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Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Capitol Hill Update: NAR’s 2019 Political Advocacy Efforts

Fri, 12/20/2019 - 21:04

National home price increases toward the end of 2019 marked 91 straight months of year-over-year gains, signaling a strength in the housing market, while also highlighting the affordability challenges that are keeping countless American families and aspiring homeowners out of the market altogether.

The challenge of housing affordability is just one of the many issues that the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is working on in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the nation—continuing its 120-year mission of protecting private property rights, defending U.S. consumers and promoting the value of homeownership.

NAR has spent much of the past 12 months emphasizing and leveraging industry partnerships to strengthen its advocacy efforts. After a four-year gap, NAR hosted a reunion this March of “The Group,” the informal name given to the four key industry trade leaders—the National Association of Home Builders, American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association and NAR. The Group met several times throughout the year and will meet again in April to build policy consensus and convey a united real estate industry.

On a more granular level, nearly a decade of NAR efforts culminated in a Department of Housing and Urban Development announcement unveiling new Federal Housing Administration condominium loan policies. NAR is hopeful the changes will yield thousands of new homeownership opportunities and help increase access to credit, as condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas.

This rule extends certifications from two years to three and allows for single-unit mortgage approvals, among other reforms. After being officially implemented on Oct. 15, the changes are already being felt in many parts of the country where affordability and inventory concerns are the most significant.

While NAR continues to work toward long-term reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the group spent most of 2019 publicly lobbying for H.R. 3167, the NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2019. This legislation includes a five-year extension along with significant reforms to improve mapping, enhance mitigation and remove obstacles to private flood insurance, policy NAR believes “strikes a delicate balance between NFIP sustainability and affordability.” The bill was unanimously approved by the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year and is awaiting action in both chambers of Congress.

On the heels of the 75th anniversary celebration of the GI Bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was signed into law in late June, increasing well-deserved resources for America’s veterans. This legislation eliminates the cap on home loans issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs and helps ensure our nation’s veterans have greater access to the American Dream of homeownership.

Finally, early this year, NAR unveiled a comprehensive vision for Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) reform—a private, shareholder-owned utility model. NAR’s proposal—unveiled at the group’s annual Policy Forum in February—prioritizes and protects a liquid mortgage market for Middle America and underserved borrowers alike.

While NAR eyes GSE reforms that ensure responsible, creditworthy Americans can secure a mortgage in all types of markets, its work with Congress and the administration will continue until consensus on reforms that protect taxpayers, support homeownership and maximize competition is found. NAR believes the utility model it proposed earlier this year outlines the best possible path forward for the GSEs, and 2020 advocacy efforts will be shaped by its collaboration with policymakers to secure these positive, pragmatic system reforms.

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

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Surge of Single Mothers Entering the Labor Force Are Seeking Homeownership

Fri, 12/20/2019 - 21:03

Single women have outpaced men in homeownership since 1986, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By and large, college-educated women who have delayed marriage have greater buying power and overall financial independence. As more single mothers enter the labor force, they are one step closer to financial independence and being able to afford a home.

Despite facing many barriers to employment, such as finding affordable childcare and predictable work schedules, the share of young, single mothers in the workforce increased 4 percentage points since 2015, as shown in recent Current Population Survey (CPS) data.

The rise in single mothers entering the workforce has been a response to less reliable federal policies, such as welfare, that have left working for pay the only option. In addition, new policies at the local level, such as paid leave, minimum wage increases and other family-friendly policies, have made it easier for single mothers to take advantage of the competitive labor market. The highest growth in employment for young mothers has been in nursing and in managing and moving warehouse inventory.

According to a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco report, women of all races and ethnicities between the ages of 25 and 54 have increased their share in labor force participation since 2014. The share of women with either a college education or more in the labor force is the highest among all groups by educational attainment, but growth has not been as significant in the last few years.

There are 2.7 million mothers between the ages of 25 and 34 who are not married or living with a partner, and they make up nearly 25 percent of all mothers in this age group. On top of the daily challenges of raising children on their own, these women also tend to be poorer and less educated than other women their age.

Half of single mothers make less than $30,000 per year, which is true for only 20 percent of all young women. Half of single mothers also have only a high school diploma or less, compared to just 29 percent of all young women. Single mothers in both rural and urban areas without a college degree, however, account for a majority of the recent increase in single mothers’ participation in the labor force.

Single or not, with children or without, women seek homeownership for a variety of reasons, including having a sanctuary or refuge, cementing one’s professional progress and helping lay an economic foundation for years to come, and providing a stable home for their children.

Fortunately, there are resources available for single women homebuyers to assist them in the home-buying process. For instance, programs are offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as at the local and state level. Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs) and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are also at their disposal. These programs can help single mothers buy homes and assist with the down payment regardless of whether or not they have a low income or poor credit history.

Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.

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Technology, Training and Name Recognition

Fri, 12/20/2019 - 21:02

In the following interview, Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty in Coral Gables, Fla., discusses rebranding this year, market trends, and more.

Region Served: Miami and Ft. Lauderdale
Years in Real Estate: 44
Number of Offices: 10
Number of Agents: 850

How do you stay flexible in today’s ever-changing real estate landscape?
The first step in exercising flexibility is recognizing when making a change is beneficial to your organization. Staying up-to-date with a dynamic industry such as ours requires the continual input of fresh information. Each member of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty family and I have been fortunate to belong to this family of companies since 2003. Through our close relationships with both our sister and affiliated companies, over the past 16 years, we’ve interacted with the top brokerages in the world.

What led to your decision to join the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network?
Our South Florida team has been in a unique position to observe the solid growth of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network over the past six years. As a HomeServices of America family member, having a front-row seat to follow the positive impact of new systems and technologies, which Gino Blefari and Chris Stuart were shepherding across the network, caught the attention of our EWM management and associates.

Have you noticed any notable increase in business since the transition?
After our announcement this past summer that we were rebranding our 55-year-old EWM Realty name, our associates immediately began interacting with other Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network members from across the nation and world. One of our first interactions with other Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network luxury agents was through the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Global Luxury Summit, an annual conference that brings the top-producing associates throughout the network together. The gathering was less than 60 days ago (at press time), and referrals have already been exchanged.

What are some of the ways you go the extra mile for your agents?
Our vice president of Marketing has developed a Marketing “Graphix Lab” that lends professional design and marketing services to our associates. These in-house graphic design professionals give our associates the benefit of having designer-firm quality all under our roof. Other benefits include in-house technology, legal services and training opportunities.

What’s the most significant trend positively impacting your business today?
Florida is in an enviable position because of its exceptional growth rate. Our state adds just shy of 1,000 “net” new permanent residents each day. That’s almost 365,000 “net” new permanent residents annually. Our statewide population is expected to hit 22 million permanent residents next year. That means that demographers are predicting that Florida’s average growth rate over the next 10 years will be 1,100 “net” new permanent residents per day—365 days per year.

Final Question…

What is your top technique for staying in touch with clients?
Our company’s marketing and social media are designed to run concurrently with the communication efforts being individually managed by our associates. While we continue to expand digitally, we still publish our magazine, Lifestyles of South Florida, to promote our $1 million-plus homes and condos.

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

Jameson Doris is RISMedia’s blog and social media editor. Email him your real estate blog ideas at jdoris@rismedia.com.

