Is Quill Realty the Only non-MLS Broker in Seattle?

Updated 9/13:¬†Quill Realty is now Added Equity Real Estate – but everything else is as true today as when I wrote it! ūüôā

I am loving life at the forefront of change in the real estate industry. My firm Quill Realty left the Northwest Multiple Listing Service on July 1. Since then, we’ve picked up some listings and sold a few houses – our first non-MLS sale closed Friday. Congratulations to this beautiful family!!!¬†Single Broker Listings in Seattle

So we’re selling houses at a dramatically reduced cost to our seller clients. In other words, the model appears to be working. Exciting times!

But it begs the question: Is Quill the only¬†non-MLS broker in Seattle? Or are there others, such that a synergy might begin to build. To date, I have yet to find one. I even have a friendly wager with a title representative. He knows lots and lots of people in the local industry, and so far he’s struck out.

Is that right? Is Quill the only voice calling for change in the MLS-bound wilderness? If you know of any others – in Seattle, or Western WA, or even the USA – I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment, and thanks much.

Is Your Open House In The NWMLS For ALL To See?

FrontThe last few weeks have been extremely busy open house wise for us in Seattle Рmostly in the $400,000 and under price range or close to it.  Agent hits on the NWMLS for those listings has also soared and the web traffic in general has increased for this price point.   The buyers are definitely out there poking around!

Many of¬† my recent open house visitors have been Redfin buyers.¬† They¬†seem to¬†expect to be treated poorly by other agents at opens.¬†¬† Maybe this is just my own perception, but they are physically cringing upon entrance.¬† I guess it could be my outfit or my hair, but more likely it must have to do with the typical reception a Redfin buyer¬†might get.¬†¬†The point of an open house has always been for the hosting agent to meet, network, and possibly pick up new clients.¬† Although it is also great exposure for the listed property, very rarely does the open house sell the home – at least it didn’t used to.¬†

Enter Redfin. 

Redfin arguably has one of the nicest real estate search websites and their open house feature is probably second to none.¬† I can’t keep up with their changing business model and have no idea how effective or not they are for their clients, but do¬†love their site and always welcome¬†Redfin buyers to my open houses.¬† Redfin buyers seem to almost always be actively looking for a home.¬† They meticulously schedule and map out the open houses they¬†plan to visit and they come with questions prepared.¬† In short, they are serious.

One little problem: 

Open houses that show up on the site are swept from the NWMLS when a listing agent enters the information in the “public open houses” field of their listing and not all listing agents do this.¬† Some companies prefer to hold on to that information and only enter their open houses on their corporate site alone.¬†¬† Soon enough, though, most agents will hopefully catch up and realize that not entering their opens for all to see is a disservice to the seller.¬†¬†¬† Just looking at Seattle stats alone in the NWMLS, Redfin has sold 62 residential properties and 9 condos since the beginning of the year.¬† Redfin buyers are clearly putting a dent in the inventory.¬†

Redfin aside, it is just smart business and good representation¬†to enter your open house into the NWMLS so that you expose your seller’s property to as many potential buyers as possible.

The Buyers are out, and trying to buy, but…

Buyers are out, and trying to buy, but they don’t seem to be quite as successful as some of the more breathless news reports would lead you to believe.¬† I have always liked the Pending Sales statistics from NWMLS because they represent the most recent monthly snapshot of new contracts on listed properties – i.e. a Buyer and a Seller have made a deal.¬† But recently a lot of those ‘deals’ have not closed, the Seller has not gotten his or her money, and the Buyer has not gotten possession of the property. It appears that a lot of these current transactions, which are¬†indicating a high level of Buyer’s intent to purchase, are falling out or being delayed for long periods.

Here is a chart built from NWMLS published statistics of Pending vs Sold data Рthe chart is built by taking a two-month moving average of Pending (previous month) vs Sold (current month) data. Note that this post expands on an earlier post by Ardell in her Sunday Night Stats.

Let‚Äôs call this chart the Fall-Out Ratio ‚Äď we may want to keep an eye on it.

