Short Sales


Cash Buyers Continue to Dominate

For the fifth-straight month, cash buyers accounted for at least 30 percent of existing-home sales, the National Association of REALTORS® reported this week.

In May, all-cash buyers made up 30 percent of existing home sales, which compares to 25 percent in May 2010 and 12 percent two years ago, according to NAR.

Low prices from foreclosures are tempting cash buyers–who are mostly investors–and prompting them to snag deals. They’re turning many of their housing purchases into rentals and immediately finding quick profits, housing experts say.

“These are people who’re … getting back into the market because they see good value,” says Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist.

Cash buyers tend to dominate in cities where home prices have fallen the most and foreclosures are the most prevalent. For example, in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, 63 percent of first-quarter buyers paid in cash and in Las Vegas, which consistently boasts the highest foreclosure rate, cash buyers made up nearly 50 percent of first-quarter sales, according to Zillow.com.

Without cash buyers, “we would be in much worse shape than we are,” says Jim Gillespie, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “They recognize that this is the smartest time to buy.” Home prices are 33 percent below the peak reached in 2006.

Source: “Cash Buyers Scooping Up Homes,” USA Today (June 22, 2011)

Read More
Investors to Dominate Market for Next 2 Years

Buyer’s Guide: Branding Products and Services
A strong brand can make the difference in determining which real estate pro gets the call from consumers. Here are the key concepts and solutions you’ll need for your branding efforts.

In This Guide

To whom do people turn when they need help buying or selling property? Generally, it’s one of three kinds of real estate professionals: someone they’ve worked with before, a practitioner they’ve been referred to, or the one who has done the best job branding themselves and their business.

Building your brand is a multifaceted undertaking: creating a persona, promoting it at every opportunity, and meeting and surpassing expectations you’ve shaped about why people should entrust their real estate transaction to you. It’s part personal marketing and part positioning — and all about delivering services. After all, every licensed competitor in your area has access to the same inventory. An effective branding campaign differentiates you as the first person who comes to mind when people think real estate.

Specs That Matter for Real Estate

What makes a great brand?

Play consumer for a minute: When the subject is real estate companies, which one comes to mind?

There’s likely a distinctive logo with specific colors, and maybe a tagline defining that company or its approach. Branding starts with visual symbols, but is really about attaching positive perceptions to them. What those symbols represent — and the associated consumer expectations and experiences — make the brand.

For the real estate professional, the branding challenge is to set yourself apart from everyone else offering a comparable mix of services. Your “brand” can be your name, a flashy logo, catchy tagline, or some unique specialty. It’s the marketplace ID for you and what you do.

Think about who you are and services you provide that most others can’t and build around that. It might be defined by a market area, a particular type of property you handle, or your target clients. It can play off your name, your team, or the location of your office. Whatever you choose as your brand, it should be uniquely associated with you.

An effective brand-building campaign runs on and offline, from a prospect’s initial encounter through follow-up long after a successful transaction. Establishing your brand requires a broad-based, far-reaching effort. The key is consistency in message and delivery — the more visible your brand, the greater the chance people will remember you.

Feature that in signs, on your vehicles, Web site, social networks blogs, business cards, stations — everything you do to promote awareness and attract business. Then, back it up. If you bill yourself as the neighborhood expert, demonstrate that with Web content and blog entries. If your focus is the upscale market, your clothes, car, and equipment should project that. If you’re the relocation expert, make sure you’re the source for information about everything in the area.

The Budget section of this guide outlines some tools and services that can be used to build, establish, and promote your brand. Each provides you with a way to get your brand in front of clients and prospects, and remind them why they should call you.

Ultimately, your brand is only a symbol, though, albeit one that invites action and can generate calls. It’s the follow-through, the relationships you establish, and whether or not you deliver on all your brand promises that will make or break your business.

Brand Building 101

Focus: Step back and assess the services you and your competitors provide. What’s unique about you? Who are your target consumers? What value can you offer others aren’t providing? Is your market a particular type of home or area? Define your services, expertise, and goals, then start building your brand around those.

Create an identity: Effective brand symbols — the logo, tagline, and even color scheme — are easily recognized and recalled. These should establish some positive association with you. Don’t skimp here: If you doubt your artistic and creative abilities, entrust this to a professional service.

Promote you: Approach this as a personal effort to promote you, your services, and your personal contact information. Build your brand around a company that’s not yours, and you’ll have to start all over if you ever move on.

