North Carolina agent finds instant success with HouseHunt

By Jim Droz

Donna Varnum hit the ground running when she signed up with HouseHunt by turning the first lead she received into a sale.

“It was good timing, to say the least,” said Varnum, who works out of a RE/MAX office in Morristown, N.C., while concentrating on the college town of Chapel Hill. “He stated his interests and I told him I could help him out since he didn’t know his way around. I pointed out a house I thought he’d like, and he loved it. The rest is history.”

Varnum’s history in the real estate business spans a little more than three years, with only the past month being in the HouseHunt system. She has used other lead-generating services, but when she felt it was time for a change she did her research and talked to other Realtors and “HouseHunt kept coming up as a good company.”

She said HouseHunt’s marketing and e-mail system is good for her strategy of immediately calling leads to discuss their needs. She then narrows the search to better show homebuyers what they might like and makes an appointment to visit. Even though she had instant success with HouseHunt, she knows that’s not always the case.

“I don’t give up easily,” Varnum said. “These things can take time, but I make sure my name stays in front of prospective buyers.”

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End of year is a great time to build prospects for upcoming year

By Jim Droz

Realtors are in the fourth quarter of what’s been another roller-coaster year for housing in many parts of the country. But this isn’t the time to sit back and assess the damages or reap the rewards of the year to date, depending on your circumstances.

The following item, written by Jim Droz, a successful Realtor who writes tips for various HouseHunt newsletters, points out the importance of the final few months of each year for real estate agents:

I was sitting in the conference room with head in hands, head pounding and a heart rate of at least 180. I had been on a binge for the past three months by overindulging in holiday merriment, relaxation and spending. My thought had been, “What the heck. Nobody buys or sells a home during the holidays. I’ll just enjoy the festive times and crank it up again after the first of the year.”

From Oct. 1 to early January, I had almost completely ignored my real estate business. Now I was paying the price for my errant behavior. It was Jan. 22 and my credit card bills had just arrived – $23,987.34. I owed Visa and MasterCard that total but didn’t have the money to pay either!

I had “cranked it up” shortly after New Years Day but the results were dismal. I made cold calls, contacted expired listings and hit For Sale by Owners. When I introduced myself to potential home sellers, there was no level of recognition. I was just another agent among thousands. This was my third year in the business but it appeared I was starting over from scratch. Where had I gone wrong? Why was every January such a train wreck?

As I sat at the table, I could see Joyce again adding to the “Sold/Listing” board. Her total was now eight listings and five pending transactions, all since Jan. 3. Out of the 52 agents in the office, Joyce was the only one who always had a great first month of the year. It was time to investigate.

“You’ve put 13 contracts on the board in the last 19 days. It’s January, for gosh sakes!” I said to Joyce. “The rest of us are just getting our engines started. What the heck are you doing?”

Joyce responded: “It’s not what I’m doing. It’s what I’ve done.”

She then asked me when the real estate market really heated up each year.

“I guess people start thinking about buying and selling homes as soon as the holidays have ended,” I replied. Continue reading “End of year is a great time to build prospects for upcoming year”

Veteran agent gets boost from HouseHunt in return to business

By Jaime Westman

Dennis Glavin has 20 years of experience as a real estate agent, but he felt like a newcomer when he jumped back into the business in March after a three-year hiatus.

“It was like starting all over again,” Glavin said. “I felt like a brand-new agent, and if it wasn’t for HouseHunt I don’t think I’d be working with many people.”

Glavin, who concentrates on a number of communities in Washington’s Clark County, including Camas and Washougal, said 90 percent of his leads come from HouseHunt. He already has had two closings, has three in escrow and is actively showing homes to “eight to 10 people.”

He said he likes the quantity and quality of leads he has been getting through the HouseHunt pipeline. Once he gets a lead, he calls the prospect immediately and adds customers to his TIM system on a daily basis.

“It takes a few calls and e-mails, but once they feel comfortable, things seem to progress,” Glavin said. “My goal, and that of my lender, is to close two a month with HouseHunt leads, and we think we’re going to be able to do that once we get things going here.”

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Third-quarter survey shows increased activity, flat selling prices

By Jim Droz

Homebuyers pumped up the volume in the third quarter of 2011 but only a few areas of the country made any noise when it came to an increase in selling price.

With mortgage rates at record lows and a drastic reduction in home prices the past few years, many potential buyers on the fence appear to be reconciled to the current conditions and are making a move on houses in some locations.

“I think the economy has been down long enough that people know where it is, and if they have the money to do something, they realize that the pricing’s not bad and that now is the time they should act,” said Lou Ulery, a real estate agent who works the West Palm Beach and Delray Beach areas of Florida. “The pricing hasn’t gone up much but there are more sales.”

