Michael Seward Real Estate: Pioneer Valley & 5 Colleges Area Agency for the 21st Century Consumer


If you are planning on selling your home and your real estate agent suggests that you allow him or her to keep your most valuable asset off the multiple listing service (MLS) so they can only show it to their buyers, you should tell them no. You may also want to show them the door.  

While it is ok for a seller to request that their home be kept off the MLS, it is not ok for a real estate agent to suggest it.  

When selling your home, you want your home exposed to as many home shoppers as possible. More exposure means more interest in your home, which translates to a better sales price.  It is not in a home seller’s best interests to allow a real estate agent to keep their listing in a real estate agent’s pocket. That’s why it is also known as a “pocket listing”. 

The whole point of the MLS is to maximize exposure.  It syndicates listings across numerous real estate search websites. The MLS also allows other real estate agents to share your listing with their clients. The main reason for real estate agents to keep a listing off the MLS is to keep more of the commission for themselves. It’s greed. Massachusetts real estate agency law requires that agents put their client’s interests first. It’s called a fiduciary responsibility. Further, the MLS that local real estate agents use requires that sellers sign a form if they want their listing kept off the MLS. The same form also states that the real estate agent the home seller initiated the conversation. 

 Here is what a non-MLS listing form states exactly.

“The Owner(s)/Seller(s), by signing below, acknowledge(s) that the Broker has fully informed the Owner(s)/Seller(s) of the potenal benefits to the Owner(s)/Seller(s) of using the MLS for the sale/lease of the Property. The Owner(s)/Seller(s), by signing below, acknowledge(s) those potenal benefits and further acknowledge(s) the following:

1.  That, by not listing the Property with the MLS, (a) the Property will not be exposed to the more than 26,500 real estate agents who use the MLS and (b) without such exposure, the Owner(s)/Seller(s) may not have the opportunity to achieve the highest market valuaon for the Property. 

2. That the decision not to list the Property with the MLS is solely the decision of the Owner(s)/ Seller(s), iniated by the Owner(s)/Seller(s).

3. That the Broker is a subscriber to MLS PIN and, as such, the Broker has an obligation to report all properties to MLS PIN for listng with the MLS, unless the owner/seller, at its own initiative, decides that it does not want the property listed with the MLS.”

A home seller doesn’t want to employ a real estate agent who looks out for their own interests instead of that of their client."

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®. He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist. He has been a REALTOR® since 2003. Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology. 



The United States Senate is about to pass a measure to repeal many key provisions of  the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Although the bill may have originally been intended to unburden small community banks, it has turned into a gift for the big banks that were responsible for the financial crisis ten years ago, thereby making the economy vulnerable to another financial crisis, while also undermining fair housing regulations.  A National Association of REALTORS® letter from December 1, 2017 indicated a desire to work with lawmakers to craft this legislation.  It also expressed agreement with one provision regarding the easing of protections for consumers who buy manufactured homes. 


"This bill will increase the likelihood that American taxpayers will be on the hook for another bailout," said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren during a press conference that was aired on her Facebook page, citing the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the bill, adding, "I don't know how anyone, regardless of political party, can support a bill like that."

According to the CBO's summary of the bill, it will also, "increase federal deficits by $671 million over the 2018-2027 period; that increase in the deficit represents an increase in direct spending of $233 million and a decrease in revenues of $439 million. Some of that cost and reduction in revenues would be recovered through collections from financial institutions in years after 2027."

The Senate bill, S. 2155, also known as "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act" will redefine so-called "Too big to fail" banks as those with assets of $250 billion, rather than $50 billion, it will soften capital requirements for custodial banks, it would offer relief for smaller banks from the Volcker Rule, and it will ease data collection requirements of mortgage lenders that help regulators spot discriminatory loan practices.  Although Senate Republicans wanted to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren's brainchild, it was reportedly a non-starter for Democrats, some of whom support this legislation.  The Wall Street Journal offers a nice summary of the bill here.   

Warren noted that Countrywide, one of the banks responsible for many of the bad mortgages that contributed to the financial crisis, would be regulated like a community bank under this bill.  Community banks were not responsible for the financial crisis.  

