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Inman RE Connect Panel: VALUATION: New Tools to Set Buyer and Seller Expectations

January 7, 2007 | 10:51 pm | |

Last year was my first Inman Connect conference as I never made the trip to San Francisco. I really enjoyed it. This year should prove to be even better. In fact there is danger of sensory overload, which is a good thing.

For additional clarity, Brad Inman might reconsider changing the name of the conference to:

Inman Real Estate Connect NYC: Connecting The Connected, The Unconnected And The Disconnected

Sorry – I just recovered from the flu and a NY Jets loss so I am feeling a little dizzy.

Last year I was part of a panel on market conditions in New York which proved to be interesting because two of the panelists basically said that the housing market was perfectly fine, and two (self included) said the market was not fine, but not dire, specifically in New York.

This year it is a different topic and a different roll for me. I get to moderate a panel of distinguished guests on Tuesday at 2pm that are a whole lot smarter than me about a key issue facing real estate agents in the current turbulent real estate market. It concerns the topic of managing buyer and seller expectations and the potential tools that may make this easier.

Whats the secret to managing expectations and why does it matter? Shhhh, its a secret to be exposed at my panel discussion.

[Media Chain-Links Without The Snow] 4Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview

January 3, 2007 | 8:51 am | | Public |

The 4Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview that my appraisal firm, Miller Samuel, authors for Prudential Douglas Elliman, was released for publication today. In order to include the entire quarter for the study, I spent the good part of the New Years weekend while away on vacation in a Starbucks crunching and analyzing while drinking too many vanilla skim lattes. Thats why the pretty version of the report will be available in a few days rather at the point of release to the media.

The raw numbers were released and my summary of their interpretation were provided to the media for the coverage today. The actual data and charts will be available soon online. I tend focus only on the data collection, verification and analysis until the media publishes the findings.

Each quarter I place links to articles about our market report for a few days after publication for perspective (plus I am obessed with making lists) to make it easy to compare how each media outlet (big and small media, blogs) presents the exact same set of data.

This article list is presented in no particular order, basically when I found them. I also include some duplicate news feeds because I like to see what regions are interested in the story – I place those near the bottom because of the repetition. I’ll keep adding links through the end of the week.

Home Prices Fall Just a Bit; Brokers See ‘Soft Landing’ [NYT]
Manhattan real estate cools off [CNN/Money]
Real estate still strong [NY Daily News]
Apartments up at least 5% in Manhattan [Newsday]
Manhattan Apartment Prices Rise 3.2%, Sidestep U.S. Declines [Bloomberg]
Reports Contradict Predictions of Apartment Market Slump [NY Sun]
Manhattan apartment downturn short-lived: report [Reuters]
Brokerages Turn in Homework for the Semester [Curbed]
Brokerages: Market is stable [The Real Deal]
A Look Back in 2007! Manhattan Is Still an Islan [NYO-The Lab]
Reports show real estate slowdown [AM New York]
Average Manhattan apt: $1.2M [Metro]
Home is where B’klyn bucks are, reports show [NY Daily News]
Market for Manhattan Apts. Strong [Chicago Tribune]
Market for Manhattan apartments remained strong in 2006 [Boston Herald]
Real Estate Bubble Slowly Deflating, Not Bursting [Gothamist]
Market for Manhattan Apts. Strong [Tuscaloosa News]
Manhattan apartments go for an average $1.14-million (U.S.) [Globe and Mail, Canada]
Market for Manhattan apartments remained strong in 2006 despite national dip, analysts say [San Diego Union Tribune]
Market for Manhattan Apts. Strong [Sun-Sentinel]
Manhattan apartment downturn short-lived: report [WaPo]
Manhattan apartment downturn short-lived: report [MSN Money]
Manhattan apartment downturn short-lived: report [KPLC-TV/Lake Charles, LA]
Manhattan apartment downturn short-lived: report [Reuters Canada]
Market for Manhattan apartments remained strong in 2006 despite national dip, analysts say [IHT]
Mean Manhattan apt. price up to $1.1M [ABC]
Healthy Year for Manhattan Real Estate Market [RISMedia]
NYC Apartment Market Prices Up with Inventory Growth Dropping Sharply [Earthtimes]
NYC Apartment Market Prices Up with Inventory Growth Dropping Sharply [Yahoo Business]
Reuters Canada Business Summary [Globe and Mail]
Manhattan real estate prices still rising in Q4 [Inman – Subsc]
Manhattan real estate market remains strong [Courier News (NJ)]

