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Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

What to Know About Working With Affluent International Buyers

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 13:06

As a successful real estate professional, international buyers could become an integral part of your business; however, it can be a bit intimidating to figure out how to capture this market. Just as in any real estate market niche, networking and connections are imperative to forming lasting relationships with affluent international prospects.

What are some ways to meet an international buyer?
Networking is essential. Once you’ve targeted your feeder market, finding buyers can be exponentially easier, as one client can lead to 10 other potential clients. Attending real estate events in the desired market can be a good move, as meeting in person generally forges strong relationships. Can’t make the trip? Try using social media or tools such as Proxio Connect to virtually begin relationships with agents based in different countries.

How do I break into a market if I don’t speak the language?
Clients want to feel respected, listened to and comfortable, and there are ways to check those boxes if you get creative. For example, research their culture and what’s expected as a common courtesy before approaching them to work together. “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries” is an excellent one-stop resource written by Terri Morrison. Learn if it’s appropriate to send a gift, or if it would be considered offensive, as well as many other potential missteps you could make—and how to avoid them.

What are some technology hacks to attract international buyers?
First, making sure your business is mobile-friendly is key when looking to attract an international audience. A simple layout usually works best, especially when prospective clients might not speak the same language. Visual-heavy content is also a good idea, as pictures speak volumes to what you offer as a real estate agent. In general, making sure your social media channels are cohesive and up to date is an easy way to ensure that your brand is taken seriously by potential buyers.

Which international markets are attractive?
China, in particular, has shown immense growth, currently home to 26 of the 30 fastest-growing cities. India is also growing quickly and shows potential to be a powerhouse when it comes to luxury real estate. There are specific markets in the U.S. that attract international buyers at all economic levels, as well. You can get updated data on these luxury markets through our monthly Luxury Market Report, and for information on international markets, Wealth-X and Wealth Engine both produce outstanding and comprehensive reports on global wealth.

Finding and locking in international business comes down to opportunity meeting preparation. Catering to the needs of the international client may require you to do more research, invest in different tools or get on an airplane to visit your target market; however, the results could take your real estate career to the next level.

Diane Hartley is president of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, an independent authority in training and designation for real estate agents working in the luxury residential market. She is passionate about luxury marketing and has more than 20 years of experience working with the affluent market. For more information, please visit www.luxuryhomemarketing.com.

The post What to Know About Working With Affluent International Buyers appeared first on RISMedia.

New MVP Offer for Members!

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 13:05

NAR PULSE—Learning is unlimited through the MVP program. Use the NAR Library to your advantage and download FREE eBooks of your choice to earn a free download of “Video in Real Estate: Tapping Into 4 Billion Views.” Act by August 15 to receive your reward!

Limited-Time Hawaiian Sweepstakes From Hertz
Say “aloha” to your dream vacation from REALTOR Benefits® partner Hertz. NAR members can enter for a chance to win a trip to Maui* that includes:

  • Round-trip, first-class airfare for four to Maui
  • Seven-day/six-night accommodations
  • Luxury car rental from Hertz
  • $2,000 credit toward Hawaiian excursions

Sweepstakes ends 8/31/2019. Learn more.

Earn 2 entries when you add your Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® member number to your entry.

*No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of 48 U.S. and D.C. who are 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Subject to official rules.

Volunteer at Your Local BGCA This Summer!
Searching for ways to get involved in your community this summer? Consider volunteering at your local Club and assisting with various Club programs! The Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS® (EBCBOR) volunteered at their local Boys & Girls Club of Lodi/Hackensack/Teaneck and donated $1,000 to be used to benefit their Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyle and Citizenship programs. For more ways to get involved and to read success stories, visit NAR.realtor/BGCA. Be sure to let us know how you’re making a difference with BGCA by emailing narbgca@realtors.org

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Homebuyers With Kids Prioritize Schools and Size: NAR

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 13:04

For families with kids, it all comes down to schools and size, according to findings from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), released this week.

In the latest Moving With Kids report:

  • 53 percent of buyers with children considered the neighborhood’s quality of schools in their search;
  • 50 percent of buyers with children chose their neighborhood based on proximity to schools; and
  • 25 percent of homeowners with kids moved for more space, on average 2,110 square feet, with four bedrooms and two full baths.

“Parents inherently make sacrifices for their children and family, and that is no different when shopping for a home,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “Of course, affordability is a part of the decision, but we have seen buyers with kids willing to spend a little more in order to land a home in a better school zone or district.”

For buyers with children, childcare costs can hinder their home purchase, according to the report; in fact, 26 percent burdened by costs delayed their purchase. Of buyers with childcare expenses who made a purchase, 31 percent compromised on the condition of the home, and another 31 percent compromised on size. Twenty-four percent compromised on price. For both buyers with and without children, the biggest challenge was finding the ideal property.

“When buying or selling a home, exercising patience is beneficial,” says Yun, “but in some cases—such as facing an upcoming school year or the outgrowing of a home—sellers find themselves rushed and forced to accept a less than ideal offer.”

For 23 percent of homeowners with kids, closing quickly was vital, and for 46 percent, “somewhat urgent,” the report shows. By comparison, just 14 percent of homeowners without kids needed to quickly sell.

Across all buyers, more than 85 percent enlisted a REALTOR® in the transaction. In communications with their REALTOR®, however, 67 percent of buyers with children preferred texting, while 74 percent of buyers without children favored a phone call.

“The report’s findings showed that both buyers and sellers, especially those with kids, are often dealing with a time crunch of some sort, trying to house-hunt while simultaneously raising a family,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Tech-savvy REALTORS® recognize this predicament and are meeting clients’ needs by contacting them via smartphone and text message.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.  

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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These Are the Biggest Mistakes People Make With Social Security

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 13:02

(TNS)—Navigating Social Security can be cumbersome, to say the least. Even basic questions such as when you should retire can come to take on an immense and sometimes desperate tone as you try to make a decision that doesn’t screw up your retirement beyond repair.

Bankrate spoke with some experts to get their take on some of the biggest mistakes you can make with Social Security. Here’s what you should try to avoid doing as you navigate Social Security’s labyrinth.

Stick to a One-Size-Fits-All Strategy
The biggest mistake people make is “they do a quick Google search and take information that is meant to be very much at the macro level, and thus not individualized,” says Daniel Milan, managing partner of Cornerstone Financial Services. Often, they “fail to take into account their own household budget, financial needs and outside investment income.”

Since life situations can be different, it’s necessary to have a personalized approach that helps you optimize your retirement. And Social Security is not a “one-size-fits-all” experience. Social Security is complex. While that’s partly by design to help as many people as possible, it still creates a lot of headaches for those nearing retirement. While many retirees have a straightforward experience, others need and can receive specialized aid from the program.

“There are so many different strategies that exist when it comes to collecting benefits, and so many variables to consider, that listening to advice painted with a broad brush can prove to be detrimental,” says Cory Bittner, co-founder and COO of Falcon Wealth Advisors.

“Creating a financial plan and understanding the inner workings of it should be a prerequisite before making the decision to file to collect benefits,” says Bittner. He suggests people look for a financial adviser who is a fiduciary and is experienced at planning for retirement.

Misunderstanding How Much Money You’ll Receive
If you’ve been working and contributing to the Social Security fund, then you’ve likely received a statement of benefits, an estimate of what you might likely receive in the future. But that figure can be misleading in several ways, and you need to understand what’s driving the estimate.

“People see their statements, the dollar amount that is listed on the front, and assume that’s what they will start receiving monthly whenever they begin filing for their benefits,” says Bittner.

“However, the amount reflected on the front page of a Social Security statement is typically the amount someone will receive if they wait until their full retirement age to begin collecting benefits, and it assumes they work until that age and contribute to Social Security,” he says.

So if you stop working immediately at the earliest age to collect your benefits and don’t wait, don’t expect the full amount. In addition, this dollar amount is pre-tax, so you’ll have to figure how much tax will be stripped from your monthly check before you actually receive it.

As you’re planning your retirement budget, you’ll need to carefully assess how much money will actually make its way into your pocket.