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Andrew Smith: Taking Ownership of Excellence

Fri, 12/20/2019 - 21:01

Vitals: Peabody & Smith Realty
Years in Business: 27
Size: 2 main offices and 3 satellite offices, 36 agents
Regions Served: Lakes and Mountains of New Hampshire and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont
2018 Sales Volume: $143 million
2018 Transactions: 612
www.peabodysmith.com

With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate game, Andrew Smith, broker/owner of Franconia, N.H.-based Peabody & Smith Realty, has found great success, including being awarded the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce 2007 Business Leader of the Year.

Smith started the firm with a clear mission to serve the client, and has designed the company to be able to say “yes” to just about anything.

“Our model, where the entire team takes ownership for the delivery of exceptional client service, has served us and our clients very well,” he says. “All of our agents work full-time in their real estate career and maintain a very high level of agent productivity.”

How is your market faring as we reach the end of 2019?
Andrew Smith: We started a little slow, but we are finishing very strong. At the end of September, we were up 14 percent in dollar volume.

How do you maintain profitability as the market fluctuates?
AS: We keep a close eye on our fixed expenses, and are always seeking to eliminate redundancy or unneeded expenses and find more efficient ways to deliver our services to our agents, as well as our clients and customers. Our largest variable expense is agent commissions, so that is self-leveling.

How do you stay on top of trends and innovations?
AS: We attend three or four conferences a year and stay on top of media news on a daily basis. We are also members of a Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® CEO group, which I find invaluable.

Are there any market segments/niches you’ve recently expanded into, or are considering expanding into?
AS: We have a fairly robust commercial and business brokerage division. Additionally, we tried several times to do an in-house vacation rental program without success. We recently partnered with a local vacation rental firm that has the same high-quality/high-touch service model we do, and that is working quite well.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in the business?
AS: When launching a new program or process, not dedicating enough financial resources and human capital to ensure its quick and successful adoption.

How do you maintain work/life balance?
AS: I am blessed to be able to say that I love what I do, so working hard and working long hours is fulfilling. That being said, we all need to schedule in—and stick to—time away with family and friends. I live in a beautiful four-season resort area, so it’s easy to grab a few hours to take some runs at one of our local mountains or jump on my motorcycle and ride some of our extraordinary roads. Both are great, head-clearing fun.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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NAR Power Broker Roundtable: The Year in Review and Planning for the Year Ahead

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 13:02

In this month’s National Association of REALTORS® Power Broker Roundtable, we welcome John P. Horning, NAR’s 2020 liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations.

Participants

Jim Imhoff, Chairman, First Weber, Madison, Wis.; 2019 Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, NAR

John P. Horning, Executive Vice President, Shorewest, REALTORS®, Milwaukee, Wis.; Incoming Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, NAR

Jim Imhoff: John, welcome! It’s a pleasure to bring you to the liaison’s seat, although I’m really of two minds about handing over the gavel. On the one hand, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chance to steer the direction of this forum, but on the other, I’m excited to see where you’ll take it in the year ahead.

John Horning: Thanks, Jim. Big shoes to fill, but I’m happy to have the opportunity. It’s an exciting time in real estate, a balanced market with a lot of opportunity, and yet, enough new ideas emerging all the time to keep us all thinking ahead.

JI: An exciting time, yes—new business models popping up, the digital landscape changing almost daily, and, at the same time, a real need, in my estimation, to quit worrying about what the other guy is up to and focus on your own value proposition—on what you need to do to ensure your agents are the sharpest, the best prepared and most competitive on the block.

JH: And that’s the purpose of these roundtables, isn’t it, to assess what’s going on in the market and share the resources and best practices we can all use to take our company to the next level?

JI: Absolutely. Some of our best talks have zeroed in on adapting to all this change and challenge, tapping into millennial talent, the entry-level housing dilemma—and all the everyday issues we need to stay ahead of—disaster protocols, new technologies, business in the age of wire fraud—everything it takes to meet or exceed our goals while keeping an eye on what’s coming down the pike.

JH: It is a balancing act, and we want to keep the conversation going about how brokers can adapt to changes in the market, because competitors surely will keep emerging and mutating—new business models, iBuyer alternatives. We need to keep talking about how to embrace and leverage these challenges and be the stronger for it.

JI: And it’s not all fraught with challenge or uncertainty. We are, as you said, seeing a balanced market in most areas of the country, and we’re looking, I think, at good availability in the new year, along with low rates, affordable prices and low interest rates—even new opportunity zones for the development of affordable housing.

JH: I think it’s important to talk, too, about what NAR’s been bringing to the table, how they’re taking the lead and affecting important change on issues that impact us all—the new tax changes, for example, that specifically benefit agents and brokers.

JI: I’ll second that. Their advocacy team successfully led the charge for the reconditioning of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…and the favorable ruling by FHA on condo sales. These are concrete, bottom-line boosters that favor both brokers and consumers, and there’s a lot of value in discussing the pros and cons of issues that are still on the NAR drawing board.

JH: Then there are issues that are more individualized, that impact the future of the companies we work so hard to build—ongoing consolidation, for example, and the role of venture capital as brokers begin to look at retirement. There are a lot of ways to approach the prospect of leaving the business, a lot of shiny new pennies to weigh against traditional solutions.

JI: We began that discussion in a roundtable this year, but with brokers aging at the same rate as the general population, it needs continuing attention.

JH: Also, on my moderator’s agenda is continuing your focus on value proposition—the unique combination of standards, ethics, culture and services—especially in this digital age—that makes a brokerage stand out against competitors. Every region, every city, every town, is different, so I hope to attract panelists from every demographic to share what’s working for them.

JI: There are issues, too, that are evergreen in nature, the things brokers grapple with every day—budgets, technology and the tools and resources that our agents want most and that bring the best return on investment.

JH: That’s a good place to begin, I think—new ideas for the new year. Thanks so much, Jim, for your good ideas and for the quality you’ve brought to these roundtables.

JI: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for stepping in. I look forward to your panels.

JH: Happy holidays, meanwhile, to you and the entire real estate community. As I once heard Oprah Winfrey say, “Here’s cheers to a New Year—and another chance to get it right!”

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

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Creating Urgency in a Buyer’s Market

Wed, 12/18/2019 - 12:54

A static luxury real estate market begs the question: How can we increase an overall sense of urgency in today’s luxury buyers?

Real estate market trends are showing that most markets are currently leaning in the buyer’s favor, and as a result, listings are sitting a bit longer on the market than usual. When there are too many luxury listings available, buyers tend to feel like they have more time to mull over their options and take their time making an offer.

As a luxury real estate agent, this can become a great source of frustration both for you and the sellers you’re representing. However, adapting to real estate trends in the luxury market means being able to see past the things you can’t control and leveraging the things that you can.

Use your sold, under contract and pending listings to motivate buyers to take action.
You can’t force buyers to be more decisive, but you can certainly motivate them by showing them that other buyers are taking action. This is called creating “social proof,” and it’s becoming more and more necessary to adapt to today’s real estate market trends.

Most agent websites focus heavily on their available listings, but giving just as much air time to listings that are under contract, pending or just sold is a direct, yet non-aggressive way to entice buyers with what you have to offer.

Similarly, posting about these unavailable listings on social media can help create a sense of forward motion in the market for prospects who are just passively following your accounts. When they see a property they were interested in is now “under contract,” it sends the message that they need to take a more active approach to their home search. When agents do this, it not only helps them, but the entire local market.

