Real Estate Forecast for 2018 Is A Positive One, But Is Your Real Estate Website Maximized For This Windfall?

real estate forecastWhile the real estate forecast for 2018 is looking very bright indeed, are you still using a clunky old website from years ago?

Have you seen the data? All indicators are a “go” when it comes to the economy in 2018.

Finally. After suffering through an anemic economy with slow growth since the Great Recession, it’s great to see the economy will be back on all cylinders next year.

Home prices are strong. Tax cuts are coming. Employment is at an all-time low. The stock market is at all-time highs.

Whatever your political affiliation, if you are a real estate professional, this next year your main concern should be to grab a big chunk of that housing market because it should be a good one.

As everybody in the biz knows, perception is reality.

Right now, consumers are feeling good. And they should.

Let’s take the numbers for GDP.

If you recall, back in  2008, during the Great Recession, the GDP dropped to us minus -.3%. That’s not good at all. Nobody is thinking about buying a house in that climate. They are just worried they will have a job to keep a roof over their heads.

The following year, 2009, was a real nightmare. GDP was minus -2.8%.

Then we had:

2010: 2.5%

2011:  1.6%

2012:  2.2%

2013: 1.7%

2014: 2.6%

2015: 2.9%

2016: 1.5%

Sluggish, especially when the GDP is below 2%. China by contrast continues to roar in the 6-7% GDP growth rates.

Now let’s look at the end of this year.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the GDP in the 2nd quarter of 2017 was 3.1%. That’s certainly an upsurge from 1.5%.

It’s gets better. For the 3rd quarter, the GDP grew to 3.2%.

Those are certainly signs that an economy is taking off. A very promising environment for a positive real estate forecast indeed.

Mortgage rate forecast predicts low rates

Let’s look at housing. We like to use numbers from the economists at the Mortgage Bankers Association. Because after all, most people won’t be buying a home without a mortgage. So these economists certainly have their ears to the ground when it comes to forecasting home sales

And their forecast is an optimistic one.

First off, mortgage rates will continue to stay relatively low, which of course, is fantastic for home sales. (Do you remember the days of 9% mortgage rates? Wasn’t anybody buying homes then.)

Here is their 2018 forecast for loan rates per quarter for a 30-year fixed mortgage:

Q1 – 4.3

Q2 – 4.5

Q3 – 4.7

Q4 – 4.8 (forecast)

That’s an increase from the third quarter of 2017 when rates were 3.9%. But as we said, 4.5% is certainly better than 9%. It’s a great window for borrowers. And as rates go up, they will certainly see that window start to close. So they know it’s time to get in a home fast.

MBA real estate forecast calls for growth

What does the MBA say about home sales?

They predict total Existing Home Sales for 2018 will be:

Q1 – 5,486,000

Q2 – 5,604,000

Q3 – 5,702,000

Q4 – 5,725,000

These were the existing home sales figures from 2017 (they are lower).

Q1- 5,620,000

Q2- 5,563,000

Q3 – 5,393,000

Q4 – 5,394,000 (forecast)

If you are a broker or agent, these are nice numbers. The real estate forecast for this next year is sunny, with little chance of obstacles.

Which begs the question?

Is your website ready for 2018? Or are you still using a boring old website from a few years back with a limited amount of information and an old-fashioned design.

Have you done everything you can to maximize your website for the housing windfall that is forecast for next year?

Maybe not. The first thing you should do is call Home Junction Inc. We are the real estate website experts.

In a nutshell, here’s how we can optimize your real estate website

1. WordPress platform – if your website is not using the No. 1 content management website in the world, then you might be in trouble. WordPress is the undisputed winner when it comes to websites. The website is coded to be super-friendly for users. You don’t need a webmaster to add content. The process is extremely simple.

You can add photos, text, listings, testimonials, whatever, in seconds. Display all those home listings in beautiful, bright, big image galleries. Fill that website with plugins and important real estate data.

2. Search Engine Rankings – Which leads us to the second benefit of a WordPress website – Google and Bing love this platform. It is coded in a way that is very easy for their bots to read and rank. And when consumers hit their computers next year and start searching for homes (which as we know 90% of them do), you will want to be in the top rankings to capture those consumers.

