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Real Estate Big Data

The impact of COVID on moving and housing market

(BIG DATA) Why are Americans fleeing cities en masse, and where are they moving to? As COVID-19 continues, long term living for many has new goals.

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Suburb many Americans are moving to. Gold sunset with a dog in the middle of the street with houses on either side.

As a country, we have had to make some noticeable concessions during the last eight months. Those concessions have ranged from saying goodbye to our favorite restaurants and Friday night rituals all the way to waiving hospital visits for dying family members. Since one of those things is much sadder than the other, let’s take a look at why Americans are moving — and where they’re putting down their new roots.

COVID has almost unanimously made all of our favorite haunts—bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, actual alleys, and so on—inaccessible. Even in cities with fewer restrictions than recommended by the CDC, visiting such places carries certain risk.

So why on earth would someone elect to live near “prime real estate” when the main selling point of their current location is rendered moot?

This is a question many Americans are considering heavily in the wake of the pandemic. As the “necessities” upon which many of us have relied are now shown to be tenuous at best, the dilemma of where one wants to live rather than where one has to live has taken the forefront of consumer consciousness.

Indeed, Americans who previously sought out bustling metropolitan locations are now looking to quieter suburbs, smaller cities, and even more remote living spaces to counteract some of the invariable cabin fever brought on by this last year.

At first glance, this doesn’t make much sense. Surely there will eventually be a COVID-19 vaccine, and homeowners in cities nationwide will pack into their favorite locations en masse… right?

Unfortunately, between mass closures of crowd favorites in the aforementioned cities and the sheer frustration with which many have been living, moving makes substantially more sense. This, coupled with the fact that the real estate market is absolutely primed for new buyers, is the main reason Americans are fleeing the city in droves to exchange their rooftop patios for a backyard and some semblance of personal space.

The other thing to consider is this: The pandemic isn’t even close to over, and families need relief now. By moving to arguably safer, quieter locations, citizens will be able to hunker down and wait for the vaccine for a little while longer—and that’s good for all of us.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Big Data

Supply crisis hits housing – starts and permits fell in September

(REAL ESTATE) New data from the Commerce Department shows a dip in permits and starts, but if you look closely, multifamily is carrying that weight, so how is single family production going?

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housing starts

Last month, housing starts fell 1.6%, which is only a slight dip, but permits fell 7.7%, and the gap between units completed and those still under construction is the largest on record, according to reporting from the U.S. Commerce Department.

While starts and permits hit a year low and while labor shortages, supply chain issues, and rising prices of raw materials, it should be noted that single-family starts actually remained unchanged, and permits for single family homes only fell 0.9%, so what we’re looking at here is a slowdown in the multifamily sector as sales heat up in single family housing..

Another factor at play here regarding still-tight inventory levels is the federal mortgage forbearance program as a response to the pandemic. As the program wraps up, more inventory will come online.

Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains: “The current mortgage default rate of at least three months is running high at 3.5% compared to less than 1% before the pandemic. However, foreclosures have been at historic lows so far due to the forbearance support. The default rate will certainly fall as long as the economy continues to generate jobs, but the end of the federal support program inevitably means some homeowners will need to sell. This will be another source of housing inventory.”

Because tight inventory levels have kept the market restricted and sales below what demand is, the residential real estate sector should see hope in this analysis.

But there is no sector safe from the supply chain crisis or prices rising again on raw materials. Reuters reports that many materials like windows and breaker boxes are in short supplies while the cost of building materials have surged, like copper which is up 16%, and lumber prices are jumping back up to record highs set in May.

Homebuilder confidence is up, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), but their most recent survey also indicates that “builders continue to grapple with ongoing supply chain disruptions and labor shortages that are delaying completion times.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported today that mortgage applications for new home purchases are down 16.2% compared to September 2020, and applications are down 4% compared to August. It is notable that the average loan size hit $408,522, the highest on record, and another indicator of increasing construction costs.

Going forward, analysts expect the backlog of starts to continue as labor and supply chain issues persist. And although the news isn’t overtly positive, single family housing on its own is actually performing better than in 2020. There is light at the end of the tunnel for hopeful homebuyers.

