We have Dan Sibinski on for a second podcast because there was just too much content to cover in one episode. We continue on with the discussion of pocket listings, and Dan discusses the pulse of real estate in the Twin Cities market. This episode was recorded earlier in March before our entire world turned into the twilight zone, but there is still a lot of excellent information in this podcast about listing a home during the spring market in Minnesota. Bill also talks about the importance of home inspectors remaining unbiased and neutral with their findings, and Reuben discusses market penetration and tracking sales.
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Dan Sibinski: People wait until the beginning of the year to get their home on the market. Now, when does spring start in Minnesota? We’d all be millionaires if we could figure that out, right? It snows in April sometimes. So, it depends. But statistically, and historically, even looking back during the bad years, stuff always seems to peak for new listings and inventory in that May to June.
Bill Oelrich: Welcome, everybody, to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. On today’s episode, we’re again talking with Dan Sibinski from Keller Williams Classic Realty, out of Blaine, Minnesota. We have Dan in studio, and through the magic of podcasting, episode 2 is right here. And we didn’t get to the end of this pocket listing conversation, so we actually wanted to take a few minutes and kind of button this thing up. Then we’re gonna move into like a market update and talk about Minnesota’s real estate market. Let’s kinda get back to where we left off. Pocket listings. Again, these are listings where somebody comes in, they sign up with their agent, their agent kinda holds it back through a form, so it’s all above board, totally legal, nothing improper about it, but what it does, it keeps some of that inventory that was available for everybody to view, makes it a little invisible. Fair statement? Okay.
DS: Yes, right. Yeah, very fair statement. And that’s how it was being viewed, I believe, by the MLS as well.
DS: If you think about it this way, there’s so many platforms just in general to look at homes. Well, realtors are out there trying to serve their clients, show homes, list homes. Our time is spent out on the field primarily. We look for these searches that we can set up, so that we can auto-populate these properties to our clients, and then discuss them. There’s no way that we’re gonna be able to subscribe to 23,000 agents’ Facebook pages to find out what’s coming up. There’s no time. There’s no time.
BO: So, when you say “we”, are you talking about you as an individual real estate agent, or a realtor, because you’re part of NAR, or are you talking about the MLS trying to police this?
DS: We, as in anybody, really. Consumers as well.
BO: Okay. Gotcha.
DS: When you start subscribing to 10, people get burnt out, it seems, after two or three. They always primarily settle to one or two to looking for properties.
BO: Yeah, I’ve got my favorites where I go. Just because…
DS: You’re used to the platform.
BO: Right, exactly.
DS: Yeah. So, if you only have a certain number of people who are doing these withhelds that are actually plugging them into there, you’re still seeing a dumbed down version of the withheld list.
DS: A couple of things to remember too is the numbers that I shared with you about all the withhelds that are happening. In all fairness, not all of them stay withheld. A good chunk of those do make it to the market eventually, but at what cost? Time to the consumer? How was this listing being presented during that time? More importantly, how many of these things sold off market and didn’t get reported to the MLS as a sale? As a realtor, why wouldn’t you want that information posted as sold? That’s our trophy that we put on the case. Is that we did this, we did a good job, we got top dollar for this home, and then other people can find us through those methods.
BO: Well, there’s a downhill effect to that too. Appraisals. You want everything in that system so you get a true reflection of the market, right?
DS: We might have podcast three going here.
BO: Alright, I won’t bring up anything else that throws us into a different conversation, but what do you have for numbers here? You’ve got some great numbers in front of you. We’re talking January numbers here for Minneapolis area. 13 counties, is that correct?
DS: Yeah. The numbers that I can, I guess, wrap-up on the withheld portion is the percentage of properties that actually sold in the withheld that didn’t make it to the market, didn’t show up as a sold in the MLS, little over 14% of those withhelds.
BO: Wow, that’s a big number.
