By: Joseph E. Seagle, Esq. President of PCS Title
December 1, 2021
We hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and an uneventful return to work after a long weekend. We’re busy with the typical year-end closings and an unexpected increase in new orders for this time of year. Here’s to ending 2021 on a high note!
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1 Big Thing: MLS to get some local competition from Trelly for real estate investors
According to a recent article in the Orlando Business Journal, an online platform for real estate investors and wholesalers to list “off-market” properties for sale is coming to Orlando
State of Play: The Multiple Listing Services (MLS) run by local boards of REALTORs has many rules and regulations regarding how real estate is listed for sale in their databases. Subscription fees and rules requiring that only owners of properties may list the properties for rent or sale on the MLS create a walled garden of high-quality searchable data used by REALTORs, buyers, renters, and others searching for the perfect place to buy. A licensed real estate broker or agent is required to enter the data into the MLS, and owners must prove ownership and provide detailed information about the property being listed for sale or rent.
- “Off Market” properties are typically those that an licensed or unlicensed investor has under contract to purchase, but hasn’t closed yet. Such investors are often referred to as “wholesalers” because they are “wholesaling” the property without actually taking title. Instead, they receive an assignment fee at closing, or they do a double-closing, where they purchase the property, and then immediately sell it to another investor.
- The assignee or purchasing investor is purchasing the property to renovate it and sell it for a profit, or hold it as a long-term rental.
- Since the wholesalers don’t own the real estate, they aren’t allowed to list the properties for sale on the local MLS. Most of the wholesaler investors are not licensed real estate brokers or salesmen, so they also have no access inside the MLS’s walled garden. The investor instead sends out e-mails and talks to other investors who may be willing to “buy” an assignment of the contract. Others advertise the property on Craigslist or eBay, drawing scrutiny from licensed REALTORs who often report the listing for sale of properties by unlicensed persons.
- We have had several clients over the years who find themselves the target of DBPR investigations for the unlicensed practice of real estate brokerage for such listings on Craigslist.
Where we’re headed: Trelly is already operating in Houston, Dallas, and Tampa. Now they’re coming to Orlando so investors can list properties for sale when they have an assignable contract with the owner of the property. Investors will be able to search for available “off-market” properties in addition to listing their contracts for sale.
But but but…We’ve seen similar services competing with the local MLS’s in the past. Zillow is the most successful example, but for every Zillow, there are a handful of defunct platforms that never made it or were regulated out of existence. The practice of real estate is highly regulated in every state, and the act of putting a buyer and seller together is universally legally defined as the practice of real estate, requiring a license to do so. Time will tell whether the local state real estate regulators (and REALTORs) stop Trelly in its tracks before it can get a foothold in the market.
2: 2022 housing predictions are all over the map
State of Play: In 2021, housing prices appreciated by 19.9% on national average; mortgage interest rates are still historically low; and nearly 40% of properties are considered to be equity-rich, opening opportunities for refinancing. Depending on who you ask, 2022 may be a banner year for real estate or a total bust:
- Real Estate Brokers expect a “flood” of wealthy foreign buyers again now that travel restrictions have lifted for most of the world, but we’re only a new variant and one lockdown away from that expected flow of buyers being cut off again.
- Fannie Mae predicts that mortgage rates will climb to an average of 3.4% for a 30-year fixed mortgage.
- Freddie Mac estimates an average rate of 3.5%.
- Mortgage Banker’s Association puts the rates at 4% at the end of 2022.
- The FED signaled that it will keep its primary lending rate near zero at 0.25%, and – prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the FED had also signaled that it would start withdrawing its emergency support for the economy.
- As mortgage rates rise, home price affordability decreases as buyers can’t afford the mortgage payments, slowing down home purchasing velocity.
- However, as purchasing slows, inventory will rise to provide more supply for the demand.
The take-away: The wildcard in everything 2022 is the pandemic and virus variants that may or may not evade the vaccines and natural immunity of those who have already been infected. Further disruptions in the supply chain can drive up inflation more as demand remains, but supply can’t keep pace. While interest rates may remain relatively stable around 3.5% throughout the year, it doesn’t look like the supply of housing is going to increase significantly. So it looks like housing prices show no signs of a significant decrease or crash in 2022, but with interest rates rising even a little and demand for homes remaining at least warm-to-hot in most areas, prices will likely continue to increase, but not at the pace they did in 2021.
A Word from TRSTE – Sponsor’s Message
Florida tax collectors mailed out the 2021 real property tax bills this month.
If your property is held in trust with a third-party land trustee, like TRSTE, to maintain anonymity and asset protection, be sure to pull the tax bill or call your trustee’s office for a copy of the bill.
Bills paid before the end of November receive a four percent discount, so the earlier you pay, the more you save!
3: Other news we’re watching this week
- Zillow homes in Orlando hit the market at a dribbling pace: How is Zillow’s collapse affecting housing prices in Central Florida? When that much demand folds and goes home, prices are sure to stabilize and become more based in reality than in artificial intelligence algorithms.
- Real estate investors bought 18% of all homes sold in the third quarter: Investors bought a record 90,215 homes in the third quarter, up 10.1% from the prior quarter and up 80.2% one year earlier, which was the second-largest year-over-year gain on record. The dollar total for these purchases was $63.6 billion, up from a revised $58.8 billion in the second quarter and $35.7 billion a year earlier.
- Investors flooding homeowners with offers to buy their home: From computer-generated letters on yellow paper that appear to be handwritten, to text messages, to ringless voicemails and multiple phone calls a day, homeowners are besieged by investors, trying to convince them to sell their property. While investors may be safe with postcards and junk mail, as we’ve warned in the past, phone calls, text messages, and voicemails can lead to very expensive litigation if the recipient is on the do-not-call list. So, while attempting to snap up or list those homes, investors and real estate brokers should be mindful of just how far they can go in the bounds of the law.
- Climate change is now a factor for many buyers when deciding where to live and what to purchase: Why live where forest fires, mudslides, floods, hurricanes, or wild weather swings cut power or other vital services for days or weeks? With the Build Back Better Plan’s proposed funds to build out broadband internet access in rural areas, including those that are (so far) immune from climate change’s most damaging shifts, the migration to those areas should increase. When you can work from anywhere, you can live anywhere.
- Congressional rental assistance is finally reaching millions of tenants after over a year of delay, but evictions are still rising: The predicted “eviction tsunami” fortunately didn’t materialize. But municipalities and states were unforgivably slow in distributing funds, while Congress was unforgivably vague in providing guidance on distribution of the funds. Further, too many landlords were reluctant to accept the government-backed rental payments for fear of being tied to some unknown government strings. Eviction filings are increasing, and the predicted tsunami could still materialize. But – if the 500+ programs across the country charged with distributing the funds do their job well, and landlords accept the back rent payments – it could just work.
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