Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to Capitalize on Pinterest

By Charlie Allred

As Lynn Pineda, a south Florida real estate professional said, “If you are in real estate and you are not on Pinterest, something’s wrong with you.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. Lynn is one of the few REALTORS® capitalizing on the benefits of Pinterest to her real estate business.

When I speak with real estate professionals, most aren’t sure how to get more visitors to their website or blog. Usually, they’ve built a pretty website and now it’s just sitting with no visitors. The goal of a real estate website is lead generation. The main benefit of Pinterest is driving more traffic to your real estate website, so why aren’t more agents capitalizing on Pinterest?

Top 3 benefits to using Pinterest:
  1. Drive traffic to your website immediately.
  2. Traffic to your real estate website brings Google ranking organically.
  3. Grow your sphere fast by connecting with more potential clients.
Pinterest isn’t going anywhere; it’s one of the fastest growing websites. Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Twitter, and Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. If you are looking for more traffic to your website, Pinterest is the place to be.

Personally, I have never had much success with Twitter, most likely because I’m not tweeting enough. With Pinterest, you don’t have to pin every minute of every day to get seen. Eighty percent of all pins are repinned versus approximately one percent of tweets that are retweeted. Pins have a long lifespan, more than 50 percent of pins happen 3.5 months after a pin is originally published. What other marketing tool keeps bringing visitors to your website for 3.5 months after you post?
According to NAR, there are 997,148 REALTORS®, as of May 2013. From my count, there are only 984 REALTORS® on Pinterest. With Pinterest driving so much traffic to websites, why aren’t more REALTORS® taking advantage of Pinterest?

Picture your typical real estate marketing brochure, it is all about real estate right? It has your photo, a photo of a house or a few houses and this type of advertisement is technically junk mail, right?
Pinterest allows the agent to showcase in one glance who they are and what they do to potential clients. That in itself is the most amazing marketing tool I have ever seen. Plus, you’re generating web traffic to your real estate website or blog. Pinterest is a win all around for real estate practitioners.

Charlie Allred a Phoenix based real estate broker with Secure Real Estate, and is the author of the upcoming book “Pinnable Real Estate: Pinterest for Real Estate Agents.” Learn more at her blog: www.PinnableRealEstate.com.

Article curated from Realtor Mag Blogs

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Home-Price Gains in U.S. Cities Cooled in Year to February

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose at a slower pace in the year ended February as the residential real-estate market cooled. 

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values increased 12.9 percent from February 2013, the smallest 12-month gain since August, after rising 13.2 percent in the year ended in January, a report from the group showed today in New York. The median projection of 33 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 13 percent advance.

Growth in property values eased as rising mortgage rates and severe winter weather restrained demand for dwellings in the first few months of the year. Cooling price appreciation combined with an improving job market will probably help home sales regain momentum later in the year.

“The days of very robust home-price gains are over,” said Thomas Costerg, a New York-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc, who projected the index would rise 12.8 percent. “Elevated price gains are a headwind, especially for first-time buyers. Prices will slow going forward, and the housing market needs that to recalibrate supply and demand.”

Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in June rose 0.3 percent to 1,871 at 9:22 a.m. in New York after results from Merck & Co. to Sprint Corp. topped estimates.

Survey Results

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gains of 11.6 percent to 14 percent. The S&P/Case-Shiller index is based on a three-month average, which means the February figure was also influenced by transactions in January and December.

Home prices adjusted for seasonal variations increased 0.8 percent in February from the prior month, matching the Bloomberg survey median. Unadjusted prices were unchanged.

The year-over-year gauge, based on records dating back to 2001, provides better indications of trends in prices, the group has said. The panel includes Karl Case and Robert Shiller, the economists who created the index.

All of the 20 cities in the index showed a year-over-year gain, led by a 23.1 percent jump in Las Vegas and a 22.7 percent advance in San Francisco. Cleveland showed the smallest year-over-year increase, with prices rising 3 percent.
Just five cities showed larger year-to-year gains in February.

“Despite continued price gains, most other housing statistics are weak,” David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, said in a statement. “Five years into the recovery from the recession, the economy will need to look to gains in consumer spending and business investment more than housing.”

Home Sales

Rising home values, climbing borrowing costs and bad weather took a toll on demand early in the year. The average rate on a 30-year home loan was 4.33 percent in the week ended April 24, up from 3.40 percent a year earlier, according to data from McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac.

