The Austin real estate market for Feb 2010 remained about the same as February a year ago. None of the measurable price metrics changes by more than a percent or two. Homes are selling faster though, and the number of failed listings (Expired/Withdrawn) is down considerably. Days on market is down 13% and the number of Exp/Withdrawn listings is down 13% also. This indicates perhaps a swelling in momentum.
Sylvia and I are seeing increased activity both with buyer inquiries and activity on our listings. Other agents we talk to are saying the same. The current tax credit incentive ($8K for first time buyers, $6,500 for move-up buyers) expires soon. Offers must be written by April 30th to qualify for the tax credit. This seems mainly to be motivating first timers. We haven’t heard from any move-up buyers motivated by collecting a $6,500 tax credit. The move-up credit is a farce because it requires the recipient to complete two real estate transactions, the cost of which would exceed the $6,500 credit. Only the people who were going to move up anyway will benefit from this useless freebie.
Upcoming factors to keep an eye on include the discontinued buying of mortgage backed securities by the government on March 31st. This has provided a marketplace for loans and kept interest rates artificially low, perhaps by as much as 1.5%. Interest rates should rise throughout the rest of 2010 and will probably be in the 6%+ range by the start of next year.
Then on May 1st, the tax credit ends which, combined with rising interest rates, could put the skids on demand in the lower price ranges. We need the lower price ranges to do well because the sellers of those homes become the buyers of the mid range homes. Of course there remains the national economy and unemployment as well. Improvement in the economy will lift consumer confidence and jobs numbers, which will positively affect the real estate market.
Below is the chart of stats for Feb 2010. Further below are the year to date and inventory stats.
I just wrapped up 5 days at SXSW Interactive. It was a fantastic conference with many great workshops, panels and discussion events related to technology, business, the internet and social networking. Much of it was relevant to the real estate business and small business in general, which surprised me.In fact, I attended two discussion workshops dedicated to real estate.
The first was “Making the Move from California to Austin“. Lots of good interaction, insight and questions regarding the differences between the larger California cities (the Bay Area in particular) and Austin. There were many Californians in attendance and it was fun to hear why so many feel drawn to make the move to Austin. I could say more, but that’s not the topic of this article.
The other real estate related event I attended was titled “Can Web 2.0 Kill the Real Estate Industry?“. This one surprised me because I actually got pretty worked up and steamed at how completely uniformed those are who dismiss the real estate agent as an obsolete, useless tour/taxi driver. It’s extremely irritating to listen to people who don’t know what they don’t know speak as if they know everything.
Interestingly, the folks in the audience who had actually purchased or sold a home recently defended real estate agents and said they greatly valued the services received. This sentiment is reflected in the internal surveys we sent our own clients after the close of each sale, which uniformly rate the experience as a very good one (whoa, I need to update that page on our site!).
Anyway, the discussion that took place stirred up some thoughts regarding my profession, what we do and how we are paid, and how the internet has changed things. Since I wasn’t able to fully make my points in a couple of short soundbites during the open discussion, I’m going to expand on my thoughts here.
So, with almost all MLS listings online and so much information available to real estate consumers nowadays, why is it that an agent is still needed? Why can’t we just be replaced by the internet? And, as one grouchy know-it-all complained about repeatedly, why should the listing data be controlled and disseminated only through private MLS Associations with strict rules on how the data is used and displayed online? Why isn’t all this MLS listing data free for the public to see and use?
I’m going to answer those questions, and others, by starting at the beginning – with the Seller.
Everything Begins With the Seller
Let’s say that Ms. Home Owner is happily living in Austin TX, working in an industry she loves, doing well, and one day she gets an unexpected job offer that will require her relocation out of state. The offer is too good to pass up, so she makes plans to move in two weeks and sell her house.