Assuming Social Security Will Fully Cover Your Expenses
After a lifetime of working, many people assume that Social Security will meet their needs when they can no longer clock in. But unless your budget is minimal, that probably won’t be the case.

“The biggest mistake people make is thinking Social Security will be sufficient to retire on without also cutting one’s standard of living significantly,” says Ryan McMaken, economist and fellow at the Mises Institute, an economics think tank.

“If they try to fund their entire retirement on Social Security, they’re going to quickly find they’ll need to downsize in terms of housing and also in transportation and entertainment,” he says.

“Social Security is only designed to replace about 40 percent of your income,” says Tony Drake, a CFP and founder of Drake & Associates. “Most people will need at least 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to maintain the lifestyle they want in retirement.”

And with all that free time in retirement, you may be inclined to increase your spending well beyond that 80 percent level, Drake suggests. Healthcare is another expense that may consume a much larger portion of retirees’ budgets than they initially suspect.

So with the limited nature of Social Security, retirees who want to live large in their golden years must make sure that they have other sources of income. Many workers turn to their company’s 401(k) plan, but many other attractive options exist to fund retirement.

Not Making Extra Preparations, as a Woman
For a variety of reasons, women need to be extra prepared when planning for retirement. Women typically earn less than men over their working careers, and studies have shown that women have longer lifespans on average compared to men, leaving many widows with substantial financial needs, for example.

“While Social Security benefits are neutral when it comes to gender, there are many factors that women need to consider with regard to their benefits,” says Mary Ann Ferreira, a certified financial planner at Viridian Advisors.

“Women who work outside the home typically miss an average of 11.5 years of employment due to childcare and care of elderly parents.” She also notes the substantial gender pay gap.

And those lower lifetime earnings carry on into retirement, with smaller retirement accounts and a lower Social Security payout.

She sees many women working longer and saving more in order to cope with the challenge. “Many women are considering retiring at 70 rather than the full retirement age of 66 or 67. In doing so, they may boost their Social Security benefits by as much as 24 percent,” she says.

In addition to spousal support benefits that surviving spouses may receive, divorcees may also receive benefits.

“I find that women typically forget that they are eligible for divorced spousal and survivor benefits if they were married for over 10 years,” says John Foxworthy, director of Financial Planning at Foxworthy Wealth Advisors. “If they have been divorced for more than two years, the ex-spouse doesn’t even need to file in order to receive the divorced spouse benefit.”

Foxworthy says that the ex-spouse is not notified of the benefits election, so “there is no need to worry about a long-lost ex-spouse finding out that you are taking benefits on their record.”

Taking Social Security at the Wrong Time
And the question that keeps soon-to-be retirees up at night: When should they take their benefits? That depends heavily on their unique situation, but one of the biggest blunders is even simpler: failing to calculate what the best option is.

“The biggest mistake that I see most regularly is when people elect their benefits without doing the math first,” says Foxworthy. “There really isn’t a ‘do-over’ when it comes to Social Security, and the vast majority of people are leaving money on the table.”

Foxworthy details a situation involving a married couple, both of whom turned 62 years old and were planning on filing for benefits immediately. “We ran an analysis and uncovered a strategy to elect benefits that will get them $221,000 more over their lifetime,” he says. “That much money can have a significant impact on their retirement picture.”

Retirees who can go a few extra years without claiming their benefits can continue contributing to the program and increase their benefits at the same time.

“Claiming Social Security too soon is one of the most common mistakes we see,” says Drake. “Although 62 is the earliest and most popular age to claim your benefits, your monthly check will be permanently reduced by about 25 percent or more.”

To get your full benefit, you have to wait until full retirement age, between 66 and 67, he says.

But there’s potential for more. “There’s an added benefit to waiting to claim after you hit full retirement age. Your benefit increases by as much as 8 percent each year until you reach age 70.”

Bottom Line
Because Social Security is so complex, it’s tough to navigate, maximize your benefits or even just figure out where to begin. Even if you don’t quite maximize your payouts, it’s beneficial to know the mistakes to avoid. Most notably, you’ll want to know how much money you’ll receive and develop personalized strategies—perhaps with a financial adviser—that best fit your needs. 

©2019 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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CLOSING THIS WEEK: Make Your Newsmaker Nomination Today!

Sun, 08/11/2019 - 10:06
https://rismedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Newsmakers-Video-070919_Opt.mp4

 

RISMedia is accepting nominations for the 2020 Class of Real Estate Newsmakers, those individuals making headlines for their newsworthy contributions to the housing industry, and for their efforts to positively affect the consumers and communities they serve. The deadline for nominations is August 15, 2019.

Nominate a Newsmaker

Readers may nominate as many individuals as they like, as well as themselves, and nominees can be from any walk of the residential or commercial real estate industries, including, but not limited to: brokers, agents, service providers, professionals from the mortgage, title, insurance sectors, etc.

Candidates can be selected as an RISMedia Real Estate Newsmaker for a range of accomplishments, including, but not limited to:

  • Advancing the industry
  • Impacting change
  • Technology achievements
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Business accomplishments and growth
  • Humanitarian efforts
  • Industry activism and support
  • Thought leadership and influence
  • Excellence in customer service
  • Creativity and innovation

To make your Newsmaker nomination, please visit rismedia.com/newsmaker-nomination. Here, you will find additional information about the nomination process, and the forms to nominate yourself or your candidate(s).

RISMedia’s 2020 Class of Real Estate Newsmakers, chosen by the editors at RISMedia, will be showcased in an RISMedia Real Estate magazine special supplement and in a directory on RISMedia.com. More than 230 Newsmakers were recognized in 2019. This number is expected to significantly increase for 2020.

The 2020 Class of Real Estate Newsmakers will also be honored at the Real Estate Newsmakers Reception & Dinner, held in May 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. During the event, a select group of Newsmakers will be inducted into the Real Estate Newsmakers Hall of Fame. Ten individuals in the 2019 Class of Real Estate Newsmakers were inducted this May.

Share your Newsmaker’s story with us and help us honor those making a difference in real estate. For questions, please email editorial@rismedia.com.

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Ben Caballero: Breaking Records in the Builder Segment

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 21:00

Vitals: HomesUSA.com
Years in Business: 12
Region Served: Texas
2018 Sales Volume: $2.2 billion
2018 Transactions: 5,801
www.HOMESusa.com

It’s not often that you see the name of a real estate pro in “The Guinness Book of World Records,” but Ben Caballero, founder and CEO of HomesUSA.com, is in there for being “the most productive real estate agent in the world.”

Caballero is not a typical broker. He invented the HomesUSA.com platform, an online technology for builders, which enables him to achieve such remarkable sales numbers, and, as such, has become one of America’s top-ranked brokers.

To what do you owe your success?
Ben Caballero: I work with homebuilders and not individuals. We’re open seven days a week, just like builders are, and we take care of them without delay, so they’re all really happy.

You only sell new-construction residential properties and only work with volume builders. Why did you choose that strategy?
BC: I was a homebuilder for 18 years, and during that time, I was also licensed to broker. When I would put my homes on the MLS, I noticed that it was real spotty. I transitioned out of that business and started listing homes for builders, but it was still spotty because there was no real system. By the time I got up to a couple thousand homes a year, it was unmanageable. That’s when I decided to create an online process, which we launched in 2007, and continue to improve.

Yours is a unique platform. Why do you feel it works?
BC: We have a team of developers who are constantly working to make it better. It’s designed for production builders. Someone who builds five to 10 homes a year doesn’t need us because they can manage it. When they’re listing several hundred homes a year—and we even have one builder who has several thousand homes—there’s no way they can manage that with just spreadsheets. Our model works well because we have a very sophisticated platform. It’s been designed specifically for a particular type of client, and everything it does is for them.

What sort of staff do you have in place?
BC: I have a support staff and a team of developers who keep the system up to date. We have customer service people who receive the data, review it and upload it into the MLS. And if a client has a question, we have online chats with people who can answer any requests they have.

