Agents use video to personalize listings

For tech-savvy buyers, real estate agents go to the video

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis and ,
Occasionally, when real estate agent James Lisowski is at an open house, someone will approach him and say: “You’re the guy on the video!”Started about a year ago as a way to stand out, Lisowski’s online video home tours have garnered him and his fellow agents a small following and become an important tool in their marketing strategy: targeting tech-savvy buyers who increasingly are conducting much of their search through their mobile devices.

“A big piece of the puzzle . . . is loss aversion,” Humphries said. “In January, 27 percent of sales in the D.C. metro area were losses. Most sellers are loath to sell their home at a loss, and many are still anchored on the peak-level prices.”

“Essentially, the housing market has become like a game of musical chairs,” Humphries added. “People won’t get out of their seats because they’re afraid they won’t be able to find another seat to sit down in.”

As a result, sellers who aren’t underwater and want to list often are in a better bargaining position. In February, they were, on average, able to get 97.1 percent of their list price. The 10-year average for that month is 95.5 percent.

Even in a seller’s market, it’s not a given that anyone can simply put up a for-sale sign and expect a wave of offers pushing the property well above list price. Supply and demand — the biggest factors in determining sale prices — can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to another.

Still, with all things being equal, experts say, what can distinguish one house from another in popular neighborhoods are the right pricing strategy and buzz.

Pricing, listing strategies

For Rob and Debbie Seidner, getting ready has meant months of gradually clearing out the toy clutter of their 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and caulking and touching up the paint on their Capitol Hill rowhouse, even though it was gutted and rebuilt two years ago.

“Our house really is move-in ready,” said Rob Seidner, expressing concern about the competition. “We do have a completely redesigned, brand-new house, but most of the ones on the market, you’d be the first ones living there.”

His real estate agent is tracking every listing and sale in the area, making sure that he knows the condition and details of each home, and staying attuned to the changing market. The Seidners have communicated three price points to their agent: the lowest they could possibly accept, the level at which they’d break even and the price at which they could move out immediately.

“We know what he thinks is a really great price, and if someone’s coming in and blowing that out of the water, it’s easy enough to put our things in storage,” said Seidner, 36, who works in human resources at the Transportation Department. The family aims to move to the suburbs, he says, so the children will have better school opportunities.

Whether to list slightly above market, exactly at the market or slightly below in hopes of attracting more interest and driving up the price are hot issues among real estate agents.

Jennifer Nangle, an agent based in the District with Re/Max Realty Services, says she prices homes about 1 percent below the market value in hopes of attracting multiple offers and moving higher.

But Traci Levine, an agent with Long and Foster in Potomac, said, “I’m pushing the envelope with my pricing.” Levine, noting that every listing since January has sold, added: “The good houses are going within a matter of hours to days. There’s just nothing on the market.”

Recently, she listed a Potomac house with an unfinished basement for $920,000 and received multiple offers, when the previous comparable sale from nearly three years ago was $880,000, with a finished basement.

In Northern Virginia, Mary Bayat, broker-owner of Bayat Realty in Alexandria, says she prices houses $5,000 to $8,000 above comparable sales to leave room for negotiation.

“We don’t do that,” Fulcrum agent Tom Kavanagh said. “We try to hit it right on. We don’t want to overprice it.”

The best day of the week to introduce a listing to the market is also a matter of debate. Redfin advised a Friday debut, to land on the top of a buyer’s mobile phone queue when he’s planning his weekend house shopping. Redfin’s historical data show that homes listed on Friday sell faster and closer to the asking price than on any other day of the week.

Other agents prefer to list on Wednesday or Thursday to leave more time to get prospective buyers’ attention.

But in terms of when the buying season will begin, agents and experts agreed that waiting until your flowers bloom may be too late. “We’re in the throes of the spring market now,” said Long and Foster’s Levine. “If you wait until late March or April, you’ll have more properties competing.”

