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12 February 2010

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

This week officially kicks off the beginning of real estate season or, as I like to say, the Real Estate New Year. The 2.9 percent increase over December on new “For Sale” homes in January certainly will help the market get off to a great start. I wish everyone a Happy Real Estate New Year and a very busy season!

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are finally coming to the rescue as they announced plans this week to ramp up purchases of some $200 billion “delinquent” home loans they’ve guaranteed. This is good news for the increasing number of borrowers (10 percent increase last month) who are reaching this mark. It’s not to say, though, that Fannie and Freddie are off the hook, as the agencies are still expected to need more money from the government.

In related news, activists and investors this week agreed that principal reductions are the best incentive for borrowers to ensure they continue making monthly mortgage payments. Big banks, Fannie and Freddie, and the Obama administration generally have resisted shrinking what borrowers owe since the Treasury Department is worried that if some borrowers get their principals reduced, even borrowers who aren’t behind will stop paying unless they get the same break. For those homeowners who are not fortunate enough to have government assistance and are facing foreclosure, mortgage lenders are trying to arrange smoother departures. The hope is this move will tremendously discourage people from trashing the homes on their way out. Good news for us in real estate who will eventually sell these homes.

In signs of a market turnaround, foreclosure filings were down 10 percent last month, according to RealtyTrac. Although we need to remember that foreclosures are still 15 percent higher than in January 2009, this decrease shows signs of life for our 2010 market. Another thing to be optimistic about: home builders are ramping up construction in anticipation of a buying surge caused by the tax credit. What a wonderful vote of confidence!

This week, there was further validation on something that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate has been saying for a while: 96 percent of Realtors believe buyers react better to fully-stage homes than vacant ones. On a similar note, new numbers reveal a 13 percent increase in the number of homeowners who say they will remodel in the next year. This could mean one of two things: people are planning to stay in their homes for a long time and want to update or people are making investments in their homes now in order sell them in a few years. What do you think?

One thing is for certain, any future home sellers or buyers will use the Internet as a tool. According to NAR, only 2 percent of home buyers used the Internet ten years ago when finding a home, yet today that number is around 90 percent. It makes you wonder what marginal technology home buyers are using today that will become the common practice in another decade. Any predictions?

Given the recent numbers that show Twitter membership is dwindling, people will likely argue the site will not be the home search companion in ten years. What do you predict for the platform’s future? A resurgence of growth and popularity or will it become the next Second Life, a social-media ghost town? In a social media league all its own, Facebook shows no signs of slowing down. It boasted this week more than 100 million active mobile users worldwide. That number is far below the site’s more than 300 million members. Wow.

Further proving social media’s complement to a brand experience, a survey of nearly 10,000 visitors to the 40 biggest U.S. retail sites found 56 percent of shoppers “friend,” “follow” or “subscribe” to a retailer on a social networking site. This is important to keep in mind as you consider your overall brand and its interaction with consumers. While we’re on the social media topic, what do you think about the new Google Buzz? Anyone plan to use it?

Brands were flocking to Foursquare this week, the location-based social network, as a bevy of new partnerships were announced. As ambassadors of our communities, brokers and agents should embrace the Foursquare concept to help virally promote new places and businesses in your area. Also focused on the hyper-local, Web-developer Outside.in can help you create a targeted, local ad on newspaper Web sites. This may be worth looking into as you plan your “New Year” marketing efforts.

Lastly, this week is arguably the most important of the year for advertisers, with just over half (51 percent) of people enjoying the Super Bowl more for the ads than the game. According to critics and consumers, among the best were from Doritos, Google, Snickers and Dove. What was your favorite?

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