Sales of previously owned properties fell in March for a third consecutive month, to a 4.59 million annual rate that was the lowest level since July 2012, the National Association of Realtors reported last week. At the current sales pace, it would take 5.2 months to sell houses, a reading that constitutes a tight market favoring sellers over buyers, the group said.

New-home sales in March plunged 14.5 percent to a 384,000 annualized pace, the slowest in eight months, according to Commerce Department figures issued last week. The median price climbed 12.6 percent from March 2013 to a record $290,000.

Some Stabilization

More recent reports signal residential real estate was starting to stabilize entering the spring selling season. The pending home sales index, which tallies contracts to purchase previously owned houses, climbed in March by the most in almost three years, the Realtors group reported yesterday.
Companies benefiting from higher house values and improving demand include D.R. Horton Inc. (DHI:US), whose average sales price in the fiscal second quarter ended March 31 was $278,900, up 10 percent from a year earlier. The largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue said orders rose 9 percent in volume and 20 percent in value.

“We are experiencing solid demand and profitability in the heart of our business,” D.R. Horton Chief Executive Officer Donald Tomnitz said on a conference call on April 24.

The same day, PulteGroup Inc. (PHM:US), the second-largest U.S. builder by market value, reported an increase in its first-quarter pretax income. 

“The industry is still in the early stages of what will be a sustained, multiyear recovery, but one that will develop at a more measured pace than past housing recoveries,” PulteGroup CEO Richard Dugas said on an April 24 conference call. 

Article curated from Bloomberg Business Week

Friday, April 25, 2014

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Low-priced home sales sink; high-priced ones rise

A home for sale in Miami in February. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A home for sale in Miami in February. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tuesday’s report on existing home sales last month highlights how tough the market is for buyers of lower-priced homes, especially in parts of the high-priced West.

March sales of previously owned homes fell to their slowest annual pace in 20 months, down 0.2% from February to 4.59 million, the National Association of Realtors reported. It was the third straight monthly decline.

Year over year, the sharpest drop-offs are at the low end of the housing market, continuing a trend visible for two years.

Sales of homes under $100,000 fell nearly 18% from March 2013 and those in the $100,000-$250,000 range fell about 10%. But sales of homes over $1 million rose almost 8%, according to supplemental data on the NAR website. The median existing-home price — half were below the median and half above — was $198,500.

The West is seeing the sharpest plunges in sales of lower-priced homes and has been for some time. Compared with a year earlier, March sales of under-$100,000 homes fell 45% in the West, 18% in the Midwest, 16% in the South and only 3% in the Northeast.

What’s behind this trend? Inventories at the lower end of the market are tighter than a couple of years ago as the number of bargain-priced foreclosures and other distressed properties for sale has dwindled. Many of those homes were snapped up by investors, who bid up prices, accelerating that segment’s rebound from the housing bust lows.

In January 2012, when investor home-buying was red-hot, homes under $100,000 held a 29% share of U.S. existing home sales, NAR data show. Last month, they were about 19%.
Over the same period, the share of home sales in the $250,000-$500,000 range has grown to 26.1% from 20.4%.

Investors’ influence on the market is waning, but demand from other buyers has not yet strengthened enough to replace it.

The reasons for that include tight lending standards for residential home buyers, higher mortgage rates than a year ago and higher home prices that make ownership less affordable, says economist Patrick Newport of IHS Global Insight.

Article curated from USA Today

Thursday, April 24, 2014

March new home sales plunge 14.5%

Sales of new single-family homes dropped sharply last month as severe winter weather and higher mortgage rates continued to slow the housing recovery.

New home sales fell 14.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, down from February's revised pace of 449,000, the Census Bureau said.

Although sales totals for December through February were revised up by a net 20,000, the unexpectedly weak March figure provided further evidence that the spring selling season got off to a sluggish start. Economists had predicted an annual sales rate of 450,000, according to the median forecast in Action Economics' survey.

Experts say cold and stormy weather continued to impede house-hunting. "Housing may be slower to rebound after the adverse winter than other sectors of the U.S. economy," Barclays Capital economist MIchael Gapen said in a research note.

A separate report this week showed existing-home sales fell slightly last month.

Still, the impact of the weather was far from clear-cut. Sales fell 16.7% in the West, which did not suffer harsh conditions last month, and rose 12.5% in the Northeast. Sales declined 21.5% in the Midwest and 14.4% in the South.

"The slowing appears to be more than just inclement weather," UBS said in a research note.

