Friday, October 19, 2018

Homequant Offers Excel Pivot Table Service

Homequant Offers Automated Valuation Modeling (AVM) for SFR Rental Portfolios

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

JustAutoValue Offers Auto Loan Portfolio Valuation Modeling (AVM)

Homequant Offers QA/Review AVM for SFR to 4-Family Homes

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to Make our College Education More Meaningful and Labor-force Friendly

According to the most recent (2015) PISA scores which measure the basic skills (reading, math and science) of 15-year-olds, the US ranked 30th in Math among the 38 OECD countries – nothing to write home about, right? We need a sea change in the way our colleges work. Also, we need to rethink the qualification criteria for student loans. Here are suggestions: 

1. College Accreditation must Require Local/Regional Business Participation – One of the perennial complaints of the college education is that it’s too theoretical. Despite the rising trend of internships, only a small percentage of the graduating students are blessed with this fortune, mostly in highly-sought-after disciplines like STEM. College accreditation must require local/regional business participation (including representation on the board), allowing meaningful access to the business and science/technology community. Ideally, college charters must stipulate that at least 33% of all credit courses be taught by external experts so that the students get to learn how the theories are actually being implemented in “live” environments. Of course, it must be a simultaneous process, meaning teaching theories and practice must take place during the same quarter or semester. For example, students specializing in real estate finance must learn from the top mortgage professionals as to how the various mortgages are originated, including the full array of the paperwork involved (industry standard forms, etc.). Likewise, the STEM students who are considering a career in technical trading must learn from the renowned hedge fund managers and (program trading) algorithm scientists. College/Universities must therefore offer majors in line with the availability of the aforesaid local/regional industry experts. Needless to say, there will be no dearth of successful people who would be more than willing to teach such classes. This joint venture is a necessity today.

2. New Professors must have at least 3-5 years of Verifiable Business Experience – Colleges must look for qualified professors (US PhD) with actual hands-on business experience. They will rise above the “canned” case studies as they are often antiquated and out of sync with the marketplace. These new crop of professors will also make better liaison with the industry experts, thus vetting and selecting the most fitting ones (with outstanding technical expertise) to teach applications. These technical experts will be able to explain and demonstrate the pieces that comprise the black box. In other words, these professors would know how to avoid walking into the old trap – inviting generalists. Exposing the young students to such generalists tends to be futile as the missing link becomes more elusive. On the other hand, all professors – new and existing – must be allowed and encouraged to work as consultants so they remain thoroughly conversant with the ever-changing industry standards and practice.

3. Interest Rates on Student Loans must be tied to SAT Scores and APs – Obtaining student loans should be no different than obtaining home loans. Let’s face it: Two prospective homebuyers (mortgage applicants) with 600 and 800 FICO scores, respectively, will be offered vastly different mortgage interest rates, down payment requirements and origination fees (points) by the same bank. Similarly, interest rates on student loans (to pay for college education) should be a function of the SAT and AP scores (FYI – these are comparative metrics while general academic record isn’t). For example, the student who scores 1,580 (out of 1,600) in SAT and completes six APs with all 5’s must be eligible for a much lower interest rate than his/her counterpart who scores 1,300 in SAT and completes three APs with all 3’s. This merit-based system will incentivize everyone to do well academically from the get-go. By the same token, those who fail to do well in SAT and AP may consider other avenues: community colleges, vocational schools, etc. Simply put, we need an incentive-based school system where performers are greatly rewarded. The current system is backward-bending and requires significant overhaul.   
   
4. Sallie Mae should Publish SAT/AP-based Student Loan Rates to provide Transparency – Sallie Mae, the largest student loan provider, and other large providers like Citi, Nelnet, Wells, etc. must develop and publish SAT/AP-based rates to educate and entice students of the advantages of high scores. If the high school students (starting in sophomore) are taught that high score equals low rates, they would be working harder, thus gradually bumping up the curve making our system globally more competitive. Of course, unlike mortgage rates that change daily, the proposed SAT/AP-based student loan rates would be revised annually on the basis of new data trends (i.e., changing scores). Hopefully, the rate chart would be prominently displayed in all high school cafeterias as a constant reminder that a little extra push would go a long way. Here is a simplistic example. Actual rates must be derived from the recent loan data from Sallie Mae and other major lenders in the field.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

5. Interest Rates on Student Loans must be Significantly Higher for Lateral education (education for the sake of education) – When students stay back in schools and continue to take unrelated courses aimlessly (e.g., 2nd/3rd major or 2nd Master’s, etc.), lenders must discourage such loans by charging significantly higher interest rates related to those credits. If students plan on co-concentrating (e.g., business and economics; social science and statistics; applied economics and math; finance and applied math, etc.), they must declare their intention right at the outset while applying for loans, thus locking in their preferred rates throughout the period, as well as to avoid having to pay a significantly higher rate down the road for the “co” in the form of a second major. Oftentimes, meaningful co-concentrations help job-seekers narrow the competition down. Likewise, many employers prefer those graduates as they bring in truly complementary knowledge.

6. Interest-free Student Loans must be provided to All STEM Candidates – Instead of enticing foreign STEM graduates with visa adjustments, we must learn to nurture our own. And, it must start with an awareness movement at the middle and high school. At the core of this movement lies the marketing of the awareness to the female students in that they have “equal access” to this career domain. Until and unless our young daughters are convinced of the equal access, we will have no choice but to depend on foreign employees. In promoting STEM education, teachers and counselors must also explain to the students that 10’s of thousands of STEM jobs remain unfilled and as a result our “volume” employers are forced to hire foreign employees to fill in those slots. Interest-free student loans could be a big incentive to entice more students to look into this colossal and unrestricted career domain. Obviously, once accepted, the qualified yet economically disadvantaged students, irrespective of ethnicity, must continue to receive (full) free STEM education, at both public and private institutions.     
    
