There was a time when providing great service in real estate meant understanding the lifestyles of clients and teaching them what they didnâ€™t already know. Simply providing them with information on homes for sale, pricing, current mortgage rates and data relevant to the transaction gave practitioners a strong leg-up since consumer access to such information was limited.
â€œToday, that doesnâ€™t happen anymore,â€ says Austin Allison, CEO of DotLoop, which provides solutions that facilitate paperless real estate transactions. â€œThey call up the agent and say, â€˜Hey, I found these 15 homes. Can you show them to me?â€™â€
Consumers â€“ especially those under 40 â€“ want to find information on their own, Allison says. When they do contact a real estate professional, theyâ€™ve often done quite a bit of research on the web. Because theyâ€™re starting from a higher baseline of knowledge, what they want most from their agent today isnâ€™t market intelligence or listing info, but rather someone to manage their transaction seamlessly.
He points to Apple and Amazon as models to which real estate practitioners can aspire. At Appleâ€™s retail stores, customers arenâ€™t being bombarded with hard sells and extraneous information about things they donâ€™t want. Instead, if they have questions about a particular product, they ask one of the knowledgeable people who work there and get a detailed, informed answer. If not, they pick up the item they came in knowing they wanted and purchase it.
Similarly, visitors can go to Amazon.com knowing they can either get plenty of information and reviews on a particular product if they want it, or they can just buy it very quickly via the siteâ€™s one-click checkout.
â€œThe lower end of Generation X and Generation Y like it like this,â€ explains Allison, and adds that these consumers make up the majority of first-time homebuyers now. â€œA good experience is the real estate agent getting out of (their) way.â€
A great way to determine whether or not youâ€™re providing an excellent customer service experience is to calculate the ratio of leads generated to leads converted, he says. The higher that number is, the better. And of course, the number of transactions youâ€™re closing and how satisfied buyers and sellers are at the end of the process is critical too.
Real estate professionals who make the adjustment to the Apple/Amazon model of service stand to benefit as housing recovers and new consumers enter the market over the next few years. But Allison is concerned that too many practitioners are locked into the old way of doing things.
â€œA lot of the industry is in denial,â€ he says. â€œIs the real estate agent going away? Highly unlikely. But their role is going to evolve. The real estate agents who refuse to acknowledge that and make changes are going to pay for it.â€
Source: Brian Summerfield, RealtorÂ® Magazine
Â© 2012 Florida RealtorsÂ®
Home prices posted a steep, month-over-month drop in November, falling 1.3%, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city report. Prices fell in 19 of the 20 cities the index covers.
Prices are down 3.7% from a year ago, and off 32.8% since they peaked in the summer of 2006. The index is currently only 0.6% above its March, 2011 low.
"Despite continued low interest rates and better real GDP growth in the fourth quarter, home prices continue to fall," said David Blitzer, spokesman for S&P.
Phoenix, one of the hardest hit metro areas in the country, was the only place to record a gain in November. Prices there rose 0.6% month-over-month but are down 3.6% from a year ago.
Home prices in Chicago posted the steepest decline of any city on the index, falling 3.4% month-over-month. Atlanta prices were down 2.5% and Detroit prices fell 2.4%.
The drop in home prices was more than housing bear Peter Morici, professor at the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, anticipated. He had forecast a 0.8% drop.
"We've had more robust sales activity in the housing market lately," he said.
Morici thinks recent home price weakness stems at least partially from the fact that more sellers have accepted the weak market conditions and are putting their homes up for sale. Retirees and other home owners had postponed sales, trying to wait out the decline.
"Sooner or later, you have to get rid of that house," he said.
Â A real estate conference panel recently gave buyers and sellers a chance to tell real estate agents what they want when seeking representation for buying or selling a home. Here were some of the tips, according to Inman News:
Educate but watch your delivery: Homebuyer Dora M. Abreau said that when something unexpected comes up in the buying process, she doesnâ€™t like it when agents say: â€œâ€˜Oh, you didnâ€™t know about that?â€™ ... Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m coming to you â€“ for professional expertise and advice on the process,â€ Abreau said.