Radio and TV clips

[January 8, 2007] The Real Deal
[January 7, 2007] WABC-TV
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV
[January 3, 2007] WABC-TV
[January 3, 2007] WABC-TV
[January 3, 2007] WABC-TV
[January 3, 2007] WNBC-TV
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg TV

[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg Radio
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg Radio
[January 3, 2007] Bloomberg Radio

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Real Estate Connect NYC 2007: Braving Gotham

November 20, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

Inman News will be entering New York City this January for their next Connect event. The west coast version has long proved to be a must-attend function for real estate professionals and the east coast versions is proving to be as important. I attended last year’s NYC conference and got a lot out of it, especially networking with others. As a panel member I learned that Brad will keep the show rolling, despite any snafus or delays. (Brad: I now know where you do your dry cleaning.)

Useless observation: If the conference is held at the Marriott/Times Square, why does the photo banner look like its taken from Trump International Hotel on a low floor (too far north to be in Time Warner/Columbus Circle)?

But I digress.

This year I am moderating a panel which as an appraiser and valuation consultant, covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart:

VALUATION: New Tools to Set Buyer and Seller Expectations

The panelists are being confirmed now. So far we have:

  • Marty Frame, CIO, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions
  • Jeff Somers, Director of Partner Services,

Valuation is a real sensitive topic right now because of changing market conditions. Feel free to forward questions or suggestions to me for the panelists, or names of panelists you’d like to see.

I am also really looking forward to meeting individuals whom I have admired their work from a distance plus reconnecting with friends and colleagues…hmmm.. “connecting” now I get it, Real Estate “Connect.”

I find that conferences like these are what make the lightbulb go off in my head. A lot of ideas are thrashed around. Its better than coffee.


Courts Rule: Craigslist Publishes, Therefore Not Liable

November 16, 2006 | 8:18 am | |

Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed against Craigslist, the popular online service, that some of its classified ads were discriminatory.

The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under sued craigslist for 100 allegedly discriminatory ads posted by Chicago users in a 6 month period, out of 200,000 housing ads submitted to in that timeframe.

Samples of discriminatory ads submitted by the plaintiff include:

  • prefer christian roommate
  • near St Gertrude’s church
  • Buddhist temple nearby
  • vibrant southwest Hispanic neighborhood offering great classical Mexican culture, restaurants, and businesses
  • Great apartment for graduate students, married couple, or small family
  • wants one nice quiet person
  • very quiet street opposite church
  • Walk to shopping restaurants, coffee shops, synagogue

…of course there were other much more graphic ad listings as well that I am not going to list here.

The case pitted two significant acts against each other [Ch Trib]:

The 1968 Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination, and newspapers and other publishers of ads deemed discriminatory can be held liable for violating the law.

But the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), in an attempt to promote unfettered free expression online, shields web forums from liability for ads and opinions posted by their users.

In other words, as an “interactive computer service” Craigslist is not considered a publisher of information because it gets it from others and therefore are protected by the CDA.

In the Inman news [Subsc] story of the ruling:

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on Sept. 20 issued a policy memo concluding that it is illegal for Web sites to publish discriminatory advertisements, and instructing regional directors to continue to investigate such allegations.

“Some Web sites assert that they are exempt from liability under (the Fair Housing Act) because of a provision in the Communications Decency Act which limits the liability of interactive computer services for content originating with a third party user of the service,” wrote Bryan Greene, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for enforcement and programs. “However, HUD has concluded that the (Communications Decency Act) does not make Web sites immune from liability under the Fair Housing Act or from liability under state and local laws that HUD has certified as substantially equivalent to the Fair Housing Act.”

In her decision, St. Eve called the memo “unpersuasive” and a “non-binding agency opinion” that does not carry the weight of a regulation.

