Tuesday, April 30, 2013

#RealEstateNews - Home prices up 9.3% in February

U.S. home prices in the USA's 20 biggest cities rose 9.3% in the 12 months ending in February. It was the biggest annual growth rates in almost seven years, a closely watched housing index out Tuesday said.

The home price increases were solid across all 20 cities measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index. The 9.3% gain was up from an 8.1% year-over-year gain in January.
From January, prices rose 0.3% in February for the 20-city composite of the USA's largest metropolitan housing markets. In eight of the 20 cities, prices dipped slightly from January but all posted increases when compared to their year-ago levels.

Price increases are being driven by increased demand, a tightening inventory of homes for sale and fewer foreclosed properties, which tend to sell at a discount to others.

"Housing continues to be one of the brighter spots in the economy," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee.

But there's increasing concern that robust price increases are not sustainable, and that what's happening in the large metros is not broadly reflective of the national housing market.
"This report needs to start being taken with a grain of salt," says Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate web site Zillow. The cities measured are "overly skewed" to quickly rebounding markets – particularly in the Southwest and on the West Coast, he says.
The index returns are also being boosted by a shift in transactions away from foreclosure re-sales, which are lessening, Humphries says.

Year over year, Phoenix continued to stand out with a gain of 23%, followed by San Francisco at almost 19% and Las Vegas at nearly 18%, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed. Most of the cities seeing the biggest gains also fell hardest during the crash.

Three East Coast cities -- New York, Boston and Chicago -- saw the smallest year-over-year price improvements.

And other housing market indicators are suggesting a slowdown in home sales and price gains.

Zillow's first-quarter home value index was up 0.5% from the fourth quarter of last year. That compared with a 2.1% jump in the fourth quarter from the third, Zillow's index showed, marking the smallest quarter-to-quarter gain since the home price recovery began.

A home value index produced by John Burns Real Estate Consulting shows national prices up 5.7% in the first quarter of 2013 over the first quarter of 2012.

That's just a little slower than the 5.9% jump in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period a year earlier, according to the John Burns index.

On the sales front, March's pending home sales were up 1.5% from February for only a modest gain, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. Those figures reflect signed contracts, not closings.

And existing home sales in March eased 0.6% from February's level.

Both were held down by the lack of houses for sale, NAR said. The supply of existing homes for sale in March was about 17% lower than a year ago.

Tight supplies of homes for sale will likely continue to lift prices in some markets.

Nationwide, there was a 4.7-month supply of homes for sale in March, meaning they would all sell in that time frame if sales continued at March's pace and no supply was added. Typically, a six-month supply is considered balanced.

California markets have even tighter supplies of homes for sale, dropping below 3 months in March, the California Association of Realtors says.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Article courtesy of USA Today

Monday, April 29, 2013

#RealEstateNews - Pending home sales at a 3-year high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of signed contracts to buy homes rose in March to the highest level in three years.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 1.5% to 105.7. That's the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer's tax credit boosted sales. It's also above February's reading of 104.1.

Signed contracts are 7% higher than a year earlier. There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.

Still, sales are being held back by limited supply. Sales of previously occupied homes dipped in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million, from 4.95 million in February.
Total existing-home sales are projected to increase 6.5% to 7% over 2012 to nearly 5 million sales this year, the Realtors said, while the median existing-home price is forecast to rise about 7.5%.

An index of 100 equals the average level of contract activity during 2001, when home sales were in the range of 5 million to 5.5 million.

The NAR says the index for the Northeast was unchanged at 82.8 in March, still 6.3% higher than March 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 0.3% to 103.8, 13.7% above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 2.7% to 120.0, up 10.4% from March 2012. In the West the index increased 1.5% to 102.9, but that is 4.3% below a year ago.

Contributing: Associated Press

Article courtesy of USA Today

Friday, April 26, 2013

Social Media and Beyond: Building Your Digital Footprint

Social media has forever altered the marketing landscape, emerging as a digital gateway into social sectors previously untapped by traditional marketing methods.
Envision a virtual bridge connecting consumers to nearly any product or service they seek.

Now picture a tool in which brands can respond to those wants, needs and desires in real time.
That is social media.

