In Buck We Trust

If you know me at all, you know that I am an avid Baltimore Orioles baseball fan.  Have been since I attended my first game in 1968.  I attend Spring training in Sarasota,  Florida, split an Oriole season ticket package, and pretty much plan my evening and weekends around the televised games.

The Orioles arrived in Baltimore in 1954.  From the mid 1960’s through the 1980’s, they were, arguably, the “gold standard” for Major League baseball teams.  They won six Pennants and played in five World Series – – winning two of them.  Their approach to the game of baseball became known as “The Oriole Way”.

Then, something happened.  “The Oriole Way” was lost.  Fifteen consecutive losing seasons ensued between 1997 and 2012.  Enter Buck Showalter.

Buck was hired late in the 2011.  To be honest, I had serious misgivings.  I knew that Buck Showalter was a winner – – having built World Series Championship teams for the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers.  The problem was, Buck was never around to see the teams that he built actually win the World Series.  In each case, Buck was fired and his successor enjoyed the fruits of Buck’s labor.

Buck was frequently categorized as a “control freak”, anal and obsessed.  A perfectionist.  In short, his organizational skills and penchant for perfection eventually “wore out” those around him.  Well, their loss was our gain.

The downtrodden Oriole’s immediately began playing winning baseball when Buck arrived – – finishing the 2011 season in high fashion and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1997 during the exciting 2012 season.  Another winning record ensued in 2013 and the 2014 version of the Baltimore Orioles continues to battle for first place in the tough American League East.

I have read several articles about Buck Showalter.  Recently, I read a twenty four page article authored by a writer who was privileged to spend a week with him in his Texas home last winter.  The main purpose of the article was to determine whether or not Buck has mellowed and whether he was indeed a control freak.  The conclusion was that both were actually true.

DETAILS ARE AN EXHAUSTING BUSINESS”.  This was the Buck Showalter quote that absolutely jumped off the page for me in this lengthy article.     It is not the control freak or the perfectionist that is responsible for his success, it is an unwavering commitment to details.  And, details are, indeed, an exhausting business.

I pride myself on attention to detail.  While it may sometimes appear to be micro-management or anal behavior to some, I know for a fact that my office is among the most organized, efficient and compliant in the local industry.  I am frequently appalled when I see the sloppy and incompetent work of many licensed salespersons and the absolute failure to supervise by their Brokers.  It simply doesn’t happen here.  Won’t.  Can’t.

If you do business with our firm or any of our capable sales associates and Associate Brokers, you can be sure that you are receiving highly supervised, scrutinized, and carefully monitored service.  It plays into the theme that I shared in one of my previously published blogs and which was espoused by the late Vi Thompson – – “By design we will never be the largest. Through endeavor we will always be the best”.

Buck would agree – – “Experience Matters!”

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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Alphabet Soup

There is no such thing as a “Licensed Realtor”.   I have mentioned this before but it is my pet peeve.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues two classifications of Real Estate Licenses.  They are Salesperson (the vast majority of practitioners) and Broker.

The Realtor organization is a trade association – – one of the largest in the Country.  The National Association of Realtors is a great advocate for both consumers and real estate practitioners and is most notable for its Code of Ethics to which practitioners must ascribe.  The organization is further broken down on the state level, The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, and on the local level which is, here, the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors.

Within the Realtor organization there are various industry designations that are recognized and obtained through additional course work and testing.  These would include the GRI, ABR, CRS, SRES, e-Pro, CCIM and others.  Realtors with advanced designations tend to be more experienced, successful and knowledgeable.

I hold the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) designation.  Less than 4% of licensees nationally hold the CRS designation.  It would roughly be equivalent to having a “Masters Degree” in the practice of residential real estate.

The Council of Residential Specialists (CRS) publishes a magazine which is periodically distributed to those holding the Designation.  The March/April issue of the magazine held out some interesting facts that I will pass along in this blog.

These national statistics and observations include the following:

In January, the Federal Reserve noted hopeful signs about the state of the housing market, consumer confidence and the economy at large.  The housing sector plays a key role in economic recovery.

