Friday, August 8, 2014

The Passing of a Legend

Yesterday I went to the funeral of Rhoda Brownstein, a longtime Pearce agent, who retired a number of years ago, and died this week at 88.  She was so outstanding as an agent, and so iconic in the East Rock and Westville neighborhoods where she typically worked, that I felt moved to blog about what made her so special.

Rhoda came to real estate after her husband, Gerry, died young.  She had moved her family into New Haven from Woodbridge, at a time when that was an unusual choice among her friends, and had been working as a research assistant at Yale.  She was the first agent I hired after I came into the business, and she was the first one who thought of me as the head of the company.

 Her background in psychology really helped her get a footing in her new field, as I came to realize.  When she took someone on as a client, she became a combination of mother, mother confessor, social secretary, and life coach.  It was common for her to have someone living in her upstairs apartment while they waited for a property to close, and even more common for her to introduce her new client and friend to everyone she thought he or she should know in New Haven (More than once, she would get so involved with someone that she would introduce the person to me, forgetting that it was I who had referred him or her to Rhoda in the first place!).  She felt free to advise you on staging your old home, decorating your new home, or telling you what house was best for you to buy.  She was truly a consultant before that became the new norm; information about listings, the reason people used real estate agents then, was only a small part of the service she offered. 

Rhoda really picked the perfect career for someone starting over in so many ways in midlife.  She gave legendary parties, particularly on New Year's Day, where all of her current and former clients mingled and met.  Her customers became her friends, and filled her life with gatherings and, sometimes, great gossip.  Rhoda reduced New Haven to one or two degrees of separation, and had a fluid boundary, at best, between her work and personal lives.  I often thought of Rhoda when I read stories in the NY press about the grand ladies of the Upper East Side real estate market, who entertained and obtained their clients with exclusive and fabulous dinner parties. 

As her career progressed, Rhoda became more of a "persona", with quirks and opinions well known to us all.  She didn't like to compete or to argue, preferring to walk away from a listing rather than run the risk of losing it to someone else.  Her business came to her instead by referral, often with the line "You MUST work with Rhoda".  She was often indulged by other agents, especially Pearce agents, when she got on her high horse about how things should be done.  I called that her Queen Mum stage, when she ruled graciously and gladly over our New Haven office flock. 

We will miss her, but think of her often.  We will hear her voice, heed her remembered words, and wear our pearls. It may be the end of an era, but her spirit and influence live on in all of us.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Core Logic: Home Price Index Report

Home prices enjoyed a 27th straight month of year-over-year growth in May CoreLogic said today, but noted that those gains are no longer in the double digits.  The company's Home Price Index (HPI) including distressed home sales was 8.8 percent higher than in May 2013 and rose 1.4 percent from the April level.  The HPI excluding distressed sales was up 8.1 percent from one year earlier and 1.2 percent from April. 

The national HPI Including distressed transactions is now 13.5 percent below its peak in April 2006.  Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -9.3 percent.
"The pace of home price appreciation is cooling off quickly as the weather warms up," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "May's 8.8 percent year-over-year growth rate is down almost three percentage points from just three months ago. The influences of modestly rising inventory and less-than-expected demand are causing price growth to moderate toward our forecasted expectations."
The increases were national in scope.  Every state posted in increase in both HPIs in May and 25 states and the District of Columbia were within 10 percent of their pre-recession peak home price on the index including distressed sales.  Ten states set new price peaks in May, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New York.  Texas and Colorado have set new peaks on almost a monthly basis since last fall.
Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were:  Hawaii (+13.2 percent), California (+13.1 percent), Nevada (+12.6 percent), Michigan (+11.8 percent) and New York (+11.0 percent).
Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: New York (+12.2 percent), Hawaii (+11.6 percent), Nevada (+10.6 percent), California (+10.4 percent) and Florida (+9.6 percent).
The CoreLogic Forecast HPI is for home prices, including distressed sales, to increase 0.8 percent month over month from May 2014 to June 2014 and, on a year-over-year basis by 6.0 percent from May 2014 to May 2015. Excluding distressed sales, home prices are expected to rise 0.7 percent month over month from and by 5.1 percent year over. CoreLogic bases its forecast on the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.
"Home prices are continuing to climb across most of the country which has both positive and negative implications for the housing market," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "While the rapid rise in prices over the past two years has lifted many homeowners out of negative equity, it has also become a negative factor in buying decisions for prospective purchasers weighing affordability concerns. As we move ahead, a moderation in home price increases over the next twelve months should help cool things down a bit and keep the housing recovery going."
Ninety-four of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population showed year-over-year increases in May 2014.
The six CBSAs that did not show an increase were: Worcester, Mass.-Conn.; Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.; New Haven-Milford, Conn.; Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.; Rochester, N.Y. and Winston-Salem, N.C.

To view full report, please click here

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Listing Inventory

We spent some time this week going over our listings, to get a sense of what inventory we have for current buyers to see.  While we have more listings than we had six months ago, we found that we had the same distribution--a few new listings that are being shown a lot, a few short sales where the banks are taking so long to approve offers, or simply rejecting all offers, that they won't sell at all, and a bunch of listings that we know are overpriced, and are usually not even being shown.

In addition, we have recent anecdotal evidence matching what we have always known--houses that sell quickly for the highest prices are those that are perceived of as well-priced and likely to disappear if not bought right away.  We just sold a home in four days that had been listed twice before without success.  What was the difference?  This time the owners took the Realtors' pricing recommendation, had a lot of showings right away, started a bidding war, and ended up getting over the asking price.  One more notable fact about this house is that it is in pristine, move-in condition.  That's what buyers want now.  No more DIY projects, or deferred plans for upgrading.  What sells is what's perfect, or close to it.

So the bimodal distribution of inventory continues--a little bit of choice on great, well-priced, new listings, and a lot of signs on properties that aren't going to sell quickly.  Sellers, take note!
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