Social_Media_Beyond_BH&G_fullNow envision a space in which you can extend that virtual bridge into a more intimate online community. It is a space where brief social communications are transitioned into lengthier, more vibrant, enthusiastic and relevant conversations.

That is blogging.

While businesses actively look to shift an established reputation into a viable online currency, finding a way to build thought leadership and a voice that stands out among the noise can be challenging.

So how can you differentiate your personal brand and distinguish yourself as an industry thought leader? The answer lies within the successful convergence of multiple platforms and a willingness to go beyond social.

Embrace the Value of Social
When businesses mistake social media marketing for a one-way conversation, the true value is overlooked. What many fail to realize is that social media is not simply a dissemination tool, but rather a brand augmenter and community builder. In order to achieve community, one must actually be a part of it. Engaging, socializing, conversing and joining in the discussion.

However, while social media can foster awareness, it cannot elevate you to a thought leader on its own. In order to position yourself as an industry influencer, you must master the art of nurturing a valued community while providing irresistible content that encourages meaningful and convincing conversation.

Compelling content coupled with an active community puts the sizzle in your social! Tweet
Providing consistent content to your social endeavors produces a powerful mix of influence and intrigue; two qualities any thought leader must not only possess, but also command.

Creating an Extended Social Space
While a website is an essential component to building a personal brand online and offline, it cannot serve as a daily conduit between business and consumer. Moreover, even though a website functions as the equivalent of yesterday’s brick and mortar business, it does not allow businesses to connect with consumers on an intimate or personal level.

Adding a blog to your marketing mix can provide a more in-depth level of communicating/interacting with subscribers, fans and followers. It gives you a portal to disseminate frequent updates on products, services, opinions and events in real-time. For those who are unable to manage a newsletter, blogging is an excellent alternative to engaging readers.

Blog Options and Tools to Get Started:

1. WordPress.org (a self-hosted WordPress blog) - Self-hosted blogs will require that you purchase a hosting account, install WordPress and either configure and design the site yourself or hire a web designer who can customize on your behalf. This may not be the direction you want to go if you are a first time blogger with little resources.
2. WordPress.com - You can set up a free account at WordPress.com and choose from pre-designed themes. Unfortunately you will be limited when it comes to customization and personalization.
3. Blogger - Similiar to WordPress.com, Blogger is a free online blog tool, but customization will be limited.
4. Typepad - TypePad is a content and blogging tool that will allow anyone to quickly and easily set up a blog. If you don’t want the techy upkeep of a self-hosted blog, Typepad might be the right option for you.

Build Rapport through Relevant Content
Blogging about niche-specific topics is an excellent way to build rapport.

Researching new trends and updates within your industry as well as community needs and market indicators is a way to build your reputation and keep your name top of mind.

Create a blogging strategy based on current content that can be re-purposed and distributed through your social channels.

For example, a blogging strategy to increase personal brand visibility while building an audience might include:

• A product (i.e., e-book) that you blog about and offer as a free download
• Holding a contest, blogging about it and encouraging existing subscribers to help spread the word
• Asking friends, family, past clients and colleagues to subscribe and provide constructive feedback

The goal is to grow an audience while retaining current subscribers as faithful followers and active participants. When readers find your content to be professionally written and highly informative, they are more receptive and trusting.

A blogging strategy to help build rapport while elevating your brand might include:

• 2 blog posts per week about the latest industry information (focus on solving a problem or challenge)
• A series of “how-to” posts that provide strategic ways to grow their business career field
• A tutorial on how to create an effective social media strategy to increase sales conversions

Combining Social Media and Blogging for Increased Expansion
Blogging combined with social media is perhaps the best way to elevate the exposure of your personal brand. Why? With billions of hits daily among Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, the sky is the limit when it comes to reaching potential clients, networking and raising awareness around your personal brand.

Even if your aim is to target local consumers or businesses primarily for the sake of selling a product or service, your following could reach others far beyond where you reside. Most blogging platforms now allow bloggers to automatically promote their content to social media/social bookmarking sites with just a push of a button. Fans/followers who find the information helpful can share your content with others if you simply embed social media icons on your blog.

