Making the numbers say what we want (and a Sacramento market update)

We can make numbers say whatever we want. We see this all the time in the media, politics, and even in real estate. Sometimes it’s a matter of intentionally fudging the numbers, but other times we might be honest about sharing something but actually still get it totally wrong. Today I want to highlight a real life example how we can end up saying something totally different about the market depending on the numbers we’re looking at. Whether you’re local or not, I hope you can take something away from this post. Then for those interested we’ll dive into a big Sacramento market update. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take.

Example 1: Sales price to list price ratio:


The sales vs. list price percentage is the ratio between the sales price and whatever the most recent list price was before a property got into contract. For example, imagine a property listed at $100,000, was reduced to $98,000, and then went into contract at $98,000. The sales to list price would be 100% (98/98). If we look at this metric alone and see a county average of 100%, it looks like properties are selling for whatever they’re listed for. Woohoo, the market is hot!!!

Example 2: Sales price to ORIGINAL list price ratio:


The sales to original list price ratio is the relationship between the original list price and the final sales price. For example, imagine a property listed at $100,000 but was reduced to $98,000, and then went into contract at $96,000. The sales to list price ratio would be 96% (96/100). This metric takes into account ALL price reductions, and in my mind tells a more fuller story of the market.

KEY QUESTION: Which one above does your CMA report?

BIG POINT: If we look at the sales price to list price ratio the market seems like it’s NOT softening. But if we take a deeper look at the sales price to ORIGINAL list price ratio, we see properties on average sold for 4% less than their original list price last month. This is definitely a more telling stat because it reminds us how many properties have been overpriced lately. Remember, there were nearly 1800 sales last month, so an average 4% decline is a big stat. But it’s easy to miss that if we don’t know what to look for and end up reporting the first stat above.

—-—–—– And here’s my big monthly market update  ———–—–

big-monthly-market-update-post-sacramento-appraisal-blog-image-purchased-from-123rfTwo ways to read the BIG POST:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend time digesting what is here.

DOWNLOAD 70 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Quick Market Summary: The market feels like it should at this time of year. It’s taking slightly longer to sell than it was a couple of months ago, the sales to original list price ratio has been declining, and prices are softening as the hot summer fades away. This doesn’t mean the market is dull at every price range though. In fact, the bottom of the market under $300,000 is definitely more aggressive than properties above $500,000. Right now housing inventory is 11% lower than it was the same time last year and a whopping 35% lower than it was in 2014. If you remember, two years ago the market felt extremely dull and there were about 400 price reductions every day when logging in to MLS (this year price reductions are hovering around 200 tops every day (that’s for the entire MLS coverage area)). This reminds us some fall markets are softer than others. Sales volume this year has been about the same as it was last year, though it’s important to note FHA is down 6% and cash is down over 8% so far. Celebrity house flipping seminars are coming to town frequently in Sacramento, but keep in mind only 2% of all sales in the region last month were bank-owned, which reminds us low-priced fixer deals on MLS are pretty much a thing of the past. Lastly, there has been lots of talk about the market having shifted or beginning a downturn, but right now the stats look to be showing a normal seasonal slowing. We often hear things like, “the market is starting to tank”, but unless we see a real change in the stats or hear something more definitive from the real estate community about values declining, let’s be in tune with the slowing seasonal market. In case it’s useful, here is a video tutorial I did a couple of weeks ago to walk through the slowing season and what it looked like in 2005 also.

Sacramento County:

  1. The median price is 102% higher than it was in early 2012.
  2. Sales volume was up 8.5% this August compared to August 2015.
  3. There were only 4 sales under $100K last month (single family detached).
  4. Sales volume is up about 4% this year compared to last year.
  5. Housing inventory is 11% lower than the same time last year (only 1.57 months of inventory).
  6. FHA volume is down about 6% this year compared to 2015 (though they were 26% of all sales last month).
  7. Cash sales were only 14% of all sales last month.
  8. It took an average of 26 days to sell a home last month, which is 1 day less than the previous month (and 8 less days compared to last year).
  9. REOs were only 3% of all sales last month and short sales were 2.8%.
  10. The median price increased by 1% from last month, is down 3% from two months ago, and is up nearly 12% from last year at the same time.

Some of my Favorite Graphs this Month:









  1. The median price is 98.5% higher than it was in early 2012.
  2. It took the same time to sell last month compared to the previous month (but 8 less days compared to August 2015).
  3. Sales volume is about the same as it was last year at the same time (very slightly more this year so far)
  4. Cash sales were 15% of all sales last month.
  5. Cash sales volume is 6.4% lower this year than last year.
  6. FHA sales were 22% of all sales last month.
  7. FHA sales volume is down nearly 7% this year so far.
  8. There is 1.77 months of housing supply in the region right now, which is over 13% lower than the same time last year.
  9. The median price increased last month, but it’s down from two months ago. The median price is up nearly 9% from last year at the same time. The average sales price and average price per sq ft are both up about 8% from last year too.
  10. REOs were only 2% of all sales last month and short sales were the same.

