In addition to my visit to the speedway, I was also able to enjoy a Cirque De Soleil show.
“The pessimist borrows trouble; the optimist lends encouragement.” – William Arthur Ward
How many lenders can say that their average close of escrow is 21 DAYS? Well, I’d like to share, that our Team’s average is 21 days right now. This doesn’t only help with those of you with REO’s to impress those asset managers of yours, as we all know time is of the essence. Not to mention that your buyers will have a better chance to get into contract with such an impressive timeline. Did you happen to catch my co-hosted radio show yesterday on 910AM? If not, you can listen to it by visiting http://www.CoopsCoffee.com. If you’d like to call me with any difficult loan scenarios, questions on financing options for your buyers, need a pre-approval or an open house flyer – I’ll be in the office all day today, so please do not hesitate to contact me. Have a great Monday and I’m hoping you have an awesome week! Please let me know if there’s anything my team and I can do to help.
NEWS & HEADLINES
The National Association of Realtors, community banks, and probably practically everyone in the mortgage business tend to believe that a drastic withdrawal of government, or a dismissal of government insured loans, could slow the recovery and shut out deserving borrowers. In addition, although there have been steps made toward having “private money” re-enter the mortgage market, most would agree that it is in no way ready to step into the private and secondary markets quite yet. In fact, the government continues to be involved, as we all know – the Federal Reserve Board held a teleconference late last week to clarify some outstanding issues/questions about the comp issue.
Hey, how about taxing foreclosures? An assemblyman in California has introduced legislation that would bill banks $20,000 for every home foreclosed. The money collected would supposedly be used to cover foreclosure costs, property tax losses, support school districts, police and fire departments.
Investor updates continue unabated. As always, this commentary tries to point out the trends, rather than go into too many specific details. So for example, three weeks ago Freddie Mac announced the reduction of its maximum LTV, total LTV (TLTV) and Home Equity Line of Credit TLTV (HTLTV) ratio requirements to 95% for all conventional mortgages it purchases. (This doesn’t include Freddie Mac Relief Refinance Mortgages.) One can expect investors that sell loans to Freddie Mac to follow this change.
Friday ended the day with MBS prices where they started: unchanged from Thursday’s close. For the first time since 2000, the G7 intervened in the currency markets when the Fed, Bank of England, ECB and Bank of Canada committed to concerted intervention in response to the recent strengthening of the Yen. Ultimately the market impact should depend on the total size of intervention over the medium term. It is extremely difficult to put an estimate to this question since it depends on the size of repatriation flows and the G7 commitment to maintain the yen, and the news did not roil the rate markets.
For economic news it was pretty quiet over the weekend. This week we have Existing Home Sales today and New Home Sales on Wednesday. Thursday has Durable Goods and Jobless Claims, and then on Friday is GDP & a Michigan Consumer Sentiment number. Existing Home Sales, which will come out at 10AM EST, rose 2.7% last month, the highest level in eight months but due mostly to distressed and all-cash transactions. Look for a big drop this time around. Ahead of that, our 10-yr is up to 3.33% and MBS prices are worse bout about .125.
DID MODIFICATION PROGRAMS WORK?
The government decided early on that the market would not be able to absorb the number of foreclosures that the financial crisis was creating without crushing house values. This was one reason that they funded the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). This past week, the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) weighed in with their opinion on TARP’s success.
Today we want to concentrate on the parts of the report that pertain to real estate. TARP funds were to be used:
…in a manner that protects home values, college funds, retirement accounts, and life savings; preserves homeownership and promotes jobs and economic growth; maximizes overall returns to the taxpayers of the United States.
Did TARP Accomplish Its Housing Goals?
One way TARP was to accomplish “protecting home values and preserving homeownership” was through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). According to the COP report:
…when the President announced the Home Affordable Modification Program in early 2009, he asserted that it would prevent three to four million foreclosures. The program now appears on track to help only 700,000 to 800,000 homeowners.
We want to say that, if hundreds of thousands of families averted the devastation foreclosure can bring, we consider the program as worthwhile. Successful? That’s a different story.
Another program initiated to help was HOPE for Homeowners. It was established by Congress in July 2008 to permit the FHA to insure refinanced distressed mortgages. However, as the report explains:
HOPE for Homeowners was initially expected to help 400,000 homeowners, but it managed to refinance only a handful of loans. This was likely due to the program’s poor initial design, lack of flexibility, and its reliance on voluntary principal write-downs, which lenders were very reluctant to make.
The Only Good News?
The only silver lining is that TARP didn’t cost the taxpayer as much as was originally estimated. At what expense to troubled homeowners? In discussing the falling cost of the program COP stated:
…a separate reason for the TARP’s falling cost is that Treasury’s foreclosure prevention programs, which could have cost $50 billion, have largely failed to get off the ground. Viewed from this perspective, the TARP will cost less than expected in part because it will accomplish far less than envisioned for American homeowners.
TARP was set up to avoid home values being crushed under the weight of foreclosures. To that regard, it seems to have done nothing but delay the inevitable.
EXISTING-HOME SALES DIP IN FEBRUARY
Existing-home sales fell in February following three straight monthly increases, according to the National Association of REALTORS’.
Existing-home sales dropped 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from an upwardly revised 5.40 million in January, and are 2.8 percent below the 5.02 million pace in February 2010.