7. STEM Students in State Schools must qualify for Financial Aids ahead of all others – In addition to interest-free student loans, STEM students must receive financial aids ahead of their counterparts. Given the urgent need for STEM graduates in our economy, it does not make much sense anymore to treat all economic needs equally. At this point, college education must be compared with and treated like government services, meaning essential education (like essential government services) must always receive higher weights and protections than the not-so-essential education (like non-essential government services). Simply put, STEM education must be declared, protected and promoted as essential education. Ceteris paribus, the qualified STEM student population must get the first shot at the pool of financial aids and the residual will then be distributed to the other disciplines. To make things clear, it has been assumed that health and mental care education – another market area with critical shortages – is part and parcel of STEM, specifically part of ‘S.’   

8. Ideally, We need a Moratorium on Student Loans for Business and Humanities Majors – Due to the easy access to student loans, far too many students – relative to the aggregate market demand – continue to major in business and humanities, resulting in significant disguised unemployment all across the country, arguably reaching a point of moral hazard. In order to reduce the incidence of disguised unemployment, we need a moratorium on such student loans for a period of time, at least 5 to 7 years, thus allowing enough time to get the excess market supply meaningfully absorbed while the wage level rising back to the equilibrium. This pause will allow Sallie Mae to re-evaluate its existing debt load, meaning if they could use a meaningful stress test to evaluate if they might be approaching the "too big to fail" threshold. Meanwhile, a good chunk of the potential fallout population (business and humanities majors) would be redirected to the STEM universe. Sadly, if this decline is not arrested, the possibility of a bailout would be on the horizon in not too distant future (considering the student loan portfolio in the US has recently eclipsed $1.5T). Absent student loans for business and humanities, only a small percentage of the future student population – mostly from the well-to-do families and foreign students – will opt for these majors. Obviously, neither group would pose any renewed threat to the labor force or contribute to the accentuation of the bailout scenario.     

9. Professors must be apolitical in classrooms, leaving their ideology, affiliations and agendas outside (the classrooms) – Most American students take on huge loans for college education so they deserve the highest quality education in preparation for successful careers. Unfortunately, too many professors bring their political rhetoric and viewpoints to the classroom, in an effort to brainwash and indoctrinate students to their personal political agenda. This is totally unacceptable. We must keep our great educational institutions free from partisan politics. Yes, professors are entitled to their political viewpoints, without commingling with education inside the classrooms. Going forward, all new hires must be independently vetted (including all of their social media accounts, going back at least ten years) and any political bias must be seriously investigated. Our labor force needs future industry leaders, not political activists. When our institutions become nonaligned and professors’ non-partisans, our labor force will regain its old glory, becoming the envy of the world, again! Of course, in order to weed out politics from our colleges, we must consider one final option: All professors, including departmental chairpersons, should be hired/placed on 4-year contracts. Competition is the cure-all medicine!   

Again, it’s high time that we make our college education more labor-force friendly. Our students deserve better!

- Sid Som, MBA, MIM
President, Homequant, Inc.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

SkylineValue.com Produces Quick Look Value of a "Trophy" Office Property in 60 Seconds

(Click on the image to enlarge)
The above graphic represents a sample valuation of One World Trade Center, a trophy office property in Downtown Manhattan (NYC). A trophy property is different from a Class-A office property in that it showcases a major city. While Class-A office properties are plentiful in major cities around the world, trophies are simply few and far between. People recognize them by their name and fame. Even in Manhattan, a handful of office properties are considered trophies. In fact, in Downtown Manhattan, the World Trade Center is perhaps the lone ranger. 

Trophies generally fetch higher rental rates - both retail (ground floor) and offices  than Class-A's in the area. They tend to be architectural masterpieces as well. Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan needed half a billion (perhaps millions more) in rehab capital to restore it to its old glory.

I used SkylineValue.com to produce this sample valuation as I own and operate the site, to avoid having to deal with any copyright issues. The site is mobile-friendly so no additional Apps are needed. It's also totally FREE and NO login/registration of any sort is required. 

In order to value an office property on this site, all one needs to know is the general location, rentable square feet and a few general property characteristics, all of which are easily obtainable online. Once these data elements are available, users can have the system process the valuation in 60 seconds or less. 

This system is designed for the Pros and Non-Pros, offering a "Quick Look" valuation and is intended to complement the traditional valuation, not replace it. 80 Major Office Markets in the US and Canada are currently covered. 

Just click on the market of your choice on our homepage and follow the prompt. If you need help, use 'TRY IT' from the homepage. Here is the link to SkylineValue.com:


What the Experts are Saying:
“I checked out SkylineValue.com and I have to say that its awesome.  This is a classic case of good things come in small packages.  I was excited to see that the [XXXXXX] market is included.  I could see this being a very handy tool for investors, appraisers, portfolio managers or just average Joe’s who like to dabble in Commercial real estate.   For my own purposes, I selected different parts of Long Island and different sub groups of properties and I was astonished at how much flexibility and how quickly I was able to retrieve accurate values without the need for full blown work ups.  The fact that I can get a valuation right on my device in about 60 seconds is a breath of fresh air.  I will be using SkylineValue regularly!”