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February
12

RE/MAX LLC is responding forcefully to the misleading advertising recently showing that eXp Realty was #3 in the Dallas market. According to actual MLS stats, eXp did not even make the top 10 brokerages in North Texas, although it has over 1,000 agents in the region. The average eXp agent closes only 3.8 homes annually whereas RE/MAX agents close on average 17 homes. The actual MLS stats for the Dallas-Ft Worth area based on closed transactions in 2018 for the top 6 brand names are as follows:

 

2018

 

 

MARKET SHARE %

 

MLS VOLUME

 

 

 

 

TOTAL

100%

$74,509,245,334

1

Keller Williams

 

 

15.71%

$11,704,140,240

2

RE/MAX

 

 

 

6.80%

$5,068,502,703

3

Ebby Halliday

 

 

5.88%

$4,378,048,294

4

Coldwell Banker

 

 

4.78%

$3,562,663,920

5

Century 21

 

 

3.96%

$2,950,193,818

6

Briggs Freeman Sotheby's  

 

2.79%

$2,076,346,087

               
February
11

Haunted by rosters of inactive, unlicensed and deceased agents, KW President Josh Team confirmed the company will purge names nationwide

Real estate franchise Keller Williams has been growth-obsessed over the past decade, but according to multiple sources, its 190,000-plus associates ranks are filled with former agents and, in at least one instance, even deceased agents.  Multiple sources told Inman that it's been an unspoken company policy at Keller Williams to keep agents on the roster — long after they are no longer associated with the company.  Keller Williams President Josh Team confirmed to Inman Monday that the rosters of market centers — what Keller Williams calls franchises — across the country are partially populated by agents no longer with the company.  Multiple sources cited that they believe as many as 30 percent of Keller Williams' current agents — roughly 55,000 agents — are what is known as "ghost agents," meaning they're on the roster but no longer licensed Keller Williams agents.

"It's been rumored by many, and known by some, that most of the rosters have what everyone refers to as 'ghost agents' on them," a source with direct knowledge of some of the inner-workings of Keller Williams told Inman. "It was something that nobody was allowed to talk to, and people were encouraged not to remove them, or if they were going to remove them, just remove a few a month so it doesn't look like you're not growing."  "I wouldn't be surprised if after January and February when they remove them, there are at least 30 percent fewer agents," the source told Inman in a later phone call. A former franchise owner at Keller Williams told Inman the practice of inflating agent count by leaving "ghost agents" on the rolls was rampant and persistent. "The entire push from the company had been around agent count, obviously everybody knows that," the former franchise owner said.

  • Inman News, February 5, 2019
November
26

Baldwin County Association of Realtors in Alabama will offer group health, dental and vision insurance to its 2,300 members. Other Realtor groups expected to follow suit nationwide

Baldwin County Association of Realtors in Alabama will offer group health, dental and vision insurance to its 2,300 members. Other Realtor groups expected to follow suit nationwide

Earlier this month, the National Association of Realtors announced there was no national solution to affordable health care coverage for the trade group's nearly 1.4 million members.  But that hasn't stopped a local Realtor association in Southern Alabama from coming up with its own solution. The Baldwin County Association of Realtors says it's the first in the nation to offer group health, dental and vision insurance to its 2,300 members.  From Nov. 15 through Dec. 28, Baldwin Realtors will be able to sign up for coverage starting Feb, 1, 2019 through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

"Being able to offer health, dental, and vision insurance to our membership is one of the most defining accomplishments of my career," said Sheila Dodson, the association's CEO, in a statement.  "Knowing that independent contractors are not able to provide for their families or themselves in this vital way has always been a difficult problem for the Realtor industry. It is great to partner with Blue Cross and Blue Shield to offer premium coverage for our members, affiliates, and their staffs."

Health insurance is a top concern for many in the real estate industry. Approximately 86 percent of Realtors in the United States are independent contractors, according to NAR, meaning that, in a land where employer-based health insurance reigns, most agents are left to fend for themselves finding health care in the open market.

