July’s New Home Construction Building a Good Foundation

Published by Jim Droz

A foundation is being built for the housing recovery as 2012 makes the turn toward the backstretch of a year many see as the start of something good, or at least a lot better than the previous five or six years. That foundation, appropriately enough, is coming from homebuilder confidence. A report from the National Association of Home Builders in July showed the largest one-month gain since September 2002 in the newly built single-family home market. Gains were shown in homebuilder confidence over rising sales conditions, prospects for future sales and traffic of prospective buyers.

“This is greater evidence that the housing market has turned the corner as more buyers perceive the benefits of purchasing a newly built home while interest rates and prices are so favorable,” NAHB chairman Barry Rutenberg said in a statement.

The Commerce Department also jumped in with good news for the home-building industry with a report that showed housing starts in June rose 6.9 percent. Broken down, single-family home construction, which makes up the largest segment of those new housing starts, increased 4.7 percent. Multifamily housing starts, considered a volatile segment of the market, rose 12.8 percent that month.

Other reasons for an increase in construction could be the lack of available housing for buyers who are entering the market because of improved conditions and the fact that mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows. A market conditions survey from HouseHunt agents found some having difficulty finding houses for clients in their price range or preferred neighborhood because of tight inventory.

“The activity has been absolutely fantastic. We’re actually seeing buyers that are not finding the homes that they’re looking for,” said agent Jeff Schulz, who works in the Minneapolis metropolitan area. “That has resulted in more construction, which is a positive visual sign for the industry.”

A gas and oil boom in eastern Montana has agents in that part of the country scrambling to find housing for clients as well. Michelle O’Rourke, who works in a real estate office in Billings, said “new construction is going like crazy again” as workers from out of state enter the region and look for houses.

“That’s a good sign,” she said. “It’s good for our economy and gives the industry a boost.”

If you’d like to hear what economic and construction experts have to say about where they see things heading as we move forward, the NAHB is planning a webinar on Oct. 24 that will cover changes in the market and where the building hot spots might be in 2013. Visit http://www.nahb.org/reference_list.aspx?sectionID=130 for more information or to register.

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Do Something Extra

Published by Jim Droz


The best things in life are free. Or so I’ve heard. The past few years we’ve all probably felt like we worked for nothing because of the economic downturn. But if you’re handed lemons, you might as well make lemonade, and sometimes gestures big and small can make the difference in whether or not we attract clients or seal the deals.

Reports from HouseHunt agents and real estate tracking agencies are showing an uptick in activity in 2012, so more people are getting off the sidelines and entering the market. Are you prepared to do all you can – within reason – to get their business?

Everyone knows your job as an agent is to help people buy and sell houses. But you can set yourself apart by adding incentives to your agreement or listing presentation that will be noticed – and appreciated – by prospects. These can include the frequency of open houses and whether or not food will be served; how you’ll handle broker previews; where you plan to market and promote the property; and offering guaranteed satisfaction.

That last money-back nugget was a big factor in helping HouseHunt president and CEO Mike Bearden attract clients during his days as a top agent: “That was huge for me,” he said. “That means a lot because people respect that.”

Other extra efforts might include:

Analyze this
Since property values are constantly shifting, doing a market analysis for a homeowner is good for business now and later. It shows you’re staying on top of a client’s situation and offers immediate value. You can also provide that help to someone who is just testing the market because he or she could become a future client because of your information.

Talk about it
Bearden said he made a point to call his clients each Monday night to update them on progress and strategies: “The biggest thing is communication,” he said. “Not all agents do that on a regular basis.”

Set the stage
Providing home staging as part of your listing service can be a load off a homeowner’s mind. There are businesses or people that can help or you can do it yourself. You’ve been in and out of enough houses to know what helps them sell and what hinders the process.

Create a scene
Virtual tours of the house are increasing in popularity and soon might be expected as technology becomes easier to use. If you’re not good with a video camera or don’t know how to post videos online, perhaps it’s time to learn.

Team up
Another marketing strategy that’s catching on is forming partnerships with area businesses such as movers, landscapers, cable companies, painters, roofers, city services and hardware stores. Your collaboration can include everything from contact information to providing store or servicing discounts.

Pitch in
The ultimate show of teamwork is a willingness to lend the homeowner a hand by occasionally watering the flowers, sweeping floors, clearing a counter and keeping the house in tip-top shape for viewers. If you’re with a big agency, a cleaning service is a nice touch, but if you’re on your own, why not roll up your sleeves and offer a hand?

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Navigating the Latest Market Trend

Published by Jim Droz

If a Realtor was sent to the blackboard by a math teacher these days, he or she might write this equation: More buyers + fewer houses = help!

National surveys and HouseHunt’s second-quarter market conditions report show an increase in housing activity and a decrease in inventory in parts of the country. Working through foreclosures and short sales, however, remain a sticking point to more upward movement. While national reports show the nation’s shadow inventory shrinking by about 30 percent since early 2010, HouseHunt agents in parts of Georgia, California, Arizona, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Texas and Florida say foreclosures represent from 30 to more than 50 percent of houses in their market.

