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Living in The Woodlands
KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY THE WOODLANDS
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After a long and successful career in Banking, Kiki transferred her enthusiastic personality and considerable skill set to the real estate field. Her previous finance and mortgage experience blends seamlessly with her emphasis on creating personal client service that goes beyond expectation; she knows that the creation of a long-term relationship is far more valuable than any single transaction. Kiki has been a full time Real Estate professional since 2004 and is licensed in both TX and FL.
DEC
19

Experts Predict 2014 Housing Market

The U.S. real estate market made a robust comeback in 2013, surpassing expectations of many economists, as the combination of low inventories and historically low interest rates caused home prices to rise and even helped fuel bidding wars in some markets, surpassing the expectations of many economists. While positive trends, such as increasing home values, are expected to continue into 2014, mortgage rates are also expected to rise in the coming year and could put a damper on home buyers’ abilities to afford new homes.

Looking back at some 2013 data can give us a hint of the year ahead:

Predictions - Inventory

1. Inventory Should Gradually Stabilize and Return to Traditional Seasonal Levels

The beginning of 2013 could be characterized as the “year of low inventory” as buyer demand ramped up and homeowners waited for further price increases and evidence of a solid economic recovery before putting their homes on the market. The year began with a significant shortage of inventory (reported by realtor.com®), and then as early as February the level of shortages started to decline slowly. As 2013 comes to a close, inventory is approximately the same as a year ago. However, homes are selling faster than in 2012, with the median age of the inventory down by 11 percent.

2. More Homeowners Are Likely to Return to Positive Equity

Rising prices helped 2.5 million homeowners who were previously underwater regain positive equity status during the second quarter of 2013. However, approximately 7.1 million homes were still in negative equity at that time and an estimated 10 million homeowners, or about 21.1 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage, remained “under-equitied,” with less than 20 percent in home equity. The good news is that prices are expected to continue rising in 2014, which will lift more homeowners into positive territory. According to realtor.com®, median list prices for homes in October rose 7.57 percent above the same month of 2012.

3. Mortgage Rates Are Expected to Rise

Mortgage rates increased approximately 100 basis points in 2013 and are likely to rise in 2014. The new chairman-designate of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, is expected to continue the policies of Chairman Ben Bernanke, including keeping mortgage rates low by buying blocks of mortgage-backed securities. However, the Fed has considered tapering its bond-buying activity as the economy improves, which could lead to a slight increase in interest rates.

Predictions - Foreclosure

4. Foreclosure Activity Is Expected to Slow

Foreclosure sales are likely to play a minimal role in the housing market in 2014. September 2013 was the 36th consecutive month with a year-over-year decrease in foreclosure activity. Foreclosure inventory has dropped to multi-year lows, down nearly 33 percent since the end of 2012. Foreclosure starts were down 39 percent in the third quarter of 2013 to the lowest level since the second quarter of 2006.

5. Further Declines in Home Affordability Are Expected

The National Association of REALTORS®’ Home Affordability Index, which compares home prices with income, dropped to a five-year low in 2013 as price increases outpaced income growth. If the U.S. economy begins to grow at a faster pace and incomes begin to rise, though, the affordability index will slide further from rising mortgage rates.

While no one can predict with certainty what the housing market holds in store for 2014, a constant in real estate is always that local markets vary widely in their performance. National numbers can tell a story about the economy in general, but home prices, inventory and foreclosure activity depend on local market conditions. Contact a Realtor® in your community for the most up-to-date  information about your market.

DEC
14

7 Housing Trends for 2013

As 2013 comes to a close and real estate experts predict where the housing market is headed in 2014, a look back reveals several trends.

“In 2012 we saw the housing market recover and, going into 2013, we expected continuing recovery,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS®. “Instead, the recovery accelerated a lot faster than we anticipated, which was great for sellers and for the 75 million homeowners who saw their home values appreciate.”

1. Housing Prices Rose Faster Than Expected

The national median listing price was $179,900 in January 2012 and rose to $180,000 by December 2012, according to realtor.com® research. The pace of price appreciation accelerated quickly over the year to reach a median list price of $199,500 by September 2013.

