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Real Estate Firms Remain Confident About Future Profitability, NAR Study Shows12 Aug

WASHINGTON (August 6, 2015) – Real estate firms are confident in the industry’s future growth and their increasing profitability, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Real Estate Firms.

“A majority of firms have a positive view of the future, with 95 percent of all firms expecting their net income to either increase or stay the same in the next year,” said NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark. “The improving economy continues to fuel job growth, and while some markets are still recovering, the demand for real property is back, and prospects are looking good for the real estate industry.”

The annual survey found that commercial firms are the most optimistic, with 75 percent expecting net income to increase, and 22 percent anticipating it to stay the same. Residential firms are only slightly less optimistic; 69 percent report that they expect to see an increase in their net income next year, 25 percent expect it to stay the same, and 6 percent predict a decrease. Only 3 percent of commercial firms predict a decrease in net income in the next year.

The typical residential firm has been operating for a median of 13 years, and the typical commercial firm has been in business for 20 years. The average firm, 79 percent, has one office and two full-time real estate licensees, while 9 percent of firms are larger with four or more offices and have a median of 125 full-time licensees.

In 2014, a typical residential real estate firm’s brokerage sales volume was $5.6 million, and the typical commercial real estate firm’s brokerage sales volume was $4.4 million. The size of a firm has a large impact on its sales volume; firms with only one office had a median brokerage sales volume of $4.1 million in 2014, while those with four or more offices had a median brokerage sales volume of $250 million. Correspondingly, those with one office had a total of 18 real estate transaction sides in 2014, while those with four or more offices had 900 real estate transaction sides.

According to the survey, 82 percent of firms specialize in residential brokerage, making it by far the most popular specialization. Residential property management follows at 7 percent, and commercial brokerage comes in third at 4 percent. Eighty-three percent of firms are independent, non-franchised companies, while 15 percent of firms are independent, franchised companies. The remaining firms are subsidiaries of national or regional corporations.

When asked to name the biggest challenge facing their firms in the next two years, 51 percent of firms named profitability. The second most common responses, at 46 percent each, were keeping up with technology and maintaining sufficient property inventory.

Firms were also asked to predict the effect of the different generations of homebuyers on the industry for the next two years. The most common concern named, at 54 percent, was the millennial generation’s inability to buy a home because of stagnant wage growth, a slow job market and their debt-to-income ratios. This was followed by baby boomer agents retiring from the real estate industry, and, conversely, the recruitment of millennials and Gen Xers into the real estate profession.

Forty-five percent of firms expect competition to increase over the next year (from mid-2015 to mid-2016) from non-traditional market participants, while 41 percent expect to see increased competition from virtual firms. Only 16 percent expect increased competition from traditional brick-and-mortar firms.

However, these concerns are not preventing firms from growing. Forty-four percent of firms are actively recruiting new agents, with 88 percent citing business growth as their primary reason for hiring new agents.

Eighty-one percent of all firms offer errors and omissions/liability insurance to independent contractors, licensees and agents, making it the most common benefit real estate firms offer employees. More than half (55 percent) of firms either share the cost of the insurance with employees or have the employee pay the entire cost. Twenty percent of firms offer health insurance to their independent contractors, licensees and agents; in a majority of cases the employee covers the entire cost.

The most common feature (95 percent) displayed on real estate firms’ websites is property listings. Other common features are agent and staff profiles, mortgage or financial calculators, information about the home buying and selling process, and community information and demographics. Eighty-six percent of firms provide or encourage agents and brokers to use specific multiple listing services, making it the most common software used in real estate firms. Other commonly used software includes comparative market analysis, electronic contracts/forms and e-signature.

