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WAMU Thanks All Their Residential Appraisers For Doing Such A Great Job And Now Will Let Them Spend More Time With Their Families

July 14, 2006 | 9:50 am | | Milestones |

Well, the shockwaves have reverberated through the appraisal industry. This email was sent from management to all WAMU appraisal vendors. [Inman ran a story about the announcement as well referring to my post about the WAMU decision].

The email is polite and respectful, perfect pr speak, shows the disconnect between cost-cutting efforts of upper management in periods of declining mortgage volume and risk management by using [appraisal management companies].

This message is intended for all Fee Appraisers

July 13, 2006

Dear Valued Partner:

Washington Mutual is a dynamic, growing company focused on delivering optimum results to our customers and shareholders.

We’re contacting you today to let you know that after a thorough review of our current appraisal processes, we made the decision to outsource the management of appraisal services to national appraisal management companies.

We will begin transitioning our appraisal needs to two vendors exclusively, throughout the remainder of 2006.

With the formation of this new long-term relationship, we will be reducing the volume of new appraisal orders that we send to you during this transition. We ask that you continue to complete your current assignments following normal processes.

We thank you for your hard work and your continued support of Washington Mutual.

Please know that we have valued your work and contributions to Washington Mutual and we wish you great success in the future.

If you wish to contact LSI or First American, you may reach them at:
LSI – Rick Prosser
1-800-722-0300 ext 79084

First American (eAppraiseIT)

We thank you for your hard work and your continued support of Washington Mutual.

We wish you great success in the future.

Thank you,
Michelle White
Washington Mutual Residential Appraisal, Senior Manager
Greg Hoefer
Washington Mutual National Appraisal Production Manager

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[Media Chain-links] 2Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview

July 6, 2006 | 6:07 am | | Public |

The 2Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview that my appraisal firm, Miller Samuel, prepares for Prudential Douglas Elliman, was released today. Each quarter I place links throughout the day of publication to make it easy to compare how each media outlet (big and small media, blogs) presents the exact same set of data.

Even more interesting to me is how the other real estate brokerage companies who write alternative reports, frame their comments in the articles. While I have not had access to their specific results, I understand that some of the statistics such as average sales price, differed from the results in our report. Some of the reporters that cover the real estate market in New York have expressed frustration at trying to discern what actually happened this quarter.

To view the actual data and charts (going live by noon Friday 7-7-07). The actual report pdf will be available next week.

This list is in no particular order and were generally presented when I found them. I included some of the duplicate news feeds because I found it interesting who picked up the story. I will keep adding to the list through the remainder of the week.

Little Shift in Prices of Manhattan Apartments [NYT]
Manhattan Has Most Apartments for Sale Since 1994, Report Says [Bloomberg]
Mixed messages on Manhattan home prices [CNN/Money]
Manhattan apt. price hits record [NY Daily News]
Disparities in Manhattan apartment prices show a market that is neither booming nor busting [NY Newsday]
Condo Expectations May Be Rethought As Prices Plunge [NY Sun]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [Reuters]
Manhattan real estate inventory grows [Inman]
NYC Housing Prices Keep Climbing []
Manhattan condos again outsell co-ops [The Real Deal]
Sales drop, prices rise in Manhattan market [The Real Deal]
2nd Quarter 2006: “The Boom is Done” [The Real Estate]
Manhattan housing prices up [USAToday (Miller Samuel)]
Brokerages Submit Reports, Hope to Avoid Summer School [Curbed]
Manhattan Apartment Price Hits Record Highs [All Headline News]
Investing: Rising rates depress N.Y. apartment sales [IHT]

_Duplicate News Feeds_
Sales mellow in Manhattan [Houston Chronicle]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [Yahoo News]
Manhattan has most apartments for sale since 1994 [The Journal News (Westchester, NY)]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [Washington Post]
Sales of Manhattan apartments falling [Sun-Sentinel]
Apartments On The Market In Manhattan Hit 12-Year High [Tampa Tribune]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [MSN Money]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [7KPLC (Lake Charles, Louisiana)]
Manhattan apartment prices leap despite sales drop [Wave3 (Louisville, Kentucky)]

Here are a handful of radio and tv spots as well – more to come.

[Bloomberg TV]


Morning Call [Bloomberg TV]

Bloomberg Morning Markets [Bloomberg TV]

Squawk Box [CNBC]

News at Ten [WB11]

News at 5 [Fox 5]

WSJ Report [WCBS Radio]
NPR poor fidelity – better clip coming [WNYC]

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Matrix Makes The Cut: 2006 Inman Innovator Award Finalist

June 29, 2006 | 12:01 pm | | Public |

Inman News has announced their Inman Innovator Award Finalists to be presented at Real Estate Connect San Francisco at the Palace Hotel on July 26, 2006. Apparently Inman likes Matrix.