Housing Trends - Mortgage Rates

2. Mortgage Rates Rose but Remained Low

“We expected mortgage rates to rise in 2013, and they started to increase in the late spring, but they’re still very affordable when you look at rates on a historical basis,” Yun said. “They just aren’t at the super-low point we saw earlier.” According to Freddie Mac, 30-year fixed-rate loans were as low as 3.45 percent in December 2012 and rose to 4.49 in September 2013. Barry Habib, co-owner and chief market strategist for Residential Finance Corp., said mortgage rates are likely to stay low and perhaps even drop between now and March 2014.

3. Bidding Wars Returned

The combination of rising prices, low mortgage rates and low inventory led to a sense of urgency among buyers and the return of bidding wars, said Don Frommeyer, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers. According to realtor.com® research, inventory in 2012 reached a high of 2,083,710 homes on the market, then steadily declined to a low of 1,583,497 homes in February 2013. At the end of September 2013, 2,210,000 homes were for sale, approximately a five-month supply.

Housing Trends - All Cash Buyers

4. Housing Affordability Remained High

“Housing affordability has come down a little this year because of double-digit home value appreciation and the fact that income isn’t rising in comparable amounts,” Yun said. “Rising mortgage rates, even though they’re still low, also have an impact. While affordability right now is at a five-year low, it’s still the fifth highest for the past 30 years.”

5. All-Cash Buyers Continued to Be a Strong Market Segment

Yun said a continuing surprise is that about one-third of all home purchases were made with cash, a market share that has been consistent for the past three years. While some of these cash buyers are from overseas and some are institutional investors, others are “mom and pop” investors who have had trouble getting financing. “Even some owner-occupant buyers are cash buyers because of the excessively tight underwriting standards for loans,” Yun said. “Some people are getting help from relatives to buy, and then they plan to take out a home equity loan later to repay them.”

6. Mobile Apps Accelerated Connections Between Buyers, Sellers and REALTORS®

Nearly every REALTOR® and brokerage in the country introduced a mobile app this year to make it easier for buyers and sellers to access information from their smartphones and tablets, including realtor.com®. “Everyone realizes that it’s inconvenient to be tied to a desktop when you’re looking for housing-market information and homes,” Yun said. A recent study by Google and the National Association of REALTORS® found that 68 percent of homebuyers used a mobile app during their home search and 89 percent used a mobile search engine at the onset of the home-buying process and throughout their research

7. Rising Rents and Pent-Up Demand Pulled More First-Time Buyers Into the Market

“Right now we’re seeing replenishment of renters who want to buy homes,” Habib said. “At the peak in 2002, nearly 70 percent of people owned homes and 30 percent were renters; now 65 percent of people are homeowners and 35 percent rent. Not only are rents rising faster than home prices in many markets, but there’s pent-up demand from people who don’t want to live at home with their parents and who want to buy a home.”

NOV
24

The 5 Smartest Questions to Ask About Marketing Your Business

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by Rebecca Chandler

As the holidays approach, many of us will spend some time reflecting upon last year’s successes and failures and trying to learn some valuable lesions. Here are 5 questions to ask about marketing your business.

to determine what to repeat and expand and what to abandon.

  1. What was the smartest thing you did to drive digital traffic, leads, and conversions? If you’ve done a good job of tracking, you can determine not only where the traffic came from, and which traffic converted best and which was the most cost-effective. Think specifically about these categories
    • Online sources such as SEO or SEM
    • Offline sources such as print or direct mail
    • Mobile tools such as text or QR codes

 

  1. Did you use all the tools available to you? From a marketing perspective, consumers don’t search in a silo. They search everywhere – web, mobile, print, social, video, etc., etc., for information about real estate and real estate professionals. Did you limit your exposure to your website and your listing syndication only? Then, you may be drowning in a sea of online data. What about other media such as interactive print with text and QR codes? Or highly geographically and demographically targeted direct mail? Or display advertising? Social media? All of your advertising and marketing efforts should work in orchestration to amplify their effectiveness and you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.