You only deal in Texas properties. Are there plans to expand to other states?
BC: Our platform is scalable, and we’re working hard to scale into other markets. The builders in other markets are the same as those here, and we can certainly do for them what we do here.

What are you seeing in the Texas market? How has it fared in 2019?
BC: We’re kind of flat compared to last year, but 2018 was one of the best years we’ve had in a long time. I’ll be happy with a stable, flat year this year. We also hit a little bump around the last quarter of 2018 that spilled into the first quarter of this year with interest rates. That caused the market to hesitate, and we’re seeing the impact of that. But it does appear to be coming back. At our worst month, we were down about 20 percent.

What is your relationship with traditional brokers and agents?
BC: If REALTORS® see HomesUSA on an MLS listing, they know it’s going to be good information, and they’ll be more inclined to take their clients out to the home.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Explosion Real Estate Conference Returns—Find Out Who’ll Be There!

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 13:21

The Explosion Real Estate Conference is back for its third year, August 19-21, with attendees expected from more than 40 markets this year. Based at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate’s mega office in Omaha, Neb., the action-packed event features high-performing REALTORS® and teams, as well as industry leaders, including:

Gino Blefari, Chairman, HSF Affiliates

 

Chris Stuart, CEO, HSF Affiliates

 

Allan Dalton, Senior VP, Research & Development, HSF Affiliates

 

John Featherston, CEO, RISMedia

 

In addition, attendees will hear from a lineup of panelists on relevant topics, and participate in one-hour roundtables, designed to share strategies, stories and successes. There will also be breakout sessions on specific topics, including investing, luxury, staging, teams, and more, and networking opportunities, including a mega office tour.

“Our Explosion events are filling a void that has long existed in real estate, specifically a conference completely devoted to how to enrich the lives of consumers,” says Vince Leisey, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate CEO and the conference’s founder. “Our attendees appreciate that they only enjoy greater career rewards through first elevating the service they provide the ever more sophisticated and empowered consumers they serve.”

In 2018, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate was named No. 2 in Entrepreneur magazine’s “Top Company Cultures” ranking. The Ambassador Real Estate mega office is 81,000 square feet.

Learn more and register today!

The post Explosion Real Estate Conference Returns—Find Out Who’ll Be There! appeared first on RISMedia.

2020 Recession Watch: History Says…

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 13:18

Analysts are eyeing a recession in 2020, but expelling fears of a Great Recession—and, another crisis in the housing market, according to findings from Zillow, released this week.

When asked to pinpoint the recession’s timing, experts favored Q3 2020, according to the survey, conducted in conjunction with Pulsenomics. More than 100 economists and experts participated in the survey.

Aside from the 2008 meltdown, downturns have largely left the market unscathed, according to research by Zillow. In fact, historically, appreciation remained strong, even in periods of recession. Since 1997, appreciation averaged 4.6 percent during economic expansions, and 4 percent in slowdowns—and in that time, there were two major national recessions: the Dot-Com Bubble and the Great Recession. Additionally, of the more than 1,000 recessions regionally and/or in a specific state in that timeframe, annual appreciation leaned majority-positive.

Of the respondents to the survey, 51 percent anticipate demand in the housing market to moderate in 2020, and 32 percent expect it to mirror 2019, when it is largely predicted to remain the same or soften.

“As we look ahead to the next recession, it’s important to recognize how unusual the conditions were that caused the last one, and what’s different about the housing market today,” says Jeff Tucker, economist at Zillow. “Rather than abundant homes, we have a shortage of new-home supply. Rather than risky borrowers taking on adjustable-rate mortgages, we have buyers with sterling credit scores taking out predictable 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. The housing market is simply much less risky than it was 15 years ago, and our experience in recent localized recessions shows how home prices can weather normal economic headwinds.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.  

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Home Prices Up, Grow in 91 Percent of Markets

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 13:05

In the majority of metropolitan regions, home prices remain on the rise, according to the latest National Association of REALTORS® quarterly report, released this week.

Across the largest markets in the U.S., 91 percent posted upticks, escalating the median nationally to $279,600—a 4.3 percent gain year-over-year.

With an absence of inventory in the most-needed price ranges, the boost is encumbering sales, which, on an annual basis, declined 2.2 percent in June. According to the report, 1.93 million homes were on the market in Q2, approximately the same as this time in 2018, at 4.4 months’ supply.

“New-home construction is greatly needed; however, home construction fell in the first half of the year,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “This leads to continuing tight inventory conditions, especially at more affordable price points. Home prices are mildly reaccelerating as a result.”

Construction decreased 0.9 percent in June, the Commerce Department recently reported.

Amid inventory pressures, the ability to afford a home is waning, as earnings fail to keep pace with prices. According to the NAR report, although household incomes in Q2 rose to $78,366 (the median nationally), appreciation in the housing market surpassed it—a concern, and especially in expensive markets. Considering the median national price, a buyer with a 5 percent down payment needs $62,192; at 10 percent down, $58,918; and at 20 percent down, $52,372.

In costlier markets, prices reversed, specifically in San Jose, down 5.3 percent in Q2; in San Francisco, down 1.9 percent; and in Honolulu, down 1.2 percent, the report shows. On the other end of the spectrum, in areas like Boise; Burlington, Vt.; and Columbia, Mo., prices surged, climbing by double digits.

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” Yun says. “This is evident in the very expensive markets, as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”

Affordability could revive, according to Yun, if conditions hold for low mortgage rates—and broader factors in the economy strengthen.

“The exceptionally low mortgage rates will help with housing affordability over the short run, but if the low interest rates are due to weakening economic confidence, as reflected from a correction in the stock market, then the low rates will not help with job growth and will eventually hinder home-buying and home construction,” he says.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced a cut to interest rates, but its affect on the housing market remains to be seen. 

Highest Prices 

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. – $1,330,000
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. – $1,050,000
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. – $835,000
  • Honolulu, Hawaii – $785,500
  • San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. – $655,000

Lowest Prices 

  • Decatur, Ill. – $97,500
  • Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio – $107,400
  • Cumberland, Md. – $117,800
  • Binghamton, N.Y. – $119,300
  • Elmira, N.Y. – $119,400

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.  

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Are You Missing Out on Instant Savings?

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:40

NAR PULSE—Discover NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, your official NAR member benefits resource, bringing you savings and special offers for REALTORS® from more than 30 carefully selected industry-leading companies. Partners include REALTORS® Insurance Marketplace (offering a full array of health and wellness solutions), FCA US LLC (including Jeep®), FedEx, Sprint®, Liberty Mutual, Dell, DocuSign and more. Find out more.

NAR Wins 2019 Sustainability Award
NAR is pleased to announce that it has won a 2019 Sustainability Award from Business Intelligence Group for the work it’s done since implementing the association-wide Sustainability Program in 2017. The program has catalyzed a surge of member interest and support, introducing corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line concepts for NAR’s decision-making practices. Learn more. 

Sprint Rolls Out New Savings for REALTORS®
Wireless service is one of NAR’s most requested benefits and Sprint, a REALTOR Benefits® Program partner, is offering exciting new discounts for REALTORS®, including a $100 bill credit opportunity, up to 25% savings on accessories, and more. Please share these details with your agents.

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Magnifying a Hazy Rental Market

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:37

Rental Beast Hands Agents Their Own Pair of Binoculars, Putting Profits in Focus

The rental industry has always been challenged when it comes to empowering agents. That’s how the idea for Rental Beast, an MLS for rentals to make agents’ lives easier, was born, says CEO Ishay Grinberg. The agent-turned-broker became well-acquainted with rentals during the start of his career, and quickly isolated the pain point: a fragmented marketplace in which agents were unable to truly engage and succeed with rentals.

Grinberg’s first commission was a testament to the work that needed to be done from within the industry. After working three months as an agent, he made $182.50—little reward for someone who spent his first months on the job working as hard as anyone could work.

“In my view, this wasn’t a 9-to-5 job. It was eight days a week hustling as hard as I could, and that low commission was very deflating,” he says.

And that’s why he set a goal.