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Real Estate Big Data

A ridiculously easy way to combat bad reviews from non-customers

(MARKETING) Some ratings and review sites don’t verify reviewers, so what happens when a nasty comment about you is left on a ratings site?

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reviews Woman seated on ground writing cold email to clients.

Have you ever found a business through Yelp that you wanted to like but just couldn’t make up your mind about because of the contrasting reviews of the place? Like a restaurant with the best service but had cold soup and an unresponsive hostess, or a B&B that was warm and clean but had an owner who did not provide the second B come morning time?

Some of these outlying negative reviews can be telling of the business, and I always make sure to read them in case I set my expectations too high (like I did for the eggs benedict from that diner up north).

However, while most reviews do reflect a genuine experience and are useful to would-be customers, others can be exaggerated or even outright falsified.

One such encounter one of our team members had was when searching for a private firearms trainer. Her online search had taken her to a trainer she liked. However, the comments on Yelp for the trainer were horrible.

Before she ran the other way, she saw comments from the trainer that simply said, “This person is not a verified client of [Company Name].” Apparently, he made a tv news appearance advocating for a specific gun right, and people from all over the globe made negative comments.

The fact that they weren’t his clients made her totally disregard their comments, because those reviews weren’t based on his professional performance. Guess who she hired?

Sites that allow anyone to review an unlimited number of businesses naturally risk exploitation. Such review sites make it possible to communicate quick, personal experiences about any business out there, and that also means an easy dig from a disgruntled customer to the place that hurts a company most.

It is up to the business to stay vigilant about what is being said out there and seek out ratings and review platforms that verify customers.

Since customers rely on sites like Yelp, businesses need to maintain their profile in the same way they would maintain their storefront. Just as they would fix the broken lighting in their lobby, they need to acknowledge any unreliable reviews a cranky customer may write about them. By having a human presence on these sites, businesses can breed a sense of integrity and accountability that others will pick up on.

If those scathing and seemingly random reviews had been acknowledged by the supposed perpetrators, I would have had an easier time overlooking the more exaggerated claims, just like my team member did.

By responding, the business provides context for the incident, but more importantly, it shows that they care.

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Real Estate Big Data

Global market panic over Chinese real estate bubble subsides slightly

(REAL ESTATE) Chinese real estate bubble fears shook markets last week, but Evergrande made a big move today to temper the panic.

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chinese real estate

Last week, stock markets internationally plunged due to fears of a real estate bubble in China as their largest real estate developer, Evergrande struggled to make their interest payments on their outstanding bank loans as well as their bonds.

Analysts pointed to the interconnected nature of markets, reminding people that when the housing market crashed in the U.S. back in 2008, all global markets were impacted.

We asserted that the panic was overblown given that Evergrande has a tremendous amount of physical assets ($340 billion to be more precise), and that a restructure was possible which could put them back on track (rather than crumble – which was what markets seemed to imagine last week).

There has been a lot of speculation that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) would begin pressuring state-owned businesses to prop up the developer.

Today, Evergrande’s stock is actually up as they have raised $1.5 billion in cash to meet their financial obligations.

How did they accomplish this? By selling their 20% stake in Shengjing Bank to the state-owned Shenyang Shengjing Finance Investment Group.

The money will only be applicable to their outstanding interest payments that are past due, and the Chinese government has not made any statement to the effect that they applied pressure or intervened.

The government has been pouring cash into the financial system to assuage fears, adding $15.5 billion to keep liquidity moving.

In a statement this week, the People’s Bank of China said they would “maintain the healthy development of the real estate market and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of housing consumers.” The statement did not specifically reference Evergrande.

It is important that real estate practitioners keep their eye on this story as it has stoked consumers’ fears, especially when people don’t read beyond a headline.

There won’t be a pop quiz on how much cash Evergrande has on hand, but consumers may mention the Chinese real estate bubble elbowing markets here as a factor in their decision making. Understanding the bird’s eye view of what is going on will help Realtors better address the topic while in the field.

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