3. Real estate data – today’s home buyers live on the Internet. Millenials were born on the Internet. But even Baby Boomers will turn to their laptops, iPhones and iPads to look for homes. Those consumers are looking for information, and you certainly don’t want them to look elsewhere for Property Sales, Home Sales Trends, Local Schools, Demographics, Crime Statistics, Cost of Living Indices, etc.

You want to be able to show home buyers you are the No.1 resource in their local market. Home Junction can supply you with the hyper-local data to make that happen. (You can use that same argument to attract sellers – show them how you have more local, relevant information than your competition).

4. More enhancements – The staff at Home Junction are the experts when it comes to real estate websites. They’ve developed thousands of them. They know what works and what doesn’t. For that reason, they have a full array of tools – WordPress plugins, SEO services, Lead Generation opportunities, Home Value Estimators, Geo-Spatial Widgets, two IDX platforms for pulling in MLS listings and much more.

What’s missing from your site? Are you doing all you can to capture leads? Could you be left behind by others with better websites?

If the economy in 2018 is going to be hitting on all cylinders, then you need to be sure your website is hitting on all cylinders next year as well.

As you can see by historic data, the economy is not always on the side of brokers and agents. Next year, the real estate forecast is that it will be a banner year for home sales.

Call us to make sure you are ready to lead the charge into that forecast.

 

 

home winter

Tis’ The Season To Thank The People Who Help Families Find A Home

home winter

This holiday season when people gather in their homes to celebrate and visit with friends and family, it might be appropriate to take a minute and thank the professionals who helped them get there – real estate brokers and agents.

While real estate is a business, at the end of the day (and the year) everybody knows the process is very emotional.

Here’s a sampling of some of the comments brokers and agent receive from satisfied family homeowners.

“Thank  you very much for helping me with my first home. You made it very easy and enjoyable. Thank you!”

“As parents we can’t thank you enough for all your honesty, integrity, guidance and kindness. You are a true gem in your profession.”

“We all are so greatly appreciative for all you did to assist us in finding our home where we can thrive as a family.”

“We cannot imagine not having you along to help us through this. Thank you for replacing bad memories with good ones. Your overwhelming generosity has left our family speechless.”

“Thanks again for all of your time, your kindness and your knowledge. We really got blessed.”

“I wish I had two more houses for you to sell.”

“Thank you for showing me so many homes. I am so glad I found a home for my children and me.”

“After settling into our beautiful new home, I wanted to take the time to thank you and your staff for the first-rate service you provided to my family.”

“As a widow and senior citizen, I was indeed fortunate in having you as my agent.”

“Thank you for helping me pick out this home. My family could not be happier!”

“Your knowledge of the area, diligence and attention to detail made this transaction worry-free.”

“For our agent, this is a career not just a job. He focuses on continuing education, learning current market trends, house staging and everything else involved with real estate. He is a true professional. Our family is so grateful.”

Home for the holidays

Agents work long and hard hours to help families make the transition into a home. Many times all the effort behind the scenes is not recognized or appreciated. That goes with the territory.

Those in the business can take pride in knowing, this holiday season, they played a part in helping all those families gather in a home they helped them acquire. That is satisfying in itself.

This holiday season, the team at Home Junction would also like to thank all of our customers, website visitors and readers.

News reports all point to a very robust 2018. That’s encouraging news and something to look forward to next year.

But this next week, appreciate all you’ve achieved this past year as a real estate professional and enjoy this time in your own home with your own family. And maybe think for a moment about all of your clients who are enjoying the same experience.

Happy holidays!

 

Property Data Can Be Used As A Neighborhood And Lifestyle “Compatability” Tool

neighborhood and property dataDetailed neighborhood and property data can help avoid situations like this one.

A recent article talked about mistakes home buyers make and included a sad tale of people who bought a lovely home, only to discover the neighborhood was not right for them.

The couple moved from a big city urban market to a smaller market in another state. After selling their home, they were thrilled to see the size and the type of home they could buy with all that cash.

Unfortunately, after moving in, they found out all the next neighbors were much, much older than them and did not have any kids.

In fact, the entire neighborhood was like that. They also found they missed the amenities they were used to in the bigger city – choice of great restaurants, etc.

Property data is a powerful match-maker

If you reverse engineer this situation, there’s a powerful lesson and opportunity here.

This is a scenario that could be solved with property data such as the neighborhood information provided by data aggregators like Home Junction.