Matrix along with 5 other real estate blogs were presented as finalists including Rain City Guide, The Walk-Through (New York Times), Center for Realtor Technology, SocketSite and Urban Digs.

Given worthy competition, I don’t see much of a chance to win, but its definitely fun to be a finalist.

UPDATE: Here’s the official press release.

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List-o-Links: Values, Sellers, Rate Hikes

June 19, 2006 | 9:55 am | |

Here’s a container of links that didn’t ship.

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Please Show Us Which End Is Up

June 1, 2006 | 7:37 am | | Columns |

In Carol Lloyd’s Surreal Estate column last week Bubble Trouble? What to make of all the real estate trend news [SFGate] she explores the vast outpouring of real estate information and its interpretation available to consumers.

Some economists — typically, those who have staked their professional reputations on being dark-horse skeptics — are predicting nothing short of a global economic apocalypse. Others — often those on the take from the real estate industry — scoff at such dire visions. Don’t listen to the doomsayers, they say, “we’re in for a soft landing.”

But what does all this news mean to the average home buyer and seller? Not much other than to signify that things have changed since last year, at least up to this point.

Across the country, it is generally been reported that, prices are flat or up, yet volume is down.

Yet we eagerly await more data. The Walk-through announced two days ago that OFHEO is releasing their quarterly stats which is used by many government agencies and the numbers may be negative for the first time since its history, as speculated by the well-reguarded blog Calculated Risk (who subsequently put strike-throughs in all references to depreciation).

Economists and market commentators eagerly await new material to discuss (self-included), but the usefulness of the OFHEO report is questionable in a changing market.

Today’s OFHEO report release at 10am contains:

  • the first quarter 2006 (its now June)

  • only closed sales (a 30-60 day lag so it includes November-December contracts)

  • a significant amount of non-sale data (ie appraised value of refinances)

  • only data from conventional mortgages (UPDATE: less than or equal to $417,000), which therefore omits a large swath of data from the east and west coasts.

  • data provided by the agency that is directly responsible for oversight of the GSEs (Fannie and Freddie) of which Fannie has serious issues with accounting violations.

  • UPDATE – only includes 1-family houses

Not a lot of reliability here to feel comfortable about.

Carol correctly summizes about whether to buy or not:

I think the best answer is it that it all depends on what you’re buying or selling and how it’s priced.

Thats sounds like a completely caveated answer but its the only one that can be made and still have integrity. In other words, whats happening in San Diego, CA or Fargo, ND doesn’t necessarily (or likely) correlate with national housing statistics.

Are national statistics helpful? I think they are but only when used for general discussion. For me, its fun to see what goes into the process of collecting the information and the national ramifications. On a local level, the commentators need to connect the relevance, if any, to local conditions.

The analogy I can draw from are the local reports I prepare in New York. My reports can’t be taken down to the baseline level for pricing a specific property. Thats what an appraisal is for. In other words, market reports provide the aggregate of all sales. All 2-bedroom condos in Manhattan are not identical, therefore, the 2-bedroom Manhattan condo stats I provided are merely a starting point and a general indicator of trends. Sub-markets of this 2-bedroom category can be broken up into many smaller segments such as building type, location, size, etc.

Yesterday, a few early comments were made to my weekly Three Cents Worth post on the real estate blog Curbed were critical of my stats, saying they tell us nothing, that I can’t look at historical by going back in time, I can’t use a short term window because it doesn’t show a trend. Therefore this leaves me one remaining option, to chart the future. I haven’t figured that out yet.

In the Inman article Why housing forecasts are (almost) worthless [subscr], writer Marcie Gefner draws this conclusion about predicting the future:

Forecasters, prognosticators, pundits, analysts and others of their ilk are able to predict the future — or so they would have real estate professionals and the home-buying and home-selling public believe. It’s bunk, of course.

I agree with her. The simple fact is that there are many people who do not seem to grow tired of the topic, and are looking to absorb as much information as possible, whether reliable or not, until the next hot topic come along.

Tags: , , , Interview 5-26-06: The Housing Landscape

May 26, 2006 | 1:22 pm | | Public |

Nick Yulico of discusses the lay of the land with Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, and Brad Inman, publisher of Inman News on this StreetWatch Video.

View the clip
Interview: The Housing Landscape

I Have Seen The Future Of Real Estate Journalism, And It Is Good

May 2, 2006 | 12:01 am | | Public |

No, I am not being sarcastic.

Professor Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, provided commentary on changes in store for real estate journalists in Charlotte, N.C., last week. The outlook is bleak for the ink-and-paper business, which many insiders say without hesitation is “sucking wind.” The lasting effects of the Internet on traditional print journalism in years to come are profound.

