By Stacey Moncrieff, Editor in Chief, REALTOR® Magazine
Every year around this time, REALTOR® Magazine produces an issue filled with hundreds of tips that we glean from NAR members, as well as experts in marketing, technology, law, public policy, and business management. This year, we tried something a little different with our List Issue. We put a number of the topics that we planned to include out to our readers, and we asked them to share their ideas and opinions online. The result (internally, we’re calling it the crowdsourced issue) will be published in our April issue.
One of the last steps of producing the issue is developing the cover, and we decided to open that process up to public opinion, too. Since it would be prohibitively expensive to photograph three covers, we’re planning an illustrated cover. Here are sketches of three concepts we’re considering. Please take a look and then vote for the one that would be most likely to draw you inside. Voting is open until Wednesday, March 3, 5 p.m. Central Time. Thank you for your input!
1. “Crowdsourced.” This cover represents the idea of crowdsourcing, showing, in a rather literal way, that we plugged into a big network of people to come up with the great ideas you’ll find inside.
2. “Idea Superstore.” In this concept, a practitioner is looking at a long “shopping” list and heading to a superstore (i.e., REALTOR® Magazine!) to meet all her information needs.
3. “Come and Get It!” A fellow REALTOR® welcomes you to open the magazine, where we’re presenting “Your Best Ideas.” This cover emphasizes the ideas themselves, but it also subtly telegraphs the crowdsourcing idea.
Thank you for sharing your opinion with us!
By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
We’re close to the halfway mark of the REALTOR® Magazine/HP Marketing Makeover Challenge, in which five real estate pros compete to see who can use HP products and services to improve their branding and marketing materials the most.
In this week’s challenge, the finalists are showcasing their brand’s personality through brochures that promote their listings and/or businesses. Using HP’s Creative Studio for Business, the Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One, tri-fold brochure paper, and their own skill and intuition, the contestants created polished print products that effectively conveyed who they are and what they offer.
Each one had a slightly different approach from the other. For instance, one of them explained the importance of using a licensed real estate professional. Another offered a list of client testimonials. A couple of others offered detailed bios of the practitioners themselves.
If you haven’t checked out the Marketing Makeover Challenge blog yet, have a look. I believe you’ll come away with a few new ideas for your own personal marketing. And while you’re there, be sure to vote for your favorite contestant in each weekly challenge!
By Robert Freedman, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
FHA helped 2 million borrowers in its last fiscal year, double its volume the previous year. That’s a testament to the crucial role the agency is playing in housing markets, FHA Commissioner David Stevens said on Saturday on Real Estate Today, NAR’s national consumer radio show.
Stevens doesn’t talk about concerns among lawmakers and in the media about whether FHA is getting over-extended or whether the safety measures the agency rolled out about a month and a half ago are working. These include requiring borrowers with a credit score of 580 or less to put up a minimum 10 percent down (it remains 3.5 percent down for those with higher credit scores) and upping the mortgage insurance premium. No doubt it’s too soon to tell what impact those changes are having.
But he does reiterate what has always made FHA a remarkably stable agency over its seven decades, and that’s its focus on owner-occupant borrowers and its requirement that applications be fully documented. As he tells Gil Gross, the show’s host, “We don’t do investment properties. We only do 30-year, fully amortizing, fixed-rate mortgages, and every loan is fully documented, so when we approve a borrower . . . we know their ability to repay that loan has been verified.”
Pat Moore, a Michigan real estate professional and recipient of REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award in 2007, was in Haiti for two weeks providing assistance following the devastating earthquakes that recently struck the country. He left Haiti on Friday, Feb. 12, and expects to return sometime in the spring to continue relief efforts. Here are the final reports from his trip:
Bon Repos, Haiti – Feb. 10, 2010
Today we had the second meeting of NGOs with the 82nd Airborne. Since I am leaving on Friday, all contact information was turned over to Barbara Walker, Director of Reach Out to Haiti, who runs Ruuska Village orphanage. Also Pastor Capre’s name and address were added to the list for food and other supplies. We made some great contacts at these two meetings. This will give long-term help to those we serve. I will say it again, the 82nd has been a Godsend. If they say they will be there with aid, they come on time and loaded. They made a lot of dreams come true. Continue reading »
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine
A few stories that appeared in REALTOR® Magazine’s Daily News struck me as unusual this week. I’m curious to hear your thoughts!
Buyer Sues Agent Over Secondhand Smoke
A buyer is suing her real estate agent, claiming the agent never told her that secondhand smoke was seeping into her $405,000 condo from the unit next door. The buyer claims her broker assured her when she smelled smoke during their initial visit that it was because the owner smoked, and that the smell would be gone by the time she moved in.
However, once she moved in, the buyer — who has asthma — discovered the smoke was actually coming from her next-door neighbor. In court filings, the real estate agent says the buyer never questioned him about the smoke.
Depending on how it plays out, the case could pave the way for whether disclosing smoke smells to prospective buyers will be required of real estate professionals. So you might want to start giving your listings an extra whiff.
Paying Home Owners to Pay Their Mortgage
By Robert Freedman, senior editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Congress helped keep home sales on solid ground when it extended and expanded the home buyer tax credit late last year. Given the federal budget deficit, you also have to say it acted reasonably by limiting the tax credit to just six months. (Deals in process by the end of April have until the end of June to close.)
