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Onward to a New Decade – Predictions for 2010



2010 Next ExitWhen the ball came down on Times Sqaure to usher in the new Century we didn’t vaporize as many had thought (remember the Y2K hysteria?).  Will the same be true for the second decade?  Some predictions (please check back in December 2010):

1. Health Care Reform will either die completely in the conference committee or get so watered down as to be totally neutered.  As a result the “‘Just Say No’ to Everything” party will change their rhetoric from” We’re just carrying out the will of the American people.” to the sing songy chant of 5 year olds: “Nyah. Nyah. We beat O-ba-ma. We. beat O-ba-ma.”

2. The National Association of Realtors will continue to be co-opted or marginalized by large corporate interests as evidenced by:

  • NAR continuing to sit on the sidelines on the health care issues for its members (see Todd Carpenter comments to this post re: NAR position on member health care),
  • NAR continuing to create “me, too” sites for online valuation of homes, national MLS (quasi or faux) and “educational” sites to data mine home buyer and home seller personal information,
  • NAR remaining silent or working behind the scenes to eliminate individually negotiated fees for service in favor of “flat fee” or “ala carte menu” type fees for service.

3. The new RESPA rules will force a major consolidation in the lending industry forcing out the smaller players and eliminating competitive pricing.

4.  RESPA rules will also cause de facto price standardization among title companies. In a race to get on lender “approved” lists so they can stay in business. Title companies will eventually all have the same pricing structure.  No, there won’t be any backroom deals or cocktail lounge “price fixing” conversations.  It’ll just  kinda happen.

5. All of the above will have the effect of reducing the number of Realtors offering their services (not necessarily a bad thing) and marginalizing the Realtor role in the real estate transaction.  All of the above will also have the effect of reducing “consumer choice” and instead of being protected, the consumer will be at the mercy of companies that will become “too big to fail” with pricing that is totally standardized (read: “fixed”) across the spectrum from Realtor to Lender to Title Service.

So, we’ll see. I’d be interested in how you thing 2010 will pan out. Do you have any predictions for 2010?

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog

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  1. egoldre

    December 27, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I’m laughing because I wrote a blog on Activerain about a week ago titled Predictions are like Buttholes, Everyone has One ; ) I’m with you on 1,2,3 but 4 and 5 make me nervous. I know there is a push by big brother to protect the consumer (I live in MA where the consumer is protected above all others- Thanks Martha Coakley!) but doing so at the expense of consumer choice is problematic.

    My own predictions surround the market in my area. Which is going to stay where it is next year. Prices will remain stable and everything under 200K will continue to be gobbled up within a week on the market. Move up buyers will decide they can’t wait any longer for the market to get better to, um, move up. Experienced property investors will make a killing. Unexperienc

    • egoldre

      December 27, 2009 at 7:51 am

      (my two year old decided I’d said enough and hit enter on me) As I was saying Unexperienced property investors will make a small living.


      • Ken Montville

        December 27, 2009 at 7:59 am

        Gotta love two-year olds! Thanks for chiming in.

  2. Lee Taylor

    December 27, 2009 at 8:37 am

    The “independent consultant” ideal – a practice based on the value of an agent’s ability to offer disproportionate benefit in comparison to the fee that is paid, is something that I don’t think will go away very soon. Not in 2010.

    I have been in the business for 6 years and I never get into board level or national level “Realtor” politics, but I am a dues paying Realtor. I know that the NAR has been marginalized, but I did not know that they are working behind the scenes to make it easier for the lowest common denominator players.

    So, in the spirit of fee based consultancy, my wish list includes elimination of the buyer’s agent co-op fee. Buyer’s brokers who work for the easy money will instead be working for a living – brokerage agreement for brokerage agreement. 3% here. $10,000 or so there. Guaranteed by their buyer client.

    This is one way to keep the limited talent, limited service discount broker players from one of their primary revenue sources.

    As for listing agency, earning a commission in 2010, against a wide field of players, is all about the grind. More appointments, more NO’s to get to the YES.

    I need 22 of those to go to closing this year. Yes, my buyer brokerage commissions will be co-op fees for the most part, but my focus is on helping sellers in 2010.

