Matrix Blog

Continuing Education & Licensing

[Inman RE Connect] Brokers v Economists, Republicans v Democrats

January 13, 2008 | 12:33 pm | |

Another Inman News Real Estate Connect conference is behind us and as a result, I feel more informed, was able to meet new industry people, be exposed to new concepts, was able to see many colleagues, get another Inman bag full of pens and post-it note thingies. In other words, it was time well spent.

Brad Inman provided a great overview of his interpretation of where the market was going to the audience at the close of the conference, which was rational, clear and in many ways, the distillation of all the information and filtered spin that was presented over the previous three days. I need to listen to Brad more often – I wish his summary was available (Hey Joel, how about his summary for Inman TV?)

Housing market direction discussion throughout the conference was essentially presented by two camps which seemed to parallel the ongoing presidential primaries:

  • Sales agents, brokers and NAR current and former employees [ie Republicans] — This group is nearly always providing a silver lining because they are paid for their ability to sell a vision or idea. Thats their job. Thats being said, I was surprised at the quantity of pollyanna-isms still peppering the reasoning why housing will recover in 2008. In the last two main session panels on the last day, it was very interesting to hear a lot of discussion about second home units and how they posed no greater risk than primary home units because they weren’t flips (reality check: when someone loses their job, which mortgage payment do they stop first: their family home or the ski lodge condo?)

  • Economists and academics [ie Democrats] — There is an old saying that economists are paid to worry. Prescribers of the red light theory (people are more likely to remember the negatives such as all the red traffic lights they hit, rather than the green) love this stuff. The keynote panel discussion was terrific, (Barry Ritholz and Noah Rosenblatt were great at laying it all out) but everyone needed to receive counseling for depression when it was over.

Thats why this period of housing turbulence feels a lot like the presidential primaries. Its all about how the information is presented, whether or not its in the right context and whose interests are being served.

[Palumbo On USPAP] USPAP 2008: Be Careful What You Wish For

December 9, 2007 | 11:22 am |

Palumbo On USPAP is written by Joe Palumbo, SRA, a long time appraisal colleague and friend who is also an Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) certified instructor and a user of appraisal services. Joe is well-versed on the ever changing landscape of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice [USPAP].

Its holiday time, but as far as USPAP goes, Joe warns us to be careful what we wish for. …Jonathan Miller

In a few weeks the much talked about issue of the 7/1/2006 USPAP will be all but a memory. The fanfare about the elimination of the Departure Rule and the terms associated with it has fizzled out.

The Scope of Work Rule is firmly in place. The subtle but important edits to the definitions of credible and appraiser’s peers are well digested.

Funny thing about this USPAP: it may end up being as user friendly as it should (could) be. About ten years ago when I got started in USPAP instruction one of the constant grumblings (myself included) was that there was “too much” to know and worry about, not totally from a “development or communication” perspective but from and administrative angle. How do I label this thing? If I do not do an approach is that a limited appraisal? What do I tell the reader when Departingdo I quote the Specific Standards Rules I did not adhere to? At the time.. and admittedly over the years.but until a few years I would agree. A huge step in the right direction occurred with the 7/1/2006 edition. Prior to that, confused users of appraisals and appraisers often spent more time debating the “little things” than the overall validity of the conclusion.

I thought to myself would we ever have a USPAP the reflects more simplistically: ” Here is my appraisal, based on the Scope described in the report and yes it is credible for the intended use” (please note the invoice is on top).

Be careful what you wish for. In 2008 the Appraisal Standards Board, becoming more liberal and practical as the years go by “promulgated” what seems to me their best work yet. No huge fanfare this time, no six-month prior release.. just a well crafted “slimmer” document that presents the minimum obligations that we professionals need as starting point. The Key change for 2008 is the elimination of the definition of the Supplemental Standards and the Supplemental Standards Rule. Basically, the obligations associated with what was contained in the Supplemental Standard Rule are embedded in USPAP elsewhere. Bottom line.. working with (GSE’s) Government Sponsored Enterprises, Government Agencies or entities that establish public policy requires knowledge of requirements any laws and regulations as they relate in the appraisal process. This is identified elsewhere in USPAP (Scope of Work, Ethics Rule, Competence ) so the Rule was deemed to be more than what was needed and somewhat redundant. The end result is in fact a less cumbersome more simplistic set of “guidelines”. I often do “graphic presentation” in classes where I literally rip apart a USPAP, and reconstruct it based on the audience area of practice. Most of these classes are for the past 13 years are (99%) practicing real property appraisers including litigators, bankers, lenders, and other institutional occupations that rely on appraisals and appraisal reviews nothing more (commercial / residential) maybe a bit of appraisal consulting. (Standard 4 and 5)…but not a whole lot. That makes it easy…you could basically tear out and throw away half the book from Standard 6 through 10, and also match that up with the concepts in Statements and Advisory Opinions that do not apply, tear them out as well. What’s the point? Well, that “Home-made” USPAP, the “practical” one you have been looking for is a about one-third the thickness of the entire USPAP. Got a scheduled flight coming up? Take it along. It is an easy read…even in a minor delay.