     

  2. How did you engage hyper local buyers and sellers in the real world? Did you wait for them to stumble upon your blog, your website, or your listings on an aggregate site? Considering that 69% of sellers pick up local real estate magazines, and 76% want to see their homes advertised in one and that over 87% of local editions of The Real Estate Book get picked up every 4 weeks*, this type of advertising reaches out to your hyper local prospect versus waiting for them to type in the right phrase in an online search. And, using direct mail in a highly targeted fashion allows you to narrow your message down to the areas and demographics of your target client.

     

  3. Does your site provide a compelling experience for a mobile shopper? Your site should be responsive to the device on which it is viewed so the user doesn’t have to “pinch and stretch” the screen to read. This year, Americans will search the web on their mobile device more than their laptop device. If your site doesn’t display properly, you stand to lose a lot of hard-earned digital traffic.

     

  4. Are your marketing efforts all about YOU or what you can do for YOUR CLIENT? Marketing yourself is important so you and your brand stand out, but equally important is how your market your listings. It’s the most important service sellers expect from their agent.* Your awards and designations may be impressive, but ultimately, they expect you to sell their home quickly and for the best price. Tell them how you do that via multiple media will give your listing presentation a competitive edge.

     

    If you answer these questions honestly and thoughtfully, reflecting on 2013 will help you devise an improved plan for 2014. Need help? Contact your local Real Estate Book representative. They are local and well-trained real estate marketing professionals.

    Looking for tracking tools? Download our “Income Based Approach to Real Estate Marketing” worksheets here.

    *2013 Home Seller Research (NPMG)
NOV
20

The real estate market has been one of the strongest pillars of the economy following the greatest financial downturn since the Great Depression. Amid low interest rates and a great deal of intervention from policymakers, home buyers received an added incentive to purchase a home. Meanwhile, sellers enjoyed low inventory levels and rising prices. However, a new survey finds that sellers might be losing their control on the market.

In the third quarter, 72% of real estate agents said now is a good time to sell a home, down from 86% in the previous quarter, and the first drop of the year, according to Redfin, an online estate brokerage. On the other side of the closing table, 55% of agents said now is a good time to buy, up from 46% at the beginning of the year. Thirty percent of agents also said that sellers are having difficulties getting their home to appraise for the contract purchase amount.

"At the end of this summer, you could smell the rubber on the road from buyers hitting the brakes," said Redfin San Diego agent Sara Fischer. "The cutthroat competition and frenzied demand has relaxed considerably."

Although interest rates are still low on a historical basis, the recent rise in home prices is affecting home affordability. In the second quarter, 69.3% of new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $64,400, according to the National Association of Home Builders. That is down from 73.7% in the first quarter and is the first reading below 70% since late 2008.

In August, home prices across the nation increased on a year-over-year basis for the 18th consecutive month. According to CoreLogic, a property information and analytics provider, home prices jumped 12.4% in August from a year earlier. In fact, home prices have logged double-digit gains for seven straight months. Home prices are still 17.1% below their bubble peak in April 2006, but every state posted an annual increase in August.

GOLD: Good for the global economy?

Going forward, the survey from Redfin finds that only 5% of agents believe home prices will rise a lot in the next 12 months, down from 44% at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, 11% of agents believe prices will drop a little over the next year, compared to only 4% in the second quarter.

POLL: Congress less favorable than dog waste and cockroaches

By Eric McWhinnie, Wall St. Cheat Sheet 7:21 p.m. EDT October 13, 2013

Wall St. Cheat Sheet is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

NOV
15

Getting a Bang for No Bucks: Cost-effective Marketing Tools

 

 

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REALTORS® are looking for ways to cut costs and conserve cash in today's challenging markets. When it comes to saving money on marketing, Amy Chorew, an expert on helping REALTORS® use technology to boost their businesses, has the answer – social media.

While websites, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are often associated with teenagers sending a nonstop stream of messages, photos, videos and music, this sort of instantaneous, personalized interaction is exactly what makes them such ideal marketing tools for real estate professionals, says Chorew, vice president of platform development for Better Homes & Garden Real Estate. And, best of all, they are free.

amy_chorew_article2012

Facebook, the world's most-visited website, can be an especially valuable marketing tool for REALTORS®. Just as when marketing yourself offline, the key to effective marketing on Facebook and other social networks is finding people with shared interests, making personal connections and then looking for business opportunities that might arise from these.