The art of the video

“I’m hanging out in Petworth today right outside President Lincoln’s cottage. He spent over a quarter of his whole presidency here,” says Phil Di Ruggiero in his video on the District’s Petworth neighborhood.

“Let’s go ask him why,” says Di Ruggiero, a real estate agent who owns and serves as marketing director of GreenLine Real Estatein D.C., holding a microphone to the mouth of a statue of Lincoln. “No comment,” he says, then shifts the microphone to the mouth of a statue of Lincoln’s horse. “Let’s go talk to someone who actually lives here now and see what they think.”

Di Ruggiero says he strives for broadcast quality in his seven-minute videos, often employing humor to make them engaging. He says he wants to make house-hunting a fun experience for buyers, rather than drudgery in having to click through photos online.

When he began this marketing campaign in 2009, he said, he paid someone to produce the videos, adding that good ones can cost $5,000. Since then, he has purchased equipment, studied the art of video-making and now produces them himself.

He has produced about 30 videos on D.C. neighborhoods — what he calls mini-documentaries — and on individual properties. One video he produced shows people at an open house raving about a Columbia Heights condo.

He considers 1,500 page views to be a success.

“You can’t fudge with video. For people to give it any credence, they have to feel as though it has the same polish and feel as what they see on television,” he said. Familiarize yourself with “fast editing and fast cuts,” he urges other agents.

Videos are a growing segment of real estate marketing but are not yet widely used, experts say.

In a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 14 percent of sellers questioned said their agent used video to market their home, up from 9 percent in 2007. In that same survey, 45 percent of buyers questioned said they found video tours very useful.

“Over the last couple of years, we came from virtually no use of video,” says Paul Bishop, the association’s vice president for research. “Now sellers are looking for creative ways to market their homes. Video . . . is something I can use to really market my home over and above advertising, a mention in the paper, an open house or sign in my front yard. Technology is making it feasible to reach a broader audience.”

Finding the right buyer

Fulcrum Properties Group uses a full-time videographer to make video tours of every home the D.C. real estate firm lists, pointing out different features of the house.

The firm distributes links to the video to brokers, agents and interested buyers, as well as the homeowner’s networks, which with just-listed cards and in-person visits to neighbors will build buzz for the first open house. “That first weekend we’ll get 50 bodies through. It builds a little frenzy,” said Fulcrum’s Tom Kavanagh.

Once the offers start coming in, experts say, it is time to shift from creative thinking to critical thinking.

Remove emotions from the process and focus on your goal: a single, qualified buyer who can consummate the deal in your required time, within your price parameters. As appealing as the scenario of multiple offers and a bidding war seems, that may signal to your buyer’s lender that the home isn’t worth the purchase price — and the financing could fall through, costing you the sale.

“You want one person that’s well qualified, that has a wonderful lender and a great settlement attorney and is going to settle between 30 and 45 days,” said Kavanagh.

Be realistic. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how hot the market is for other sellers, but for your specific circumstance.

“The market is great, but it matters how you present yourself in the market,” agent Bayat said. “The most important thing is, what is your goal, what do you want to achieve?”

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a freelance writer.

Source: The Washington Post

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Will the #housing market revival last?

Sale pendingFor the moment, the good news in the housing market comes with fundamental shifts in supply, demand and mortgage interest rates. (Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images photo / March 1, 2013)
Ilyce Glink & Samuel TamkinReal Estate Matters, Tribune Media Services4:30 a.m. CST, March 1, 2013
The housing market news sounds good this week. Sales of previously owned homes crawled up another 0.4 percent in January, which means that if this level of housing activity keeps up all year, sales will hit nearly 5 million,.That’s not the only good news. Existing home sale prices rose again, for the 11th month in a row, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in January, up 12.3 percent from January 2012. (The last time it jumped that much was from July 2005 to May 2006.)

It’s the best year for the housing market since 2007, before the economy fell off the cliff into the worst recession in 80 years. And for the moment, the good news has to do with a couple of fundamental shifts in supply, demand and mortgage interest rates.