The ruling does open the door to creative legal manuevering if websites could be held liable for third party content for reasons other than publishing and the courts follow this ruling rather than the broad immunity web sites have enjoyed to this point.

I have the feeling this is not over.

Update: Craigslist Discrimination Lawsuit Thrown Out/Major Defeat For Internet Companies [Litigation Blog]

Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of October 17, 2006]

October 17, 2006 | 7:24 am | |

[This week, after resting up from the expert carnival barking done last week by Bloodhound Blog, Inman News takes critiquing a step further by only including ten posts this week. Matrix gets to eat caramel candy apples all week as a result.]

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts for the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: Inman News Blog got tough and only presented the 10 best posts submitted by carnival members.

Next week’s host: Hotpads Daily will map out the best posts for the carnival. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.


Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of October 10, 2006]

October 11, 2006 | 8:32 am | |

[In this week’s Carnival, Bloodhound Blog, as usual, gives a lot of thought to the process and comes up with a contrarian way to present the posts submitted. Speaking of thought, I forgot to submit my post this week!]

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts for the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: Bloodhound Blog sniffs out the best posts submitted by carnival members. Check back with them every day as they present a daily synopsis for their readers.

Next week’s host: Inman News Blog will “connect” with the carnival. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.


[Media Chain-Links, Fenced In] 3Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview

October 4, 2006 | 11:13 am | | Public |

The 3Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview that my appraisal firm, Miller Samuel, authors for Prudential Douglas Elliman, was released for publication today. The raw numbers were released and a summary of their interpretation were provided to the media. The pretty report will be available for download later this week or early next week. I wait until the end of the quarter before I start working on it so there is not enough time to get it together before publication of the results. This quarter ended last Saturday so it made for a long weekend.

The actual data and charts will be available soon. The actual report pdf will be available next week.

For perspective, every quarter I place links to articles about the report for a few days after publication to make it easy to compare how each media outlet (big and small media, blogs) presents the exact same set of data.

This article list is presented in no particular order, basically when I found them. I include some duplicate news feeds because I like to see what regions are interested in the story.

Manhattan real estate finally starts to cool [CNN/Money]
Buying in Manhattan? Apartment Prices Steady [New York Times]
Manhattan apartment prices slip in latest quarter [New York Daily News]
Manhattan apartments selling slower [Newsday]
Manhattan apartment market seen in soft landing [Reuters]
Manhattan Co-Op Apartment Prices Dip 16% as Buyers Favor Condos [Bloomberg (no link yet)]
Manhattan Housing Stays Stable []
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [Reuters]
Jonathan Miller On Summer ’06: New York Realty Isn’t So Bad [NYO The Real Estate]
Prices down, sales up in Manhattan housing market; co-op prices slump [The Real Deal]
As Dow Hits Record High, Homes Falter [NY Sun]
Manhattan real estate market slows down [Inman]
DownMarket Reports: Choose Your Own Adventure! [Curbed]
Sector Snap: Manhattan Apartment REITs [AP] Highlights from the Prudential Douglas Elliman Third Quarter Overview [True Gotham]
Manhattan residential real estate market cools [Valuation Review]

Here are a handful of tv spots as well.


[Bloomberg TV]




New Brokerage Models Flourish (NAR Needs Redfin’s PR Firm)

September 5, 2006 | 12:01 am | | Radio |

Damon Darlin’s The Last Stand of the 6-Percenters? [NYT] was a really great overview of new brokerage services that are being offered. The article was very informative. However, after reading it, the article made me wonder who on earth would ever use a traditional broker again? Its not what I think the intention of the piece was.

New technology and new business models were pitted against longstanding tradition and a proven track record. There was a great phrase in the article referring to the difficulty of innovation in the real estate brokerage industry:

It’s a thousand tiny shackles on innovation.

A valid point. Innovation can ruffle feathers.

Well, rather than the idea that full service brokers are obsolete, I think the takeaway should be that there is room for both the old and the new. Like Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman (the firm for whom I author their market reports for) said at Inman San Francisco: Technology won’t replace agents, agents with technology will replace agents [RCG]. Exactly.