“In any market we exist, we want to provide 100 percent of the total inventory of the rental marketplace. By doing that, we can supercharge careers,” says Grinberg. “Commissionable transactions happen in three days instead of three months, or nationally six months—with immediate income, instead of an eventual $9K in first-year commissions.”

The biggest value-add for agents is in the data Rental Beast provides.

“No other company has a robust, multi-sourced, constantly evolving repository of all things rentals. Our database is like a powerful pair of binoculars. With them, we see further down the road than anyone else,” says Grinberg.

With easier access to this information, today’s agents can better leverage their tenant and rental listing prospects to build a profitable business.

“In this way, Rental Beast makes a real estate career a reality,” says Grinberg. “When you use the rental platform, you close rental deals in a few days and make exponentially more income. Agents’ commission income increases by 50 percent all the way to 500 percent, with an average increase of 102 percent over the first 12 months. We’re pretty excited about that.”

Through Rental Beast University—an online education platform that helps agents maximize the software and their interactions through boot camps with one-on-one coaching, recorded webinars and resource guides—the true earning potential is highlighted. The key is taking advantage of the natural transition from renting to homeownership.

“Ideally, we’re teaching agents to see themselves as a business and think like a business,” says Emily Trainor, director of Training and Education at Rental Beast, who adds that the majority of clients weren’t receiving any rental training. Of top priority is helping enlighten agents to the value of rentals in the current marketplace, and how business can quickly ramp up when a tenant chooses to buy. But this also means teaching them to thrive in a market that can quickly shift.

“The home sales cycle is going into a bit of a down cycle,” says Grinberg, “so in the short term, agents need to be equipped to have sustainable income, even in a down market.”

According to Trainor, most of the agents completing the flagship course are closing their first rental deals and getting their first clients “right away.”

“Emily is doing a great job in providing a helpful and nurturing environment for agents to hone their craft,” says Grinberg. “She’s built our library of coursework, as well as an interactive community with forums and content for agents, of any experience level, to build and enhance their skills.”

Trainor says the agent role is always top of mind for the company, which offers the only end-to-end platform that helps agents close efficient and profitable rental transactions.

“We’re constantly thinking about everything an agent has to do, and how we can make that easier for them,” says Trainor, who adds that they continuously survey agents at various customer touch points, broker events and conventions. “Agents have great ideas on how they want to improve and what they need to have more success in the real estate market.”

“Within the platform lives a never-ending client feedback loop,” says Grinberg. “It drives our innovation and is the motivation for constantly improving on what we deliver to our customers.”

This constant goal of agent improvement has helped set Rental Beast apart within the rental space.

“We’re about to roll out a set of powerful tools for listing agents,” says Grinberg. “They’re designed to help agents be successful when working with landlords and investors. Agents will have access to comp reports and sophisticated marketing tools, including syndication options, presentations and marketing materials with slick designs that agents can plug-and-play and give to a landlord, and much more.

“We have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to product innovation,” adds Grinberg. “We let our customers guide our continuing innovations. We want to help them generate commissions faster, to get a piece of the $12 billion in annual available rental commissions and build a robust pipeline of renters turning into homebuyers. Our first ground rule for the platform is that it must facilitate that.”

For more information, please visit www.rentalbeast.com.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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MLS Basic Service: How the Broker Public Portal Helps You Win Back the Consumer

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:33

The lightning success of the Broker Public Portal (BPP) has given more than one million real estate agents access to Homesnap technology. And now, engaging millions of consumers everywhere is how BPP with Homesnap will provide consumers a superior alternative to advertising portals.

Make no mistake: Our industry has allowed the advertising portals to get between brokers and consumers. But the industry now provides every consumer a better choice by connecting them to licensed professionals who list and sell homes, not ads. By partnering with BPP with Homesnap, MLSs empower, launch and maintain the most powerful consumer-facing search experience that promotes and honors the listing firm and the buyer’s agent without ads and advertising fees.

MLSs With BPP Can Help You Succeed
Momentum is on the BPP’s side. So is the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) policy. Six years ago, NAR made public-facing websites a basic service, spelling out that MLSs are able to charge all members for both operation and promotion of these sites. A national MLS consumer site makes sense, drawing collaboration from all MLSs and brokers nationwide.

Partnering with the BPP to deliver a public-facing website solution is the clear winning strategy. The Broker Public Portal with Homesnap is now the second-largest MLS consumer website right behind HAR.com, according to Hitwise, the nation’s leading source for measuring real estate web traffic. HAR.com does an excellent job in Texas and for consumers looking to move to Texas. Today, HAR.com generates more local traffic than Zillow in Houston.

But the average MLS can’t compete against Zillow in their own city or even other ad portals, and certainly not for $1 per agent per month, the cost to an MLS to join the BPP with Homesnap. MLSs that build their own solution need to have vast expertise and tremendous marketing in order to generate any meaningful impact in attracting consumers.

Homesnap now also offers a local public-facing website solution, providing the same hub-and-spoke design that brokerages use, with Homesnap.com as the hub and individual MLS websites as the spokes. Homesnap can create a local public-facing website at no additional cost for MLSs who partner with the BPP, an example of which can be found at www.wisconsinhomes.com.

How Can the BPP Help You?
Every MLS in America should offer agents and brokers Homesnap and feature a download link prominently on their homepage. And every agent should invite every single client to download it. Why?

  • Only Homesnap supports the Fair Display Guidelines that guarantee that if it’s your listing, it’s your lead and no other agent’s ads appear on any of your listings.
  • Your brokerage gets the No. 1 mobile real estate app that consumers prefer, with complete co-branding. And their agents get the No. 1 mobile app for agents.
  • Agents get individual branding.
  • The BPP is owned by the industry—real estate brokerages and MLSs—who collaborate to design the business rules to ensure that the MLS site works for the members, not against them.

The question for the MLS is: Do you check a box and put up a site that really doesn’t provide any real value to your agents, or do you partner with the BPP to deliver the most valuable resource your agent has?

It’s time for every MLS to fully collaborate with the BPP to win back the consumer. If your MLS hasn’t partnered with the BPP, visit brokerpublicportal.com today.

Victor Lund is a founding partner of leading industry consulting firm WAV Group; he also serves as manager of the Broker Public Portal’s LLC. Known for leveraging a vast industry perspective, Lund helps clients see first what others see eventually.

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Home Improvement, Construction Issues Top List of Worst Complaints in 2018

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:29

(TNS)—Problems with home improvement and new-home construction topped the list of worst complaints received last year, according to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America.

The 2018 Consumer Complaint Survey Report looked at information related to 1.1 million complaints from agencies in 21 states. Home improvement and construction issues generated the second-most complaints in 2018, behind trouble related to vehicles.

The CFA asked the 35 state and local consumer agencies that participated in the report what they considered to be the worst complaints characterized by the volume of complaints, the financial cost to consumers, the impact on vulnerable consumers or the “sheer outrageousness” of the reports. Home improvement and construction issues rose to the top of the list.

Consumers can end up spending tens of thousands of dollars to rectify issues they encounter during a new-home build or remodeling project. And those expenses can lead to big headaches.

“The financial loss that consumers suffer when they pay for work that is shoddy, incomplete or never performed is bad enough, but these problems can also make their homes unlivable and cause emotional distress,” according to the report.

Top 10 U.S. Consumer Complaints by Topic 

  1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars; lemons; faulty repairs; auto leasing; rentals; and towing disputes.
  1. Home improvement/construction: Shoddy work; and failure to start or complete the job.
  1. Retail sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices; defective merchandise; problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates; and failure to deliver.
  1. Services: Misrepresentations; shoddy work; failure to have required licenses; and failure to perform.
  1. (Tie) Landlord/tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions; failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities; deposit and rent disputes; and illegal eviction tactics.

Utilities: Complaints about gas, electric, water and cable billing and service.

  1. Health products/services: Misleading claims; unlicensed practitioners; failure to deliver; and medical billing issues.
  1. (Tie) Credit/debt: Billing and fee disputes; mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud; credit repair; debt relief services; predatory lending; and illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

Communications: Misleading offers; installation issues; service problems; and billing disputes with telephone and internet services.

