Kalinski: How buying and selling a home will change in the Roaring 20s

As we enter a new decade, the massive wave of technological advancements fueled by entrepreneurial tech companies has reshaped consumers’ expectations.  Companies such as  Uber and Amazon have both dramatically shortened the time that people expect to wait for gratification and raised consumers’ expectations with regard to the ease and smoothness of the experience.  That is, consumers now expect to press a button and have whatever it is that they want delivered to them in a matter of a couple days (Amazon shipments), hours, or even minutes (Uber rides); moreover, they want to be able to track their shipment’s progress through a simple, pleasing interface on their phones.

While consumers now expect smooth, pleasant and near instant gratification in most aspects of their lives, the real estate home sale process still typically takes 30 to 45 days and — due to its complexity, legal ramifications, and the fact that it is an ongoing negotiation between multiple parties — it is usually neither frictionless nor “fun.”  This growing friction between consumers’ expectations and the longer duration and complexity of completing a real estate transaction has made the industry ripe for innovation.  What follows are the likely developments that will make real estate transactions faster and easier over the coming decade.

1.  The home search-to-closing customer journey.  The days of agents-as-gatekeepers of real estate listings are gone.  These days, most buyers start their search online and look at up to hundreds of homes to educate themselves.  When they get serious, though, about 90 percent of buyers (and sellers) choose to use an agent to help them with the home buying/selling process. 

Why is that?  It’s because Realtors realized that they needed to change their value proposition to buyers and sellers in order to stay relevant and, well, valuable.  One of the challenges for buyers and sellers is that, with the exponential growth of information available on the internet, the amount of “noise” has grown exponentially as well, but the valuable information (the “signal”) has become harder to find.  Today’s Realtors have things that are in short supply online: hyperlocal and market knowledge, a network of trusted vendors and professionals, expert negotiation skills, a refined process to make the home buying/selling experience less painful, etc.  These skilled Realtors who have adapted to consumers’ shifting expectations provide their clients with better technology, a smoother process, and expert advice.  Those agents who fail to adapt will eventually exit the business.

Other innovators, such as so-called iBuyers, will make you an offer, often within a day, to buy your home for cash quickly.  This convenience, however, comes at a cost, as many iBuyers will likely cost you two-to-five times more out-of-your-pocket than using a Realtor would.

2.  The loan experience.  Typically, the longest (and perhaps most annoying) part of a real estate transaction is the loan process.  Many lenders can take 30 days or more to complete their due diligence, including their assessment of your loan-worthiness and an appraisal of the home, before approving a home purchase loan.  Anyone who has been through this process knows how frustrating and slow it can be.

Fortunately, at least for many people, this process may get a lot shorter and easier.  Lenders are using artificial intelligence (AI) to conduct automated appraisals on properties and help with assessing buyer’s applications.  For “in the box” situations, with well-qualified “W2 employees” buying homes that the AI algorithms can value with a high degree of confidence, the underwriting process can be dramatically shortened without the need for a physical appraisal.  This is already a reality — last fall, we represented buyer clients whose lender did not require an appraisal on the home they were buying and gave them very fast loan approval.

3.  The title and closing process.  Almost everything can seemingly be accomplished these days online from the comfort of your home.  However, at least in Colorado, you still need to physically go to the title company and hand-sign a stack of documents in front of its notary public (how barbaric, right?).  Well, this isn’t actually the title company’s fault, as many lenders — and state law — still require physical notarization of certain documents.

The good news is that this may change in 2020, if the Colorado legislature passes a bill similar to Senate Bill 18-109, which would allow optional remote notarization of documents.  If such a bill were to become law, then notarizations could be done using audio-video recording of the document signing (kind of like signing over Skype or FaceTime, but with more layers of security).  Thus, you would be able to close on the purchase/sale of your home from anywhere in the world, so long as you have a good internet connection.

Conclusion.  The players in the real estate industry have (finally) recognized that consumers’ expectations and demands have shifted and are innovating quickly to make the home buying and selling process faster, easier, and more enjoyable (or, at least, less painful).  Within the next few years, many people will be able to buy/sell a home in half the time or less than it takes on average today, and with a lot less disruption to their lives.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on January 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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Where have all the buyers gone?

well-functioning market consists of two sides: suppliers who offer a particular good for sale and consumers who purchase those goods.  In the Boulder Valley residential real estate market since 2012, there have been more consumers looking to buy homes than there were sellers offering homes for sale, which has led to a long appreciation period for homes.  Now, however, it appears that the number of buyers is dropping as is their willingness to pay ever-increasing prices.

Spotting the trend

First, how do we know that there are fewer buyers in the market?  The most direct measure of buyer activity that my company tracks (courtesy of Broker Associate Mike Malec) is the number of showings per available listing.  From examining the data, it is fairly easy to see that this year’s showing activity is markedly below the recent boom years, but is still above the levels present during the recession.

