Sound Off: What Do You Think of The New NTREIS Matrix System?


A reader writes:

“I would like hear feedback from your readers on the new Matrix MLS that MetroTex Association of REALTORS put out this week. It has a lot of frills is harder to use and ultimately has nothing new. The learning curve just like the last 3 or 4 MLS system changes only slowed me down and cut in to my production. Someone once said ‘If it aint broke don’t fix it.'”

We’re interested in hearing more perspectives of the new Matrix interface from Realtors and brokers, too. Sound off in the comments!

Halloween is an escape from troubled times, and as Oct. 31 has rolled around in recent years, Americans have spent several simoleons on the spooky holiday. But as the economy has turned a corner this year, Americans are projected to spend 13.9 percent less on costumes, candy, and decorations this year.

According to this story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Spending Survey shows 25.2 percent of Americans plan to spend less this Halloween than last year, and projections show a 13.9 percent dip in overall spending from a year ago ($8 billion to $6.9 billion). Still, that’s more than twice what America spent on ghoulish goods in 2005 ($3.2 billion).

9784 Audubon ext

That’s good news for Realtors who often anticipate fall as a seasonal slowing of the Real Estate Market. This post on the Ebby Halliday Realtors Blog breaks down the numbers from NTREIS, showing that while temperatures are cooling in North Texas, the real estate market is still very hot.

A few of the highlights from the NTREIS numbers for September 2013 vs. September 2012 include:

* Days on Market were down 26.6% to 59 days on average.

* Percent of original list price received was up 1.2% to 94.7% of asking price.

* Closed sales were up 10.2%.

* Finally, the median sales price was up 8.5%.

Amazing news, and it’s incredible how well our market is performing with single-family homes in such short supply. What are you seeing in your neighborhood this fall?

realestate-272x300Last week, Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson complained that the neighborhood boundaries used by North Texas Real Estate Information Systems are the “wackiest thing I’ve seen in a long time,” he wrote. He wished that NTREIS would get its act together and use “labels and boundaries that reflect reality, not fantasy.” He favors the neighborhood maps created by BC Workshop.


I think this is one of the best blog posts I have seen. Opens whole cans of thought. I have personally named this nonsense “Area Enigma”.

What Robberson was talking about was the lines drawn around neighborhoods for the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. You’ve also heard them called “Areas”. Robberson’s point is that the map lumps together disparate neighborhoods in a way that, as he put it, “could give a badly distorted picture of actual real estate value fluctuations.” Or no values at all. A dramatic increase in Lakewood property values, say, has nothing to do with property values in South Dallas slumping but if you lump them together, they do.

Or, Lakewood goes up, South Dallas goes down, Area 12 real estate values are — what?

Oak Lawn is the worst: Area 17 reaches up into Farmer’s Branch. So when we are searching for neighborhoods or blocks of homes that have value changes, you cannot use the area figures. You have to go block by block. It’s a pain and archaic in this day and age. But it’s also why I’ve said it a million times: residential real estate is a LOCAL story.

I am not sure Robberson meant this gripe in a fiscal way, but I sure do. I was going to ask NTREIS why, why in the world are these area designations so silly? But Inman News (Matt Carter over there rocks), beat me to the punch. Here’s what NTREIS told Inman:

A spokeswoman for NTREIS — which provides MLS services to 15 Realtor associations in a 48,000-square-mile area of North Texas including the Dallas-Fort Worth region — provided the following response to a request for comment from Inman News:

“NTREIS, like all MLS systems, provides a variety of geographic search tools for MLS subscribers; area numbers and labels are just one of many resources available to a real estate licensee and were generated to easily narrow down a search within the 48,000 square miles of our service area. These areas are updated as requested by the shareholder Realtor associations we serve. For statistical purposes, professionals are able to analyze the information by school districts, ZIP codes and any number of other parameters. The particular map referenced in Mr. Robberson’s blog post is one used by his own employer, the Dallas Morning News — this map is not provided by the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. The Dallas Morning News provides this information for general reference to inform the public; a consumer who requires more detailed information should always consult a Realtor professional who can provide a more customized analysis.”