Let’s start with interest rates. When the Federal Reserve Bank moved to lower the federal funds rate (which is the rate many long-term interest rates are tied to), there was a lot of howling about how near-zero interest rates would ultimately cause hyperinflation, or an interest rate environment where we would see 30-year mortgage interest rates climb to perhaps double-digits.

That hasn’t happened, not by a long shot. Despite the fact that the Federal Reserve continues to spend of $85 billion per month buying mortgage-backed and other securities, long-term interest rates are actually lower this year than last year.

All the chatter about mortgage rates at historic low levels has sparked another round of refinancing. It has also piqued the interest of buyers who are starting to wonder whether they will miss the opportunity to buy homes that are still priced 20 to 30 percent below the high values set in 2006 — and to finance the purchase at the lowest interest rates in history.

Homes are the most affordable they’ve been in decades, say the Realtors, but that could change soon if more homeowners don’t decide to jump off the fence and become sellers. The number of homes on the market is the lowest it has been since 1999, and that is one of the main reasons home prices are rising, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady,” Yun explained. “In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.

“We expect a seasonal rise of inventory this spring, but it may be insufficient to avoid more frequent incidences of multiple bidding and faster-than-normal price growth.”

Frenzied bidding wars may sound good to sellers who have been waiting for prices to rise to a place where they’re not underwater and can sell and move on with their lives. But it isn’t the balanced market so many in the real estate industry have been hoping for.

In fact, a number of factors could derail the housing market revival.

Let’s start with the economy. The economy contracted slightly (by 0.1 percent) in the fourth quarter of 2012, surprising most economists. If government spending continues to decline, it may well spark another recession, though perhaps not as bad as the last.

Even if the country doesn’t fall into a technical recession, extremely slow growth and continued high levels of unemployment mean more homeowners will fall behind on their house payments and into foreclosure or short sale. That will, in turn, drive down home prices again.

Real estate investors have played a key role in turning around the housing market, sopping up homes at the low end. But once the low-hanging fruit (super-cheap homes) is absorbed, real estate investors will either turn into sellers or put up “for rent” signs on their property. With less competition, home sellers won’t get bidding wars and may have to accept lower prices.

Finally, there are a number of reasons why the Federal Reserve will start to raise interest rates, including a rise in inflation. Once that happens, many economists expect the housing market to hit the brakes, as home buyers get used to the idea that their mortgage will carry a 5 or 6 percent interest rate. While that used to seem cheap, it seems downright unreasonable when today’s 30-year fixed rate mortgages are at 3.5 percent.

Higher interest rates mean home buyers will have to spend less to get the same payment. And that will translate into lower offer for sellers.

While it looks good now, that could change. Nevertheless, if you’re selling or refinancing, you’re in a better place now than you were last year.

 

Americans, by a margin of more than 3 to 1, expect the housing market to improve over the next 12 months, part of a broader brightening in their outlook for the economy, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

 

Fifty percent of poll respondents say the market will continue to get better in 2013 compared with only 16 percent who say they expect it to decline. An additional 31 percent say the market will stay about the same.

i_HUBqi9VQ20Prices are very steadily, slowly, starting to creep back up,” says Eric Matheny, 31, an attorney from Fort Lauderdale,Florida, who purchased a new home five months ago. “The housing market is a major part of the economy, so it says something about the strength of the economy.”

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose 5.5 percent in the 12 months to November, the biggest year-over-year gain since August 2006. In January, homebuilders began work on 613,000 single-family homes, the most since July 2008, the U.S. Commerce Department said yesterday.

As the housing market, the epicenter of the 2008 financial crisis, continues healing, Americans say they expect its improvement to spread through the economy, according to the poll of 1,003 adults conducted Feb. 15-18.