The Intercept ran a long piece on S. 2155, which explains certain nuances that reveal the banking industry's hand in the bill.  Regarding relief for the so-called "custodial banks," the Intercept reported how Citi Bank had some changes made to the bill, for example.

"Republicans and Democrats who pushed S.2155 through the Senate Banking Committee must have heard Citi’s call," The Intercept reported, "They changed the definition of a custodial bank in a subsequent version of the bill," the Intercept reported. It used to stipulate that only a bank with a high level of custodial assets would qualify, but now it defines a custodial bank as 'any depository institution or holding company predominantly engaged in custody, safekeeping, and asset servicing activities.  The change could allow virtually any big bank to take advantage of the new rule."

What's more, community banks don't seem to need relief, as the Intercept reported, citing a FDIC report and other sources.

"In the third quarter of 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reported that 96 percent of the nation’s 5,294 community banks were profitable, up from just 70 percent in the depths of the crisis in 2009," The Intercept reported, "And those profits are higher than everwith greater loan growth than the big banks. Community bankers would argue that consolidation and bank failures have weeded out those who cannot compete, but failures have been nearly nonexistent and consolidation is in line with historical patterns. Indeed, all but the smallest community banks are actually growing  in number and assets. In addition, nearly all of the most important Dodd-Frank rules are already tailored to exempt or reduce costs on smaller banks."

Warren said that if S. 2155 was about easing the burden of community banks, she would not be opposed to it.  

"If this bill was only about community banks, we'd be having an entirely different conversation," Warren said.  "We had some consensus about helping community banks. The problem was over adding provisions to this bill that help giant banks. A bank that is a quarter of a trillion dollars is not a community bank, and it should not be regulated as a community bank.  To do that is extraordinarily dangerous for the economy."  

The housing industry is for the bill.   According to Housingwire, Independent Community Bankers of America, the National Home Builders Association, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all support the measure, while The Center for Responsible Lending, the National Community Law Center, and  National Community Reinvestment Coalition oppose it.  

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Mortgage Bankers Association has donated $487,000 to legislators in 2018, the Independent Community Bankers of America have donated $568,200, and the National Home Builders Association has donated $334,000.  The American Bankers Association has already spent over $1 million in contributions to legislators in 2018.  Citigroup spent over $5 million in 2017 on lobbying alone.  The list goes on and on.  The organizations that oppose the measure didn't make comparable contributions, if any.  

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) hasn't stated their position publicly, as the second biggest spender in lobbying.  However, they did submit a letter regarding S. 2155.  

"Finding ways to provide regulatory relief for small community banks and credit unions that will benefit consumers is a primary goal for REALTORS®," NAR's letter stated. "NAR is eager to work with the Committee to achieve that goal of enacting legislation that provides regulatory relief for financial institutions while preserving protections for consumers and taxpayers.  Both are key components for a robust housing market."

I don't know what NAR did behind closed doors, but they seem to be pursuing a housing market that will lead to another financial crisis, rather than a sustainable one.  That is not in the best interest of its members.  In the absence of NAR's opposition to this bill, and in light of their other lobbying efforts to loosen Dodd-Frank, one can only assume that they support it.  

NAR appears to support the provisions in the bill concerning manufactured home purchases, while those who oppose the bill say it weakens protections for consumers.

"By permitting steering by manufactured-home companies to their affiliated lenders—in other words, directing borrowers toward the company’s preferred lender—the bill makes a laughingstock of Congress’ commitment to rural Americans, especially those of modest means.," Americanprogress.org reported.  "As a particular carveout for the manufactured-home industry regardless of the size of the lender, it increases the costs and risk to borrowers who are already often lower-income and more financially vulnerable. Minimal consumer protections included in the bill are less than what exists today, which means they are not strong enough."

Yet NAR indicated its approval with the provision in their letter, which doesn't recognize weakened consumer protections.  

"The legislation excludes manufactured housing retailers and sellers from the definition of loan originator, so long as they do not receive compensation or gain for taking residential mortgage loan applications, " NAR stated. "In many areas of the country, manufactured homes are the only type of quality affordable housing available."  

Polls show that most Americans do not want the big banks and financial services industry deregulated, but it appears as though special interests will trump the will of the people yet again.   We will see how robust that real estate market ends up being in the long run.  I'm sure history will teach us another hard lesson that will be subsequently ignored.  

