Feb. 2: NAR versus Zillow; update on affordability

Rob Chrisman

Rob Chrisman began his career in mortgage banking – primarily capital markets – 31 years ago in 1985 with First California Mortgage, assisting in Secondary Marketing until 1988, when he joined Tuttle & Co., a leading mortgage pipeline risk management firm. He was an account manager and partner at Tuttle & Co. until 1996, when he moved to Scotland with his family for 9 months. See more

A key issue for real estate agents is “affordability.” With house price appreciation increasing well in excess of wage inflation, how affordable is housing these days? It depends on the statistic you use. If you look at the median house price versus the median income, you would conclude that housing affordability is approaching the lows of the bubble. However, if you look at the mortgage payment on the median house divided by median income, housing is at pre-bubble levels affordability-wise. Another argument to find people with ARMs and refi them in to 30 year fixed rate mortgages.


Mortgage rates, which have averaged less than 4% on 30-year loans for three of the last four years, could be at 4.5% by the end of this year and then hit 5% in 2017, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors said in Milwaukee Monday.


Mandarin Real Estate magazine plus…


Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR) and Tiger Oak Publication have released an all-Mandarin magazine called “Seattle Luxury Living” in response to a steady rise in affluent Chinese nationals arriving to the Seattle/Bellevue metro area. The publication was distributed locally and overseas at select retail stores and hotels, within private and first class lounges at airports and by affiliates of Sotheby’s International Realty. The magazine will also be showcased at select Starbucks stores locally and in Shanghai and across numerous digital media platforms in China. The magazine will have articles on topics ranging from real estate trends to luxury automobiles. Companies can advertise by invitation only.


According to the NAR, people from China make up the largest segment of foreign buyers of U.S. homes. 36 percent of Chinese buyers are buying for investment, 34 percent for immigration reasons, and 16 percent for their children who come to the United States for schooling.


A report by RSIR’s new Asia Services Group claims that at least one-third of luxury home sales priced above $5 million in 2015 east of Seattle were purchased by either local or inbound Chinese nationals. The research included home sales along the popular “gold coast” markets of West Bellevue, Medina, Hunts Point, Enatai, Mercer Island and Newport Shores, according to NWMLS data but did not include private sales. RSIR is the exclusive real estate contributor within the Seattle Luxury Living magazine and advertises alongside featured affiliates and new construction high-rise condominium projects Insignia and LUMA in downtown Seattle.


Although there aren’t any official statistics, the National Association of Realtors collects demographics, and it estimates that during the 12 months ending in March 2014, buyers from China purchased $22 billion of real estate in the United States.


“China is a top focus for us right now,” says Dean Jones, president and CEO of the Seattle area offices of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty. Realogics is creating an “Asia Desk” in its Kirkland office, complete with tearoom and staffed with Mandarin speakers who can help clients from China with travel arrangements and finding a school for their children. Jones predicts this is just the beginning of an influx of buyers from China. “What is really surprising,” he notes, “is that China hadn’t discovered Seattle earlier.”


Not surprisingly, Zillow is jumping on the band wagon launching a new program aimed at helping China-based buyers connect with agents to help them buy houses in markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.




SolarWorld continues to expand:


Hillsboro, Oregon, about 20 miles west of Portland, is the site of SolarWorld Americas headquarters and the location of the largest and most advanced solar photovoltaics production facility in the Western Hemisphere. The largest U.S. crystalline-silicon solar manufacturer for more than 40 years, SolarWorld is broadening its role in the smart energy-storage business in the U.S. market. SolarWorld is partnering with sonnen Inc., which officially opened its headquarters in Los Angeles, to provide a fully integrated solar-plus-storage product using the sonnenBatterie eco intelligent energy-storage system for customers of PetersenDean, the nation’s largest residential roofing company.


With minimal balance-of-system costs, sonnen designs and manufactures its residential and commercial systems to be used in backup or stand-alone applications and installed quickly and inexpensively. The systems provide such features as remote energy management, peak-shaving, full-home backup, smart-home integration and grid-services features.


SolarWorld will also supply 10.5 megawatts (DC) of 72-cell solar panels to power a project located near Lakeview, Oregon, in the state’s south-central high-desert outback.

Working with project developer Obsidian Renewables, SolarWorld will provide solar technology to go into an 8 MW (AC) project that is expected to produce about 20.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year – enough to power more than 1,800 homes.


Obsidian Renewables, based in Lake Oswego, Oregon, is developing the ground-mounted Black Cap II system, adjacent to a similar, earlier project. Construction of the new system is expected to finish in 2016. Obsidian will sell the system’s power to PacifiCorp under a long-term power purchase agreement.


NAR and Move Inc. vs Zillow:


The legal battle initiated by the National Association of REALTORS® and Move Inc. (operates the realtor.com website and mobile experiences) beginning in 2014 against listing aggregator Zillow, has created a viable questions. Zillow’s defamation counterclaim has raised key inquiries about how the aggregator uses the data it collects from agents, brokers, and MLSs through its company Diverse Solutions.


Zillow’s claim stems from the publication of a letter written by a former vice president of the company, Chris Crocker. In the letter, sent to NAR and Move attorneys, Crocker said the aggregator was using data from its IDX agreements to compare to stolen realtor.com® data in a bid to compete with Move’s ListHub business. When Move and NAR attorneys filed the letter in court and made its contents public, Zillow filed a countersuit, calling the letter false and defamatory but also saying the letter revealed confidential information about “secret” Zillow programs.


Zillow is producing those IDX agreements in the case in a redacted format. But the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Wash., has authorized Move and NAR to preliminarily investigate with MLSs, brokers, and agents just what those data agreements allow and don’t allow Zillow to do. Is Zillow allowed to use the data from those agreements for its own purposes?


Throughout the court proceedings, Zillow has refused to provide specific information about its use of IDX data and the scope of its rights to use the data. A December 27 court order authorizes Move and NAR, in response to Zillow’s counterclaim, to make inquiries with MLSs, brokers, and agents about their data agreements with Zillow. Specifically, Move and NAR are seeking to find out whether those agreements allow Zillow to compare IDX data with data scraped by Zillow from realtor.com®.


NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson said in late January that the inquiry was underway. The case is scheduled to go the trial in June 2016.



Perks of reaching 50 and beyond! (Part 2 of 2)

  1. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
  2. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.
  3. You sing along with elevator music.
  4. Your eyes won’t get much worse.
  5. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  6. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.
  7. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.
  8. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.
  9. You can’t remember who sent you this list – you just wish the list had larger print.





(Copyright 2016 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman. To subscribe please visit www.knowledgeforrealestateagents.com.)