The property data we’re talking about consists of in-depth detail about a neighborhood – demographics, cost of living indices, school information, crime rates, surrounding businesses, etc.

Take that same couple who moved from one urban area to the suburbs. After talking to the couple about their needs, an agent can use their real estate data gathered by Home Junction to tailor a home that fits their personalities.

If the couple is middle-aged professionals, the demographic data will show the areas where there are plenty of other middle-aged professionals.

If there is a family involved, use the data to show that these particular areas have similar types of families living there. You can also display the most important information a family usually considers when buying a house – school data.

Where are the schools in relation to the property? What is the student/teacher ratio? What is the demographic makeup of the school? What is the contact information for those schools?

Home Junction provides all of this hyper-local information. They have an easy-to-embed API that will feed relevant data to an agent’s website not only to the county and zip code level, but all the way down to the neighborhood level. On any page. With continual updates.

But there’s more.

Integrate real estate mapping

Use geo-spatial mapping technology to drive home the point. With their SpatialMatch IDX, Home Junction integrates MLS listings from the local area with lifestyle information.

Say the young couple likes to golf. Pull up several properties that match their home criteria, then show on the SpatialMatch plugin where those properties are located in proximity to local golf clubs.

Perhaps they like to hike. Or walk their dog in a park. Again, use the geo-spatial data to show the location of parks near those homes. Studies have shown that homes located near a park have higher prices in general than other homes. Use that fact to your advantage (and the seller’s delight).

You can do the same for gyms, restaurants, stores. You name it.

real estate map plugin

Home Junction’s real estate map plugin.

Unfortunately for the couple mentioned above, their home was not an ideal match for them. They moved.

But the lesson here is you can use in-depth property data to show why a home and neighborhood is the perfect match for buyers. You can also use real estate data to show home sellers how you will go beyond just the number of bedrooms, baths and square feet to market their home.

You will market the lifestyle amenities that the property will provide and how the neighborhood matches the buyer’s personalities and preferences.

One neighborhood caused two homebuyers to move out. But with the right approach and the right property data, you can market neighborhoods as a great place for home buyers to move into.

 

 

How Real Estate Data Can Help You Become An Effective Publicist

real estate publicistHere are some ideas on how to use real estate data to become your own publicist or to hire one and help make them more effective.

Why a publicist? Isn’t that someone only a Hollywood celeb would employ?

Not necessarily. Generating publicity on a local level can be a powerful marketing tool for local real estate brokers and agent.

It’s a way to break out of the pack and make your name stand out in the local community.

Today, more than ever, there are an incredible number of content providers out there.

Here’s one way to look at it. Media outlets – newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, magazine and local bloggers are all looking for story ideas.

In many cases not only is the medium looking for story angles, but every reporter at that company probably has a blog and a social media account and ALL of them are looking for story ideas as well.

Social media can be a hungry beast. If those reporters want to build up followings, they know they must post interesting content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram

Fortunately,  news about the home market is an important topic.

But here’s the key. To approach any reporter, you must have an interesting story to present to them.

You can’t just call up a journalist and say, “Hey do a story about me.”

One, that’s not a particularly interesting angle and two, every business in town is probably doing the same thing.

This is where hyper-local real estate data gives you a tremendous edge.

Create appealing story angles with real estate data

Big Data providers such as Home Junction gather thousands of data points relevant to real estate from sources all over the country. County courthouse records. School information. Third party providers. Etc.  Their researchers know where to find the relevant data and how to aggregate it.

Home Junction then created a proprietary software API program called Slipstream that feeds the data to any website on the internet.

Therefore, a local agent in Oshkosh can embed a few bits of code on their website and tap into this gigantic database of real estate data about their local market, zip code or even neighborhood.

This is very interesting content to consumers.

Take Recent Property Sales for example. Where is the market heading? Are homes selling in the county? Is there one particular part of the county that is outselling other parts of the county? What’s the breakdown for the neighborhoods in a newspaper’s or magazine’s particular readership area?

The possibilities get even better.

Reporters are generalists. A general assignment reporter might cover a crime story one day and an interview about an interesting character in town the next. Same goes for business reporters. They might report on the construction of a new shopping center today and interview a local CEO tomorrow.

They have general knowledge about a subject. But even a real estate reporter does not have the same expertise as a local real estate agent who works in the trenches every day.

