Thursday, June 27, 2013

Home prices, new home sales show big increases

Home prices are rising at a record pace, and new-home sales soared at the fastest pace in five years, according to data released Tuesday. 
While home prices have been skyrocketing for more than a year — spurred by high buyer demand and a shortage of inventory — this month’s rate of increase surprised some analysts. Home prices rose in all 20 cities of the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index from a year ago, up 12.1 percent from April 2012, marking the biggest increase since March 2006. Home prices in Washington rose 7.2 percent in April, compared with a year ago, according to the Case-Shiller report. They are up 2.4 percent from March. 

“It definitely seems like the recovery is picking up pace,” said Ryan Severino, senior economist at Reis, a real estate research firm.

This comes less than a week after the Federal Reserve said it could begin scaling back its massive bond-buying program, sending markets on a wild ride and sparking concerns that the housing sector’s stellar recovery could slow. The housing market has been one of the chief drivers of economic growth as buyers rush in to make the most of historically low mortgage rates. 

But mortgage rates have risen over the past month, and many economists expect that to continue as the Fed prepares to taper its bond purchases. Higher rates could encourage some buyers to quickly lock in a deal, while making a purchase too expensive for others. Either way, economists say, it could be potentially destabilizing to the housing market.

The housing market also has been hampered by a low inventory of homes for sale, which is likely to push prices higher until the end of the year irrespective of the Fed’s actions, analysts said. 

“There’s just not enough homes on the market,” said Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. “The Fed really can’t do anything to control that.”

Rising home prices are good for the economy in the short term as they help homeowners build wealth and encourage builders to begin construction, analysts said. But the current pace of growth isn’t desirable in the long term, they said, though prices are down more than 20 percent from their 2006 peak. 

“We need the economy to recover, but home prices don’t need to go up,” said Robert Shiller, one of the originators of the index and an economics professor at Yale University.

Home prices should grow at a slower pace by the end of next year and reach a steady rate of 3 to 4 percent by 2015, economists said, provided mortgage rates do not change dramatically. Rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage are hovering near 4 percent, and economists say it is likely to continue to rise.

A key to easing the rise in home prices will be new-home construction, analysts say.
New-home sales for May reached 476,000 on an annualized basis, up 2.1 percent from April and 29 percent from May 2012, according to data from the Commerce Department released Tuesday. The median sales price of homes was nearly $264,000 in May, an increase of more than 10 percent from a year ago.

Builders are slowly gaining faith in the housing recovery, said Robert Denk, senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders. Earlier this month, the association’s survey of builders showed that confidence was at its highest level in seven years. 

“Today’s report is generally positive for builders,” Denk said. “But while the numbers are good, they only get us back to half of where we should be.”

Denk said single-family home construction levels and new-home sales need to double to reach a healthy market. The association predicts that new-home sales will reach 500,000 on an annualized basis by the end of the year and 700,000 in 2014.

Article courtesy of Washington Post

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Home prices up 12.1% in April

Home prices rose 12.1% in April, making their strongest gains in seven years, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index released Tuesday.

Price gains are likely to slow later this year and decelerate even further next year, says Paul Diggle, economist with Capital Economics.

That's because, as prices rise, the value of owning a house compared with renting starts to shift more toward renting. 

Also, higher home prices mean investor buyers have to look harder for bargains. As investors slow purchases, there will be less competition for homes, especially for the lower-priced ones favored by investors.

At the same time, more home sellers are entering the market. That increase in supply will lead to smaller price gains since tight inventories have been a big driver of price increases, Diggle says. 

The number of homes for sale appears to have bottomed in January and is up 6.1% since then, he says.

Higher interest rates may also make home ownership less affordable for some buyers. 

Article courtesy of USA Today

Friday, June 21, 2013

May home sales up 4.2%; median price up 15.4%

Existing home sales improved in May but the supply of homes for sale remains tight — which isn't good news for buyers, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Total existing home sales increased 4.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million in May from 4.97 million in April, NAR said. That's the highest rate since November 2009 and almost 13% above year-ago levels.

The inventory of homes for sale, meanwhile, dipped to a 5.1 month supply, down from 5.2 months in April. That means all the homes would sell in that time frame if no new supply was added and sales continued at May's pace. Realtors consider a 6-month supply to be a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

Total housing inventory at the end of May was up 3.3% to 2.22 million existing homes for sale.
Despite last month's "nice" gain in homes for sale, the supply is unlikely to grow unless home building ramps up by an additional 50%, says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. 