Both home prices and borrowing costs have drifted upward in the past year. Rates on 30-year mortgages have risen to 4.27% from 3.4% a year ago. UBS notes that an index of mortgage applications has weakened in recent months.

Meanwhile, the median price of new homes sold last month was $290,000 — 13% higher than in March 2013, the Census Bureau said.

The tepid sales helped push up new home inventories from a five-month to a six-month supply — which marks the highest level since September 2011 and typically signifies a balanced market

Overall, however, supplies have been limited. Builders have complained of rising construction costs, labor shortages and fewer available lots as obstacles to adding more inventory, says RBS Senior U.S. Economist Omair Sharif in a research note. With prices rising, builders may be hanging on to unbuilt or partially built properties until prices increase further, UBS says.

The good news is the housing market is still on the mend following the mid-2000s crash. The roughly 430,000 annual pace of new-home sales so far this year and in 2013 is up from 369,000 in 2012 and 305,000 in 2011. But it remains less than half the 1 million-plus average the industry posted from 2000 to 2006.

Sharif says job growth and rising household formation should lift the housing market further this year, but the pace "is likely to be gradual."

Article curated from USA Today

Monday, April 21, 2014

Home sales getting crimped by more than the weather

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The early-spring sales season for the housing market is looking decidedly tepid, economists say. 

Officials will release monthly sales data this week for new and existing homes, and economists polled by MarketWatch expect to hear that both series remained at lackluster rates in March.
An unusually tough winter hit sales in recent months. But data trends also signal a problem in underlying demand, with total home sales starting to slide over the summer as affordability dropped.
“I don’t think the slowdown is primarily due to the weather,” said Jed Kolko , chief economist at real estate site Trulia. “Even though mortgage rates are low by historical standards, they are higher than a year ago, and prices are higher than a year ago.” 

A low level of homes available for sale (would-be buyers like the ability to choose from a variety of options) and new mortgage rules for borrowers and lenders are also curbing deals, analysts note.
On Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors i is scheduled to release its report on sales of existing homes in March, and economists expect the seasonally adjusted annual rate to decline to 4.55 million from 4.6 million in February. If March’s rate does hit 4.55 million, that pace will be down 8% from the year-earlier period, and down 25% from the average monthly pace of more than 6 million over the five years leading up to a 2005 bubble peak. 

Recent sales trends for new homes are doing better, but they still remain at historically low levels, and builders are pessimistic. Economists expect the U.S. Commerce Department to report Wednesday that sales of new single-family homes hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 450,000 in March, compared with 440,000 in February . If the March rate rises to 450,000, that would be up 2% from a year earlier, but down 57% from the average monthly pace of almost 1.1 million over the five years leading up to the 2005 bubble peak. 

Although dropping affordability hits all buyers, it’s worth focusing on how it impacts two key chunks of the housing market: institutional investors and first-time home buyers. 

As prices and rates climb, there’s less opportunity for investors to make a real return on property, and so they buy fewer homes , especially as the number of ultra-cheap foreclosures thins out. For example, Blackstone Group’s Invitation Homes unit, which Bloomberg estimates is the country’s largest single-family rental business, has dramatically slowed down the pace of its property purchases since July. 

As Nobel Prize-winning economist and home-price expert Robert Shiller recently pointed out : “It’s not at all clear that momentum is a safe bet anymore.” 

Economists are concerned that prospective first-time buyers , who face high hurdles to obtain a home loan, won’t fill the gap left by investors.

Better housing data in coming months?

Future monthly housing reports could show an increase in activity as projects and purchases delayed by bad weather proceed. 

“We expect a sharp spring rebound in quarterly average U.S. housing starts following the exceptionally frigid winter,” analysts at UBS Securities wrote in a recent research note. 

Also, even though mortgage rates have trended higher over the past year, in 2014 the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has declined about one-quarter of a percentage point. 

“We are going to see some strengthening in home sales, whether it shows up in [next week’s] data or whether we have to wait another month,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at federally controlled mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac. “It’s very helpful to have mortgage rates move lower over the past six weeks. That’s a nice additional boost because families perhaps can buy a little more house, and that will make it a little easier to qualify for a mortgage.” 

Banks may also make it easier to get a loan . Major lenders have seen mortgage originations plunge over the past year as rates rose and refinancing applications dried up. Hungry for loan revenue, some large banks are easing standards for loans. There may also be a freer flow of loans now that major lenders have put a large share of the financial and legal troubles associated with bad mortgages behind them. 