In Philadelphia newsrooms, the plants are no longer watered. In Akron, Ohio, reporters face a shortage of notebooks.

These are just a few blows being felt by newspapers nationwide amidst a steadily shrinking print classified advertising share and waning subscriptions that have made newsroom staff cuts a regular thing. Professor Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, noted these changes to real estate journalists in Charlotte, N.C., Friday afternoon.

One of his main conclusions in the article blogs spell future for real estate journalism [Inman – subscription] [I have included the relevant parts of the article above if you don’t have a subscription.]

There are dozens of well-known real estate blogs today, Roush said, pointing to, the Matrix (us!) and The Real Estate as examples.

While I am flattered that we were mentioned as a well-known real estate blog, along with the usual suspects, we as well as Curbed and The Real Estate are hardly a threat to journalism. Blogging isn’t really about journalism, even though many bloggers clearly are journalists. The hype about blogging rendering real estate journalism as obsolete in the traditional sense is getting old.

Remember: bloggers aren’t journalists, they’re publishers [Piaras Kelly PR].

[In The Media] Squawk Box 5-2-06

May 1, 2006 | 12:01 am | | Public |

I’ll be on Tuesday’s morning edition of Squawk Box on CNBC. I’m tentatively scheduled to be on at 7:40am (May 2, 2006).

I’ll be discussing the current state of the residential real estate market, east coast real estate trends, specifically New York. I believe they are doing a daily segment with representatives from different parts of the country. This morning Brad Inman will their guest.

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NYC Brokers Try Rebranding Their Brands To Something Brand New (As Market Changes)

April 17, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

I ran across this article on Friday: William B. May Ramps Up for New Era as Top New York Firm [RISMedia] and it dawned on me that this is the umpteenth (ok, 4th) rebranding effort I have run across specific to Manhattan real estate brokers this year.

These firms are all in the process of rebranding all or varying pieces of their corporate identities.

What is rebranding? Rebranding is about realignment [Buyer2Brand].

Is it coincidence that these efforts seemed to occur after the market started to cool? With all the excitement and energy that went into keeping their sanity during the housing boom, were these efforts delayed simply because there was too much going on back then?

There was a lot of consolidation. The big firms bought smaller firms and marketing companies. Public breakups.

Brands collided, so consumer confusion was a looming concern. Images could get stale and no one wants to be complacent.

Is this a good thing? Sure it is. Its merely an effort for a company to better connect with the clients they serve. Can it confuse the consumer further? Sure it can, but given the marketing savvy of these firms, I doubt they will have much trouble.

Here’s a real estate broker that, in an unusual move, debranded [Inman].
Here’s a real estate firm that had to change its name after scandal [REJ].


[Media Chain-links] 1Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview

April 4, 2006 | 7:39 am | | Public |

The 1Q 2006 Manhattan Market Overview that my appraisal firm, Miller Samuel, prepares for Prudential Douglas Elliman, was released today. I always think its interesting (actually, its fun) to see how the various media outlets (Big and Small Media, Blogs) respond to the exact same set of data and how the real estate brokerage companies who write alternative reports, frame their comments.

This list is in no particular order and excluded all the redundant articles (ie news feeds). I will keep adding to it through the week after the initial post.

Apartment Prices Up Again After a Slump in Manhattan [NYT]
Housing frenzy slows down[NYDN]
Wall Street bonuses lift Manhattan apartment prices [Reuters]
Reports: Luxury Housing Boom May Be Reaching Its Crest [NY Sun]
First Quarter Reports: Thousand Island [NYO The Real Estate]
Housing market still steady [NY Newsday]
City Apts. Defy U.S. Bubble Trouble [New York Post]
Condo boom boosts Manhattan real estate market [Inman News]
Manhattan housing market shows weakness [CNN/Money]
Manhattan Apartment Sales Cool Off []
Manhattan Apartment Prices Climb at Slowest Pace in Three Years [Bloomberg] IMMOBILIARE: SALE, SI SGONFIA OPPURE CROLLA [Wall Street Italia]
Manhattan housing market booms in first quarter [The Real Deal]
State o’ the Market Update: Through Thick and Thin, ‘Essentially Flat’ [Curbed]
Brokers say New York real estate market is cooling [Financial Times]
[Wall Street Bonuses Fuel Manhattan Real Estate Surge [DJ]](no link)
A game of telephone [Property Grunt]
Manhattan Market Up, Psychology Down in Q1 [Brownstoner]
Real Estate Rashomon [Walk-Through]

Here are a handful of radio and tv clips as well.