DS: It’s a very big number, especially when you look at it from how the National Association of Realtors is looking at it, which is Article 3 of the Code of Ethics. To where it’s a fairness in cooperation. We joined to be a realtor, we are obligated to work with our fellow realtors as well, and in the best interest of our clients. So, the rule change that they made is, it was supposed to be by either beginning of May or end of May, but they decided to expedite that in Minnesota to March 1, so it actually just went into effect. As soon as you have… As a realtor, list a property, and you use a withheld form, the minute you do any type of advertising, sign in the yard, post on Facebook, could be a sheet of paper on your windshield, an email out to another brokerage, you have one business day to put that on the MLS. They even have it in the rules that if you’re a seller, because realtors are clever, “How do we get around this?” Even if your seller posts to Facebook.
Reuben Saltzman: Sure, sure.
Tessa Murry: Oh, wow, yeah.
DS: Yeah. And the fines start at $1000 per violation and go up.
TM: Wow. When did that come into effect?
RS: March 1.
DS: March 1, yeah.
TM: Wow, things are gonna change.
DS: Well, here’s the thing…
DS: Our housing diet has changed. We should see inventory start to go up, to a degree. It’s still… If all of it went on the market, we’re still starving for inventory, so this isn’t gonna level us out by any means. But it’s gonna change the way people advertise, ’cause you’ll see realtors post stuff on all these third-party websites. On Fridays as coming soons, or just listed. And then on Mondays, they’ll hit the MLS. So they’ll do their grand opening stuff on the weekends.
TM: So, that’s gonna change, ’cause they don’t have two days, they have one day.
DS: One business day.
TM: One business day.
BO: So you can do your grand opening Sunday and then by Monday you’ve got it up and you’re within…
DS: You’re compliant.
DS: So, the other thing too, that they thought was gonna help a couple of years back, was they added a “Coming soon” feature to the MLS. And the rules to that is that you can put your home on the MLS and let everybody know it’s coming, and you have 21 days to put it active on the MLS, which should be enough time to get your standard things done for prepping a home. You’re gonna see that field be used a lot more too here coming up.
BO: I love gaming systems. Do you think it’s… Well, I’m just joking I mean.
BO: You give clever people, especially when there’s a dollar to be made…
TM: They’ll figure out a way.
BO: They’ll figure things out. So, policing this is gonna be a challenge.
TM: Yeah, for sure, yeah.
RS: I’m looking at a little graph of the number of new listings here in the Twin Cities. And between mid-February and the last week in February, the number of new listings was right around 2000 per week, and it just kinda hovered right around there. Every week, 2000, 2000, 2000, and then the first week in March, we jumped up to 2600. There’s a big noticeable jump right after you said that there was this change on March 1st where you couldn’t do these pocket listings. Coincidence?
DS: No. And yes. That’s Minnesota’s heartbeat.
DS: We’re probably seeing a little bit more of an influx because of this change, but if you look at the natural pulse of the housing market in Minnesota, people wait until the beginning of the year to get their home on the market. Now, when does spring start in Minnesota? We’d all be millionaires if we could figure that out. It snows in April sometimes. So it depends. But statistically, and historically, even looking back during the bad years, stuff always seems to peak for new listings and inventory in that May to June.
DS: Buyers follow that same footprint. Most of your contracts are written in May. Your pendings are typically capped out in May. June, July, those are really good closing months. You’re still doing a lot of business. But then school starts, things start to downturn. Everybody who’s came out to do their business, to purchase homes, has done it. Like, a vast majority. Then you got people looking for deals, the ones who lost out in the beginning of the year, they’re still coming around. But you’ll see that the new listings drop, so does the movement on the homes, days the market go up. So, you look at a lot of the different indicators where your active listings are gonna peak, April, May, sometimes in June. Pending peaks typically May or June. Your closings are gonna follow suit 30-45 days after your pending. Days on market, those peak. You have the most days on market in January, ’cause people who couldn’t sell September, October, November, December, now the new market starts, [07:55] ____ homes comes around, and they’re out.
BO: Alright. We’re gonna go deeper into the numbers when we get back, but we have to step away for a quick second. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation.