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.  Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology. 

Michael Seward  file photo of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Ware, MA.


Imagine if an officer of the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization known as steadfast defenders of the second amendment, was the director of the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), a federal agency that enforces gun law.  The commonwealth's government body responsible for regulating licensed real estate agents has been led by an officer of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley (RAPV), the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS (MAR), and The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) since 2011.  NAR significantly outspends the NRA in lobbying and campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.   The public should be informed, and, perhaps, outraged over NAR's efforts that influence our lawmakers, given the scope of their lobbying efforts and the impact those efforts have had on our democracy.  

Although NAR's nearly 1.3 million members join as a precondition of their job, while NRA's 5.5 million members join voluntarily with a passion for their cause, the former's influence should not be minimized in the face the higher profile of latter's influence.   REALTORS® are a potent force behind key legislation that affects us all.

The Center for Responsive Politics reported that the NRA spent just over $5.1 million in lobbying in 2017, while NAR spent just over $54.5 million in 2017--over 10 times as much.   NAR also spent an additional $11.5 million in "outside spending".   The issues other than housing policy for which NAR lobbies include finance, health care, immigration, environmental law, taxes, patent law, and more.   While the public can see the impact of the NRA in the wake of mass shootings, NAR's impact on society is much more subtle, much more significant, and much more extensive.   

NRA was also outspent by NAR in campaign contributions during the 2016 election cycle.  NRA donated $573,750 to 214 Republicans members of the U.S. House of Representatives at an average of $2,681 per contribution.  Four House Democrats received $10,500 at an average of $2,625 per contribution.  Twenty-three Republican members of the U.S. Senate received $135,100, for an average contribution of $5,873, while contributing nothing to senate Democrats.  

NAR's spending is indicative of its far-reaching influence on lawmakers..   REALTOR® association PACs and other affiliates donated a total of $3,294,505 to 425 members of the House during the 2016 election cycle, just 10 shy of every single member of the House.  Two-hundred-forty-three House Republicans were given a total of $1,901,450, for an average contribution of $7,824.   The 182 House Democrats who NAR gave  $1,393,055 averaged $$7,654 per contribution.  NAR gave 62 U.S. Senators a total of $298,998.  Thirty-five Republicans received a total of $211,602, for an average contribution of $6,045.  NAR gave 26 Democrats $86,396, for an average contribution of $3,322.  One Independent received $1,000.  

Members of Congress who represent districts that include the Pioneer Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats Richard Neal and James McGovern, each received $10k from NAR in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.   NAR also contributed $1,000 each to Massachusetts U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren.   The organization that reports these numbers discloses that these figures come from the organization's political action committee (PAC), it's members, family, and affiliated organizations.  However, given the round numbers of these totals, it is likely those contributions came from RPAC, the REALTOR® Political Action Committee, rather than individual contributions that just happened to add up to $10k and $1k for the members of congress mentioned above.

The REALTOR® association is a much more entrenched fixture in the halls of our government than the NRA.   The current chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons, the government entity in charge of regulating real estate agents (including REALTORS®) and protecting consumers, has simultaneously been serving as an officer of one of the most powerful lobbies in America.   As you can see from this NAR profile, Kevin Sears, a REALTOR® from the Pioneer Valley, was appointed to his chairmanship by Deval Patrick in 2011, a year after he served as the president of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®.  He has also been a major contributor to RPAC, the REALTOR® Political Action Committee, since 2004.  Since his appointment to the Massachusetts regulatory body that oversees REALTORS®, Sears has been inducted to the RPAC Hall of Fame, he has served on numerous NAR and RPAC committees, he was a 2016 NAR Vice President representing New England, he was the 2017 NAR Vice President of Government Affairs, and Sears is currently on the 2018 NAR Board of Directors and REALTOR® Party Trustees for Campaign Services Committee.   Governor Charlie Baker reappointed Sears to chairman in 2016.