(Required disclaimer: Statistics not compiled or published by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service)reilingteamcom-fall-out-ratio-0906

Historically the fall-out rate has been well under 10%, but then in early 2008 the fall-out rate started climbing like a rocket. Recall that we had the mortgage market meltdown in late 2007, and lenders started dramatically tightening their lending practices. Then we had the larger financial and business crash in late 2008, and more people started losing their jobs ‚Äď and the other 90% got nervous. It was also in late 2008 that we started seeing a lot more short sales in our Seattle/Bellevue area. Recall that in a short sale, the insolvent seller is trying to avoid foreclosure by selling the property and getting the lender to accept less than is owed on it. That lender approval process is often slow and uncertain, and it certainly is contributing to this rise in the Fall-Out Ratio. Short sales may be 20% or more of our current sales activity, and those delays may¬†also be a major contributor to why the average Days-on-Market measure isn‚Äôt dropping in concert with Months Supply. Other contributors to the fall-out rate would include failure to reach agreement on inspection, and failure of financing. I‚Äôm sure we‚Äôll get a lot more insight on causes from the comments by our great RCG contributors.

Short Sales and REOs to Finally Become a Search Field in the NWMLS

Courtney Cooper broke the news on Easter.¬† The Northwest MLS has voted to add a required field:¬†“Third¬†Party Approval Required” and “Bank/REO Owned.” From the¬†NWMLS (no link):¬†
“NWMLS is excited to announce two new required fields; ‚Äú3rd Party Approval Required

Sellers Leaving The Mess Behind

Cleaning up after yourself is in the contract…

Recently, there seems to be some confusion as to item number 5 of the NWMLS form 22D (optional clauses addendum to the purchase and sale agreement).  Maybe the sellers are deciding that the buyer already got a good deal and they shouldn’t leave the home in decent condition?  ARDELL recently mentioned that some sellers are feeling disenchanted with this market and as a result the houses are not being exhibited in their best light.  This is definitely happening and unfortunately is being carried forward to when the sale closes and home ownership is transferred.

Item #5 on the NWMLS Form 22D:

“Items Left By Seller.Any personal property, fixtures or other items remaining on the Property when possession is transferred to Buyer shall thereupon become the property of Buyer, and may be retained or disposed of as Buyer determines. However, Seller agrees to clean the interiors of any structures and remove all trash, debris, and rubbish on the Property prior to Buyer taking possession.“

Plainly stated: Take all your belongings and clean the property prior to handing over the keys. Clear enough? One would think, but what about when you line item #5 up to item #4 in the very same Form 22D and apply it to a seller who never had their home clean to begin with and had trash all over the place while the home was being shown?

Item #4 of 22D addresses the issue of “Property and Grounds Maintained

Seattle Area Open House Information Sources

Can you tell me where I can find a list of all the Open Houses that are happening in my area this Sunday?

boy-looking-at-toy-houseI’ve been asked this question lots of times and I have always had to answer, “I’m sorry. There is no single, good source. Everyplace is going to list the ones they are promoting.” Sadly, this is still the case. The Seattle Times classifieds was the defacto hub of information for Open Houses during the pre-internet-print-is-king era. Now that the web has taken over as the main source of any information, a “Complete Open House Times and Locations Guide” should be as easy as pulling up a Google Map. But it’s not.

Enter the major Brokerage Firms
Our NWMLS (Northwest Multiple Listing Service) does publish open house information if the agent requests it. However the larger brokerage firms restrict their agents from participating in publishing this information. Why? Because they all want you to come to THEIR websites and just see THEIR listings. God forbid that smaller companies might ride on the coattails of this and reap the benefits of centralized exposure to the public of their listings.

Meanwhile, the consumer looses. They don’t care which brokerage has the open house. All they care about is finding out about ALL of them in their desired price range and location. Until the brokerages figure out that not sharing is a loose-loose proposition, they are going to hold on tightly to one of the few pieces of information that they think they can control, even to the detriment of the industry as a whole.

Enter the free upstart website
Craigslist is generally a good source for open house information and has been devastating to the Seattle Times Classified section as more and more Sellers and agents realize that this is a popular source of information for Buyers to find out about real estate listings and open houses. The problem is that it is hopelessly unorganized and difficult to filter well. Properties scroll off quickly and the average consumer misses a number of worthwhile ads.

For now, here is a list of a few of the various companies Open House sites where you can find Seattle area open house information and then assemble it yourself.

Coldwell Banker Bain Open Houses

Winderemere Open Houses

John L Scott Open Houses

Re/MAX Open Houses

Craigslist Open Houses
(I recommend you search for “open” rather than “open house’ – otherwise you may miss alternate titles eg. “Open Sunday”. Use price and bedrooms to filter further.)

Seattle Times Open Houses
Keep in mind that ads placed in the company-sponsored sections of the The Seattle Times classifieds (often referred to as “block ads”) DO NOT automatically show up when you search on the NWSource website. If available, these ads are often an extra charge to the agents and may or may not be included in the ads they have placed.