    I have a two year old and she is watching Elmo right now, thereby enabling me to get this comment off without interruption!

    • egoldre

      December 28, 2009 at 11:54 am

      Next time I’ll be sure to comment while he’s watching Yo Gabba Gabba ; )

  3. John Kalinowski

    December 27, 2009 at 10:59 am

    @Lee – The elimination of the buyer’s agent co-op fee always sounds exciting, but most who propose it ignore one major result. Most buyers will not pay a buyer’s agent’s commission once they realize it will come directly out of their pocket at closing. The typical buyer struggles with the basic down payment and closing costs, but when you add in an additional fee that is no longer buried in the current conundrum of “who pays the agents’ commissions”, most will just go unrepresented and deal directly with the listing broker.

    The fact is that buyers do not see commissions as being something they pay for, no matter how you argue who actually pays it. Once they’re suddenly told they have to personally pay their own agent, you can expect those fees to disappear or be reduced to nearly nothing. No longer will a buyer’s agent make around $9,000 for a $300,000 sale. It will probably be something like a $500 flat fee. That’s if the buyer even decides to use an agent. Most will just call the listing agent direct in order to “save” the commission.

    You can also expect listing commissions to go down dramatically too, since there’s no longer a need to pay a buyer’s agent. No more double-dips when you sell your own listing, and you would no longer be able to make the argument that a higher fee is justified because you have to offer the buyer’s agents a certain amount to make sure they show your listings. Not to mention that you would now have to handle all buyer showings on your listings, and probably at a reduced final commission to you. Again, no more double-dips.

    Most real estate brokerages currently make at least half their income from buyer agent co-op commissions. What happens when those buyer agent sides go away? Many brokerages won’t survive, at least in their present form, and you can count on a majority of agents leaving the business. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing 🙂

    • Ken Montville

      December 28, 2009 at 11:59 am

      I agree with you, John. While it is always difficult to explain that buyer’s agents work for the buyer and have fiduciary responsibility to the buyer, it never really sinks in if the buyer isn’t paying his/her own agent. Yet, as you suggest, they would go unrepresented in a heartbeat to the listing agent if they thought they would have to spend a nickel or might save a nickel.

  4. Greg Cooper

    December 28, 2009 at 7:08 am


    Someday when my writing grows up I want to be you!

    The thing that bothers me most about NAR is the arrogance in which they do things. As a singular example, the RPR which could be great, was put out there seemingly with little consideration for how the agents and MLS firms across the country would act. I don’t think they had any idea they’d get the ice cold response they’d get from some in San Diego. Shame because the nuts and bolts of it seems strong. IOW, it’s wasn’t the ‘what’ as much as the ‘how.’

    On HC….believe it or not, there are MANY of us who want a level of reform who simply think the current plan (whatever in the hell it is) is a joke. It WILL raise the deficit, not provide 100% coverage and will undoubtedly lead to some level of rationing. The ‘health care reform’ brand has regrettably now been bastardized so thoroughly that I wonder if we could ever get a good bill if the current one fails.

    • Ken Montville

      December 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm

      You’re too kind, Greg. I’m a great fan of your videos. Great staging and that great radio voice! But I digress.

      I think NAR is losing touch the core of their membership. Much like many “leaders” (in quotes) that become enamored of their perks and focus groups, the NAR leadership is neglecting their membership and outright ignoring it because, truth be told, there really isn’t anything the members can do. It’s either pay out the wazoo for MLS access and Broker affiliation and any number of other items required to practice real estate…or pay the dues. Most just pay the dues and the leadership knows it.

  5. John Kalinowski

    December 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    @Ken – You’re spot-on with how the NAR is losing touch. Did you see the new issue of REALTOR Magazine? They talk about an agent from PA (who I’m sure is a very nice person and a competent agent) and provide details of her year-end surge, with examples of how we can improve our business. Here are some of their brilliant tips:

    – Add the names of anyone you touched in the last year to your day planner. (couldn’t they talk about the latest Cloud-based CRM packages? A day planner? Wow.)

    – Use a yellow pad to set up hand-written columns to analyze data. (Really, is this some kind of cruel joke? Why not talk about how to use Google Docs, or Excel spreadsheets?)