Start with people you know, Chorew says, by joining the Facebook pages of schools you have attended and of organizations, clubs and community groups you belong to. Monitor these pages and listen to what people are talking about so you can post information that is of interest to them.

"Eighty percent of what you post on these pages should not be about real estate at all," Chorew
 says. "It should be about your interests and passions, your life and anything to do with your community. When people know you're on the school board, or that you like to run or cook or are a wine aficionado, when they are ready to hire a REALTOR® they will think of you first because they share the same interests."

Chorew, for example, belongs to a Facebook book club that has resulted in business for her. Another agent she knows, who is an avid runner, started a Facebook group for runners in her area.

Facebook is also ideal for prospecting and networking. Agents should strive to reach out on the site to three new people every day, Chorew says, and introduce themselves with short, friendly messages free of any real estate references. "Just say hi and be yourself," she says. "It's the new way of prospecting."

doug_devitre_article2012

Online videos are another powerful and cost-effective marketing tool. YouTube should be every agent's go-to website for posting videos that deliver value to clients instead of simply serving as a promotional tool, according to Doug Devitre, a St. Louis-based REALTOR® and founder of a consulting firm focused on helping real estate agents apply technology to improve results.

Too many agents are posting dull, unmemorable videos in which they talk about themselves and don't provide people with helpful information, Devitre says. They should be educating viewers on topics, such as what to expect in a short sale, or covering frequently asked questions that come up in a transaction.

The most effective videos also contain what Devitre describes as "a call to action," or a clear, unmistakable message to viewers, such as a request to visit an agent's website, share their contact information or pick up the phone and call.

To separate themselves from everyone else, agents should strive to make their videos as unique as possible. "You want your video to get people to say, 'Wow, that was really great. I know somebody else who should watch that.' When you plant a seed in the mind of a viewer, that's when a video goes from 10 views to 200 views to 2,000 views, because other people did the marketing for the agent," Devitre says.

Another cost-effective marketing tool for agents, Devitre says, is www.slideshare.net, a free site that allows you to post PowerPoint presentations online. "This is the YouTube of PowerPoint presentations," he says. For an extra $20 a month, you can have pop-up windows appearing throughout a presentation asking for contact information, which can be an effective way to generate new leads, he says. PowerPoint presentations produced on the site are also mobile-friendly and can be easily turned into a link that can be sent to any mobile device or posted to any website.

robyn_walker_article2012
With Facebook, YouTube and other newer online marketing tools available to agents today, it's easy to forget that one of the most powerful and cost effective remains "good old email marketing," according to Robyn Walker, director of education and recruiting at Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel in Troy, MI.

After setting up email lists of different groups of people you want to stay in touch with, such as past clients, it's easy to keep your name in front of them by sending out regular messages. These can range from market updates covering key statistics in your area to information completely unrelated to real estate, such as community news. "It doesn't take much time for someone to forget what you do for a career, so the constant drip of information that gets flowing to them is a great reminder," she says.

Besides the ability to specifically target and stay in touch with different audiences, email marketing is effective, Walker says, because most email management systems allow you to track when emails are open and which links are clicked. "It's a great way to actually measure what type of a return you’re getting on your time and investment and track where your clients are coming from."
NOV
5

Communicating With Your Customers

by Peggy Morrow


What happens when customers try to communicate with your company? For example, when they have a complaint or want some information? Is it a positive experience-one that will ensure their continued loyalty? Or is it a frustrating experience-one that will make them easy prey for your competitors?

I'm sure at sometime you have ended up in "voice mail hell" after you have gone through the "press one" for this and "press two" for that. In a recent customer service class, several participants told me that the impression they receive when they have to navigate through a long automatic routing system is the feeling that the company does not really care about the customer, just in saving money.

What about your company? Do you have several methods for customers to contact you?  Or do you set up as many barriers as you can to try to force them to use your website? Yes, websites definitely have a place in the communications mix, but customers should have other options, too. Not everything can be answered in a FAQs section.

Are your systems highly responsive? Are your e-mails, voicemails, and tweets checked often? Do you have online, live chat available? Everyone is in a hurry today and they need information NOW, not in 48 hours as one company told me when I requested information. At least they set my expectations by telling me when to expect a reply. Many companies do not even do that.

