Realtors with their own real estate websites are well positioned to capture a larger share of their market. The California Association of Realtors (CAR) released their “2008 Survey of California Home Buyers” that shows several trends continuing in the real estate market. These home sales trends favor agents who have successfully established their Internet marketing presence.
With the slow down in the economy, online home searchers took more time finding their property, however they averaged they found it two weeks faster than traditional home buyers. Of benefit to real estate agents, online clients viewed half as many homes with their agents as traditional buyers – 12.7 versus 23.3 – and spent more time looking online before contacting an agent.
CAR President William Brown noted, “Due to the high inventory of homes on the market, and uncertainty about the direction of home prices, buyers are more cautious and are moving at a slower pace during the home buying process than in previous years.”
Underlining the importance of having your real estate website show up high in the search engine rankings is the data:
Possibly in favor of computer savvy real estate agents, speed of the agent’s response figured very high in the satisfaction part of the survey. Agents who were not able to respond quickly fell out of favor. With online guest book and contact forms, agents can be instantly notified of potential clients and have the ability to connect quickly by cell phone or email.
Correlating with IMCD Web Design’ own research, the CAR survey found most Internet searchers used Google as the website they used to start their search. Only 8% started their search on Yahoo. IMC has found that optimizing for Google is the best way to get visibility in all the search engine rankings.
IMC’s real estate web designs are created to give agents maximum visibility on the Internet and generate sales leads. By skillfully merging captivating graphic design, multi-layered search engine optimization, and compelling web content, our web designs have helped many of our clients achieve front page ranking on Google and a consistent stream of sales leads. Contact IMC if you want to be positioned to be a dominant player in your online real estate market.
Real estate agents who successfully positioned their real estate websites to target foreign buyers did well in states targeted by foreign real estate investors. Though foreign investment in the US real estateÂ market is off its 2007 level according to a National Association of Realtors survey, foreign home buyers still target second homes in the sunny states of Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California. Though not one of the sunshine states, New York, ever a favorite national and international real estate market, enjoyed its share of overseas property investors. Possibly due to the increased buying power of the loonie, Canada replaced Mexico for the first time as the number one source of foreign real estate buyers, with twice as many buying in the May 2007 to 2008 window than in the prior period.
Realtors have found the international buyer a profitable niche market to target. Foreign buyers tend to buy more expensive homes, even for their vacation homes, than the local home buyers – usually buying a single family home close to $300,000. Almost 15% of the purchases were for properties over $750,000 – a nice property by any standard. Foreign buyers mostly purchased second homes with the buyers occupying their homes for just under 3 months of the year.
For either investment purposes or ease of completing the sale, forty percent of the buyers paid for their home purchases with cash. Many Realtors reported the tight availability of home loan financing, the 30% downpayment for loans to foreign nationals, and home prices to be an obstacle that halted some of the sales to foreign buyers.
Many real estate websites in the Arizona, Texas and California markets are already bilingual in order to address the needs a Mexican home buyers, which is the third highest population of cross border real estate buyers. Interestingly, most of the foreign sales of homes over $1 million went to buyers from China. Maybe this signals a need for real estate websites targeting the luxury home market to include pages in Chinese as well as English to attract these real estate investors.
The international real estate investor is a financially rewarding niche market to capture due to their tendency to buy property that is 36% more than the average US home buyer. Indeed, 8% of the 4,000 Realtors surveyed derive at least 50% of their home sales transactions from foreign buyers.
Improve your real estate website’s ability to target foreign real estate investors by adding specific pages to your website that educate the foreign buyer. Contact IMCD Web Design if you need to improve your Internet marketing presence with an IMC real estate web design. Your Internet marketing to a niche market is only effective if your potential real estate home buyers can find your website!
How can your real estate business benefit from the 2008 Economic Stimulus Package? The SBA website added a new area to explain how you can take advantage of the new stimulus package with its dramatic increase in how much equipment can be expensed. For companies whose fiscal year starts in July 2008, these advantages run through June 2009.
The SBA website has an easy to follow eight minute online seminar, an audio video slide show that goes over the various deductions and provisions that a real estate business can utilize. The SBA’s downloadable executive summary is conveniently understandable and in the widely used Word doc format. The SBA summary included three links to IRS publications that give guidance, explanations and perceived business equipment buying benefits of the Act. In short, the Act allows you to write of 50% of your purchases (up to $250,000 of qualifying equipment) in the first year (2008) and then apply your normal first year depreciation to the remaining 50% of what you paid for the business equipment or new property.
