Marketing Around the Holidays [Video]

By Jim Droz

At the peak of his career, Jim Droz was the top selling agent in the world, closing nearly 300 transactions and making $1,000,000 annually. He is now a premier presenter on the real estate conference circuit, imparting what he’s learned over the years. He is a strong advocate for the HouseHunt lead generation and nurturing system, and today he’s given HouseHunt an exclusive presentation about what agents should be doing for the holiday season: The Ultimate Holiday Gift 2013.

The real estate market is always slow as the calendar year comes to a close, so most agents view this time as a sort of vacation. By the middle of January, however, the market is thriving again and those who were lazy during the holidays must work harder to catch up.

Repetition in marketing generates brand recognition when buyers and sellers become active again in January. And brand recognition means more income for you!

Ultimate Holiday Gift 2013

 

This 6-minute presentation covers:

  • When to begin the production phase for 2014
  • How to build personal brand recognition
  • Creative ways to market your brand in October, November, and December
  • How to utilize the HouseHunt marketing systems to jump-start success
  • Increasing your annual income through continuous yearly marketing efforts
  • How to balance holiday work efforts with a family-oriented season
  • Cost efficiency for your year-end marketing
  • Maintaining relationships with previous clients

So grab some popcorn, take some notes, and begin planning ways to leverage what’s left of 2013. We here at HouseHunt look forward to helping make 2014 the most successful fiscal year of your career.

Note: If the video is not working, please click here.

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How Hashtags Help Real Estate Professionals

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hashtags

One of the most common sources of confusion in the social media realm is what that pound key is and why it’s all over every online feed.

What is a #Hashtag?

Twitter was the first platform to popularize the idea of “hashtags.” They define it by saying, “Hashtags mark keywords or topics in Tweets. Think of it like choosing what a Tweet is filed under.” These tags feature no spaces or punctuation, as that would break the link and end up creating an unintentional keyword.

Fun fact: the concept was actually user-created based on old chat room usage of the pound key, not something developed by corporate Twitter.

In a post about sports, you would put a hashtag before whatever team: #Packers, #Lakers, etc. More than a couple hashtags per post is likely overkill.

When you use a hashtag, your post immediately reaches beyond just your own follower base. Click the tagged phrase to see what the world has to say on your subject. Your contribution weaves itself into the fabric of discussions about the #NBA, #Thanksgiving, or even something silly like #ManCrushMonday.

Is It Actually #Practical?

Contributing to a larger dialogue on something has many implications. First, it invites people to be a part of something happening around them. You see this with television: people love expressing their outrage when their favorite contestant is voted off, or consoling each other when a character has been killed off.

Here’s how hashtags help real estate professionals:

On a smaller scale, you can hashtag a conference, presentation, open house, or other event to gauge how people are reacting. Find areas for improvement and gauge prospective clients.

Reach more clients by using hashtags! A recent study by Hubspot shows a post with a hashtag is 55% more likely to be retweeted, which means accessing a broader audience.

Jump into dialogues that are trending (most popular) to show how your business can add perspective to a discussion. For example, if you notice a an HGTV show trending, add your commentary during the show about what’s realistic and what’s not-so-realistic about what’s happening on the screen.

The goal of social media is always interaction. You can search hashtags such as #househunting alongside your #localcity and find people looking for homes right now. Interact with them over online platforms and end up generating your own leads.

Discover what’s happening in your industry by searching topics like #interestrates, #firsttimehomebuyer, or simply #realestate. You’ll see content from industry professionals with popular blogs and resources to keep you on the cutting edge.

 

Click here for the 26 hashtags every real estate agent should know!

Click Here for an Easy-to-Share Infographic on Hashtags
Click Here for an Easy-to-Share Infographic on Hashtags

Usage on Different Platforms

The ways to use hashtags on Twitter are pretty universal across the social media spectrum, but if you really want to master the concept, here are a few of the key differences:

Instagram: Instagram hashtags are just as important as those in the Twittersphere. A picture with tags gains an average of twice the number of likes and comments. And unlike Twitter, you can tag just about anything your heart desires on Instagram, not just one or two key words.

