Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thinking Ahead of the Box

This is still another story about an upcoming business and residential development in the Houston area, separate from the one I referenced last week.


If you are a real estate agent or a current or potential home seller within minutes of the referenced area, my suggestion is to take heed of this valuable information.

If you are a real estate agent or current or potential home seller not in this section of Houston, you should start looking for information such as this which is pertinent to your area.

Buyers and investors are not looking at statistics about sales and prices from months or a year ago. They are looking for a good deal, and for future potential.

Using this Houston area as an example, homeowners near that development now have the opportunity to sell an ideal location where more jobs will soon be available. Where more shopping, both in terms of quantity and quality, will soon be available. Chances are this development will enhance or add to current local public transportation options.

In other words, don't look at it as though you are "close to an empty lot". Start looking at it in terms of the opportunity you will have to offer a potential buyer seeking a quality place to work and/or to shop nearby.

A sharp realty agent should be researching how and WHERE property values have risen upon the opening of such a development in other parts of the same region. If you can't find anything close by, keep looking. You can also look by population. So if you can't find anything similar in terms of eventual sales success in Houston, then perhaps you will find something in Dallas, or Philadelphia, or some other city as large as Houston, which you can use to "sell" the potential.

Chances are that the home you will want to sell is not the only "3 bedroom 2 bath home with...." (whatever amenities it offers) in your region. But if your home is closer to this development, and the jobs, shopping, and transportation it brings, you have a selling point that your competition does not.

You are marketing more than just the home and the property. A little research, especially ongoing, can go a long way toward a faster sale at a better price.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's Not Just Home Prices

Real estate agents, as well as sellers, need to look at more than the local home sales and price trends, although it appears that not very many do.

You can know the neighborhood as well as or better than everyone else, but it's how you use that knowledge toward generating home sales that makes the difference.

Just last week, I saw a business news story from Texas about a grocery chain expanding in the Houston area by adding 3 full-size food stores in the region. Granted, I don't see every newsletter, flyer, or web page that comes from local agents. But I have yet to see or hear of any of the area's real estate agents mention this in any way.

What does another grocery store mean to a specific area in terms of housing? Actually, plenty. Stop to think about it. Having a new grocery store increases local competition, provides those living nearby with a significant added convenience, and creates more local jobs. For starters.

If you are looking to sell a home within a square mile of any of those new locations, wouldn't this be helpful information? You bet!

You would soon (based on the scheduled completion of the store) have the ability to save your buyer or tenant travel time in the car on every shopping trip (which saves time and gas money).

This is another example of why real estate agents (or the advertising/marketing specialist they retain, if I may toss in a hint) should be on top of local business stories and activity. This sort of story should be a reason (or "excuse" if you must) to contact local home owners whether they are your clients or not. You can remind them that if and when they are thinking of selling, they now have an additional hot point with the brand new major grocery store coming in.

And, you can alert them that if anyone in the household is looking for local employment that you know of an opportunity for them. Between those two possibilities, a sharp agent should be able to generate some local phone calls.

Back to the main point. Factors such as a new business (employment, growth, etc.) should really be more of an influence than the number of homes that sold in the same neighborhood 6 months or one year ago.

For example, since most large cities have increased local transportation costs this year, the need is greater than ever to point out homes which are (really) close to transportation. Point out the savings if a buyer can avoid a car ride or extra bus fare every day by moving to close proximity.

To that point, the National Housing Conference has just released its study about the impact of transportation and other costs on the housing market. Although it's not positive, it does offer some good insight in terms of what is (or should be) important when selling or buying a home:


Crunch some numbers for a potential buyer.

Suppose your home is listed at $5,000 more than other homes in your area, but yours is the closest to the commuter train station (or commute needs of the buyer). Show that potential buyer how they could save at least $5 per week ($20+ per month). ("No using up gas plus having to pay $1 to park at the train station when you live here!") Next, point out that they would still have at your home, because the $5,000 additional on the purchase price comes out to only about $14 per month more on a 30-year loan. Your "additional savings" outweigh that.