According to NAR's 2018 Member Profile, 21 percent of Realtors are uninsured, 45 percent of Realtors pay for health insurance out of pocket and 30 percent are covered by a spouse or partner.  Only 4 percent (salaried agents) receive health coverage through their firm.

According to Troy Wilson, 2018 president of the Baldwin County association, members had long been asking for group health insurance plans, but "until recently it was never even an option."

That changed in June, when the U.S. Department of Labor announced health care reform to modify the legal definition of "employer" to include "working owners" — i.e., self-employed individuals with no employees — and to allow small businesses and independent contractors, such as real estate agents and Realtors, to band together based on location or industry to strengthen their buying power into association health plans.

"The size of the pool was key to getting the great benefit, which needed to be 2,000 or more," Wilson said in a phone interview.  The Baldwin County association did not consider teaming up with another trade association, local Realtor association, the state Realtor association or NAR on this due to the logistics that would be involved, according to Wilson.

It was a "high priority" for the Baldwin association to be able to offer an AHP to its members for the beginning of the year and if the association tried to grow its pool, "we knew it would take longer," he said.  "It's no different than a consideration of a new software system. It's not like anything like this exists anywhere out there. Someone needed to organize it," Wilson said.

"We would be open to other options like this in the future," he added. "Our assumption is that others are probably working on it too."

Asked whether Baldwin Realtors' was indeed the first Realtor association to offer group health insurance and whether there were any updates to a possible national solution, NAR spokesperson Jane Dollinger said in an emailed statement:

"NAR has long been advocating for health insurance solutions for real estate professionals, including association health plans. Legal uncertainty brought on by the pending lawsuit filed by a dozen attorneys general across the country, combined with varying state regulatory requirements currently makes it difficult to find and develop a national insurance option because of how such plans may be implemented and treated in each state," she said.

"However, this means there has been broader success by state and local associations, such as through small group market options, association health plans or other insurance solutions. More success at the state and local levels will set the example for others to follow and lay the foundation for a potential national solution down the road."

What's covered?

Under the reform, association health plans are to be governed by the same rules as private employer policies, not Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) rules, which means potentially cheaper coverage than what's available in the ACA marketplace, but also potentially weaker protections.   This is why a dozen state attorneys general have sued the Trump administration in an effort to block the reform. They are afraid the cheaper, leaner plans will siphon off younger, healthier consumers from the ACA markets and that the new rule will lead to a spike in insurance fraud and insolvencies, according to Modern Healthcare.

The plans available to Baldwin Realtors, however, are ACA-compliant and cover the essential health benefits under the ACA, including prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental health and drug treatment. Members will also not be barred or charged more for pre-existing conditions, Wilson said.  "It is compliant. It covers everything. It offers the same coverage as if someone were to do open enrollment through Blue Cross [and] Blue Shield. All we're doing is facilitating the group," Wilson said.

The association's health plans are potentially better for some members than individual or small group plans available through ACA exchanges because they may be cheaper overall and age won't be a factor in cost, according to Wilson.  "The only condition to be allowed in the group coverage is you have to be a member of the association in good standing. There's no health screening or anything like that. Everyone is charged the exact same," regardless of age, gender, location, or job title, Wilson said. Affiliate members of the association — i.e. members who are not real estate licensees, such as mortgage brokers — are also eligible to participate, Wilson added.

Tim Hudnall, district account representative at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, confirmed that Baldwin's AHP was ACA compliant and that all essential benefits are covered. "That's all we sell," he said.  Asked whether the Baldwin association had to go through the state to create the AHP, Wilson said no, but that the trade group did hire a third-party vendor — Lockard & Williams Insurance Services Inc. — to supply a secure portal for enrollment and handle billing.  "That way the member is never compromised on any personal information and the association never has access to any information," Wilson said.

What are the costs?