Google+: If you don’t hashtag your Google+ posts, Google will do it for you, so you might as well have some fun with it! You can use however many tags you’d like on this platform, but Google will only highlight the first three on the post’s sidebar, so only add more than that when necessary. Google search queries now also include hashtagged queries.

Facebook: Facebook is the ugly stepchild of hashtag usage. Facebook just introduced the feature recently, and it’s been a complete failure of an experiment. Studies have shown that hashtags in Facebook posts actually hurt the virality of the post, so don’t expect nearly as many “shares” on posts with the # symbol in ‘em. The only explanation for this phenomenon is that users recognize Facebook is simply not that kind of social media platform, and they don’t want it to be.

Perhaps the most important rule for hashtags—like all of social media—is that there are no hard rules yet. These are just suggestions, but you could easily find unique ways to capitalize on the pound key or get away with tagging every other word in your post. No matter the end goal, have fun with it.


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New Mortgage Rules in 2014: Loans Will Be Harder to Obtain

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The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform was signed in 2010, and we’re still trying to figure out what the heck it means. New mortgage rules go into effect January 10, 2014, and there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the updated provisions. While the industry waits for the dust to settle, we wanted to provide you with the certainties of what’s happening, and how consumers can be prepared.

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

After the housing bubble popped in 2008, the government started scrambling for how to prevent such an economic collapse from happening again. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put together a set of standards of “qualified mortgages.”

These Qualified Residential Mortgages (QRMs) protect lenders from distressed borrowers. So as a potential home-buyer, don’t expect a loan if you can’t meet the new requirements set by the CFPB. Could a lender give you a loan anyway? Sure, but then they would have no safety net from the government and they could lose thousands if you turn out to be a risk.

Is Anyone Exempt?

The government found a way to exempt itself from its own laws… Go figure.

If your loan is eligible to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you are already qualified for a QRM. Also, if your loan is insured by the Veterans Association, USDA, or a couple other government-based programs, you are good to go. These people do not have to worry about the new requirements.

That being said, you can expect all loan programs—even Fannie, Freddie, and the like—to make a shift towards the new requirements. They are only grandfathered into the old rules for seven years, plus they will want to shift regardless just because the new, stricter rules involve less risk for them.

What We’re Up Against

Here are the factors (the first two being the potentially tricky ones) that lenders will consider if you meet the requirements for a QRM:

1. Monthly Debt to Income (DTI) ratios, less than or equal to 43 percent.

2. Current debt obligations: student debt, alimony, child support, etc.

3. Current or realistically expected income or assets.

4. Current employment status.

5. Monthly payment on the covered transaction.

6. Monthly payment on any miscellaneous loans.

7. Monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations: Homeowner’s Association, etc.

8. Credit history.

The total points and fees on a loan may not exceed 3 percent. What exactly qualifies towards points and fees, however, is still very much up in the air.

Student Loan Debt

The Surprising Victims

The new rules generally make sense, and protect the buyer from him or herself in a lot of ways. There are, however, some people who will be unable to obtain a loan in 2014 that you wouldn’t necessarily expect:

• The stricter DTI ratio will make it hard for people with student debt to meet eligibility.

• Retired people with no current income may not qualify, even if they have adequate savings.

• Non-salary workers who rely on recurring bonuses or overtime will have to prove that such supplementary income is completely reliable, in order to balance out the DTI ratio.

• Self-employed and freelance workers will have to prove stability in income, which will likely require years of evidence of various incomes.

• Those who lost their jobs in the recession will have a hard time proving reliable income. Even if they’ve since found work that pays better, it takes years to be considered stable by the new standards.

Collateral Damage

The new rules will block out a lot potential buyers, as seen above. But even if you meet the new

requirements, there will be some unforeseen repercussions.

As details of the new provisions come to light and kinks are worked out in the next several months, loan underwriters are going to err on the side of caution to make sure they cover their assets. You can expect a lot of paperwork. You will have to provide documentation for every imaginable source of revenue or debt to try to qualify for a loan. This will be particularly frustrating if you’ve already been through the loan and home-buying process because it will be so much more intense than last time. No matter how aggravating it may seem, try to stay calm. The lender is not an evil person, s/he’s simply not in a position to budge on what’s required.

