Good Thursday Morning Team!
We’ve got some news to share as well as a 6 helpful tips regarding an e-mail overhaul that you might find useful for your business. More about the Obama Administration in the news today. Looks like we may have a beautiful Spring forecast ahead of us when it comes to home sales! I found a great blog that I wanted to share with all of you. As mentioned in my chatter yesterday morning we have seen a lot of activity within pre-approvals, contracts, and new client referrals. This positive news is being shared with you due to the services provided not only by myself, but my team. The blog below hits on exact points of how we continue to grow and maintain a “Winning Partnership”. I hope you find it relevant to what you’ve experienced with myself and my team so far. I’ll be in the office today, ready to take your calls, as mentioned WE ARE YOU REAL ESTATE PURCHASE HELP DESK. Prepared to take on difficult scenarios, fall out deals, appraisal issues, FHA questions, etc. Have a great day!
“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” – by Napoleon Hill
The Wall Street Journal this morning notes, “The Obama administration is trying to push through a settlement over mortgage-servicing breakdowns that could force America’s largest banks to pay for reductions in loan principal worth billions of dollars. Terms of the administration’s proposal include a commitment from mortgage servicers to reduce the loan balances of troubled borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth, people familiar with the matter said. The cost of those writedowns won’t be borne by investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities, these people said. If a unified settlement can be reached, some state attorneys general and federal agencies are pushing for banks to pay more than $20 billion in civil fines or to fund a comparable amount of loan modifications for distressed borrowers.”
FHA recently raised their premiums once or twice – but is the horse already out of the barn? FHA Streamline Refi’s have become the darling of the buyback crowd. And blame pricing, interest rates in general, weather, whatever, but last month the seasonally adjusted annual rate for FHA loan applications fell to its lowest level in over 3 years – an estimated 1,450,900, according to the FHA Single-Family Outlook.
According to a story that I noticed in Bloomberg, the Federal Reserve revised a rule related to home mortgage loan escrow account requirements and sought comment on a second proposed regulation change. “The Fed increased the annual percentage rate threshold for requiring a mortgage lender to create an escrow account for property taxes and insurance for so-called first-lien, “jumbo” loans. The escrow rule will apply to first-lien jumbo loans if their annual percentage rate is at least 2.5 percentage points higher than the average prime offer rate.” The central bank is also proposing expanding the minimum period for mandatory escrow accounts for first-lien, higher- priced mortgages to five years from one year, the statement said. The timeframe could be longer “under certain circumstances, such as when the loan is delinquent or in default,” according to the Fed.
The Existing Home Sales number (which jumped 2.7% in January) included data that showed all-cash sales rose to 32% last month from 29% in December. In fact, all-cash purchases are at the highest level since NAR started measuring these purchases monthly in October 2008, when they accounted for 15%. NAR’s president said the median price is being dampened by “Unprecedented levels of all-cash purchases, primarily of distressed homes sold at deep discounts.” Speaking of which, “distressed” homes enjoyed a 37% market share in January – about the same as last year. The overall Existing Home Sales number was up for the third straight month, and sales rose in the Midwest, South and West, but declined in the Northeast. The national median existing home price was $158.8k, down 3.7% from January 2010.
Both stocks and bonds closed in worse shape Wednesday. Oil went above $100 per barrel, the Dow was down about 100, the 10-yr T-note was down about .250 (yielding 3.49%), and MBS prices were roughly unchanged from Tuesday’s close. Traders and investors, not the same animal, weighed a weak 5-yr note auction (which would push rates higher) against higher oil prices leading to an economic slowdown (which would push rates lower).
This morning we’ve already learned that Jobless Claims dropped by 22k, going from 413,000 down to 391,000. Continuing Claims also dropped. Durable Goods were +2.7% in January, versus a drop of .4% in December. Of course, this was prior to oil moving above $100 per barrel. Later we’ll have New Home Sales for January, along with a $29 billion 7-year note auction. So far the 10-yr is sitting around 3.45% and MBS prices are better by about .125.