Okay here is the warning label: all of this reduction in paper and requirements comes with a disclaimer: Less can be more, when it comes to Standards, because when the ASB removes something that they feel was there all alongone may question if the full understanding was there to start? I commented to one of the ASB members about the changes (reduction in requirements) over the past few years: Gee, it seems like we are really adding (more) responsibility and moving to a competency driven concept. “No”, he said, “we are not adding…it is more like we are revealing what was already there”. Brilliant I say. Brilliant.

I only remember this word “promulgate” from the USPAP Instructor exam and chuckle whenever I use it in a classroom…sounds like a medical procedure…like the USPAP thing itself..Ok sorry to digress. It means “publish or proclaim” and that is what the ASB has been granted authority to do. I certainly do not consider myself one who has any such authority…but to all of my associates that sign, review , rely on or use appraisals in some is time to “Proclaim”…less more in the appraisal world for 2008.

I think it was Peter Parker’s uncle in Spiderman who said “with great power comes great responsibility”. He must have been a member of the Appraisal Standards Board. How else can he be so wise?

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Inman TV: Blogging Superstars Clip

August 14, 2007 | 11:11 pm | | Public |

Well, it was pretty flattering to be in the company of bloggers that I admire so much as panelists at Inman Real Estate Connect. Inman TV posted a clip of the panel discussion. Brad moderated the The Blogging Superstars panel. Superstars as a name is a bit over the top. There are so many great bloggers out there.

All the panelists spent some time together in the green room (it wasn’t green) before going on stage. Even though the audience was 1,000+, cameras, stage, etc. I thought the mood was pretty relaxed. Brad is very engaging as an interviewer. Teresa is a dynamo, Kevin pulls no punches, Ardell is truly innovative and Noah is rentless relentless.

Although technology was being pushed and blogging was seen as a marketing vehicle to all real estate agents, I didn’t really agree (but I was the only non-agent on the panel). I think all agents should consider blogging for marketing their brand, but for the majority, it just won’t work. Given the time constraints, variation in writing ability and the ability to connect with the audience, its hit or miss. In addition, everyone on the stage approached blogging differently, so there is no simple template.

However, passion for our topic was what all of us clearly had in common approach. I’d almost say that there needs to be an underlying desire to put your thoughts out to the public, to the point where your friends and family ask the question: “So tell me again why you are doing this?” I think your blog’s association with your business almost needs to be an afterthought.

Here’s a photo, and yet another, and another, and another.

Guy Kawasaki, formerly of Apple Computer once defined the Internet as:

“[30] million people interacting with people they don’t know; about topics they don’t understand; for reasons they can’t explain.”

Thats how blogging started for me.

Inman Connect Conference As A Social Object

August 6, 2007 | 12:36 am | |

Blue Monster from

After three days of real estate bliss at Inman Connect in San Francisco last week, I flew home early Friday afternoon.

Other than the:

  • 2-hour delay at SFO,
  • the lightning storm at JFK International that shut down all air traffic in the Northeast (so I heard),
  • taking a “bigger arc” over Chicago,
  • flying down to Virginia and staying in a holding pattern for another hour,
  • running so low on fuel the airplane had to make an unscheduled landing in Atlantic City,
  • waiting on the tarmac for another hour until about 2am,
  • and then finally arriving at JFK,
  • getting home at 3:30am, it was uneventful,

with one glaring exception: While trapped in the plane in Atlantic City, I got to spend about an hour speaking with Noah Rosenblatt, of, one of the smartest bloggers out there. It was 1am, and I am sure people around us thought we were insane, having excited discussions about the housing market, the economy, the fed to name a few. He’s an ex-Wall Street trader, current successful real estate broker who shared his insights with me about the turmoil in the financial markets.

We both saw the irony of the financial markets right now. Their volatility is driving a flight to quality so bond prices are rising, making yields fall…yet mortgage rates aren’t falling because of the credit crunch and diminishing liquidity.

