Matrix Blog


Going Vertical With Google: A Mash-up Of Listings And Maps

December 5, 2005 | 12:01 am | |

A new kind of real estate search engine called [Trulia]( is [getting graphic about traditional listing searches [Curbed LA].](

The New York Times Circuits Section discusses a whole new breed of real estate search engines, including Trulia thanks to Google Maps in [A Journey to a Thousand Maps Begins With an Open Code [NYT]](

“A new class of entrepreneur is jumping in as well. Pete Flint, a 2004 graduate of Stanford University’s business school, and a classmate, Sami Inkinen, started a mash-up called, which pinpoints real estate listings on a Google map. Click on a pushpin in a favorite neighborhood and up pops the listings, along with comparables from recent home sales and other nearby properties.

Trulia has posted data only for five California cities, and that data is a bit thin because it uses publicly available sources like newspapers and Web sites, not the Multiple Listing Service, the copyrighted databases belonging to local broker associations. Trulia plans on adding additional layers of information, like census data.”

Trulia is only in California but its catching on.

[Click here for more on their mash-up concept.](

Webmaster’s Note: Thanks Laura S.!

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Buyers Start To Show Muscle To Sellers

November 17, 2005 | 9:41 am | |

While the real estate market is still a “seller’s market” overall, [buyers are starting to gain strength [USA Today].](

Prices are still setting records but inventory is expanding and buyers are beginning to feel pinched by mortgage rates that have seen modest gains lately (although still very low on historic terms).

[Real estate brokers will need to manage seller expectations more effectively over the next several quarters or the gap between list price and sales price will widen [Curbed].](

The market today has changed from frenzied growth to more modest growth and the use of recent stats, such as the 3rd quarter results as evidence of a strong market is not on solid footing.

[NAR’s chart on 150 median area home prices [USA Today]](

Source: USA Today

Rinse Lather Repeat: Filtering Out Dirty Data In A Changing Market

November 13, 2005 | 1:25 pm | |

I recently added [a “faux chart” to my weekly post [Curbed].]( The numbers were perfectly aligned to illustrate a point that I wished to make. I had about 20 people comment on the post, and one of the anonymous responses (see below) got me thinking about the quality of data that is presented to the public.

Anonymous: “It is always amusing when some Wall Streeter treats real estate like stocks or bonds. Real estate is different from stocks and bonds. Prices aren’t transparent, “friction costs” (eg. brokerage, closing costs, etc.) are very high, and product isn’t easily compared. And you need a place to live. Does anyone actually know a person who sold their house/apartment in anticipation of the market falling, rented a place (or lived in the street), and subsequently bought the equivalent place for less money. I know several who messed that one up pretty badly (mostly Wall Street traders who confused their personal life with their professional life). Yes, real estate is cyclical, but it had maintained a pattern known as “higher highs / higher lows”. In other words it trends higher, although not necessarily in a straight line. Maybe you catch a dip if you are really really smart. But mostly you buy when you have to and sell when you have to. Real estate downturns are driven less by interest rates and more by job conditions in specific markets. Look at Denver after the telecommunications mergers, Houston after Enron, San Francisco after the tech bubble, and New York after the each Wall Street implosion. So much of the price data that the media latches onto is suspect. Small samples that are statistical garbage. Remember the old saying “lies, damn lies, and statistics”. If you can afford to buy, and find what you like, then buy. If not, rent or find another city. But get a life.”

If you think about it, with few exceptions, so much of the source data used by the media and consumer from the real estate market is from compromised resources within the real estate community. Then that news becomes a resource, and its a viscious (a bit melodramatic) cycle.

In other words, the stats are coming from people whose livlihood is dependent on how well the market does. I’m not suggesting that all stats are misleading. Some of the info is great, some is spun and some is presented naively. I am not sure how the consumer can tell the difference.

Its important that readers understand the source of the information they are relying on and take that with a grain of salt. I guess the moral of the story is “don’t believe everything you read.”

Here are some seemingly random thoughts:

  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a powerful trade group who mission is to promote the real estate brokerage profession. They are the primary source of key housing stats like existing home sales and pending home sales indexes. They produce some interesting stuff we all rely on, but by definition, its spin.

  • Local MLS and real estate brokers are spokesman for the market: Same as NAR but on a local level. In a changing market, [they tend to go on the offensive and use historical trends [Matrix]]( as support for the argument that the market is currently “strong.”

  • The use of [“Chief Economists” [Matrix]]( for these trade groups and companies who are there only to “spin”, under the guise that their position is prestigious, above the fray, and are providing a neutral opinion.

  • The production of market reports whose stats are “cherry-picked” to show the most extreme results.

  • Market reports updated in small timelines, like monthly, using a small data set. They bombard the consumer with results of diluted reliability. For example, when a specific market area, like a neighborhood is based on a few dozen sales and compared to a prior month, how can that be useful?

  • The misuse of statistics to grab a headline. During the rising market, we saw crazy growth numbers without drilling down to see what it was all about. The same is happening in a less-frenzied market, were the stats are being exagerated to show a sharp downturn.

  • Press releases of studies done by a biased party to show how a weak aspect of the market is not really all that bad.

I guess you could say that I am currently in a “glass is half empty” mode.

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The Fabulous, Gracious Language Of BrokerSpeak Used To Be Triple Mint

September 17, 2005 | 7:20 pm | |

Over the past 20 years, real estate brokerage has evolved from a part time, to a full time profession. Many accomplished professionals from other industries have switched careers to fill the ranks. As buyers and sellers have become more sophisticated having access to more information, the [brokerage profession has worked hard to keep pace]( The sales agents that will succeed in the future will likely embrace changes in the industry.

One of the residuals of the past, now on the decline, is the language of brokerspeak: [“This apartment has the most dramatic bathroom in New York City”]( Its the slang of superlatives used to describe property listings. The irony here is that the purchase or sale of a residential property is one of the largest financial transactions in anyone’s life and yet it can be reduced to brokerspeak.

Successful real estate brokers seem to rely less on brokerspeak to sell their listings than in prior years. Brokers still use plenty of superlatives, but hey, they are selling something, so thats ok. The major brokerage firms seem to be paying more attention to this and it shows in their online listings…brokerspeak is on the decline.

How To Classify A Phrase As Brokerspeak
A simple test: try saying the phrase This living room is absolutely sun-drenched to a loved one and not feel awkward.

How To Translate A Phrase From Brokerspeak
See: [Reader’s Digest’s Speaking the Real Estate Language: ]( What Brokers Say vs. What They Really Mean.

Favorite Brokerspeak Phrases
Triple Mint and Mint (no Double Mint? perhaps due to Wrigley’s copyright?)
Fabulous (or Fab) Views (An adjective that provides no explanation)
Gracious Living (what is that?)

Low End BrokerSpeak
From the basement of brokerspeak, here is a great post presented as only []( can.

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