  1. Internet sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices; and failure to deliver online purchases.
  1. Home solicitations: Misrepresentations; abusive sales practices; failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations; and do-not-call violations
  1. (Tie) Household goods: Misrepresentations; failure to deliver; and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.

Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries; work-at-home schemes; grant offers; fake check scams; and imposter scams and other common frauds.

Worst Complaints in 2018 

  1. Home improvement/construction: Shoddy work; and failure to start or complete the job.
  1. Services: Misrepresentations; shoddy work; failure to have required licenses; and failure to perform.
  1. Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries; work-at-home schemes; grant offers; fake check scams; and imposter scams and other common frauds.

Complaints Related to Home Improvement and Construction
“Home improvement and construction have always been in the top three of our survey,” says Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at CFA, adding “that is because, along with auto sales, these are very expensive transactions, and if something goes wrong, consumers are more likely to complain than if their toaster breaks down or they have some other minor problem.”

Home remodeling and improvement activity has increased in recent years, creating more potential for consumers to run into problems. Mortgage rates have also fallen in recent months, which means homebuyers and homeowners who want to refinance might save on monthly interest payments.

“It’s hard to say what will affect the rate of home improvement,” Grant says. “Certainly, low-interest rates puts more money in consumers’ pockets to do home improvements, as well as programs like PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) which provide easily attainable loans for consumers to do certain kinds of energy-efficient home improvements.”

Rising home equity can also spur homeowners into renovating their homes. Home prices have boosted American’s overall home equity to record-setting levels in recent years. Some buyers tap into that equity with a home equity loan or home equity line of credit to pay for major remodeling projects or home repairs.

“One of the lessons in the report is if you are taking any kind of home improvement loan that involves a lien on your property, you need to understand what that means and the ramifications of it if you want to sell your home,” Grant says.

Tips for Home Improvement and Construction
The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on how to avoid home improvement scams, including how to find a competent and reliable contractor for your project. Some states, such as Florida and California, require general contractors to be licensed.

“For a big, expensive investment like home improvement or construction, it’s vital to find out what the applicable requirements are before you hire a contractor,” Grant says. “Make sure your contractor has complied with them; that way you’ll be better protected if something goes wrong and, hopefully, it will be less likely that something goes wrong.”

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the rules for your home project, CFA recommends you pay a smaller initial deposit when you hire a contractor for home improvement work. Plus, make sure you get a written contract that sets out the scope of work, the project timeline and payment schedule.

“Never pay the full amount for home improvement work until the job is done. You have no leverage if the work is incomplete or unsatisfactory,” the report states. “If the contractor’s work doesn’t look right to you, hold off on making the final payment until you resolve the issue.”

If a contractor fails to finish a job or does shoddy work, CFA suggests keeping notes of your communication and taking photos to document the situation. You can ask your state or local consumer protection agency for advice. 

©2019 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Consumer Strong: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network Embraces Homebuyers and Sellers for a Lifetime of Service

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 10:07

(Above) Chris Stuart, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; and Gino Blefari, CEO, HomeServices of America, and Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the August issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today. 

During the most recent Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices convention in Las Vegas, HomeServices of America CEO Gino Blefari introduced Chris Stuart as his Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO successor. The response to this high executive announcement from the more than 6,000 network enthusiasts in attendance at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace was expectedly respectful and polite.

The next morning, however, after Stuart delivered his keynote address, the level of intensity and unabashed enthusiasm, reflected in the thunderous and sustained standing ovation to Stuart’s transformative speech, was truly remarkable—even by Las Vegas standards. The spontaneous ovation based upon Stuart’s strategic outlook for the brand and network seemed to suggest that the network was now adding their resounding stamp of approval to Blefari’s decision to elevate Stuart to the helm of the globally recognized franchise.

Although Stuart has gained widespread respect and support during his three years as a high-level Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices executive, his speech that day seemed to raise the audience’s respect to a level of reverence.

Stuart’s comprehensive, multi-media and animated (he made a ceremonial entrance performing a moonwalk!) analysis and explanation of what is truly taking place in the industry and marketplace today, along with his vision for the future of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, was on the level of visionary discourse one typically only sees during the very best TED Talks.

To obtain greater detail of his expanded thinking on potential disruption, new business models and, most of all, his strategic vision for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices moving forward globally, we interviewed Stuart after RISMedia’s Real Estate Newsmakers event in Washington, D.C., this past May.

RISMedia: How does your role as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices interact with Gino Blefari’s role as CEO of HomeServices of America?
Chris Stuart: I believe that my relationship with Gino, rooted in the many years of working together on the growth of the company he founded and led, Intero, and now the five years of helping to implement his vision and operational genius here at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, has forged a relationship of supreme trust and respect.

I have seen many companies and corporations—both within real estate and during my years as an account executive with Oracle Corporation advising numerous Fortune 500 companies on their technology needs—where flawed relationships and a lack of trust amongst the executives has a deleterious impact on the organization.

Chris Stuart opened the brand’s Las Vegas conference with a ceremonial moonwalk.

RISMedia: What do you admire most about Gino?
CS: His humility. Gino was the No. 1 agent in a county of almost 2 million people, the No. 1 manager and co-owner of a multi-office company that had a wildly successful acquisition, and then the key operator of one of the world’s largest and most successful real estate companies.

On the heels of these exceptional accomplishments, Gino went on to found and grow from scratch a company, Intero, that was among the Top 7 brokerages in the country prior to its wildly successful acquisition by HomeServices of America. Additionally, his impact on Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has been epic, as it will now be as the CEO of HomeServices of America.

And despite a virtually unrivaled career of accomplishments, Gino remains completely modest and totally collaborative.

Wherever Gino has gone, he has created a culture of confidence, collaboration and accountability. His dedication to helping other people grow, along with his approachability, is unlike anyone else I have ever met.

RISMedia: How are you different from Gino and other industry CEOs?
CS: I know some of our industry’s brand leaders, and others I respect from a distance. I believe that what makes me different is my combined background. Specifically, my years at Oracle, where we worked in teams of high-tech solutionists, combined with my many years in real estate brokerage, enables me to not only understand everything that goes into building winning real estate cultures, but also, the way in which emerging technologies must be effectively integrated.

Typically, real estate brands either have leaders with a tech or corporate background, where they require significant help in understanding all of the nuances of real estate brokerage, or CEOs with great real estate experience who may have profound gaps in their understanding of where technology can really drive an impact to their organizations and our industry as a whole.

I feel fortunate to have had deep exposure to both disciplines, as each environment clearly needs to be strategically integrated.

RISMedia: Speaking of your background, we understand that your becoming CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices would have been considered by Vegas oddsmakers as a long shot.
CS: It’s certainly been a fun ride! I guess you could look at my upbringing and life’s journey on paper and call me a long shot. My mom was 17 when I was born, and my dad was never in the picture. Coming from subsidized apartments as a youngster to this role was certainly not the well-groomed path of some corporate executives.

And that’s what I love about this country and the opportunity to work hard and compete in the business world. And specific to our industry, I believe my story is pretty common. There are so many brokers and agents who have also beaten the predictive data odds to become successful based on their hard work, resourcefulness, resilience and other key qualities. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about helping to keep the real estate industry, our brand and our agents viable and successful for years to come.

RISMedia: Chris, during your CEO acceptance and keynote speech, you brought onto the stage a professional magician…why?
CS: To humorously illuminate how our industry’s use of the “disruption” label is, in my opinion, more distracting than representative of meaningful change. Over the last few years in all of my travels throughout our network, and at essentially every industry convention, the word “disruption” inevitably came up. Not only was the word introduced incessantly, it was being brought up in a foreboding manner. I believe that one of my responsibilities as CEO of our brand and system is to properly contextualize threats, be they real or imagined.

RISMedia: Can you be more specific about your interpretation of the industry’s view on disruption?
CS: Disruption is very real. I began my career in the mid-’90s within the technology industry and had an opportunity to work very closely with companies of all sizes in a variety of industries. From upstart Silicon Valley dotcoms to some of the largest enterprises in the world, technology’s impact as a transformative force of industries isn’t a new phenomenon.