“There will be a push by the large banks to selectively loosen mortgage underwriting to boost business this year,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, which closely monitors industry trends. 

Data signal that certain banks have already somewhat loosened standards. According to the Federal Reserve’s senior loan officer survey, 16.7% of large banks recently eased credit standards for prime purchase mortgages, while 5.6% tightened, and the rest left standards unchanged. 

Borrowers could use a bit more flexibility given how much pricier homes have become. Over the past year, home prices have raced up more than 13%, according to a gauge that tracks 20 major cities. On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will released its barometers of home prices for February. 

Unfortunately for buyers, as home prices rose, home loans also became more expensive. According to Freddie’s FMCC -1.05%  weekly monitor, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage recently hit 4.27%, up from 3.41% a year ago. 

Article curated from Market Watch

Friday, April 18, 2014

Manage Your Online Rep

Should you turn to a reputation management company to oversee what's being posted about you online?

With so many companies trying to establish themselves as the repository of customer reviews, naturally others are springing up to offer reputation management services. These businesses offer to help clients maintain a clean image online, using search-engine optimization to bury any negative comments posted on websites such as Facebook, Angie’s List, and Yelp.
Companies may claim they can push down disparaging remarks about you, but beware of strategies involving the use of writers who post fake glowing comments about you. Last fall, the New York state attorney general fined 19 SEO companies more than $350,000 for posting fake business reviews, saying the firms violated state laws against false advertising and deceptive business practices.

Real reputation management companies also focus on SEO. But they attempt to boost your online reputation by posting legitimate positive information about you and your business on micro-websites, blogs, social media, and news media outlets. For example, the company Reputation Changer says it can act like your own public relations firm, offering a multi-pronged approach to getting  positive stories about you and your brand spread throughout the Web.

Such strategies may include creating a company Wikipedia page or serving as a guest contributor on an established blog to boost other content about you online. The company will focus on keywords that surface in your negative reviews and aim to counter those with positive stories using the same keywords. On its site, the company says it will “flood major news outlets with articles and press releases” aimed at establishing you as an expert and getting your brand recognized on online channels with “positive, compelling coverage.”
Most likely, you don’t need an outside company to manage your online rep. Here are three strategies you can use yourself:
  1. Monitor: Several sites will alert you to what’s being said about you and your company online. Set up alerts on such sites as Google’s “Me on the Web”; Trackur; and Social Mention.
  2. React: When a negative review rolls in, what should you do? Todd Mobraten, former president of RES.Net, a real estate technology company, suggests reaching out to customers directly. Listen to and address their concerns. Then, ask if they’ll remove the comment or add a positive follow-up comment. “When somebody has felt wronged, you have to sometimes park the technology and use other ways,” Mobraten says. “The transaction doesn’t have to be perfect, but the communication has to be.”
  3. Promote: Build up a wall in advance so negative comments don’t overtake your reputation, says Mike Zammuto, president of Brand.com. “The more prominent your online profile, the more likely any negative comments will seem less significant.”
Article curated from Realtor Mag

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Housing starts increase 2.8% in March


US home building picked up in March, led by 6% gain in single-family home construction.
Builders started new homes at an annual rate of 946,000 last month. That was up from February's rate of 920,000, which was revised up from the earlier estimate of 907,000.

Builders say housing starts have been restrained in recent months by bad weather and a shortage of available lots and labor. In addition, buyers face tight credit conditions and mortgage rates that are about a percentage point higher than last spring, though still near all-time lows.

Article curated from USA Today

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homebuyers face spring sticker shock

 More potential buyers are out trolling the nation's neighborhoods for their dream homes. Unfortunately, they are finding little to look at and, even worse, they are finding higher prices than they expected.

"People quite frankly came out and got sticker shock because they're coming out to shop now, or they came out in January and February to shop, and they picked up the price sheet and saw, 'Wow that's way more than I thought' because home prices had gone up so much in 2013," said Brad Hunter, chief economist at Metrostudy.

Home prices are up 12.2 percent from a year ago, according to the latest February reading from CoreLogic. Meanwhile, wages are up just 2.1 percent from a year ago, according to Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Investors, laden with cash, are buying fewer homes this spring, which leaves regular, mortgage-dependent buyers to pick up the slack.

While home prices are still well off their peak of the housing boom in 2006, it still costs the average homebuyer considerably more to buy a home today than it did then.