The 2015 NAR Profile of Real Estate Firms was based on an online survey sent in July of this year to a national sample of 138,669 executives at real estate firms. This generated 4,555 useable responses with a response rate of 3.3 percent.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Existing-Home Sales Maintain Solid Growth in July

WASHINGTON (August 20, 2015) — Existing-home sales steadily increased for the third consecutive month in July, while stubbornly low inventory levels and rising prices are likely to blame for sales to first-time buyers falling to their lowest share since January, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million in July from a downwardly revised 5.48 million in June. Sales in July remained at the highest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million), have now increased year-over-year for ten consecutive months and are 10.3 percent above a year ago (5.07 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the increase in sales in July solidifies what has been an impressive growth in activity during this year’s peak buying season. “The creation of jobs added at a steady clip and the prospect of higher mortgage rates and home prices down the road is encouraging more households to buy now,” he said. “As a result, current homeowners are using their increasing housing equity towards the downpayment on their next purchase.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in July was $234,000, which is 5.6 percent above July 2014. July’s price increase marks the 41st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

“Despite the strong growth in sales since this spring, declining affordability could begin to slowly dampen demand,” adds Yun. “Realtors® in some markets reported slower foot traffic in July in part because of low inventory and concerns about the continued rise in home prices without commensurate income gains.”

Total housing inventory3 at the end of July declined 0.4 percent to 2.24 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.35 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.9 months in June.

The percent share of first-time buyers declined in July for the second consecutive month, falling from 30 percent in June to 28 percent — the lowest share since January of this year (also 28 percent). A year ago, first-time buyers represented 29 percent of all buyers.

“The fact that first-time buyers represented a lower share of the market compared to a year ago even though sales are considerably higher is indicative of the challenges many young adults continue to face,” adds Yun. “Rising rents and flat wage growth make it difficult for many to save for a downpayment, and the dearth of supply in affordable price ranges is limiting their options.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage climbed to 4.05 percent in July from 3.98 percent in June — the first time above 4 percent since November 2014 (4.00 percent) and the highest since September 2014 (4.16 percent).

Properties typically stayed on the market for 42 days in July, an increase from June (34 days) but below the 48 days in July 2014. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 135 days in July, while foreclosures sold in 49 days and non-distressed homes took 41 days. Forty-three percent of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month.

All-cash sales increased slightly to 23 percent of transactions in July (22 percent in June) but are down from 29 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in July, up from 12 percent in June but down from 16 percent in July 2014. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in July.

Representing the lowest share since NAR began tracking in October 2008, distressed sales4 — foreclosures and short sales — declined to 7 percent in July from 8 percent in June; they were 9 percent a year ago. Five percent of July sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in July (15 percent in June), while short sales were discounted 12 percent (18 percent in June).

NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says the housing market is in a much better place and has come a long way since the depths of the recession. “Five years ago, distressed sales represented 33 percent of the market in July,” he said. “For many previously distressed homeowners throughout the country, rising home values in recent years have helped recover equity and the vast improvement in several local job markets means fewer are falling behind on their mortgage payments.”

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales increased 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.96 million in July (highest since February 2007 at 5.08 million) from 4.83 million in June, and are now 11.0 percent above the 4.47 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $235,500 in July, up 5.8 percent from July 2014.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in July from 650,000 units in June, but are still up 5.0 percent from July 2014 (600,000 units). The median existing condo price was $221,800 in July, which is 3.2 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

July existing-home sales in the Northeast decreased 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, but are still 9.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $277,200, which is 1.3 percent higher than July 2014. In the Midwest, existing-home sales were at an annual rate of 1.32 million in July, unchanged from June and 10.9 percent above July 2014. The median price in the Midwest was $186,500, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South increased 4.1 percent to an annual rate of 2.29 million in July, and are 9.6 percent above July 2014. The median price in the South was $203,500, up 7.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 3.2 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in July, and are 11.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $327,400, which is 8.4 percent above July 2014.

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NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample — about 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month — and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.

3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

4Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at Realtor.org.

NOTE: The Pending Home Sales Index for July will be released August 27, and Existing-Home Sales for August will be released September 21; release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.

Contact Information

Alaska Association of REALTORS®
4205 Minnesota Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

Phone (907) 563-7133
FAX (907) 561-1779
Toll-Free (800) 478-3763

joinus@alaskarealtors.com

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