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29 January 2010

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

Although President Obama said in his State of the Union Address that the worst is over, we know—at least for the housing market—that we still have a steep hill ahead of us to climb. That’s because everyone loves a good deal, and shoppers in the housing market are no exception. People looking to buy are flocking to the cheapest, most distressed homes on the block and the demand for these lower-end properties has sparked a return to bidding wars in some areas. New-home buyers are also opting for smaller houses, driving down the average size of a house built in the United States for the first time in 27 years. It is interesting how the current economy is changing home buyer preferences!

We also discovered this week that sales of previously owned homes fell 16.7 percent in December from the month before, after a looming tax-credit deadline led to a flurry of buying decisions in previous months. The last month of the year is typically a slow month in real estate, but some are saying sales dropped partly because buyers are having trouble meeting tough criteria for mortgage loans. According to The Wall Street Journal, “The housing market isn’t yet in the clear, but it’s also not as weak as [December] home-sales report might suggest.” The silver lining? Buyers are currently willing to buy homes but they are waiting to make final decisions until right before the tax credit ends. Guess we’ll be riding the wave until April.

As the December numbers for existing home purchases were published this week, the Federal Reserve also announced that it will end its $1.25 trillion mortgage-buying spree. This makes some in the industry nervous that the market will not be able to improve without ample government assistance. What do you think?

We have been discussing the move-up buyer market a lot recently. Survey results from the National Association of Home Builders give us a window into the housing preferences of the 55+ consumer. The 55-to-64-year-old age group showed more interest in technology-heavy features and the 65+ group have a stronger preference for a single-story floor plan or one with a first-floor master bedroom. This is something to keep in mind as we work with this important and growing demographic. For all homebuyers, another survey out this week showed the ten most important features in a home. Topping the list, not surprisingly, is a large kitchen. More interestingly, however, energy-efficient appliances, high-efficiency insulation and high window efficiency ranked not far behind. If you ask me, going green to gain some green (cash) is a good philosophy.

The biggest technology news this week was the official announcement of the iPad, Apple’s long-rumored tablet device. What does this mean for agents? With today’s virtual office, it will improve our showmanship of applications as we work with buyers and sellers in homes and improve our quality of our life with its impressive calendar, on-the-go reading capabilities and more. (Not to mention impress clients with how tech-savvy we are!) Best of all, though, if you’ve been to a real estate conference you can agree that most of us will know how to use the iPad on day one because it’s basically a giant iPhone. We know how to use that! Do you plan to purchase one?

Now, let’s jump into the social media world. If you are looking for an easy way to know what people are talking about via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other sources, search technology company Factery Labs unveiled a real-time search engine this week that allows you to choose from predefined categories or set up your own topic of interest by typing in a term. Also this week, Twitter announced a new system that displays Tweet trends in specific and localized areas. These are great tools that will help us stay abreast of trends within our industry and local communities.

With all the time we’re gaining using these new tools, don’t think you can now add more viral friends! Although it sometimes seems manageable to have hundreds of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, we should keep in mind that humans can handle only 150 meaningful relationships at a time. Although I like to believe I am close will all of my virtual friends, it turns out it is not humanly possible. I do, however, love and appreciate all of you!

On the advertising front, for those of you who are still not seeing the positive affects of digital advertising, it is most likely the creative efforts that need improving, not the medium, according to an advertising effectiveness consultant, Philip W. Sawyer. He offered tips this week on how to get the most of online advertising. What are your thoughts on online advertising? Any success stories or lessons learned?

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