An effective strategy for maximizing your potential as a thought leader with blogging and social media combined might include:

• Guest posting on blogs specific to your niche thereby tapping into a established community willing to share content to their social media sites
• Posting each of your blogs to multiple social media marketing, bookmarking and community based websites
• Frequenting niche-specific forums and submitting helpful information with links to your blog (when appropriate, not spammy)

Blogging with and in addition to social media is the ultimate way to promote a brand online and offline while establishing your role as thought leader.

While websites are stationary and provide static information regarding your business, blogs are far more interactive, providing a richer understanding of your brand on an ongoing basis.
Do you feel social media marketing and blogging are both necessary tools when working to position your business as thought leader? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Rebekah Radice is the Manager of Industry Engagement for Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and serves as “the voice” behind the brand.

Article courtesy of RIS Media

#RealEstateNews - Sales of New Homes in U.S. Climb 1.5%

Sales of new U.S. homes advanced in March as near record-low mortgage rates helped the industry complete the strongest quarter since 2008, putting the economy on firmer footing.

Purchases of single-family properties climbed 1.5 percent last month to a 417,000 annual pace, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 76 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for March sales to rise to 416,000. 

Shares of homebuilders such as Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL) rallied as cheaper borrowing costs and rising household formation bolstered demand. The figures underscore the view of some Federal Reserve policy makers that residential real estate will contribute more to economic growth this year. 

“There is momentum in the housing market, in that inventories are lean, prices are picking up, and people are trying to buy, which is fueling the recovery,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the second-best forecaster of new-home sales in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “You’re seeing spillover in the housing market from broader economic improvement.”

Home sales averaged a 424,000 annual rate in the first three months of this year, the strongest since the third quarter of 2008. 

Stocks climbed, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index higher for a third day, as earnings from Travelers Cos. to Netflix Inc. beat estimates. The S&P 500 rose 1 percent to 1,578.78 at the close in New York. The S&P 500 Supercomposite Homebuilding Index (S15HOME) jumped 5.6 percent, the biggest gain since July 26. 

Barclays Optimistic

Barclays Plc analysts raised their view on the industry today to positive from neutral, projecting a 10 percent jump in new-home prices this year amid a “fast and furious” recovery. The median price of a new home climbed 3 percent last month from a year earlier to $247,000, today’s report showed. 

Today’s housing figures showing strength in the U.S. economy contrast with weakness elsewhere. Euro-area services and factory output shrank for a 15th month in April as the currency bloc struggled to emerge from a recession, adding to pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to boost growth. 

China’s manufacturing is expanding at a slower pace this month on weakness in global and domestic demand, according to a Purchasing Managers’ Index released by HSBC Holdings and Markit Economics, fueling concern that the world’s second-biggest economy is faltering.
Economists’ estimates for U.S. March new-home sales ranged from rates of 395,000 to 435,000. February was previously reported at a 411,000 annual rate. 

By Region

Purchases were 17.6 percent higher in March than the same period in 2012, today’s report showed. 

Sales increased in two of four regions from the prior month, with a 20.6 percent gain in the Northeast and a 19.4 percent advance in the South. Demand decreased 20.9 percent in the West and 12.1 percent in the Midwest. 

Builders are responding to increased demand by making more homes available. There were 153,000 new houses on the market at the end of March, the most since November 2011. At the current sales rate, the supply would last 4.4 months, the same as in February. 

“We’re in recovery, it’s early, but it certainly feels like it’s real and it feels like it will be sustained,” Douglas Yearley, chief executive officer of Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, the largest U.S. luxury-home builder, said during a March 4 conference presentation. “We had a few false starts over the last few years, but we had a really good spring 2012 selling season. And now we’re having an even better spring 2013 selling season.” 

Home Construction

Housing starts climbed to a 1.04 million annual rate, the fastest since June 2008, the Commerce Department said last week. 

At the same time, higher costs for raw materials, limited developed land and tight credit conditions are hurdles. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence fell this month to its lowest level since October, data showed April 15.
Builders were still more optimistic about the future, with a gauge of their sales outlook for the next six months increasing to the highest level since 2007. 

Mortgage rates hovering near record lows and a healing job market may keep providing a spark for the industry. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.41 percent in the week ended April 18, the third consecutive drop, according to Freddie Mac. The rate slid to an all-time low of 3.31 percent in November. 