In the "old days," our method of communication with customers was by telephone or the written word. Then it moved to FAX and finally e-mail. Now you can put up a portal to the company and your customers can literally plot their own course. The key is a variety of choices that make communication fast and easy because that is often one of the ways your customers judge your company and decide whether to do business with you or not.

In general, make your contact channels customer friendly.  I recommend that you perform a "dummy check" on your various methods to contact your company. Have a friend or business associate call your company to see how easy it is to get their questions answered. You may be surprised!

And as always, please think of me to help your organization establish a culture of true customer service or build better teams.
 peggy@peggymorrow.com 

Peggy Morrow, CSP, is President of Peggy Morrow & Associates. She is an author, consultant, certified  professional speaker and training consultant in business for over 27 years.  Author of two books on customer service, she has also published over 400 articles on management and customer service as well as being named a “content expert” for Inc Magazine’s web page, Inc.com.© 2012, Peggy Morrow.  All rights reserved. For more information about this article or author, contact Susie@FrogPond.com

Branding: The Subtle Secret To Explosive Marketing

Branding   Written by Rich Levin on 02/2011 - Word Count: 998
- -     ShareThis

When I hear the word software I think of Microsoft.  The mention of soft drink means Coke or Pepsi to me.  Mention search engine and Google pops into my mind.  So how do you make your name pop into people’s minds when they hear the mention of Real Estate?
  
It’s Called Branding
Branding is the immediate association of a business name with its product type.  In Canandaigua, New York Cathy McWilliams means a successful Real Estate Experience.  In Springfield, Illinois Kyle Killebrew brings successful Real Estate to mind.  In Lahabra Heights, California it is Jan Fiore.  These Agent brands are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more.  Can you establish a brand in your market in the same way?  Yes, you can. 
Consistency is the key; consistency of your graphics and consistency of the experience of you.

It’s More Than a Name
To Xerox something means to make a copy of it.  You also believe that you can depend on a Xerox machine.  A Kleenex means a facial tissue.  You expect Kleenex to be decent quality.  When you Google (which is now a commonly used verb) you are confident that you will find what you want.  These brands are both recognizable by their name, their logo, and they are associated with dependable quality and service.  All of that, the name, the look, and the quality of service are all part of their brand.  A Real Estate Agent’s goal is to have the people in their market (which in most cases is simply their Spheres of Influence and farm areas) associate the mention of the Agent’s name, or seeing the Agent’s “brand” with a positive and successful Real Estate experience.  

It takes more than a name, a slogan, or a logo.  A successful brand is also the promise of something verifiable by the consumer as they work with the Agent.  And to distinguish the Agent, the promise must be above the minimum expectation of quality.  For a Real Estate Agent, that means more than a basic level of service, attentiveness, and expertise.  So, how do you both create a recognizable brand and raise your quality of service above the basic levels?  

Brand Graphics
Creating a successful look or visual brand is called Brand Graphics.  It is not as intimidating as it sounds.  Think of a Coke or Pepsi logo.  It is a combination of a design, font, and colors.  And the Brand Graphic does not change for years or even decades.  A Real Estate Agent’s Brand Graphics are also a simple combination of design, consistent font, colors, and use of their picture.  (View Agent branding samples.)  

Brand Experience
Creating a successful Brand Experience is also easier than it sounds.  Many Agents have already done this and don’t realize it.  Think of your favorite store, restaurant, hair stylist, website, etc.  The way they greet you, speak to you, interact with you or in the case of a website, the navigation; there is consistency that you recognize and depend on.  When you call the Real Estate Agent, Thomas Howe in Lawrence, Kansas, you’ll hear some variation of “And a grand good day to you?” or “Hello and a glorious good morning.”  The way an Agent answers the phone, conducts their listing or Buyer presentation; the speed and frequency of communication, giving of gifts, how they report progress, use video or social media, all contribute to the experience of the Agent.  Consistency of that experience establishes their Brand Experience. 

Be careful.  An Agent wants to choose the most positive experiences to construct their Brand Experience.  The way to discover which experiences to make consistent is to ask.  Call your Clients from the past year or two and ask the following questions.  