You are the real estate expert in your area. And when you embed this relevant real estate data into your website, it makes you even more of a local expert.

One strategy you can use is to use your market knowledge to interpret that data.

Perhaps point out trends taking place in certain neighborhoods. Compare one local neighborhood to another. Compare one local neighborhood to a major neighborhood in another part of the country.

The possibilities are endless.

When you call a reporter armed with some unique type of information, not just hearsay, but backed up by a credible source (in this case a national real estate data provider such as Home Junction), people will listen.

How to get publicity

One idea you might consider to accelerate your inroads into local media is to hire a local public relations person. Doesn’t have to be full-time. And it doesn’t have to be long-term.

That person can immediately help you with the contacts they have established with newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations, etc.

They know who is hungry for story ideas. They have established a rapport with many of these people so that she can call them and the editors will know his or her ideas are credible and worth listening to.

Perhaps they can’t get you an interview with a local newspaper. But maybe they can get you (and your data) featured in a local magazine. That magazine might have a readership of 10,000 people and a major email subscriber list as well. Getting your name published in front of that many potential customers is certainly valuable, especially since it is FREE.

Once your foot is in the door, there is always an opportunity for more. Remember, current news goes away after a few days, in many cases, after a day.

If your interview or content works out well, the medium might ask you to be a regular source or contributor. That’s huge. That’s a publicist’s dream.

Here are a few more tips:

Find out about deadlines. Generally, it’s best to pitch a story first thing in the morning when an editor or reporter is looking for story ideas.

Respect the reporter’s time frame. If a reporter is writing a story and is trying to post if before the deadline, don’t bother him or her. Offer to call back when it is convenient to them.

Call the news media in advance. If you know you will have some interesting news or your data feeds coming from Home Junction, for example, the next quarter’s results, call the editor or reporter a week or two in advance. This way your story idea is on their radar and they can work it into their schedule. Fridays are good days when most newsrooms plan the following week’s story.

Magazines publish way in advance, generally a month, so be sure to contact them much earlier.

Prepare visuals. The Home Junction team can also work with you to present your local data in different forms – charts, tables, etc. Show this to reporters. Especially if those charts indicate a major movement, say a huge spike in home sales or property prices.

Keep at it. As we said, your real estate data makes for an interesting story. Send a polite note on a regular basis pointing out different trends in the neighborhood. There will come a time when a reporter has run out of stories, or a story idea fell through, and they may contact you.

Create advertorials. These are very popular today with the news media, especially newspaper real estate sections. In this case, a broker or agent can write a news article, but it a paid advertisement and must be labeled as such. However, if you write the piece as a news item, not a fluffy story about yourself, it can generate the same readership and almost the same credibility as a regular news article. This is especially true if you have credible information, such as the factual real estate data from Home Junction.

Partner with other businesses or bloggers. Your real estate data is valuable. Perhaps a mortgage company would be interested in featuring it on their blog. Or maybe a builder. Many of these businesses will be working hard to create their own followings and you can piggyback onto their audiences with your hyper-local property information.

Let’s face it. In every marketplace, there are a ton of real estate agents. Some are full-time, pedal to the metal agents and some are retired, part-time agents. But to many consumers, all of these agents tend to blend together into one giant mass.

Using a publicist or acting as your own publicist is an effective strategy to separate yourself from the herd.

Even if you are only featured one time in a newspaper, magazine or TV station, you can copy that appearance and promote it on your website. Use it when you make a listing presentation to sellers.

When the public sees that a major media outlet has featured you, it immediately creates an impression in their mind that this agent has credibility, experience and local knowledge.

Movie stars know the importance of hiring publicists to keep their names in the public eye on a national basis. It pays off for them with higher box office sales and bigger paychecks.

The same results can work for you on the local level, with more listings and more calls from buyers. Use local real estate data to be the star of your community.

 

 

 

 

WordPress Websites Give You Advantages When It Comes To Real Estate Lead Generation

real estate lead generationWhen it comes to real estate lead generation, hopefully you are not doing the following.

Somewhere buried on your website, is a little tiny box (or even worse) just a link, that says, “Sign up for our newsletter.”

No, no, no, no.

Let’s get real for a second when it comes to real estate lead generation.

Those email subscribers a broker or agent captures is one of their most valuable assets, if not the most valuable asset they own.

This is the digital age. People visit search engines looking for properties and then review real estate websites. The days of a hot prospect walking into an office are gone for the most part.