By a margin of 43 percent to 26 percent, respondents say prospects for job growth will rise over the next 12 months, with 30 percent seeing little change; 37 percent anticipate a stronger economy compared with 25 percent who disagree and 37 percent who say it will be about the same.

Deficit Concern

Susan Kosko, 43, a risk-management assistant in ruralPennsylvania, says she feels “a tiny bit” better about the economy thanks to rising home prices in her area and lowinterest rates.

“The deficit is a big concern,” she adds via e-mail.

On several other measures of economic well-being that Bloomberg has tracked over time, the share of poll respondents saying they expect improvement rose from December.

Asked about overall financial security, 32 percent say they expect their situation to get better compared with 14 percent who see tougher times ahead and 48 percent seeing little change.

There’s also an increase in the share of respondents saying the market value of their homes will rise, with 27 percent expecting higher prices compared with 16 percent who anticipate falling values and 34 percent saying they’ll be about the same. In December, Americans were evenly split, with 20 percent predicting higher prices and 20 percent lower prices.

Getting Closer

By a margin of 49 percent to 37 percent, Americans say they feel they’re moving closer to their career and financial goals.

“We’re every year getting closer and closer,” says Matheny. “I’ve got a good work ethic and I put my heart and soul into my job.”

Still, more than three years after the end of the 2007-09 recession, concerns remain. Asked about having enough disposable income to make large household purchases, 29 percent say they expect more difficulty in the coming year compared with 19 percent who plan to loosen their belts.

Thirty-one percent say money for vacations or entertainment will be tighter while 21 percent say the situation will improve. While 28 percent say they expect their household-income situation will be better, 13 percent say it will be worse and 54 percent see no change.

“We’re advancing, but very, very slowly,” says John Grannan, 62, a retired police officer in Fort WayneIndiana, who now teaches criminal justice at a local university.

The economy will grow 1.8 percent this year, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Failing Grade

With the stock market close to regaining its pre-crisis peak, respondents expect betterinvestment performance by a margin of 23 percent to 18 percent, with 34 percent seeing little change.

Bob Magera, 63, a part-time pharmaceutical salesman in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, says his 401(k) retirement accounts lost about 50 percent of their value during the financial crisis.

“I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m OK,” he said.

The outlook isn’t without clouds. President Barack Obama continues to get a failing grade from a plurality of respondents on the question of “making people like me feel more economically secure.” By 48 percent to 45 percent, respondents disapprove of the president’s performance on that issue.

Political Dysfunction

Outright majorities say they expect the national debt and health-care costs to continue worsening. By a 56 percent to 16 percent tally, poll respondents say the nation’s $16 trillion debtwill get worse over the next 12 months while 55 percent say health-care costs will get worse.

Washington’s chronic showdowns over government spending also have left Americans worried about the impact of political dysfunction on retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. And by 46 percent to 10 percent, those surveyed expect their federal tax bills to rise in the coming year.

Sizable shares of poll respondents express concern that Social Security and Medicare may not be available when they retire. On Social Security, 43 percent say it probably or definitely won’t exist when they need it, while 54 percent say the program will definitely or probably be there.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans are skeptical that Medicare will be around when they need it, while 57 percent say the health-insurance program for the elderly will definitely or probably be there.

Global Standing

“Unless we get this deficit under control and unless we get spending under control, I don’t think they’ll be around in five or six years,” says Grannan. “Sooner or later, those people we elected better get along and do something before this country falls apart.”

The poll also finds concern over the prospects for the U.S.’s global standing. Since the financial crisis erupted in the fourth quarter of 2008, the Chinese economy has grown at an average annual rate of 8.9 percent compared with 0.6 percent for the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In the poll, 35 percent say the country’s standing in the world will get worse over the next 12 months while 26 percent say it will improve. An additional 37 percent expect it to remain unchanged.