    – Buy pumpkins and personally deliver them to people (Wow! Never heard that one before. That’s what my first broker, who hadn’t sold anything in 20 years, suggested I do.)

    Next they’ll publish an article on how to use your AOL email address to reach out to clients. I just don’t get who puts these things together, and how they can be so clueless about what agents really need.

    The best thing they could do would be to stop printing that magazine, and use the savings to reduce our fees, as most of it is entirely useless!

    • Ken Montville

      December 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      …and since you provided me with this opening about the NAR, I just saw a snippet on CNBC about a permanent taxpayer subsidy for Fannie and Freddie and do you think someone from the NAR was on to as a “guest expert”. Nah. It was the COO of Zillow. I guess CNBC knows who to go to to get the scoop on important housing issues and it evidently isn’t the NAR.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    December 28, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    John: I can honestly say, that as much as I read, I do not read Realtor Magazine. For a group who so aggressively encourages going “Green” I think it’s foolish to print something just because 900,000 of your 1 million members still want paper. What’s worse, is that I would guess that 875,000 of those 900,000 wouldn’t read it regardless of how you delivered it.

    NAR has poured a lot of time into technology and online media in many, many venues, so it only goes to reason that they give such non-technology solutions to those members who actually pickup a magazine, instead of subscribing to NAR’s online tools.

    Even if you and I agree that we should stop catering to the masses who do not obtain information online (or use the many, many tools) – they are still the vast majority. They pay the same dues that you and I do and therefore NAR is stuck trying to be relevant to a vocal minority of Realtors who want more information like AG and the rest present versus the large majority who still think the internet is an irrelevant fad. (by the way, this vast majority only sell homes on weekends, so that they can work elsewhere during the year)

    NAR reports that last year only 50% of “realtors” actually sold anything and the average annual income was something like $18,000. These are the people who have a vote just like you and me. It’s dumb, but it’s the way it is.

    I gotta say, that I agree with a lot of what is said here.

    I only one thing to say, and I think I’ve said it every time that the topic comes up. NAR is us the members. If the majority of members thought (or cared) about these issues above then there would be change.

    The reality is that the overwhelming majority of agents do not wish to have any change at all. If they do, the change they look for is to have little to no oversight and less people to compete with.

    That’s just a reality.

  7. Portland Condo Auctions

    December 28, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    2010 Google is just going to up and buy all of the MLSes and create a national one. Any takers on this wild prediction?


  8. Stacey Moncrieff

    December 28, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    As always, I’m enjoying the comments at AgentGenius. John, your point about the Erica Ramus piece is well-taken. Apparently, those old-school techniques are working well for her, but that doesn’t mean we should devote two pages in the magazine to them.

    Matthew: While many tell us they like have the tangible product to carry with them and read at their leisure, there are many others like you who should have an option. That’s why we’re trying to deliver information in new ways — such as via webinar and video — and why we’re thinking hard about the magazine’s future. The last thing we want to do is waste your time or your resources.

    As to the original post about NAR, ouch! No doubt, I’m out of line by attempting to respond but I’ll do so anyway.

    My thought on the healthcare debate is that there are much larger and more powerful lobbies at the forefront of that fight. That doesn’t mean NAR staff are sitting on their hands; I know there are staff devoted to seeking provisions that will serve small businesses/self-employed persons. As Missy Caulk asked in an earlier post, is ANYONE happy with where we ended up? Probably not. But that’s not for lack of trying.

    With regard to the idea that NAR is working behind the scenes to do away with individually negotiated fees, well, maybe I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, but that statement just seems to defy reality. NAR attorneys would warn, and often do, that the association doesn’t take a position with regard to business models and to do so would be a violation of antitrust law.

    • Ken Montville

      December 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm

      Stacey – Thanks for chiming in. Your comments and point of view are always welcome (at least, on my posts!). I think, perhaps, you are being too modest on the NAR’s behalf. According to Wikipedia (and, I suppose many other sources) the NAR is the largest trade association in North America. That should have a pretty big slice of influence.

      Considering that the vast majority of the NAR’s membership are self employed, independent contractors I would think there would be a way for the NAR to exercise some of that influence. We saw it happen when banks wanted to enter into the real estate arena.