While utilizing Congress’s Stimulus package, you can make your financing go even further by using the Internet to find the best deals around. The website SearchAllDeals.com gathers information from several sites so you can quickly see who has the best software deal in town. For hardware, you can take advantage of the “promo code” box even if you have not received the promotional advertising. Go to a site like DealTaker.com to see what deals can be made on new computers by companies such as Dell and Hewlett Packard. Of course, the promo code route works for offers on all kinds of equipment also.
Office equipment, including computers and off-the-shelf computer software, that can help create content for and help maintain your real estate website are all covered by the Stimulus Act. Since the Act includes various exceptions and additional requirements (it was, after all, crafted by politicians) reviewing the benefits of the Act for the real estate industry with your tax advisor is in order.
A benefit in the current real estate market correction is that there is time to check your real estate connections. Invest time and energy in your lead generation tracking and cleaning up your client database.
A good leads database is 400 contacts, give or take 100. Most agents do not have clean usable lists. With the real estate technology tools, having email addresses for all your contacts is necessary. Most real estate agents only have email addresses for 50% of their contacts. Upgrading your contacts database is key to streamlining your connecting to your active client pool. Sending monthly touch-base emails on market opportunities and trends is a way to keep the referral and connection pot simmering.
In times of down market, the tendency is to cut expenses, such as marketing expenses. However, down markets are the prime time to make sure everyone is aware of your real estate business. Try doubling the mileage on your real estate website with the following simple two step program. First step, add pages of content regarding the local real estate market and insightful entries on your real estate blog. Second step, email a list of your connections and invite them to check the new material on your real estate website, add a note of appreciation for past business and referrals and then ask them for any new referrals or to forward your website link to friends. Be specific about the material on the website so your contacts know there is “must read” content, not just something new.
Even though financial experts think that the tightening of mortgage lending standards will drop 25% of the population out of the home buying market and into the rental market, it still leaves 75% in the real estate market who can meet the tighter mortgage standards. Best of all, by getting your connections database cleaned up, you are better positioned for when the market picks back up steam as expected in the end of 2008. And more people will have your real estate website’s address.
In a softening commercial real estate market, an opportunity exists for investors interested in building or retrofitting commercial property to energy efficient standards. Where opportunity exists for investors, it also exists for real estate agents specializing in the commercial real estate market.
The Wall Street Journal reported in September 2007 that “Overall, the number of U.S. buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s elite Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard stands at 6,000 and is forecast to top 100,000 over the next four years.” Besides energy efficiency, large corporations are also including sustainability factors in their commercial property retrofitting, such as using recycled materials.
Citigroup Inc., which has 92 million square feet in its real estate portfolio, is in the process of going green with its commercial real estate. Citigroup had energy audits conducted on its property and has adopted various power-saving measures. Also in the works is the redesign of Citigroup’s bank branches to allow in more daylight and use more recycled materials. Kaiser Permanente, twenty seven new and existing hospitals in its real estate inventory is also embarking on a plan to green their buildings.
Howard Liggett, President of Distressed Real Estate Consulting Services, recently wrote “The [LEED] designations are conferred by the US Green Building Council and the labeling of a commercial office or professional building as LEED certified has created a new value-added marketability for the leasing agent. Simply put, LEED certified buildings are attracting greater numbers of tenants.” Part of the draw of LEED buildings is the greater amount of natural lighting and better air quality.
The Urban Land Institute foresees that the “income-generating industrial and apartment sectors remain favored investment categories.” Part of the market push behind the apartment sectors is that experts figure demand for rental housing will go up due to the tightening residential mortgage market.
By marketing to the commercial real estate trends on their real estate website, Realtors who specialize in the commercial markets can increase their presence on the search engines. Buying and leasing trends translate into the specific keywords which buyers and investors are using to find commercial property. Web pages and blog entries covering the market trends in buying and leasing of commercial property in your area boost your real estate website’s visibility. Position part of your website’s marketing to capture the greening of commercial real estate.
