“Without forecasts, we don’t look credible”

I might have said a few negative things about the office of the NAR Chief Economist (did you know NAR have a staff of ten economists and that Dr. Lawrence Yun takes the “the buck stops here” approach? I didn’t) but I’ve also noted positive changes in the past several months. I might still offer constructive criticism in the coming months and years, but my impression after having lunch with Dr. Yun last week is that he is a man occupying an office that was almost irrevocably damaged by his predecessor. Without specifically looking back, he is deliberately looking forward.

Without forecasts, we don’t look credible.

With this statement by Lawrence Yun, newly-named one of the nation’s Top 10 economists, at lunch last week, I was struck with several thoughts – one of incredulity (could the NAR economist really believe that?) to one of credibility (he actually believed it!) – by the end of lunch, I was fairly hopeful that NAR’s Office of the Chief Economist was on the path towards repairing the damage done by Dr. Yun’s predecessor. Taking the high road and with political deftness that was admirable and somewhat frustrating (as good politics are wont to be), Yun sidestepped (I wrote the word ‘dodge’ in my notes) the few questions about David Lereah that were asked and focused on moving forward and making the office his own.

Lunch was full of surprises – not the least that some of the hardest questions were asked by Scott Brunner, VAR’s CEO – but also by how candid Lawrence Yun came across with his answers.

Every organization/group/individual needs a vision. Lawrence Yun’s vision for the office of Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors is one that one might not expect:

My vision is to make the NAR Research division the top source of real estate information and analysis in the country. If a person – be it a Realtor, consumer, congressional staff, economist, or whomever – thinks of real estate, we want that person to think of NAR Research as the place to go first.

Bold. Achievable. Sounds a little crazy. I like that.

That’s quite a leap from the ‘vision’ of his predecessor. Whatever the vision may have been behind closed doors, in reality it seemed to be convince everyone that the time to buy a house is now. Dr. Yun recognizes that credibility is something that is a tradable commodity.

“Data integrity is paramount.” The credibility of our data. With regards to Days on Market, Dr. Yun said about Realtors’ data, (and I’m not going to say that this is a direct quote) – it’s garbage and worthless data when used in the context of what he is trying to accomplish.

Standards of listing and de-listing and re-listing and withdrawing and masking data are so multidudinous around the country that the numbers are worse than worthless. He went so far as to say that maybe he should sit in on some of the data standards discussions – wouldn’t that be great? To have an economist participating in the debate about quality data and the importance that credible data bring to all Realtors? One could only hope.

Quotes and explanations from my notes –

– He has complete autonomy in the message he puts out; NAR Leadership and staff do not have input into the forecasts and analyses he publishes.

– “Data integrity is paramount”

– “Headlines make a difference” – “98% of homes not in foreclosure” is a might different headline than “2% of all homes in foreclosure” or “home foreclosures up 100%!” (but they’re still only 2%)

– “Quickly is not ‘quick'” – referencing the market turnaround – one person’s “quick” likely is different than another’s

– “Fear of the unknown” – with regards to the current state of the credit and housing markets and the international impact and influences

– “Self-fulfilling prophecy” – if we keep saying doom and gloom, we’ll likely perpetuate said doom and gloom.

– “Normal” inventory – five to six months. Now, currently in the Charlottesville regional market, we have about eighteen months of inventory.

– Yes, they do frequent ‘lookbacks’ to gauge the accuracy of their forecasts, but they are “an inexact science”

– He strives for transparency, in contrast to Case-Shiller.

The other bloggers in attendance – and their posts:

Danilo Bogdanovic
Daniel Rothamel
Scott Rogers @ VARBuzz
Matthew Rathbun @ AgentGenius
Ben Martin, blogger and VAR Staff/Social Media guru
Scott Brunner, VAR CEO

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  3. Charleston real estate blog April 3, 2008 at 14:14

    Great stuff Jim, I’m going to forward the DOM quote to my broker who is on the Charleston MLS board trying to straighten out the “relist, refresh, deceive” concept currently employed by many Realtors in the Charleston area.

  4. Kristal Kraft April 3, 2008 at 22:20

    It is nice to learn from such a well respected bloggers in attendance that Mr. Yun came off well. I like the fact he takes “the buck stops here” attitude. So few do today.

    As far as integrity of the data, I doubt most agents playing the DOM game even think about the BIG picture. They are trying to do what they perceive best for the seller.

    Data integrity is paramount, that is a given. Someday maybe we will achieve it, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    Thanks for taking the time to report your observations.

  5. Julie Emery April 4, 2008 at 07:19

    Dr. Yun is certainly a huge improvement over his predecessor. I think he’s got his work cut out for him on data integrity!
    The flip side of “self-fulfilling prophecy” is that if we’re all sunshine in the midst of doom and gloom we look like uninformed idiots, not professionals at the top of our game!

  6. Pingback: Dr. Lawrence Yun Is A Zebra | The Real Estate Zebra

  7. Short Seller April 4, 2008 at 10:46

    Interesting stuff. It’s difficult, however, for Yun’s work to be viewed as independent in that it is almost always accompanied by a “Now is a GREAT time to buy” or a “real estate is always a GREAT investment” statement from the sitting NAR president. So he’s got that and the track record of his predecessor to overcome in an environment where people are becoming more cynical about the virtues of those who work in the real estate profession. Tough job.

  8. Karl Burger April 4, 2008 at 12:56

    I’ve been impressed by what I have seen from Yun. Must have been an honor to have lunch with him. Hopefully, he can give our association more credibility in the long term.

  9. Pingback: Days on market redux and the listing agent show

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