Readers who have a problem with President Donald Trump's appointment of a climate change denier who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency as that agency's director,  the appointment of a former telecommunications industry attorney to Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the appointment of a wealthy champion of charter schools to Secretary of Eduction, and the appointment of an oil industry executive to Secretary of State, may see how a REALTOR® officer serving as head of the commonwealth's real estate agent regulatory board should be viewed as problematic.   The EPA director is not an officer of a fossil fuel trade group, the FCC chairman is not an officer of a telecommunications trade group, the Secretary of Education is not an officer of a charter school trade group, and the Secretary of State is not an officer of another country.  But a REALTOR® association officers has been appointed by a Democratic and Republican governor to the head of Massachusetts' regulatory body in charge of real estate agents since 2011.   

While the state regulatory board has the authority to suspend the licenses of those who break state agency law, the REALTOR® associations are responsible for hearing grievances that result from unethical behavior.   REALTORS® police themselves within the bounds of the rules of their own private organization.  As I've explained above, they also police themselves from a state government seat in Massachusetts.   Because the outcomes of REALTOR® association proceedings are confidential, the public is not informed about agents who are known to have employed unethical business practices.  I have personally observed both ignorance and willful violations of state law and ethics rules by many, as I'm sure other REALTORS® have observed.   Often times, complaints for ethics violations aren't even reported by REALTORS®, because the time involved to do so isn't worth it.  And the public doesn't even know to report unethical behavior, or recognize it when it happens.  REALTORS® are also required to arbitrate if there is a contractual dispute, which also leaves certain cases outside the public view.   Isn't that convenient?  

This is not an indictment against Mr. Sears, nor is it an indictment against any specific position of NAR and its state and local chapters.   This is merely a wake-up call to the public who may not be aware of the staggering influence one special interest group has over their government.  The policies they espouse have an impact on everyone in our society, whether they own a home or not, whether they like or not, whether they know it or now, and whether they agree with NAR's policies or not.  These policies can have both a positive and negative impact, examples of which are discussed further below.  As such, the public should be informed about NAR's efforts as much as they are informed about the influence of the NRA.    

A short history of NAR sheds some light on how a special interest group officer can serve on a state regulatory body over its own members without much notice by the press, whose duty it is to inform the public, or without much outrage by said public.   The public never elected REALTORS® to public office any more than they elected NRA officers to public office.   

NAR was formerly known as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, which was founded in 1908 in Chicago.   Real estate exchanges had previously operated at the local level since the mid-1800's, when there were no ethics rules or real estate license laws and when real estate and mortgage fraud was a common scourge.  When these local exchanges formed a national organization in 1908, it had just over 1600 members with the mission of promoting real estate interests.   Their first Code of Ethics was drafted in 1913.    NAR's Code of Ethics, which is still in use today, was the precursor to state license law.  And it can be argued that NAR helped build the American middle-class, as Jeffrey Hornstein does in his 2005 book, "Nation of Realtors: A Cultural History Of The Twentieth-century American Middle Class."   

"The federated structure allows the REALTOR® organization to use its combined resources to have a unified, powerful voice in shaping public policy, setting a recognized standard for ethical real estate practice, and contributing to the betterment of the industry," Kevin Mulligan, NAR Vice President for Member Policy was quoted as saying in a NAR video, A History of NAR for New Association Executives.  

The national organization was born from a group of local real estate exchanges, thereby planting the seeds for the tremendous influence they currently enjoy on housing policy and other legislation at the local, state, and national level.  Whether or not NAR's efforts is in the best interest of our society is for the public to decide, but the public is not informed about the consequences of their past efforts, and the potential consequences of their current efforts. 

The nation is currently engaged in robust public debate regarding gun laws.  Most Americans support more stringent gun-control measures, and lawmakers are under intense pressure to enact them.  Yet due to the political clout of the NRA, the Georgia legislature recently retaliated against Delta Airlines, a private company, for merely ending a partnership with the gun lobby.   Meanwhile, in Florida, the state where the most recent school shooting took place refused to ban the types of guns that have become synonymous with these types of massacres.   This is all out there for the public to see.  The press is all over it. 

Less obvious are the implications of the REALTOR® association's well-funded influence in conjunction with its state and local chapters.   NAR's capacity to influence public policy that affects so many is astounding compared to that of the NRA, which spends much less money in lobbying.  Despite the fact that the majority of Americans support increased gun-control, lawmaker bow to the will of the gun lobby.   Despite multiple incidents of innocent lives lost to guns in what was supposed to be the safety of the classroom, lawmakers are not inclined to act and gun sales are up.  (Most of NRA's money goes to advertisements either supporting Republican candidates or attacking Democratic candidates, not lobbying or campaign contributions.)  