The question markets now face, though, is whether short sales are going to limit the effectiveness of the credit.
When you consider that short sales comprise a significant share of markets today and can take months to close, you have to wonder if these transactions are going to pose a problem as the tax credit deadline nears.
One real estate professional I talked to in California says her market consists almost entirely of distressed sales. Many of these are REOs, which can sell fast, especially when the deal involves investors looking for bargains.
But short sales, despite signs of progress, remain another matter. According to practitioners and others I’ve spoken to, lenders are improving their short-sale processing and more improvements could be in the works as federal guidelines take effect in early April. (More about that.) But the transactions still take a long time. It’s not unusual for buyers, hoping to take advantage of the tax credit, to feel stymied by the uncertainties and delays of short-sale purchases.
To help you explore solutions for the issues at the root of delays, we brought together a real etate professional and a nationally recognized short-sale consultant, Scott Thompson of ServiceLink and Mortgage Resolution Services, for a free webinar on March 25. They won’t have all the answers, of course, but between the two of them they’ve seen enough deals to know of the main sticking points and they’ll have ideas on how to work through them.
The webinar is on Thursday, March 25, at 3 p.m., Eastern Time. To register, click here, and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
By Robert Freedman, senior editor, REALTOR® Magazine
In real estate, the fewer things that stand in the way of transfer of clear title the better. Of course, as a practical matter, we accept that some properties come with some encumbrances. For example, we might buy a property that includes a utility easement. Because we accept the value of that easement, we buy the property and accept the restriction it places on our use of the property.
But what if the property comes with an encumbrance that provides no public good? That’s what buyers increasingly are facing because of the growth of private transfer fees. These are encumbrances imposed on the title of a new property by the developer to generate a future income stream, whenever the property is bought and sold.
Specifics will differ with each encumbrance, but in general, for the term of the restriction (up to 99 years, typically), the developer imposes a fee—say 1 percent of the purchase price—payable before there can be clear transfer of title.
Six states have already taken action against these fees, incuduing four that have banned them outright.
If these fees are something you think your state association of REALTORS® should look at, you should know that NAR is making free help available to them for drafting proposed state legislation seeking their ban. NAR has model legislation already available, but it also is working with a law firm to draft at no charge to the association proposed legislation to meet their state’s needs. State associations then have a solution to offer their lawmakers when they let them know of their concerns.
In the six-minute video above, Gerry Allen of NAR Community and Political Affairs talks about the growth of the fees, what states are doing to stop them, and how NAR’s assistance can help.
Here are the latest updates from 2007 Good Neighbor Award winner Pat Moore, who has been in Haiti for about two weeks now assisting disaster relief efforts:
Bon Repos, Haiti – Feb. 4, 2010 (Sent on Feb. 5)
We had another very productive day. Much-needed food we acquired from Samaritan’s Purse was delivered to two locations. The first was the orphanage two lots away from where we are staying. Cornmeal, rice, beans, and high-energy biscuits were a welcome sight to the 20 children and four adults. The next stop was Pastor Capre’s home, where we found another 50 to 60 people had taken shelter there. Their needs are growing faster than we can deliver, but we will make it work.
Pastor Jean Robert Martin will be down on Saturday to get the food money to feed our orphanage in Anse Rouge until July. By the grace of God this region was spared. The one big problem we continue to see is the after-care of the wounded. Infections are the order of the day. Our medicine is holding out and the 82nd Airborne is going to deliver a large supply of medicine on Saturday. It is an honor to be working with them side by side, these guys really care, and after coming from war most of them say they have never seen anything like this. Continue reading »
By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
The HP/REALTOR® Marketing Makeover Challenge got underway this week, with our five contest finalists vying to win the competition’s grand prize: $4,000 in products and credit from HP, and a free National Association of REALTORS® e-PRO® course.
During the next six weeks, the finalists will go through a “Weekly Challenge,” in which they apply the skills and knowledge they’ve learned—along with the HP tools they’re using—to improve some aspect of their marketing materials. Last week, they worked on redesigning the logos for their personal business or brokerage.
Each of the contestants took a different approach to this challenge. One of them determined that his “brand” centered around his own reputation and proficiency, and designed his logo accordingly. Another developed his logo to reflect local landmarks, thus emphasizing a connection to the community. A third created a logo that emphasized her company’s green focus.
You can follow the finalists’ exploits at the Marketing Makeover Challenge blog, where they’ll be writing about their achievements in marketing and branding each week. Hopefully, you’ll come away with some ideas and insights on improving your own marketing efforts. Read about their latest experiences here, and remember to vote for your favorite!
In February 2009, REALTOR® Magazine launched the Masters Series, a video diary of top-producing practitioners, who represent expertise in a certain field within real estate. We traveled all over the country to meet some of the best real estate pros, followed them around for a day, and learned their trade secrets.
We’re planning the 2010 series and we want to hear from you. Have you been in the business for over 10 years? Are you a top producer? For May, we’re looking for the practitioner who’s mastered the open house. Do you throw over-the-top affairs? Attract crowds of lookers? Sell the property on the spot?
If this sounds like you, and you’d like to be considered for a 2010 Masters Series video, please contact senior editor Katherine Tarbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.