Virtually without exception, when you look at the result of technology-centered disruption in most industries, it creates very real and substantial business outcomes that are largely based on a better experience for the consumer. And the result of elevating the experience for the consumer creates a better outcome for the businesses who helped champion the disruption. When I look at the impact of disruption within the real estate industry, I don’t see the same clarity of outcome that I observe in other industries.

RISMedia: Are you saying the industry need not be concerned about disruption?
CS: No, we believe the industry should be vigilant and persistent in its pursuit of constant innovation. However, the output of those efforts should create a better experience for real estate clients that leads to a healthier industry that is sustainable. What I am saying is that the industry has been obsessed with the totality of the word and has not devoted the necessary attention to properly understanding where the real threats are, and how the real estate industry should respond.

RISMedia: What are these threats, and how should we respond?
CS: It’s certainly not my intent to speak for the industry. Obviously, there are certain strategies that must remain within Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. I do believe there are a few areas where the industry could significantly improve with a renewed focus. First, the industry needs to become much more consumer-centric. Second, real estate professionals need to expand their value from one that is mostly tactical to one that is decidedly more relational. Third, we need to help our highly dedicated and professional real estate sales professionals in our network do more to express their value to consumers beyond just the transaction.

RISMedia: Without getting into brand secrets, what initiatives are you personally introducing to your brand that both address these needs while also differentiating the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand and your network agents?
CS: My first major initiative was to better define what our brand exemplifies to our network and consumers. I introduced a campaign that now characterizes Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices as the Forever BrandSM, and all of our network agents as Forever AgentsSM.

RISMedia: Tell us about the significance of this nomenclature.
CS: I remember the year before I became CEO, watching as numerous network agents were asked on video why they liked being in the network and they all said, “I love the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand.” Yet I sensed that they could not specifically articulate why. In other words, they were more attributional about the brand than definitional.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices was clearly who we were. What was not as clear was what we did that was different than other brands. The Forever BrandSM and Forever AgentSM mantra and mission announces to the public that our network is not merely transactional, but lifetime relational. To the network agents, it conveys that our brand and network—and, most importantly, our network brokers—aspire to develop and enrich company cultures where their agents can build and sustain a lifetime career in this industry.

RISMedia: Well that explains the relationship-building part of your vision. How about your consumer-centric mission?
CS: You cannot be a forever agent, forever broker or forever brand unless you are relentlessly focused on keeping the consumer’s interest as the top priority. While the need to keep the consumer front and center must be met with multimillions of dollars invested into technology, education, marketing and community participation, it needs to begin with an appropriate and strategic declaration or mantra. To that end, I am introducing to our entire network the concept of “Consumer Strong.”

Stuart incorporated magic into the annual conference to illustrate that “disruption” is often just distraction. (Magician’s assistant: Joan Docktor, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®)

RISMedia: What do you mean by that theme?
CS: That we want our members to inform, educate and empower real estate consumers. In the Information Age, real estate professionals need to showcase their knowledge, wisdom and skills along with exceptional service. They must do so in a manner that always reminds consumers and clients that our members are here to advise and serve them.

RISMedia: Your third goal is to help elevate the perceived and real value of your network agents. How will this be done?
CS: This will be accomplished when our network agents become fully educated regarding what it means to be a Forever AgentSM and accept a “Consumer Strong” mission. The collectivized buy-in of our consumer-centric mission will have a positive compounding impact to our brand strength. The brand strength will solidify Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ network agents’ position as real estate trusted advisors.

I believe that the entire industry has to do more to insert its advisory value before, during and after a transaction in order to remain relevant. I also believe that our brand makes this greater real estate role our birthright. Our members must have value that goes beyond facilitating transactions, and it begins with reimagining a greater role for real estate professionals.

RISMedia: Chris, what are your thoughts regarding the variety of models, such as iBuyer and other forms of disruption to the industry?
CS: Again, it’s first a matter of distinguishing what is disruption and what is distraction. To me, the ultimate litmus on the topic is: Are we making things better for our consumers? And, can we measure that result in the form of homeownership rate, first-time buyer rate, length of time to close, complexity in the process, etc.?

As we continue to wade through the various models and opportunities available to the consumer, I believe the role of the professional real estate salesperson is elevated, not diluted or disintermediated. In other words, the very fact that there is so much change and variation that consumers must consider is the very reason consumers should turn to a trusted real estate advisor, not a cause for them to “go it alone.” And specific to iBuyers, being a Forever AgentSM, a real estate trusted advisor who’s passionate about our “Consumer Strong” mission, our network members should be prepared to advise consumers on the entire continuum of their options and choices. Among those options is the opportunity to have institutional investors buy the home as an alternative to the full conventional brokerage process running its course. This marketing alternative, if done honorably, can provide many consumers with an option that has never been as widespread as it may now become.

At the very least, our members need to be able to advise consumers of the pros and cons. At the very most, they will provide this service, but only where it can be meticulously and ethically executed and where there is complete transparency in the process.

RISMedia: Let’s now talk about your plans for global growth.
CS: Michael Jalbert, our EVP for Global Field Operations, represents our brand worldwide and oversees a team of what I believe to be the finest franchise sales consultants ever assembled. Now that we have established an immutable footprint in America, we are fully engaged in bringing our brand, technology and operating systems to the world. Our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network brokerages in Germany, England, Italy, Spain and Dubai are stellar examples of our brand, and they will soon see many more exceptional brokerages worldwide fly the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices flag, as well. We see global brokerages joining us because of our unique response to the four major questions we’re typically asked:

  1. Does our brand have scale in all segments of their market, and does the brand possess a halo effect?
  2. Is there global scale to the franchise system’s technology, marketing, education and overall services?
  3. How does the strength of the existing network and fellow brokerages aid in enriching the operation and brand value?
  4. What does the brand’s leadership and vision represent that will aid in the global franchisee’s future?

And to date, the answers we’ve provided have been greeted with a resounding acceptance as noted by our meteoric growth in the key global markets we’re focused on presently.

RISMedia: And how will this be accomplished?
CS: One of the methods, and as a part of our Forever AgentSM campaign, is the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Real Estate and Lifestyle Planning Guide. This consumer-centric program, conceived by Allan Dalton, our SVP of Research and Development, seeks to ensure that network Forever AgentsSM insert themselves in a value-enhancing and relational way long before the transactional stage and well after it. It is just one of our forever plans to add substance and credibility to the Forever AgentSM vision and mission for our network and brand.

RISMedia: Speak to your commitment to diversity.
CS: For me, all-inclusive real estate is not just a matter of good business, but, much more significantly, it is a matter of morality. We participate in all segments of the National Association of REALTORS®, and our legacy of inclusiveness will also help propel our global growth. We’re incredibly fortunate to have Teresa Palacios Smith as our vice president for Diversity and Inclusion. Teresa is an industry force for diversity, inclusion and community outreach, and her input and analysis help us set policies and create programs for our network focused on the objective of homeownership for all who seek it.

RISMedia: In closing, is there anything else you’d like to share?
CS: It’s so easy to get caught up in the tactical whirlwind and industry-context of the moment. Clearly, the current industry narrative is one of great change and disruption, which is creating a lot of uncertainty about the future for the real estate sales professional.

Despite the media hype perpetuating this tone, I am very confident in the industry’s future because of the change and because of the trusted advisory role that I believe consumers will continue to value. However, for any sales professional who isn’t affiliated with a firm that is actively and passionately expanding and enriching their value in the eyes of the consumer, there could be some major headwinds in store for you. I see a lot of models intent on disintermediating the agents, and the agents are running to these companies believing those models are the future. But the future those companies are attempting to create may not be so friendly to the agents who are feeding them today.

We have a clear, long-term vision of who we are and where we want to be, and we know that a great many real estate sales professionals will value that journey because of the value that it will extend to the consumers they serve.

And in the end, that’s what matters most—serving consumers and communities.