BO: Hey, everybody. Bill over here with Structure Talk. Spring has sprung, we’ve turned our clocks forward, which means you should probably think about calling Daniel over at Cure a Home Maintenance to get your dryer duct cleaned out. Once or twice a year, it never hurts to clean out these dryer ducts. They’re one of the biggest causes of fires inside a home. Just look them up. Cure a Home Maintenance. You can find them on the web at cureahome.com. Welcome back everybody. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, with special in-studio guest Dan Sibinski, from Keller Williams Classic Realty. So we were just talking about the Twin Cities housing market, and kinda talking about when things get real active, and all the trends that are going on. Dan, are you thinking that 2020 is gonna be a year for the record books, or what are all the trends pointing to for this real estate season?
DS: The key metrics that I look at is supply, demand and affordability. I’ve felt over the last year, or two years, that we’re really getting to the breaking point, from an affordability aspect, but what just happened? Interest rates dropped again. They’re down to three percent, three and an eighth, again…
BO: Which is a massive effect on affordability.
DS: It’s huge. So a one percentage difference in the interest rates is about 11% of your buying power. So those who maybe were capped at 300,000, now they can maybe afford 333,000.
BO: Oh, wow.
DS: That’s significant.
DS: It very much can be for people who are maxing out their checkbooks, so to speak. But anybody in their comfort levels, either way, they’ve got their ceiling, and their ceiling moves to a higher level. So that’s gonna put more pressure for buyers coming into the market and being more aggressive.
BO: Okay, so let’s talk about that dynamic. So suddenly you have 10% more… 11% more buying power. I’m stumbling all around, but the number is 11% more buying power, right?
DS: Yeah. Well, we could say five or six for today’s purposes, ’cause they dropped about a half a point, right?
BO: Okay. Okay, fine. So in that situation, who’s got a little more leverage? The buyers? Yes, ’cause they can afford more. But do sellers now? In that group that’s 350-450, are they suddenly going, “Well, my house is more affordable to these people than last week they were in a tier below and now, they’re in my tier”?
DS: I just read this. I can’t quote the source, but I just read it. The best price range that’s the movability factor has been the 3.50-5. So the more affordable that housing gets, really, just the bigger buyer pools you have.
DS: And that’s where it gets a little bit more frustrating for buyers. ‘Cause it’s just more competition.
10:43 BO: Yes. Then it’s a pure supply and demand thing. And you’re paying a premium at that level, it’s just a matter of how much of a premium.
DS: Right. That’s where the appreciation’s made, right? In the supply-driven markets where it’s really low, and you’ve got a lot of people going out there, everyone’s pushing the bar, right? Everyone looks at the previous sale for sellers and go, “Well, my house is at least that, if not more.” So maybe they get that offer, then they have to appraise for the value. That’s a whole another conversation. But appraisers have checkboxes that they go to. Are you in a balance market, a depreciating market, or an appreciating market? So there’s some wiggle room in that, and that’s where the appreciation is made. Is once you make it past that appraisal stage.
BO: Gotcha. So Reuben, you’re a person who studies numbers?
RS: Oh, just a little. Not a lot. I say that in all seriousness. I’m not being facetious.
BO: But you know, when these markets heat up, what does it do to Structure Tech’s business?
RS: Well, that’s an easy one. [chuckle] Our business follows the real estate market very closely. That is something that I do look at. I’m very interested in our market penetration. And we follow the number of pending sales compared to the number of home inspections we do to gauge how we’re doing. If our inspections go up 10%, we’re not gonna start congratulating each other until we see what the market did. If the market went up 20%, well, we’re lagging. Well, that’s nothing to be happy about. That’s a long answer to your question.
DS: The other question that popped into my head, and it’s off topic, but what are you seeing for buyer perception? With the lower inventory, they’re… Some of them just feel lucky to have their offer accepted. Based on the housing market, when it was more balanced, in 2012, or when the buyers had the upper hand, when they were swimming in inventory, did you feel that they were more picky for repairs, repair requests and things like that back then and less likely now? Do you see any of that?
BO: Well, as inspectors, it shouldn’t matter, ’cause you guys… The agents are the ones doing all the negotiating. And when we’re doing a home inspection, we should have no opinion about whether this is a good house for somebody or not. We need to stick to the facts and just explain to people what they’re getting. I do think, though, that you probably get a sense for people’s frustrations when a market is hot. If it’s a buyer’s market, I think they kind of… I don’t know. You guys are with more buyers than I am.