Some of my Favorite Regional Graphs:









  1. Today’s median price is 70% higher than it was in early 2012.
  2. It took 4 more days to sell a house last month than the previous month (but 6 less days than last year at the same time).
  3. Sales volume was down less than 1% in August 2016 compared to last August and is down slightly for the year about 3%.
  4. Both FHA sales were 16% and cash sales were 19% of all sales last month.
  5. There is 2.05 months of housing supply in Placer County right now, which is down nearly 13% from the same time last year.
  6. The median price declined about 1% from the previous month, but for a better context it’s up 7% from last year at the same time.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $214 last month (was $202 last year at the same time).
  8. The average sales price was $472K last month (up about 4% from last year).
  9. Bank owned sales were only 1% of all sales last month.
  10. Short sales were 2% of sales last month.

Some of my Favorite Placer County Graphs:







DOWNLOAD 70 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

how-to-think-like-an-appraiser-class-by-ryan-lundquistAppraisal Class I’m teaching: On September 29 from 9am-12pm I’m doing my favorite class at SAR called HOW TO THINK LIKE AN APPRAISER. This is a tremendous time where we’ll talk about seeing properties like an appraiser does. We’ll look at comp selection, using price per sq ft properly, and so many issues. My goal is to help you walk away glad you came and full of actionable ideas for business. Register here.

Question: Did I miss anything? Any other market insight you’d like to add? What are you seeing out there? I’d love to hear your take.

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If the real estate market did shift…

The new buzz word in real estate is SHIFT. Everywhere I go I hear this word, and it seems like every other article is about a coming change in the market. Thus the question becomes, how would you recognize if the market did begin to shift? What signs would you look for? Let’s kick around some ideas below and I’d love to hear your take in the comments. Any thoughts?

change sign - purchased by sacramento appraisal blog by 123rf dot com

Key points when considering a market shift:

  1. Markets go up and down: Just like the stock market, gold, or any other commodity, at some point real estate values will go up and at some point they’ll go down. Bottom line.
  2. See it first in the listings: When the market does eventually “shift”, we’ll see the change in the listings before the sales. This means properties will begin to struggle to sell at the same level as the “comps”, which will lead to price declines. This underscores the importance of paying close attention to pendings and listings to see the current market. Granted, every year someone says, “the market is declining” when the fall season begins to unfold because values begin to soften. Just be aware there is a difference between a normal seasonal softening and a definitive declining trend.
  3. Word on the street: One of the ways we’ll know the market has changed is the real estate community will feel it in the number of offers, feedback from buyers and sellers, more credits being given to buyers, etc… We can always look at stats, but there is something powerful about the word on the street from real estate insiders.
  4. The previous peak: It’s always interesting to see how close or far prices are from their high point ten years ago, but there isn’t any rule that says prices have to get back to their height for a decline to happen.
  5. Watch higher & lower prices: The market isn’t always doing the same thing at every price range or in every neighborhood. When it comes to values declining, watch the top and bottom carefully because one of them might change direction before the other. Which one?
  6. Other metrics: I included an image below to talk through some of the metrics we might watch to know the market is softening. Again, these things all tend to happen during the fall months every year, but no matter what time of year we are not likely to get to full-fledged value declines without passing through a softening stage. Be sure to watch the sales to list price ratio too (I forgot to include that in the image).
  7. The power of lenders: Values have increased these past four years, but wage growth has been more or less stagnant. This means some buyers will now begin to struggle to afford higher prices. The temptation for lenders is to develop more creative financing to help buyers keep playing the game. Does anyone else think Kenny Loggins’ Highway to the Danger Zone would be good background music for this point?
  8. Future clients: This conversation can feel stressful for those who work in real estate because a change in the market can lead to a change in clients. Yet markets always change, so that’s something we can be prepared for, right? Blockbuster Video had a lucrative operation until they didn’t adapt to the way the internet changed the DVD rental landscape. When it comes to business we can spend so much time holding on to the way things have been that like Blockbuster we don’t take steps to adapt and position ourselves to be Redbox or Netflix so to speak. Here are two questions to continually ask: Who are you clients going to be in the future? What are your clients going to need in the next few years?

Signs of a soft market

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: What is point #9? What other metrics can we watch to see the market change? Anything I left out? I’d love to hear your take.

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How much value do higher ceilings add to a home?

Would you pay more for a house with higher ceilings? I probably would, but I guess it depends. The ceilings in my home are a standard 8 ft. Would I have paid more if they were 9 ft? Probably. But what about 23 ft? No, that would be too high.

high ceilings in real estate - sacramento appraisal blog

Someone asked me a question recently about the value difference of ceiling height, and I thought kicking around some ideas here could open up a great discussion. Anything else you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your take.

Question: What is the difference in value for ceiling height? For instance, 8ft to 9 ft, 9ft to 10ft, etc?