Ulery, one of several HouseHunt agents surveyed about third-quarter conditions, said that his area of Florida attracts investors and people looking for second homes. He added that the average time a house remains listed on the market is between four and five months.

“The ones that are priced well go a little quicker,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for things to really turn around, but the higher-priced homes seem to have hit the bottom about a year ago. A lot of the more expensive homes are definitely on the way back up.”

Overall, 22 percent of HouseHunt agents said prices were up 0 to 5 percent, an increase of 3 percent from the previous quarter, while 58 percent reported a negative appreciation, down from 64 percent in the second quarter. States with the highest appreciation included West Virginia, Wyoming, North Dakota, New York and Kansas; among states with the greatest depreciation were Nevada, Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota and Georgia.

Regarding inventory, 68 percent reported a good supply, a decrease of 14 percent from the second quarter. The large jump likely signals an increase in activity and the probability that banks aren’t releasing a backlog of foreclosed houses onto the market.

“There is a strong demand for properties that can actually be bought,” said Mike Hoke, a real estate agent with an office in Riverside, CA. “We’re getting close to 100 percent of the asking price, and in some cases a bit more. Prices are down 5 percent on average from a year ago, but the activity level of good, well-priced homes in good condition that you can actually buy is probably up.”

Hoke said that some REOs or equity sales are on the market less than 30 days but that most short sales “take forever.” He said one recent buyer had to go through four lenders before a sale could get done, leading him to surmise that an uptick in the overall mood of the country and less-stringent barriers to loans is needed to get the housing market rising on a steady path.

“Buyers are increasingly nervous and lenders are increasingly a major problem when it comes to getting deals done,” Hoke said. “Many buyers are sitting on the sidelines to see if prices will go down even further, and some are there because of the lending process. Something needs to break loose.”

Activity in the Phoenix metropolitan area appears to be doing that despite Arizona’s poor showing in almost all national housing statistics.

“Low interest rates and people sensing that we’re near the bottom of the crisis” has resulted in the “biggest sales surge since 2005,” said Kevin Houston, a real estate agent in Phoenix whose office concentrates on eastern cities of the region such as Tempe and Chandler. “Since March, sales are up quite a bit on properly priced properties, and we’re usually getting multiple offers on them.”

Houston described his mood as “cautiously optimistic,” but any hint of good news is tempered by banks continuing to hold back a lot of properties. He said a recent report revealed that Maricopa County had 276,000 vacant homes, most of them likely stalled in the foreclosure process.

“It looks like we have a shadow inventory that’s pretty large,” Houston said. “I think banks and lenders are stringing them in because they don’t want to flood the market.”

In northern Virginia, agent Leslie Woods-Hulse reported that volume dollar sales were up 23 percent in September from the month before and 7.6 percent from a year ago, with the total number of closed properties also up 23 percent from August and 13 percent from a year ago. The average sold price of a home and the closing price versus the asking price are virtually unchanged, however. The similar numbers are likely a combination of a stalled economy and the fact that a lot of sellers aren’t overpricing their homes anymore.

“The sellers are becoming more aware of what to list their particular homes for, so the list price to sale price is much better than it used to be,” Woods-Hulse said. “Also, the appraisers, who have gone through some pretty stiff scrutinizing to do their jobs, are appraising the properties at for what they’re really worth in today’s market.”

Hulse-Woods, who doesn’t see the housing market leveling off until at least 2013, sees glimmers of hope moving ahead.

“There are investors coming out of the woodwork to buy properties, which should help absorb properties back into the market,” she said. “Hopefully that will get real buyers back into the market as opposed to all of the flippers we saw a few years ago. That in itself is doing a tremendous amount for the industry and getting us into more of a level playing ground. But it has been a trip.”

Here are a few additional results from the third quarter survey conducted by HouseHunt.com:

• Seventy-four percent reported that the average time a house spent on the market was in excess of 60 days, a decrease of 10 percent from the second quarter.

• Twenty-seven percent said customers were first-time buyers, down from 34 percent in the previous quarter.

• Sixty-five percent said they were getting multiple offers on their listings, the same figure that was reported in the second quarter.

HouseHunt’s Quarterly Comparison Chart For the U.S. | 3rd Quarter 2011 Results in Red