The Baldwin association offers two health plans, one with a $3,000 deductible annually that starts at $437 per month for an individual and one with a $500 deductible annually that starts at $525 per month for an individual.

Each of the two plans offer four coverage options: individual, individual and spouse, individual and a dependent, or full family coverage. For family coverage the deductibles go up to $6,000 and $1,000 respectively. The deductible does not apply to office visits, annual wellness exams or prescriptions. Vision and dental coverage can be purchased separately.  "If you're only covering one person, it's $525 for one person, if you and a spouse it's maybe $100 more and then if a full family it's probably like $1,100. But there's no differentiation between member to member," Wilson said.

The association is not subsidizing any of the plans and both are under Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.   "The other real benefit in group coverage is with a larger group you tend to have a more sustained premium year over year. You typically don't get as much fluctuation in the premiums," Wilson said.

The association is not sure how many of its members are uninsured. Nonetheless, Wilson believes the AHP will offer "a large portion of the association" a better option than what they have now. "There are some people that have group coverage through a spouse or through another employer. For them those other options are going to be better," Wilson said.

"But for roughly 40 or 45 percent of the association, this would be a better plan for them. Most importantly, it's going to allow coverage for some people that never had an option before from an affordability standpoint."

He knows of one member who has said the AHP will save him nearly $12,000 a year with better coverage. In his own case, Wilson currently has a Blue Cross and Blue Shield family plan and said he will save $2,340 annually on the new AHP plan and his deductible will be lower.  Providing group health insurance benefits is going to be life changing for many of our members and their families," Wilson said in a statement. "This type of benefit, when utilized, can deliver value daily that is impossible to fully quantify. I'm am very proud to be a part of the leadership team who assisted in this monumental initiative."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Hudnall said there was "no way" to compare the Baldwin association's AHP costs to the cost of purchasing insurance through an ACA exchange because on the exchange, costs are based on an individual's age, while in the AHP, the cost is based on the average age of the members as a whole.  Wilson said the AHP is written for an average age of 57 based on a census of the association, but he's not sure if that reflects the actual average age of the membership. (The median age of Realtors overall is 54, according to NAR's 2018 Member Profile.)

For younger people, costs would probably be lower on the ACA exchange, Hudnall said, while for older people he expected the AHP to be "pretty competitive."  After seeing some of the insurance renewal letters the Baldwin association shared, Hudnall said, "This seems like it's going to save some of the folks over there a lot of money." 

Anticipating 'a lot of activity'

Other Realtor associations are likely to follow Baldwin's lead. Hudnall said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has been offering quotes to other Realtor associations and other trade associations in the state, but he's not sure if any others have signed up.  "This is really new. I know it's something that's going to have a lot of activity. I imagine there will be more pretty soon," he said.

Because associations don't have information on prior insurance claims to submit, then demographics — including age — are a portion of the consideration for the premium, according to Hudnall.  Groups with more older folks, such as Realtor associations, would typically be charged more than a trade association with younger members. "Older people tend to spend a little bit more in medical care," he said.  The company aims to sign up close to 500 members in an AHP. "The more people in the plan the better stabilized it will be going forward," Hudnall said.

Inman News, November 21, 2018

 

November
8

The time that folks keep their house is now at a record level.   Before the 2008-2010 recession and housing crash a decade ago, most houses traded an average of every five or six years. But homeowners are increasingly staying put.   In the last year, the average homeowner stayed in their property for 10 years — the longest tenure ever recorded by the National Association of Realtors in its annual nationwide survey of homebuyers and sellers.  "In 1985, the median tenure was just five years," the Realtors said in the study. "In the last 30 years, sellers have remained in the same home for longer periods of time."  And current buyers plan to move even less often.  "Overall, buyers expect that they will live in their homes for 15 years," Realtor analysts say. "The expected tenure increases with age, and is also higher among repeat buyers.

  • Dallas Morning News, November 3, 2017
September
18

Zillow recently reports nationwide statistics show a steady decline in the number of transactions by discount brokers.  According to their internal report it is a significant decline that does not appear to be slowing down.  The reason given is consumers overall have not been happy with the process or outcomes of their buying and selling experience.  

