Falling Oil Prices and Real Estate

Oil at $146 per barrel gave us gasoline over  $4.00 a gallon in 2008.  Today I filled up at $1.49 per gallon and oil went to $26  barrel. Cool. Remember 1974 and the Arab oil embargo? Gas prices doubled to 55 cents a gallon. I looked this up, that 55 cents is $2.81 today. The $1.49 I paid today is equal to 29 cents in 1974.  Twenty nine cents! In 1974 I put a gallon of gas in a snowmobile for a quarter and I probably had an extra 3 or 4 quarters to spend on soda, candy, and maybe a burger.  I thought those days were over.

High oil prices cause a slowdown in production and delivery of goods. Anything we buy is impacted by the cost of fuel so prices of groceries, clothes, and toys cost more. Less goods and Less money to spend on anything other than gas, means less buyers in the stores but that’s OK, there are fewer employees needed to service those customers who will not be buying what they want and only what they need. Can we expect oil prices under $30 a barrel will translate into increased spending?  I think so.

OK, you can see I’m not an economist but I know $17.00 to fill up my car is better for me than $48. I’ve got $31 dollars to save or spend.  Effective Mortgage Company Blog explains how these low gas prices could be good for the housing market. Or, low gas prices might not be good for the housing market if you live in an area where oil production plays a big part in the local economy. Madison is not a big oil producing city. Shoot, we’re not even a big gas guzzling city with everyone driving a Prius, van pooling, taking the bus, or riding a bike.

Here’s where the economics become tricky. Apparently oil prices impact bond prices and bond prices move mortgage rates. We were told in December to expect rates to reach 5% by the fourth quarter of this year. If that happens the economists will have an explanation. Probably will have something to do with Greece, China, North Korea, or some uncertainty about the economy somewhere in the world.

This is what I know: There are historically few homes on the market, interest rates are low, home prices are up (simple supply and demand) and if you have a house to sell and want to buy another, you may need to park yourself at an extended stay motel or the house of a friend. If you can sell your house and not find one to buy you become, well, homeless. Just my opinion, expect to see people who want to sell stay put and that means fewer homes for the consumers to buy. If you can’t buy a house, I suppose you can take the extra cash and drive around the country for the summer, after all gas is only about a quarter a gallon. Maybe we’ll see the opening of drive-ins again, and jobs for car hops.

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Been A Problem Before

A real estate licensee may sign a contract on behalf of a client or principal.

What’s a missing qualifier to that bold statement? How about: As long as the licensee is prepared to personally fulfill the obligation or is prepared to defend herself and her broker from financial liability in court, at a high cost in legal fees the licensee might but shouldn’t sign anything for anybody. Signing on behalf is a bad practice to start because one day something will go wrong.

The liability risk is serious and still we see licensees picking up pens and signing documents we should never touch. A review of files in every real estate office may find more than a few offers to purchase, listing contracts, amendments, counter offers, and closing statements executed by well meaning licensees who thought they were out of harms way.

Attorneys, and title company closing agents who don’t represent the Realtor,  know a document signed by a party without proper authority and protection places liability on the Realtor and his Broker.  Even if that liability is the right to appear in court and defend his rights to immunity, the licensee will spend money and time finding out how much money this simple signature is going to cost him.

These are all too common situations:

A closing agent at a title company needs seller’s signature on the closing statement and the seller isn’t present. She passes the document to the listing agent and says, “We do this all the time. Sign it on behalf of the seller. We’re fine with that.” The well meaning licensee who has the best interest of her client in mind, not wanting to appear fearful or unhelpful picks up the pen and signs her name, “Jane Doe, on behalf of James T. Smith, seller”.

An attorney for a buyer instructs her client’s buyer agent to prepare and send a counter offer but, “just sign it on behalf of the buyer. He’s a busy surgeon and he can’t sign today”. The licensee signs the counter offer “John Doe, Realtor on behalf of Mark Anthony, as directed by attorney  Lisa Ward”. That should do it, he thinks and sends off the counter offer which is promptly accepted and made binding by the seller.

