The $8,000 buyer tax credit ended April 30, 2010. Take a look at the following graph to see the effect the tax credit had on buyer activity in Austin TX. This shows Pending activity for Austin MLS listings going back to Jan 2005 through April 2010. The green line is 2010. The previous years of 2007, 2008, 2009 are represented by the other colored lines.
I used Pending listings because a lot of the April Pending sales haven’t closed yet, but anything that qualified for the tax credit would have to be Pending by April 30th, so this gives us a sneak peek at what the sales data will look like for May closed sales.
A couple of interesting things to note here. I went back to 2007 because that was the peak year for Austin. As you can see on the chart, April Pending listings exceeded the peak year of 2007 for April. I suspect we’ve never experienced an April in Austin where almost 3,000 homes received accepted offers.What does this mean for the future?
Our Austin MLS system now allows up to 25 photos to be included with each Austin MLS listing. That’s too many, I dare say. Sometimes I have a hard time even coming up with 12 (the previous limit) photos that are MLS-worthy to include with a listing.
Not that twenty-five Austin MLS photos won’t be appreciated by some listing surfers, but I predict we’re going to end up with a whole lot of crappy photos saying “3rd bedroom” and showing a vanilla wall with a window. Or we’ll start seeing a photo of the doggie door, or the mailbox, or, one of my favorites “front door”, as agents stretch to find additional shots to fill the bucket with all 25 photos.
How many areas of interest are there in a home anyway? We have the kitchen, living(s), dining(s), baths, bedrooms, exterior front and back and … uhh … let’s see, I guess that’s about it.
That would cover 12 shots in a standard 3 bedroom home with 2 living areas, 2 dining and 2 baths. What shall we serve up for the additional 13 photos? We’ll also be seeing a lot of photos that say “another view of kitchen”, which I actually do sometimes already when I’ve run out of interesting or worthy shots. I guess that’s ok. But come on.
An aside: Does doubling the number of MLS photos have any affect on our carbon footprint? Just wondering. I’ll bet it does in various secondary ways. That’s gonna have to use up a lot of extra hard disk space and bandwidth. But I digress.
But here’s the thing. As a buyer surfing Austin real estate listings online, you can only ascertain so much about a property from photos.
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Sylvia and I have turned down some listings recently. We only take listings we think we can sell. The result is, in a market where half of all listings end up Expired or Withdrawn, we just had our first Withdrawn listing in a couple of years last month. And that was because the owner rented the house before we were able to find a buyer. We’ve not lost any listings to Expired status.
To some agents, we are fools. Don’t we know that every listing should generate two new buyers from the sign calls, and therefore even a listing that doesn’t sell is still a listing worth taking? Yes, we know that logic. We know about the 800-number rider signs that would text the Caller ID to us so we can call the buyer back in 3 minutes and try to convert them to an appointment.
We just don’t work that way, nor do we agree with the premise upon which that business strategy is based.
So, there are two basic camps of thought on the issue. One says that listings are supposed to be sold, and if an agent doesn’t think the listing will sell, then don’t take it.
The other point of view is strictly business and numbers. Listings, if marketed properly, generate buyer calls which can be converted to buyer clients who will buy other houses. Who cares if the listing doesn’t sell? Two other sales (on average – if you work it right) will result from having the listing, and that’s good business, right?
Wrong. I disagree with the second line of reasoning, and here’s why.
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For about 4 years now I’ve been posting all of our listings in Austin Craigslist. It seems like once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I received a call or two, and even a bonafide lead from one of our Craigslist property listing ads. I honestly can’t remember the last time it’s happened though. Must be more than two years now.
Usually all I get is a) spam, b) scam attempts or c) emails from other Realtors wondering if they can advertise our listing on Craigslist as a buyer agent. All three of these have zero value to me.
My general comment to clients when talking about the things we do to market a home for sale or lease in Austin is “..we also place it in Craigslist, which doesn’t ever generate any calls, but it’s free so we put it there just in case”.
So, if we’ve received no results at all from placing listings in Craigslist, is “it’s free” a good enough reason to keep doing it?
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Realtor.com has a nice iPhone specific url that allows you to view real estate listings from your iPhone. I’m not sure what percentage of U.S. listings are fed into Realtor.com, but I would be suprised if it isn’t most of the major metro area MLS listings. And they are all at your finger tips with your iPhone.
OK, so what? Big deal. Who cares? What problem is solved by having access to nearly all of the Realtor listings in the U.S. through an iPhone? Why not just go home and log in from your web browser if you want to surf listings?
Well, I’m with you. I’m not impressed with “gee wiz” technology just for the sake of technology, but I can think of at least two ways in which this technology benefits me personally and professionally.
First, it’s not uncommon to be showing houses to buyers, and they ask about homes we drive by that are not on our list. This happens all the time.
Normally, if it’s not on our showing list, it’s because it didn’t fit the parameters of the search, or I eliminated it for some other reason. But I don’t always know or remember at the moment the question is asked. If there are flyers, we get one and find out the price and specs, but flyer boxes are usually empty, and sometimes the price isn’t printed on the flyer (because the agent wants you to call and ask, so they can convert you to a “buyer lead”.
I can also call the agent number on the sign, but what do you think the chances are that the call will be answered? Not good. Realtors hardly ever answer their phones.
So instead, now all I have to do is enter a quick search and pull the listing up, complete with pictures and basic details. The screen shot above is the home page you’ll see if you visit iphone.realtor.com with your iPhone.
Let’s walk through more screen shots and see if this is cool and useful, or not. Oh, and I’ll get to reason number two of why this isn’t a complete waste of time eventually, but for now, let’s just see what you can do with Realtor.com and an iPhone.