6 TIPS FOR A REAL ESTATE E-MAIL OVERHAUL
If you want to be taken seriously by clients and agents who are technologically sophisticated, it’s time to set up your business e-mail address on a website domain that you own.
The reason is simple. People who have AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail addresses generally do not have their own website or blog. Furthermore, if you rely on your company’s domain for your e-mail and you leave the company, your past clients will no longer have a way to contact you.
If you’re ready to upgrade your business e-mail address, here’s how to do it:
1. HOW TO CHOOSE A GREAT DOMAIN NAME
The first step is to identify the domain name that you want to use. While it’s smart to own your own name if it is available (i.e., Bernice@BerniceRoss.com), this is a poor choice for the main e-mail address for your real estate business. Because people are bombarded by hundreds of names each day, they have trouble remembering them.
In contrast, most people remember functions pretty well. This is the difference between remembering your name vs. “the nice lady who sells downtown high-rises.”
The people who run real estate search sites report that users generally search for real estate information by street address, city and ZIP code. Consequently, as you consider various domain names for your website or blog, it’s important to consider using these components in the name you select.
You will also want to use words such as “real estate,” “properties” and “homes” that indicate you are in the real estate business. Moreover, don’t settle for the dot-net or dot-org URLs. If you can’t get the dot-com name for your chosen keywords, find another combination of keywords that works with dot-com.
2. “ALL THE BEST NAMES ARE TAKEN!”
A challenge many people face today is that many of the most desirable names are already taken. For example, unless you have a lot of money, it would be almost impossible to obtain the domain name, “Austin real estate.”
As search has changed, the real opportunity is in what is known as the “long tail.” This refers to using a longer domain name that incorporates the various pieces outlined above. For example, “AustinHighRiseCondos78747.com” or “LiveInWestlakeTexas78732.com.” Each of these domain names matches how people normally search for property — by property type, location and ZIP code.
3. IT’S OK TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE
When selecting a domain name, you don’t have to be limited to having just one. If you specialize in more than one area, purchase a separate domain name for each one. Using the examples above, you might have “LiveInWestlake.com” as well as “WestlakeHomesForSale.com,” or “WestlakeTexasHomeInfo.com.”
Set up information on each area. Include facts about the lifestyle, videos, plenty of photos, as well as access to current listings and comparable sales. Each of these pages can reside on your main site. The secret here is to have a different URL that takes users directly to a specific page on your site. To the user, these pages look like home pages on separate sites even though they all reside on your main site.
To illustrate, you may have “LiveIn90024.com.” Within that site you could include, “WilshireCorridorCondos90024.com” as well as “LittleHolmbyEstates90024.com.” Each site would show very different examples of what it is like to live in that ZIP code and would be targeted to very different types of buyers.
Remember, however, that all of these sites would reside on your main site. This maximizes your Web traffic as well as enhancing your Web ranking on the various search engines.
4. CREATE MULTIPLE E-MAIL ADDRESSES
Once you have your own domain name, it’s pretty simple to set up an e-mail address. You can use “YourName@LittleHolmbyEstates90024.com” or YourName@LiveIn90024.com.
It’s important to make sure the name is relatively easy to remember. The great thing about owning your own domain is that even if someone gets your e-mail address wrong, if they remember the website URL you’ll still get the e-mail.
5. KEEP YOUR OLD ACCOUNTS
You may regularly use my Gmail and Hotmail accounts — primarily to register on sites where you know someone may spam also. Also, these systems are great backups if your host’s server goes down for maintenance, is hacked, or has some other type of issue that stops your e-mail service.
Gmail and Hotmail exist in the cloud, so you can use them virtually any place where you have an Internet connection.
6. HAVING YOUR OWN DOMAIN IS GREAT FOR TEAMS
One of the challenges a team leader faces is having people join and leave their team. If a team member leaves and you own the URL, they cannot take their e-mail address with them. As a result, when an agent leaves your team, all the e-mails coming to that address will continue to go to your site rather than to the agent who left.
