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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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

#RealEstate videos a growing trend

The Internet has changed the way real estate companies and residential and commercial developments promote the properties they have for sale or rent. The hottest trend regarding real estate marketing on the Web is the use of videos.

The cover story for the November/December issue of FloridaRealtors magazine was about using videos to market properties. The title of the article, “The Big Camera Conundrum,” concluded: “YouTube video with analytics is changing the way real estate professionals do business. It’s cheap, efficient and powerful.”

A recent article in BusinessWeek regarding real estate videos read, “Videos can convey more essential data in a shorter time. The viewer does not have to read long texts or jump between pages. Instead he or she gets fed exactly the data you want to deliver.”

And statistics released by Arbitron/Edison Media Research concluded, “7 of 10 Web visitors say websites would be more enjoyable if sound and video were included more often.”

All of this comes as no surprise to Duane Sulk, president of Sulk Mullin Global Media. Sulk, who spent 11 years in the television news industry and 20 years marketing real estate in Southwest Florida, has experienced the power the placing real estate videos on the Internet as the marketing director for The Chang Group, a real estate investment firm located in Fort Myers.

“For the past 16 months, the marketing department for The Chang Group has produced more than 120 videos which give prospective renters and buyers a room-by-room tour of the home, condominium or apartment,” said Sulk. “In that time frame the videos have garnered nearly 30,000 views with the majority of the properties being rented or sold within days of downloading the videos on YouTube, the company’s website and other real estate-based Internet sites.”

In early December Sulk, along with business partner Dan Mullin, launched Sulk Mullin Global Media, a company that focuses on producing Web videos for the real estate and business community.

“All signs point to the fact the real estate market is beginning to come back in Southwest Florida and we want to assist in accelerating that positive market movement,” said Mullin, a former Army soldier who was deployed to Egypt and Afghanistan.

According to Sulk, the main focus of the company will be real estate developments that have models and Realtors with For Sale homes.

“In most instances, if we can shoot the digital video and take the necessary photographs of the model or home in the morning, we can have the 4- to 6-minute completed video written, edited and ready to be placed on the Internet by the next day,” said Sulk, who not only writes the copy for the video but is the on-camera host and voice-over talent. “Think of the video tours as mini-documentaries with the home being the star.”

Sulk explained Realtors are encouraged to co-host since they represent the property. Kim Maloney of Florida Fidelity Realty Corp. of Bonita Springs was one of the first to take advantage of the marketing trend. Maloney was looking for a new way to promote a four-bedroom plus den/three-and-a-half-bath home priced at $1,099,000 in Bonita Bay.

“Within a month of placing the video link on our website, the MLS and other real estate-based sites we recorded more than 160 unique views,” said Maloney. “I’ve received phone inquiries regarding the property after prospective buyers viewed the video and have had several showings — once again, a direct result of the video. Buyers find them very informative.”

Producing hosted video tours of models and For Sale homes is only one of the offerings available at Sulk Mullin Global Media. The company is also pioneering the concept of community video newscasts.

“It’s the 60 Minutes format but done in 10 minutes,” said Mullin. “Incorporated within that 10 minutes would be 4 to 5 segments on a variety of topics including, for example, a model tour, a conversation with the golf professional regarding changes to the course, a profile of a Preferred Builder and end with a profile of a resident.”

According to Mullin, every month the lineup would change. And every month current residents and prospective buyers, who had visited the sales center, would be sent the link to the video via email so they can keep up with the community’s latest news and happenings.

“Consider it an entertaining, innovative and paperless way to communicate directly with those crucial to the overall success of the sales effort,” added Sulk.

The price of a hosted model video, which currently ranges from $500 to $1,500, is based on the size of the home under air. Monthly community newscasts are priced at $2,500 and include one model video with no size constraints.

Commercial properties are also prime material for a video. Sulk Mullin Global Media recently completed a 6-minute video for Paradise Center, a small plaza located on Bonita Beach Road.

“With so much commercial space available throughout Southwest Florida, a video about a shopping center, its location, current tenants and a quick tour of the retail or office space available — and then placed on the Internet — will garner more attention to prospective businesses and commercial ventures,” said Sulk.

All videos for Sulk Mullin Global Media are shot with the latest HD digital video cameras and produced and edited at KnowDibs Studio/Rental located at 4445 Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs.

 

Source: NaplesNews.com