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5 February 2010

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

We had a mixed bag of news this week. Do you want the good news or bad news first? A storm cloud hung over the many homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages who are paying as much as 25 percent more than homeowners with similar loans. Additionally, new research suggests that a large group of distressed homeowners are starting to walk away from their mortgages as their home’s value falls below 75 percent of the amount owed on the mortgage. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the U.S. economy grew at an accelerated pace in the last quarter of 2009 and, in January, consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month. These national indications of an economic improvement possibly played a part in the 21 percent surge of mortgage applications in January, returning to pre-holiday levels. Additionally, the number of people preparing to buy a home in December rose one percent from the month before. The flurry of activity is certain to help one of the largest homebuilders in the United States, D. R. Horton—which reported its first quarterly profit in almost three years—continue to be “in the black.”

In Trulia’s latest American Dream survey, three in four Americans consider owning a home a part of achieving their personal American dream. Thirty-seven percent surveyed, however, believe President Obama is not helping to restore homeownership. The proposal from the Obama administration to offset a slash on upfront premiums on FHA mortgage insurance will increase annual premiums by 70 percent. How do you think this will alter next year’s American Dream survey of the president? It will also be interesting to see what the future holds for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the Obama administration continues to “monitor the situation” closely. Stay tuned…

In what may become a new American dream of sorts, some are about to start fast-flipping houses as the FHA is revising its long-standing “anti-flipping” rules. The revised rules will allow flippers to sell their flipped properties as soon as they are ready—which is often before the former 90-day limit. Let the flipping begin!

Not only are first-time home buyers the largest share of home sales in many markets, but they also represent the fastest-growing segment. At the same time, second homes and move-up homes are the most rapidly shrinking segment. With this segment staying in their homes and first-time home buyers looking to buy, it will be interesting to see where these two will meet… likely at a stalemate in the middle. The much anticipated Realtors Property Resources, which will give realtors access to data, from tax assessment to demographic information, on every property in the country will begin beta testing in March. How do you think this will change our jobs and reach these two segments?

For those communicating with current and potential clients through mass emails, it is safe to assume that one in five people never receive your communication, according to new research. It is essential to follow up with other forms of communication and, according to new research from Nielsen, two channels that may be worth focusing on are online advertisements and traditional public relations efforts. That’s because newspaper Web site traffic increased 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, over a year prior. Turns out traditional media isn’t dead!

On to social media, while most of us would kill for 6.2 million new customers a month, for Twitter that number represents a 20 percent decrease in new users from its July 2009 peak. The average user, however, is more engaged today than they were six months ago, so Twitter must be doing something right! Part of the reason consumers may be more engaged could be because brands are engaging them. Skittle’s, for example, re-launched its Web site allowing consumers to share all its content automatically through Facebook and Twitter. What a great way to give consumers an opportunity to spread the word! Certainly we can all learn from this.

In marketing news… Big brands like Microsoft, Kraft Foods and Nestle recently began reinventing the 1950’s Tupperware party by enlisting consumers to throw parties in their homes and sell products directly to their friends and families. Looks like they understand the home-centric mentality of today’s consumer – something our industry has been saying for months. Glad we’re all on the same page! 🙂

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