What a person’s Facebook friends say about their housing market — regardless of whether those friends live in that person’s neighborhood or 1,000 miles away — tends to influence what that person believes about local market conditions, new research shows.

The takeaway is that people typically view their local housing market through a distorted lens, said Christopher J. Palmer, a real estate professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The best way for real estate agents to cope with this is to “validate gut feelings” and then present statistics to offer a clear picture of the local housing market, he said.

That was one of several pointers for agents that Palmer teased out of economic concepts and research in a presentation at Inman Connect San Francisco.

Here are two others.

‘Little things can help overcome inertia’

The first-time homebuyer tax credit that was enacted not long after the housing bust only translated into a 4 percent discount for first-time buyers, Palmer said.

But the subsidy still boosted home sales, particularly in the period just before the credit was set to expire.

The takeaway for agents is that relatively small inducements — such as offering to cover some repairs for a buyer client — can mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity, Palmer said.

Palmer cited mentioning that interest rates are at historic laws as another way to “get people off the fence.”

Highlight silver linings

When basic statistics paint a bleak picture of a housing market, agents should look to uncover the silver linings of what otherwise might be considered negative trends or conditions, according to Palmer.

For example, markets impacted by trade with China didn’t fly nearly as high as those left unscathed during the housing boom. But they also didn’t slump as severely.

So while a market affected by globalization might not look so hot, agents could play up the market’s record of relative stability.

“These kind of spins are very useful,” Palmer said.

Email Teke Wiggin

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