence, the defendant intentionally induced the other party with the contract not to perform the contract, and the defendant’s action caused the plaintiff to incur damages, right?

Here’s the gist of what Steve and Gary wrote:

“The public relations battle between the pension system and the Nasher comes down to condo sales. Nasher supporters hope that an outcry over the glare will slow sales, forcing pension officials to modify their tower.

For pension officials, it’s critical to move public opinion on the glare issue far enough to sell the units, most of which range from roughly $2 million to $4 million. Otherwise, the pension fund’s $200 million investment will be a loser.”

Is the “outcry over glare” tortious/tortuous interference? Looks like we have come down to “glare” versus losing a $200 million investment. In Detroit, by the way,  public-sector retirees are going to court to argue that the city’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing should not take a bite out of their pension. The pension funds are  underfunded by anywhere from $700 million to $3.5 billion, got that way because of some bad real estate investments made in 2005-2006. Now this really shocked me: some of those investments were made in Dallas — boy I’d like to know where:

“How did the pensions blow it? Their failed investments include housing developments in Sarasota, Fla., and Dallas, both of which imploded during the housing-market crash, and a loan guarantee for a hotel-and-condo project in downtown Detroit. “

Dallas imploded like Sarasota?

Jason Aleem RedfinGlare versus a $200 million investment for police and firefighters: other day I was with Redfin broker Jason Aleem, who you will be hearing more about on these pages. (LOVE Redfin!) He told me of working a possible deal on a unit at Museum Tower with Kyle Richards from Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s and he said was taking a little extra pride on this deal, if it worked, because Jason’s dad is a Dallas firefighter.

Whose pension is wrapped up in that building.

I am almost beginning to think maybe Jim Schutze is right: this is getting to be a rich people’s battle of egos. At a very rich high school.