You want the info, go get you a Realtor. That’s the answer they gave. Because all the information in NTREIS is owned by the company, which is a kind of giant mutual company owned by the agents themselves who pay dear fees to maintain that info. Update: and protect it!

Still, I’m not satisfied. Did these boundaries evolve? How were they decided? Who drew the lines? How many years ago? What about sub-neighborhoods? Here on, we are building a data-base on sub-neighborhoods — The Peninsula, Hillcrest Estates, Janmar, Hollywood Heights Santa Monica — and we get the info from Realtors who know the ‘hoods (as only Realtors can) and the homeowners themselves. In other words, we are going to the horse’s mouth bit by bit, not pulling and regurgitating a bunch of stuff off the internet.

Which is, I guess, kind of what you have to do with our Area neighborhoods.


According to Hexter-Fair Title Company, total sales for the region are already surpassing 2011 numbers.

I love Dallas, y’all.

We’ve got a lot of things going for us. Take our beautiful Arts District, our growing Southern sector, and our rebounding downtown, for example. And according to Standard & Poors/Case-Schiller Home Price Indices, Dallas is maintaining its ground when it comes to residential real estate.

In the S&P/C-S report released today, nationwide, home prices are dipping by 3.5 percent over the past year ending in February. In Dallas, though, prices were flat.

Normally, when people say that something was flat, it’s more like, “Meh, things are flat. Whatever.” But y’all, I’m sure Atlanta would LOVE for their home prices to be flat. If you bought a house there in the past year, it is worth 17 percent less today than a year ago. SEVENTEEN PERCENT LESS! Crazy.

And while S&P says Dallas’ market is flat, well, Hexter-Fair Title Company is a bit more optimistic. In a presentation to Allie Beth Allman agents last week, numbers culled from NTREIS reports show that total residential sales for 2012 are already surpassing 2011 sales through February. Some agents are even saying that sales are actually up 5 percent if you follow MLS numbers.

Really, though, it’s evidence of what many agents have been telling us for weeks: It’s a seller’s market, and there’s a lot of new buyers looking for quality homes. And boy, do we have the inventory!

So far, 2012 is off to a good start, and as long as the world doesn’t end, it looks to be a great year for Dallas Dirt! Do you agree?

That’s what I’m hearing about Dallas Real Estate and working to confirm. Washington D.C., and I guess President Obama, are getting their wish. The U.S. is turning into a nation of renters.

Home leasing is up in Dallas by 13%. I WAS TOLD that 2000 of 6000 RE transactions in the first quarter were leases, or about one third, working to confirm with North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. If so, that’s huge for an affordable real estate market like Dallas. Betty Misko at Ebby Halliday says many buyers rent because have no choice: they transfer in to Dallas with homes languishing on the market in other cities, begging for buyers.

And Steve Brown is on this, too. He reports (sub required) that real estate agents are even reporting a shortage of quality lease homes. I am also told by agents there is an overall shortage of inventory — Lakewood’s Scott Carlson is asking for listings. This is gettng to be the story: one M streets-area home was on the home for about a year, which is twice as long as the normal 6 months. But as soon as the “for lease” sign went up out front,  the agent says showings almost tripled.

“There is definitely a shortage of good, quality lease homes,” (real estate agent Darren) Dattalo said. “People that should be buying are leasing instead, but they still want something nice and in the location they would eventually buy in.”

While home sales in North Texas are down about 10 percent so far this year, prices off by 1%, the number of home rentals is up 13 percent, according to statistics from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and NTREIS (North Texas Real Estate Information Systems).

There are only about 4,000 rentals listed with property agents — 10 percent fewer than a year ago, another sign of dwindling inventory.

It is hard to lease a home in Dallas, and getting harder. As one reader emailed recently, why is there not a central site for leases? (One is coming, stay tuned.) Brown says “it takes six weeks to rent a house in North Texas, compared with almost three months to find a buyer.”

