“One of the penalties of leadership is the necessity or willingness, on the part of the leader, to do more than they require of their followers.” – Napoleon Hill
NEWS & HEADLINES
Fannie & Freddie recently released results that appear to point to the different focus in the past of their two companies. One reader wrote, “Freddie Mac reported its first true net profit in almost two years, earning $676 million in the first quarter and not asking the taxpayer for more money. But Fannie reported at $6.5 billion loss for the quarter, and asked Treasury for $8.5 billion in taxpayer money. From my vantage point, the difference rests in the amount of Countrywide business that Fannie bought in the past – CW was Fannie’s best customer for several years, selling Fannie a variety of A-paper, alt-A, pay option ARMs, and other products. I bet that if you take Countrywide out of the equation, Fannie would show similar results to Freddie. But last year Fannie agreed to one lump sum from BofA to settle the bulk of buyback claims – good for BofA, bad for Fannie.”
By the way, at this point the conforming loan level in the higher-priced areas will indeed drop to $625,500 from $729,750. Although it is not set in stone and could be subject to some political wrangling, few doubt that it will drop. Here is Fannie’s memo stating the loan limitsFannie along with the FHFA’s.
Zillow posted some housing numbers that certainly would make a bridge shake a little. There seem to be dozens of house price indices, but the one from Zillow yesterday showed that home values posted the largest decline in the first quarter since late 2008. Home values fell 3% in the first quarter from the previous quarter and 1.1% in March from the previous month, and Zillow reports prices have now fallen for 57 consecutive months. Our economy needs job & housing, housing and jobs, to truly recover, and although mortgage rates continue to be low, the expiration of the housing tax credit and the continued flow of foreclosures hitting the market aren’t helping prices. Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis posted the largest declines during the first quarter of the top 25 metro areas tracked by Zillow, while Pittsburgh, Dallas and Washington posted the smallest declines.
Wall Street continues to see good interest by investors in mortgage products, “…buying from all investor types…Japanese, Real Money and Central Banks have been the largest – the market continues to under estimate the short base…,” which is another way of saying that Central Banks and investment firms have an enormous amount of cash to be put to work. And specifically for mortgages, banks have been very large buyers of MBS (per the H8 data). Monday was very quiet, with the 10-yr yield closing at 3.14% and MBS prices a shade better/higher as there is still a flight to safety bid on continued worries about European debt issues – particularly related to Greece.
This morning we learned that April Import Prices were +2.2%, higher than expected, and Export Prices were +1.1% – neither of which are really market-moving numbers. At 10AM EST Wholesale Trade for March is reported, also not a market-moving number, but at 1PM EST we have a $32 billion 3-year note auction by the Treasury, and this can shift rates somewhat. Currently we find the yield on the 10-yr slightly higher at 3.17% and MBS a tad lower.
5 REASONS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER SELLING NOW
If you plan on moving anytime in 2011, you should strongly consider selling your house now rather than waiting. Here are five reasons why:
1.) This is when your house will get the most exposure
The spring, and particularly the month of May, is when most buyers enter the real estate market. This surge of buyers dramatically increases the exposure for your house . The best chance of getting quality offers (perhaps even multiple offers) is RIGHT NOW!
2.) Foreclosures and short sales will increase in about 90 days
The good news is that the number of people paying their mortgage on time is increasing. This will lead to less distressed property sales later this year and throughout 2012. The not-so-good news is that there is still a large inventory of existing foreclosures and short sales that will still be coming to market.
As an example, LPS reported in their latest Mortgage Monitor that:
- There are still twice as many loans going 90+ days delinquent as are starting foreclosure
- There are almost three times the number of foreclosure starts as there are foreclosure sales
- Distressed property inventory levels are almost 45 times the rate of monthly foreclosure sales
This means that there is a backlog of properties which will start coming to the market in about 90 days as banks clear up their paperwork challenges. These properties sell at dramatic discounts. They will be your competition. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recently discussed the magnitude of this challenge.
3.) Interest rates have risen over the last six months
Interest rates have stabilized recently. However, in the last six months, interest rates have climbed over 1/2%. Every time the rates increase 1/4%, approximately 250,000 buyers are eliminated from qualifying for a mortgage. In an environment of volatile rates, waiting could mean that there will be fewer buyers eligible to purchase your house. It also could mean that you will pay a higher rate on the next home you buy.