That’s an ugly one. Realtor John Doe is exposed to liability and the seller’s broker may be tied to the same sinking boat. Harmed parties will line up all of the usual suspects giving them their right to defend themselves.

Best Practices are better explained by lawyers and there are publications written by lawyers available online.

Be safe. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you are at risk of expensive liability when you sign on behalf of any party to the contract. A legal document prepared by your attorney protecting you as a legally authorized person to sign on behalf of anyone, without liability to any party may be a measure of protection. My advice is to pass the paper back to the  person who said it’s OK to sign,  and say, “It may never have been a problem for you, but it’s never going to become a problem for me. I’m not authorized to sign.”  I promise you will appear wise and prudent. And if anyone thinks differently of you, they have the right to their thoughts no matter how wrong they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words I Wish We Hadn’t Wrote

Robert Fulghum is an author who compiled a book of words he didn’t write, but wished he had… Words I Wish I Wrote. This is a book filled with words painted together into inspiring or pleasing art. My blog isn’t such a thing, but neither is the work of sales trainers and consultants who use words that remove the people from the process. The May edition of The Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine again perpetuates the practice which will make the Realtor less relevant the more the idea is adapted. The Gold Rush Mining For Leads. What is a lead?? Why is it gold??

Unfortunately a lead is what our industry calls people. These leads are not people, they are gold…if they do business with us. Maybe they are lead if they don’t. How long now have we Realtors practiced removing the person from the process? Forever maybe? Do you want to make a ruckus in real estate? Break away from the cliches of Close, Deals, Leads, Touch, Follow up, Drip campaign, SOI, floor call, and FSBO. Surely there are  more but this is a start.  He or She who eliminates these words will see a rise in their attitude and will cause people to have an inspired attitude about him or her. Think about it; when you go in to see a professional, do you want to be a lead or would you prefer to be a person? We treat people the way see them. I’ve never met a lead, I’ve never had a deal. We work with people, parents, sons, daughters, families, who have emotions and wishes. We create contracts. A contract is more valuable than a deal. A person is more respected than a lead.

I think I’ve written about this before.

 

Values and Admiration

Politicians may exist to show us what we look like when the wind of other people’s opinions fills our sails. Values are our rudders. Life is the wind.

Values—Martin Luther King and Malcolm X lived true to their values. They raised attention to issues they believed in to change a wrong. They attracted love and following because they inspired people to higher values. They had no seat to win, no job to secure…they were free to live to mean something to life. Politicians drift from vague commitment to even greater confusion depending on what they have to gain.  Which recent past president do we honor for their commitment to a cause? Who is a profile in courage—and don’t say JFK.

To see how this thought relates to real estate, think of the questions that person in your head asks you as you ponder owning a home. ” Where should my kids go to school? Where do my co-workers think I should live?  What neighborhood will my friends approve? What house style will look best on me? How will I explain to my parents?” With a committee of dozens constantly meeting in our heads, it’s not surprising we move from home to home like no other generation of Americans.

The most content people I meet in this business, clients and other realtors, are people who believe what they believe and move forward on a beam of values. Not everything they do is accepted, supported, admired, or tolerated by everyone. What matters is their commitments matter to them. They bring enthusiasm to their endeavors. They bring happiness to their decisions. They bring joy to their commitments. They don’t waiver and quit because someone says “That won’t work, or that’s not what I would do.”  Values ground us in a way a desire to be admired can’t.

Wherever I hang my hat is my home. 

The Enemy of Creativity is Fear: Or Good Stuff From Seth Godin

Embrace fear and wrap it in creativity. Use fear to improve your creative idea, not to extinguish it.

