As time marches forward amidst one of the longest recessions in modern time, we are being forced to participate in one of the greatest balancing acts in real estate history.
Indeed we are engaged in our own industry Cirque du Soleil, a kind of three-ringed act that pushes us to the limits of our economic envelope.
How long can we strike the pose? What series of events will begin the process of reversing the downturn and return some degree of stabilization to the economy. Our collective muscles quiver under the stress of our rigid contortions.
Not too long ago we mistakenly thought, although few will now admit to their acquiescence, that TARP, auto industry bailouts, AIG cash infusions, cash for clunkers, first time home buyer credits, bank loans and the like would magically restore the economy.
Even the National Association of Realtors (NAR), our beloved national union and lobby force, with enthusiastic recklessness, endorsed just about every form of redistribution of wealth forced down our throats by President Barack Obama’s misguided group of tax and spend advocates.
Yes, ours is an industry not too unlike a three ringed circus. There are jugglers, tight rope walkers, clowns, acrobats, lion trainers and bare-back horse riders, all entertaining us while we sit in the grand stands eating our Cracker Jack and cotton candy.
Let’s get down to some serious industry transformation discussions regarding the “Four Bs.” The Four Bs are the fundamental building blocks that heretofore drove the real estate industry’s models with respect to consumer relationships and Broker/Owner profitability.
Brokers, Boards, Books and Buildings remain the economic blocks that continue to drive our brokerage profit models. Three of the four are still alive and kicking. What are the Four Bs, how do they function and what, if anything, do they mean to us now? More importantly, how do they meet contemporary consumer expectations?
Broker/Owners are literally the financial backbone of the real estate industry. e-Partner and this blog, REALonomics, support the importance of sustaining the roll Broker/Owners play in perpetuating real estate transactions and indeed propping up the industry at large. It is Broker/Owners who literally guarantee the financial stability of the industry. They are real estate’s preeminent risk-takers.
They are almost always the sole guarantors of market presence and it is they who take most of the personal financial risk for the real estate organizations operating within thousands of communities.
Fact: Broker/Owners are losing their ability to produce and sustain profit for their local brokerage firms. The risks now out weigh the rewards, as many are discovering. TWe are facing the financial collapse of many Broker/Owners.
flickr image by revdancatt
President Obama flew into Arizona to announce his blueprint for a $75,000,000,000 mortgage bailout known as the “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.”
REALonomics has digested the preliminary outline of this program which claims to “…offer assistance to as many as to 9 million homeowners…” through a combination of loan modifications and propping up of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, support for state housing authorities and financial incentives for lenders to re-tool existing loans for a predefined set of homeowners whose mortgages fall into specific qualifying categories.
How does it Work and who are the Beneficiaries?
Will the President’s plan make a difference and if so, to whom and when? And, is the plan a sound economic model that will actually help homeowners facing foreclosure, as claimed by the administration? Is this another step in the direction of creating a dependency upon the federal government for and on the part of some Americans and lending institutions?
Let’s take a look at the plan and ask some hard questions.
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is getting it right, this time. REALonomics did not agree with NAR’s previous rubber stamping of the Bush-Paulson-Bernanke $700 billion bail out. Nor did we agree with NAR’s attempt to get the industry to back the bail-out, prima facia.
This time around, however, NAR is getting it right and deserves the support of the industry…yes, I have already sent my letter to my elected officials supporting “The Four Point Plan” put forth by by NAR. REALonomics is endorsing this plan with comments inserted into NAR’s message that was emailed to members.
RESPONSE TO THE FOUR POINT PLAN
NAR has urged Congress to include the following provisions in any future legislation:
NAR POINT ONE: Make the $7500 tax credit available to all purchasers and eliminate the repayment requirement. The credit’s limited availability and required repayment terms have severely limited the credit’s appeal to potential homebuyers. As a result, the credit has not been widely used or proven effective at stimulating sales.
REALonomics: We concur. The tax credit should be a true credit against taxes, however, and at the descretioin of the buyer, be taken in one year or extended to up to three years of equal credit deduction. This would allow each consumer some flexibility in the application of the credit based upon income and other factors. In addition, we would like to see the deduction made available to investors who purchase in calendar year 2009.
NAR POINT TWO: Make the 2008 FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits permanent. New rules for 2009 would significantly reduce the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limit from their 2008 levels. Now is not the time to limit the availability of affordable mortgages.
REALonomics: This part of NAR’s plan needs further clarification for members. In general, we concur, but the devil could be lingering in the details on this one.
NAR POINT THREE: Get the Emergency Treasury bank relief program back on track by targeting more funds to mortgage relief efforts and increasing efforts to mitigate foreclosures. Don’t just give the banks unrestricted cash. Make the program work to improve mortgage and housing markets as it was originally intended.
REALonomics: Yes, NAR, this position is the correct one! We were all burned by the ambiguity of the emergency relief program and we, in fact, got hood-winked into believing that toxic mortgages were going to be purchased and sold to investors at discounts. In fact, the banks just banked (pun obvious) the bucks or, in some cases used the funds to purchase other banks. But the problem is also an empowered Treasury Secretary who could simply redirect the funds in just about any way he so desired. To date not a single mortgage has been purchased and resold. The mitigation of foreclosure loses is a tricky one and REALonomics takes a very conservative approach to how this should work. Consumers who are in default should not be rewarded without some additional tax incentives to those who are not in default. We cannot reward bad behavior. Leveling the playing field is going to require caution and discipline.
NAR POINT FOUR: Permanently bar banks and banking conglomerates from engaging in real estate brokerage and management. The banks have proven they have enough to do to simply properly manage their current lines of business. Do we really want them to manage the home buying process? Imagine what could have been the situation now if they already had the added ability to engage in real estate sales.
REALonomics: On this point REALonomics disagrees with NAR. Point four should not be on the table at this time. Although we are not yet convinced that we should advocate bank brokerage models, there remains a lot of room for discussion on how banks can collaborate in economic partnerships with real estate brokerage firms in order to shore-up the profitability of each to the benefit of the consumer. It’s understandable why NAR, as a preservation move, would call for this issue to be addressed and finalized. REALonomics still advocates streamlined and consumer-centric home buying/home financing models. Such models might be created out of financial partnerships that are carefully blueprinted so that banks and brokerage can maintain levels of expertise.
CLICK HERE to take action on the NAR Four Point Plan (NAR members only).
Unlocking Franchise Economics: Pt 3
Have we ever wondered how the consumer views our real estate industry franchises? If we are going to unlock franchise economics and truly understand the value propositions inherent in franchising we must also see them (franchises) as the consumer sees them and we must ONLY value them as does the consumer.
If you were to create a list of distinctions…real ones…dynamic ones…that separate one franchise brand from another in the eyes of the only true client, the consumer, what would those distinctions be and how are they manifest in the process of transacting business?
Enjoy the PhotoBlog below. Read it carefully and ask yourself what might happen if the consumer could place all franchises into one blender and extract the best. What would the “best” be? What are the clear distinctions between franchise A, B and C?
If franchises have any value, and REALonomics believes they do, what is the empirical value to the consumer? Is franchise value a black-and-white proposition or, will we see living color coming out of the recession in 2009 and beyond? What changes do franchisors need to make to create distinction in local markets? Can distinction even be created and sustained? Do we need to blend the franchises? Do we need fewer franchises? Will franchises be blended out of economic necessity and through mergers and acquisitions?
If a Broker/Owner adopts a franchise model what is the set of “measureable” distinctions derrived from the relationship that will impact the consumer? Specifically, how do franchise distinctions create revenue for Broker/Owners in the crowded marketplace?