Answer: That’s a great question. On one hand higher ceilings are a more custom feature, so buyers are likely to pay more for them. This is particularly true for single story homes. However, there isn’t some sort of ceiling height market formula we can apply to every property because real estate adjustments are frankly going to be different depending on the neighborhood, price range, and market. We often hope to extract the value of one particular feature, but let’s remember many times buyers are actually looking at the entire package of a home instead of parsing individual features. In reality ceiling height is only one part of the package when it comes to buying a home. For instance, 10 ft ceilings sound like an asset, but if they’re found in a home with a terrible layout, they might not command a premium at all. So just because they are there does not make them inherently valuable. This underscores the importance of using an “apples to apples” approach when selecting comps, meaning the goal is to compare the subject property with homes that are overall similar so we get a sense what the market has been willing to pay for such homes. We might not find homes that are exactly the same, but that’s okay because we can use homes that are deemed overall competitive. Thus as an appraiser, rather than isolating my search for comps to just ceiling height, I would simply try to find other homes that represent a realistic comparison. If an Excel Jedi wanted to geek out and crunch numbers to try to prove a value difference, maybe that could be done with extensive research (sort of like Jonathan Miller measuring value by floor location in New York). But keep in mind how difficult that would be since ceiling height levels are not recorded in MLS or Tax Records (in Sacramento at least). Most of all though, buyers don’t bring measuring tapes to properties, which reminds us to think in terms of the total package.

Questions: How would you answer the question if someone asked you? Anything else you would add? What did I miss?

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7 goals for the real estate community this year (as illustrated by Star Wars)

Here we go. It’s a brand new year. A blank slate. What will your life and business look like in 2016? I know we all have plans for the year ahead, so as January begins I wanted to pitch in some thoughts on potential goals for the real estate community. These are meant to be fun, helpful, and provocative, so take them for what they’re worth. I snapped some photos of Star Wars actions figures to help tell the story too. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

1)  Say Something Different About The Market:

strorm troopers - by sacramento appraisal blog

If you’re in the habit of saying the same thing about the market all year, consider studying the market carefully and adjusting what you say throughout the year. It’s easy for both agents and appraisers to fall into the trap of using the same stale phrases, but getting more specific about the way the market behaves tends to build credibility with clients.

2)  Make it About Connections on Social Media:

storm troopers on facebook - sacramento appraisal blog

Let’s be honest. One of the sins of the real estate community is too much self-promotion, and this comes across loudly on most social media platforms. It’s easy to treat Facebook, Twitter, and other spaces like the yellow pages where we simply broadcast our services. Yet social media is all about building connections and creating conversations. Think about how you can add value to people’s lives this year online while avoiding nauseating self-promotion. Maybe take a look at what you said last year too. Have people been engaging with what you are saying? If not, maybe it’s time to mix things up or get back to a focus on relationships.

3)  Speak Graciously About Neighborhoods:

sacramento appraisal blog - star wars blog post

This might feel a bit touchy to say, but I can’t tell you how many times I hear things like, “I would never live in this neighborhood,” or “I don’t know why anyone would ever buy here.” It’s easy in the real estate community to gloss over statements like this, but the truth is they come across a bit arrogant because they demean neighborhoods and residents. Why is that person buying there? Probably because that’s what the person can afford. Let’s respect that and find ways to speak graciously about places people call home (even if we really don’t like the area). I’m not saying to be fake, but only to find ways to speak more positively about communities instead of ragging on them. Remember, your next client might want to buy in one of these neighborhoods.

4)  Learn How to Make Quick Market Graphs:

Looking at market graphs strorm troopers - sacramento appraisal blog

If you don’t know how to make graphs, why not make that a goal this year? It sounds like a scary thing to learn, but it’s very doable (seriously), and frankly it’s a skill that can help propel your business and understanding of real estate to the next level. I have a brief tutorial here, but send me an email too for some other suggestions.

5)  Remember to Say “CO” instead of “CO2” Detector:

CO alarms in appraisal reports - star wars - sacramento appraisal blog

When it comes to talking about carbon monoxide detectors, this is an easy mistake to make, yet still very important to nail for the sake of sounding professional. Remember, “CO” stands for “Carbon Monoxide” (a dangerous gas), but “CO2” stands for “Carbon Dioxide” (what comes out of our mouths when we breathe). Here are 5 ways to remember the difference in case it’s relevant.

6)  Be Generous:

being generous in real estate - sacramento appraisal blog

A generous person is a rare find. Be known this year for altruism, compassion, and responding in care when people need something. Not only does it feel great to live a life focused on others, but it’s actually really good for business. People want to work with others who are great at what they do AND generous.

7)  Be Prepared for Real Estate “Bubble” Conversations:

the force - by sacramento appraisal blog

Values have risen dramatically in recent years, and many consumers are wondering about a real estate “bubble”. Whether we are in a bubble or not, it’s important for the real estate community to expect and navigate this conversation well. How will you answer your client’s questions this year when “bubbly” conversations arise? In case it’s helpful, here are some quick points to shine some perspective on the topic.

Interview with Channel 13: By the way, here is an interview I did with Channel 13 in Sacramento a few weeks ago. Check it out if you’d like below or HERE.

Happy New Year! May this be a wonderful and rich year of life and business.

Questions: Which one did you like best? What are a couple of your big or little goals this year? By the way, did you see the new Star Wars?

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