The irony in all this is the fact that the housing boom coincided with new venture capital monies which provided the opportunity for so many real estate start-ups to in fact, start-up. In fact, I see this as more of a dotcom real estate boom, with so many legitimate business models, rather than most of the silliness we saw in the previous dotcom boom, where thoughts of actually turning a profit would be figured out later.

Some of these new real estate technology sites will fail as the housing markets cool or their idea doesn’t catch on, while others will survive and thrive. Change can be good but its kind of hard when the system in place has been around for a long time.

I find that one of the weaker arguments to the new real estate models has been the idea of cost savings. Despite the near monopoly of listings through traditional MLS systems, there is the assumption that its an even playing field. In other words, users of these discount brokers assume that the property gets exposed equally whether its a Foxtons listing (remember Your Homes Direct?), a Redfin listing or a full service listing, when in fact, I would speculate that it does not.

More eyeballs on a property, especially broker eyeballs, yield a higher chance for a higher price or simply a sale. In other words, a seller may be saving costs, but they could be working off a lower base (sales price) number because of the lower exposure. The cost savings seems to be more of a potential future benefit than at present and its not really comparing apples with apples (in theory it is, but not in practice). The MLS system is proprietary.

And what is it with NAR and public relations? How can the NAR stir such ill will on a consistent basis? I continue to be amazed by their complacency and their disconnect with the public as an organization. Its tough to accept their word as gospel anymore. Even their current radio and TV ads about code of ethics seems to be too little too late. Its simply not fair to most realtors who are nice normal people and not the stereotype the profession has gained a rep for in recent years.

As a result, if you want to create a new real estate brokerage business model, now seems to be as good a time as ever.

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This Week’s Blog Marketing Prowess: Framing

August 30, 2006 | 7:18 am | | Public |

One of the better ideas for marketing your blogs these days seems to be going to the trouble of making a list. A top ten list, a favorites list, lists of lists and so on.

Its called framing.

By ranking others, you infer that you are an authority. You announce it to every blog on the list and then each blog ultimately posts it as shameless self promotion (I am certainly guilty of that every day).

Matrix (see?) was announced as one of the “Top 35 Real Estate Blogs” according to, a real estate investing community site that I was not familiar with.

However their content is impressive and I appreciate their recognition. In fact, I agree with much of their list but they left out, who recently won an award as most innovative real estate blog from Inman at the San Francisco Connect conference.

Mortgages: Off The Wall, Cashing Out

August 4, 2006 | 7:11 am | |

According the Mortgage Banker Association press release mortgage applications fell 1.2% (seasonally adjusted) from the prior week. Those who are regular readers of Matrix know how much a dislike such short time frames for comparative analysis, but lets go with this for a minute.

Mortgage rates rise, mortgage volume eventually falls.

There has been a lot of discussion about what the magic number is that will break the proverbial camel’s back (housing prices) in the context of mortgage rate levels. For example, if the 30 year fixed reaches 8%, will that be the point at which buyers throw up their hands and give up? I don’t think so. What I mean is, I don’t believe in specific thresholds.

The National Association of Realtors suggests [WaPo],

each percentage point increase in interest rates knocks about 3 million potential buyers out of the housing market, including about 300,000 to 350,000 people considered likely buyers.

Thats about 5% of all home sales for each full percent? No way. The swing has to be far greater and depends on how quickly rates move. However, please stay with me on this point.

I have no idea how buyers and likely buyers were distinguished here but the general concept is reasonable. Each incremental change in mortgage rates knocks people out of the market or brings them back in depending on which way rates go. I am sure its not an instantaneous response and I would guess the lag time is less than a few weeks. Less buyers means less competition for listings: equals declining appreciation rates or prices, depending on the market.

_Cash out Refi’s_
One other development that has been caused by rising mortgage rates is the shift toward cash-out refi mortgages. I was surprised by this because I was under the impression that cash-out refi’s were a thing of the recent past (in terms of large numbers).

Rising interest rates on home equity loans are influencing people to refinance in order to wrap them in. Inman news reports today [Subscr] that some 88 percent of Freddie Mac-owned loans refinanced in the second quarter of 2006 resulted in new mortgages with loan amounts at least 5 percent higher than the original mortgage balances. That’s the highest cash-out rate Freddie Mac has seen since the second quarter of 1990.