Today’s luxury buyers are responding to influencer marketing.
With the rise of social media also came the rise of all types of consumers seeking third-party influencers’ opinions on what to buy. People are being sold something everywhere: on their television, their radio and now on their social media feeds. They’re aware that whoever is doing the selling is likely going to say that whatever they’re offering is the best, whether it really is or not, which is what makes influencer marketing so appealing.

Influencer marketing entails having an unbiased, third-party person or entity of influence who already has an established audience within your target market endorsing whatever it is you’re trying to sell, whether it’s something as small as a book or as big as a luxury property.

Using established community influencers is another way to create social proof around your listings. This lets potential buyers know that the people they trust—or those who aren’t going to profit from whatever you’re promoting—are interested in what you’re selling.

While this is a big topic with lots of conditions to consider to apply it correctly to luxury real estate, one example would be to consider that health and wellness are major priorities for most of today’s affluent buyers. With this in mind, reaching out to yoga instructors or wellness coaches with a large social media following to host a yoga class or private wellness workshop at one of your available listings (that just so happens to have an incredible view, a meditation room or spa-like space), would be a great way to create buzz within the community about your listing.

Although influencer marketing might not work for all of your listings, it’s something to consider when you need to find creative ways to build momentum around some of your more challenging listings.

If you want to find out how other elite agents are adapting to real estate trends in the luxury market, come and network with the best at our upcoming Luxury Live Events! Click here for more information.

Diane Hartley is the president of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a premier independent authority in training and designation for real estate agents working in the upper-tier residential market. Hartley brings her passion for luxury marketing and more than 20 years of experience growing and leading businesses to her role as president of The Institute.

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Optimistic About 2020 Housing? There’s No Other Way to Be

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 13:49

It’s that time of year—time for people to start laying out their predictions for the 2020 housing market. Most economic experts will be conservative and skeptical, steering entirely clear of being too positive about what we’ll see in the next 13 months. But why wouldn’t we look at the economic indicators and current data as hopeful and positive? And because I know what our real estate professionals are capable of, there’s no reason not to be excited about the year ahead.

No. 1 – First-Time Homebuyers: Come on In
Deterred last year by skyrocketing home prices and low inventory in many markets, first-time homebuyers stepped out of the way. But, a recent TransUnion estimate released in late October indicated that favorable economic conditions, including low unemployment and low interest rates, will send an estimated 8.31-9.2 million first-time homebuyers into the market in the next three years.

No. 2 – How Low Can You Go? Mortgage Rates Still Dropping
Because wages continue to grow at a rate higher than inflation, people are gainfully employed, making money and feeling good about it. Good enough to invest it on something like a 30-year mortgage that, according to Freddie Mac, averages 3.69 percent right now (at press time). Let’s not forget that fixed-rate mortgages in the early ’80s inched up to 19 percent and people were still buying homes. Now that’s perspective. Investors and economists alike expect interest rates to stagnate, or even decrease in 2020, which means there’s a lot more positive to come.

No. 3 – Being a Great Real Estate Pro Still Reigns Supreme
Yes, technology is amazing. It has positively impacted the real estate industry—and will continue to do so—but the game still belongs to the real estate professionals and those who work, grind, grow and build relationships. These are the pros who will continue to show the value that a committed, knowledgeable and caring person brings to a transaction. These are the people who leave an impression, benefit from referrals and impact the lives of their buyers and sellers. As real estate brokerages, we need to support these tremendous real estate professionals and give them every opportunity to succeed.

No. 4 – Your Office and Broker Should Do It All
There’s no excuse anymore for your broker sharing in your commission and not giving you what you need to knock it out of the park. You should receive the technology, support and services you need to do your job, but there’s got to be more. More money coming to you, more coaching and training, and a more dynamic office that inspires and leads you.

I encourage you to keep opening doors until you find that. You deserve nothing less.

Kuba Jewgieniew is the founder and CEO of Realty ONE Group. Realty ONE Group is ONE of the fastest-growing real estate franchisors today because it puts the agent first with the best way to make more money and do more business. We are the UNBrokerage. Find out why so many are joining and staying with this growing brand. For more information, please visit www.realtyonegroup.com.

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NAR’s Broker Summit Is Coming to Los Angeles March 31-April 1, 2020!

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 13:46

NAR PULSE—This premier two-day, broker-only networking event is designed to give real estate leaders practical and actionable information to position brokerages for success. Early bird registration is now available for $299 until Jan. 15. Register today!

Tell Your Agents: See the Savings!
Your agents can’t sell a house if they can’t see it. When they enroll in REALTORS® Vision Insurance, they’ll receive competitive group rates and exclusive member discounts on eye health expenses for the whole family. It’s available through the REALTOR Benefits® Program and offers savings on exams, frames, lenses, and more.

Application Period for 2021 Leadership Academy

Let your agents know that NAR is currently accepting applications for the 2021 NAR Leadership Academy. Applications are due March 3, 2020. For full details, visit nar.realtor/programs/leadership-academy.

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Window to the Law: Short-Term Rentals

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 13:40

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly video series from the National Association of REALTORS® to inform and educate members about important aspects of being a real estate professional. Watch for this series each month in RISMedia’s e-News.

Hosting overnight guests can be a fun, easy way for property owners to make extra income. But if they aren’t careful, they could end up with a hefty fine. Watch the latest Window to the Law video from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to learn what you need to know to serve your clients who might be considering a property to use as a short-term rental.

See the video.

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Heidi Pay: Planning for Growth in the Bay Area

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 14:13

Vitals: Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
Years in Business: 30
Size: 23 offices, 480 agents
Regions Served: Bay Area with offices in Marin, Napa, Silicon Valley and East Bay
2018 Sales Volume: $3.9 billion
2018 Transactions: 2,681
www.goldengatesir.com

Heidi Pay grew up with a family that invested heavily in real estate with a “buy-and-hold” philosophy. Today, as chief operating officer and general manager of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty in Mill Valley, Calif., Pay has proven to be a great wealth builder and believes in the long-term value of real estate.

“I love this industry because as a financial investment, homes, unlike stocks or even art, provide a huge impact on life experience,” she says. “Making a house a home is a vehicle for self-expression, attaches us to communities, supports relationships with family and friends, and provides the added benefits of financial leverage and tax benefits.”

What have you seen in the Bay Area market for 2019?

Heidi Pay: We have seen unprecedented pricing for Bay Area homes over the last lengthy growth cycle. The economic underpinnings are strong, with low unemployment, low interest rates and limited supply. However, this year, appreciation has cooled, and many counties saw minor readjustments in average price. It seems this upswing has crested for the time being as prices exceed what the market will bear. The third quarter of 2019 brought a reduction in the median price of Bay Area single-family homes of 4 percent. This indicates a move to a more normalized market.

What is your growth strategy in the year ahead?

HP: Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty is absolutely planning to grow over the next 12 months. We have many opportunities to expand and are selectively exploring those of most interest. This is in the form of acquisitions, as well as organic recruiting.

What differentiates your firm in the marketplace?

HP: One thing that defines our company is our long-term commitment to the real estate business and the belief that there is an incredible value in the knowledge and experience a trusted agent brings to the success of a transaction. We know that this is a relationship and service business. While we have been on the forefront of technology, we provide technology to support relationships, not replace them. Our three owners—Bill Bullock, Olivia Decker and Michael Dreyfus—are all exceptional agents who are at the pinnacle of their sales careers. They know what agents want and how to support their success.

What are the biggest opportunities for increasing business in 2020?

