Is there such a thing as too much information?

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. ~John Naisbitt

We all know about Zillow, and Trulia, and Redfin and of course there’s bankrate and Quickenloans and Lending Tree and home.com and ZipRealty and Realtor.com and and and…and who knows what else.

Then there are all the counterculture real estate sites.  Like the guy that tells everyone not to buy real estate because there’s a bubble, although he can’t really define what a bubble is except that real estate is really really expensive right now.  Remember a bubble is a function of a fundamental flaw in the marketplace.  Appreciation is a function of demand in the marketplace.  Never and I do mean never confuse the two.  And now you’re smarter than that guy.

Opinions are great I suppose.  There’s a saying about opinions, and like a certain body part, everyone has one, which speaks to the valuation of a lot of opinions.  Some of course are based on facts, but in today’s visceral political world, even facts have become optional.   Personally, I prefer facts.  And data.  The thing is, there is a lot of data out there.  Now you have to identify accurate data sources.

How do you identify accurate data sources?  It can be difficult.  For years and years the government has not considered the unemployed that have just given up to still be unemployed, yet they are in fact jobless and would like a job.  While everyone gets all jacked up when that number is good and the stock market has a gay old time, that number has been false for about 30 years give or take.  Garbage in, garbage out.

As a Realtor, I really get to feel the pulse of the buying public when I hold an open house.  I’ve heard it all.  Sometimes I just stand there and think “Dude, you will never own a house, why don’t you just go to the game?”  Other times I think “Whose stirring your Kool-Aid?”  The theories out there are amazing, including all theories that have anything to do with a sitting President.  And I’ve been in this business since 1976.  I’ve been through a few sitting Presidents.  They leave and I shake my head wondering where they got their information.

As Realtors we have access to the most accurate information.  We have access to all of the sales and while many of the websites pull from our sources, the truth is many of them scramble the information or label it in such a way that the end user can’t decipher it for any meaningful purpose.  The next piece is now that we have that information, what to do with it?  Well, it’s good information when it comes directly from the source, but there are a lot of variables you just can’t see on the internet.  Like are the floors uneven?  If so, is that the foundation or an anomaly?  What does it cost to fix?  I sold a house for some clients last year that had rolli-polli floors.  They had several contractors through and the foundation was fine.  They evened them out as best as could be done without rebuilding the house and moved on.  There are people that will tell you that is a foundation problem without any understanding of foundations.  My personal home has numerous cracks and doors that open about half the year.  There are people that will tell you that is a foundation problem and stay away.  It’s not.  It’s adobe soil.  There isn’t a house in the Bay Area that’s been looked at by more contractors.  Sometimes the soil is full of water and expands.  Sometimes we’re in a drought and it contracts.  Sometimes the bedroom door sticks, sometimes the bathroom door sticks.  You can’t see that from pictures on the internet so you have to actually see the homes.  Good Realtors are looking at homes every single day.  Does the house smell good?  Seriously.  My house smells like dog.  I can’t even smell it I’ve been living with these guys for so long.  Yet I know it does.  If I were to sell my home I would have to accept the discount or move out and eradicate the dogness that is my home.  The internet will not tell you that my home smells like dog and that’s why it sold for $25,000 under what it should have.  Or that I moved out, replaced all the carpet and window coverings, painted and got a premium for the recently upgraded home.  As a typical internet user, you cannot see our Realtor confidential notes, you won’t have all the information.  You don’t know that the reason the house sold for $25,000 under asking was that the former owner hung himself in the garage.  Or that a horrible crime was committed inside the home.  Or that the home was the scene of a drive by shooting ten years ago.  Garbage in, garbage out.

That’s where a good Realtor comes in.  They’ve seen all of those homes, they are selling a good number of homes, they are working with a good number of buyers and sellers and they know what’s going to happen next.  I call it Deal IQ.  I had a client yesterday who has a family member that is in the industry in another area in another function.  He asked about why we had two days to look at inspections and release the contingency.  In our area, that’s the standard right now.  Seller paid for these inspections and it was take it or leave it.  I would have loved to have a week to pour over these inspections but I had to read them that night and my client had to make a call within about 48 hours.  Insane, but if you’re actually working the market, you know that this matters.  The internet won’t tell you if the seller took on all sorts of inspection issues or got a credit or if the repairs were done.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Pick a place you are comfortable with.  It doesn’t matter what it sold for in 2014, 2004 or 1984.  What matters is can you afford it.  I’ve had buyers tell me they aren’t going to pay $100,000 over what the seller picked the property up for 6 months ago.  Forget the seller did a full remodel, gambled that the market would hold and is now placing the refurbished home on the market while paying a commission to have it sold.  If you wanted it for $100,000 less you had to have been in the market six months ago and have had to be willing to gamble.  That’s the difference.

The guy I think has it best is Dave Ramsey.  Real estate is an asset.  Whether it appreciates or depreciates in a certain cycle, at the end of the day, it has some value.  I would argue that it would have value until there was a nuclear event affecting that quadrant.  Until then, it has value.  Perhaps for housing, perhaps for agriculture, perhaps for commercial venture, but it is tangible and has value, even if that value is low.  As Gary Keller says “It is the one asset that will never depreciate to zero.”  We have established it as an asset.  If we are talking about primary housing, then it provides shelter.  As the loan is paid off, equity grows, even in a contracting marketplace.  Every rent payment made to a landlord increases their equity and decreases yours.  Dave says if you can afford to buy a home you should.  It’s the only credit he thinks you should utilize!