Statistics Are Dangerous: Real Estate & Fantasy Basketball

I have a love/hate relationship with statistics. I’ve always believed that statistics provide necessary insight, but they never uncover the entire picture. Making a choice based purely on statistics is a never a good idea.

If you don't care much about basketball, you'll probably want to skip to the end.

If you love basketball as much as I do, feel free to comment. 

This year, for the first time, I joined an NBA Fantasy League. My good friend Mike, the founder of Seed+Soil, is a rabid NBA fan and put the league together. The object of fantasy basketball is simple: 

  1. you draft a team of players, 
  2. every week your team plays someone else’s team, 
  3. your players compete in nine statistical categories like points, rebounds, shooting percentage, 
  4. the team that wins the most categories wins the week

So being a former coach and not thinking much about statistics, I drafted a team that I would want to coach. 

I had a superstar: Kevin Durant

A big centre: Roy Hibbert

A freak athlete: Blake Griffin

A solid leader at point guard: Tony Parker

A head case I was willing to take a chance on: Zach Randolph

An underachiever that I thought was due to break out: Monte Ellis 

A do everything utility guy: Chandler Parsons

And a handful of other pretty good players like Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Jeremy Lin, and Gerald Wallace.

After bad losses in the first couple weeks I realized my perfect team wasn't a good fantasy team. Though I was confident my team would win in an actual game of basketball, they couldn’t compete in a world where only statistics matter. 

Hibbert’s size and defence changes games, and that was key to his team's early success; but he doesn't rack up tons of stats. So after a 7 block game, when his stock was at its peak, I traded him for Dwight Howard and Michael Carter Williams. (Yeah, I fleeced Mike big time on that trade. Someday I'll make reference to this again in a blog about my negotiation skillz.)

I also let some players go like OJ Mayo, the turnover king, and picked up some boring players who consistently fill a stats sheet, like Robin Lopez.

I also snatched up Paul Pierce for sentimental reasons, he's my favourite player of all time.

Once I fully embraced how dissimilar fantasy basketball is from real basketball, my team started gaining momentum. I was in second place at the end of our regular season. Then we caught fire in the playoffs and I won the league championship! Now Mike owes me some of his delicious smoked ribs.

Still, it's bittersweet. I look at the team that won for me and I think, 'yuck, we'd be horrible to coach'. We lack so many traits of a real championship basketball team. In reality, there's a huge gap between a statistically good team and a truly good team. 

So what does my fantasy basketball experience mean to you and what am I trying to say about real estate?

The latest stats from the Calgary Real Estate Board show that it’s still very much a ‘seller's market’. But when only taking the stats into account, there are two very dangerous conclusions you can draw:

  1. I can overprice my house or sell my house easily when I haven’t taken good care of it. Even though it is slim pickings for many buyers right now, overpriced houses, outdated homes, ones requiring lots of work, or places infested with cigarette smoke are still sitting on the market for a long time and selling at fair prices. Buyers, at least ones with good agents, aren’t dumb. They are conscious of making a solid investment and finding the right home for their lifestyle. I’m finding that buyers are more willing to sacrifice a longer commute then pay too much or take on extensive repairs.
  2. It’s not a good time to buy. I’ll never find the a home that I really want. There are great homes coming on the market all the time. Last week I made two clients very happy. They were looking for townhomes in the 300-350 range, which is the tightest category of all right now. For both, we saw the homes on the first day on the market, made a reasonable and clean offer, and got the home at a solid price. We had a plan and we executed it well. You don’t have to put off buying because the stats say it’s a seller's market. Just be strategic. Just like fantasy basketball, know what counts and go after it. 

Yes, I check Calgary's real estate statistics almost every day. I pour over demographic information about communities. I know migration rates and projections. This information forms a big piece of the puzzle when selling your home, and when finding you the right home to buy. But it's not the be all and end all.

Zach Randolph got lots of points and rebounds this year, that doesn't mean that the Grizzlies are making the playoffs. Likewise, there's a shortage of inventory, but you still need a good strategy to sell your home and you can still buy the right home.