TM: Yeah. I’ve only been doing inspections at Structure Tech for four years, but just in the last few years…
BO: Oh, my God. That’s a veteran.
TM: I have noticed that in that lower bracket, first time home buyers, or whatnot, it does seem like, over the last few years, that people have gone through multiple… They’ve looked at multiple houses, they made multiple offers, they’ve lost out on several deals. And so they finally find one, and we’re doing the inspection for it, and they’re just so excited that their offer got accepted that they’ll probably take whatever. And I’ve also seen deals kind of also fall apart when a buyer does have a long list of things they want and it might be that lower bracket, or it might be the next year up. Like 300 to 500,000, where a buyer has a lot of requests they want the seller to do, and the seller believes that it’s a seller’s market and they don’t wanna deal with any of that, and they’re not gonna fix anything, and they tell the buyer no, and then the buyer walks away.
TM: And they look for the next buyer. I’ve seen that happen a lot too.
DS: Yeah, leverage is key in any situation. For a house in the 250 range, how many purchase agreements do you think a buyer is gonna put through before they seal the deal?
BO: That answer is gonna fluctuate, right?
TM: Is it on pocket listing? [chuckle]
DS: Not every buyer’s the same, right?
DS: The urgency level could change, which is gonna change the direction and how they’re being addressed and spoken to by their real estate agent. Are they pulling coms, or is the agent just really price-driven trying to get them to max out? There’s so many different things that are happening in real estate in the terms of the offer stage, that it’s kind of an uncontrollable answer.
DS: In the same respect, I would think it’s gonna be a lot. [chuckle]
BO: Sure. You know what’s interesting for me, I think we talk as a team about keeping our opinions to ourselves. This is not our house and I think we need to be really sensitive to the… A client’s struggled to secure a home. And here’s what happens, everybody asks, “Well, what do you think of this, how do you feel about that?” And it’s like, listen…
TM: “Would you buy this house?”
BO: Right. I don’t have that opinion because if I dissuade you from this house, the next one you get might be worse. And now I didn’t help you. If I had just stayed with the facts, told you what you were gonna get, so your compass pointed true north, you knew exactly what you were walking into, that might still be the best house for you.
BO: But if we go down on some like, “Oh, I’m gonna be your father, and I’m gonna help you make the best decision,” I might have just put you in a vicegrips that you didn’t wanna be into. So I think we have to be really careful. Our industry has to understand what we do, which is educate people, and just stick to the facts. I’m off myself on.
TM: We’ve worked really hard on that the last few years at our company trying to stick to the facts and presenting as much information as we can, but in a way that’s, hopefully, I guess, we’re not going for shock factor, we’re just trying to explain the facts to people.
TM: I can’t control how people react to it either.
DS: I think people are just curious in general. How many times do these things come up in your world?
BO: A lot.
DS: Yeah, right?
BO: That’s the answer. [laughter]
DS: That’s kind of where they’d want their comfort level. Do you see this a lot? Is this gonna be an issue for me? I don’t know, that’s an interesting thing.
BO: Yeah, it is a used house after all, and you do run into a lot of things that are used house things. So, doesn’t make them bad, doesn’t make them good. Houses just are. They just are, they’re not bad, they’re not good, they just are, they just need love, like everybody else. Alright, you’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech Presentation. We’re gonna take a quick break and we’ll be right back to talk more real estate.
BO: Hello everybody, Bill Oelrich here with Structure Talk. I just had a quick note here, one of the fun things about the podcast is we talk about little gadgets here, and one of the coolest little gadgets we’ve talked about on the show is the Sense Home Energy Monitoring System. This little gadget is something an electrician can put inside of your electric service panel and provides you insight into your energy use and home activity through one of your devices. Either through an iPhone, through an Android device, or through a web app. Check it out, sense.com, one of the coolest little gadgets you’re gonna find out there.