Homes are also selling fast. The median time on market for all homes was 41 days in May, down from 46 in April.

Nationwide, 45% of all homes sold in May were on the market for less than a month, NAR says.

Single-family home sales rose 5% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million and are almost 13% above the year ago pace.

The national median existing-home price was $208,000 in May, up 15.4% from a year ago. 

Median prices can fluctuate depending on the types of homes that sell month to month.

Tight supplies of homes for sale has helped drive price gains in many markets. As prices rise, more homeowners are likely to try to sell their homes.

When adjusted for seasonal factors, the inventory has risen for four straight months and is up 7% since January, says Jed Kolko, chief economist for real estate website Trulia. 

Separately, Zillow says home values rose again in May, up 0.5% from April.

By Zillow's measure, that puts home values up 5.4% year-over-year in May, the second-highest annual rate of appreciation for any month in the past 12.

The pace of home value appreciation is expected to moderate as more sellers enter the market and builders begin construction on more new homes, Zillow says.

"The housing market will undoubtedly look very different a few years down the road from how it appears now," says Stan Humphries, Zillow economist.

Inventory constraints are beginning to ease in many areas as more homes come on the market, he says. Rising interest rates may also curb demand as home purchases become more expensive to finance.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that 30-year-fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.93%, down from 3.98% last week.

Article courtesy of USA Today

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Write E-mail Worth Reading

Are your marketing messages going straight into spam folders? Here’s how to get people to pay attention.

E-mail inboxes today are flooded. The messages you send to clients are competing with everything from bank statements to notes from children’s teachers to Gap shopping newsletters. How do you get people to open what you send, and even more critically, to pay attention to what you write?

Here are four strategies to help ensure your e-mails are opened and read and that you convey effective messages to your recipients.

1. Use Clarity in the Subject Line

To get people to notice your message, focus on the subject line. Make sure it’s specific, says Dmitri Leonov, vice president of growth with SaneBox, an e-mail management system. Don’t just write “Hi.” If possible, write your entire message in the subject line with the acronym EOM-—end of message. It could be as simple as “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow at 2 p.m. (eom).” “This is going to save you a ton of time, and your clients will prioritize your e-mail above everything else in their inbox,” -Leonov says.

For e-newsletters and other mass mailings, MailChimp, an e-newsletter campaign service, offers a feature that allows you to analyze the effectiveness of subject line keywords. You can search for specific language and MailChimp will tell you the open rates other e-newsletter campaigns have had using the same words. According to MailChimp’s analysis of open rates for more than 200 million e-mails, here are three words or phrases to avoid in your subject line to keep from triggering spam filters: help, percent off, and reminder.

2. Keep It Short

If an e-mail is very long, don’t expect a client to absorb or respond to every point you are making. It’s easy for clients to miss details embedded in multiple paragraphs and they may never even make it to the end of the message, Leonov explains. And let’s face it: Not everyone is an excellent writer, which can lead to confusion over meaning. Try bolding key words or information in the body of your message, or use condensed, bulleted lists.

3. Make Messages Worth Seeing

Consider video e-mail. Creating a simple, short video (under a minute) may help you make a more personal connection, such as with a business introduction or while explaining details of an upcoming closing. In the case of the latter, it’s still important to follow up with written documentation as back-up. Anand Patel, broker-owner of Pangea Realty Group in Tampa, Fla., finds BombBomb, a video e-mail marketing platform, to be very effective. “It helps with building relationships with first-time buyers and following up with people I meet at conferences,” he says.
Here’s how it works: First, you record a video message via smartphone, webcam, or camera; then upload your file to the BombBomb platform. You can customize the video messages with your own branding and include a short written message. The built-in analytics feature allows you to see who opened your e-mail, clicked on links, and watched your video. Or you can schedule drip campaigns to send an automated series of e-mails at scheduled times. Pricing starts at $29 per month for up to 500 sent videos.

When working with clients, Patel will send them a link to an MLS search along with a video in which he explains the listings within the link. It puts clients at ease about the buying process, but it also gives Patel a chance to see when they open the e-mail and how often and what links they click on.

To help his agents communicate more regularly with their spheres, he has suggested another vendor, Happy Grasshopper, an e-marketing service that produces short, creative, marketing messages that agents can use as is or adapt. The basic plan starts at $19 per month for up to 500 contacts.

4. Set Reminders

Real estate practitioners send time-sensitive e-mails regularly. But it can be stressful to keep track of when important follow-up is needed. While calendar reminders on your devices help, SaneBox has a “remind me” feature, which sends a notification when your e-mail was not replied to by a designated time. “It will help you hate your e-mail less,” Leonov said.