I have felt strongly for the past year that the Fed would be forced to lower rates by the end of the year, but now its a real dilemna for them. Housing/mortgages have the potential to drag the economy down, spurring the fed to drop rates, yet, with rising oil prices, among other things, there are inflation concerns, causing the Fed to try to cool down the economy. The Fed’s position is probably going to have to remain neutral for a while, so perhaps the language in the upcoming FOMC meeting will be tweaked to show more neutrality.

but I digress…

Marketing is all about social objects.

Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void gave the keynote speech and he was incredibly refreshing. Of course his use of language was much broader than the audience was prepared for if you know what I mean, but he was so interesting, and I feel more…literate, and stuff… His blogging success story with Stormhoek wine was truly amazing.

Bloggers connect, the concurrent conference was a big success and I learned a lot.

I spoke to a bunch of really enthusiastic bloggers brimming with ideas and excitement over their craft including, but not all inclusive because its late: Joe and Rudy of Sellsius who survived their cross country rv tour, Dan Green, John Keith, Joel Burslem, Jessica, Brad (of course) and Glenn of Inman, Lockhart Steele, Pat Kitano, Kevin Boer, Heather Fernandez, Dustin Luther, Ardell DellaLoggia, Teresa Boardman, Hugh MacLeod, Jim Duncan, and Matt Heinz to name a few.

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Inman Connect Makes The San Fran Connection

July 20, 2007 | 1:20 pm | | Public |

One of the things I admire about Brad Inman and his Inman News is that the Real Estate Connect conferences put people together that are empowered to make decisions. Its always a refreshing experience and I have found the conferences to be amazingly productive. I have been going to the New York version, but this year I am making the trip to San Francisco (and an excuse to fly jetBlue).

Look for me as a panelist on Blogging Superstars Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m with very accomplished panelists, none of whom I have ever met, but, oh yeah, I actually read and am a fan of their online efforts and link them to my site.

I am scheduled for the Meet the Leaders/ Meet the Companies program, where I get to stand at a table and hope people come up to me and ask me questions. I did that in New York last year and got to meet a lot of people one on one. A lot of fun. Thursday, August 2, 12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

And lastly, I am moderating a panel of very smart people in the Innovation Tracks program on Thursday that runs on August 2, 2:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. My panel runs from 2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m and is called Data Mining: Information as Business Edge

Panelists: Travis Chow, Founder/CEO, Neighboroo
Ryan Slack, CEO,
Joanne Tiffany, Vice President, Strategic Relations, DataQuick
David Keillor, Chairman & CTO, Technology Concepts

See you there!

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Inman Real Estate Connect Does What It Does Best: Connect

June 18, 2007 | 12:01 am | |

Brad Inman’s Inman News is one of the go to resources for real estate news and information. His blog, newswire, wiki and other resources are essential. One of the things that Inman does better than most is getting people together (hint: connect).

I have been attending or participating as a speaker or moderator in the New York Inman Connect conference since they were initiated a few years back. I hadn’t made the trip to the west coast for the original conference but this year I decided to go. The San Francisco conference is August 1-3 and I am going (I’ll come up with any excuse to fly jetBlue.). Whats so great about Inman conferences is that everyone is excited, there is so much useful information floating around and the participants are the decision-makers.

This year there is a really cool conference within a conference on blogging called, you guessed it, Blogger Connect, preceded by the Joe and Rudy’s Sellsius-fueled cross-country RV tour called, you guessed it, Blog Tour USA.

I am participating on the Blogging Superstars panel (Remember ABC’s Superstars in 1970s? Its not like that.) with three very sharp bloggers that I admire but have never met.

As a panelist
Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Blogging Superstars
* Teresa Boardman, Realtor/Broker, Keller Williams
* Kevin Boer, Principal, Domus Consulting Group
* Ardell DellaLoggia, Associate Broker, Sound Realty
* Jonathan J. Miller, President/CEO, Miller Samuel, Inc. & Chairman, Radar Logic Research

As a moderator
MLS Track
Thursday, August 2, 2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Data Mining: Information as Business Edge
* Travis Chow, Founder/CEO, Neighboroo
* Ryan Slack, CEO,
* Joanne Tiffany, Vice President, Strategic Relations, Data Quick
* David Keillor, Chairman & CTO, Technology Concepts

It should be fun.