If the NRA can undermine the will of the people with its influence over lawmakers in the wake of terrible tragedies with comparatively little lobbying money and campaign contributions, then the public should be paying much more attention to the impact NAR's efforts have on lawmakers and, subsequently, society in the wake of the worst economic collapse in modern history.  The REALTOR® association is looking out for its own, not the public.  NAR has been so entrenched in our political process for so long, they may be confused as permanent fixtures in the halls of the Capitol Building.   The press should be critically asessing NAR's lobbying efforts to help inform our democracy, instead of serving as stenographers by reporting their sales stats and accompanying spin designed to influence or manipulate the consumers.

The real estate market is faced with increasingly low inventory, which is pricing many home buyers out of the market.   Recent college graduates face crippling student debt, which is making it nearly impossible to buy a home.  And higher interest rates are decreasing the buying power of home buyers.  Should the public be relying on REALTORS® to solve these problems?  

Ten years ago, the economy was dealing with one of the greatest recessions in American history thanks to the real estate industry, arguably the bedrock of our economy.  Millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes.  Homeowners lost wealth as their property values dropped.  Wealth inequality is greater today than it was before the financial crisis.  Yet despite the fact that there were many sounding the alarm about the impending economic collapse, the chief economist of NAR at the time was assuring consumers that real estate was a safe bet, thereby making the impact of the financial crisis worse as more people bought homes in the midst of skyrocketing values.  According to two fellows of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a non-partisan public policy think-tank, REALTOR® association lobbying efforts also contributed to the financial crisis that adversely affected so many.

"The financial crisis in 2008 was the result of government housing policies—strongly backed by both the Realtors and homebuilders—that encouraged and sometimes even demanded reductions in underwriting standards so that more Americans with modest incomes could buy homes,"  AEI Senior Fellow Peter J. Wallison and Resident Fellow Edward J. Pinto stated in Real Clear Politics.  "The result was a massive housing boom, which drove up prices for first-time homebuyers. By 2007, housing was unaffordable for people of modest means, no matter how concessionary the mortgage terms. The crash in housing values that followed caused many Americans—who bought houses at inflated prices they couldn’t afford—to lose their homes."

Most Pioneer Valley voters supported the political revolution of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who was outspoken against wealth inequality in America during the 2016 presidential Democratic Party primaries, over the eventual Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, those same voters should be outspoken against certain efforts of NAR if they are true to their convictions.   That is not to say, however, that they would be opposed to all of NAR's efforts if they were adequately informed by an independent source.    

Although NAR can be credited with helping to build the middle-class in the 20th century, there most recent "call to action" for its members was to protect the mortgage interest deduction (MID), a homeowner tax subsidy that allows homeowners to deduct the interest on their mortgage from their federal income taxes, which, at the time of NAR's campaign, was allowable on mortgages up to $1 million.  Numerous studies have shown MID increases wealth inequality and makes it harder for renters to become homeowners.  The New York Times ran a lengthy piece about how MID fosters inequality; a study by the real estate search website Trulia showed how MID leads to inequality for women and minorities, a study by National Low Income Housing Coalition showed how MID contributed to the racial wealth gap.  The Brookings Institute has published reports demonstrating why MID should be reformed, tbut NAR wanted to protect those who can afford a $1 million mortgage from a tax increase.  The tax reform bill ended up reducing MID to a $750K mortgage cap.

More recently, NAR lobbied to loosen Dodd-Frank, the legislation that resulted from the irresponsible business practices of the mortgage and finance services industry that contributed to the financial crisis.  

REALTORS® have lobbied Massachusetts legislators, as well.   Residents of the commonwealth may have wished for more say than MAR had behind closed doors regarding mandatory home energy audits and scoring, which MAR efforts defeated in a previous legislative session.   MAR continues to oppose this proposal, as some on Beacon Hill are still pursuing it. This could be a good way to combat global warming, but it may never happen because REALTORS® don't approve.  Does that make sense to you? They also opposed room tax legislation, zoning legislations that sought to promote sustainable communities, new real estate transfer taxes, requirements to disclose wetlands, and they advocated for the passage of starter home legislation.   The necessity of the last one on this list resulted from REALTORS'® own lobbying that priced so many home buyers out of the market in the first place.  Does the public really want REALTORS® determining solutions to the problems they helped to create?  