Fed’s Dudley

“After a long period of being a drag on the economy, the housing market is now providing lift to economic activity,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William C. Dudley said in an April 16 speech in Staten Island. “In 2013 it is likely to provide a boost to growth on the order of 0.5 percentage point.” 

Figures yesterday from the National Association of Realtors showed previously owned homes sold at a 4.92 million rate in March, down from a 4.95 million pace the previous month.
A lack of inventory of more affordable existing properties has driven up the cost of such homes, making newly-constructed units more attractive to potential buyers. The NAR report showed the median price of an existing home rose 11.8 percent, the most since November 2005, to $184,300 last month from a year earlier. 

Sales of new homes are calculated when a contract is signed, making them a timelier barometer than purchases of previously owned dwellings, which are tabulated when a deal closes. Newly constructed houses accounted for about 7 percent of the residential market in 2012, down more than 15 percent before the 2007-2009 recession began. 

The strength in housing is spreading to other parts of the economy. 

“The majority of the data still points to a robust and sustainable recovery,” Christopher Connor, chief executive officer of Sherwin-Williams Co. (SHW), said during an April 18 earnings call. “Our sales results in the first quarter support that conclusion.” 

Sales at the Cleveland-based company, the largest U.S. paint retailer, rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier to reach a record $2.17 billion. 

Article courtesy of Bloomberg News

Thursday, April 25, 2013

6 Reasons Your Website Isn't Good Enough

You've had this discussion before with your business partner. "Why do we need to spend money on a website?" Or, perhaps it's "Look, I know our website needs updating, but honestly, we've got so many other things to work on right now....."

 Small business shoppers shop online prior to ever contacting you
And the discussion goes on. But are you making the right decision? True, there are a lot of things that draw the attention of the small business owner. But stop and take a look at your current website. Your current site isn't exactly how you'd like the world to perceive you is it?
Think back to when you started your small business. Remember? Back then, you'd have fixed something as important as your website. But, running a small business got the best of you. Well, it doesn't have to be this way and here's why.


90% of all purchases begin on the internet

90% of all purchases begin on the internet 
I'd suggest re-reading that statement again. That means that nine out of ten people that you talk to about your business have already looked online to begin their purchase decision. This isn't limited to just consumer purchasing either. This is also business to business shopping. Does your current website best reflect what you'd want purchasers to find prior to contacting you?

Buyers are 54% of the way through the buying cycle before they ever engage with a sales person

That means that by the time you talk to a prospective small business customer, they've already been scouring the internet to help in their buying decision. If your website is not up to par, that's not good.

78% of people trust opinions they read online

78% of people trust online opinions 
Not only do you need a good website, but you need to be watching your social media presence to be sure you know what your customers are saying about you. Remember, online opinions / reviews can be both good and bad. You don't want to have good reviews on the internet about your company, and either have no website, or have an outdated one.

In 2013 more people will use mobile phones to get online than PCs

But why should you bother updating your website? After all, you have a website, right? It's not that bad is it? Well, maybe it's not, but does your website know how to display itself to a mobile device? Maybe it's not that your website is all that bad, but if you don't cater to people who are surfing using their iphones and other smartphones, you are missing the point.

Your website must be good for mobile devices

But why should you really work on this website thing?

Your website is your best employee working 24/7/365. Do you have any employees that work that hard? I didn't think so. Heck, even you took that lengthy coffee break last week when you told your business partner you were reviewing the tax filing. Your secret is safe with me.

It's about your customers, not about you

But working on our website is hard. I just want to be able to update it myself!

Working on your website doesn't have to be hard. You may want to switch over to a WordPress website. You'll find it so much easier to update. That's why WordPress has become so popular.
What's your biggest challenge with your small business website?

Article courtesy of Social Media Today

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New homes sales rise 1.5% in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new homes rebounded in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000. The increase added to evidence of a sustained housing recovery at the start of the spring buying season.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that sales of new homes increased 1.5%. The gain brought the level higher than February's pace of 411,000, though below January's 445,000 — the fastest pace since July 2008.