[Bloomberg TV]




[WCBS Radio]

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Top 25 Real Estate (Related) Blogs

March 24, 2006 | 12:01 am | | Public |

In an unscientific poll, Realty Blogging: A Network of Blogging Evangelists Writing On Effective Real Estate Blogging ranked Matrix and Soapbox in the top 25 of all real estate related blogs. Matrix also won Most Interesting Real Estate Blog.

This does not really represent any real in depth surveys or analysis but its fun nonetheless.

Hey, I am the only one to have 2 blogs on the list! 😉

The winners are the main sites I read daily with a few new sites in the mix (get the links here)

Affordable Housing Institute
Behind The Mortgage
Central VA real estate news, trends and opinions
Center for Realtor Technology
Hot Property
Housing Panic
My East Bay Agent
Northern Virgina Real Estate
Property Grunt
Rain City Guide
Real Estate Marketing Blog
Tampa Bay’s Inside Real Estate Journal
The Mortgage Reports
The Real Deal
The Real Estate Blog
Toronto at Home
Urban Digs
The Walk-Through

Ok, back to work…

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Two Hands In The Cookie Jar: Banks Are Getting Closer To Entry Into The Real Estate Business

February 28, 2006 | 10:45 am | |

I wonder if the NAR, in some respects is regretting the housing boom. With all the income the industry has generated, it has also generated attention that probably isn’t beneficial to the trade group in the long run. Commissions, multiple listing service data, statistical methodology, believability as a resource, etc.

In the article NAR: Pittsburgh Condo Deal Puts Banks into Residential Real Estate [RISMedia] the National Association of Realtors contends that banks are getting into real estate despite regulations that prohibit this activity.

In a letter delivered last week to the chief counsel of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the president of the National Association of Realtors responded to the recent defense by the OCC of its approvals permitting national banks to engage in new real estate and commercial activities.

They are also fighting Wal-Mart Bank’s application Because It Mixes Banking and Commerce [NAR]. [They] will actively oppose the application for federal deposit insurance by Wal-Mart Bank, a proposed Industrial Loan Company (ILC) headquartered in Salt Lake City, and requested the opportunity to testify at upcoming hearings. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has scheduled public hearings in April in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Kansas City, Mo., metro area on Wal-Mart Bank’s application.

Since 2000, Realtors have opposed a pending regulation by the Federal Reserve and Treasury that would allow national banks to broker real estate and perform property management. Since 2002, Congress has blocked the regulation. It seems to be a matter of time before banks will have this option since every year this debate comes before Congress.

The NAR contends that by banks entering the real estate business, the safety and soundness of the banking system is at risk since it is a speculative investment. The idea posed is the the concentration of assets would be higher making the failure of one bank more critical to the financial system. NAR contends that the top 5 banks hold 45% of industry assets [Mortgage News Daily] and has a series of arguements why banks are a higher risk.

_Number of firms:_
Real estate – 98,000 to over 200,000 (depending on who is counting)
Banks – 8,000 to 10,000.

_Barriers to Entry:_
Real estate – usually less than $1,000 and a few weeks of studying time to obtain a license and enter the field;
Banking – large capital requirement.

_Taxpayer Risk and Historic Experience of Government Bailout:_
Real estate – none;
Banking – yes (historic evidence, S&L failures and RTC bailout.)

_Influence of Foreign Governments:_
Real estate – no;
Banking – large multinational corporations are subject to foreign government regulation.

_Consumer Data on Buying Habits and Possibility of Price Discrimination:_
Real estate – none;
Banking, -vast, often based on data mining of credit card purchase information.

_Cooperation with Competitors in the Sale of Products:_
Real Estate – yes, through MLS;
Banking – no.

_Degree of Regulation:_
Real Estate – minimal;
Banking – heavy.

_Social Promotion of Entrepreneurship, Women and Minorities, and Small Business:_
Real Estate – yes in every category;
Banking – yes in every category bus assessment is limited to owners of community banks.

Here’s a blog post on this issue from a banking perspective: ALERT: NAR’s New Threat from Mega-Banks – There they go again? There who goes again? [Inman] All I read into this most recent industry warning by the NAR is the voice of a threatened professional association that insists upon denying the consumer the choice of any other ownership structure for real estate brokerage other than the status quo – Realtor-centric. Drill down and you will find a true fear that if banks were to be in the real estate brokerage business about the last professional association they would insist their operators belong to would be the NAR.

This is all very interesting and well-laid out on both sides except:

==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==> ==>
NAR says that banks are not a good idea because they place a higher risk on the banking system by being more speculative.

< == <== <== <== <== <== <== <== <== <== <== <==
Banks (more than just the included post on Inman) say that NAR has a monopoly on home sales and keeping banks out of the process only extends broker control further.

Confused? Be glad you are not a regulator. Its tough to see through the spin. At the end of all this, I think the banking lobby will win out over the broker lobby. They seem to have the OCC and momentum on their side.

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