I don’t know where he’s getting that three months figure — a healthy market takes six months to move a listing, and we are slightly above that benchmark in Dallas.

It’s true: more high-end properties are now accepting tenants over buyers, since buyers are few and far-between. Many have multiple offers and some are over asking price:

“We had three lease offers on one house in 48 hours,” said Player, who is with Virginia Cook Realtors. “In the past month, I’ve leased three high-end properties.

Experts blame the economy. There’s a lot of uncertainty, says Misko, and with uncertainty comes a lack of desire to commit. Besides, says she, many young people who would be buying first time homes now as they did in 2006 or 2007 don’t have jobs and may be living with their parents. Because of these changes, Misko says all Ebby agents are being trained to handle leases, a less profitable transaction for them than selling a home. Typically,  a lease commission is equal to about one month of the rent, and split between the agents. So even a $9000 lease would net each agent $4500, far less than the 1.5% commission split on the sale of a $1,00,000 home. In California, for example, few real estate agents handle leases. In New York City, apartment leasing agents are considered the dregs of the real estate hierarchy.

Even more shocking: some renters are finding it more expensive to lease than it would cost in mortgage payments to buy a house. But here, too, they are stuck, so they do it.

“If their home has not sold in the city they just came from, they have nothing for a down payment,” says Misko. “And the down payment requirements in general are much larger.”

Stiffer down payment requirements and appraisals — the whole process is so much more cumbersome than it once was. Often getting into a lease home for a couple years is faster than buying.

Here’s the irony: the cost of buying a home in North Texas is at the lowest point in almost a decade, and mortgage rates are so cheap they are practically free. Trulia recently lauded Dallas as one of the cheapest U.S, cities for homes. It costs significantly less to buy a house here than to rent, says Trulia, which, duh, most of us have known for a long time. Remember the guy who bought a home in East Dallas for $12,500? In fact, Trulia found that buying is cheaper than leasing in almost three quarters of the largest U.S. cities. Renters always think that they are free from taxes and home maintenance when they lease, not realizing those costs are covered in their rent and if they increase, so will their monthly rental output. Few landlords are in the business of losing money.

In fact, in a recent Wall Street Journal report, a Sacremento real estate agent spent $500,000 buying four foreclosed homes in California that he has turned to rentals. Investors can cover their monthly costs and are making an average of 8% to 12% profit. I’ll take that over the stock market any day. This has also given rise to real estate investment advisory companies like Cash Cow Investments, which I need to write up one of these days.

Trulia’s Ken Shuman says that homeowners remain on the fence today about renting and buying. For many, there is no choice: home financing is difficult to obtain despite the lowest interest rates in history, larger down payments are demanded, and the nation is in a fog about the housing market. Will prices fall even more? Will the economy ever stabilize? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Mark Dotzour at Texas A&M’s Real Estate Center needs to run for the Oval office, or at least advice the next pres. Here’s his recipe for getting the economy moving:

We are creating such a hostile environment for businesses that we could be in for a long period of economic stagnation in America. What would a business-friendly agenda look like? Well here it is.

Imagine if the President and Congress came out with a bi-partisan plan to:

  1. Repeal the health-care nightmare.
  2. Repeal Dodd-Frank, and come up with 15 pages of meaningful bank reforms.
  3. Tell China to stop manipulating their currency and buy something produced by Americans.
  4. Roll back EPA regulations to 1999 levels.
  5. Roll back all other business regulations to 1999 levels.
  6. Announce an airtight plan to reduce the deficit to zero in seven years.
  7. Lower corporate tax rates to stop companies from fleeing America.
  8. Foreclose on four million homes and sell them to private sector investors.

Dodd-Frank is only going to get worse as regulators come up with 400 new rules. Foreclosures are being held up by fearful banks who do not want to cut the umbilical cord. Those properties could be sold to create much-needed housing for our new renter nation.