2009 2010 2011
Quarter 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd
Buyer-Seller Ratio
More Buyers 32% 32% 33% 38% 34% 44% 32% 34% 35% 39%
More Sellers 57% 58% 58% 42% 53% 43% 61% 49% 52% 38%
About Even 11% 10% 9% 20% 13% 13% 7% 17% 13% 23%
Avg. Time On Market
0-60 Days 21% 22% 35% 21% 23% 16% 11% 10% 16% 26%
Sold in 60 Days Plus 79% 78% 65% 79% 77% 84% 89% 90% 84% 74%
Unsold Inventory
Good Supply 91% 85% 83% 76% 82% 84% 87% 87% 82% 68%
Tight Supply 9% 15% 15% 24% 18% 16% 13% 13% 18% 32%
Annual Price Appreciation
Up 0-5% 16% 14% 26% 21% 32% 20% 19% 21% 19% 22%
Up 5-10% 3% 3% 6% 9% 7% 9% 11% 9% 7% 4%
Up 10% Plus 4% 3% 3% 7% 4% 6% 5% 6% 5% 8%
Unchanged 7% 3% 3% 6% 9% 10% 10% 8% 5% 8%
Negative Appreciation 70% 77% 62% 57% 48% 55% 57% 56% 64% 58%
Buyer Activity
Repeat/Move-up * 48% 48% 34% 50% 58% 58% 63% 58% 66% 73%
First-time Buyers 52% 52% 66% 50% 42% 42% 37% 42% 34% 27%
Ask vs. Sale Price
Less Than 95% 56% 57% 55% 48% 47% 57% 59% 54% 45% 49%
More Than 95% 44% 43% 45% 52% 53% 43% 41% 46% 55% 51%
Multiple Offers
Yes 60% 60% 65% 60% 60% 59% 54% 62% 65% 65%
No 40% 40% 35% 40% 40% 41% 46% 38% 35% 35%
* Total includes 3rd Quarter Investors

About HouseHunt, Inc.

HouseHunt, Inc. is a consumer-oriented Internet firm that provides free information and services to homeowners, home buyers and home sellers across the United States through its member-agents and through its primary web site, HouseHunt.com.

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Southern California agent happy with association with HouseHunt

Mike Hoke has doubled his pleasure on a couple of occasions this year with HouseHunt leads, as twice in a 45-day period he found a buyer a new home and picked up their listing and sold that home, too.

“You guys are the only lead service I will use,” Hoke said about HouseHunt. “I’ve tried them all, and yours is the only one I’ve found to be effective.”

Hoke, who operates California Sunset Realty in Riverside with his wife, Nancy, has been with HouseHunt for 18 months. His pleasure with the company is threefold.

“I like the fact that it’s a flat rate, rather than a per-lead system,” Hoke said. “I also love the TIM system, where you automatically follow up on leads. And you guys are so easy to work with. I’m very satisfied.”

Hoke, who has had the Lake Elsinore territory since he started with HouseHunt, recently added Mira Loma and Horse Thief Canyon to the mix.

“The system works,” he said. “I’m sticking with it, no doubt.”

Key Points for Successful Negotiation in Real Estate Sales

By Jim Droz

Any job involving sales will undoubtedly involve wheeling and dealing somewhere along the line. But the negotiation process for real estate agents the past few years has been elevated dramatically because of the up-and-down state of the market, interest rates and economy in general.

Negotiating can be artful and strategic, in addition to nerve wracking and frustrating. Follow these tips to make the process go smoother:

Keep your cool and professionalism

Be calm because it doesn’t benefit either participant to upset the dialogue with escalated emotions. Equally important is to be assertive and passionate about staying on track toward getting a fair deal done for both the buyer and seller. Remember, it’s not personal, so check emotions at the door and be professional at all times.

Get the facts

There is no excuse for not being well prepared. Explain your side of the bargaining table and then ask the opposing party to present all their facts and figures to support their position. Once you have all the facts, you then attempt to create a favorable situation based upon what you know.

Pay attention

Listen, listen, listen. It all starts there. Then remove the personal feelings and concentrate on getting a deal done with what you’ve learned.

Trading places

Look at things from the other person’s perspective. By doing that, each side will likely ease off on their demands to a point where the terms are mutually agreeable.

Keep it positive

No matter the tone in private, give your client and the opposing side the information in a positive way. As an agent, never say anything bad about the buyer or seller. Keep the negotiation informational.

Look ahead

Create a compelling and positive vision by having the client — the buyer or seller — imagine moving on, and what his or her life will be like when that happens.

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HouseHunt makes a good first impression on Florida agent

By Jaime Westman

It didn’t take long for Lou Ulery to form a positive opinion about HouseHunt. The Realtor at Core 99, LLC Realty in Wellington, Fla., acquired the territories of West Palm Beach and Delray Beach in late July and by early October had two closings.

“It’s proven to be very, very good,” said Ulery, who has been an agent for about 15 years. “We’re quite active. Your system is keeping us busy.”

Ulery, who said his office has about 50 leads from HouseHunt they’re communicating with on a regular basis, added that he’s “very satisfied with the quality of leads” that HouseHunt generates.

“I’m very happy with how it’s gone so far,” he said.

Ulery said he immediately sends e-mails to prospective buyers when he gets a lead informing them that an introductory and more-informative phone call will be coming the next day. So far, the strategy seems to be working.

“If it continues like this,” he said, “this will give us all the business we can handle and I think we’re going to be very successful with it.”

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