Great ideas become popular internet Apps, inventions, tools to improve life, amazing books, and movies. Chances are the person credited with the Great Idea probably wasn’t the first to imagine the potential. What the person who made it happen did was overcome fear. Fear is placed in our minds by imagining the idea will fail, be rejected, we’ll be ridiculed. Kind of funny to think that the same idea we imagine to be clever and worthwhile has two faces. One bright and optimistic, the other gloom and doom.

People who set out to make a difference have fear nipping at their heals right up to the date of launch. What they do that allows them to move forward is probably a combination of ignoring the fear and embracing it. Fear embraced for what it is helps the creative person think about areas of opportunity, weakness, areas to be enhanced. When fear derails a creative idea fear succeeds in undermining a person’s pride, ego, confidence. commitment, desire to make a difference. Want to try it? Think of a social issue and suggest a creative solution to friends. They will show you what you should fear. Suggest a business idea to your spouse. If you get an enthusiastic “let’s do it!” you’re one of the fortunate few.

Seth Godin points out that the enemy of Fear is Creativity. Willing to learn from failure allows a person to be creative in face of fear. Fear can not stand up to creativity. Creativity will attract creative people.

Embrace fear. Be creative. Be as fearless as a child who only knows imagination. Wrap that fear in creativity.

East Madison–Back to Where We Started

About a dozen years ago a recent graduate of a New York or Boston university showed up at my office asking for a tour of Madison. He had the accent of a son of New England, and the curiosity of a New Yorker. The young guy, let’s call him Jed, wanted to figure out where he should own if he accepted the job he had interviewed for. He told me the interviewer told him to look on the near west side of the city. When asked why, the young man was told “Because nobody lives on the east side”. By the time we finished our tour and Jed had sized up or city he concluded the East Side was where he would buy. The reason was simple as he saw it. The west side prices were over inflated, east side was affordable, the most potential for improvement was east, and, he told me, “This economy is going to burst. I want to be safe.” I thought Jed was wrong on all counts. He wasn’t.

Just like the earliest days of Madison’s history (1836-1850) people are making their homes on the east side. One of the first streets to have homes built was Gorham Street. The modern regeneration of east side Madison is well underway. Quality businesses are locating within the neighborhoods, owner associations are vibrant, and the East Washington corridor is finally looking cared about.

I took a look at the sales in the near east neighborhoods for 2014; the picture is impressive. One hundred and seventy seven (177)homes at an average price of $227,888 sold. The median price is $215,000. The median priced home sits right where the first homes were built: on Gorham Street. Built 130 years ago the two story, 1600 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house went on the market in April for $214,900 and sold in 2 days for $215,000. The average time on the market for these homes was 43 days.

Who are these people making like the settlers buying up east side real estate? They’re the “Jeds”. They’re educated, smart, employed, and they are conservative with their home ownership dollars. They want to own in Madison and still have money for other things.

I’m enthused to see people wanting to be part of the movement east. They’re not just buying east because west is so expensive, they’re buying east to be east.

Seller Videotape & Electronic Monitoring of Buyers and Realtors. Is this legal?

Video taping and photographing properties has long been used by buyers to gather and retain information about the many homes they visit. Sellers provide photos and video tours of their homes to appeal to would-be buyers. Now, a new use of recording technology is making its way into the real estate conversation: Seller recording and monitoring of buyers and their realtors on their premises. Not unlike public places, sellers are placing recording and monitoring devices in their homes to watch, listen in, and record the activities of buyers and their agents while they tour the seller’s property.

Unlike public places, the seller is not always placing the electronic device in plain sight and not disclosing to visitors that they’re “being watched”. Is this legal? According to Cori Lamont, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, “…nowhere in Wisconsin law is information that strictly prohibits the use of surveillance devices in this context.”

Sellers contemplating surveillance, especially if they intend to not disclose, would be wise to seek legal counsel first. Real estate licensees who know secret monitoring is being done would be prudent to discuss the situation with their Broker. While the law may not strictly prohibit the electronic monitoring, I would not want to test my immunity in court at my own expense. Technology is becoming common place but acceptance of being monitored without warning is not.