“If you have a home that is not a short sale or REO, we’re seeing multiple offers in excess of five to 30 on a property. Buyers are jumping on regular sales since they don’t have to wait for a bank to make a decision.” reported Cheryl Lichen-Hooper, a HouseHunt agent in Castaic just north of Los Angeles.

Overall, HouseHunt agents reporting a tight supply of houses rose from 38 percent to 52 from the previous quarter, and 76 percent reported multiple offers being made, an increase of 10 percent from the first three months of the year.

“The inventory is very low. We’re seeing more traditional sales come on the market but not enough to really have an impact on the low numbers.” – Mary L. Hartman, a HouseHunt Realtor in the Phoenix metropolitan area of Surprise.

Hartman said that has put a premium on contacting leads immediately and never giving up on a prospect unless it’s obviously a dead end.

“What I’m finding is that the leads I’m working are more serious in nature, so when I’m contacting them they’re actually proactively contacting me back,” she said. “They’re more receptive to somebody helping them because they’ve been trying to find something and there’s a challenge still with all the short sales on the market.”

After nine years in the real estate game, Hartman says she has learned to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the business. The latest trend is just another stream to navigate.

“My strategy is, don’t be afraid of anything,” she said. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to deal with short sales or don’t want to work with foreclosures or this or that. But every one of those ‘I don’t want to do’s’ – guess what? If you don’t want to do them you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

And since you never know who’s on the other end of the line or initial e-mail message, Hartman said: “You’ve got to treat all of them like they’re the big one.”

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How Much Do Realtors Work, Earn & Spend? via Activerain

By Jaime Westman

An ActiveRain survey shows that if you’re not keeping up with the Jonses – or Smiths or Andersons or Murrays – in the use of technology you’d better get started or risk being left behind.

The survey of 2,000 real estate agents reveals that many are investing in a variety of tools to expand their reach to customers, with 63 percent saying they have an Internet Data Exchange (IDX) website that features home listing feeds from their MLS at an average expenditure of $75 a month. Additionally, 62 percent say they use tools that help them create comparative market analyses for clients ($73) and 51 percent use customer relationship management software ($46) to help manage their customer leads.

The survey also found that 40 percent of agents still rely on direct mail ($108) while about 45 percent use search-engine optimization, blogging and social media ($47) for their real estate marketing efforts. Also, 32 percent of respondents say they pay for online leads through a variety of generation systems such as HouseHunt. Continue reading “How Much Do Realtors Work, Earn & Spend? via Activerain”

How to Acquire an Online Audience

By Jaime Westman

A curator sounds like – and actually is – someone who oversees items at a museum or library. Nowadays it also means someone who reads, gathers, sorts and presents information from a variety of sources for distribution on social media platforms.

In other words, it’s you. What? You didn’t know that was part of your job description as a real estate agent? Well, it should at least be creeping into your vocabulary or onto your to-do list if you want to get your name and message out to the masses. Even if you’re not a polished writer, you still have something to say. Using other sources for material – whether it’s technical, humorous, enlightening or in another form – is a good way to get noticed and move up the ladder on search engines because of linking, sharing and “likes.”

I just listened to a Webinar that had some useful ideas for people who aren’t very active on social media or who are hesitant to get started because of a lack of knowledge. Here are some tidbits from that and other things I’ve read about how to acquire an online audience.

GETTING STARTED

  • Research: Gather information from websites and other sources such as traditional media that might be of interest to your clients or relevant to your area.
  • Context: Determine how the information relates to your marketing plan and how it can get you noticed and your site visited on a regular basis.
  • Insight: Provide expertise on the subject or personalize the information to fit your city, neighborhood or overall real estate market.
  • Organization: Set up a schedule for when and how often you want to post. Start small and grow as you go. The most important thing is to be consistent.
  • Reach out: Look for or produce content that will fit with multiple outlets.
  • Keep it moving: Statistics, numbers and trends are important in real estate, but mix in some content that’s fun, clever or interesting on other levels as well.
  • Distribution: Research the sites, people and business circles best for spreading your messages and posts. If done effectively, these people will help spread your word.