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 3.5 percent to 3.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.6-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 7.5-month supply in January.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.95 percent in February from 4.76 percent in January; the rate was 4.99 percent in February 2010.
Single-family home sales fell 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.25 million in February from 4.70 million in January, and are 2.7 percent below the 4.37 million pace in February 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $157,000 in February, which is 4.2 percent below a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 10.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 in February from 700,000 in January, and are 3.1 percent lower than the 650,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price was $150,400 in February, down 11.1 percent from February 2010.
7 TIPS TO CREATE REAL ESTATE MARKETING BUZZ
Gone are the days where advertising alone does the job. The secret to having a steady stream of clients today is to create a positive buzz about your business.
Word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new. We all want others to say positive things about our businesses. If you would like to get people buzzing about how great you and your services are, here are seven great ways to do it.
1. The best marketing buzz: a new listing sign with a “sold” rider in 72 hours
When a for-sale sign pops up in a neighborhood, the neighbors are always buzzing about the price, the reasons their neighbors are moving, and most important: whether the agent will get the job done.
If you have a reputation for selling homes quickly, you will likely have more sellers seeking out your services. You can also expect that your sellers will tell everyone they know about how their house sold quickly in this tough market.
2. Help someone avoid foreclosure
Many people have the impression that most real estate agents care only about themselves and their commissions. You can get people buzzing about how great you are by helping distressed property owners find a solution to their situation.
For example, if a past client is facing a foreclosure sale, you can tell them about the “ask for the note strategy” to delay or stop the foreclosure. You can also refer them to an organization such as the National Association of Consumer Advocates, which performs forensic loan audits to determine if the lender violated any RESPA or other requirements.
If the lender did so, the owner now has more leverage to work out a loan modification, a short sale, or some other solution.
3. Support your local team
To create a positive buzz about your business, host a special event for people in your referral database. Rent a bus and take your guests to the most important away game for your local high school or college. Provide plenty of food, ice cream, souvenirs and other goodies.
Arrange for a photographer and post the pictures to your website. Send out the link to everyone who attended as well as to any alumni you happen to know. Whether your team wins or loses, everyone will be “buzzing” about the great time they had.
4. Be “You-nique”
Butch Grimes of WeTalkRealEstate.com uses a variety of methods to get people buzzing about his real estate business. In addition to hosting a 24-7 radio show, Grimes emphasizes the importance of being “You-nique.”
For example, Grimes has a 20-foot-tall, inflatable open house sign that he uses to attract visitors to his open houses. To help people find his open houses, he had directional signs made with a life-sized cutout of him attached to the sign. From a distance, it looks as if he is personally standing there directing you to his open house.
The one thing he does that gets the most buzz, however, is sending a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick his clients up at work and take them to the escrow to sign their final closing documents. You can imagine the buzz this creates among his clients, as well as their colleagues, who see them being ushered into a limousine.
5. Take advantage of social media and texting
Rather than being aggravated when you work with a client who is more involved in texting than interacting with you, take advantage of this activity. When you send your buyers information about the listings you will be showing them, include as many pictures of the listings as possible.
Next, ask your buyers to forward the information to their friends via e-mail or on Facebook. Make it a game. Ask their friends to predict which house your buyers will like best. Everyone has fun. You can also probably expect lots of texting going back and forth about which house will be the buyers’ favorite.
6. Help others build their businesses
Do you have a favorite dry cleaner or restaurant? Do any of your clients own their own businesses? If you are a customer, post a video testimonial for them on Yelp.com as well as on their LinkedIn profile if they have one. Normally, when someone posts a testimonial for another person’s business, they will reciprocate with a testimonial for you.
7. Give away a conversation starter
Many agents market their businesses by giving away magnets. In 2005, Inventables began distributing “squishy magnets.” These magnets feel like a piece of foam rubber and can be used to close doors without the doors slamming. Distributing these to your geographical farm or on your open houses will make a great conversation starter and get people buzzing about the agent who gave them this nifty little gift item.
There are literally thousands of ways to get people buzzing about you and your business. All it takes is a little creativity. If you have a great suggestion, we invite you to share your suggestion in the comments.
6 WAYS TO SQUEEZE OUT BETTER GAS MILEAGE
With gas prices topping $4 a gallon, real estate professionals who use their car frequently for work are looking for ways to get as much as they can out of every gallon.
Here are some tips for getting better mileage out of your car:
1. Slow down: Most cars get the best gas mileage at 45-55 miles per hour. Driving faster than 60 mph actually can cut gas mileage anywhere from 7 to 23 percent.
2. Don’t idle: If you need to wait longer than 20 seconds, you’re better off turning off your engine than keeping your car running. Restarting the car requires less gas than leaving it idling.
3. Lose the heavy load: Make sure you’re not carrying in your car more than what you need. An extra 100 pounds sitting in the trunk or back seat can reduce fuel economy as much as 2 percent.
4. Tighten the gas cap: Fuel can evaporate through gas caps with broken or weak seals. Loose or broken gas caps can cost you a loss of about 2 percent in your gas mileage.
5. Close the windows and turn off the AC: Driving with the windows open or the air conditioner turned on can be big gas wasters. Instead, the most efficient way to keep the car cool is by using the air that comes in through your flow-through ventilator.
6. Get an oil change: Improve your gas mileage by as much as 2 percent by using energy-conserving or synthetic motor oil, which can reduce engine friction.