NAR lobbied 156 bills on a wide array of issues in 2017 that impact our democratic society, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.   NAR will continue to be a powerful force influencing policies that impact everyone, for better or worse.   We should be paying more attention to the lobbying efforts of REALTORS®, because special interests aren't the same as the public's interests in a democracy.  REALTOR® solutions to the forces that affect the real estate market may not be the solutions the public wants.  Those efforts may also include consequences the public doesn't want.  That is why there should be rigorous public  debate, not private discussions behind closed doors. The United States Constitution doesn't start with, "We the REALTORS®.  It starts with, "We the people..."

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®. He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist. He has been a REALTOR® since 2003. Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology.



The Wall Street Journal and Inman News recently reported that new home sales were down in December and January, but economists reportedly aren't worried. Both articles offer different perspectives, even different data from different government sources.  Nevertheless, in light of the challenges homebuilders face with today's market conditions, home builders could save money on one of their most expensive sub-contractors to either increase their profits or to provide more negotiating room, their real estate agent.   

Inman News reported that the northeast saw a drop of 33.3% in new home sales.   This data isn't specific to the Pioneer Valley, but inventory is generally way down everywhere, which is raising prices out of reach for many home buyers.  While not specific to new construction, the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley reported in its January sales report that single-family inventory was down in January 32.6% when compared to the same period last year.   New construction simply isn't keeping up with demand, and I've talked to home builders who are no longer building homes because they weren't making enough money.  Adding to the dilemma is lumber shortages, which will reportedly be adding to construction costs, thanks to a combination of factors, including Trump administration tariffs on Canadian sawmills (from where a 1/3 of lumber is imported),  wildfires, weather events closing sawmills in the American southeast, and the lack of available railcars, according to the Wall Street Journal.  It makes sense to explore different brokerage models to make buying and selling a home more affordable for home sellers and builders to help increase inventory.   

According to the Wall Street Journal's report, one reason why some economists reportedly aren't concerned about recent declines in newly constructed home sales is they weren't nationwide.   The Wall Street Journal cited the U.S. Commerce Department, while Inman News cited the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to report the same news--that newly built single-family homes saw a 7.8% drop after a drop in December.  However, The Journal reported a 7.6% drop in December, while Inman News reported a 9.3% drop.  Go figure.   

"If the drop in January were related primarily to economic factors, it is likely that all regions would have experienced declines,” Nationwide chief economist David Berson was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal article

Adverse weather conditions was cited by The Journal for the reason of drastic declines in the northeast. 

“Weather likely played a factor in new home sales falling for the second straight month in January,” T.J. Connelly, head of research at Contingent Macro Advisors, said in a note to clients, according to The Journal. “The Northeast and the South saw sharp declines, while the West and Midwest, where weather was better, saw gains.

However, Inman news reported that only the west saw gains, while offering a different view as to what a decrease in new home sales means.

"The Northeast experienced the greatest dip in residential home sales (-33.3 percent), followed by the Midwest (-15.4 percent), South (-14.2 percent)," Inman News reported. "Only the West experienced an increase (1.0 percent)."

Realtor.com economist Dr. Joseph Kirchner stated that these decreases indicated that builders will be building less expensive homes. 

"Today’s report provides further evidence that builders are slowly shifting toward more moderately priced homes,” Kirshner stated in an email to Inman News.  “The drop in sales may be due to saturation in the upper price range of the market, which should compel builders to follow the market and build more moderately priced homes.”

The Journal stated that these sales stats are unreliable and often require revisions.  Inman News shed some light on the reason why in their report.

"The Census Bureau and HUD use sample surveys to collect data for their home sales, which means this data is subject to sampling variability as well as the typical statistical variance," the real estate industry news site reported. "The survey is based on a sample of houses pulled from building permits. “Sales” are defined as deposits taken or sales agreements signed, not necessarily closings."

Regardless, home builders and home sellers face challenges as mortgage rates are expected to rise faster in 2018.    Home builders could benefit from real estate agents who offer lower commission rates, a flexible commission structure, and even fee-for-service listing agencies.  Michael Seward Real Estate offers them all.   Home builders have left the business due to losses in profits in recent years, and a real estate sales commission of 5% or 6% is a big sub-contractor expense that eats into a home builder's profits.  Lower costs would help incentivize builders to get back to building homes.  Technology has reduced the price of marketing a home. It's time for home builders to take full advantage of it. 

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.  Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology. 

Enjoy these videos of great homes for sale in the Pioneer Valley.  Then call Michael Seward at 413-531-7129 to schedule a showing.

Photo credit: By Rishichhibber (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



The Pioneer Valley saw 136 fee-for-service listings sold in 2017, based on information provided to and compiled by MLS Property Information Network, Inc. (MLS PIN).  These are listings where a home seller paid a listing agent a fee to enter a listing in the MLS, also known as "entry-only listings".  Such sellers handle the sale of their own property, but they offer a buyers' agent a commission or nominal fee.  Although home sellers are not required to, it appears from MLS data that most homeowners will offer compensation to buyers' agents.  It is a way for home sellers to handle their own sale, while benefiting from the exposure of the multiple listing service.  

The U.S. Justice Department estimated that home sellers can potentially save over $6200 in sales commissions on a home priced at $184,334 in 2015 with fee-for-service real estate agents.

I ran the market reports for fee-for-service listings for single-family homes, condominiums, multi-family properties, and land listings in the three counties of the Pioneer Valley to determine the average days on market, average sales price, and median sales price.  Then the same market report was ran for all sold listings in the valley.   Both reports were ran using MLS PIN's market report tool and included here for the reader's consideration.   

Most fee-for-service listings that sold in 2017 were single-family homes.  A total of 112 such listings were sold at an average sales price of $259,462.  The average days on market was 85.91 days, which was just a week longer than the the overall average cited by the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley's (RAPV) numbers.    Out of all the 5989 single-family homes that sold in the Pioneer Valley, the average sales price was $229,790, while the average days on market was 80.    The median price of sold fee-for-service single-family homes was $248,950.    RAPV reported that the 2017 median single-family sales price was $208,000.    (RAPV reported 5999 single-family homes sold.)

There were total of 13 condos that sold were fee-for-service listings in 2017.  Condos saw an average of 62.62 days on market with an average sales price of $198,100.   MLS PIN data shows that a total of 902 condos sold in the valley in 2017 with an average of 117 days on market with an average sales price of $189,511.   The median price for sold fee-for-service condos was $180,000, while it was $160,000 for all sold condos listed in the MLS.

Ten multi-family properties sold in the valley as a fee-for-service listing in 2017 with an average of  45.7 days on market.  The average sales price was $100,389.   There were a total of 744 multi-family listings sold in 2017, according to MLS PIN.  They had an average sales price of $184,540 with an average of 85 days on market.    The median price for sold fee-for-service multi-family properties was $75,519, while the same for all such properties was $170,000.  

Only one land fee-for-service listing was sold in the valley in 2017.  It consisted of 2.2 acres in Hatfield. It was on the market for 707 days, and it sold for $87,500.   Although it was on the market awhile, the original list price was $88,000.    There were a total of 285 land listings sold in 2017, according to MLS PIN.  The median sales price was $70,000, while the average sales price was $87,051.

Selling one's home with a fee-for-service real estate agency may not be for everyone.  It can be a lot of work, and there is a learning curve.  Nevertheless, it is a viable option for home sellers who want to keep as much of the equity in their home as possible.   Low inventory has been a chronic problem in the Pioneer Valley, in Massachusetts, and in the nation.  It is driving up home prices, thereby putting homeownership out of reach for many home buyers.  Mortgage rates continue to climb, which is reducing the buying power of home shoppers. And economic inequality has made it more important than ever for the middle-class to keep more of the equity in their homes when they sell.  It is important for real estate agents to offer solutions to make home buying and home selling help bridge the gap.  Michael Seward Real Estate offers different options to help home buyers and home sellers achieve their goals. Call Mike at 413-531-7129 today.

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.  Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology. 

Enjoy these videos of great homes for sale in the Pioneer Valley.  Then call Michael Seward at 413-531-7129 to schedule a showing.