HP: The opportunity we see is consolidation in the entire industry, from brokerages to agents. Fewer players are doing more business. We are poised to grow through this next cycle as our clients look to guidance from top-tier agents and demand the global exposure only we can provide to ensure the sale of their properties at the highest price. Mediocrity will not survive in the next market cycle. This offers our business-minded agents an opportunity to excel and gain marketshare as they work within an elite brand.

How are you preparing your salesforce to meet the expectations of today’s first-time homeowners?

HP: The Bay Area is a challenging location for first-time homebuyers and millennials. We have agents who provide a luxury service at all price points. Our experienced agents can provide both guidance and access to market data so that buyers can make smart purchasing decisions. Despite the extensive information available online, a first-time purchase is intimidating, and there are frequently aspects of the home or area that are not fully considered or known unless someone who knows and understands them brings attention to them. For those moving up, we offer One Bridge, a bridge loan program in concert with Opes Advisors, so that clients can buy before selling, which allows them to make more competitive offers.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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How to Protect Your Money From Online Crooks While Holiday Shopping

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:44

(TNS)—As shoppers whip out the plastic for online deals, the holiday angst only heightens when it comes to threats to your credit card accounts and other personal information.

Even consumers who shop online through a major retailer, like Macy’s, can fall victim to some of these incredible hacking incidents. During a one-week period in early October, for example, sophisticated intruders targeted online shoppers at Macys.com to secretly collect addresses, emails, names, credit card numbers and other personal information. As a shopper, you would have had no idea there was any sort of trouble when you used your card to buy merchandise. Later down the line, though, you likely received a letter from Macy’s explaining that you were a victim of this limited data breach.

The Macy’s breach mirrors a proliferation of specific e-skimming attacks outlined earlier by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI said in October, before news of the Macy’s breach broke in November, that the bureau was seeing a number of e-skimming cases open up.

The danger of this latest cyber attack: Cyber criminals are getting our data in real-time, which can make that information more valuable in the underground market. Such theft can happen whether you’re buying something online through a legitimate website or mobile app.

How E-Commerce Attacks Work
Fraudulent websites, apps, emails and texts are particularly dangerous on big shopping days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when everyone’s in a rush to quickly snag the best bargains.

The attack on e-commerce sites, like the one experienced by Macy’s, is known as Magecart, a scam that skims card numbers of online shoppers using widely distributed malicious software. In the Macy’s breach, the criminals were able to access information when customers used credit card data at the checkout page and the “place order” button was hit.

Experts say the Macy’s incident is similar to the digital skimming techniques and code used in a number of other Magecart attacks lately. The skimming code would capture your information in real-time and send it to remote server where the data is collected by the criminals behind the scene. The consumer’s credit card data would either be sold or used to make fraudulent purchases from that point going forward.

The e-skimming incident at Macy’s won’t be the last that we’re likely to hear about this holiday. Unfortunately, it’s not something that a consumer can readily spot or avoid while shopping online.

“E-skimming is easy to deploy, hard to detect and extremely lucrative,” says Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout. He notes that e-skimming victims often are none the wiser because the attack doesn’t interfere with the processing of the credit card.

“The first sign of trouble is usually a notification from a credit card company or bank regarding a suspicious transaction.”

Data From Initial Hack Can Be Used Later
Given that the Macy’s attack exposed customer names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, those customers could see more phishing attempts later, Levin says. Scammers may try to get more information on these calls to be used in further identity-related fraud.

Levin also suggests that given the breadth of the personal information stolen in the recent Macy’s attack, it is possible that data could be connected to other stolen information readily available for sale on the Dark Web. If so, that would make it possible for a criminal to open new accounts in a victim’s name.

“Be on the lookout for suspicious activity,” he warns.

What You Can Do to Protect Data, Money
The proliferation of cyber crime gives consumers more reason to lock their doors, if you will, to their personal information. Consider the following tips:

  • Nearly half of Americans admit to using one password when logging in to various accounts, according to a new study from PCI Pal, a payment compliance provider. Changing your password—and using different passwords for different accounts—becomes even more important if you are planning to shop online during the holidays. You can check out various password managers online that can help ensure unique and random passwords.
  • It should be obvious, but you don’t want to use information that could have been obtained elsewhere for your passwords. Don’t use your birthday, phone number or even the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • Another obvious point: Change your passwords if you are alerted that you’ve been involved in any sort of data breach or identity theft. Attackers who steal data from companies know that you’re only using the same password over and over again.
  • Impulse purchases are the name of the game on big bargain days. Yet you don’t want to access sensitive information, such as payment information, by using the free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop. There’s a risk that such information could be stolen “in transit.”
  • As much as they tell us not to click on links or attachments, people keep doing it anyway, according to the PCI Pal research. Almost a third of those surveyed admit they can’t resist on clicking on attachments—which could explain why the scammers keep sending them.
  • Unusual purchases often can often be spotted by credit card companies as part of their fraud flagging process, but Levin warns that the holidays generate unusual charges galore, which makes it easier for fraudulent charges to go unnoticed.
  • Use credit cards when shopping online. “There is generally more protection with a credit card because when using a credit card, it’s not your money,” Levin says. “When using a debit card, it is. Your bank account can be frozen during an investigation of bogus charges, and unlike a credit card, it also provides a gateway directly into your bank account.”

©2019 Detroit Free Press
Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Promote Professionalism

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 13:15

NAR PULSE—Tell your agents to let their professionalism shine with a Commitment to Excellence Endorsement. Encourage them to log in to C2EX.realtor and help reach the year-end goal of 40,000 participants. If they already participate, they can bring others onboard with the Share button on the Dashboard.

Ring in the New Year With New Wheels
For you and your agents: During FCA’s Big Finish through Jan. 2, 2020, combine national incentives with a $500 cash allowance and two-year maintenance package available through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program on select 2019 and 2020 vehicles. Plus, the cash allowance extends to eligible family members.

Earn BIG With RBP and MVP!
New offer from NAR’s Member Value Plus (MVP) Program: Sign up for a 30-day trial of DocuSign®, a REALTOR Benefits® Program Partner, to receive a free download of DocuSign’s Agent Bundle, plus the Social Media for REALTORS®: Your Website – Download. All participants will automatically be entered for a chance to win a free year of DocuSign® for REALTORS®. Act by December 15!

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Some Great Travel Spots for the Holiday Season

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 13:07

(TNS)—Tie a bow around your travel plans. Here are five family-friendly ways to share the gift of travel with those you love.

1. Snow Lovers: For those who relish the white stuff, the gift of travel to Colorado ski country will be a high-altitude hit. At multiple resorts throughout the state, kids under various ages are offered the opportunity to ski free. For example, kids under 5 always ski free at Arapahoe, Aspen Snowmass and Loveland. Steamboat’s Kids Ski Free and Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 and younger to ski free the same number of days as their parent/grandparent with the purchase of a five-or-more-day adult lift ticket. In Vail, family activities might center around Adventure Ridge, a mountaintop snow park reached by gondola with activities that include ski biking and tubing to a mini snowmobile course and a zipline. Adventure Ridge is open into the evening, providing a family-friendly add-on to the ski day. Other resorts offer lift ticket deals as well as lodging, lesson and gear discounts. Contact www.coloradoski.com.