The Bloomberg National Poll was conducted by Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based pollster. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: David J. Lynch in Washington at dlynch27@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cesca Antonelli at fantonelli@bloomberg.net

 

These Are The Questions About Crime #Homebuyers Always Forget To Ask

breaking-bad-4The list of question every buyer asks about the various properties during a house hunt is relatively predictable.

How many bedrooms does it have? Baths? Square footage? What are the HOA dues?  What’s the school district?

Then, we get more specific, personalizing the questions based on our own vision, aesthetics and lifestyle needs:

Can that wall be moved?  Is there space for Grandma’s dining room table? Is there a shady spot for an orchid house in the backyard?

When it comes to crime, most of us simply don’t ask any questions at all, as (a) agents might be prohibited from doing much beyond pointing us to law enforcement sources, and (b) we tend to assume most neighborhoods are either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ low-crime or not.

The truth is never so black and white. Fortunately, technology has made it easy-peasy for us to get a deeper, more nuanced, and more usable understanding of the crime that takes place in our neighborhood-to-be, which in turn allows us to make smarter decisions about which home we buy and how we live in it, once we buy it, than we could have even ten years ago.

The key to tapping into this nuanced crime information is asking the right questions. Here’s a short list of the right questions to ask about crime before you buy a home.

1.  Do any offenders live nearby? In most states, Megan’s Law and similar provisions mandate that certain individuals with histories of criminal convictions must register their home addresses with local authorities, who in turn are required to make this information available to the public. Google “your city, your state Megan’s Law registry” to find sites where you can type in an address (like the address of the home you’re considering buying) and find a list of registered sex offenders in the area. Many of these sites will also offer you a map showing your address and the relative locations of the homes of the registered offenders.

The reality is that every neighborhood – even very upscale areas – has someone living in it who has committed a crime in the past, so don’t completely freak out if you happen to find someone in your neighborhood-to-be with a history of sex offenses. The utility of this information is that it empowers you and your children to recognize these dangers and to take care to avoid hazardous situations. That said, if you happen to have young children and notice that the Megan’s Law map has a halfway house with a dozen registered sex offenders living right next door to your target home, that information might change your decision about whether that property is the right one for you.

There is also power in following the path of the information you are given on these registry sites.  Many will surface information like what the registrants’ crimes were, when they happened, the registrants’ photos and more useful intelligence. This information can help you evaluate the degree to which you should be concerned before you buy.

2.  Was the home a drug lab?  You think your home’s former owner’s food or pet smells are toxic? That’s nothing compared to the truly unpleasant and health-impairing effects some have experienced after buying a home that turned out to have been a methamphetamine lab in a former life.  If the sellers know this about a home, they should certainly disclose it. Unfortunately, many of these homes end up sold by banks as foreclosures, or by estates, trusts, landlords or other corporate owners who don’t know the home’s past – or don’t have a legal obligation to disclose it.

Get the answer to this question to the best of your ability via this two-step process:
(a) talk with the neighbors – they often will reveal whether the house had a shady past, then
(b) search the federal Drug Enforcement Association’s Clandestine Laboratory Registry, here:  http://www.justice.gov/dea/clan-lab/clan-lab.shtml.

3.  What sorts of crimes happen in the area. Where and when do they happen? Crime happens virtually everywhere. But the details of crime patterns vary widely in various neighborhoods. One side of town might be plagued with an overall low crime rate, but the crime that does happen tends to be violent crime after dark. While another neighborhood across town might have lots of car break-ins during the day while people are at work, but not much going on after residents get back home – and not much violent crime at all.

This sort of information can be highly useful to a buyer-to-be, as it can help you make decisions not just about whether or not to buy, but also about whether to park your car outside (or not), whether to get an alarm and where in a given neighborhood you might prefer your home to be (e.g., interior cul-de-sac vs. thoroughfare in the same area).