BO: Welcome back, everybody. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, with Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, and special guest, Dan Sibinski, from Keller Williams Classic Realty. So, Dan, I wanted you to lay out what a perfect 12-month scenario looks like for you. You have a house that somebody’s going to list with you, and they’re gonna come to you in whatever month you tell me is the best place to start this journey, and then I want you to explain ideally what that process looks like, so that you can get that seller top dollar for whatever house they have.
DS: Perfect. So if I’ve got 12 months to play with, and the seller’s a complete trust fall.
BO: Aren’t they all?
DS: To a degree.
DS: Here we go on the perception train again. With this year, last year, the year before that, Minnesota spring market has been getting earlier and earlier. It started in December this year. It started towards the end of December last year. The year before that, it was early January. So there’s a little bit of fluctuation. So, for the sellers that I do work with, that have a little time, we get the home prepped through the holidays, they still get to enjoy their home. If we got a full year to work with though, that’s actually beautiful, because then they can do some of these things that they’d never done, and then they can actually use them. There’s so many times people paint, they put on counter tops and they go, “I wish I would have done that before, now I’m doing it for somebody else.”
RS: I’ve got my hand in the air. Been there, done that. Yes, why didn’t I do this earlier?
BO: ‘Cause then you start to feel good about your home again, which is a great thing.
DS: So, maybe they take the bite out of the apple sooner, but then we time it. We look at where the market’s at after the holidays. If the key indicators are showing that the buyers are gonna come out in droves, we get it on. We get the professional photos done, if it’s got a nice yard, we can bring a drone in, something that will add some extra effect. The first showing is done online, so high-end photography, and I do my own, ’cause I’m very, very picky, phono-snob if you will. But plugging in, syndicating to all the appropriate websites, so your search engine optimization is up there, and getting it out in front of agents. I am really of the belief that taking it off all those other platforms, and solely even just putting it on the MLS, you’re going to reap the rewards in this market. Not to say that you shouldn’t do all the extra advertising, because it does help. The more buyers you get in, the more probability you end up in multiples if you’re priced right. But, where is that money made for the seller? It’s through that lead up, it’s through the leverage, and it’s also through how you talk to them. How are you positioning them throughout the purchase?
DS: How are you handling the different offers that come in and leveraging them against each other sometimes. So there’s so much that goes into the purchase and the sale part of it, from a listing standpoint, that your money is made in each one of those steps and also a lot of frustrations had too, if you don’t have somebody who’s able to walk you through it in a diligent format.
BO: How do you feel about what I call staging the home for an inspection? Maybe you guys have these kinds of conversations, I don’t know, but we’ll walk in the houses that are beautifully staged and there were things that we see and we’re like, “Wow. They should have done this instead of that.” I can’t make anybody any money in real estate, that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m just saying to give a buyer confident, a clean-looking appliance means so much more than one that looks like they barely touched it in 15 years. So are you on board with that kind of stuff, or does that not matter in a real estate transaction?
DS: It does and it doesn’t. So depending on what market we’re in. The market that we’re in right now, where we’ve got, in the metro area, 1.5 months worth of supply, and in the different price ranges, less, and then sometimes more. When it’s that bad, buyers concede more. So, are we trying to get over a buyer hurdle, or are we trying to get past the appraisal hurdle? The inspection hurdle, typically you don’t get banged up with appliances and things like that, you’ll have the age of them that will come up, and if you have a good agent on the list side, one that’s gonna walk through the home like they’re a buyer’s agent and say, “This is what’s gonna come up.” And that’s where, again, Structure Tech has really helped me over the years, is I retain all that stuff. I’d like to be a Cliff Cleveland of home, so to speak, to where I can go, “Be prepared for this.” I can offer 100% of my ideas to get your home ready, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna do all hundred.
DS: But I would not be doing my duties to you by not sharing them with you. ‘Cause I don’t know your capabilities until I tell you.
DS: Right? And then we start leveraging from there.
BO: Okay. Wow. Real estate endlessly fascinates me. It’s just…
TM: It’s complicated.
BO: It’s a game in a weird way, but real estate professionals should be the people conducting business. How many people are in the Northstar MLS? How many members are there in the Northstar MLS?