In addition to learn
OCT
30

How to Convert Online Leads to Sales

by Tracey C. Velt

Lead Generation

When Marge Bennett, ABR, CIPS, CRS, a sales associate with RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, FL, gets a call from someone who saw her on Trulia, she immediately calls back. "I ask them what they're looking for, but my goal is to get them to meet with me," Bennett says.

"I want to sign them up on either my Market Leader account or on Listing Book." Both are lead incubators that allow Bennett to continually keep in touch with prospects until they're ready to buy.

With the advent of Zillow, Trulia, Market Leader and other online lead generators, real estate professionals are sometimes inundated with leads that range from hot to cold. The problem is figuring out how to follow up and convert the leads to sales.

Garrett Frey"A lot of agents look at leads wrong," says Garrett Frey, owner and "ninja master coach" with Ninja Coaching in Redding, CA. "Just because a lead says he's not moving for a year doesn't mean it's a cold lead. In fact, that person should be put on your warm lead list. More often than not, that person is just confused or something is holding him back. Maybe they haven’t found the right school."

That means any lead you receive is worth chasing. Here are some tips for converting those leads to sales.

1. Call immediately. "Agents spend tons of money for leads, and they don’t immediately follow up. It's a killer," says Frey. "I knew one agent who would [if she was able] call the minute the lead hit her desk. Her goal was to call the person before that person even left the website." For Bennett, she calls immediately to create a sense of urgency.

Tami Bonnell"Most people will deal with the first person who communicated with them, and if they’re satisfied, you've created a client for life," says Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty International.

2. Google, and then get face to face. "Every new person who comes through my lead generators automatically gets searched on Google and added as a friend on Facebook. I want to know more about him or her so I can tell what may be important to that buyer or seller," says Bonnell.

Then, get face-to-face. "Find out what they want and deliver it to them in person," says Bennett. "If someone is an investor, I schedule a meeting and come prepared with information that applies to the investor's interests. You don't talk about condos to a person who is interested in 10 acres of land."

3. Personal contact is important. "Anything you do must be personalized," says Bennett, who finds that 50 percent of her business is from online leads (the other 50 percent is referral).

Bonnell agrees. "You must build a relationship. Leads should be thought of as people. Too many agents don't think of the people behind the Internet lead. These are real people with real moving vans, and they want to matter."

Frey recommends the FORD conversation:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

"Call your leads and start the conversation." Keep that conversation personal.

Marge Bennett"Be personable and let them know you care," says Bennett. "Really listen. People know when someone is paying attention, and they will dismiss you if you treat them with dollar signs in your eyes."

4. Create a follow-up system. "I recommend agents have a six-week action plan personalized for each lead. Make a list of your leads and plan when follow up will occur," says Bonnell. "The best system is the one that works. Don't overthink it," says Bonnell. Bennett uses a contact management system where she categorizes people by type of buyer or seller. "That helps me target different groups so when I send a newsletter, I send it to the right people. People find it irritating to receive a promotion that doesn't apply to them," says Bennett.

This system allows her to touch and nurture a contact. "I had a deal close earlier this year that took over a year to get to that point. I called every month just to chit-chat, and I sent them targeted information," she says. "When they were ready to buy, they called me."

5. Add value. "I always ask myself, 'What can I do to add value to this person today,'" says Bonnell. Then, she passes along information that is specific to the person's interests. For example, "If they're looking at three-bedroom homes in a specific neighborhood, I will call them to let them know the school district or give them some statistics on recent home sales in that neighborhood," says Bennett, who also answers buyer and seller questions on Trulia Voices, an online forum on real estate.

Converting leads to sales comes down to one thing: personalized and consistent follow up. You've heard the saying, "People do business with people they know and trust." Build that trust. Foster that relationship, and your online lead conversion rate will jump.

Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.

OCT
26

Social Networking: It's Not All About You

by Amy Chorew & Bill Lublin

Amy ChorewSocial Networking: It's Not All About You 1As participation in various online services grows every day, the participants in social media become attractive targets for almost every type of business, organization or service.

Sadly, in the head-long land rush that is social media, there are a lot of real estate professionals rushing to participate using the "ready, fire, aim" method of engaging. And in their rush to leap into the action, they often leap right over the edge of a cliff into a free fall without redemption.