Build trust: Homebuyer Matthew Cavnar said that trust is the most important trait when choosing a real estate agent. He said one way agents can build trust is to take time to carefully listen to the customerâ€™s priorities. Cavnar says that he sometimes felt agents already had a checklist of properties they wanted to show him, regardless of his priorities.
Be accessible: Cavnar said that the agent he chose â€œmade himself very accessible and his communication by e-mailâ€ was frequent.
Paperless transactions: Electronic signatures and e-documents would simplify the process and make it easier, Cavnar also noted.
Source: â€œReal Estate Consumers Tell it Like it Is,â€ Inman News (Jan. 20, 2012)
Â© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688
The housing industry has been appealing for a coherent policy that will end the marketâ€™s five-year-old downturn and get real estate moving.
What President Barack Obama offered Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, though welcomed by many, does not appear to be all the industry had in mind.
The president proposed to allow up to 4 million homeowners to refinance into loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, an action Obama said would save individuals an average of $3,000 annually.
Eligible mortgages would not be held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but by other companies. In October, the administration added an FHA-guaranteed refinancing program for a potential 1 million Fannie and Freddie borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than the value of their houses.
It was unclear whether the plan Obama offered Tuesday night would target such â€œunderwaterâ€ borrowers, as well. The programâ€™s estimated $10 billion cost would be paid through fees from lenders.
The proposal requires approval by Congress, since the law limits the ability of FHA to refinance loans exceeding the current value of a home.
â€œThe odds of this getting through Congress with a levy on financial institutions are low,â€ said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moodyâ€™s Analytics in West Chester, Pa. There are growing concerns about the financial health of FHA, which since the financial meltdown of 2008 has been guaranteeing an ever-increasing share of U.S. mortgages â€“ about one-third of them now compared with just 3 percent in 2005, during the easy-money years of the housing boom.
Though acknowledging that something needs to be done, Joel L. Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., said he isnâ€™t certain the proposal would increase demand for housing and increase home prices.
â€œI donâ€™t know the details of the plan, (but) if it doesnâ€™t include a reduction in value, you still have underwater households who cannot sell their homes, so the positive effects are largely on consumer demand,â€ he said.
Naroff agreed that asking the banking industry to finance the program through fees has little chance of congressional approval.
While applauding the effort to help homeowners, the National Association of Realtors said Obamaâ€™s plan fell short of making â€œhousing a national public-policy priority.â€ Realtors association President Moe Veissi said his members believe more must be done to stem the rising inventory of foreclosed homes and address the shortage of mortgage financing, â€œwhich is inhibiting a meaningful housing-market recovery.â€
Coincidentally, the group published Wednesday its December index of home-sales contracts, which showed a 3.5 percent drop from November but was 5.6 percent ahead of the same month in 2010. On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that new-home sales fell 2.2 percent in December, wiping out the gains from a strong November.
National Association of Home Builders Chairman Bob Nielsen applauded Obamaâ€™s statement that â€œthere has never been a better time to build,â€ but he added that wouldnâ€™t be possible without easing credit for the groupâ€™s members and buyers.
The rental-apartment industry has benefited from for-sale housingâ€™s troubles. National Multi Housing Council Senior Vice President Cindy Chetti urged a national policy that would â€œmeet the countryâ€™s changing housing preferencesâ€ â€“ about seven million new renter households during this decade.
In his address, Obama proposed a new effort to investigate mortgage fraud, which, in light of the pending $25 billion settlement of the â€œrobo-signingâ€ scandal between loan servicers and state attorneys general, struck some as odd.
Zandi said establishment of a task force could be counterproductive in getting servicers to agree to the settlement with the attorneys general.
Anthony Sanders, of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, described the task force as â€œregulatory overkillâ€ that â€œboggles the imaginationâ€ and wonâ€™t make recovery easier. â€œI am surprised that lenders lend at all, given the leviathan oversight from the government,â€ Sanders said.
Economist Kevin Gillen of Philadelphiaâ€™s Econsult Corp. said he must have â€œmissed the lecture â€¦ that taught how punishing businesses will get them to produce more of their product.â€
â€œIf thatâ€™s true, I certainly hope he punishes my bartender soon,â€ Gillen said.