The median price of a new home rose to $247,000 in March. That's 3% higher than a year ago.
New home sales are still below the 700,000 pace considered healthy by most economists. But the pace has increased 18.5% from a year ago. And most economists see more gains ahead.
Steady job creation and near-record-low mortgage rates are spurring more Americans to buy houses. The rise in demand is helping to boost sales and prices in most markets. Higher prices tend to make homeowners feel wealthier and encourage more spending.

A limited supply of available homes has held back home sales of previously occupied homes. Those sales dipped in March from February, according to the National Association of Realtors.
But sales of previously occupied homes were 10.3% higher in March than a year earlier. And the supply of homes increased for the second straight month after eight months of declines. That increase suggests more sellers are confident that the recovery will continue and they can sell at a good price.

Low inventories of existing homes have helped drive more construction of new homes.
U.S. homebuilders started work on more than 1 million new houses and apartments in March at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, the first time it had crossed that threshold in nearly five years. That reflected a surge in volatile apartment building.

Single-family home construction fell in March after reaching the fastest in nearly five years.
Still, a low supply of homes for sale is just one of several constraints that could limit sales. Since the housing bubble burst more than six years ago, banks have imposed tighter credit conditions and required larger down payments. That has made it harder for first-time homebuyers to qualify for the super-low mortgage rates that have resulted from the Federal Reserve's efforts to ease credit.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article courtesy of USA Today

Friday, April 19, 2013

Top 7 Must-Have Free SEO Tools for Beginners


You can never see too many lists of free tools if you’re just starting out in SEO. Tools are crucial to practicing SEO and grasping a better understanding of how the industry works, but many of them are very expensive. As a beginner, it is not necessary to start by buying a tool that costs a lot of money. Once you know what you’re looking for and know what you’re doing, then you can move on to something advanced. For now, the free SEO tools out there will absolutely get the job done. In fact, many are surprised at just how many quality tools SEO professionals give out for free. Below are some of the top choices for beginners:
  1. Google Analytics. A great tool to get you started. Even the most advanced professional who make SEO a full-time job are using Google Analytics. It might be confusing at first, but it will help any beginner get a sense of what is measured (website traffic, conversions, audience, etc.) and therefore what is important.
  2. AdWords Keyword Tool. Completing keyword research is an incredibly important aspect of SEO (you have to know what and where to optimize, after all). This tool will show you the competition, global monthly searches, and local monthly searches for every keyword you try. Even the most advanced SEO professionals turn to this tool for their research.
  3. Open Site Explorer. This tool will help you find link opportunities through competitor backlink research. The tool comes from SEOmoz and helps you determine if you can earn the same links that your competitors have earned (not to mention do a little bit of snooping).
  4. SEO by Yoast. This is my favorite SEO plugin to install on a website. It helps walk you through the different steps of SEO to make sure that you’re optimizing each and every webpage. This works best when you’re focusing on optimizing the content on your website.
  5. PageRank Status. You can download a free browser extension to help you see the PageRank of every webpage you visit. This will help beginners get a sense of where the website ranks on Google (it doesn’t always mean that one website is better quality than another, but it does mean it is more established). This is a great way to find authoritative link building opportunities. You can see SEO stats, site info, page info and page speed all by just clicking on the plugin.
  6. Google Webmaster Tools. Every SEO professional has a Google Webmaster Tools account, so the sooner beginners get on board, the better. The tool allows you to monitor the indexing of your website, keyword clicks, sitemaps, and lists of links (external as well as internal) to you site.
  7. Bing Webmaster Tools. You can’t forget that Bing is still the number three search engine out there, so optimizing for it is important even if you’re a beginner. Bing has a few different features than Google Webmaster Tools, but for the most part it serves the same purpose—giving you insight as to the number of clicks, links, indexing, etc.
I highly recommend clicking on the links to learn more about the free tools and what they can offer. The above just gives a quick overview, but each individual tool is chock-full of information to learn. If there is a free tool that has helped you learn SEO in past, let us know.

Article courtesy of Social Media Today

Thursday, April 18, 2013

#RealEstateNews - An Open House Extravaganza

You can join thousands of REALTORS® across the country and around the world by participating in the REALTOR® Nationwide Open House.