OK, you might be able to poke holes at that idea, but it's the concept that's important. It seems as though agents and sellers don't think that way. And they would otherwise reduce their price by $5,000 to not lose out to a home that is further away and doesn't offer the same benefits.

New grocery store or not, that's food for thought, too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

If You Build It - You Have To Let People Know

Here is another example of my overall point that a BIG part of the real estate crunch is because of how poorly marketed it is. And it's not just the shoddy advertising of properties that plagues the residential real estate community.

Now the Niche Report is informing us about the MILLIONS of home owners who could be benefitting from the HARP Program, which is designed to enable "under water" home owners to refinance at a lower rate. In many cases, it's the difference of being able to keep a home or being out on the street with years of consequences.


Let me tell you there is a lot to be said for the "Some people don't know about it" reference in this story. Personally, I am in contact with at least 200 mortgage lenders and banks (which handle mortgage loans) around the country every week. Yet, only a small handfull devote even a portion of their outside advertising to the HARP Program.

Even if more of them did, it doesn't mean that the road is easy. Frankly, it's not, and it should be. This Niche Report story doesn't even begin to tap the surface of how ridiculous it is out there. Some of these lenders, including the banks, don't seem to know to execute the program properly even when they get applications for it.

I recently had a situation where Fifth Third Bank "blamed" a computer glitch for not being able to complete a HARP loan application. That didn't explain why the applicant was not notified that the loan couldn't be completed until AFTER the scheduled closing.  Then the manager who "decided" this ducked e-mails, phone calls, and an in-person visit attempt to clarify. The applicant got another bank to correct this supposed "glitch" within 2 business days - and to eventually complete the loan. (Even though the promised deadline was missed by nearly 3 weeks.)

So, yes, unfortunately it takes more than educating the public about this. Some of the lenders and banks need to be educated about servicing what they sell, and customer relations, just as badly.

This totally impacts the real estate community as much as the mortgage lenders. The more people that can afford their home, the more buying and selling there will be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Needed Help For Some Renters

Normally I dislike additional fees and government intervention, one community is taking an important step to help renters. It's time someone did.

No matter what the local real estate market is now showing, in terms of home prices and sales, the reality for many people is that they don't have the ability to qualify and/or don't choose to take the financial risks of buying.

However, renters have been faced with higher rents and tougher guidelines because so many consumers have been put into that situation. In what seems like the majority of instances, the local real estate community has not helped, fearing that helping making it smoother for renters means fewer people looking to buy. It remains to be seen whether or not those consumers remember that down the road if and when they start looking at buying.

Even worse, there have been scattered reports of crooked landlords doing things like renting out units and then walking away, leaving tenants to be victims of foreclosures on these landlords and being forced to move with little to no notice.

Buffalo Grove IL, a northern suburb of Chicago, has decided to take action. Landlords in the Village will be required, starting in January 2013, to pay an annual fee of $75 (for single family houses which are rented out)  and, more importantly, to submit to annual inspections. For apartment buildings, the landlord will pay $150 per year plus $30 per rental unit.

A news article in the local Daily Herald newspaper about this contains a quote from a Village official admitting that they likely won't have time to inspect every available rental building. (I would include the link, but that newspaper goes by sign-ups and I won't link my readers to something that isn't guaranteed to come up, so blame the Daily Herald.)

The idea is for the Village to "license" its landlords, thus increasing or maintaining responsibility toward the tenants.

From where I sit, this looks like an excellent idea. Even the threat of an inspection by the Village and the added accountability should be a comfort to renters. If and as Buffalo Grove is the only community in the area to adopt this plan, it could be good for the local economy by encouraging renters to consider and to stay.

It's good to see this community looking at it in terms of "residents" rather than just home owners. Having solid and responsible landlords helps to assure that all property taxes are paid and regulations are met.

Hopefully more communities will explore and implement a similar program.