You may also find that you qualify for a loan at one major bank, but not another. This is not some government conspiracy determined to ruin your life. This is just what’s bound to happen as lenders figure out the obscurities of the new bill. Until everyone feels comfortable, lenders will exercise caution, which isn’t exactly good news for borrowers on the cusp of the new DTI ratio.

Some lenders have already implemented the new 2014 rules in an attempt to be as prepared as possible. Other lenders haven’t even been trained on the new rules because so many of the rules are still undetermined. So if you thought you’d rush out and get a loan before the January stipulations, you may already be out of luck.

Consumer Strategy

If you have minimal debt and can prove reliable income, go ahead and move forward with your home-buying adventure. But if you think you may have trouble qualifying based on these new rules, your best bet is to slow your roll and focus on either paying off your debt or building a bigger down payment to lower your total interest.

In this upward-swinging economy, home values are only going up and interest rates will follow suit. It is understandable if you feel like you absolutely cannot wait to purchase your first or next home. If that’s the case, and you have just a bit too much debt, consider a private loan. An example of this would be if a family member or friend could pay off some of your debt so that you qualified for a mortgage loan, and then you paid them back personally. If a parent pays off your car, you could suddenly qualify for a mortgage loan. Repay the parent with your normal payment plan, but have it wiped clean from your credit. Then you are spared if the lucrative economy brings home values up in the amount of time it would have taken you to pay off that debt.

A broker may be a buyer’s best friend under the new policy. A broker will have the consumer’s best interest in mind while maintaining a solid grasp on the new policies. S/he will understand if and when a lender is being unnecessarily stingy.

Mortgage Rates

Large-Scale Effects

Many people will suddenly not qualify for a mortgage loan in 2014. Even those who do qualify will have to go through a much more tedious process. And there will be general trepidation on the part of lenders while they figure out the nuts and bolts of the new rules. Expect all of these factors to temporarily stall the housing market progress that has taken years to rebuild. Luckily, this will likely be short-lived as buyers and lenders quickly adjust.

Once the dust settles, however, the market will only benefit from these new conditions. Everyone can be more confident in their investments in 2014. Home-buyers will know they’re not getting in over their heads with loans they’re entrusted with.

Many lenders have been operating under restrictions similar to what is about to become law ever since the economic collapse. It is very likely that the general public won’t even feel the new rules. No matter the potential frustrations, the new provisions will allow you to move into your new home with insured buyer confidence.

 

HouseHunt extends special thanks to broker Cindy Chung of iapprovehomeloans.com for providing us with the most up-to-date information about the 2014 mortgage rule changes. We encourage you to visit her site and utilize a broker as you move forward with the buying process in the coming year.

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Google Places for Realtors

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Google Places for Business

As we mentioned in last week’s installment of our Social Media Series about Yelp, it’s important to claim and manage your business’s unclaimed listings that are already out there on the internet. Similar to how iPhones use Yelp (via Siri) to find the best local businesses that fit a user’s needs, Android phones index Google Places for Business listings to do the same. Since 28% of users are searching for brokers or local agents using their mobile devices, it’s important to find and claim your Google business listing today.

Unfortunately, Google can be confusing. There’s Google+ Personal Profiles, Google+ Business Pages, Google Places for Business, and Google+ Local. So which ones should you be using for your real estate business?

We’ve already discussed how to and why you should use Google+ Personal Profiles and Business Pages, so today we’ll focus on Google Places for Business. What’s the difference, you may ask? A Google+ Business Page is a social media tool, a place to interact with clients, other real estate agents, join communities, etc. On the other hand, Google Places for Business is essentially a Google Maps listing. Meaning, when people search Google Maps to locate your business, your Places for Business listing will come up.

Like Yelp, it’s likely Google already has your business listing on the web, but it’s important that you claim and manage it. First, type in your business’s address into Google. Once you locate it on the map, click the red pointer icon to see the exact marked address and then hit “more info.” This will take you to the Google Places for Business page for that location. Scroll down and hit “Manage this page” in the “Is this your business?” box. This will direct you to a log-in page for your Google account. Once you sign in, you’ll be asked to verify the business as your own and agree to the Terms and Conditions of the site. If you can’t find your business by typing in the address, you can go directly to the Google Places for Business home page to get started.