2. National Park Lovers: In Williams, Ariz., board a historic train for a 65-mile scenic adventure across the Kaibab Plateau to the awe-inspiring South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In Georgia, bypass the crowds and head for the Cumberland Island National Seashore, the state’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Pristine beaches, mud flats, dune fields and salt marshes provide respite for shore birds, sea turtles, wild turkeys and wild horses. Kayak, fish and hike by day. Enjoy the bounty of stars visible from your family’s campsite. (No other lodging is available on the island.) Accessible only by float plane or boat, the Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaskan Peninsula near Kodiak Island, spans nearly 5 million acres. Families visit to observe the dense population of brown bears and to fish for trophy rainbow trout, salmon and Dolly Varden trout that run in Katmai’s streams and rivers. Contact thetrain.com.

3. Museum Lovers: Make a plan to visit our nation’s capital with your family and immerse yourselves in the depth and breadth of opportunity provided by the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex. From art and history to the National Zoo and the Air and Space Museum, where kids can climb aboard an interactive flight simulator or take an exciting virtual trip on board a passenger ride, there is plenty to explore in Washington, D.C. At the National Museum of the American Indian, families can sample basketry or sit inside a full-size tipi to learn about Comanche life. Before your trip, consider a review of the online resources that inspire, prepare and educate. Contact www.si.edu.

4. Music Lovers: In Nashville, Tenn., home of the Grand Ole Opry and the best in country music, learn how a simple radio broadcast spawned a global entertainment phenomenon. From industry legends to the latest luminaries, you’ll get a taste of history along with a contemporary dose of the genre in the “home of American music.” Take in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird Cafe and the Johnny Cash Museum. Ask about backstage passes, behind-the-scenes tours and family packages. Or, indulge your teen with tickets to see his or her favorite pop star on stage in Vegas. Avoid some of the bright lights by staying at the Four Seasons, a nongaming oasis. Contact www.opry.com.

5. Island Lovers: Pack your sandals and sunscreen and enjoy quality island time. In Hawaii, explore torch-lit paths, indigenous birds and flora and a world-famous luau at the Big Island’s Hilton Waikoloa Village. Dig in for toes-in-the-sand dining and hula dancing on Kauai, snorkel on Maui or surf and swim while relaxing on Oahu. In Costa Rica, wake to a chorus of tropical wildlife in the only lodge located inside the Arenal Volcano National Park. The majestic and perfectly shaped volcanic centerpiece, in a rich rainforest setting, can be observed from most guest rooms, the dining room and an expansive deck. Horseback riding, biking and hiking trails wind through old lava fields and soft jungle trails where howling monkeys, slithering snakes, butterflies and colorful birds beckon visitors. Contact www.gohawaii.com.

©2019 Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Homebuyer Optimism Sparked, but Affordability Questionable

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 19:02

In November, Americans’ confidence in home-buying ignited, boosted by low mortgage rates, according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index®, newly released.

As a consumer measure, the Home Purchase Sentiment Index gauges optimism and perceptions, based on questions such as “Is it a good time to buy a home?” Last month, the Index rose to 91.5—nearing a record set this year, and up 5.3 points year-over-year.

So, is it a good time to buy a home?

Sixty-one percent of Americans—an increase—say yes, but 29 percent believe not, according to Fannie Mae’s survey.

What about selling?

Sixty-six percent of Americans believe it’s prime selling time—a minor slip—but 26 percent believe not.

Will home prices rise?

Forty-four percent of Americans peg prices to rise in the upcoming year, 10 percent believe they’ll come down, and 40 percent believe they’ll remain unchanged.

…and mortgage rates?

Eleven percent of Americans believe there’ll be a decrease in mortgage rates in the upcoming year, while 39 percent believe they’ll increase, and 44 percent say they’ll stay unchanged.

According to Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan, despite low rates, affordability is being undermined, and it’s because of the lack of listings.

“While low rates have helped boost housing affordability compared to last year, the HPSI has increased only moderately in that timeframe,” Duncan says. “This may be due in part to the ongoing challenge of tight housing supply, especially in the starter-home market. That lean supply means the recent mortgage rate decline—holding payment size constant—allows borrowers to increase bid prices for homes. As a result, home prices are propelled higher, mitigating the benefit of lower borrowing costs for many borrowers.”

Affordability improved moderately in the third quarter, according to the National Association of REALTORS®—but buoyed by rates, not higher incomes. (More: Kudos, Low Rates: Homeownership Rises)

“The housing market has been seeing reacceleration in home prices as more buyers want to take on lower interest rates in the midst of insufficient supply,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said. “Unfortunately, income and wages are not rising as fast and will make it difficult to buy once rates rise.”

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

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Mastering the Online Referral Game

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 10:06

ReferralExchange LIVE Helps Real Estate Professionals Maximize the Value of Real Estate Leads

Since 2005, ReferralExchange—a nationwide referral and lead management service—has been creating real estate experiences between agents and clients that are second to none.

Expanding the company’s referral offerings even further, ReferralExchange launched a new service this past summer that helps agents make the most of their network by verifying and qualifying contacts acquired through their third-party lead generation efforts. Dubbed ReferralExchange LIVE (Lead Intent Verification Engine), the service makes it easy to see, at a glance, which contacts should be pursued—helping agents maximize the value of real estate leads.

Having specialized in inbound referrals in order to grow his business after launching his real estate career 34 years ago, Mel Loewen knew he needed to reinvent himself after an eight-year hiatus.

“Up until 2005, I was averaging between 30 and 50 closed transactions a year on referral business alone,” explains Loewen, an associate broker with The Starnes Group at Coldwell Banker Complete Real Estate in Calgary, Alberta Canada.

“Coming back into the business after taking a soft leave, I realized that I was too old-school. I had to reinvent myself, and I had to do it with new technology, which is something I’ve always embraced,” says Loewen, who quickly discovered that the team at ReferralExchange had built a highly effective system.

“When ReferralExchange LIVE first came out, what appealed most to me was that it was like having my own personal assistant. What they said was going to happen, which was that they would get the client on the phone with me, actually came to fruition,” explains Loewen.

“My results speak for themselves,” adds Loewen, who points to his success at being able to close a client on the first call as a true testament to the power of the service.

Allowing agents to hone their focus even further, ReferralExchange LIVE has three primary components:

  • Lead verification: ReferralExchange uses proprietary scrubbing technology to quickly figure out which of an agents’ third-party, raw leads are real and which are not.
  • Lead readiness: ReferralExchange’s licensed customer service team calls leads using a proven system that qualifies them and determines their readiness to transact. A live transfer sends them directly back to the agent via phone.
  • Lead transaction: Once a lead has been verified as real and ready to transact, the agent may decide whether or not to complete the deal themselves, or refer it to ReferralExchange’s network.

But the benefits don’t end there, as ReferralExchange LIVE puts time back into the hands of real estate professionals.

“A good real estate professional is well-rounded,” says Kathie FitzPatrick, a broker with Keller Williams Yakima Valley in Yakima, Wash.

In addition to being a full-time real estate professional, FitzPatrick spends a lot of time volunteering with violent and at-risk youth—among other initiatives she’s passionate about.

“My time is valuable, and I needed what the LIVE service offers,” says FitzPatrick, who points to the time savings as a key benefit.

“ReferralExchange scrubs the leads and makes sure the person is ready to talk, which is huge,” explains FitzPatrick, as it takes the pressure off of her while helping her stand out from the competition at the same time.

“The LIVE service also makes me look more professional in the eyes of the consumer due to the simple fact that someone is calling prior to me reaching out in order to qualify them and determine their readiness to transact.”

Having spent 10-plus years building a sophisticated software that uses advanced data science to make the most successful consumer-agent connections, ReferralExchange LIVE is taking the work out of turning raw leads into clients who are ready to transact.

