Technology and Real Estate Collide: Will we be trading homes like stocks in the next several years?

The total wealth of Americans is $113 trillion. The major categories are real estate, both homes and commercial, of $50 trillion and stocks and stock funds of $35 trillion.

Technology has had a huge impact on stock trading. 50 years ago, selling or buying company shares was opaque, illiquid and expensive. Now, technology has taken over more and more aspects of trading. Markets are transparent and liquid. The cost of equity trades is zero or close to it.

Real estate not so much. Of course, while every common share of Amazon is identical, no two houses are identical. Throw in emotion, 5-6% commissions and time delays and hassles in buying and selling and it’s no surprise that the real estate market has had low volumes and heavy transaction costs. As a result, only 7% of American homes change hands every year.

American homeowners traded property worth only $1.5 trillion in 2019, paying out about $75 billion in commissions. About $40 billion of stocks are traded each year with less than $10 billion in commissions, which are shrinking. The real estate transaction model is still opaque, illiquid, expensive and stressful. More owners are staying put and this is contributing to the decrease in homeownership in the US to 64%, lower than it was in the early 1990s.

In the last decade, technology has started to gain traction in real estate transactions providing more transparency, more liquidity, less cost and quicker and easier moves. The old real estate model may be replaced by a new one, with lower fees (on a percentage basis) but more turnover and more customer satisfaction. The last decade has seen the birth of a new industry- property tech or “prop tech.” It has attracted $40 billion in venture capital in the last three years. The four biggest firms, Zillow, Redfin, Compass and Opendoor have a combined valuation of $23 billion. Prop tech is fundamentally changing how the real estate sector operates.

Zillow’s “Zestimate’s” 2006 algorithm for pricing used traditional metrics; such as number of bedrooms and baths, square footage etc. Today Zestimate goes deeper and has become more accurate. Homeowners listing with Zillow upload pictures and provide additional detail information. The new Zestimate model has an error of less than 2% (of the home’s actual selling price) as compared to a 14% error back 13 years ago. The next wave of Prop tech could include more hyper-local automated valuation model (“AVM”) elements to their valuation models. Zestimate’s hyper-local AVM algorithm in Washington, D.C. has only a 1.2% error. Zillow’s AVM won’t replace appraisers for mortgages that are needed. However, Zillow believes it could transform appraisers from evaluators to fact-checkers.

Prop tech has also sped up transactions. Discovering listings used to take days. Now Redfin (and others) notifies customers with its “Updates” faster than anyone else about new listings and price changes. Using just a couple of clicks on their smartphone, Redfin customers can “Book it Now” and request a home tour, almost like making an online restaurant reservation.

Another trend is instant buying- or iBuying, offered by both Zillow and Redfin. Sellers can sell in a few days. The companies make prompt, algorithm-driven offers, pay in cash, and sell homes themselves- sometimes after some minor upgrades. Opendoor takes it one step farther. It buys using iBuyer and then resells through the Opendoor app, backing sales with a 90 day guarantee. Opendoor says home buying and selling can be “as easy as buying and selling cars.” Knock is another iBuyer who buys houses for cash and then helps sellers find their dream house. Knock even handles repairs and updates on the old house.

Prop tech may even provide a complete solution. (Think of Amazon meets real estate). Jen Chao, executive at Redfin sees prop tech heading towards such a comprehensive offering. She believes that the overall management of buying and selling a house, including finding the house, negotiating the contract, finding the mortgage, an attorney, a mover and more is a very big deal to many. So much so, that many just don’t move. Chao feels that Redfin can become a one-stop shop, providing a seamless home-buying (and/or selling) experience.

Chao says this automation will not do away with the work of agents and other real estate professionals. “Real estate is a highly personal business,” says Chao. Technology is being used to streamline and get rid of the tasks that software can do really well, to free up time for agents and others to focus on things that require the human touch.