Mount a campaign: Your brand won’t be built overnight, but rather over time, as people learn to connect you and the symbols you’ve chosen to represent yourself with a positive experience. The more visible that symbol, the faster that process.

Take it everywhere: Signs for the yard or office are starting points. Cars and trucks can be transformed into mobile billboards with vehicle wraps. Premiums like refrigerator magnets and key chains imprinted with your logo serve as constant reminders of you and your services. Everything should point back to your Web site as the portal for local information about your business and listings. And when you’re marketing online, be sure that your brand extends beyond your business’ site. Social networking and blogs can be especially effective, as can automated electronic newsletters, which get your branding out there with minimum effort.

Get involved: The value of community involvement cannot be overstated. Sports and event sponsorship, charity donations, and volunteerism provide opportunities to show your logo and represent you as a caring member of the community.

Make short-term goals and long-range gains: In summation, use every tool and opportunity to establish your brand. It’s the cumulative effect of all these efforts that will transfer a logo into the symbol you can proudly stand behind and prosper.

Glossary

Collateral: In marketing, the support materials used to promote a brand, product, or service, such as flyers, brochures, presentations, and Web content.

Niche: That segment of the total market a brand focuses on. For instance, one real estate professional could choose the niche luxury homes in the area, while another concentrates on vacation properties and rentals. Identifying your niche is an important early step in brand development.

Personal brand: The brand associated with an individual rather than a company or team. In real estate, establishing your personal brand can be especially critical. Over the course of their careers many real estate professionals will provide similar services to clients while associated with a succession of brokerages or franchises.

Skins: Protective covers for consumer electronics devices like smartphones and notebooks that can be imprinted with any message or graphic, including a brand logo.

Tagline: A brief, easily recalled sentence or phrase that sums up the brand and what it offers.

Target market: Those buyers or sellers you want to reach through your marketing efforts. They could be living in a specific ZIP code, for example, or match a certain demographic profile.

What Others Are Saying

“The Community Center”

In the half-year since sales associate Amie Stewart of HomeSmart Realty in Phoenix launched the My Life At Lakewood Web site, it’s become a virtual gathering place for people interested in what’s going in the Arizona neighborhood.

“We’ve gotten a reputation as the go-to people about the area, exactly what we were trying to achieve,” Stewart says. She and her partner in The A Team decided the community Web site could be an effective tool for keeping their name before residents in their target market.

“We thought the best way to brand ourselves would be to focus on one area,” she says. “It’s helped with our farming. We’re now working closely with the local homeowner association and we’ve got businesses in the area as sponsors who are also helping promote the site,” she says. “We’re giving something valuable to the community and they seem to appreciate that.”

“Being Your Brand”

As soon as Linda Craft acquired her real estate license more than 20 years ago, she started building her brand. “You’ve got to decide what you want your brand to be, and for me, that was to be seen as a professional, the person people recognize and want representing them. I started with a bright red color to contrast with my naturally blond hair and a black Infiniti Q45 with a vanity plate and the tagline ‘Make Offer.’”

Today, as broker-owner of Linda Craft and Team, REALTORS®, in Raleigh, N.C., those core elements remain integral to the campaign that has established her as the most readily identifiable real estate professional in the area. Her red logo and name are fixtures on signs and a fleet of vehicles, at community events, and as an official sponsor of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team.

“The things we do offline bring us recognition,” Craft says. “But it’s what we do online, thorough Internet marketing, where we make money.”

Craft’s Web site, as well as her blogs, videos, and Facebook and Linked-in pages and profiles are all developed and managed by Dakno Real Estate Marketing Services. Wherever she’s found on the Web, there’s a consistent look featuring her picture, logo, and contact information.

“Branding without building strong personal relationships is nothing,” she says. “People may recognize you because of your logo or picture, but they will remember you because of what you did and how you helped them.”

“Domain Name Says It All”

Visitors to LuxuryLakeHome know where The Perry Team, broker-owners of RE/MAX Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., put their emphasis. The site immediately identifies the pair as “Your Grand Lake Professionals” and local real estate experts.

Their branding and Web site is managed through the Number1Expert marketing system from Dominion Enterprises. “We don’t have a specific logo or photo like some teams,” says Victoria Perry, partner with her husband Chuck in the small company. “Everything we do is designed to get people to our Web site where they can start searching for property and learn about our services.” The domain name conveys their specialty and is featured in all their signage and ads.