For those not taking advantage of ReferralExchange LIVE yet?

“You’re going to spend a lot more time making cold calls and trying to follow-up on leads,” says FitzPatrick, “and you’re going to lose large chunks of your life trying to develop business.”

As the competition continues to heat up in real estate markets across the U.S., the importance of having a product like LIVE is more critical than ever before.

“As more and more agents get into the business, especially here in the Pittsburgh market, the pie that we all share is getting smaller for many,” says Rick Xander, a REALTOR® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty in Moon Township, Pa. “LIVE is another way for me to not only maintain the level of business I’m used to, but to also expand upon it.”

A former journalist, Xander got into real estate in 1997 when the newspaper he worked for switched from a morning paper to an evening paper.

To say that he’s been impressed with the ReferralExchange platform—and now the LIVE product—would be a serious understatement.

“The folks at ReferralExchange initially contacted me after I earned my Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) designation,” says Xander, who has been pleasantly surprised with the expanded LIVE product. “It’s been better than I thought it was going to be.”

“To me, it means more successful leads, which translates to more listings and more sales.”

While ReferralExchange LIVE saves Xander both time and energy, it’s also been extremely beneficial when pursuing FSBO leads.

“Pursuing FSBOs can sometimes be exasperating, but ReferralExchange LIVE has agreed to massage these leads for me,” says Xander, “connecting me with the lead after they’ve made contact.”

As the day-to-day demands continue to increase for real estate professionals across the board, the team at ReferralExchange is committed to doing everything they can to set agents up for continued success.

For more information, please visit www.referralexchange.com/live.

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

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Coming in 2020: Home Prices Weaken, but Where?

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 10:04

After climbing extensively in recent years, appreciation is starting to steady, and expected to stabilize through the upcoming year, according to the annual forecast from realtor.com®, newly released.

In the forecast, the national price rises 0.8 percent in 2020—essentially flat, with declines in more than 25 percent of the 100 largest markets. (More: 2020 Housing Market: What the Experts Think)

The biggest decreases expected, according to realtor.com researchers:

1. Kansas City, Mo.-Kan. (-4 percent)
2. Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazleton, Pa. (-3.2 percent)
3. Greensboro-High Point, N.C. (-2.9 percent)
4. New Haven-Milford, Conn. (-2.4 percent)
5. Tulsa, Okla. (-2.3 percent)

In the forecast, appreciation falls in the following markets, as well:

  • Bakersfield, Calif. (-1.4 percent)
  • Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla. (-1.2 percent)
  • Birmingham-Hoover, Ala. (-1.1 percent)
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich. (-1 percent)
  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (-1.1 percent)
  • Fresno, Calif. (-0.9 percent)
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii (-0.9 percent)
  • Oklahoma City, Okla. (-0.8 percent)
  • New Orleans-Metairie, La. (-0.7 percent)
  • Louis, Mo.-Ill. (-0.6 percent)
  • Worcester, Mass.-Conn. (-0.6 percent)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (-0.5 percent)
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (-0.4 percent)
  • Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (-0.4 percent)
  • Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (-0.3 percent)
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. (-0.3 percent)
  • Austin-Round Rock, Texas (-0.2 percent)
  • Columbia, S.C. (-0.2 percent)
  • Dayton, Ohio (-0.2 percent)
  • Jackson, Miss. (-0.1 percent)
  • Toledo, Ohio (-0.1 percent)

On the flip side, these areas deviate from the national trend:

1. Boise City, Idaho (+8.1 percent)
2. Colorado Springs, Colo. (+6.3 percent)
3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. (+4.8 percent)
4. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (+4.5 percent)
5. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (+4 percent)

In addition to the home price trajectory, realtor.com researchers forecasted mortgage rates, sales, and more:

Credit: realtor.com®

For the complete forecast, please visit www.realtor.com/research.

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

 

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Supreme Court Notches Landmark Victory for Property Rights

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 10:03

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark property rights decision on June 21, 2019, ruling that the federal courts are open to decide landowners’ claims for a Fifth Amendment “taking” of property by local regulatory agencies.

In Knick v. Township of Scott, the nation’s highest court reversed a 1985 precedent that had forced property owners to first bring takings lawsuits in state courts, a precedent which had ultimately blocked claims from reaching a federal court.

This legal fight centers on an alleged burial ground on Rose Knick’s land in Western Pennsylvania’s Scott Township. A local ordinance requires landowners to allow public access to old cemeteries and burial sites. Knick challenged the policy as a violation of her property rights, but encountered what many critics call a catch-22 in takings litigation.

Under the Supreme Court precedent known as Williamson County, landowners must bring claims against local governments in state court before they can proceed to federal court, even though legal rules generally prevent federal courts from re-reviewing already litigated cases.

The 5-4 ruling in Knick holds that suits arising under the Takings Clause can be brought as an initial matter in U.S. trial courts before being appealed in U.S. circuit courts—just like any other alleged grievance to vindicate protections in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Such matters are no longer relegated to state judges for resolution. The ruling clarifies that federal courts are now proper venues to test the constitutionality of aggressive land-use decisions by local regulators, as they can decide whether landowners are owed “just compensation” for a property taking.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion corrected the litigation dilemma for property owners trapped between state and federal judiciaries. “The takings plaintiff thus finds himself in a catch-22: He cannot go to federal court without going to state court first; but if he goes to state court and loses, his claim will be barred in federal court,” Roberts wrote. “The federal claim dies aborning.”

Roberts added, “Takings claims against local governments should be handled the same as other claims under the Bill of Rights. We now conclude that the state litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden on takings plaintiffs, conflicts with the rest of our takings jurisprudence, and must be overruled.”

Roberts reasoned that landowners have a claim under the Fifth Amendment—which bars the government from taking property without compensation—as soon as the taking occurs, and, therefore, have access to federal court immediately.

Experts expect the ruling to have ramifications for similar challenges to local governments’ environmental regulations or land-use plans—helping landowners get to federal court swiftly.

“This decision is a very long time coming for Rose and other property owners who have had federal courtroom doors slammed shut in their faces whenever they seek compensation for a governmental taking of their private property,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Dave Breemer, who represented Knick in the case, said in a statement. “The Court’s decision sends a message that constitutionally-based property rights deserve federal protection just like other rights.”

The attorney representing the property owners before SCOTUS remarked that Knick “reject[s] barriers that unfairly deny property owners their day in court [and] sends a message that property rights are just as sacred as all other rights.”

This landmark Supreme Court decision is a decisive win for Knick and property owners everywhere who have defended property rights from government overreach. With this decision, some of those rights have been restored.

Russell W. Riggs is a senior policy representative for the Environment and Administrative Regulatory Reform, 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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When Tech Meets Real Estate, the Results Are Exponential

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 21:01

(Above) Demetrios Salpoglou, CEO, Boston Pads)

Boston Pads Gets Ready to Take its Winning Formula Beyond Beantown

Bridging the gap between technology and real estate is a long-standing challenge for both software developers and real estate professionals alike. But what if you were a tech expert who also ran numerous leading real estate brands in a highly competitive marketplace? Unlikely scenario? Not if you’re Demetrios Salpoglou. Here, the founder of technology solutions provider Boston Pads, and CEO and broker of record for the No. 1 apartment leasing team in New England for 15 years running, explains how the marriage of technology and real estate has kept his agents consistently ahead of the pack in the competitive Boston market…and why he’s ready to start taking his platform nationwide.

