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18 December 2009

Week in Review: Things We Liked from the Week That Was

Happy Holidays! As we look forward to a New Year, we may not see the real estate market recover as much as we all hope. In the Chinese calendar, 2010 will be the Year of the Tiger, which seems appropriate as the animal represents unpredictability. We have seen improvement in the past few months, but it may be until 2012 before we have fully recovered. The Federal Reserve forecasts unemployment will remain well above 9 percent in 2010 causing foreclosures to climb and dragging down home costs. So although the commerce department reported the pace of new residential construction picked up last month, giving hope that the housing recovery would carry its momentum into next year, we need to be realistic with each new report. New business models and sustainable business practices, something we discuss frequently at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, will become even more important as we all continue on our road to recovery.

With all that in mind, people are getting creative with mortgages and refinancing for 15-year loans, as opposed to the traditional 30-year. Also, as we discussed last week, there is a growing demand for rentals, evidenced again this week by Zillow’s new rental search, which offers visitors the ability to use a monthly payment tracker to search for homes and rentals they can afford side by side on a map.

The environment has taken center stage this week while world leaders gather in Copenhagen at the climate summit. It should be no surprise, then, that eco-friendly housing programs came to light. A new report by Vice President Joe Biden projects that the Recovery Act will help fund the installation of smart meters, which track energy usage by month, week and even hour in 18 million homes. Additionally, a proposed “cash for caulkers” program will aim to encourage homeowners to invest in things like caulking air leaks and installing insulation and more efficient heating and cooling equipment. Although in its infancy with significant details yet to be worked out, the plan is estimated to save homeowners up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. In my opinion, anything that saves homeowners money and stress is great for our industry!

In marketing news, according to RISMedia, “Ninety percent of agents and brokers fail in their Internet marketing efforts. In most industries, failure rates of 90 percent results in a complete change in the way things get done. In real estate, however, the same old things that don’t work continue to be treated as ‘must haves’ for every agent.” So this brings me to the question: What are we doing wrong? If 90 percent are failing, that does mean 10 percent of us are not. We need to collaborate and share our best practices so we’re not making each other’s mistakes. Leave a comment below and tell us all what has worked for you.

On the social media front or, in this case, the almost anti-social media front, research from ShareThis and Nielsen Company confirm that email is still the channel preferred for sharing content. In fact, email beat Facebook by 13 percent and Twitter by 40 percent as the preferred method. This is especially interesting as we consider how to communicate with potential or existing consumers. Although social networking can be beneficial, it is important to remember that email is still far more important – at least for now.

Also this week, HomeFinder.com launched an “Open Houses” iPhone application dedicated to helping homebuyers find open houses and connect with a local Realtor. An iPhone truly is a homebuyer’s best friend these days and we hope you’ll all consider downloading these helpful applications, including our own, to help make your and your homebuyers’ and sellers’ lives easier.

And lastly, although it may be unrelated to real estate, in last week’s blog I dreamed of a day when an application would do my shopping for me. Well, in less than one week, that day arrived. Sears this week launched a “personal shopper” iPhone application. Do you think they read my blog??

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