 

NAR recently reports that flat fee brokers have not grown in the market these four years in the "good times".  Their market share continues to be two percent.  Further, other reports suggest that as the market cools down and there is an increased market supply that some homes listed by non-full service brokerages are the last to sell since the properties have not been marketed and staged to the full benefit for the seller, and consequently may not also receive top dollar.

  • Compiled Reports, September 2017
August
20

The sales dollar volume of international home purchases in Texas totaled $18.66 billion from April 2016 to March 2017, according to the Texas International Homebuyers Reportreleased today by the Texas Association of REALTORS®. Sales dollar volume from foreign homebuyers nearly doubled compared to the previous period of April 2015 to March 2016.  Texas ranked second in the nation for international home sales volume, with 34,135 home purchases by foreign buyers (a 59% increase over the previous period). Texas accounted for 12% of the 284,455 international home sales nationwide.

"This surge in international home sales activity underscores the growing reputation Texas has as a global destination for owning a home or investment property," says Vicki Fullerton, chairman of the Texas Association of REALTORS®. "The state's low unemployment, diverse industry base, and world-class higher education institutions are just some of the reasons why international residents seek to attend college, raise a family, or do business in Texas."  Texas was second only to Florida for international home sales, joining California, New Jersey, and Arizona as the nation's most popular destinations for foreign buyers.

The ratio of Texas homebuyers from Latin America compared to the rest of the world continues to narrow, with Latin America (including Mexico) and Asia/Oceania (including China and India) each accounting for about 40% of international homebuying activity in Texas from April 2016 to March 2017. Nearly half (43%) of Mexican buyers who purchased a home in the U.S. during this time period did so in Texas. Of all U.S. homebuyers from China, 11% purchased in Texas.

  • Texas Association of Realtors, August 15, 2017
August
18

Agents tend to achieve higher sales prices for properties than comparable FSBO listings, enough to offset their commission fee, according to a recent analysis.  Academic research has often cast doubt on the value of real estate agents, but a new study will come as music to their ears.  It suggests that homeowners will net roughly the same proceeds whether they sell through a real estate agent or take the FSBO (for-sale-by-owner) route.  That's because agents tend to achieve higher sales prices for properties than comparable FSBO listings — enough to offset their commission fee, according to an analysis released by automated valuation model (AVM) provider Collateral Analytics.  This makes a strong case for hiring an agent, considering that agents allow homeowners to reduce the work, risk, and time of selling a home, said Dr. Michael Sklarz, the CEO of Collateral Analytics and a co-author of the study.  "Overall it is clear that FSBOs have a low probability of selling, and if they do they will likely net the same or less after closing issues, plus they are more likely to screw up on disclosures which may lead to lawsuits after the fact, when buyers discover material facts not disclosed," added Norman Miller, who produced the study with Sklarz and is a real estate professor at the University of San Diego.  The study looked at more than 200,000 FSBO sales and one million MLS sales that took place across hundreds of markets in 2016 and 2017.  They found that on average, FSBO listings sold for about 5.5 percent less than comparable properties sold through the MLS, with FSBO listings tending to sell for a little less than their automated valuations and MLS listings tending to sell for a little more. The valuations were generated by Collateral Analytics' software.

  • Inman News, August 16, 2017
August
4

Homeowndership Rate Creeps Back Up

The homeownership rate crept up close to a full percentage point from one year ago to 63.7 percent in the second quarter, encouraged by more owner household formation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's recent Quarterly Housing Vacancies and Homeownership report. The owner household formation rate overtook the renter household formation rate in the first quarter, and remained ahead in the second quarter—evidence that the shift toward owner-occupied is more than a one-off trend. Roughly 87 percent of housing was occupied in the second quarter, with 55.5 percent owner-occupied and 31.6 percent renter-occupied.  "For only the second time in 11 years, and for the second consecutive quarter, the number of owner-occupied households grew faster than renter households over the year," wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia.  "The fact that we now have two consecutive quarters where owner households outpaced renters is a strong sign this trend is reversing and that the homeownership rate bottomed out last year."