NWMLS Open House mapping feature could be a GREAT tool for agents AND consumers. But because the major brokerages and some of the smaller brokerages refuse to participate, and because it currently doesn’t differentiate between “Brokers Open” and “Public Open” events, consumers are on their own to dig and find the open houses they may want to see. (sources tell me that in the next major update, the NWMLS will be able to break out public vs. brokers open houses) Hopefully the NWMLS will start offering a report of this that can be emailed or subscribed to. That might be the tipping-point that would get other brokerages to participate.

Then there is the old-fashion way
The one sure method for Buyers: Get in your car and drive around the areas you are interested in. Agents almost always put out a sign to lure you in, even if the collective NWMLS Brokers won’t help them online.

Short Sale Listings: Leaving Out Key Details Is Like Telling A Lie..

[Editors note: It’s always exciting to introduce a new author to RCG… and today I’m especially excited to introduce Courtney Cooper of Cooper Jacobs as the newest RCG contributor!¬† Far from a newbie, she’s been running an entertaining blog on ActiveRain for over a year now (and racked up tens of thousands of points in the process!), so I’m pretty sure she’ll have no problem making her impact on the RCG community. ¬† Welcome Courtney!¬†¬† ~Dustin]

Hello RCG!

Thanks Dustin and ARDELL for the encouragement! I am a huge fan of RCG and look forward to what lies ahead!

Pushing openness with short sale listings…

A lot has been written on Rain City Guide and elsewhere about short sales in the Seattle area, but 2008 had me working with far more buyers than sellers and one sentence kept popping up: “that house is a short sale

Bye-Bye STI

NWMLS treesThe NWMLS has announced that as of June 24th 2008, they will no longer use the term. Active STI. It will become Pending Inspection and two new statuses will be created, Pending Feasibility and Pending BU Requested.

For those who are members and have access to the database, all three statuses will appear in the pending section of the Hotsheet. Pending Inspection will be used when the property has a signed Purchase and Sale Agreement and has an inspection scheduled. Pending Feasibility will be used for listings where a purchase and sale agreement is signed pending a feasibility study. Pending BU Requested will be used when the seller would like to receive back up offers.

Once the inspection or feasibility study is completed the listing must be changed. The listing would be set to Active, if the inspection or feasibility study were not waived and the sale fails, or Pending, if waived.

The most significant change is that properties with a Pending Inspection status (formally STI) will not be visible on the public websites. All pending statuses shall be considered off-market and will be treated as follows:

  • They will not accrue market time.
  • They will be included in the Pending section of the NWMLS monthly published statistics.
  • They will not be included in the NWMLS Standard IDX feed and cannot be displayed on a web site.

I’m sort of surprised that Pending BU Requested will not be in the IDX feed and can not be shown on public websites. This goes counter to what Sellers want. That is, continued exposure to the market. Perhaps this will change with time too if the NWMLS receives feedback about it.

NWMLS to Allow Brokerages to share more Data

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service has announced policy changes that will allow brokerages to display more information on their websites. This means that if brokerages choose to, people will be able to see the length of time a property has been on the market, referred to as days-on-market (DOM), as well as cumulative-days-on-market (CDOM), along with the listing price adjustment history. The NWMLS will only allow the DOM to be shown if the CDOM is also displayed in order to insure that consumers are not mislead.

Another change for brokerages is that they now have access to three download feeds instead of just two. This could be significant for brokerages that want more options and vendors to choose from to manage their data feeds for property searches, which they make available to agents and the public.

The MLS is not just for advertising your property

[photopress:just_listed.jpg,thumb,alignright]Agent receives $5,000 fine for taking the key from the keybox, giving it to the electrician and allowing the electrician to remain on the property unattended.

Agent receives $5,000 fine for giving her keypad to an unlicensed friend to show property.

Agent fined $3,000 for changing the price by $1.00 or $2.00 to cause the property to show up on the agent hotsheet to get more attention and possibly showings.

Agent fined $3,000 for advertising another agent’s listed property in a real estate publication.

Agent waited in car while handing his keypad to his unlicensed assistant who showed the property. Agent did not leave a business card in the house. $5,000 fine.

$1,500 fine for not uploading a photo in a timely manner, not changing the status in a timely manner and not taking the keybox off of the property in a timely manner.

It is sometimes easy to forget that “The MLS” is not simply a data base for listed property to gain the eyes and interest of potential buyers. Reading the report of hefty fines being paid by members for, in some cases, what might appear to be fairly minor transgressions, is a good reminder of what “the mls” really is and is not.

I have to admit that as I am typing this, I am wondering if there is a fine for writing a blog post about fines.