SITES AND APPS

  • Google Alerts: Set up alerts for cities and neighborhoods you market to and for schools and your name or office. Start with that and build the alerts as you get comfortable.
  • Twitter lists: Make a list of local news sources and another of local or state leaders, in addition to celebrities, business owners and experts in real estate and housing.
  • Scoop.it: This is a topic-centric tool to help you better target your messages to the right kind of people.
  • CurationSoft: This app allows you to search by keyword, choose your content, drag and drop, add your commentary and post your message.
  • Pulse News: The Pulse app provides news from traditional sources and your favorite blogs and social networks.
  • Houzz: This app has some inspirational ideas and sharp photos dealing with houses.
  • Zite: This is one of the best apps for content because it lets you create custom searches based on your audience and brand.
  • Instagram: Photos are essential to getting content noticed and Instagram is a fast and dynamic way to share them.
  • Buffer: This allows you to pre-populate your Twitter feed and determine a publishing schedule, which means you don’t need to share content the instant you read it.
  • HootSuite: This is similar to Buffer but you can also manage your social networks through HootSuite by tracking conversations and measuring results.
  • Pinterest: All real estate agents should be on this content sharing service because it’s the second-highest traffic referral source behind Facebook. The site allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to a board for current and future use.

ORGANIZING CONTENT

  • Evernote: This suite of software and other services is designed for taking notes and archiving. Notes can have file attachments and be sorted into folders, tagged, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook.
  • Instapaper: This web service saves articles for later reading on browsers and other electronic devices.

In a nutshell, you’re the expert on some things and not on others, but there is a slew of information that’s relevant or entertaining to your target audience. How you come up with or produce content is up to you, but be sure it represents you, your personality and your business message in a positive light. And don’t be afraid to get your fingers moving across the keyboard. What you have to say is important, so get it out there for others to see.

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Are You an Eeyore or a Tigger?

By Jaime Westman

Dead men tell no tales but they can provide inspiration long after they’re gone. Such is the case with Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who died four years ago this month. But the message he delivered after being given a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer 11 months before he died lives on thanks to videos and a book he co-authored on achieving dreams.

One such message came on “Oprah” during his final months. Paush, whose inspirational spirit became public after he delivered “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” made it clear to the audience that he wasn’t letting his death sentence ruin his remaining months.

“Let’s be clear, this stinks,” he said. “I pretty much can’t control the cards I’m dealt but I can control the cards I play.”

A segment of his talk mentioned Tigger and Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh” and can be related to how we go about our jobs as Realtors. (HouseHunt’s office is close to Disneyland, so humor me a little, OK?)

Basically, Pausch asked the audience whether they were Tiggers or Eeyores, with the former being energetic, optimistic and enthusiastic and the latter being pessimistic, gloomy and depressed. There’s no doubt what role Pausch chose, but how about you?

The real estate profession has been a downer, no doubt, the past five or six years but is starting to rebound a bit. This is the perfect time to go into Tigger mode, attack each day with vigor and show your prospects and clients some optimism by doing all you can to help them achieve the American Dream. After all, they’re likely feeling some angst going into the market because of previous bad news and the fact that it’s a huge investment for them to make.

The revitalized energy you put into your job will not only rub off on prospects and clients but on co-workers and peers as well. Having a positive attitude makes us feel so much better about what we do at work, home and play. Think about new ways you can dig deeper to do your job and then do your best to see those strategies through. Soon you’ll be recognized as someone who is the consummate professional who is also a business leader and someone people can trust to get the job done.

“If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself and the dreams will come to you,” Pausch said.

Words to live by, for sure.

Watch the Lecture

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Staying in Touch Can Pay Off in the Long Run

Published by Jim Droz

We meet a lot of people in this business – some in person and many more through various forms of social media. Whether they’re prospects, clients, friends or “friends” (the Facebook kind), maintaining a relationship with everyone is crucial to your business. After all, you never know what might happen down the road.

Denis Savard, a Realtor in eastern Tennessee’s Jefferson County, has a motto of keeping prospects in his database “until they buy or die.” That’s a clever and/or clunky way of saying that everyone is a potential client, so staying in touch is good business. His strategy has paid off in the past and did so again recently when a person in his pipeline for five years resurfaced and bought a house.

“They’d been coming down and looking every year on vacation, and on the last trip announced they were here to buy, and they did,” said Savard, whose rural territory is in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains that attracts 4 million visitors a year, making it nice for retirees and second-home purchases. “I did my usual thing by staying in touch, and they contacted me each year during their visits because of that. Now I have some happy campers, even though it took five years.”

Savard’s “usual thing” is sending prospects monthly newsletters, market information and listings that might meet their search parameters. He has different response letters and tactics for people who are first-time visitors to his site and for those who look more frequently. And since many say that they’re simply searching for “down the road,” he takes that into account with his marketing efforts.

“I try to keep it low pressure because if they tell me they’re years away but are qualified and people I want to work with, I stay in touch with links to listings, occasional e-mails and basically keep them apprised of the market conditions,” he said. “Sometimes after a year or two they’re actually in a position to buy, and hopefully if I’ve done my job of keeping them informed on the area and market they buy from me.”

That’s a good strategy, particularly if you work in a less-populated area of the country. Inquiries and traffic might not be extremely high, so treating everyone who stops by – in person or your website – should be handled as if they’ll eventually buy a house from you. You can weed out people you know won’t pan out, but give everyone the benefit of the doubt at first. After all, you can’t have too many friends (the real kind), right?

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