4.) Qualifying for a mortgage is about to get even more difficult
Besides increasing rates, there are other factors that will hinder a buyer’s ability to qualify for a mortgage as we move forward. Lending standards have been getting tighter over the last year. And as the government debates the new proposed guidelines (QRM), banks are gearing up for even more stringent standards.
Morgan Stanleyrecently stated:
“Recent developments in issues such as GSE reform, Dodd-Frank securitization rules, and foreclosure settlement issues suggest a tighter and more expensive environment for mortgage credit.”
This may impact any potential purchaser for your property and may also impact your next purchase.
5.) It’s time to get on with your life
Probably the most important reason to sell is so you can get on with your life. You placed your home on the market for a reason. Do not allow a less-than-stellar housing market prevent you from reaching your goals as an individual or as a family. Think about the reasons you decided to move in the first place. Are these reasons still important to you? If you have to take less than you were originally hoping to get for your house, your family has a question to ask each other: Is the dollar difference in sales price worth putting off our plans? Only you and your family know the answer to that question.
If you plan to sell this year, the reasons above prove that selling now makes more sense than waiting to later in the year. Sit with a real estate professional in your area today to fully understand your best option.
WORKING FOR TOMORROW’S HOME OWNERS TODAY
REALTORS® from across the country are meeting with legislators, public policy makers, and industry leaders this week to address pressing concerns and issues that affect home owners, aspiring home owners and real estate investors everywhere as the REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo begins.
“As leading advocates for home ownership, housing issues, and private-property rights, REALTORS® know that the time for action is now,” 2011 NAR President Ron Phipps said. “We need to make sure that our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities to build their futures through home ownership, just as many in our generation and generations past have.”
More than 8,000 REALTORS® and guests are expected to attend the meetings, which run here through May 14. During the week, REALTORS® will meet with legislators on Capitol Hill to urge action toward streamlining short sales, ensuring access to affordable financing, and preserving the tax benefits associated with home ownership.
REALTORS® will also participate in sessions with a number of government officials and industry experts, including representatives from the Federal Housing Administration, National Economic Council, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, Center for Responsible Lending, and the National Urban League.
“The issues facing our industry – like the mortgage interest deduction, foreclosures and short sales, affordable financing, and available credit – don’t just affect people who own a home,” Phipps said. “Home ownership shapes communities and strengthens the nation’s economy. This week and every week, REALTORS® are at the ready to keep housing first on the nation’s public policy agenda, because housing and home ownership issues affect all Americans.”
SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY BLAMED ON HOUSING
While the employment picture continues to gradually improve, the economy is not recovering at the pace some experts had hoped for, and some are pointing fingers at the housing market for the slow recovery.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the economy is recovering at a “moderate pace” and that a high number of foreclosures and home owners who are “underwater” on their mortgages continues to drag down housing prices and the economy.
“Declines in the values of homes and stocks sharply reduced the wealth of many Americans during the crisis,” Bernanke says. “Three-fifths or more of families across all income groups reported a decline in wealth between 2007 and 2009, and the typical household lost nearly one-fifth of its wealth, regardless of income group.
“Moreover, one in eight of the households … started the crisis with zero or negative net worth and thus had scant resources to fall back on to maintain their standard of living during bouts of unemployment.”
However, there are signs the outlook is starting to improve. The construction industry in April increased employment by 9,000, which is its first monthly increase in years and may be a sign that the sector is finally in recovery mode. Overall, unemployment continues to decline, which will help more households start to feel more financially secure. However, long-term unemployment remains historically high, particularly among the young, minorities, and those with less education.
A REAL ESTATE FAQ FOR iPAD
There is a lot of interest in the iPad and in tablet computing in general, and when I write about it I get questions. There are not many practical articles about the iPad for Realtors because the device is still so new.
Here are the most common questions I have encountered, and my answers:
1. Can I print from an iPad? Yes, you can print from the iPad. It uses wireless printing and only works with some printers. The details can be found on the Apple Web site. I have never had any need or desire to print from my iPad.
In fact, for me part of the beauty of the device is that I use less paper. There are alternatives to printing from the iPad — one is putting documents to be printed in Dropbox and printing them from a computer.
2. Can I access the multiple listing service from my iPad? I cannot answer that question for everyone, but I can access my MLS and I don’t have to use the mobile version or an app. I can see the MLS and use it just like I would on my PC.
