November 26, 2011

Sawbuck measures Market Health, drunk-dials 911

imageThere are several real estate search sites out there that let you peruse homes on the Multiple Listing Service.  Regular Burbed readers may have have noted we’re partial to RedfinZillow gets noticed for their ZEstimate, an automated model that attempts to value most homes in the United States.  Some of our fans like Trulia, as I get the occasional submission pointing to their site.

imageI just took another look at Sawbuck when I put a recent feature together.  Sawbuck is a Washington DC-based site that partners with local agents in several regions, including the Bay Area.   Until I found their listing information last week, I figured Sawbuck links were just nuisances. Google searches for property addresses pointed to Sawbuck’s very silly videos that were animated frames for MLS photos and information. 

But this time they had a very detailed page on the house I was checking out.  The videos were gone, even when Google pointed to embedded players.  They also had something I haven’t seen on any of the other sites before.

Their pages for each city have a Market Overview, showing how many homes are for sale, the median list and sales price, ho-hum, seen it.  But I hadn’t seen a Market Health Score on a city’s real estate activity before, at least not on a site that links to individual home listings.  Altos Research does something like that called the Market Action Index (MAI), but they’re in the Useless Aggregate Data business.

So how is the market doing in the Real Bay Area?  Let’s have Sawbuck and Altos fight it out, after the break!

First, let’s take a city we all agree is in the Real Bay Area: Los Altos.  First, here’s what Altos has to say about the market there.


An MAI of 21.36 is a terrific market, provided you are a buyer.  If you are a homeowner wanting to sell (or unlock that equity), then this is not a market you would be pleased with.  Altos defines MAI as a buyers’ market when it’s under 30 and a sellers market when over 30.  Right around 30 would be a balanced market.  No standard deviation is provided to give us an idea how far you can meander from 30 and still be kind of sort of maybe balanced.

The best MAI Los Altos had this year was in January.  Now let’s look at Sawbuck’s market snapshot of Los Altos real estate activity.


What’s this?  A “deteriorating” market?  Surely they’ll explain this number to us.  Click on the “Deteriorating” label and hope for enlightenment.


This is a little light on methodology or philosophy, dudes.  What is a Critical market, and what is a Very Healthy one? Is the price doubling every ten months instead of every ten years Very Healthy? That sure wouldn’t be very healthy for buyers.  Is it Very Healthy when there’s a decent supply of inventory and there’s a reasonable amount of credit funding home loans? Or is it when anyone who can fog a mirror can buy an Executive Home with nothing down?

I can create the Burbed Real Estate Search Site Suckage Score and say Sawbuck gets a 31, but if I don’t tell you my rating criteria, that’s not really a useful piece of information.  Okay, I theoretically stomped Sawbuck’s BRESSSS down for their astoundingly useless explanation of what Market Health is.

Contrast this because-I-said-so metric with Altos’ explanation of their MAI.  I’m beginning to see that Sawbuck hasn’t moved far enough away from their stupid videos after all.

Anyway, let’s move on to the purportedly best place in the entire RBA, and if the market isn’t Very Healthy there, we’re in for a world of pain.  Or maybe Sawbuck just made up a bunch of numbers and can’t believe we took them seriously.

First, Altos.  They might consider Palo Alto a buyers’ or a “Cold” market, but it’s Warmer than the last one we checked.  It also was above 30 for the entire summer.


And the challenger, Sawbuck.  At least they’re consistent, finding Palo Alto a stronger market than Los Altos.


Maybe we’re just not looking in expensive enough markets, so we’re going to head for the hills.  Hillsborough.  Here’s Altos’ MAI.  Whoa!  16.26!


And here is Sawbuck’s Market Health Score for a city with one of the highest median home prices anywhere in the country.


Someone needs an ambulance all right, but I’m not sure it’s Hillsborough.

This is your Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread!

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

One Response to “Sawbuck measures Market Health, drunk-dials 911”

  1. PK Says:

    They also could use different names for their market conditions. ‘Deteriorating’ implies that it will fall further – but what if the next time it updates it goes up? All of the rest of the categories are named in a way that it’s okay for a city to remain in that category – except deteriorating.

    (It’s your favorites neighborhood PKamp3 but Burbed’s spam filter keeps eating my comments! My ranking on Burbed is deteriorating.)

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