Article courtesy of Realtor Mag

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Knowing Your Keywords Is Key for Real Estate SEO

Knowing Your Keywords is Key for Real Estate SEO SEO or Search engine optimization is an approach to Web design that, if done properly, will lead to top search engine placement in the Free or Organic section for your most relevant keyword phrases. So, if you are looking to boost your bottom line with lots of virtually Free advertising from the major search engines, it will pay you to know the basics of Real Estate SEO. Because 80% of all transactions begin with a keyword search this is a pretty good strategy and the fist step is to identify your keywords and keyword phrases.

Keywords and Your Target Market Ask yourself: Who is my market? Who are you trying to attract with your Website? If you are a Realtor concerned about Real Estate SEO you are probably thinking you want to attract buyers and/or sellers. OK, but where do these buyers and sellers want to buy or sell? If you start off by thinking about the state, think smaller. If you start off by thinking about a single development, think larger. In fact, think City and then you may have a keyword phrase such as:

    River City Homes or
    River City Real Estate or
    River City Property or possibly
    River City Commercial real estate

Substitute your own city for River City in each of the keyword phrase examples above. Do this several times if your real estate Web design will focus on several areas. What do Keywords Do and Where do They Go? Keywords and keyword phrases are your Web designer’s way of communicating with the search engines. This is why keywords form the basis and first step in Real Estate SEO. Your keyword phrases guide the search engines as to where your Website belongs in their index. The keyword phrases you select will go in your Meta Tags and in the content of the Web pages. So, if you hope your Website will be placed in the index for River City Homes but you never mention that phrase in your meta tags or in the Web page content, how will the search engines ever know where to place you? By the way, do you want to learn more about Real Estate SEO and how you can generate quality leads from top search engine placement? If so, start by getting your Website’s SEO Score. This score predicts your Website’s ability to get top placement and pinpoints areas that need work.

Article courtesy of e Commission Blog

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

5 Reasons to Take M-commerce Seriously

M-commerce, or commerce via mobile devices, is the future of business in America, and a new eMarketer survey hammers home that fact.


M-commerce, short hand for shopping via mobile devices, used to be a fledgling component of the American economy, but a new study from eMarketer has drawn some startling projections on how m-commerce will grow in the coming years.

Already 15 percent of the online retail marketplace (up from just 7 percent in 2011), m-commerce is expected to grow to 25 percent of the online market by 2017 and total more than $108 billion.

As we’ve written before, that is huge news for a business as dependent on marketing and clientele as residential real estate. Marketing/advertising are consistently among the largest expenses for real estate agents, but in order to be effective, agents must devote their resources to whatever platforms attract the most consumers – and though everyone and their dog knows that mobile platforms are the way of the future, eMarketer’s research finds that tablets, among all m-commerce platforms, are the key ingredient to focus on, whether you’re taking advantage of mobile apps, such as Trulia or, buying advertising for the mobile version of a popular website or consulting mobile-ready designs for your own personal website, the message in the back of your mind should be one thing: tablets, tablets, tablets.

Article courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Home prices show strong gains in April

The pace of home price increases stayed strong in April with prices up 12.1% year-over-year, CoreLogic says.

The annual increase is the biggest in more than seven years. Prices were up 3.2% in April from March.

"Increasing demand … coupled with low inventory, has created a virtuous cycle for price gains, says Mark Fleming, CoreLogic chief economist, noting that home price growth continues to "surprise to the upside."

The states with the highest year over year home price appreciation were Nevada, up almost 25%; California, 19%; Arizona and Hawaii, 17%; and Oregon, almost 16%.

A rise in the supply of homes for sale should lead to moderating price gains later this year, says Ed Stansfield, an economist with Capital Economics.

In April, the supply of existing homes for sale grew to 5.2 months, up from 4.7 months in March, the National Association of Realtors says. Realtors generally consider a 6-month supply to be balanced between buyers and sellers.

More listings are expected given that more people think it's now a good time to sell, Stansfield says, and because rising prices enable more people to sell at smaller or no losses.

In April, only two states posted lower home prices year-over-year. Prices were off 1.7% in Mississippi and 1.6% in Alabama, CoreLogic says.

The cities showing the biggest gains year over year for single family homes continue to be Los Angeles and Phoenix, up 19%. They were followed by Atlanta and Riverside, Calif., up almost 17%.

Article courtesy of USA Today