Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Comments Sell Homes - At Least They Should

I know I have pointed this out before, but it happened again today. A Chicago Tribune article about a former player for the Chicago Bears listing his home for sale appeared today.

Yet, even with not one but TWO agents sharing the listing, the story shows that both "declined to comment on the listing":,0,2019545.story

It's certainly not necessary to the story, but as an advertising and marketing expert specifically for real estate and mortgages for the past 23 years, I'd certainly like to know why both of these agents would "decline" to comment on a listing.

In these days of mostly negative real estate news and statistics all over the media, I would like to think that an agent would seize the day at the opportunity to "comment" on a prime listing.

Face it. If this home was not owned by a former local pro football player (or anyone with celebrity status), this home being listed would not be "news". There are numerous other properties in this and higher price ranges that have come on the market within the past 30 days, but were not picked up by the biggest newspaper in a city the size of Chicago.

Positive publicity, as well as individual publicity of this magnitue, for any agent is hard to come by. What a blown opportunity.

How can they "decline to comment"?

Is there something about this home that will keep it from selling? Is it not priced right?

Don't get me wrong. I am not implying that there is a problem with the listing or that it will or won't sell at the pace set by the current market.

These agents do not have to comment about the former football player or anything personal in order to make this the positive opportunity it should be.

What at least one of the agents should have said:

"I hope the buyers are as happy there as the previous owner."

"This home won't last long. It is the best price in the area."

 "What an ideal place to raise a family in luxury."

"Such a rare opportunity to live in beautiful Long Grove. We don't get listings of this caliber very often at all."

I could go on, but (obviously) these agents are not advertising or marketing clients of mine. You get the idea. One comment along those lines from the listing agent and it results in thousands of dollars of free publicity for them and for the property.

What do you think when you hear someone answer even a simple question with "No comment"?

Exactly. It isn't good.

When you are next selling (or representing) a property, the agent or seller had better be ready to "comment" about it at any opportunity.

The more positives in real estate news, the faster things will turn around.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Great Idea - 2 Buildings For Price of 1

The agent doing this is not one I recall every speaking to, nor a marketing client of mine, but I give him a ton of points for coming up with a real estate marketing innovation.

Here is the story which calls attention to this:

He realizes that, unlike residential real estate, not all commercial investment properties have a "location location location" priority. There are often companies or investors seeking a certain amount of space, and/or including external possibilities for warehousing, supplemental administrative staff, meeting or conference space, and/or to be able to appear to compete with a primary business. It could also be to house a wholesale and retail division, executive offices, or storefront with separate administrative offices.

When a business or investor is seeking more than one location, it means they need to review separate sets of property data and combine to fit their specific needs.

By marketing two buildings as one listing, a potential buyer can more easily gather the needed data, such as total square footage and overall facilities available. If this can truly be marketed as one transaction rather than two, it saves significant time and money compared with seeking two separate properties simultaneously and then attempting to negotiate separate deals on both.

Kudos to Rick Kessler of Prudential for taking this approach on these listings.

This is exactly the sort of thing that needs to become the norm in the real estate community. Based on the article, the buildings' owner had zero takers to this point. Without investigation, I'm guessing it was the usual two separate buildings advertised along with other commercial properties in a publication or two and on the usual web sites, and few cared or responded.

Yet, now, see what difference creativity could make. Granted, I'm not looking for commercial property near Albany, NY. However, the writer of the article was attracted to this story and saw the value to interest his readers. I saw the story, read it, and now know that I have a wonderful idea to add on to my advertising and marketing clients.

It already has me thinking how this concept could be adapted toward residential property selling as well. On occasion I'll see neighboring homes listed for sale through competing realty firms. Now I can suggest to my residential agent clients that if and as this happens to them (a neighboring property for sale via another agent) that they consider working together.

You won't get a situation where in-laws or brother/sisters with families could move in next to each other if you don't promote it as a possibility!

Let the others waste their time coming with up the statistics about home sales six months ago. Find the ways to get available properties sold.

Monday, August 13, 2012

One Suburb Welcomes People, Another To Lose Them

As I tell my real estate agent advertising and marketing clients, a lot of the most helpful information they can find during the course of a day is the local Business news.

Interesting story about how Sugar Land TX, a Houston suburb (about 20 miles outside), is about to add a 6,500 seat concert and event facility to its current offerings in the hopes of attracting even more Houston area residents to visit the community.

What does this have to do with area real estate agents? The answer should be "a lot more" if the Real Estate market is to make a comeback.

Adding this venue means a lot of near future construction and engineering jobs, and later on many jobs related to events and operation of the venue.

For current home owners in the Sugar Land area interested in selling, this information makes now a much better time to place their property on the market. The listing agent could be advertising it in a union or construction related publication and/or web site in search of unemployed or underemployed workers who are currently renting in areas with fewer employment opportunities.

Of course, adding a large venue also means it is likely that more restaurants, shops, and possibly hotels will soon look to add or start a new location within proximity of this venue. Again, more construction and more jobs for these establishments being created over the next couple of years.

Real estate investors are probably already seeing this opportunity to buy "low", upgrade, and hopefully turn a profit a couple years (or sooner) down the road when the construction and upgrades are in place.

Potential buyers should be made aware of the growth potential within the Sugar Land area, in the event they would consider moving to a new growth area adding larger businesses. This is also likely to be sure that streets and upgraded to handle the traffic flow.

On the other hand, current property owners who may wish to get away from the coming additional hustle and bustle now have an opportunity to plan an exit before others with a similar philosophy realize the idea.

Meanwhile, separate and unrelated business stories in the Chicago area have two large corporations, United Airlines and Motorola, both announcing (coincidentally) within the past week that literally thousands of workers are going to be relocated from suburban offices to downtown Chicago locations.