When she expands her branding efforts in the near future, she’ll draw on the experience of others. “One advantage to being with RE/MAX is you’ve got a network for talking with other real estate professionals about what’s worked for them,” she explains. “They’re very supportive and eager to share what they’ve learned and show how they do it. It’s a fabulous benefit of being associated with a major brand.”

Michael Antoniak is a journalist and technology expert with a focus on real estate applications. He also writes about real estate technology at his blog, RealTechTools, and has published an e-book on Essential Technology for Mobile Professionals. He can be contacted at antoniak@dtccom.net.

Housing markets

Will housing save America’s economy?

Jun 20th 2011, 14:35 by R.A. | WASHINGTON

BACK in February of 2009, Paul Krugman was worrying about an insufficient policy response to the recession and he pondered the question: if America is to muddle through with too little stimulus, then how will growth return?

[R]ecovery comes because low investment eventually produces a backlog of desired capital stock, through use, delay, and obsolescence. And eventually this leads to an investment recovery, which is self-reinforcing.

And what do we mean by use, delay, etc.? Calculated Risk had a nice piece on auto sales, which I find helps me to think about this concretely. As CR pointed out, at current rates of sale it would take 23.9 years to replace the existing vehicle stock. Obviously, that won’t happen. Even if the desired number of vehicles doesn’t rise, people will start replacing vehicles that wear out (use), rust away (decay), or just are so much worse than newer models that they’re worth replacing to get the spiffy new features (obsolescence).

He mentions automobiles, but there is another, somewhat surprising possibility—that housing will lead the way to a durable recovery. This may seem strange to suggest. An epic housing collapse following a massive housing boom helped to trigger the downturn. Residential investment has been a drag on growth for five consecutive years. And yet some writers, like Karl Smith and Calculated Risk, are hinting that a housing recovery may be on the way. Matt Yglesias hints at one reason why with this chart:

As Mr Yglesias notes, housing starts have been at an unprecedentedly low level for a strikingly long period of time. And during that period, America’s population has continued to grow. Eventually, whatever the economy is doing, Americans require new houses, new houses mean new construction, and new construction means new employment. Rising rents were one of the factors pushing core inflation higher last month, and increasing rents will soon translate into construction.

Meanwhile, there is a larger demand backlog than most people may imagine:

America doesn’t simply face a situation in which housing has failed to keep pace with the growth in population. Since the onset of recession, household growth has fallen short of population growth as families doubled- and tripled-up on housing to economise. There are now nearly 2m fewer households than one would expect given growth in population. As economic conditions improve, many individuals and families now living with others in order to save money will seek their own homes. That should spark a period of catch-up household growth, which should in turn spark a large rise in rents and new construction. A recovering construction industry would help soak up unemployed workers, continuing a virtuous cycle of recovery. After five long years, housing may finally start pulling its economic weight again, or so many Americans must hope.

 

One long, grueling summer for California’s recovery

By Tara Tran • Jun 20th, 2011 • Category: Feature Articles, Journal Articles, June 2011 Journal

This article reviews indicators in the market which signal the long-awaited national housing recovery and evaluates the California real estate market’s progress towards recovery.

The worst is (almost) over

Meditating on the landscape of American housing doesn’t bring much peace of mind, yet economists claim a nugget of hope is wedged somewhere beneath the muck of this real estate bust, even for the more deeply entrenched California.

2011 has thus far failed to yield an economic recovery of leaps and bounds and thrust us beyond the Great Recession. Low interest rates (courtesy of the Fed and generous government housing subsidies) triggered an artificial leveling of home prices nationwide going into 2010, but were insufficient in duration and intensity (or reception) to bridge the recession gap.

Many economists predict an additional 25% decline is not out of reach for reasons now known to all involved.

Prices nationally in the first quarter of this year hit a new low – 5% lower than one year ago, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Index. Thus, the nation’s home prices have returned to mid-2002 levels. Many economists predict an additional 25% decline is not out of reach for reasons now known to all involved. [For more information on tracking the market with the most recent data from the S&P, see the first tuesday Market Chart, S&P 500: Stock Pricing vs. % Earnings (P/E Ratio.]

A look at other circumstances in the national real estate market lead some to believe this is the worst of the storm and a sustained recovery is now on its way, in spite of current price adjustments.