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Sellsius Goes All RV On Us, Matrix Hops On Board

May 14, 2007 | 9:48 am |

Joe and Rudy of Sellsius are at it again. Perhaps two of the nicest and idea-laden futurists of the blogosphere, are riding across the US from NYC to San Francisco’s Blogger Connect Conference on July 31st. RV’ing across America is on my childhood wish list. I had long ago looked at options at Cruise America to load up the kids and see America in one of the biggest RV’s I could get my hands. The journey is the reward as someone once said.

I have already checked skydiving and eating a dozen jalapeno peppers in one sitting off the list, so why not this? Well, reality settled in, and I have to tone it down a bit and join them for just one day and then meet up with them at Blogger Connect. Taking an RV into Manhattan is going to be interesting, to say the least.

One other thing I wanted to mention about Joe and Rudy: I was grossly negligent about not posting their Sellsius launch last month. Its been a labor of love for them over the past year and a half. I got sidetracked, self-absorbed and well, you know how that works.

Sellsius has created an alternative to the Craigslist bemoth. A real estate community. By virtue of its nominal membership fee, will provide access to listings and services and weed out the superfluous.

Sellsius. Check it out. Sign up.

Book ’em Dano: Real Estate Reading List+

May 10, 2007 | 7:50 am | |

With 4 kids, 3 businesses, the Yankees and a lot of things going on in between, I still wonder why I haven’t been reading as many books as I used to. My wife is a voracious book reader, but over the past few years, I haven’t kept pace.

I took on this self-loathing view point after attending Daniel Gross‘ book launch last night for Pop! Why bubbles are good for the economy. I spoke with him at his book launch party last night as well as met Barry Ritholtz, who, along with Dan, are among the smartest and most acessible writers and interpreters of economics out there.

I read a large portion of Dan’s new book on my train commute home. Really good…enjoyable. When I got home, I decided to take a look at my magazine and newspaper subscription list and I realized how large it has become. To examine my list…

I am not including papers I pick up for my commute home including the NY Post, NY Sun, NY Daily News or Newsday, or count copies of Metro or AM New York for the subway.

I am not includimg the 119 rss feeds coming into my bloglines account, the email blasts I subscribe to, nor the sites like Slate, Salon, CNN/Money, Curbed,, Inman,, (SF Chronicle),, PIMCO,, Seeking Alpha and quite a few others I like to check in with every day.

Now there are a few on the list that are simply impossible to read everything or I choose not to (namely the New Yorker and The Economist because they are weekly and chock full of stories although I admit I look at every cartoon in the New Yorker.) I definitely don’t read all of these publications front to back. I included non-real estate subscriptions because, well, you never know.

Its apparent that anyone can get so involved in reading news, it could become a full time job. Where’s Evelyn Wood when I need her?

I feel like a sieve, with a slew of these publications going through my brain and the parts that stick, end up in my blog and in my understanding of the real estate market, the economy, and of course, make intelligent picks for next year’s March Madness tourney.

I suspect I am missing a few but don’t have time to check…too many to things to read. Here are the subscriptions I can think of and these are in no particular order.

new york times
wall street journal
financial times
new yorker
city journal
new york observer
the economist
new york magazine
new york living
time out new york
the real deal
sports illustrated
hemmings muscle car
excellence (porsche)
panorama (porsche)
american banker
valuation review
real estate weekly
yankees magazine
2 local weekly newspapers

The quantity has cut into my book reading time, that’s for sure. Its a good thing I have invented more time in the day (no time to explain). Suggestions for additions are welcome (no lesson learned from this exercise).

Hey did you hear about that new magazine that came out the other day….?

UPDATE: Here’s a few I forgot to mention:
rolling stone
haute living
new york home
appraisal today
real estate valuation magazine
appraisal journal

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What’s Next? Real Estate Next

May 9, 2007 | 11:38 am |

Real Estate Next is a series of informative conferences for real estate brokers in Long Island. The conferences were developed after the debut of last fall’s first Annual Real Estate Next conference, an information-packed event that gathered many of the region’s top decision-makers to discuss major trends affecting the region’s housing industry. It is produced by Ron Roel of Roel Resources LLC; Laura Koss-Feder of Koss-Feder Associates; and Rich Levine of the New York Real Estate Institute. I have known Ron for quite a while and know that both he and Laura make a concerted effort to bring substantive content to their conference series. Good stuff. I am always happy to participate.

Here’s the announcement:

The Science Of Real Estate At Lincoln Center 3-20-2007

March 15, 2007 | 9:14 am | |

The Real Deal Magazine is hosting its third annual New Development Forum. With nearly 3,000 seats in Avery Fisher Hall, its amazing to me that its nearly sold out and projected to be at full capacity by show date.