This is (or should be treated as) a bigger story for realty agents than anyone else, other than those who will be impacted by the move.

Such an announcement is right now putting many workers in a challenging position. Right now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of employees of each of these companies who live within a 30 minute drive of their workplace. They enjoy free parking and a suburb to suburb commute, not necessarily involving use of a busy expressway during the heavy traffic periods.

Having to commute to downtown Chicago from these suburban areas could add one hour or more to their commuting time each workday. This will send many to instead take commuter trains and to make the changes of routine that go along with it. It does not mean fewer expenses by not driving to work when it really means increased train fares as well as driving and parking at the train station.

From a real estate marketing standpoint, this news does not only impact those workers who have decisions coming up. At least, it shouldn't only impact those workers.

Anyone looking to sell that lives within a reasonable walking distance of a train station within range of the current locations of Motorola and United should be on the phone with their listing agent by the end of the day. Agents with listings in the downtown Chicago area should be targeting those same suburbs.

There are potentially thousands of people who will be forced to make some decisions as their jobs are relocating in the months to come.

You can't sit back. It's amazing that people don't react to these types of news stories, and they happen daily in many more places than Chicago and Houston.

I have my own example. The Realtor I most recently used is not one of my clients. Even with her 25 years of local experience, I actually provided her with statistics relative to local home sales based in "my" area showing how proximity to area train stations has a direct impact. She was not aware of that research. Only THEN did it start appearing in her advertising of my property.

Taking action on this information now means a lot more than waiting for statistics on whether home sales went up or down in these areas last month.

Start looking for 'news you can use' to your benefit. The Business section is an ideal place to start!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alarming News For Sellers

Another day in the world of real estate, and another set of statistics about homes being bought and sold, and how recent trends compare with previous months and years. That means another day of little to no information to help those who truly need to sell their home.

In the Chicago area, one of today's news stories is quite alarming for hopeful sellers, even if it is encouraging for buyers and investors with some serious money. Realty Trac Inc. published several statistics for the month of July.

For the 7 county area including and surrounding Chicago (in Illinois only - does not include any of NW Indiana or SE Wisconsin), the service reports that 3,274 homes went to court ordered sale during July. Keep in mind - that is for ONE MONTH. In addition, they report at an additional 3,237 homes became "bank owned". 

Total those up, and it means that within one expanded major metropolitan area, more than 6,500 homes are just sold or NOW available, mostly at discounted prices compared with their earlier value.

If someone is looking to buy or invest in the Chicago area this week, they don't need to look on a realty office web site or search the local Real Estate section to find the true "best deal" on a property. Yet, the web sites and publications featuring area homes for sale continue to show the "regular" listings for sale as if nothing else is going on in the marketplace.

Where is the "argument" to look at these properties instead of the "now" stock of discounted properties? More importantly, WHAT is the argument to look at those properties?

Suppose the typical 3 bedroom home in a western suburb is listed at $250,000 and shows up on a local realty firm's web site with the typical "move-in condition, must see" advertising and not even a photo of the interior. The listing agent is waiting for responses and telling other agents about this home being available.

However, the savvy buyer or investor instead can find out about upcoming court sales and REO homes, most likely at much lower prices. He/she/they could go in and bid $200,000 at an upcoming court sale or offer it to the bank which "owns" it. Part of the "argument" for the $250,000 listed home is that the buyer knows the condition of the property and can get it with due process at a pre-determined time.

Yet, part of the reasoning "against" it is that the buyer at $200,000 could spend, say, $10,000 on improvements, and still save $40,000 over the "regular" listed house.

My theory stands. Part of the problem in today's real estate market is within the advertising and marketing of properties. The "home for sale" ads are too similar. And now they are comparing against other "home for sale" ads, and NOT against the discounted homes now abundant in the market. (Certainly not just the Chicago area.)

Those looking to sell a property, and the agents representing them, need to address the real competition they are up against. Tell potential why this property is a better deal than a discounted home with similar qualities. Something has to give.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Vanishing Home Owners

Here we go again. Fewer and fewer home owners in the USA. Many of us feared it and/or expected it. Today it is confirmed.

The above linked analysis points out that the number of "new" homeowners is on the rise as if to provide hope of a market turnaround.

However, the statistical charts fail to point out an important factor. We don't know what percentage of these "new" home owners are really investors buying up the foreclosures and REO properties around the country. After all, they count as a statistic the same as a young family of 4 just starting out.

Another news story out over the weekend makes for an example of where home sales are often coming from:

This story is about how an investment group essentially purchased almost an entire town, acquiring more than 600 properties via auction, the majority at substantially discounted prices. Granted, this acquisition is not a part of the graphics shown in the first story, but it provides a picture that "new" homeowners are not quite what the graph shows them to be.

Yet, the big concern should be that the ownership forecast, which shows how the number of home owners has dropped significantly over the past 6 years, was issued by none other than the National Association of Realtors.

While it is an Association function to keep on top of market statistics, their release of this information and the graphics to back it up is another instance of shooting itself in the foot. I could understand if Bloomberg or WSJ (or other such quality news gathering organization) developed these graphs and statistics by investigation. But the realty association?

This information does not help its hundreds of thousands of member agents and brokers. It does not help the thousands and thousands of people hopeful of selling a property who have it listed through an Association member. And it certainly doesn't help the market.

Somehow, this is backwards. It should be that the Detroit Free Press is reporting the negative statistics about the drop in home owners over the years around the country to alert its readers. And the National Assn. of Realtors should be reporting that more than 600 properties in a town in Michigan were purchased in one day.