A home buyer’s mortgage can benefit from buying real estate with plans to improve the its energy efficiency. Traditional frame homes built prior to the 1970s were not built with energy efficiency of today’s houses. Houses built in the days of low heating costs may have little to no wall and ceiling insulation and heat transferring wooden exterior doors. This leaves a large market of houses that can qualify for a Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM).
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a federal agency which insures private loans, backs EEMs that allow mortgage lenders to add 100 percent of the additional cost-effective energy efficiency improvement costs to an approved home mortgage loan. The FHA limits are a cap of $4000 on homes under $80,000 or 5 percent on homes over $80,000 with a cap of $8000.
Fannie Mae also offers an EEM. Fannie Mae, a federal government chartered company, works “to reduce mortgage interest rates for consumers, expand homeownership and affordable rental housing, and improve the liquidity of the mortgage market for investors and consumers.” Fannie Mae has a loan that offers to finance not just home ownership, but also the energy efficient improvements home buyers want to make. Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage is a cost-effective way to combine a client’s home purchase or refinance with the home renovation costs in one loan with only one closing.
Real estate agents selling homes in housing markets such as Colorado Springs, Colorado, San Diego, or Pensacola Florida with a large military presence should be aware of the Veteran Administration’s (VA) EEM. The VA mortgage is available to qualified active and retired military personnel, reservists and veterans for energy efficiency home improvements when buying their home. The VA caps the energy improvements between $3,000 and $6,000.
The key to getting the EEM loan is getting the house energy audited. Most certifying companies are certified in the Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Standards that sets the national procedures for home energy ratings. Make sure they are also a professional accepted by the secondary mortgage company, such as Fannie Mae, that the mortgage company is using.
The audit creates a report with a list of home improvements necessary to bring your house to the level of energy efficiency necessary. Usual recommendations are improved insulation, tighter and better insulated windows, and better sealing on ductwork and weather stripping. If the hot water or air conditioning system is aged, it may also be on the list of items to be replaced.
Awareness of EEMs helps the real estate professional creatively approach “fixer upper” homes and may help the first time home buyer afford a house more in the size they need. The EPA and Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) have websites with information on the certification standards and energy efficient home repairs for researching articles to provide information on your real estate website.
The age of environmentally friendly homes is the growing real estate market on the horizon. Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington are a decade into the green trend of minimizing or eliminating a house’s negative ecological footprint. Driving the trend is not just a desire to clean up the planet; home heating costs consume over 30% of America’s energy! With California dealing with summer energy shortfalls due to increased air conditioning loads, housing construction techniques in the California real estate market have more than just a “save the trees” feeling driving the market. When the Pentagon spends $1.5 billion to environmental and energy efficiency renovation, you know a trend is well into its maturing phase.
In an effort to further prod the energy efficient house market, Congress passed the 2005 Energy Policy Act. providing for a tax credit for building energy efficient homes to building contractors.
Components that create energy-efficient environmentally-friendly houses are wide ranging – from construction techniques, water usage, to the house’s power source. States, such as Florida with its Green Home Program, have green home certification programs that allow home sellers to list a third party verification of their green home. Interestingly, in 2006, over 60,000 Energy Star-rated houses were added to the Texas real estate market with many of them costing the same as less energy efficient homes in their same markets.
Green home construction techniques are noted for walls and roofs with high insulation factors, recycled building materials, low power lighting, insulated windows and doors, solar exposure positioning, toxin reducing low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and formaldehyde-free carpet and plywood. At comparable pricing, green homes are a natural fit for first time home buyers who are looking for the most house for their mortgage payments. With lower energy costs, the first time home buyer, usually on a tight budget, can stretch the income farther with a green house.
The effect of the greening effort has caused construction changes, even with companies that do not see themselves as green home builders. With the rise in LP and electricity costs, traditionally constructed homes have begun to use 2 x 6 external wall framing versus the 2 x 4 framing. The additional two inches of insulation translate into year-round energy savings. With the building techniques able to construct air tight houses, builders are taking care that the air/moisture barrier and insulation layers are done correctly so that mold problems are not created by moisture trapped in the walls.
Between energy costs rising and Hollywood celebrities keeping the climate change problems in the news, more buyers are paying attention to the EPA’s Energy Star program. Whether it is regarding an appliance or an entire house, the real estate market is getting greener. Make sure you include information on your local green market on your real estate website!