Second, to further substantiate this decline in buyer activity, we can look at more indirect measures, such as average sales prices, available inventory of homes on the market, and average time a home will be on the market before sale.  Each of these markers indicates a decline in buyer activity.  Through May of this year, the average price of a single-family home in Boulder has fallen 0.6 percent, while the average attached unit has fallen 4 percent, compared to the same timeframe last year.  This indicates that there are fewer buyers competing for available homes to the point where home appreciation rates have stalled.  At the same time, the amount of homes available on the market has increased nearly 20 percent for single-family homes and almost 50 percent for attached ones, while the average time on the market for single family homes has gone up 5 percent and nearly 20 percent for attached ones.  These statistics indicate that those buyers in the market are becoming choosier and are able to take their time making decisions.

Based on the above discussion, it seems that there are fewer buyers in the market and that those who are in the market are more cautious, but why? 

Economic Conditions?

It does not appear that our local economic conditions explain the drop in buyer activity.  According to the State Demographer’s office, people are continuing to move into Boulder and Broomfield counties, albeit at a slower rate than previous years (though the city of Boulder has seen its population declining in the last two years).  And local unemployment levels continue to be historically low. 

Economic conditions at the national level are softening, to the point where the Fed is discussing interest rate cuts, so these conditions may play some role.  But, interest rates are actually about half a percent lower than they were at this time last year, which would appear to weaken that argument.

Could it be the weather?

Another possible explanation I’ve heard is that our unusually cold and snow winter could have suppressed buyer demand as people were less willing to trudge through the snow to go see houses.  While this is plausible, all else being equal, we would have expected to see that pent up demand being released as the weather improves, but we just have not seen that play out in the data yet.

The takeaway

Whatever the cause of the decline in buyer activity may be, local real estate legend Larry Kendall of the Group Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins always says that buyers are the smartest people in the market, so they may be acting as the proverbial canary in a coal mine, meaning that they could be a leading indicator that our market is shifting from a seller’s market to either a balanced or buyer’s market.  If you are a seller, be wary of pricing above the market in these shifting conditions.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on July 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Where will Boulder’s workforce of the future live?

The Boulder Economic Summit was held on May 22 and the focus was on the workforce of the future. The Boulder Economic Council rightly identified this as a key to Boulder County’s continued vitality and prosperity.  There were vibrant discussions about the growing importance of skills to both employers and employees, shifting employment patterns, how businesses can embrace Millennials, and more.

From a real estate perspective, the most thought provoking session was the roundtable discussion on “Addressing Housing and Transportation,” in which participants were asked to discuss what their businesses are experiencing in terms of housing and mobility needs, what they are doing to address them, and what possible solutions they see.  From this discussion, it became evident that the majority of many businesses’ employees live outside the city, that many of those employees would like to live in Boulder, and that there are myriad housing and transportation challenges facing businesses and employees.

Many of the proposed solutions will sound familiar: some additional housing, including ADUs (“granny flats”) throughout the city and multi-family housing in the light industrial areas along the east Arapahoe corridor; adding additional lanes to some of the major arteries to/from Boulder, especially along Arapahoe/Highway 7 and the Diagonal; more and “better placed” park-n-ride lots; more parking spaces throughout the city; more and better alternative transportation options, and possibly some shared shuttle services among Boulder businesses. 

Many participants expressed the opinion that they believe some of these solutions are viable, but they acknowledged that most of them would require the willingness and coordination of city and county governments.  The scope of these issues is supported by the estimated 50,000 — 60,000 people who commute into Boulder for work each day, half of whom purportedly want to live in the city, and the fact that currently there are no single family homes in Boulder on the market for less than $575,000 (and that only gets you 966 square feet).

The bottom line takeaway from this discussion was that if Boulder cannot find better ways to address its housing and transportation issues, it risks losing its economic vigor as more and more businesses will choose to relocate to more hospitable areas.  More than one employer at the roundtable lamented that if they cannot solve some of these issues, they will likely have to move their business elsewhere. 

Let’s face it, Boulder does not make it easy on businesses or their employees. Among other things, businesses in Boulder have to contend with sky-high affordable housing linkage fees on commercial development (which will ultimately be borne by tenants and consumers), complex and changing zoning and use regulations, rapidly growing commercial property taxes, and a dearth of parking spaces.  Employees face a severe lack of affordable housing to purchase, expensive rent or long — and increasingly frustrating — commutes, and difficulty finding parking (and not enough public and alternative transportation options).

There is always room for hope in Boulder, one of the brainiest (and best) cities in America, and an excellent example is the city council’s recent openness to allowing additional ADUs.  It’s not a panacea, but it’s a start.

Envisioning our workforce of the future is a great and useful undertaking, but if Boulder cannot (or will not) address its mounting housing and transportation issues, the workforce of the future will be happily employed… elsewhere.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on June 2, 2018 at 9:05 am
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