If you don’t already own your own domain, there’s no better time than right now to get started. Prices are generally less than $10 per year. Best of all, your e-mail address separates you from the huge majority of agents who are still relying on their brokerage URLs or e-mail services from AOL, Google and Hotmail.
PENDING CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE SALES BODE WELL FOR SPRING
Pending home sales were up 13.6 percent in California from December to January, with distressed properties accounting for more than half of pending transactions, according to a new index compiled by the California Association of Realtors.
CAR’s pending home sales index surveys more than 70 Realtor associations and multiple listing services, and uses 2008 sales levels as a benchmark. An index reading of 100 is equal to the average level of sales contract activity in 2008.
The index climbed to 93.6 in January, up from 82.4 in December but down 2 percent from a year ago, CAR said, noting that pending sales typically rise after seasonal slowdowns in November and December.
“January’s pending sales should be reflected in higher existing sales activity in February and March and serve as a precursor to the spring home buying season,” CAR President Beth Peerce said in a statement.
Distressed properties — short sales and bank-owned (REO) properties — accounted for 54 percent of pending sales statewide, up from 50 percent in December but down from 56 percent a year ago.
Distressed properties accounted for 70 percent or more of all sales in Kern, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino and Solano counties.
Looking at all sales of single-family homes that closed escrow in January, the median price was $278,900 — down 8.6 percent from a revised $305,020 in December and down 2 percent from a year ago.
But at $265,500, the median price for short sales closing escrow in January was 28 percent less than the $367,150 median price for “conventional” properties. The median price for REO properties, at $198,000, was 46 percent less.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A MORTGAGE EXPERT
In the choppy seas of mortgage finance, you need someone who can navigate the ever changing product guidelines, interest rate environment, and understands your individual circumstance. These professional mortgage originators are worth their weight in gold. Most people enter the maze of mortgages every five years or so, and the industry has evolved so much that it is barely recognizable (and its evolution continues and is likely to appear vastly different five years from now).
The must-have qualities in a loan officer (LO) today are:
1. Superior Product Knowledge
Knowing all the nuances of the loan product menu is crucial for a loan officer. How will your ability to be approved, your rate and your fees be impacted by your FICO score, Loan-To-Value, or liquid reserves? Being well versed in loan products and being able to see your personal situation as an underwriter is normally a function of experience.
2. An Educated Opinion On Interest Rate Movements
No one is right all the time. However, I couldn’t imagine working with a loan officer who didn’t have an opinion on where rates are likely to move. Your originator should be in the advice business. They should be able to express their point of view in simple, logical terms. They should site financial data and reports (like inflation and employment data). They should understand the impact of geo-political events. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to decide when to lock in your rate, but don’t you deserve access to the best information possible to make your decision? Shouldn’t your LO provide it?
3. Understanding Of The Credit Score Model
Your approvability and eventual rate and fees are determined by your Credit Score. You need a LO who knows how to help you get the optimal score. How will paying down a debt affect your score? Should you payoff a collection account before, after or even at all? How about those borrowers with limited trade lines or errors in their credit file?
4. A Good Working Relationship With The Real Estate Agent
In today’s landscape, with frequent appraisal challenges and the structuring (and re-structuring) of deals, there needs to be excellent communication between the lender and the agent. Great loan officers have an understanding of the position, the responsibilities, and the psyche of the buyer, seller and the agent. The coordination of everyone toward a common goal is important.
5. Impeccable Listening Skills
It is not a stretch to say every loan is different. You must search for a loan officer who is attentive and engaged. LOs need to ask questions, sometimes very personal questions. They need to understand your financing objectives, your strategy about this real estate acquisition, your current and future income, credit and so on, in order to truly give you the best advice.
In the world today, too many loan officers are “order takers”. You need an advisor. You need an advocate who knows the programs; who has an educated opinion on rates; who can help you get the best credit score possible; who understands the team dynamic between the agent and the lender and who really listens to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.