For more information, please visit www.berkshirehathawayhs.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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Real Estate a Hot Topic at 2019 SelectUSA Investment Summit

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 10:04

The sixth annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, was held in Washington, D.C., from June 10-12. This event brings together foreign investors, economic development organizations from around the country, government leaders and C-suite business executives, all to promote and facilitate foreign direct investment in the United States. The 2019 Summit also, for the first time, welcomed industry groups to participate in the conference, and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) attended and represented the real estate industry.

More than 3,000 participants attended the 2019 Summit, including foreign investors from 79 international markets and economic development organizations from 49 states and territories. The Summit features many networking opportunities, including “matchmaking” sessions between international companies and key participants, based on their companies’ needs. Investors could mingle with tech startups, state and local government representatives, trade associations and executives from companies including Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell and Intel.

Throughout the Summit, speakers and events highlighted the diverse economic and trade benefits of investing in the U.S. There were several “State of the Industry” sessions featuring experts from various industries—including solar and wind energy, chemistry, consumer technology, travel and tourism, and real estate. Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist and senior vice president of Research, presented the “State of the Industry: Real Estate” to a packed room of interested investors. He spoke about market trends in real estate—both residential and commercial—and highlighted NAR’s robust research products. Though it was only one of the many industry sectors represented at the Summit, real estate was a hot topic, as well as a through-line connecting several issues that were addressed, such as infrastructure investment, rural development, manufacturing, and many others. For these international companies to come to the U.S., or expand their existing operations here, they may need land, offices or factories—in addition to housing for their workforces.

The Summit drew several notable speakers, including Wilbur Ross, secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Larry Kudlow, assistant to the president for Economic Policy and director of the National Economic Council; and Steven Mnuchin, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Across the board, the theme was clear: The Administration, and the International Trade Administration (ITA) (a part of the Department of Commerce), are committed to bringing more foreign direct investment into the U.S., and stressed that the economy and trade conditions are positive for that right now. This includes not just attracting new investment, but also bringing operations back to the U.S. and expanding existing operations, which is the goal of the “ReSelectUSA” initiative run by the ITA. In that vein, SelectUSA released its case study report on reshoring in the U.S. during the Summit: “Reinvesting in the USA: A Case Study of Reshoring and Expanding in the United States.”

The 2019 Summit was a success; nearly $100 million in new investment projects was announced during the event, and more than 65 international companies signed the “Pledge to America’s Workers,” committing to creating more than 900,000 workforce development opportunities for American workers. These 2019 additions build upon the $103.6 billion in investment projects that past participants in the Summit have announced within five years of attending the Summit, which will create or retain over 167,000 American jobs. The Summit provides an excellent chance for real estate professionals looking to connect with foreign investors and other industry sectors, and the potential to result in new deals and lucrative business opportunities.

For more information on the SelectUSA Investment Summit, please visit www.selectusasummit.us.

Erin Stackley, Esq., is the senior representative for Commercial Legislative Policy/Federal Policy and Industry Relations, the National Association of REALTORS®. This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group. For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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Survey: Real Estate Is Back as Americans’ Favorite Long-Term Investment

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 10:03

(TNS)—Stocks have long been the most glamorous of the major asset classes. Many a Hollywood film has centered around making fast money in the stock market, and becoming a Wall Street big shot.

But despite their great long-term returns—they’ve averaged about 10 percent annually for decades—stocks are no longer Americans’ favorite long-term investment. What is? According to a nationwide Bankrate survey, it’s real estate.

Years after a housing crash that left the economy hurting, many Americans still see real estate as their top pick. Some 31 percent of survey respondents named real estate as their favored investment for money that they wouldn’t need for 10 years or more. It’s the best showing for real estate in the seven years that Bankrate has conducted the survey.

In 2018, stocks were the most popular investment. But this year they ran a distant second, with 20 percent of respondents naming stocks their top pick for holding periods of more than a decade.

Cash investments, such as savings accounts and CDs, finished third at 19 percent, while gold and other precious metals earned 11 percent. Americans picked bonds as their top long-term investment 7 percent of the time, while bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were favored by 4 percent. Meanwhile, 5 percent of respondents said that none of these options were the best way to invest.

Millennials Are Most Drawn to Real Estate Investing
While some commentators have bemoaned the fact that millennials seem unwilling to buy housing, it’s not for lack of desire. Millennials in total scored the highest (36 percent) among all age groups in their preference for real estate as a long-term investment.

While millennials might be the most drawn to property, real estate still remained the most popular investment among all generations, from millennials to Generation X (31 percent), as well as baby boomers (30 percent) and the Silent Generation (23 percent).

“Millennials are higher on real estate than any other age group, have cooled a bit on cash, and still aren’t keen on the stock market when investing for more than 10 years,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst.

Strikingly, the preference for real estate is virtually identical in all four income categories surveyed by Bankrate. Between 32-34 percent of the time it was the top investment choice for those who reported earning more than $75,000 per year; between $50,000 and $75,000; between $30,000 and $50,000; as well as less than $30,000.

Home—or least, real estate—is where the heart is for Americans.

Stocks More Popular Among Higher Earners
While real estate outdistanced stocks in each age and income demographic, stocks were more popular with higher earners compared to those with lower incomes. In fact, stocks were two and almost three times as popular with the highest income groups in the Bankrate survey.

For the two groups with incomes of at least $50,000, stocks were their top pick 28 percent and 29 percent of the time, just behind real estate. For the two groups earning less than $50,000 annually, stocks were their top pick only 15 percent and 11 percent of the time. In fact, the higher a respondent’s earnings, the more likely the choice of their favored investment was stocks.

Meanwhile, lower-income households showed a higher preference for cash investments such as savings accounts and CDs (22 percent), as well as for gold and other precious metals (12 to 17 percent).

Cryptocurrency Most Popular Among Younger Investors
One notable result, though perhaps not surprising, is the extent to which younger generations prefer bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Millennials picked cryptocurrencies as their top long-term investment about 9 percent of the time—about triple the rate of Generation X. Earlier generations had negligible numbers of respondents selecting virtual currency as their top choice.

While many investors have written off cryptocurrencies, one of the world’s largest companies is setting up a project that may disrupt some more traditional payment networks. Social media giant Facebook is in the process of creating a virtual currency called Libra that may potentially be cheaper than traditional payment services.

Declining Interest Rates May Not Affect Investing Decisions
At press time, the Federal Reserve had hinted that it may be open to cutting interest rates, and investors had been nearly unanimous in expecting a rate cut in recent weeks. With that as a backdrop, the survey also questioned Americans about how the expected decrease in U.S. interest rates would play into their investment decisions.

The surprising result is that declining rates would appear to have little effect at all. Declining rates are not likely to move them to invest in the stock market, borrow money or put money into savings accounts or CDs, say respondents.

“A Fed interest rate cut is unlikely to influence how consumers manage their finances,” says McBride. “Only a minority of Americans say they would save more, invest more or borrow more as a result.”

For example, just 40 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to move money into cash investments such as savings accounts and CDs in response to declining rates. Only 26 percent said they would be more likely to borrow more money in response to falling rates. Meanwhile, just 33 percent of respondents said they were likely to invest in the stock market as rates fell.

But the responses varied by income level. For example, households earning less than $50,000 were more likely (37 to 49 percent) than high-income households (31 to 33 percent) to move money into bank products as rates fell. The lower the income, the more likely the respondent was to move assets into the bank.

What Should Investors Do to Meet Their Goals?
While a person should choose the investment that works best for their own individual situation, there are smart ways of accomplishing your goals regardless of what you choose: stocks, bank accounts, bonds or something else entirely.

If you’re moving your assets to a bank, then it makes sense to find a bank that offers higher yields. An online bank can offer many of the benefits of a brick-and-mortar rival, while still paying much higher interest rates.

Similarly, if you’re looking to move into stocks, you should consider a broker that meets your needs, not necessarily the cheapest or the flashiest. For example, many brokers offer research and education, including research reports, that help when making investment decisions.