Once you’ve claimed the business as your own online, Google will send you a postcard with a code to verify that the location and site is indeed yours to manage. Once you’ve received the postcard, entered the code and your Places for Business page has been confirmed, it’s time to start managing your page. From the sidebar you can access your Listing; this is where you can update the business name, address, contact info, category, hours, description and add photos. You can access your Google+ Business Page, AdWords Express, Offers and Insights (like Google Analytics) accounts from the sidebar as well.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to see any reviews that have been written about your business on the page. Unlike Yelp, you can’t respond publicly to positive or negative reviews, but you can contact the reviewer personally through their Google+ profile. Simply go their profile, and under the Posts tab, click “Say hi to [name of reviewer]” under Hangouts. As outlined in our “Battling Bad Reviews” article, it’s important to keep your composure when responding to negative reviews of your business.

Once your page is set up with the vital listing information, you won’t have to do much maintenance. Therefore, with minimal effort and the added potential mobile and SEO benefits of having your Google Places for Business listing claimed and personalized, adding this site to your real estate business’s list of websites is a win-win.

Please leave any questions or comments below, and tune back in next week for “How Hashtags Help Real Estate Professionals.”


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Foursquare for Realtors

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Foursquare

Foursquare is a location-based social media platform that launched in 2009 and currently boasts over 40 million users. Foursquare can be used online or, more popularly, via a mobile app to “check in” at a user’s current location. Once you’re checked in, whether you’re at a restaurant, venue or airport, you can rate the location’s services. What’s great about using Foursquare is a lot of businesses will give out discounts or specials to those that check in at their location. Take a peek at your favorite restaurant’s foursquare account to see if they have any special promotions!

So how can you use Foursquare for Realtors? By branding you as the community expert, increasing your online authority, and making you easily searchable. After you’ve created a personal account (as business accounts are for physical locations on Foursquare, i.e. restaurants, shops, etc) start checking in at your favorite local spots around the area you farm. Make sure that your personal account is professional; use a professional headshot that you have on other social media accounts that brand you as a real estate professional, and link your profile to your business’s website.

You can sign up for Foursquare using Facebook, Google+ or your email address. Once you’ve registered your preliminary information, Foursquare will prompt you to download their app on your iPhone, Android or Blackberry. You will then be asked to find your friends via Facebook, Twitter or Gmail. Once you’ve connected with friends, you’ll be sent to a page asking for what you’re looking for. This page will give you tips and popular locations in your area. Foursquare locations range from food, coffee, nightlife, shopping and entertainment to the outdoors. Take a chance to look through the popular locations, local places and businesses offering money-saving specials.

Now it’s time to get out there and start checking in. Whether you’re going out to grab lunch with coworkers, having a nice family dinner at your favorite restaurant, at the movies or on a hike with friends, make sure to check in and write a quick tip about the spot you’re at. Let readers know why they should go there, what they should order/see, and when the best time to visit is. Remember, what you’re writing will be read by past, current and future clients, so make sure to keep your reviews professional.

Aside from writing tips/reviews, you can also create lists for things to do and places to see. Make a “New to the Area” list featuring public parks, utilities and schools. Create a “Best Burger Joints” list to promote your favorite burger spots, an “Ice Cream Fiend” list with a collection of the best places for delicious frozen treats, and a “Running Spots” lists featuring the best paths and/or parks to go for a jog.

By being consistent and truthful with your check-ins, reviews and lists, you will digitally own knowledge about your area and be a trusted source of information in the community. Checking in is fun and easy, and if you frequent a place enough, you may even be deemed the “mayor” of the location! Moreover, you can refer your clients and fellow agents to your account or a certain list when they ask you for local recommendations.

Feel free to post any questions, comments or tips in the comments section, and happy Foursquaring!


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7 Google Tools for Real Estate Agents

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Marci James, Obeo’s Social Media Manager, was featured in a webinar about Google tools for real estate and gave some sound advice. She talked about different Google tools and how to utilize them in everyday business and real estate transactions. We here at HouseHunt took so much away from this webinar that we thought we’d share what we learned with our lovely readers.