Want to be part of something big? Over the weekend of April 20 and 21, you can join thousands of REALTORS® across the country and around the world by participating in the REALTOR® Nationwide Open House. State and local Realtor® associations are organizing the largest-ever event, which is aimed at bringing together buyers and sellers and promoting the benefits of home ownership for families and communities.

Even with the indispensable role of the Internet in real estate transactions, open houses continue to have an important role. In NAR’s 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 45 percent of buyers said that they attended open houses in their home search process. Learn more, including how to talk to local media about the event, here.

Article courtesy of Realtor Mag

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

4 Myths of Online Real Estate Lead Generation

[1]Using the internet to capture real estate leads can be an exciting way to earn new business. It can also be a major undertaking for those without the training, understanding or systems to manage online lead generation.

According to NAR [2], 90% of consumers are researching homes online. This is before they ever pick up a phone or reach out to a real estate agent. The rapidly evolving online world makes it imperative that you create a system to grab and retain the attention of today’s home buyer.

If you have hired a lead coordinator, bought smart phones for your sales associates and created back office systems to distribute leads, you may believe that your job is done. You would be wrong. Building a successful online lead generation system takes time, skill and management.

Shift your focus from lead generating for a moment to lead management. How are you handling these leads and what could you do better? Let’s begin by overcoming a few myths or beliefs you might have and find solutions that allow for better lead management and performance.

Leads Management Myths

Myth 1 - It is about lead generation, not lead management

Wrong. How you manage your incoming leads is far more critical to the success of your overall lead system. Stop worrying about bringing more leads in if you are not focusing on the cultivation of the leads you have.

Many real estate professionals make the mistake of taking the lead, making a phone call and then tossing it aside. Cultivating a lead requires time and effort. Whether the consumer is interested in purchasing one week or one year from now still necessitates a system where you remain top of mind. Use touch point emails and phone calls to build a relationship with your potential client. Offer valuable information that positions you as the local real estate expert.

Myth 2 - Electronic automated response is a substitute for picking up the phone
As marketers, we are always looking for that silver bullet; the one system or tool that will solve all of our communication problems. While automation is beneficial, it is only a complementary solution to human interaction. As our world continues to move at a faster pace than ever before, we have the tendency as marketers to automate everything we possibly can. This is a huge strategic error in converting leads.

Automatic responses and drip systems will assist in keeping you in front of your prospect, but will never build relationships the way simply picking up the phone can.

As you build your follow-up system, make sure weekly calls are part of your strategy. Intersperse calls with emails, direct mail and any social media campaigns.

Myth 3 - The vast majority of leads are junk
The truth is; online leads can be misunderstood because many real estate professionals are ill prepared to handle them. They dive into online lead generation with no concept of what it takes to incubate and covert this challenging lead.

For example, if a lead says they do not want to buy for four months, the typical salesperson will give up after only a few weeks. If a lead says they want to have information on financing, instead of sending articles and tips, agents set up a search and send a list of properties. In order to convert a lead, you must understand the needs of the consumer.

• Purchase the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, and absorb the statistics to better understand the consumer market segment.
• Interview buyers and sellers in your market to find out their buying and selling habits.

50% of online leads will not convert into clients for at least 12 to 24 months. Create a procedure that offers insight into the buying/selling process for a full two years.

Myth 4 - Sales people automatically know how to convert an online lead
The average real estate professional does not step into the business with a background in converting online leads. Sales managers must take a proactive stance in training sales people how to converse and build relationships over the phone.

A training solution includes:
• How to immediately qualify or disqualify a lead
• How to nurture and convert a lead
• Understanding what a call to action is and how to position them properly
• Creating a solid campaign that includes drip marketing, phone calls and direct mail
• Setting expectations on conversion rates and the time it will take from start to finish
Now is a good time to clean up leads that have been sitting in a contact management system. 

Organize, purge and get permission to email those leads. Build your system and create consistency in your communication. The online lead is counting on you.

Amy Chorew is the Vice President of Platform Development at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate.

Article courtesy of RIS Media

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#RealEstateNews - Florida Leads Nation in Foreclosures

According to real estate data-supplier RealtyTrac, U.S. foreclosure starts increased 2 percent from February to March, the second straight monthly increase following three consecutive monthly decreases. 