©2019 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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When Branding Gets Targeted, Results Start to Multiply

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 13:03

In the following interview, Jesse Zagorsky, broker/owner of Live. Love. San Diego Homes with eXp Realty in San Diego, Calif., discusses marketing, from branding efforts to generating leads.

Region Served: All of San Diego County
Number of Team Members: 17
Had a Team Since: 2004. “In many variations and combinations…”
Current Market Conditions: Buying and selling slowed a little six months ago (at press time), but now that interest rates have come down, things are picking back up and we’re seeing some price appreciation again.

Real estate agents and brokers spend a lot of money on branding, and the goal is always to make a name for themselves in the community. But many times, it’s hard to know if branding is actually working. How are you focusing your branding efforts to make sure you’re reaching the right people at the right time?
First, you have to start by niching down, whether it’s in a certain geographic location, or within a certain occupation or price point, depending on who you want to work with. Then, once you see where you’ve had success, it’s all about repetition, and being omnipresent. When buyers are ready to buy—when they move from research to transacting—most of them are on realtor.com®, and that’s why I decided to have a more prominent presence there.

Can you tell me about the content of your brand advertising? Many real estate professionals used to focus on the number of houses they sold and just getting their name out there. Is that still the case?
Yes and no. There’s still some blasting my name out there for recognition, but that ties back into a larger content marketing strategy. They see my name, and that ties into one of my profiles that they click on to read, where they can see my third-party reviews. Then there’s the incredibly powerful feature where my ads start to follow them around on social media platforms, and I can target them with content marketing, such as helpful tips around home-buying or preparing a home for sale. That’s a really powerful part of tying the brand campaign together with content.

You recently rebranded to Live. Love. San Diego Homes. I imagine this branding strategy was even more important in light of this…
When you go through a rebranding, you have to use a lot of online and offline strategies, and the Local ExpertSM piece in geographic areas was helpful in getting the rebrand out there. If you have someone searching on a portal on a regular basis, and your brand continues to pop up, that’s big. It’s all about repetition. Marketing research will tell you that it takes between seven and 10 exposures before something even registers on a person’s radar.

And with the increasing amount of digital input and media consumers are exposed to, it must take more impressions than ever to gain that consumer recognition…
It probably does take longer, but I know it’s working. We’re still generating leads with our own outbound efforts, and when I connect with someone, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you online.’ They may not be clicking on the ad, but they’re still seeing you, and it’s incredibly difficult to track that ROI. But it helps you cut through the clutter of the digital landscape. You can’t rely purely on an attraction-based strategy. This branding strategy complements that nicely.

Does your branding strategy with Local Expert seem be more effective in attracting sellers and getting listings or attracting buyers?
It’s probably equally effective for both, although I tend to focus on the seller/listing side more for leveraging the branding campaign. It’s very powerful when you’re sitting face-to-face with a seller and you explain how realtor.com’s Local Expert platform works—how your brand awareness equals more eyeballs for their listing, which equals more showings, which equals a higher sales prices. When you connect all those dots, people understand how powerful this program is.

And how do you track results to know that it’s working?
Like I said, it’s difficult to track the ROI of a branding campaign. You have to look at your overall profitability, the revenue generated and sales, and make interpretations as to how the branding campaign has supported those efforts. And you know that for every person who says they saw you online, there are twice as many who have.

Finally, Jesse, what’s next for you when it comes to brand marketing?
Definitely an increased use of video, as that’s a trend in everything to do with content marketing. It’s all about creating local celebrities in hyper-focused markets. That’s the biggest trend we’re seeing in the next couple of years.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com/sales.  

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at maria@rismedia.com.

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Home Prices: Is Seattle Setting a Trend?

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 13:49

Home prices remain on the rise, but in declining increments—and in one market, annual gains recently reversed trend, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic/Case-Shiller Indices.

In May, home prices rose 3.4 percent year-over-year, according to Case-Shiller’s National Index, accounting for the nine Census-designated regions. In April, the Index posted 3.5 percent. In the country’s 20 major markets, home prices rose 2.4 percent year-over-year, and in the 10 major markets, rose 2.2 percent.

According to Philip Murphy, S&P’s global head of Index Governance and managing director, appreciation continues to rein in, but with local nuances. For instance, in Las Vegas and Phoenix, the pace of prices remains strong, but in Seattle, prices slid, in “the first negative year-over-year change recorded in a major city in a number of years,” Murphy says.

“Nationally, year-over-year home price gains were lower in May than in April, but not dramatically so, and a broad-based moderation continued,” Murphy says, adding “though home price gains seem generally sustainable for the time being, there are significant variations between year-over-year rates of change in individual cities.”

As for movement in Seattle, “whether negative year-over-year rates of change spread to other cities remains to be seen,” he says.

“The U.S. housing market cooldown continued in May, signaling the longest period of price growth anemia since the Great Recession,” says Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist and executive of Research and Insights at CoreLogic. “However, coupled with the recent drop in mortgage rates and incomes rising faster than inflation, the transition to a more balanced market should allow the industry to enter a period of sustainability into the foreseeable future.”

The complete data for the 20 markets measured by S&P: 

Atlanta, Ga.
MoM: 0.7%
YoY: 4.7%

Boston, Mass.
MoM: 0.5%
YoY: 3.6%

Charlotte, N.C.
MoM: 1%
YoY: 4.5%

Chicago, Ill.
MoM: 0.8%
YoY: 1.6%

Cleveland, Ohio
MoM: 1.4%
YoY: 3.6%

Dallas, Texas
MoM: 0.5%
YoY: 2.6%

Denver, Colo.
MoM: 0.6%
YoY: 3.6%

Detroit, Mich.
MoM: 1.2%
YoY: 4%

Las Vegas, Nev.
MoM: 0.6%
YoY: 6.4%

Los Angeles, Calif.
MoM: 0.8%
YoY: 1.9%

Miami, Fla.
MoM: 0.2%
YoY: 3.3%

Minneapolis, Minn.
MoM: 1.7%
YoY: 3.6%

New York, N.Y.
MoM: 0%
YoY: 1.9%

Phoenix, Ariz.
MoM: 0.7%
YoY: 5.7%

Portland, Ore.
MoM: 1%
YoY: 2.4%

San Diego, Calif.
MoM: 1%
YoY: 1.3%

San Francisco, Calif.
MoM: 0.3%
YoY: 1%

Seattle, Wash.
MoM: 1%
YoY: -1.2%

Tampa, Fla.
MoM: 0.1%
YoY: 5.1%

Washington, D.C.
MoM: 0.7%
YoY: 2.9%

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Create Your Own Mailing Labels in RPR®: A How-To Video

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 13:45

NAR PULSE—One of NAR members’ most frequently requested features is now available! This how-to video will show you, step-by-step, how easy it is to create mailing labels within RPR®.

Looking for New Office Decor?
Promote NAR programs and resources to your agents with FREE posters from the REALTOR® Store! Visit NAR.realtor/Store to access more than 10 posters available for free digital download. Check them out today! 

Collaborate With Tech Powerhouses at NAR’s iOi Summit
DocuSign, Facebook and Google will be coming to NAR’s 2019 iOi Summit, August 21-22 in Seattle. View the program agenda and secure your seat today at nar.realtor/ioi. Register TODAY before the room block closes to take advantage of the hotel group discount.

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Pending Sales Surge, Break 17-Month Downtrend

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 13:35

After 17 months of poor showings, pending sales at the start of summer surged, according to the latest National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index, based on contract signings. From May to June, the Index rose 2.8 percent, and year-over-year, sprang 1.6 percent.

Credit: National Association of REALTORS®

“Job growth is doing well, the stock market is near an all-time high and home values are consistently increasing,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “When you combine that with the incredibly low mortgage rates, it is not surprising to now see two straight months of increases. Homes are selling at a breakneck pace, in less than a month, on average, for existing homes and three months for newly constructed homes. Furthermore, homeowners’ equity in real estate has doubled over the past six years to now nearly $16 trillion.

“[However,] the number of potential buyers exceeds the number of homes available,” Yun says. “We need to see sizable growth in inventory, particularly of entry-level homes, to assure wider access to homeownership.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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