The best way to find out if your MLS is accessible from the iPad is to ask someone who has one or go to an Apple store and test it with your MLS system. I have been told by agents in some states that they cannot access their MLS on anything but a PC.
3. Does the iPad have a USB Port? The iPad does not have a USB Port, and you probably will not miss it. Files can be placed in Dropbox. The Dropbox app on the iPad makes it easy to share files across platforms. It acts as a virtual USB drive. Files can also be easily emailed from your computer to an iPad.
4. Can I write a real estate contract on my iPad?I have been writing contracts on my iPad and the electronic contracts I use are all in PDF format. I am using an app called Noterize. I have tested other apps, and Noterize is by far the easiest to use. I keep blank contracts in Dropbox.
I access them when I need them and can type or write on them and I can have my client sign them on the screen. I can email them from the iPad and in general I don’t need to print contracts anymore.
5. How much does Internet access for the iPad cost? All iPads work on Wi-Fi and some work on 3G networks. Wi-Fi access is usually free and no data plan is required. The 3G models require a data plan for accessing the 3G network. Plans start at $15 dollars a month for limited access. IPads with 3G are available via mobile carriers AT&T or Verizon.
I own a 3G unit and I recommend this version for real estate pros because we are not always in an office or a place with Wi-Fi when we meet with clients.
In general, I think the apps that we choose depend upon how we work. The location-based apps are useful for working with buyers and sellers, as is the presentation software. The iPad makes it easy to access and view any kind of information that we need on the job.
If you are a note taker you will appreciate the Evernote app for the iPad. It can be used on your phone, tablet or PC to write notes or clip Web pages. I start a notebook in Evernote for each client, and the notebooks become my client files, complete with legal contracts, notes, photographs, voice notes and even emails. Everything is tagged for easy retrieval and can be printed if needed.
There are so many more apps for the iPad today than there were a year ago, and so many more ways to use it. We were all skeptical about the device at first, but now it looks like it is here to stay and will keep getting better.
The best way to learn how to use an iPad for business is to use it and to experiment with apps and to ask others which apps they like.
6 WAYS TO GAIN REFERRALS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media makes it easier to stay connected with hundreds of people. But that doesn’t mean that all social media activities are created equal. Focus on these six goals, and you will travel further and faster down a path of building meaningful referral business through your online activities.
1. EXPAND YOUR CONNECTIONS
Your sphere of influence grows with each new connection. To find more people you may know, look at your Facebook friends’ friends (or your LinkedIn contacts’ contacts; or who is following who on Twitter). Meet new people by joining groups that share your interests. Use software applications to find out where people “live” online so you can reach out and connect with them. For example, Xobni runs in tandem with your Outlook Inbox and identifies online profiles linked to any e-mail you receive.
2. SHARE MEANINGFUL CONTENT
The best way to prevent others from hitting the ignore button is to make sure everything you post online is interesting to at least some of your friends and acquaintances. This can be even more tricky on Twitter, where character limitations add to the challenge of making content both short and meaningful. Learn how to strike the right balance between the frequency and value of your posts.
3. DEMONSTRATE INTEREST
Everyone likes to be acknowledged, so take time to read and comment upon other peoples’ content. On Facebook, the Like button makes it especially fast and easy to say “I hear you.”
4. BE HELPFUL
One of the best ways to be helpful is to answer questions. Do this on real estate-oriented sites like Zillow and Trulia and you’ll be showcasing your knowledge and expertise to prospective buyers. Do the same on professional networks like LinkedIn, the ABR® Network, and Active Rain, and you’ll gain credibility with other professionals.
5. BUILD SOCIAL CAPITAL
Random acts of kindness, like posting positive feedback on a Facebook business page, or writing an unsolicited referral on LinkedIn, can generate powerful good will with others. In addition to gaining the personal sense of satisfaction that comes from helping others, it’s very likely that such acts may later be reciprocated with new referral business.
6. BECOME A LOCAL AUTHORITY
If all real estate is local, use social networking to build your reputation as a local expert. Create a Facebook group promoting local events (365 Things to Do in Your Town) or a consortium of local businesses, perhaps working in partnership with other professionals focused on real estate related services (attorneys, lenders, tax experts, home improvement specialists, etc.).