Florida, Nevada and Illinois posted the highest foreclosure rates for the first quarter, according to RealtyTrac's March and first quarter U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. Florida had the most foreclosures of any state—one in every 104 housing units, or nearly three times the national average. 

Florida cities accounted for 7 of the 10 highest metro foreclosure rates, with Miami leading every other metro area in the country for the first quarter. Other cities in the top 10 included Las Vegas at number four, with one in every 99 housing units filing.
The U.S. overall reported 152,500 foreclosures in March, a decrease of 1 percent from February and a decrease of 23 percent from a year before. The March decrease helped lower the total for first quarter U.S. foreclosures—including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions—to their lowest level since the second quarter of 2007. 

Although the overall national trend continues to head downward, RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist says "late-blooming foreclosures are bolting higher" in some local markets where aggressive foreclosure-prevention efforts in previous years are wearing off. 

Meanwhile, says Blomquist, in other states, more recent foreclosure-prevention efforts have drastically increased the average time to foreclosure. Sometime down the road, he thinks, that could result in a second outbreak of delayed foreclosures. 

Properties foreclosed in the first quarter took an average of 477 days to complete, up from 370 days in the first quarter of 2012. That's the highest average time since the first quarter of 2007.
Why so dramatic an increase? 

"It is being driven at the national level," Blomquist tells ABC News, "mostly by increases in states where new legislation is changing the foreclosure process and making it more difficult for lenders to foreclose." 

Prime examples, he says, are the Homeowner Bill of Rights in California that took effect in January, and the Foreclosure Fairness Act in Massachusetts that took effect in November. 

Oregon, Nevada and Washington, he says, have passed similar legislation in the past year and a half.

Article courtesy of ABC News

Monday, April 15, 2013

Simple Ways to Get More People to Your Website

You created what could easily be one of the most fantastic websites the Internet has encountered. It’s full of color and great pictures, it scrolls with grace and the content is top class stuff. You have registered your site with all the appropriate search engines and all meta and title tags are filled out. Now, you need to find a way to drive traffic to your site and here are a few easy ways to do just that.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your website is listed everywhere possible. Sure, you put in on your letterhead, newsletters, business cards and in your advertising, but that’s just scratching the surface. Consider investing in little trinkets to give out to the public sporting, along with your company logo, your website. Pens, letter openers and bumper stickers are an inexpensive way to get the word out, or for a few more dollars you can go with baseball caps, coffee mugs or t-shirts.

Make a list of all the newspapers, trade publications and other media in your community. Try to get mentioned or reviewed in these publications. Many local newspapers run weekly business briefs free of charge, all you need to do is submit a write-up about your company. And don’t forget to include your website address.

Another inexpensive approach involves a visit to your local sign company. Have a magnetic sign with your company logo and website made and proudly display it on the side of your vehicle. You would be surprised by how many people will see this each and every day.
If you have the funds, perhaps you can sponsor a local youth sport team. Just imaging the exposure you will get from a dozen 12-year-olds running around the mall wearing their soccer shirts with your website planted on the front. Because remember, those kids will wear those shirts everywhere, not just to the games. And don’t forget to get one for yourself, because a mesh soccer shirt goes well with anything.

Article courtesy of Social Media Today

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Home Prices Seen Falling in Some Areas as Rates Increase

Home prices are climbing too fast relative to buyer incomes, signaling that property values may fall in some U.S. cities once mortgage rates rise and reduce affordability, according to a study by Zillow Inc
Driven in part by borrowing costs close to historic lows, buyers spent three times their annual incomes on homes at the end of last year, up from a 2.6 multiple from 1985 to 1999, Zillow said in a statement today. That means properties were almost 15 percent pricier relative to incomes than before the housing bubble of the mid-2000s, according to the Seattle-based real estate research firm. 

"The days of historically high levels of housing affordability are numbered,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, said in the statement. When interest rates rise, property prices “will have to either remain stagnant while incomes catch up or, quite possibly, home values will have to fall in some markets. This will especially be the case in some markets that have seen strong home-value appreciation.” 

Median wages aren’t keeping pace with home prices, which are rising as low borrowing costs drive demand for a tight supply of properties. Prices climbed 10.2 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest gain since March 2006, according to CoreLogic Inc. Phoenix had the largest increase among major metropolitan areas, with single-family home values rising 21 percent, the Irvine, California-based firm said.