DS: I thought about that number this morning, to see about getting it. I wanna say 22-23,000 plus agents in Minnesota. And if you think about we’re under 10,000 listings, I mean there’s a lot of hungry people out there. And with that hunger comes with… Again, I can’t put up the same blanket over everybody, but like in industry, there’s people that are still learning, that we wanna do good. Mistakes happen, and maybe there’s people that shouldn’t be doing what they do either.
TM: So, Dan, do you think that that has to do with part of the trend with the pocket listings that we saw with… I mean how the trend has been going up that more and more pocket listings have been happening over the last few years until now, this year, where there’s new legislation in place. Is that the game that realtors are playing, or why would that trend be there?
DS: Well, it’s kind of a copycat league. Some people don’t know why the withhelds are being used like they’re being used, or they don’t understand the ethics behind it, and why you shouldn’t be doing it.
TM: So it could be ignorance, maybe?
DS: Very much so.
DS: Again, I’ve heard some pretty nice arguments from agents who religiously like to do the withhelds. But at the end of the day, if they were to sell their property under the withheld, can you guarantee me that if you would’ve put it on the open market, because you’re advertising it, right? It’s not like you’re not showing it to people. Could you’ve gotten more? You can’t answer that.
DS: So, now, does that mean the seller doesn’t wanna go that direction, that they were robbed of an opportunity? I don’t know that either, but based on the numbers, you can all, but be guaranteed, that the right conversations are being had every time, and that people have been, I don’t wanna say taken advantage of, but robbed of an opportunity, might be a better way to approach it. The board has a duty, even if it’s just 10% of the people, we have to protect the consumers, we have to take measures, have to do it.
BO: Yeah, you’re back to that agency conversation that started way back years ago where people had to understand who was representing who, and that had to get very clear, because it got muddy, it was muddy for a while.
DS: Muddy and get muddier.
DS: The way I see it is, the reason why agents would do a withheld… Again, this is my opinion, is you’re either looking to hog the transaction, or you’re looking to pick up buyers, and then sell the property. But if you’re looking to get the most amount of advertising, why would the MLS, where you have the most amount of agents that have visibility to this, and their buyers that are pre-approved, why wouldn’t you start putting it there? Why wouldn’t you wanna get everybody in at the same time to really drive that up? If the MLS is the end game for you after you’ve exhausted all those other avenues, what is that saying? You don’t do that.
BO: Sure. I always have thought real estate was really a local game. And what I mean by that is, working with people who know the areas, they know the trends. I just always think like, even down to the neighborhood level sometimes, you just don’t know what’s going on at certain places unless you’re there all the time. But with 20-some thousand people in your organization, if they all know 10 people, you can get it to a lot more people more quickly, I feel like, if it hits the MLS very quickly.
DS: Well, you can, and it’s better for the whole ecosystem, if you will, of real estate.
DS: ‘Cause you’ve got sellers that are afraid to put their house on the market, because they’re afraid they can’t find anything.
BO: “No place to go live after this one sells.”
TM: Right. Yeah.
DS: There’s a ripple effect of what happens after any decision. So, again, even if they didn’t correct the withheld, something’s gonna happen eventually where real estate starts to balance out. At that time, would the withheld form become less sexy? If a seller is now under more competition, days on market are higher, are they gonna wanna be on the MLS? Is it gonna be more of a proud moment for them? I would argue, yes. Real estate changes. And we just have to police it and really protect, not just the brand, but first of all the clients.
DS: The public.
BO: So I have a pop quiz for everybody here. First one to answer wins a mint, I guess, a thin mint from the Girl Scout Cookies. What does nature hate?
BO: Oh, come on, everybody knows this, a vacuum. It abhors the vacuum.
RS: Oh, sure, sure, sure. Okay.
BO: Any time there’s something out of balance over here, it will balance out, it’s just gonna take some time.
RS: If you’d said abhor, I would have gotten it.
BO: Okay, fine. Alright, alright, alright. That’s it. We heard enough nonsense for one day. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation, and we will catch you next time. Thank you, Dan, for coming in and sharing all your knowledge.
DS: Thank you.
Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections