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Real Estate Is Struggling With a Lack of Data

Barry Ritholtz
·3 min read

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- How can we determine the state of the housing market when we lack data? That is the challenge facing those in the real-estate industry today, says this week's guest on Masters in Business, Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Miller Samuel and a master appraiser and consultant to the industry. The contract data we do have reflects transactions entered into a month or so ago, before most of the shelter-in-place orders were adopted.

Miller’s expertise on real-estate appraisals and transactions comes from the data he assembles and analyzes. He has created a variety of real-estate data analytics for regional and national markets. He is sought after as the go-to appraiser for the most expensive dwellings in Manhattan.

Miller, who also writes at the Matrix Blog, explains how real estate is responding to the lockdown: The industry move to online listing services, such as Street Easy and Zillow, is all but complete. But some online sites are removing crucial data from their listings, including “days since listed” that show how long a property has been on the market. We also discuss the challenges appraisers are having doing interiors inspections, now in New York City but eventually the rest of the country. Appraisals that are “desktop” by computers, or “curbside” drive-bys are becoming more common, he said.

Part of the problem the residential market is facing is that the spring selling season most likely is lost; how soon the market returns to normal won't be known until the pandemic passes. Although virtual tours and live videos are an option for some buyers, the human element requires being physically present to see, walk through and even smell a home, which is usually a person’s largest purchase.

His favorite books are here; a transcript of our conversation is available here. Our 2014 conversation with Miller can be found here; our 2016 MiB is here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Next week, we speak with James Montier, a member of GMO UK Lt.’s asset allocation team. Before joining GMO in 2009, he was co-head of global strategy at Societe Generale. He is the author of several books including “Behavioural Investing: A Practitioner’s Guide to Applying Behavioural Finance”; “Behavioural Finance: Insights into Irrational Minds and Markets” and “The Little Book of Behavioural Investing.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”

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