Mar 20th

NAR Joins Move, Inc. Lawsuit Against Zillow

By Kelly Curtis

NAR Joins Move, Inc. Lawsuit Against Zillow

The National Association of Realtors this week joined in a lawsuit filed by Move, Inc. against Zillow and its new Chief Strategy Officer, Errol Samuelson. Filed in the Superior Court of King County, WA, the suit accuses Zillow and Samuelson of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and other actions. NAR subsidiary Realtors Information Network, Inc. and Move divisions RealSelect and Top Producer Systems are also listed as plaintiffs in official court documents. Samuelson previously spent years working for Move, and the company believes he is sharing sensitive industry secrets with his new employer since he was hired less than two weeks ago. Samuelson and Zillow have so far declined to comment on the lawsuit, while spokesmen for Move and the NAR expressed confidence that the judicial system will back their claims.

Mar 11th

Preparing to Pre-Qualify for a Home Loan

By Kelly Curtis
Preparing to Pre-Qualify for a Home Loan
Buying a home can be a confusing, drawn-out process that drives us crazy.  The confusion we feel is especially frustrating because most Americans will only go through it once in their lives, so few consumers are familiar with it.  While it's impossible to prevent all types of delays to the process, some steps can be taken to curb delays, especially with regards to securing a loan.  If you're in the market to buy a home, the first step is to review you're credit score, reporting any errors and taking steps to clear them up.  Next, documents should be secured to prove income, rent or mortgage payments, and assets.  Keep these documents handy throughout the process so they are handy when the bank asks to see them.

Feb 19th

Diverse Solutions Reviews - 'Don't Waste Your Time'

By Frank Galvano
Several years ago Diverse Solutions was one of the better idx options available.  Loaded with extra bells & whistles and an easy interface, the company produced an innovative search tool - but that was then.  Zillow purchased Diverse Solutions in 2011 for $7.8 million.  

In a 2011 interview, the founder of Diverse Solutions,  Justin LaJoie, said

"They (Zillow) did not acquire Diverse Solutions to slowly kill it and the products that we have developed over the years."

"with the added resources from Zillow, we will be able to more quickly develop new enhancements"

He went on to say how Zillow and Diverse Solutions hoped to prove the "naysayers wrong."

Now, pause a moment and take that in.  Zillow owns Diverse Solutions

Soon Zillow branded and put their links on every website that used Diverse Solutions as their idx provider.  In a moment, a massive flood of organically-ranked realtor websites linked to Zillow.  I didn't judge it too much when it happened but over time you couldn't help but notice how Zillow's search continued to make huge advancements.  Does Diverse Solutions get that same level of attention?  Even after a series of recent changes in 2014, it's still, for the most part, the same as it was.  As of the day I'm writing this review, Diverse Solutions is still having trouble figuring out how to put a menu on the mobile site.  If a visitor is on your site and chooses to search, it will automatically convert the site to a mobile version (if the visitor is on a mobile device).  Once the search is done, the visitor has no way of returning to your website.  So if you have spent a lot of time creating custom searches for your website, the visitor is out of luck because there is no return unless they retype the domain again. 

Page Load Times
Diverse Solutions runs at a snail's pace - I have seen normal load times of up to 15-20 seconds - In fact, I have seen it take more than 30 seconds on countless occasions (Let's not even get into the times when it doesn't load at all).  Meanwhile, Zillow's site is hosted on different servers, coupled with a better design it moves at greater speeds enabling pages to load much faster. 
 
Lead Generation
In my experience, people don't seem to like it very much and if they do sign up, they rarely return.  I have overseen Diverse Solutions accounts in three completely different real estate markets around the country and the one common thread?  Diverse Solutions produced less leads than any other idx we ever used.  After being accustomed to generating 3 to 20 leads per DAY on the same website, Diverse Solutions only generated 1 to 7 leads per WEEK on average.  Sometimes we would go a week or two without 1 lead.  Up to that point I never even knew that was possible.  

My conclusion:  Diverse Solutions is a slow, outdated dinosaur that will continue to guide realtors directly into the tar pit.  Tread lightly my friends.
Dec 31st

US Home Prices Post Biggest Annual Gain Since Recession

By Betty
US Home Prices Post Biggest Annual Gain Since Recession
 
US home prices posted their biggest jump since the housing boom in October, according to a report issued Tuesday by Standard & Poors and Case-Shiller.  Economists tempered their enthusiasm over the report, however, as the broader picture points to a housing recovery losing steam.  The S&P/Case-Shiller index showed that home values in the nation's 20 largest cities rose 13.6 percent year-over-year in October, marking the 17th consecutive month in which priced rose from a year earlier.  Prices were also up 0.2 percent from September, though the pace of growth is slowing.  According to Tuesday's report, year-over-year price growth slowed in 18 of the 20 cities tracked by the index, and September's growth was slower than August's in 19 of the 20 cities.