Prop tech proponents believe the future of real estate is rooted in precision and personalization. At DWM, we believe our total wealth management process is very similar. We use technology to streamline and perform tasks that software can do and we use our combined knowledge, experience and communication skills to provide the personalization that is so important. In short, that is how value is maximized for our clients.

https://dwmgmt.com/

 

Is “Free” Stock Trading Really Free?

Is “Free” Stock Trading Really Free?

 Press Release: On December 3rd, SC Public Radio Host interviewed Les Detterbeck. This message, that there is no ‘Free Lunch,’ is extremely important.

 Click here to listen to the audio, and or please read the transcript below.

Mike Switzer: Since 1975, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, deregulated stock broker commissions, rates have been falling. Recently several major discount firms have announced completely free stock trading, but our next guest says that you should beware of any offer of a free ‘lunch’. Les Detterbeck is a Chartered Financial Analyst in Charleston, South Carolina, and a member of the South Carolina chapter of the CFA society, we have him on the phone! Les, welcome back to the program.

Les Detterbeck: Thank you Mike it’s a pleasure to be here!

Mike Switzer: So let’s just dive right in. Do you have plenty of clients now who are taking advantage of this free lunch?

Les Detterbeck: Many of our clients use Schwab, in fact we use Schwab as our main custodian. The equity trades are now at zero, but Schwab and others have been offering Mutual Fund trades at zero for some time. To make the major announcement about stocks and exchange funds going to zero was a pretty major one in the industry, and we have been using that yes.

Mike Switzer: Are you expecting this to spread industry wide?

Les Detterbeck: Yes, we expect that it will. That’s what has been happening over the last decades as the cost of commissions went down from $50 to $20 dollars, then $10 dollars to $4.95, so it’s not a surprise that this area of income for the brokers for much of their business that the commissions are going to be down to zero.

Mike Switzer: Does this mean then that they are making money in other ways once they have you as a client, or are there hidden fees somewhere that you are paying and don’t realize?

Les Detterbeck: No, I don’t know that there are hidden fees but there are three basic sources of income from the brokerage firms. In the beginning 30, 40, even 50 years ago, the trade commissions were the majority of their income; now it’s a very small amount. The other area has been operating expense ratios that is on Mutual Funds that they trade. There are expenses included in there and there is a portion of that fee that brokers can obtain. The last major item would be in the area of uninvested cash, the cash that’s within brokerage accounts that is not invested in specific securities.

Mike Switzer: And so they are basically able to make enough then to drop trading costs for the consumer to zero?

Les Detterbeck: Yes, that’s exactly right. None of us can begrudge them the opportunity to make a profit. They’re doing a good job, we expect they need to make income, they’re just getting it from other sources these days.

Mike Switzer: So, is this going to stay in the discount broker arena, or spread to the full service brokerage firms?

Les Detterbeck: It’s spreading although it’s going slowly that way, Mike. Obviously the big name full service brokerages have people and have brands that people love causing them to stay with them. So, we have seen some of that but it may still be a while before that changes.

Mike Switzer: Now are the firms that are offering this putting any conditions in place, like you have to have this level of account investment $100,000? 1 Million?

Les Detterbeck: We are not aware that they have that. In fact the general idea, one of the main areas as I’ve mentioned, is the uninvested cash and Schwab, that we know so well, one of their business strategies to collect more deposits, for example. A portion of those deposits will likely be in cash and they can use and invest that cash to make money there, so I think it will be something they will look at obtaining deposits in whatever size those might be.

Mike Switzer: And so Les, it sounds like that managing the cash portion of one’s portfolio might be becoming more important?

Les Detterbeck: Most definitely! Certain people may have cash; 5, 6, 7, or 10% of their portfolios, and that money is not working for them. So if the balance of their portfolio is earning 10% a year for example, but 10% of the portfolio is sitting in cash, their return is 9% under those circumstances. The result should be that investors should look at maintaining a small amount of cash, 1-2%, stay invested, stay with an appropriate asset allocation, and make sure your money is working for you.

Mike Switzer:  Well Les, as always, thank you so much for your time.

Les Detterbeck: Thank you so much, Mike.

https://dwmgmt.com/