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15 January 2010

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

Hello, from New York City, where REBar Camp and Inman Real Estate Connect were held this week. It’s been a busy few days spent among the best and brightest in the industry discussing 2010 trends and emerging technologies, which, not surprisingly, took center stage (check out our extensive videos from the week). As we were trying to stay warm in the Big Apple, many interesting things were happening…

A theory from history books and economists is that if the rate of unemployment declines, then the recession is on its way to recovery, which we started to see happening in July. Numbers released by RealtyTrac show foreclosure filings increased 14 percent in December from November, but were lower than in July. If the unemployment theory applies to the housing market, we could be seeing a steady and encouraging, albeit bumpy, decline in foreclosures.

Along the same line, Moody’s Economy.com predicts that about 2.4 million homes are expected to be lost to foreclosure, auction and other means in 2010, which will lead to falling home prices in the spring and summer. The number is very daunting, yes, but when compared to foreclosures in 2009, which reached 2.8 million, it appears we are on the right track. Who would have thought discouraging numbers like 2.4 million and an increase in December foreclosures would have us looking ahead to the light at the end of the tunnel?

Another glimmer of hope is in the 10.7 million families owing more than their homes are worth. This may also seem strange but, according to these numbers and the expected foreclosure numbers, only about 20 percent will actually file for foreclosure. That means that nearly 80 percent still recognize the value of owning a home.

With all this week’s marvelous speakers at Inman Connect, from a variety of different industries, I learned even more that the real estate industry does not work in a silo. This is evidenced by real estate agents in Manhattan growing excited by Wall Street bonuses, being distributed to big bankers this week. The expectation is that cash flow will boost sales in the City, particularly in the $2- to $5-million range. It will be interesting to see if this has a trickle down effect, hitting traditionally second home markets like Florida and Arizona. What do you think?

Now we all know that Trulia has revolutionized the industry for agents and consumers. But this week it made our lives a little easier (again!) with the launch of a new self-service ad platform that allows real estate agents to build ad campaigns targeting markets at the city and ZIP code level and then locking out the competition by purchasing a percentage share of the available space. There aren’t too many platforms that understand this business and can deliver results like that. Jump on it!

In other advertising news: although Google may be pulling out of China, that doesn’t mean it can’t help make our lives easier. For those of you who just bought a new billboard, rest assured that Google will update it in the Street View service (for a price, of course). Until now, the ads on Google’s popular mapping system have been sometimes years out of date. This new function is another way to get in front of a potential savvy home buyer who goes on a virtual tour of neighborhoods before house hunting in person. Also from Google is a new “Near Me Now” feature that allows for easy, localized, geo-enabled search for users to discover what’s within close proximity to where they are standing, from restaurants and gas stations to coffee shops. This tool will help home buyers familiarize themselves with an unfamiliar area and is another great tool for us to keep in mind and recommend.

Speaking of buyers, a recent Forrester Research survey on consumer interactions with companies shows that industries which perform well have always put their consumer interactions first as a means of differentiating themselves from the competition. As real estate agents, we can take a page out of these companies’ books as we consider how to treat our consumers as a top priority. On a similar note, what was originally meant as a marketing principal is valuable for us as we continue to discuss how to effectively use Twitter: using social media platforms not to solely push content, but to create a platform for people to hold conversations and discuss issues. Think of it more as a conversation with friends over coffee than your personal stage.

One last tool: If you or home buyers you’re working with are still confused about the government tax credit, visit HomeBuyerTaxcredit.com for up-to-the-minute information and in-depth support.

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