I am excited to be a panelist and fully expect to learn a lot from my co-panelists. With my lack of artistic talent, this is the only way for me to get on stage at Lincoln Center.

Hope to see you there. Next stop, Carnegie Hall.

Click here to purchase tickets.

[Sounding Bored] What About The Chinese Wall?

March 5, 2007 | 11:54 pm | Columns |

Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. This week I talk to a wall.

In Today’s Inman News, there was an article written by a pretty sharp real estate reporter named Marcie Geffner, called: Real estate appraisals are outmoded. (If the link is expired and you don’t have access, I have included the salient parts.)

At first I was in agreement with the article because it addressed the pressure appraisers are faced with every day. Its what I have been preaching for more than 20 years. Lenders, agents and appraisers are all to blame in the process because the appraiser, in their unique position in the transaction, is vulnerable (willingly or not) to outside influence. Quite often their only sources of business systematically apply pressure.

The fundamental problem is the conflict of interest among the lender who selects the appraiser, the borrower who pays for the appraisal and the investor who relies on the adequacy of the appraiser’s opinion.

Here’s where 90% of all consumers, lenders, agents, appraisers and the reporter for this article miss the boat.

The fundamental problem is the conflict of interest among the lender who selects the appraiser, the borrower who pays for the appraisal and the investor who relies on the adequacy of the appraiser’s opinion.

  • A mortgage appraisal has nothing to do with the borrower — The appraisal for a home purchase that is ordered by a lender or mortgage broker for a mortgage has nothing to do with the borrower. It is purely an assessment of the collateral (the asset) of which to lend against. It makes no difference what the buyer wants the value to be or to feel comfortable about the purchase. This issue needs to be reinforced with loan officers and underwriteres, as well as real estate agents.
  • An appraisal ordered by the buyer, by law, can not be used by the lender for the mortgage — If the buyer wants to feel more comfortable about the transaction, they can hire their own appraiser to get an estimate but they need to make sure the appraiser is getting their data from an independent source and has limited contact with the agents involved in the sale.
  • A client is not defined by who pays the appraiser — An appraiser’s client is determined by who engaged the appraiser for the assignment. Just because a borrower pays an appraisal fee for their mortgage application doesn’t mean they have any right to speak with the appraiser directly.

The author’s solution to the credibility problem is more about enforcement and an update of current laws. This is not likely to happen, nor will it effect change. Licensing actually made the quality of appraisal work decline because it lowered the bar on the entire profession. With a few classes and some simple training, anyone can get a license and all appraisers are on a even playing field.

Enforcement is virtually impossible unless the report is out and out fraud. Licensing departments in most states are understaffed and lack adequate resources despite best intentions. Plus, its tough to deal with subjectives. Boy, that value was a little too high – let’s get ’em on that.

Most of the substandard work that gives the profession a black eye is done by ten-percenters. Those are typically appraisers who always seem to be a little high on their values which coincioedntally gives their clients more flexibility. This practice was reinforced to me today as I reviewed an appraisal today done for a mortgage broker by a ten-percenter and the appraiser used no real logic but kept using the phrase…based on my vast experience… in his text.

The solution has to be regulatory needs to be resurrecting that Chinese Wall between the sales function and the underwriting function of a bank.

Until then, we might as well keep talking to a wall.

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Inman RE Connect Panel: VALUATION: New Tools to Set Buyer and Seller Expectations

January 7, 2007 | 10:51 pm | |

Last year was my first Inman Connect conference as I never made the trip to San Francisco. I really enjoyed it. This year should prove to be even better. In fact there is danger of sensory overload, which is a good thing.

For additional clarity, Brad Inman might reconsider changing the name of the conference to:

Inman Real Estate Connect NYC: Connecting The Connected, The Unconnected And The Disconnected

Sorry – I just recovered from the flu and a NY Jets loss so I am feeling a little dizzy.

Last year I was part of a panel on market conditions in New York which proved to be interesting because two of the panelists basically said that the housing market was perfectly fine, and two (self included) said the market was not fine, but not dire, specifically in New York.

This year it is a different topic and a different roll for me. I get to moderate a panel of distinguished guests on Tuesday at 2pm that are a whole lot smarter than me about a key issue facing real estate agents in the current turbulent real estate market. It concerns the topic of managing buyer and seller expectations and the potential tools that may make this easier.

Whats the secret to managing expectations and why does it matter? Shhhh, its a secret to be exposed at my panel discussion.