  • Home prices in 2013 ended up 11.3% from the year earlier according to the S&P/CASE-Shiller price index.  That is the best year since 2005.
  • More than 24 million young adults ages 18-34 are living with their parents or parents-in-law.  I have mentioned in several previous blogs that this is very much a factor affecting the first time buyer market and, in turn, the trade up housing market.
  • The housing market for home buyers over 55, however, continued to grow.  People over 55 will increase their homeownership rate to nearly 47% by 2020.
  • Almost half of home sellers last year “upsized” to a larger more expensive home.  The typical home seller had lived in their previous home for 9 years.  88% were assisted by a real estate agent.
  • The delinquency rates continue to fall.  The national delinquency rate (mortgage loan holders who were behind on their payments for 60 days or more) fell below 4% in 2013 – – the lowest level since 2008.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia recorded lower delinquency rates in 2013 and in 2014.
  • Distressed property sales rose last year.  This is not necessarily a bad sign inasmuch as this pool of foreclosed or bank owned property is being absorbed.
  • Houses are getting older.  As buyers and sellers get older, so do houses.  More than 40% of the owner occupied homes in the United States were built before 1969.  Homes built between 2000-2009 accounts for only 15% of our owner occupied housing stock.
  • Mortgage payments rose in 2013.  Families are paying more on their monthly home payments than they did last year.  This is largely due to steadily rising home prices and a very light uptick in interest rates. The monthly cost of owning a home is still considerably less than renting in the majority of markets.

I hope these “tid-bits” have been helpful to you.  As always, I am available to speak with you personally regarding any questions or ideas that you might be contemplating in the field of real estate.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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Carlisle Area Market Share

With last week’s news that Warren Buffet has acquired the Prudential Home Sale Services Group, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at who is doing business in Carlisle and where are they really from?

Buffett purchased the Prudential Home Sale Services Group which is currently headquartered in Lancaster and is the Mid-State’s largest residential Broker business.  The name will change in June to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and, I suppose, they will maintain a branch office on Walnut Bottom Road here in Carlisle.  After June, I suspect you would need to call Warren Buffet if you had a problem with their office or their agents.

Similarly, Howard Hannah is headquartered in Pittsburgh and operates in eight states.  It boasts being one of the top four Residential Real Estate companies in the country.  I imagine contacting Mr. Hannah would be just about as difficult as contacting Mr. Buffett.

NRT is the largest residential real estate company in the country.  They own the Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and ERA labels.  Thus, Jack Gaughen ERA is not locally owned, but I do believe that the corporate Broker of Record “visits“ the Carlisle branch office from time to time.

Keller Williams and Re/Max, both of whom have gained some amount of market share in the Greater Carlisle Area, do not maintain Carlisle offices at all.  Their agents largely operate independently and I would have to do some research to determine how to call the boss.

I am proud to report that Wolfe & Company Realtors, 100% locally owned and operated, boasted a 4th position as to market share in the Greater Carlisle Area again in 2013.  We do this with approximately half as many agents as our competitors.  Our agents are among the best in the business, but “their boss” is available to all of the firm’s customers and clients – – just a phone call or an e-mail away from personal Broker/Owner attention.

Is bigger better?  Well, I have made the pizza analogy before.  You can order your pizza from Dominos, Papa John’s or Little Caesars.  Me? I like to call the Italian guy around the corner.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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Market Snapshot

According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 36 million Americans moved in 2013.  This is approximately 12% of all Americans – – a number similar to the year 2012.

As reported in a prior blog, rentals continue to be a large percentage of all relocations.  Nearly 25% of renters relocated in 2013 while only 5.1% of homeowners moved.

Interestingly enough, approximately 2/3 of those who relocated stayed in the same County and over 40% moved a distance of less than 50 miles.  According to the US Census Bureau report referenced above, long distance moves made up only 25% of relocations.

The North East, surprisingly to me, had the lowest mover rate among regions.  The Mid-West was first, South second and West third.