Hints of a national recovery

Positive signs – nationally – thus far include:

  • advantageous home purchasing conditions due to low decade-old prices and very low mortgage rates, both slipping downwards at the same time;
  • gross rent multipliers (GRMs) such as home prices and home price-to-rent ratios of between 9-11 times the annual rental value which mirror the stable long-term trend of pre-bubble years [For more information about the GRM, see the June 2010 first tuesday article, Renting vs. buying: the GRM.];
  • lower apartment vacancies and higher rents, which typically help bolster home prices;
  • an 18% decrease in new foreclosures from the previous quarter and improved household delinquency rates for a fifth consecutive quarter as more borrowers catch up with their mortgage payments versus those who fall behind; and
  • 200,000 new jobs added to the economy in each of the past three months and 1.2 million jobs in the past year (more jobs mean a lot of positive things, but it is a particularly good sign for the construction industry which, if given a leg up, may consequently boost home prices). [For more information on positive indicators in the nation’s housing market, see the Economist article, The darkest hour: Signs of hope among the gloom.]

A gauge for California’s recovery

That’s national, and this is California, the seventh largest economy in the world. But is recovery in California feasible, or just a far-fetched fantasy?

Here we evaluate the Golden State for the same (positive) signs and provide a forecast most Californians will likely have to live with:

  • Are home purchasing conditions advantageous? Yes, you can bet on that. Rarely do we get low prices, low interest rates and low down payment financing at the same moment in time. All that is needed is the will to buy, which in part requires brokers and agents to get the word out that mortgages are available at 4.5% if you apply.

Prices fell 2% in Los Angeles, 4% in San Diego and 5% San Francisco for the year ending with the first quarter of 2011, and further drops are forecasted for the rest of the year. Buyers have this information and what it is telling them is to wait until prices bottom to make offers. Agents have their work cut out to convince buyers that a further drop is likely but the present pricing will look most proper in three or four years, and will make no financial difference in ten years.

Interest rates have also been and are on a continuous decline. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) in the U.S. Western region dropped to 4.45% the second week of June. The 15-year FRM also dropped in the same week to 3.63%. However, even with these deals and steals on the market, people are just not buying. The agent’s advice is that rates cannot move much lower, if at all, and they can and will rise in the future as the recovery gains steam – as will prices.

Home sales volume in California has dropped since the first quarter of 2010. 35,202 total homes sold in April 2011, trending consistently down from 37,908 in April 2010. [For more information on home sales volume in the current market, see the first tuesday Market Chart, Home sales volume and price peaks.]

  • Are prices stabilizing? Yes. The lingering drop in home prices across California in all tiers of housing is not a momentary dip from which they will fast rise akin to the fabled V-shaped recovery. Today’s home prices represent a resetting of the artificially high prices of the bubble years (which commenced in 1997) to their more stable levels consistent with historic trends. The end of 2011 may just likely see that reaction to low interest rates and a better informed and more confident public. However, that annual rise is more likely to reflect the consumer price index (CPI) rate of inflation rather than the 5 to 10% annual rate buyers are now thinking they will experience.

Except for those negative equity homeowners imprisoned and burdened by insolvency due to the steep price plunge, price stabilization is good news for California’s housing market in the long run. [For more information on historic home prices in California, see the first tuesday Market Chart, California tiered home pricing.]

  • Are rents higher? Yes. While home prices fall steadily, rents in California continue to rise, 4% for the year ending April 2011, according to the Spring 2011 Housing Report by HotPads.com. (Although landlords in the bedroom cities of the state’s inland and central valley will beg to disagree.)

Rent prices are indicators of which way home prices will go since they are the primary fundamental used to set property values. However, any rise in home prices beyond the rate of consumer inflation will take several years. [For more information on rentals in California, see the first tuesday Market Chart, Rentals: The Future of Real Estate in CA?]

  • Are household delinquency rates better? Sort of. Compared to the 18% nationwide drop in foreclosures, California foreclosure numbers are loitering near stagnancy. 8% more homes were foreclosed upon in California’s high-tier areas in the first quarter of 2011 from a year earlier. An even higher 23% more homes in low-tier areas were foreclosed upon in the same period.

Foreclosures in both housing tiers dropped only 2% over the year ending April 2011. Mortgage delinquency in the state is improving at an equally slow pace. 9% of mortgage payments were seriously delinquent in the first quarter of 2011, a slight but steady decline from 11% a year earlier. Thus we have an inventory problem called excess supply (the REOs), and until the buyers enter and start to cut into that supply, the prices will remain low, market momentum will be negative and competitive buyers for a property will be rare.