A little over a year ago, The Economist wrote, "Social networking will become a ubiquitous feature of online life. That does not mean it is a business." That doesn't mean that one cannot derive business benefits from their social media interaction, but it stresses the importance of effective engagement with your community. The key is to remember that what your community wants and needs is more important to them than your product or service.

They Just Aren’t That Into You

In fact, no one cares about your product. Well, that may not be strictly true — you might care about your product. However, rest assured that it's not the focus of interest to your potential customer that you think it is.

People are, by necessity, the stars of their own movies. They are interested in their needs and the needs of their communities. It is only by establishing that you are interested in their needs as well that people may return your interest.

Think about your own reactions when you meet people face to face:

  • Someone who starts the conversation by showing you baby pictures is seen as a bore.
  • Someone who asks to see photos of your child is probably a really nice person.
  • The person who asks what you do for a living is engaged.
  • The person who starts the conversation by telling you what they do is bragging.
  • The person who meets you and tries to sell you something when you’re in a social situation is just an aggressive brute.

We tend to feel kindly toward people who take the time to show interest in our lives, our families and our interests. We are not as well disposed toward people who seem only interested in what’s good for them. And yet when we put on our “business hats” we forget our own honest reactions and assume that others do not have those same honest reactions to being solicited without invitation.

Turn the Bullhorn Around

In her book The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt suggests that you start building your business with social capital when you "turn the bullhorn around" and start listening to the community with which you want to do business.

It sounds so simple, but it is many times the exact opposite to the training that made many small business people and professionals successful in the off-line world. They have become so accustomed to selling their product that the relationship-building part of their business strategy has become less important.

It's really very simple. If you get people to care about you, they may then care about your product or service to some degree. If you are a trusted member of a community, the other community members will want to do things to help you because you have done things to help them.

Perhaps the hardest part of the concept for people to grasp is that this desire of the community or their pre-disposition to help or support you is not a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" action/reaction. It is about growth of a relationship, which is nurtured by your actions and the respect and trust that are built as a result of the body of those actions — not by a single speech or article.

If you make genuine contributions of value to others without regard to your own needs, you will become an integral part of the community, and therefore, will be an integral part of their product and service infrastructure. You will be called upon to supply your product or service when it's needed by the members of the group.

Amy Chorew is the Director of Training for SMMI and owner of TheTechByte. She is a nationally acclaimed instructor, who is highly experienced at helping managers and real estate agents maximize the infinite opportunities that technology offers them. You can find her at www.amychorew.com.

Bill Lublin is Founder of the Social Media Marketing Institute and CEO of CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold, Philadelphia's largest Century 21 firm. He is an active real estate investor and blogger, writing for Agentgenius, and his own blogs, REreflections and MovePhilly.

JUL
1

Lynn Minnick

By Lynn Minnick

As a certified international property specialist (or CIPS), I was able to participate in a really fantastic webinar session offered by the National Association of REALTORS®’ Global division. The webinar was presented by NAR Director of Digital Engagement Nobu Hata, who offered very helpful ideas for developing marketing with a global customer base in mind. As a result, here are the items that I am considering implementing to attain a more global reach:

  • Photos - They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case it pronounces them in all languages. Go strong with well-composed, well-lit, well-staged photos. Use a professional photographer if the situation requires it. International buyers are visual buyers, too.
  • Responsive Design – Does your Web site work well on all platforms? Because it has to. With so many buyers using their mobile devices to search for homes, especially those visiting from abroad, you need to be sure your site works on phones and tablets. Take the time to check.
  • Blog - Sites with blogs get 55 percent more visitors than those without. There is so much you can write about, from lifestyles to transaction guidance. Blogging just two to three times per week is enough to really boost your SEO.
  • Keep it Simple and Be Easy to Find – Fancy fonts look cool, but may not display correctly for buyers coming from places where that font may not exist. Keep it simple. Make your contact information easy to find, and cross-promote your online presence in other marketing materials.

The next step is taking my pages of notes, heading into a strategy session, and building an action plan. But the best take-away from this webinar was that all of the ideas work for growing both your international and local businesses.