Trulia Crime Maps offer precisely this sort of nuanced information, allowing you to view your town and neighborhood’s crime rate in heat map format showing the relative violent and non-violent crimes that have taken place recently in different parts of town. It also provides information on crime trends, in terms of the frequency of criminal activity taking place at various hours of the day, and the most dangerous intersections in your town or area.  SpotCrime.com offers another angle on nuanced crime data, breaking down crime types with easy-to-scan icons and providing data for communities all over the country.

4.  What anti-crime features does – or can – the home have?  Review your disclosures and talk with the sellers (through your agent, of course) about what anti-crime features the home currently has. This will allow you to prepare for any upgrades, downgrades or changes you’ll want to make.  For example, if a home has security bars that were installed 3 decades ago, you might want to have them brought up to code with a fire release bar, or removed altogether.  Or, perhaps the sellers currently have the home wired for an alarm that can be armed, disarmed and video monitored remotely – if you want to continue that service, you’ll need to get that information and make the account change when you take over the other utilities and home services.

On the other hand, the home might not have any anti-crime features.  So, if there is a particular alarm or monitoring system you like, it is smart to check in with that provider before close of escrow to find out whether they can provide services to the new address and, if so, what it will cost and take to equip the home and start service up at closing.

5.  What does the neighborhood do to fight crime – and how can I help? Neighborhoods across the country fight and prevent crime the grassroots way, by maintaining strong connections between the home owners and neighbors who all have in common the desire to live and raise their families in a safe, secure, thriving place.  Don’t hesitate to ask your home’s seller and/or any neighbors you talk to about whether there are any neighborhood associations, neighborhood watch groups, email lists, social networks, regular meetings, block parties or other community connections in which you can actively participate. ALL: Did you ever omit to ask a crime-related question about a home – and later come to regret it?

SOURCE: Trulia.com

#Housing holds key to full #job growth rebound #realestate

ap-builder-sentiment-4_3_r536_c534Housing began to rebound last year, with home starts, sales and prices all rising solidly. But many economists say the recovery is likely to be slow.

Excluding housing-related sectors, private payrolls increased to 99.5 million jobs in January, exceeding the previous high of 99.4 million in January 2008, the RBC study says.

That shows those industries haven’t completely recovered, because their job numbers should be even higher in a healthy market in light of population growth.

A more vigorous housing recovery would indirectly boost sectors such as education and health, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.

Still, RBC’s analysis does show that “the private sector (excluding housing) is back and in full recovery mode,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

By contrast, employment in housing-sensitive sectors — including construction, wood product manufacturing, furniture sales and architectural services — totaled 13.5 million last month, RBC says.

That’s nearly 500,000 above their December 2010 low. But it’s still almost 3 million below their total before the recession started in December 2007.

The construction industry, for instance, has gained nearly 300,000 jobs the past two years, though it’s still 1.8 million off its late-2007 level of 7.5 million. If all those jobs had been recouped, the nation’s jobless rate in December would have been 6.6% rather than 7.8%, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Housing construction also has an outsize impact on the overall economy. Although it makes up 3% to 4% of the nation’s gross domestic output, it accounted for more than a tenth of economic growth last year.

That doesn’t include its ripple effect on other industries. Employment in wood products manufacturing, for instance, rose to 344,000 in January, up from a recent low of 331,000 in 2011 but below 500,000 in December 2007.

Hundreds of makers of kitchen cabinets, doors, flooring and other products have shut down in recent years, says Philip Bibeau, head of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association. Many of those that remain are breaking even or losing money, living off their cash reserves from the mid-2000s housing boom, he says.

“They’re hanging in there,” Bibeau says, hoping for a stronger housing upturn.

That could take awhile. Economist Patrick Newport of IHS Global Insight predicts housing starts of 966,000 this year, up from 781,000 in 2012. But he doesn’t expect a normal level of 1.5 million starts until 2015 because high mortgage debt and strict lending standards are still crimping growth.

Zandi says rising home prices and falling mortgage delinquencies will open the home-lending spigots much sooner. Next year, he expects 1.7 million housing starts — and much stronger job growth.

 

 

Source: USAtoday.com