I think the reason the refi mortgage balances are higher because housing prices generally increased in the first half of 2006 (at below the pace seen in recent years). Property owners refinanced, but who can say it was because they paid off their home equity loans simply because cash out refi volume increased? A 5% increase on the median house price ($220,000 est) would suggest a home equity balance of $11,000. That seems a little low to me but I may be influenced by my New York housing price orientation.

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Happy Birthday To Matrix

August 1, 2006 | 12:01 am | | Radio |

Well, its August 1, 2006 and its been a year to the day (technically not until 9:37pm, but who says there is that sort of precision in blogging) since I made my first post “Appraising the appraisers” on National Public Radio on Matrix.

A few months prior to the first post, I had given serious thought to starting a weekly podcast to be able to express my views on real estate, a topic I am very passionate about, in an objective sort of way. While I was very excited about the new podcast medium (still am), I wasn’t sure if it would allow me the outlet I was looking for. I saw that many podcasts were delivered at that time through blogs and then it clicked…a blog! Why not 2 blogs?

I dubbed one blog Soapbox, which would cover appraisal specific topics (hey, I’m an appraiser). The name Soapbox was a title of a section I was planning to build on my web site to address the issues facing appraisers of the day. Simply standing on a soapbox seemed necessary to make appraisers heard. On July 18, 2005 (more than a year ago) I made my first post on my other blog Soapbox called The beginning of the end, or how this mess got started. I dove right in and worked out the technology kinks and created some efficiencies to make it practical to run 2 blogs.

The other blog I dubbed Matrix which would cover the real estate economy. The name Matrix concerned itself with a definition at A situation or surrounding substance within which something else originates, develops, or is contained. It seemed that real estate was that surrounding substance, plus the movie was pretty cool, even on the 10th viewing (just the first movie). Last month, Matrix was finalist in the 2006 Inman Innovator Award Finalist for a real estate blog, which was very gratifying, especially given the company of the other finalists.

I have learned a lot from the process and simply enjoy writing and getting feedback from readers as well as lurkers I run into as I do my job. Its like doing your homework on the issues of the day, so I am usually prepared to discuss the topics when at a speaking engagement. I love exporing topics and finding that angle that has not been explored before. I can’t stand blogs that simply copy news from media outlets and other blogs and provide no insight.

There are always plenty of topics to cover since the real estate market dynamic is always changing.

My family has accommodated me timewise – at first they didn’t get what was so exciting about it – my 7 year old son (I have 4 sons) would ask me “Dad, are you going to blog today?” I changed my schedule so I go to bed at a reasonable hour to be able to get up at 4:30am to write my posts. Since August 2005, I have only missed a few days and have written 772 posts on Matrix (excluding Soapbox). Somedays 5 posts, somedays 1.

Its been completely fun. More to come. Thanks for reading and sharing. Just remember one thing, if you call me for market feedback or insight, I am going to ask you if you read Matrix today. I am relentless about that. Just ask anyone who knows me. 😉


Inman Awards Announced

July 28, 2006 | 6:44 am | |

Congrats to Noah Rosenblatt at for winning this year’s Most Innovative Real Estate Blog award. He’s got a refreshing approach to the interpretation of the NYC real estate market from someone on the front lines. He won out over (Rain City Guide, The Walk-Through (New York Times), Center for Realtor Technology, SocketSite and of course, Matrix (But I’ve already told you that before).

Congrats to all the other winners, especially Property Shark, Trulia and October Research Corporation since I am directly familiar with what they do and how they do it. Impressive!

Honestly (see Inman theme), my heart aches to have missed out on the trip to Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2006 this year, but alas, too many things on my plate at the moment. Especially the theme: Is Real Estate Ready for Honesty? (What a concept.)

I definitely plan to attend Inman in New York, and hopefully make it out west next year.

Congrats to the other winners at the conference. For a housing market that is – not what it was, its inspiring to see the quantity and quality of innovation that is out there. Truly an exciting moment in real estate technology.

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