Google Drive

Google Drive is basically an online storage closet. Here, you can upload and download everything from documents, presentations, forms and spreadsheets to templates and drawings. You can easily share anything on your drive with selected individuals so others can collaborate with you on uploaded files. Additionally, you can send faxes and documents from Google Drive with HelloFax and sign forms using DocuSign for Google Drive. The first five gigs are free, so check it out!

GoMo

GoMo is short for Go Mobile and verifies if your site is mobile-friendly. There are definite perks to your real estate business’s website being mobile-friendly, like more exposure and more clientele. According to Google’s GoMo page, “67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service.” Furthermore, research on mobile concluded that people will be accessing the internet more from their mobile phones than with a laptop or desktop by 2014.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts allows you to receive notifications every time your name, business name, or any topic of interest is mentioned online. Simply go to the page, search for something, pick your result type (everything, blogs, videos, etc.), how often you want to receive an alert, how many results you want and where you want them delivered (to your email or to a feed). If you’re interested in receiving alerts about the area you farm, type in something like “homes for sale in Boston.” Use quotation marks to tell Google you want it to give you results using the entire phrase, as opposed to all results for “homes,” “for sale” and “Boston.” You can also use the minus symbol (-) to indicate what you don’t want in the results. For example, if you work in Milan, Michigan you would want to type in -Italy so you don’t receive results for the capital of Lombardy. Type in +word to match a word exactly as it’s typed, and put a star before a location (*Boston) to receive content posted from that particular place.

Google Voice

With Google Voice, you can pick a phone number with any area code, set up an online voicemail that transcribes messages and sends them to your inbox, and text and call to the U.S. and Canada. All of this is free! You can forward the calls or texts from your Google Voice number to any phone you want. You can also download the Google Voice app to your phone and choose to use either your cell number or your Google Voice number when making calls. This makes it easier to transfer calls to a secretary or another agent when you’re on vacation, or to keep your business number separate from your cell number, but still have the convenience and accessibility of your mobile phone.

Other cool Google Voice features include putting people into groups and setting up personalized greetings for each group. Not only will your voicemails be saved online and transcribed to text, you can listen in on them while they’re being left. Additionally, you can block unwanted callers and make cheap international calls.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is, alas, an online calendar, but a really cool one. First of all, it syncs across all of your devices, be it a phone, tablet or computer. You can also create multiple calendars within your calendar. For example, you can have a personal, work and editorial calendar—all organized by different colors—on the same calendar. Additionally, you can share specific calendars with certain people (like the editorial one with your blog writer) and view other people’s public calendars (like someone’s sports calendar to see when your favorite football team is playing).

Google Maps

We’ve all used Google Maps, but there are some pretty nifty features that you can use for your real estate business. Create your own custom maps within Google Maps by going to “My places” on the left hand side of the page. From here, click the Create Map button, and get started! Using this tool, you can draw to add places, lines, or shapes, import data to visualize it on a map, organize places into layers and pick the style of your pins/locations. Create maps for your active listings and sold properties and make points of interest, awesome restaurants, historical attractions and utilities maps for those relocating/new to an area. Make networking easy by starting a referral map for fellow agents. The possibilities are endless! Once you’ve created a map, you can export it and/or embed it into your website or a particular blog post.

Google Cloud Print

With Google Cloud Print, you can connect your printer to the web. This tool works from your phone, tablet, PC, Macbook and any other web-connected device. Furthermore, you can print from different apps from any of these devices or download the Cloud Print app directly to them to print with ease. Cloud Print also allows you to securely share your printer with anyone you choose. In this way, your printer can function like a fax machine. This tool works best with wireless printers, but can work with wired ones by printing through Google Chrome and your Google account.

As you can see, there are many free Google Tools just waiting to make your life easier and enhance your real estate business’s online functionality. If you’re a Keller Williams agent, there’re even more perks. KW Realty recently teamed up with Google to integrate Google Apps for Business into their online system. This provides their agents with increased storage, collaborative tools for teams and enhanced mobile access. Google Tools that are now integrated into the KW system include Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar and Google Docs among others. KW agents will also have access to 30 gigs of online storage as well as integrated training and support.

Whether you’re a Keller Williams agent or not, start exploring all that Google has to offer and find what tools work for you!

Do you have any questions or want to share more tips about Google Tools? Please leave a reply below.


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