Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Listing Watch - Two Weeks Ending 9/28/2015

The number of new listings of single family homes and condos coming on-line in the last 14 days is consistent with a year ago.

However, our report shows that the number of listings that have gone into contract  is remarkably low this year versus last year. 

Now, this could signify that buyers have decided that these offer dates  which drive the over bidding is something they want to avoid. 

We also note that the number of price reductions continues to increase for both single family homes and condos. 

We continue to believe that  this Hot Sheet Report is the closest to a leading indicator of market activity than anything else we have been watching.  As we continue to survey our market, we advise sellers to price properties consistent with current neighborhood selling prices, but depending on location, offer dates should be used with caution.  Buyers should become VERY active with their searches and keep a sharp eye out for price reductions!

Do Photos Sell Real Estate?

I ran across an interesting article today that claims "the number of photos included in the listing has an influence on how fast the home sells."  They quickly qualify this claim by saying that in the Bay Area there is little correlation between number of photos and speed of sales unless the listing is on the market for more than 20 days.

The article is based on a study done by the on-line real estate brokerage famous for their notorious "Zestimate" which purports to estimate (get it?) the market value of residential properties whether on the market or not.

This article originally caught my eye because I spend a lot of time taking quality photographs of listings for myself and other agents and I've always believed that quality photos have become an increasingly important marketing tool ever since listing information became widely available on the internet.  But this article goes too far when it says that a property listing with more photos will sell a faster than a listing with fewer photos.  And if you look at Zillow's actual study you'll see they make no such claim.

There are far more significant factors that affect the speed of a sale -- the most important are:
  • demand vs. supply
  • asking price compared to perceived value
The market in San Francisco is a great example of the first point -- there is great demand resulting in many listings receiving multiple offers well over asking price, often within two weeks of the initial listing.  The second is just common sense -- if buyers perceive the asking price to be greater than actual value they do one of two things.  Either they simply look elsewhere or they may make an offer under asking price and closer to what they believe is the market value of the property.  In a market like our current market in San Francisco, buyers won't bother to make an under asking price.

This is not to say that listing photos aren't important but the effect of listing photos is more subtle and nuanced and probably not subject to easy quantification.  Our experience (and that of our colleagues) tells us:

  • It's extremely important that photos accompany a new listing when it is first published.  Especially in a competitive market, agents and their clients are watching for new listings very closely.  If a new listing surface with few or no photos, the reaction is generally to skip by that listing (and not come back for a second look) and a suspicion that there is something wrong with the property "so they're not showing us what it actually looks like".
  • Quality photos create the impression of a quality property for both buyers and agents -- and the opposite is true as well, with poor quality photos suggesting the property is in poor condition and in need of repairs.
  • "Missing" photos also lead to suspicion that there is something wrong.  If there are no photos of key rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms buyers and agents are likely to think the worst.  Same thing if there are no photos of a feature mentioned in the description. 
  • The photos must reflect the reality of the property.  If there a utility poles and wire in front, 

Monday, September 14, 2015

As Predicted, New Listings Soar

Right on schedule, once the Labor Day holiday is behind us new listing volume has jumped up.

New listings of single family homes in the two weeks ending 9/14/15 jumped to 185 compared to 98 during the prior two week period.  Even more dramatically the new listings of condos reached 258 compared to 122 during the prior two week period.  This pattern (summer doldrums followed by a surge at the beginning of September) shows itself every year.

Nevertheless, total new listings is lower by 6% compared to the same period a year ago, which continues the trend we've seen during most of this year.

The full report can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Little Perspective

It's been a nerve wracking few days on the stock market.  But here's a little perspective:

For most prospective home buyers, it's probably best to focus on the 5-year time span which would be the typical minimum hold time.

As they say, past performance does not guarantee future results.  And the stock market it not necessarily the best predictor of future property values and the stock market is not the economy and the economy is not the stock market.  Nevertheless, if you think  of your real estate purchase, at least in part, as an investment this will give you some context.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Listings, Search Engines, and Accuracy

Not all real estate search engines are the same (doh!).  In a fast moving market like ours today clients, especially sellers, want their listings to show up right away on all the various search engines  This is especially true if there's been a significant change to the listings -- a price reduction, for example.

Here's a good example:

This agent had entered a price reduction into the MLS on 8/21/15.

As of today (8/25/15) that price reduction is only showing up on

The search results summary shown at the top show that Zillow and Redfin were still displaying the old price of $588,850.  Clicking through to see the detail, Redfin actually shows the correct, reduced price but Zillow does not.

The likely reason for this discrepancy is the way these search engines get their data. gets feeds directly from the hundreds of MLS (multiple listing services) across the country.  Zillow, Trulia and other aggregators also depend on direct feeds from real estate brokers as well as direct input from individual agents.

The bottom line for clients is:  stay as close to the MLS for information as you can.  Most MLSs in our area have a public version that anyone can search.  For currently active listings (properties not already in contract), it's the most accurate source.  You can usually set up (or have your agent set up) a search that will e-mail regarding new listings or change in status of a listing.  The aggregators can do this too but, as shown above, it may take a while.