      As far as compensation is concerned, I’m sure the leadership would not do anything in violation of current law. I wonder what the leadership is thinking, though, with its current initiatives to data mine consumer information, create National valuation sites, etc. In my view, this won’t provide the consumer with much usable information aside from a false and inflated sense of their personal ability to work through the real estate transaction with minimal (read: “flat fee” or “ala carte menu”) assistance from Realtors. Rather than promoting Realtors as competent guides through a complex process, consumers are told that by reading this article or that or visiting this site or that will provide them with the knowledge they need to buy and sell real estate.

      That;s just the way it looks from the street. At least, my street.

  9. Mike Stark

    December 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Ken —

    I’m only really qualified to respond to prediction #1 — pretty safe one that. I think reform will pass, the question is whether the Dems will treat it as the end, or as the end of the beginning. Republican behavior is utterly predictable; most of them are on their knees praying for 12% unemployment so they can return to power.

    Any predictions about what’s going to happen next in Iran? North Korea? World Cup? Stick the old neck out a bit! 😉

    • Ken Montville

      December 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

      Hey, Mike

      I’m personally glad to see a non-real estate person perusing AgentGenius and my posts. As much as I might like to hold forth on Iran and North Korea, I’m advised to stick to my knitting and the world or real estate. World Cup? What the heck is a World Cup? 🙂

  10. Fred Romano

    December 30, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I think this is going to be a very interesting year for real estate. Our fee for service model has grown this year and we expect it to be even more popular in 2010.

  11. joespake

    January 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Keep up the straight talk, Ken. Have a great 2010.

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The House Judiciary antitrust investigation holds big techs’ feet to the fire

(POLITICS) CEOs of Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon set to testify in House Judiciary Committee antitrust investigation hearing today.



house investigation

The House Judiciary Committee is closing in on the end of a year-long investigation into tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, to evaluate possible antitrust abuses. CEOs from all four companies were set to testify on Monday, July 27, 2020. The hearing has been pushed back to Wednesday, July 29, to allow members of Congress to pay respects to civil rights leader Representative John Lewis (D-GA) who died of pancreatic cancer on July 17.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have all agreed to testify. This will be Bezos’ first time in front of Congress, whereas all the others have testified before on different matters. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), but is expected to not attend.

The Antitrust Subcommittee began the investigation in June 2019. Each business has been the subject of scrutiny for their roles in dominating their respective industries and playing an outsized role in market competition for smaller businesses. The Committee is interested in evaluating current antitrust laws and whether they apply to, or should be updated for, these mega corporations. They have already heard testimonies from smaller companies like Sonos and Tile about these companies’ alleged monopolistic practices.

The focus of the investigation for Apple is on the App Store, and whether it has implemented policies that are harmful for app developers. Google has a tight hold on the online advertising market. Amazon – which during a five-week period early in the pandemic saw an increase in value equivalent to the total value of Walmart, the world’s largest firm – has been criticized for its treatment of brands that sell on its e-commerce platform. Facebook is being investigated for its acquisition practices, cornering the social media market with purchases like Instagram.

Amazon is expected to face additional scrutiny for its treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic. Facebook and YouTube (a subsidiary of Google) have been the subject of regular criticism about monitoring hate speech on their platforms, and their treatment of the workers responsible for doing so (Facebook in particular).

The hearing is set to occur virtually in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Watch the hearing live at 12:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, July 29 on the House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel. Please do note the hilarious irony of streaming a Congressional antitrust hearing on YouTube, which is owned by Google, which is owned by Alphabet, which is testifying at said hearing. God Bless America.

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Additional unemployment benefits outside of the CARES Act

(POLITICS) Unemployment is at an all time high in the United States and individuals need to be aware of reapplying for additional benefits.



unemployment broke

June saw some additional jobs in the US and unemployment fell as of early July, but CNBC advised pausing on any celebration just yet, saying that “The employment crisis is still worse than any time since the Great Depression, the country’s worst economic downturn in its industrial history.”