Record Low

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to a record 3.31 percent in November, and was 3.54 percent last week. That compares with a 9 percent average from 1985 to 1999, according to Freddie Mac (FMCC) data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Rates may rise to about 4 percent by the end of this year, and 4.5 percent by late 2014, Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a Riverdale, New Jersey-based mortgage-information website, said in a telephone interview. 

The economic growth and wage inflation that should accompany higher rates will help offset the negative effect of rising borrowing costs on the housing market, Philip Weingord, chief executive officer of New York-based Seer Capital Management LP, said today in an interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene. 

“We’re just in the beginning of real estate prices starting to come back,” Weingord said. “We expect to see real estate prices continue to go up over the next several years.” 

Homebuyers in 24 of the 30 largest metro areas tracked by Zillow paid more in the fourth quarter relative to regional median income than in 1985 to 1999, Zillow said. The areas where price-to-income ratios rose the most from their pre-bubble levels included San Jose, California; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; San Diego and Denver. 

Only Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Detroit had ratios lower than historic norms, Zillow said. 

Article courtesy of Bloomberg

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CWS/BIRDVIEW launches Document Manager

CWS/BIRDVIEW is proud to announce the launch of Document Manager.  Document Manager is the newest creation from CWS/BIRDVIEW that now allows clients to post, edit, and share documents to the public or to internal staff.  These documents are secure and allow administrators to provide access controls to any staff member they desire.   This service is an upgrade and replaces our current  FTP and Intranet Document Sharing services.  
The cost is $300 down and $50 a month
Call 877-247-3843 Ext. 400 or email tom@birdview.com  to add this product or answer any questions.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Real Estate-Related Google Searches Spike 253 Percent Since 2008

by Peter Ricci

Google real estate searches have spiked 253 percent in the last four years, according to a joint study by NAR and Google. 

Real estate-related searches on Google have catapulted 253 percent since 2008, according to a joint study by Google and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

In addition, the report, titled The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate, uncovered a number of interesting details on how today’s homebuyers interact with the Internet.

Google Searches on Real Estate Terms

Google and NAR both found that the prospective homebuyer’s aims played a very strong role in his or her search terms:
  • First-time homebuyers, for instance, most frequently searched for “FHA loan,” “FHA,” “home grants,” “home loan,” and “home buyer assistance,” which can only make sense when four of 10 first-time homebuyers financed their home purchases with FHA mortgages in 2012.
  • At the state level, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming generated the most online queries from first-time homebuyers.
  • For homebuyers looking for retirement residences, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington generated the most interest, while for vacation properties, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and South Dakota were tops.
  • In terms of amenities, the numbers of bedrooms/bathrooms, square footage, garages, HVAC systems and swimming pools accounted for 70 percent of all the searched features on Realtor.com.
  • And finally, for those prospective homebuyers using a mobile device, 48 percent did so to find directions to a home for sale, while 45 percent went mobile to request more info about a home or service.
We should point out, though Google searches are extremely prevalent, the likelihood of appearing on the first pages of any of the aforementioned terms is unlikely; as we’ve covered before, the more specific the search terms, the better your chances are of getting discovered.

Patrick Grandinetti – Online Technologies “Driving Offline Behaviors”

Patrick Grandinetti, the head of real estate at Google, said that the widespread usage of the Internet in today’s commerce has presented new, targeted marketing opportunities for real estaet professionals.

“With 90 percent of homebuyers searching online during their homebuying process, the real estate industry is smart to target these people where they look for and consume information – for example, through paid search, relevant websites, video environments and mobile applications,” he said.

Ian Schwartz, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Lincoln Park, said the increase in real estate-related Internet activity has changed the way that he interacts with his clients.

“It’s no longer about finding properties,” he said. “I think more and more it comes down to service.”

Previously, Schwartz said, agents were privy to exclusive information about what homes were for sale and for what price; with the advent of IDX feeds, though, along with syndication sites, chances are that your clients will know a good deal about what homes are for sale and at what price, and Schwartz said it then becomes the agent’s responsibility to offer a superior service to the client, one built upon keen analysis and in-depth discussion.

Courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine