Half a year gone, half a year to go!
As this year’s president of the California Escrow Association, one of my goals is to visit every single regional association (there are 38) and bring my thoughts and concerns of the state of our escrow industry to our members. I emphasize that our industry does not exist in a vacuum; that everything that happens in the world, not just in the real estate and financial industries, affect us. We need to remind ourselves not to be insular but look at ourselves as global citizens.
So I have done a bit of traveling these last few months and as I go from destination to destination I am now seriously considering whether I should buy Uber stock because I sure am supporting this company! During the ride I like to chat with Uber drivers, find out how their lives are faring and what issues they are facing in their corner of the world.
YES, TRADE WARS ARE AFFECTING OUR HOUSING MARKET
Long Beach, California. My Uber driver was finding it difficult to support herself and her son just on her work at the port. She doesn’t get called in as much now and business at the port has really slowed down. So she has this second job which is fast becoming her first job.
Long Beach relies on the shipping trade with the Far East and the trade wars are seriously affecting livelihoods. As this CNN article states, if there is no resolution coming then … “it will mean higher prices for consumers or lower profits for companies. That can mean fewer jobs.”
It was reported in this article, that Walmart’s CFO said, “Increased tariffs will lead to increased prices, we believe, for our customers.” Increased prices, I tell my members, means less discretionary income set aside and large purchases, particularly real estate, suffers. And don’t rely on overseas investments, either. The pain is being felt on the other side of the Pacific, translating into a slowdown of investment funds from China. Should President Trump succeed in marginalizing the trade wars with President Xi, we will all breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe Christmas gift buying won’t be so costly this year.
HOTTEST REAL ESTATE MARKET?
You would think that it would be San Francisco or the Bay area, but no, the market there is “unaffordable”, a much longer word with awful connotations. Surprisingly, the data from Redfin says that it is the Tacoma metro in Washington State, where the market is still affordable. Again, high tech does it again, driving the market out of Seattle to its exburbs.
When asked about the housing market in Phoenix, AZ, my Uber driver just beamed. “Market is good!” he said. “Lots of new construction, weather is good and prices are good, not like California (how did he know I was from California?!)” Looking around, I did see lots of commercial construction, but what about the residential market? The Home Buying Institute says that home prices are going up (where isn’t it?) but a dearth of inventory in the Phoenix and surrounding cities translates into a Seller’s market at this time.
When I asked my Uber driver in Las Vegas, he nodded his head sagely, “ If you can afford it, you want to buy now.” “Why”, I asked, “because the prices are still affordable?” “Well,” he said, “affordable is all about your pocketbook. The real reason is because of that.” And he points to the cranes and construction going on across from the strip. “The Raiders are coming into town and that’s the stadium we are building for them. By 2020. Business will boom once they get here and housing will also. So buy now.“
See, this is why I love taking Uber. I am basing all my real estate investments on things I hear on the streets. Literally.
AMAZON IS SELLING HOUSES!!!
Why not? And why am I not surprised. The world’s retailer sells everything, why not prefab houses? Actually, if you look at it, not a bad idea. Think mother-in-law. Think dollhouses for the kids. Think man cave. Order on Prime and get it delivered the next day.
IT’S ALL ABOUT iBUYING
Last month I reported on this new “iBuyer” concept that has taken the real estate and mortgage industry by storm. Everyone wants to set up their own algorithm platform to find the perfect sell to the Buyer. So here is another one jumping on the bandwagon. BoardRE buys the property for the Buyer as an “all cash” transaction then sells it to the Buyer at the same price when the Buyer’s loan, which they are handling, is ready to close. Where do they make their money? Apparently, they make it on the mortgage loan origination fee. Really? Is that it? I bet the Buyers will love it but is this going to have a sustainable return on investment for picky investors? Sounds more like a flash in the pan. Here is the article for you to make your determination. Some are bound to fall off that proverbial bandwagon and land splat in the mud. But there will always be another new wagon to jump on. Who will be making the real money? Yep, you got it. The tech people who design the algorithms.
And there is more interesting news in that particular arena. Through a new algorithm, Zillow is expanding their methods to determine the value of properties. Included within their calculations are other details that may add or detract from the value. The outside landscaping, for instance, or interior construction. A composite is formulated using pictures from Google Maps, the multiple listing service and other public photos. Zillow claims that this new algorithm furnishes more precise values and helps the consumer research. Another foray into the world of iBuyer!
UPS IS ALWAYS RIGHT
As for my public interest story for this month, I am going to tack on an interesting quirk by UPS. According to this article, UPS delivery is more often than not, right. As in “right turn.” Before there was such a thing as Waze or Google Maps, UPS had their own algorithm and it said that turning left was a waste of time and gas so UPS should always be right (turn). I love it. One of these days when I retire I’m gonna follow my UPS driver discreetly and see what he/she does after they leave my office. Do you think they use Waze secretly?
With the various stories that are now headlining, tune in soon for an article from Viva Escrow on a ransomware attack that hit our office a couple years back. Ugh and double Ugh. No bitcoins paid but lots of manhours lost.
Halfway through my exhausting presidency year I ask myself, do I have what is needed to carry to the end? Or am I going to peter out? Here is my daily mantra which I share with all…
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
– Mark Twain-
Juliana Tu, CSEO, CEO, CBSS, CEI, SASIP
“Escrow is my FOREMOST language!”
The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the author’s.