That is because mortgage lenders require larger down payments and higher incomes to support the debt. Despite the fact that the rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage is slightly lower than it was in 2006, it is now a far more popular product in the market, because all those "creative" mortgage products of the past are either gone or illegal.

Just 65 percent of mortgage originations in 2006 were fixed rate, while more than 95 percent of them are today, according to Black Knight Financial Services. In 2006, a buyer could put no money down on a teaser-rate loan with a rate as low as 1 percent for the first year. No more.

Rising mortgage rates and costs, tighter credit conditions, higher home prices. Add it all up, and affordability shrinks.

In fact, more than half the homes currently on the market in seven major American metros are currently unaffordable for local residents, according to a Zillow analysis of incomes at the end of last year with respect to mortgage and home value data.*

Among the 35 largest metros nationwide, more than half of homes currently listed for sale in Miami (62.4 percent), Los Angeles (57.2 percent), San Diego (55.3 percent), San Francisco (55.2 percent), Denver (52.8 percent), San Jose, Calif. (50.9 percent) and Portland, Ore. (50.3 percent) are unaffordable by historical standards, according to Zillow.

"As affordability worsens, we're already beginning to see more of the kinds of worrisome trends we saw en masse during the years leading up to the housing crash. These include a greater reliance on non-traditional home financing, smaller down payments and a greater pressure to move further away from urban job centers in order to find affordable housing options," said Zillow's chief economist, Stan Humphries. "We're not in a bubble yet, but we're beginning to see the early signs of one in some areas."

Housing markets like Houston, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C., are also showing affordability far weaker than the national average. Thirty-three percent of homes nationwide are considered unaffordable for the average local resident.

Home builders, who raised prices dramatically in the past year, are seeing the worst of it; they are reporting higher buyer traffic, but far less pull-through on sales than normal. Some are now offering incentives, like free upgrades in the home. It is tougher for them to lower prices now, because they are still faced with higher costs for land, labor and materials.

Despite weakening affordability, home price growth is still historically strong. That is because there is so little supply on the market for sale nationwide. Millions of homeowners are still underwater on their mortgages, and therefore unable to move. Other homeowners see prices rising and want to wait longer to see how high they go.

On top of that, home builders, while increasing housing starts, are still well below normal rates of construction. And then there is basic consumer confidence, which is not fully back to where it needs to be.

"I think buyers are extremely fickle, and what's weird about it is the market is in a funk on both sides, it's like trying to get pandas to mate at the zoo," said Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, a tech-powered real estate brokerage. "Sellers feel like, 'I can rent it out. I've got a very low mortgage rate on this place, and when I sell the house I'm also giving up a 30-year mortgage on it at 3.5 percent.'"

* Zillow determined affordability by analyzing the current percentage of an area's median income needed to afford the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home, and comparing it to the share of income needed to afford a median-priced home in the pre-bubble years between 1985 and 2000. If the share of monthly income currently needed to afford the median-priced home is greater than it was during the pre-bubble years, that home is considered unaffordable for typical buyers.

 Article curated from CNBC

Friday, April 11, 2014

CoreLogic: Home Prices Likely to Moderate Soon

Home owners have been enjoying big home price rises across the country, but those increases – often by double-digit percentages – will likely level off soon, according to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, which reflects February data. The index, which also includes distressed sales, was up 12.2 percent in February compared to year-ago levels. That marked the 24th consecutive month for annual home price increases, according to CoreLogic’s index.

“As the spring home-buying season kicks off, house price appreciation continues to be strong,” says Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “Although prices should remain strong in the near term due to a short supply of homes on the market, price increases should moderate over the next year as home equity releases pent-up supply.”

The National Association of REALTORS®’ most recent existing-home sales report showed that the median existing-home price for all housing types was $189,000 in February, a 9.1 percent rise over February 2013. “Price gains have translated into an additional $4 trillion of housing wealth recovery over the past three years,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement.

According to CoreLogic’s index, no state had posted negative annual appreciation in February. CoreLogic’s index, including distressed sales, shows the following five states posted the highest annual home price appreciation:
  • California: +19.8%
  • Nevada: +18.5%
  • Georgia: +14.2%
  • Oregon: +13.8%
  • Michigan: +13.5%
Source: CoreLogic and “Home Prices Will Keep Rising, But Level-Off Soon,” Mortgage News Daily (April 1, 2014)

Article curated from Realtor Mag