California foreclosures and delinquency rates, like other sand states, are higher than the rest of the nation but are improving at a faster rate. So when the market shifts to positive volume and pricing, some buyers will be surprised. [For more information on first quarter 2011 California defaults and foreclosures, see the April 2011 first tuesday article, 1Q 2011 defaults and foreclosure data.]

  • Do we have more jobs? Yes, but not enough and not fast enough. As of April 2011, California has yet to replace 1,298,700 of the jobs lost since the peak of California employment in December 2007. 363,100 jobs have been added since the beginning of the recovery in January 2010 and employment numbers have gradually made small ticks upward since then.

Employment needed to rent or buy a home was up by 148,100 jobs annually in April 2011. But what we need is around 400,000 jobs annually to get back to the pace experienced in the late 1990s. Jobs are slowly returning but will not reach pre-recession employment levels until 2016. [For more information on the effect of statewide employment on real estate, see the first tuesday Market Chart, Jobs Move Real Estate.]

Slow and steady to the end

Now back to the first question: Will California get to the finish line of its recovery? Yes. But if we’re to have a robust and sustained economy, keep in mind, the recovery will – and must – be gradual.

We just need two more ingredients to add to the mix: more jobs and more consumer confidence.

Although California is definitely a step behind the nation heading for recovery (just as it was a step ahead of the nation in growth during the Millennium Boom a few years ago), the conditions for a housing recovery are not completely absent in the state. We just need two more ingredients to add to the mix: more jobs and more consumer confidence.

Brokers and agents can do nothing about jobs. What they can do is give prospective buyers great detail about a property and extensive justification for its value, and then escort them through the loan pre-approval process with a couple of lenders. These simple gestures of due diligence will get the confidence of buyers up immediately. They merely need someone they feel they can depend on for advice.

Without an adequately employed population both poised (read: ready and free of their negative equity homes) and willing to buy, California will continue to march across the rocky plateau of its flat-line recovery. [For more information on building public confidence in a depressed real estate market, see the June 2011 first tuesday Market Chart, A bounty of loan deals, a dearth of willing buyers.]

– ftCopyright © 2011 by the first tuesday Journal Online – firsttuesdayjournal.com;
P.O. Box 20069, Riverside, CA 92516

Readers are encouraged to reproduce and/or distribute this article.

Copyright © 2011 by first tuesday Realty Publications, Inc. Readers are encouraged to reprint or distribute this information with credit given to the first tuesday Journal Online — P.O. Box 20069, Riverside, CA 92516.

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Agents Say Appraisals Continue to Hamper Deals

Low appraisals that come in below the purchase price
are still delaying closings or killing some sales contracts, real estate
professionals say in a survey from April.

One out of 10 real estate professionals–or 11 percent–say that low
appraisals are causing home sales contracts to fall through. An additional 10
percent say low appraisals are delaying closings, according to an April survey
by the National Association of REALTORS®. About the same number of real estate
professionals reported the problems with low appraisals in a March
survey.

About 14 percent of real estate
professionals reported that appraisals below the purchase price are requiring
extra negotiating in order to get the deal closed.

“Short sales and foreclosures are still priced too high by the
lenders, who do not believe the agents information concerning actual market
conditions,” said one real estate professional in the survey comments.

Source: “Appraisals Still Kill Home Sales,”
UPI.com (May 25, 2011)

A common question home buyers have today is: How long must I wait before obtaining financing after bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale?

Below is an overview by loan type of this important information.

Matrix

 

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Mortgage Defaulters Not Necessarily Credit Risk

Home owners who default on their mortgage but have
no other debts are not credit risks, according to a study released Tuesday from
TransUnion, which analyzed credit patterns of 129,000 consumers over a one-year
period.

Home owners who default only on
their mortgage are less likely to default later on other new loans, such as car
or credit cards, than people who default on mortgages but have at least one
other debt at the same time, TransUnion’s research shows.

What’s more, these mortgage-only defaulters tend to see their
credit scores rebound faster too. For example, mortgage-only defaulters with
Vantage credit scores of 631 to 650 had their scores increase on average by 8
points about a year after defaulting on their mortgage. Yet, defaulters with the
same credit score range but who had more defaults than just a mortgage saw their
credit score drop by 2 points.

Mortgage-only defaulters “are less risky than they appear,” Steve
Chaouki, TransUnion vice president, told USA Today. “Lenders will want to lend
to these people in the future.”

Source:
“Study: Mortgage-only Defaulters May be
Safe Credit Risks,”
USA Today (May 23,
2011)

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