The unemployment statistics in our country right now are really scary – especially for individuals and families that see a looming deadline of July 31 for the supplemental $600/week provided by the Federal Government through the CARES Act put in place in March. There are discussions on extending these benefits as many families have not been able to replace their incomes or find new employment opportunities, but it doesn’t seem like anything has been finalized there yet. Congress is in the middle of a variety of options:

  • Discontinue the additional $600/week but allow those on unemployment to continue to file and receive their state benefits (usually up to 26 weeks or possibly extended up to 39 weeks by The CARES act)
  • Send out additional stimulus checks (Congress is currently exploring a $X Trillion stimulus package)
  • Extend the additional funding (on top of the weekly amount allotted by state) but cut it from $600 to $200
  • It’s also been put on the table in the House of Representatives “The Heroes Act” to extend the additional $600/week until January 2021 ($3 trillion).

There are some additional benefits that are available (different than the funds by the CARES Act), but you may have to reapply for them. So, make sure to check your state’s unemployment pages and your filing status. Some states do not require you to reapply and you can continue on with extended benefits.

According to CNBC, “The additional aid expires after the end of the year. (This is a different program than the one paying an extra $600 a week through July 31.) For some reason, the [Department of Labor] has taken the position that people have to file for the additional PEUC benefits,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.”

No doubt that this can cause additional stress and uncertainty especially when you have questions about your filing and are unable to get through to someone on the phone. With the way that the unemployment cycle is setup, technically July 25 is considered the last date for that cycle (and July 26 for New York), so be sure to check and see what the next steps are for you if you are currently filing.

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How will pausing the reopening of states impact the recovery of the economy?

(POLITICS) The resurgence of COVID-19 has left Americans with a lot of questions about our nation’s economic future. That ambiguity is seemingly a feature, not a bug.



COVID-19 reopening economy

The rest of the world watched as the United States dramatically reopened “the economy” last month. Now, it seems we’ve changed our minds about that.

The White House has repeatedly said that it will be up to individual states to form their own pandemic response plans moving forward. But letting local governments devise their own solutions has produced large gaps in their preparedness, as well as profound confusion around the best practices for balancing the country’s public and economic health.

California, which represents the largest economy in the US and the fifth largest in the world, was one of the first states to put serious quarantine restrictions in place. The decision to relax those orders only came after anti-lockdown protestors demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom reopen the state’s beaches, businesses and churches. Newsom may now regret this capitulation as California just called for a second round of statewide lockdowns.

Other state legislators are slowly following their lead, as the threat is becoming very dire in some places. Florida, for instance, is now a global hotspot for COVID-19 and Miami is being called “the new Wuhan”. The state is also currently struggling against another wave of unemployment, partly because their economy is heavily dependent on summer tourism (which has persisted despite the spike in cases, but not nearly at pre-pandemic levels).

Florida, California and Texas are altogether responsible for 20 percent of all new COVID-19 cases globally.

Every state is fighting two battles here. Coronavirus relief efforts in the US are still seriously underfunded, and most health organizations here lack the resources to effectively test and treat their communities. But the problems that have emerged for workers and small business owners, like evictions and layoffs, have also been devastating in their own right.

In essence, the United States reopened in an effort to curb the nation’s financial freefall and ballooning unemployment. Economists predicted at the beginning of July that reopening would allow the US to avoid a recession, and all would go smoothly. These projections likely did not account for a spike in cases that would halt this economic rebound.

That’s not to say the circumstances here haven’t improved at all over the past months; currently there is no acute shortage of ventilators, and doctors have had some time to refine their strategies for treating the virus. Overall, the national unemployment rate is slightly declining, while working from home is going so well for companies like Twitter and Facebook that they will be permanently switching much of their staff to remote work.

By comparison, though, New Zealand took the pandemic much more seriously than the US did, and they are objectively in a better position now in all respects. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cracked down hard and early, closing the country’s borders completely, and instituting rent freezes nationwide. As a result they have virtually eradicated COVID-19 within their borders. A report from S&P Global also expects New Zealand’s economy to recover quickly compared to the rest of the world.

While this tradeoff seems like a zero sum game – as if we have to pick either our health, or our wealth – it is not. In fact, we could very well end up with neither if our lawmakers don’t proceed with caution.

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