Lynn Minnick is a REALTOR® in Connecticut known for her love of all things international, organic, travel and design. Connect with her at thegreenctrealtor.blogspot.com or @LynnMinnick.

JUN
30

Making an Offer on a Short Sale? What You Need to Know

Are you looking to buy a new home? Are you thinking that now's a great time to find bargains? Before you make an offer, it pays to know a little about the seller's situation.

If a home is being sold for below what the current seller owes on the property—and the seller does not have other funds to make up the difference at closing—the sale is considered a short sale. Many more home owners are finding themselves in this situation due to a number of factors, including job losses, aggressive borrowing against their home in the days of easy credit, and declining home values in a slower real estate market.

A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when the seller's lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. Homeowners often try to accomplish a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. But a short sale holds many potential pitfalls for buyers. Know the risks before you pursue a short-sale purchase.

You're a good candidate for a short-sale purchase if:

  • You're very patient. Even after you come to agreement with the seller to buy a short-sale property, the seller’s lender (or lenders, if there is more than one mortgage) has to approve the sale before you can close. When there is only one mortgage, short-sale experts say lender approval typically takes about two months. If there is more than one mortgage with different lenders, it can take four months or longer for the lenders to approve the sale.
  • Your financing is in order. Lenders like cash offers. But even if you can’t pay all cash for a short-sale property, it’s important to show you are well qualified and your financing is set. If you're preapproved, have a large down payment, and can close at any time, your offer will be viewed more favorably than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.
  • You don’t have any contingencies. If you have a home to sell before you can close on the purchase of the short-sale property—or you need to be in your new home by a certain time—a short sale may not be for you. Lenders like no-contingency offers and flexible closing terms.

If you're serious about purchasing a short-sale property, it's important for you to have expert assistance. Here are some people you want to work with:

  • Experienced real estate attorney. Only about two out of five short sales are approved by lenders. But a good real estate attorney who's knowledgeable about the short-sale process will increase your chances getting an approved contract. Also, if you want any provisions or very specialized language written into the purchase contract, a real estate attorney is essential throughout the negotiation.
  • A qualified real estate professional.* You may have a close friend or relative in real estate, but if that person doesn’t know anything about short sales, working with him or her may hurt your chances of a successful closing. Interview a few practitioners and ask them how many buyers they've represented in a short sale and, of those, how many have successfully closed. A qualified real estate professional will be able to show you short-sale homes, help negotiate the purchase when you find the property you want to buy, and smooth communications with the lender. (All MLSs permit, and some now require, special notations to indicate that a listing is a short sale. There also are certain phrases you can watch for, such as “lender approval required.”)
  • Title officer. It’s a good idea to have a title officer do an initial title search on a short-sale property to see all the liens attached to the property. If there are multiple lien holders (e.g., second or third mortgage or lines of credit, real estate tax lien, mechanic’s lien, homeowners association lien, etc.), it's much tougher to get that short sale contract to the closing table. Any of the lien holders could put a kink in the process even after you’ve waited for months for lender approval. If you don’t know a title officer, your real estate attorney or real estate professional should be able to recommend a few.

Some of the other risks faced by buyers of short-sale properties include:

  • Potential for rejection. Lenders want to minimize their losses as much as possible. If you make an offer tremendously lower than the fair market value of the home, chances are that your offer will be rejected and you’ll have wasted months. Or the lender could make a counteroffer, which will lengthen the process.
  • Bad terms. Even when a lender approves a short sale, it could require that the sellers sign a promissory note to repay the deficient amount of the loan, which may not be acceptable to some financially desperate sellers. In that case, the sellers may refuse to go through with the short sale. Lenders also can change any of the terms of the contract that you’ve already negotiated, which may not be agreeable to you.
  • No repairs or repair credits. You will most likely be asked to take the property “as is.” Lenders are already taking a loss on the property and may not agree to requests for repair credits.

The risks of a short sale are considerable. But if you have the time, patience, and iron will to see it through, a short sale can be a win-win for you and the sellers.

* Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. A REALTOR® is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and is bound by NAR’s strict code of ethics.

Note: This article provides general information only. Information is not provided as advice for a specific matter. Laws vary from state to state. For advice on a specific matter, consult your attorney or CPA.

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