When that precious prospect visits a brokers or agent’s website, do everything you can to retain that connection. Start a relationship. And you can do that by capturing that prospect’s email (and contact information).

The key point is, there should be multiple points on an agent’s website for real estate lead generation.

One of the best platforms to maximize leads is a WordPress platform, the most advanced web platform in the world.

And the best way to optimize a WordPress platform is a company such as Home Junction that is experienced in creating websites with plenty of real estate lead generation features.

The big advantage of WordPress real estate websites is the ease in which lead capture forms can be added and moved around a site.

Real estate lead generation strategies

Here are some strategies provided by Home Junction that go beyond just the “Sign Up for the Newsletter” notice.

  1. Home Estimator Tool – Everybody loves this tool – it creates an opportunity for a homeowner to find out “how much is my home worth.” Who doesn’t want to know that? Now local agents can provide this tool just like the big national portals. Add an email capture box somewhere along the path for when a person uses the tool and checks out the value of their home.
  2. Save Favorite Listings – People come to the site. They search for the particular type of property they want to buy. They find several listings that match their criteria. Give them an opportunity to save their searches. (Remember, one important aspect of real estate lead generation is to offer something first to get something in return).
  3. Email Alerts – Offer to provide updates to prospects by integrating your IDX with your email list so that consumers can know when prices change on their favorite listings or when those properties are taken off the market.
  4. New Listings Notification – In addition, offer to provide prospects via email when your IDX detects new listings that match their search criteria.
  5. Social Sign-Ins – Allow prospects to sign onto your website and see the information they saved by using their Facebook or Google Plus accounts.
  6. Forced Registration – This option for brokers and agents allows them to require a web visitor to fill out a registration form before they can access pages or data. Maybe it’s to use the Home Estimator Tool, or its perhaps for some valuable real estate data (also provided by Home Junction) such as Recent Property Sales, School Data, Demographics, etc.
  7. Offer a Content Upgrade – another idea is to offer EXTRA content for an email signup. Again, real estate data providers such as Home Junction have access to tons of relevant content. Perhaps hold some of that precious content back and offer it in return for an email registration.
  8. Newsletter Subscriber – Offer to send them this valuable data on a regular basis if they become an email subscriber. (“Want Local Market Updates Every Month? Sign up here!”)

The best practice for real estate lead generation is to a) make it easy for people to enter their email without requiring them to answer a bunch of questions and b) make sure the real estate lead generation form is not an annoyance, but something that consumers want to fill out.

Everybody knows pop-ups are bothersome. So perhaps place an “exit” pop-up on the page that people will see only when they are about to leave the site.

Another option is to have an email registration box appear as the web visitor scrolls down the page.

It’s also very important to allay any privacy fears. Assure people you won’t be using their email for any other purpose or to sell to third parties.

Be sure to let people know how often they will receive an email if they do register.

And be sure to let them know how easy it is to unsubscribe.

Placement of the real estate lead generation box is key. Moving the signup box to the top of the page or on a popular data page can result in a big boost in email signups.

As we said, every signup is precious. These are your prospects. You worked hard to bring them to your website – either through advertising, or search rankings or your social media posts.

With a WordPress website, as we said, it’s easy to relocate the real estate lead generation forms on a page. Making a move that increases a 5% signup rate to 10% is huge. That’s DOUBLE the number of prospects you will generate by just making a simple design change (and WordPress is all about simplicity).

Design is another key factor

Experiment with the form. Take colors for example. Red and blue are effective colors for email signups. Move the text. Change the headline.

If you have a form on one page that is not performing well, maybe change the color. Again, if the registrations jump from 3% to 6% you just DOUBLED your real estate lead generation strategies for that page.

Again, this is easy to do with WordPress real estate websites.

Since the internet started back in the 1990s, there have been a ton of gimmicks that have come and gone.

But one of the tools that has remained a staple for successful real estate marketing is email. In fact, building an email subscriber list has become a top priority for most businesses in all types of categories.

By the same token, the competition to capture a visitor’s email is as intense as ever.

Don’t take this strategy for granted. Get the best platform for making changes to a website- WordPress. (Here are some additional ideas for increasing lead sign-up rates).

Hook up with an experienced WordPress web company such as Home Junction to get the most out of your real estate lead generation strategies.