Maria Patterson: Demetrios, let’s start with a little about your background. It’s not your typical real estate journey…
Demetrios Salpoglou:
Yes, I’ve had a bifurcated career. When I graduated college in the early ’90s, there was high unemployment in Massachusetts, and my father suggested I look at real estate. So I started in real estate, and then Windows 95 came out. I was enamored with it. I paid $2,200 for a first rendition of a Windows 95 computer and fell in love with technology. I was doing real estate by day and reading tech and financial mags at night. It was incredible to see the initial tech bull run and all the companies growing at amazing rates. I was offered a job in software development sales and decided I had to give it a shot.

MP: That was right in the middle of the dot-com boom, right?
DS:
Exactly. I was learning a lot about high tech and was watching some of my friends’ companies go public. Dot-coms were going nuts, and no one knew where the internet was heading…it was like the Wild Wild West. Overnight millionaires were being created at a pace unseen in modern history. Back then, if you had a marginal business model on a napkin, you could get funded. Something called within me to start my own internet company. I figured I could retire by 30. But the countless dot-coms, including mine, quickly turned into “dot-bombs,” and I decided to come back to real estate.

MP: What was it like coming back to real estate after being immersed in the tech world?
DS:
It was like coming back from a five-year intensive internship in technology. But then I looked at real estate and saw that hardly anything had advanced in the industry. I then realized I could do things that other real estate companies couldn’t, based on the skills and knowledge I had learned in the technology arena.

The way Tesla reinvented the car, Boston Pads is reinventing real estate.

MP: Such as?
DS:
When Google first came out, it was very easy to build websites that were search engine-friendly, so we built website after website and bought hyperlocal real estate and apartment domain names. We now own nearly 800 real estate-related domain names; Boston Pads is one of them. And we continued to develop content-rich enhancements of neighborhood-specific domains, such as Allston Pads, Brighton Pads, Beacon Hill Pads, etc. Many of these websites feed us new landlords and unique, updated listings on a daily basis.

Our team ranked hundreds and hundreds of No. 1 keywords for specific niches, like Cambridge real estate, South Boston apartments, North End property management, etc. Any time we could buy “pads” or “apartments” or other great domain names for major markets across the country, we did so with intention. When landlords see a local domain name that matches the general address of their property, they tend to either fill in our online forms, email us, or call in to provide their rental and sales listings or property management inquires. Logic in listing and organizing data creates momentum.

MP: Wow, hyperlocal is the name of the game now. You were really foretelling the future back then…
DS:
Yes, we were light years ahead of everybody in hyperlocal real estate searches. Then came the national real estate portals. This caused some confusion for many people, especially when it came to apartment searches. There were tons of data points being aggregated at a national level, but the results were inaccurate or outdated at the local level where it matters most.

The fact of conflicting apartment data with improper rental values is even more acute. Many of the portals are simply too big nationally to be highly effective locally. Trust and accuracy all go back to being local, picking up the phone and meeting the property owner to go over a winning game strategy. Property owners want to work with people that they know, like and trust. Our framework provides for all the underpinnings of a large, well-run tech company with that hyperlocal trust and human feel. It’s a marriage of the best of both worlds.

MP: How would you describe what Boston Pads has become today?
DS:
Boston Pads is a technology and information portal that features the largest collection of real-time apartments and homes for sale in the Greater Boston area. We provide resources to buyers, sellers, landlords, renters and property managers alike. We produce real-time listings the second something is listed, and we’re pulling it down the second it’s off the market. We are also updating the property prices in real-time. We syndicate real estate agent ads to more places than anywhere on the internet, and that includes a heavy dose of widely dispersed social media. We help update listings for agents, giving them the freshest data and marketing power possible on multiple fronts.

And the Boston Pads technology platform is scalable and providable to other real estate offices in other cities. We give them better infrastructure to deliver real-time data, which makes local agents more legitimate and improves their professional image.

We also power the largest apartment leasing team in the Greater Boston area, represented across five leading real estate brands: Boardwalk Properties, Nextgen Realty, Jacob Realty, Douglas Paul and USWoo. We’ve rented more apartments than anyone in the history of New England.

MP: So, you’re a real estate and technology expert…
DS:
We are fully immersed, half our day in technology, and half in real estate. We’re not just software guys who don’t know the real estate business. My business partner of 16 years, Yuan Huang, was a coder, software developer and project manager. We are deep in the trenches with great agents, and we continue to innovate ahead of the curve. Because we “get it,” we seem to attract agents who are smarter, who also inspire us to try more ideas. It’s that momentum thing that people talk about.

The bottom line is that you can’t run a thriving, successful real estate company unless both you and your team have a strong technology, marketing and sales background. It’s an unavoidable truth as we approach 2020.

MP: And clearly, the technology you’ve developed must be a huge factor then in your real estate success…
DS:
We have six full-service real estate offices using these technologies. We have more than 80 real estate-related websites and 74 Facebook pages and 66 groups. We tweet out listings and send apartment videos to YouTube. We’re posting real-time listings and syndicating data at levels no one can match. We have technology in place that automatically takes down rented properties and adjusts their pricing in ads as it happens. The efficiency for agents using the bostonpads.com suite of offerings is off the charts. Phones constantly ring with great leads. Agents spend less time marketing and more time shaking hands with customers, acquiring keys from landlords and closing deals.

Our stats are amazing: We have 166,061-plus listings; 358 luxury buildings; 87,294 luxury units; 15,253 landlords; 78,767 regular “mom-and-pop” landlord units; more than 55,439 galleries of properties; 719,749 pictures and 9,857 videos that are in our proprietary database.

MP: What are your goals in terms of your technology moving forward?
DS:
We’re looking to grow and cover more geographic areas through brokers and agents utilizing our platform, strategic partnerships and acquisition of real estate offices. We have great domain names available for real estate companies anywhere nationally. We can craft custom-branded messages and website resources for them. Our software can make any local player look like a big fish in a small pond. Stay tuned for some game-changing technologies that are under incubation as we speak. We are completely self-funded, with zero debt, so we can make decisions quickly. Currently, we’re not beholden to any venture capitalist, so we get to experiment a lot and spend a tremendous amount on research and development.

Innovating ahead of the curve is mission critical.

MP: You’ve obviously got a unique model. On the real estate sales side of the business, what makes you stand out from the competition?
DS:
The way Tesla reinvented the car, we’re reinventing real estate to a large degree. We are built around what we call the four Ts: Technology, Training, Trust and Teamwork.

In terms of technology, we have the best overall technology and training systems hands down—bar none for investment sales of multifamily properties and buildings in Greater Boston…and nationally for apartment leasing.

When it comes to training, we have the most comprehensive apartment-leasing program in the country. I am a certified teacher, trainer and guest lecturer at several leading real estate schools. Philosophically speaking, we believe that all professional real estate training should be provided free of charge as it makes our industry stronger. We invest the time and resources in training for our agents so that we can fundamentally grow and make money together.

In terms of trust and teamwork, we’ve built a collaborative database that’s built on speed, sharing information and helping each other close deals. We’re beating the internet, because we’re sharing information within this incredible group that is collaborating at an unparalleled level.

A landlord once told me he thought of us as the New England Patriots of real estate and apartment leasing. He said each year, we figure out a way to win big no matter what the season brings.

The Boston Pads team is committed to making real estate better than it’s ever been for everyone.