Nov 22nd

Housing Recovery Still Strong, But Home Builders Not Pleased

By Dave Simmons
Housing Recovery Still Strong, But Home Builders Not Pleased


The US housing market has come a long way since the last crash, as nearly every indicator has improved over the last few years.  Foreclosures have returned to normal levels after exploding at the onset of the recession then slowing way down as lenders halted the process amid the robo-signing scandal that prompted government mandated and self-imposed moratoria on home seizures.  And with the number of underwater homeowners down considerably from a few years ago, the likelihood of another disastrous wave of foreclosure activity appears low.  Home values have recovered significantly in nearly every market around the US, with some markets even seeing prices surge past levels seen before the recession.
Nov 19th

JP Morgan to Accept Record Fine to Settle Mortgage Fraud Charges

By Frank Galvano

JP Morgan to Accept Record Fine to Settle Mortgage Fraud Charges

 

JP Morgan Chase & Co. is on the verge of accepting a record-high $13 billion settlement to settle civil and government fraud charges related to the sale of questionable mortgage debt that helped fuel the housing crash and the ensuing recession. A deal would include the $4 billion already paid by JP Morgan to settle a claim brought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in 2011. Details about the impending settlement are still somewhat sketchy, as neither JP Morgan nor prosecutors would comment, as the settlement has not been made public, but a source familiar with the negotiations leaked word of the deal.

Nov 5th

US Homeownership Falls to 18-Year Low

By Kelly Curtis
US Homeownership Falls to 18-Year Low
 
Homeownership reached an 18-year low in the third quarter, according to a report issued Tuesday by the US Census Bureau, but economists insist that the housing recovery is still going strong, despite recent slowdowns in several key statistics.  According to the report, 65.3 percent of Americans owned their own homes in the third quarter, down from 66 percent in each of the first two quarters of the year.  The only time homeownership has been lower during a third quarter was 1995, when it stood at 65.0 percent.  During last year's third quarter, US homeownership stood at 65.5 percent, the report showed.
 
Sep 18th

Housing Permits Reach 5-Year High

By Kelly Curtis
Housing Permits Reach 5-Year High

The US Commerce Department reported Wednesday that US home builders broke ground on more single-family homes in August as permits for future projects hit a five year high, buoying economists who called the report evidence that the housing market's recovery is still strong despite a recent upward trend for mortgage rates.  According to the report, single-family starts rose 7 percent last month to an annualized rate of 628,000 units.  That's the fastest pace of new building projects in six months, the agency said, and welcome news for a sector that accounts for the lion's share of the housing market.
Aug 20th

Re/Max Files for $100 Million IPO

By Dave Simmons
Re/Max Files for $100 Million IPO

US real estate brokerage Re/Max this week filed initial paperwork with the Securities and exchange Commission to launch a $100 million IPO.  Run as a private enterprise since it was founded in 1973, the company wants to go public now in hopes of achieving some of the same success had by Realogy, the owner of Century 21 and Coldwell Banker that went public last year.  Realogy's shares have surged nearly 60 percent since its IPO October 11th and Re/Max hopes to see the same kind of success, especially given the recent strengthening of the US housing recovery.
Jul 1st

NY Real Estate Investor Offers Over $2.1 Billion for Empire State Building

By Adam Mills
NY Real Estate Investor Offers Over $2.1 Billion for Empire State Building

Thor Equities this week made an unsolicited offer to acquire the Empire State Building for more than $2.1 billion, according to the broker that submitted the bid, Jason Meister.  The offer represents the third unsolicited offer for the iconic building in just the last few days, and is higher than the previous two bids, Meister said.  The building's current owners, the Malkin family, has expressed a desire to sell the building along with 18 other real estate holding as part of a real estate investment trust, or REIT, and recently got the go-ahead from fellow stakeholders in the skyscraper to go ahead with that plan.

Thor Equities is run by New York landlord Joseph Sitt, who owns a number of New York office buildings and retail centers as well as properties in Europe and Mexico.  Sitt declined to comment on the offer, but Meister declared that the bid was significantly “north of $2.1 billion,” though he declined to provide the exact amount.  The building has been appraised at $2.5 billion, and the Malkin's said in a securities filing earlier this week that the first two offers were for $2 billion and $2.1 billion.  A spokesman for the family confirmed that they are reviewing the bids and said there would be no further comment from the Malkins.

The sudden wave of purchase offers for the Empire State building comes on the heels of the Malkin's winning approval to include the property in a REIT and launch an initial public offering.  After a prolonged fight with stakeholders, the Malkin's finally got the nod from 80 percent of the 2,800 or so stakeholders in the building.  The Malkins hope to raise as much as $1 billion in the IPO, an amount that would make it the 2nd biggest REIT IPO in US history.  Since the Malkins already had approval to include the Empire as part of a REIT, it is currently unknown what effect the bids will have on that plan.

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