More locally, the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors reported that December 2013 showed an increase in units sold and median price as compared to December 2012.  Average Days on Market, what I consider to be the most important statistic when evaluating the market, actually increased just a tad from 99 days in 2012 to 97 days in 2012 in the Greater Harrisburg Area.  In Cumberland County, however, Days on Market declined from 90 to 88 and the average sale price increased from $200,874 to $227,382.  Clearly, we are seeing an improvement.

I have mentioned in prior blogs that the number of young people renting or moving home is having an adverse effect on the first time buyer market, which, in turn, affects the trade up market.  In addition, we are still absorbing foreclosure properties here in our market.  This problem has proven to be more extensive than previously thought.

The Harrisburg/Carlisle Metro market experienced a 4.1% DEPRECIATION in property values over the past six years.  2013 showed a -.05 decline in values.  More positively however, is that the third quarter of 2013 showed a +0.1 increase – – the first time in several years.

At Wolfe & Company Realtors, we are off to a very good start for 2014.  Personally, I have already settled $3.5 million worth of transactions and have a good pipeline of pending sales for the balance of the first quarter and into the second.  Our secret is to properly price our listing inventory and simply turn down listing opportunities where the seller’s expectations of value are unrealistic.  Similarly, maintaining our strong base of connections with several of the largest employers and institutions in the area provides us a much better “buyer base” than many of our competitors.

For simply the best Real Estate service available in South Central Pennsylvania, contact Wolfe & Company Realtors.  EXPERIENCE MATTERS!!

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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“Boomerang Buyers”

Just what in the world is a “Boomerang Buyer”?  I wondered the same thing until I recently read an article provided by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.

 “Boomerang Buyers” are those who previously allowed their home to fall into foreclosure but are ready to re-enter the housing market.  Nearly 80% of consumers who lost their homes during the financial crisis are interested in buying again and 41% say their income say their income is higher than when they first purchased the property.  The “Boomerang Buyers” say their debt obligations have lessened and that they are willing to invest more into the purchase of a new property than they were in the past – – over 50% indicating that they would make a down payment of 10% or more as part of their next home purchase.

The PAR Article by Diane Dietz goes on to site John Maddux, co-founder of AfterForeclosure.com, in evaluating the importance of having this pool of buyers return to the market.  Many college students are graduating with significant debt, limited employment options and little faith in what they have seen as a shaky housing market.  Baby Boomers are aging in elevated numbers.  Maddux indicates that there are “literally millions of ex-homeowners who may be qualified to buy a new home again”.

As noted in a previous blog, Pennsylvania is higher than the national average in terms of the number of homes in foreclosure or other form of delinquency.  Actually, we rank 5th.  This suggests that while the Keystone State made it though the recession better than some, there may be a lagging recovery.  Economic and housing statistics seem to confirm this notion.  The fact that Pennsylvania has the 9th slowest population growth rate also contributes to the demand for homes.

The good news, again according to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, is that statewide housing trends showed positive momentum in 2013 and an actual increase in sales over 2012.  Home sales increased nearly 7% in the 4th quarter of 2013 with a gain of nearly 12% over the previous year.  This is very consistent with what we have observed at Wolfe & Company Realtors with a strong 4th quarter finish and a very busy and optimistic pace already for 2014.  It appears to be a steadily improving market where prices are continuing to rise and days on market are continuing to slowly decline.

Finally, the numbers are in for 2013 and I can report again being the Carlisle Area’s top producing independent Broker.  Wolfe & Company Realtor’s office market share was 4th among the more than 50 real estate companies doing business within the Greater Carlisle Area.  The three companies that beat our office sales volume have an average of 23 agents per office.  We have 10 agents dedicated to the sale of residential property.  I am proud of these numbers and believe that 2014 will show significant increase in both my personal production – – already with $5 million of pending transactions for the 1st quarter – – and the overall market share position of our office as a whole.

As always, for the highest level of professional real estate service within the Greater Carlisle Area, contact the HOME TEAM at Wolfe and Company Realtors!

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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