 

Households headed by those aged 65 and older comprised the biggest share of homeowners in the second quarter, 78.2 percent, while households headed by those aged 34 years and younger comprised the smallest, 35.3 percent.

 

Non-Hispanic White Alone homeowners, as defined by the Census, claimed the highest homeownership rate in the second quarter, as well: 72.2 percent. Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Alone homeowners encompassed the second-highest rate, at 56.5 percent, while Hispanic homeowners held the next-highest, at 45.5 percent. Black Alone homeowners totaled the lowest rate, at 42.3 percent.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

-        RisMedia, July 31, 2017

July
22

Nextdoor, a social network that covers more than 100,000 U.S. neighborhoods, is rolling out a listing search tool and allowing agents to buy ads on the site in a handful of markets.  The new features will offer yet another pay-to-play pathway for real estate agents to new business and mark the latest push by a tech heavyweight into the industry, coming on the heels of signs that Amazon is preparing an agent referral service.

Nextdoor, which has raised over $210 million and has been valued at $1.1 billion, is testing the program in markets including the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Portland, Phoenix, greater Atlanta and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Real estate agents and brokers can sign up to pre-register for ads and eventually surface their listings on Nextdoor.  In pilot markets, users can click over to a real estate section to view listings in their neighborhood.

Listing details pages show price, property descriptions, photos and nearby listings. They also may display an ad for the home's listing agent.  "This is one of the paid products real estate agents can participate in," nextdoor.com says. "This makes it easy for members to reach out to a listing agent and learn more about some of the agents who sell homes in their local community."  The ads include an "Ask a question" button and can show endorsements by neighbors. The real estate section appears to source listings directly from brokers at the moment, rather than through syndicators.  "At this early stage, we're only inviting brokerages to participate," the website says. "Get in on the ground level by sharing this form with your broker and our team will follow up with next steps."

In contrast to ads that appear on major search portals, it looks like agents can only buy ads on their own listings.   In addition, Nextdoor is also allowing agents in select markets to buy ads that show up in local users' news feeds, daily emails and parts of its real estate section (including the top of listing search results pages).

To purchase Nextdoor's real estate ads, professionals must first create or claim a Nextdoor "Local Page" — which can represent either an individual or a business. Nextdoor advises racking up recommendations from clients and friends on local pages, so the endorsements can be noted in or appear alongside ads.   Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia has previously hinted at plans to introduce real estate content and advertising, in part due to the tens of thousands of inquiries from agents about marketing opportunities.

"It's information all readily available from MLSs; it's easy to get hold of — so we are thinking about, how do we match that content with the best real estate agents in the area," Tolia previously told Inman. "We are not talking about, 'here's a house for sale,' but 'here's the agent, here are some suggestions from agents who can help you buy.'"

Nextdoor communications spokesperson Kelsey Grady said that "anyone who is interested in learning more about Nextdoor for real estate should contact us at realestate@nextdoor.com," and by press time declined to elaborate further.

 

-         Inman News, July 14, 2017

July
18

Update: Amazon has removed the "Hire a Realtor" placeholder page referenced in this article since it published. Amazon appears to be preparing to offer consumers the option to hire real estate agents through its professional services marketplace, likely in exchange for referral fees. The service would mark the entry of yet another internet behemoth into the real estate marketing space, joining Facebook and Google as a potential source of business for agents. Amazon has a placeholder webpage that offers users the option to "Hire a Realtor." The page is indexed in Amazon's Home and Business Services section, a vendor marketplace that the company has gradually rolled out over the last two years. If the marketplace works for agents like it does for other professionals, then agents would pay referral fees to Amazon in exchange for new business.

-        Inman News, July 14, 2017

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