MP: How is this different from other real estate companies?
DS:
At most real estate companies, agents must watch over their shoulders. They’re constantly worried about people stealing their potential rental and sales listings. The agents operate on a small island even with the illusion of a big brand backing them up. But when it’s show time, when it’s time to close, they can’t get the help to reel in the deals.

Our environment is an open teamwork structure where the agents readily exchange information so that the property owners, agents and the consumer are treated to the best experience and outcome. We believe in honesty, transparency, grit, speed and hard work.

MP: Those type of production stats must help drive agents to your firm…
DS:
We have agents who have come from other offices whose closing numbers double and triple because we have the most and best listings. It’s like this: When you can access far better properties than you could before, you automatically become a better closer. Greater options equal greater results.

That’s why we have such long-standing and loyal customers and agents with us. They know they’re exposed to something special and not duplicatable. There’s a code, there’s a credo here…a synergy. Here, there is also an underlying theme of “cooperatition,” where everyone is openly cooperating toward the greater good and making much more money in the process. We believe we have an ethical obligation to best serve our community and our customer base first.

MP: So, what are your next steps for the future?
DS:
There are a lot of great paths to take. We currently have an incredible platform that can help anyone in any local market become a dominant player, so we’re ready to license our technology or look at strategic partnerships. All of that’s in play.

We are currently building transformative technologies that will make agents even more money with less effort. We are looking at additional sources of capital for the new, emerging technologies that we develop.

Looking into 2020, we will continue to improve our infrastructure, processes and success. We’ve had 15-plus straight years of revenue growth. Now we’re ready to hyper-accelerate. Our team is ready to bring on more offices and agents. We will make real estate better than it’s ever been for everyone.

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

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

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Capitalizing on a Strong Global Presence

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 13:00

In the following interview, Bruno Rabassa, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices LARVIA in Madrid, Spain, discusses affiliating with the brand, the local market, and more.

Region Served: Spain
Years in Real Estate: 7
Number of Offices: 3
Number of Agents: 15

Please describe some of the current trends you’re seeing in your market.
In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in prices, but we’re still a long way from the highs we reached in the last decade. That being said, there are still great opportunities to purchase property in Madrid and Barcelona, as well as other parts of Spain. The real estate market is demanding more rental housing, and we’ve seen corporate and individual investors take positions in this segment. Banks are also very receptive to foreign financing. In fact, many of them have departments specializing in granting these types of loans.

While the company has ties to Spanish construction and development that dates back to the mid-’60s, you recently joined the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network. What makes the network the best fit for you?
The addition of LARVIA to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices family will allow the network to benefit from the expertise we have in the Spanish real estate market. Likewise, our clients will also benefit by receiving expert advice from other companies in the network who are located around the world. For LARVIA, it’s a unique opportunity to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, as we now have coverage in all the major markets around the world. Our clients know that whether they’re working with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices LARVIA in Spain—or anywhere else in the world—they have the guarantee that they’re working with network members whose name stands for integrity.

How has business changed since the transition?
In addition to transforming from a local agency to a global agency with a strong global presence, we’re also part of one of the most recognized and admired brands in the world. We now have access to effective IT tools, which is a huge benefit for us, and we’re already seeing a wave of referrals since we launched the brand. We never imagined the incredible amount of interest we would see from international clients and investors, but the news coverage surrounding our joining the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network has led to many of the largest developers in Spain inviting us to help them market and sell their properties.

How does your company make its agents’ jobs easier?
By listening to their needs and setting goals to achieve them. We like to ask our agents what they need to do their job better and be more successful. Communication with our agents is essential, not only to receive their valuable input, but to also make them aware that we’re here to support them.

What sets Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices LARVIA apart from other brokerages?
First and foremost, our renowned brand—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—carries the name of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., one of the most respected and trusted companies in the world. Secondly, our global vision. As I mentioned, we transformed from a local to an international agency, and that’s a huge change. Thirdly, we have the most exciting project in Spanish real estate history—and all the best agents in Spain are welcome to reach out to us so that we can tell them more about this incredible opportunity. In addition, the market has welcomed our incorporation into the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, and there has been enormous interest so far. We’re now able to sell Spanish properties anywhere in the world, thus showcasing the best listings of our cities.

What does the future look like for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices LARVIA?
Passionate and challenging. We want to expand rapidly throughout the Spanish geography, especially in those places with a high demand for national and international customers. Our goal is for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices LARVIA to be the leader in Spain within the next 7-10 years.

Final Questions…

What is your favorite relationship-building strategy?
Generate the confidence necessary to form long-term relationships with clients through transparency and an orderly process that’s designed to find the right property to solve their needs.

What is the most effective way to motivate agents?
Team up with them so that they feel as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

What is the one thing people don’t know about you?
My obsession with order and processes.

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

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

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The Silver Tsunami: Boomer Inventory Poised to Unleash

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 12:53

In the next 20 years, analysts are expecting a housing inventory wave—akin to the boom in the early 2000s—as the aging population releases supply.

Brace for the Silver Tsunami.

Over the 2017-2027 period, 920,000 baby boomer-held homes will unleash yearly, with 1.17 million materializing in the succeeding years, from 2027-2037, according to analysts at Zillow. All told, 20 million more properties, or approximately 27 percent of the current owner-occupied stock, will come onto the market, as the elder generation passes on.

According to Zillow, the boom compares to the construction onslaught prior to the recession, and could counterbalance home-building in the next 20 years. Between 2009 and 2018, an average 450,000 new properties sold yearly; in the projections by Zillow, by the end of the 2030s, the Silver Tsunami nets 440,000 new properties yearly—a comparable difference.

As popular retiree states, Arizona and Florida have the highest inventory jumps, with boosts expected north of 30 percent. The biggest increases, according to Zillow: Tampa, where boomer-fueled inventory rises 15.2 percent by 2027 and 33.2 percent by 2037; Tucson, where inventory rises 14.8 percent by 2027 and 32.6 percent by 2037; and Miami, where inventory rises 15.2 percent by 2027 and 31.9 percent by 2037. In these areas, excess housing is predicted to rise.

“In many parts of the country, the Silver Tsunami will dampen new-home construction, as a flood of existing homes vacated by boomers comes on the market,” explains Jeff Tucker, economist for Zillow. “The places best situated to absorb that new inventory and still drive new construction are ones with booming job markets and plenty of buildable land, such as Austin, Houston, Salt Lake City and Raleigh.”

However, with inventory issues persisting, the boomer drop has the potential to relieve shortages. In October, existing-home inventory shrank to 3.9-months supply, compared to 4.3 months the prior year, the National Association of REALTORS® reported. On the new side, inventory tightened year-over-year, from 7.4 months to 5.3 months, Census figures show.

In addition to lacking supply—brought on by costs and labor and land shortages—accessibility and affordability concerns remain, including the need to retrofit properties. According to Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies projections, aged 65-79 households leap 49 percent between 2018 and 2028, and another 20 percent between 2028 and 2038. However, within that segment, just 10 percent completed home renovations to accommodate aging-in-place, and 46 percent had a mortgage, still, despite nearing retirement or retiring.

Changes in demographics inform the market, and drive home-buying and -selling, says Tucker. Among 60-and-older homeowners, for instance, the death of a partner often precedes selling, according to REALTORS® in the trenches.

“Demographic trends are critical to the real estate industry because the most common reasons for home purchases and sales are demographic life events, such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces,” says Tucker. “Along with job relocations, these factors drive the underlying demand for housing around the country, and at the population level they can actually be predicted fairly accurately.”

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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