Copyright Â© 2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
Jan. 31, 2012 â€“ If a home is energy efficient and conserves energy, the monthly utility bills wonâ€™t be as high. And if the bills arenâ€™t as high, a buyer can afford to pay more each month on the mortgage.
Thatâ€™s the theory behind Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs). EEMs allow borrowers to qualify for a larger loan and a better, more energy-efficient home.
EEMs are typically used to purchase a new home that is already energy efficient, such as an ENERGY STAR qualified home. However, the term EEM refers to all types of energy mortgages, including Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs), which can be used to purchase an existing home that the buyer plans to improve with energy efficient upgrades. EIMs allow borrowers to roll the cost of the upgrades into the mortgage without increasing the downpayment.
Both EEMs and EIMs typically require that a home energy rating â€“ an estimate of monthly energy savings â€“ be given to the lender before the loan can be approved.Conventional Energy Efficient Mortgages
Lenders who sell loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can offer conventional EEMs. Conventional EEMs increase the borrowerâ€™s income by a dollar amount equal to the estimated energy savings. The Fannie Mae loan also adjusts the value of the home to reflect the value of the energy efficiency measures. For more information about Fannie Maeâ€™s EEM you can call 1-800-7FANNIE (732-6643).FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages
The mortgage loan amount for an FHA EEM can be increased by the cost of effective energy improvements. The maximum amount of the portion of the EEM for energy efficient improvements is the lesser of 5 percent of the value of the property, or 115 percent of the median area price of a single family dwelling, or 150 percent of the conforming Freddie Mac limit.
For more information on FHA EEM loans, visit HUD.gov
. Additional information is available from HUDâ€™s Office of Single Family Housing by calling (800) 569-4287.VA Energy Efficient Mortgages
The Veteranâ€™s Administration (VA) EEM is available to qualified military personnel, reservists and veterans, and caps energy improvements at $3,000 â€“ $6,000. Borrowers should ask their lender about a VA EEM at the beginning of the lending process. More information about VA EEMs can be obtained from the website for the U.S. Department of Veteranâ€™s Affairs
or by calling (800) 827-1000.
Â© 2012 Florida RealtorsÂ®
The Villages, the giant active-adult community northwest of Orlando, was the top-selling master-planned community in the nation last year, according to a report released last week by a California-based real estate research firm.
Spanning parts of Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, the mega-development recorded 2,307 new-home sales last year. The second-most successful development was the Woodlands in Houston with 945 sales â€“ fewer than half as many as the Villages, according to the report by John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
The Villages has only a handful of foreclosures because many of the residents paid cash for their new homes after selling their old dwellings up North. Retirees are typically drawn there for its 37 golf courses, 1,000-plus clubs and activities, and other amenities.
Looking at just the top 10 projects, eight were in the same list last year; this year there were two additions: Alamo Ranch in San Antonio, and Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota.
â€œWith our new sports campus, new commercial construction this year totaling upward of $150 million, and new rental projects springing up, weâ€™re proud that Lakewood Ranch has become the premier new-home destination on Floridaâ€™s West Coast,â€ said Rex Jensen, president of the developer, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.
Copyright Â© 2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.), Mary Shanklin. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
Rather than spend money on gimmicky marketing strategies, Scott Newman, broker/owner of Chicago-based Newman Realty, says firms can generate new business without wasting time or spending too much money simply by creating a database of people with whom they have positive relationships.
They should set up a spreadsheet with the names, contact information, occupations, family and pet information, and other characteristics of those people and then plan to â€œtouchâ€ these contacts at least eight times per year.
It could include quarterly mailings on nonreligious major holidays like the Fourth of July, Halloween and New Yearâ€™s Day, and setting reminders to call each person in the database at least twice per year at equally spaced intervals. During the call, catch up and ask for referrals.
The final two touches could involve in-person visits, handwritten birthday notes, lunch or coffee invitations, or gift cards, among other possibilities. By reaching out to contacts, agents can remain foremost in their minds, resulting in repeat business and referrals.
Source: Realtor (02/12) Vol. 45, No. 1, P. 8; Newman, Scott
Â© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688