Team Empowerment Mortgage Chatter: May 26; Real Estate Affordability Sets Record in Q1; Spy on your Real Estate Competition; How’s Your Online Etiquette?; RPM in Contra Costa Times

“Information is the oxygen of the modern age.” – Ronald Reagan

 

REAL ESTATE AFFORDABILITY SETS RECORD IN Q1

Housing affordability hit a new record high in the first quarter, surpassing the previous high set in fourth-quarter 2010, according to an index released by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo today.

The Housing Opportunity Index found that 74.6 percent of new and existing homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. That’s up from 73.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, and it’s the highest level recorded in the more than 20 years the index has been measured.

“With interest rates remaining at historically low levels, today’s report indicates that homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades,” said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the NAHB, in a statement.

“While this is good news for consumers, homebuyers and builders continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions, and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales.”


 SPY ON YOUR REAL ESTATE COMPETITION

Do you know who your real competitors are? More importantly, do you know what your potential clients think of your competitors’ services? If not, it’s time to start spying.

At our recent Awesome Females in Real Estate conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Kathy King of REICaravan.com led a session, “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer.”

 If you want to keep ahead of the competition, competitor reconnaissance (spying) — of the legal variety, of course — is the name of the game.

Why you should spy

A primary reason for engaging in a spying program is to craft your own unique selling proposition that differentiates your services from competitors. Furthermore, it will also help you to be better prepared to meet the objections someone may have about using your services vs. services provided by a competitor.

Another reason for spying is to identify who your true competitors are online. King recommends a site called SpyFu.com. Enter your domain and SpyFu will display the competing domains that have the greatest overlap.

It also tells you which key words generate the best organic results for your business. Perhaps the most useful feature is the ability to see the keywords that your major competitors are using.

Your spy kit

King outlined a number of key resources to use in your spy kit. First, check your competitors’ information by plugging their names into Google and LinkedIn. It’s also smart to check out whether they have a blog as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.

If they have a blog, subscribe to the RSS feed to see what they are posting. Also, if they have a newsletter, it’s probably smart to subscribe to that as well.

Perhaps the most important step to take is to carefully examine how your competitors are marketing themselves on their main website. You can use SpyFu to compare keywords. This tool is especially useful since it provides the top keywords that are generating your organic search results.

It also shows the keywords and results for your competitors, as well displaying the percentage of overlap in your keyword searches.

SpyFu also allows you to determine which websites and searches produce the most leads. An important point to note is which traffic sources are generating the most leads for your site, as well as for your competitors. The goal is to expand what is already working, as well as to take search and market share from competitors.

In addition to SpyFu, you can also use the Google Keyword Tool. Type in the terms you want to search as well as your URL and see the number of searches for each of the key terms. Use the most popular key terms as often as possible in the text of your website, on your blog, and especially in your headlines.

Another excellent tool is WebsiteGrader.com from HubSpot. You can plug in your URL as well as that of your competitors to see their strengths and weaknesses. The site gives you a comprehensive analysis as well as providing suggestions on how to upgrade areas that need improvement.

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Google Alerts and enter your name and the names and companies of the competitors who you want to track. Another great tool is StepRep.com, which allows you to follow what others are saying online about your business, your industry or competitors.

What to look for

A key variable to track is your competitors’ marketing messages. How are they positioning themselves in the marketplace? Are they appealing to specific demographics or lifestyles? Is their branding specific to certain market niches? And if so, which ones? Look for gaps in what they’re doing to find opportunities they may have overlooked. 

Print marketing

Although King did not discuss this point, a great spy exercise is to have your entire office collect as many marketing pieces from your competitors as possible. Go through each piece at your office meeting and determine which types of messages are the most effective.

Two additional tips are to eliminate “I” and “me” language in marketing and to replace it with “you” language. Also, eliminate as many adjectives as possible from your text, replacing them with verbs. For example, instead of saying, “really lovely, lovely pool,” say, “Relax by the zero edge pool overlooking the breathtaking view below.”

Spying can be a critical element in your marketing strategy. Spying allows you to identify gaps in your competitors’ print and online marketing strategies. As a result, you not only beat your competitors to the punch, you can also prevent their punches from having a major impact on your business. 


 HOW’S YOUR ONLINE ETIQUETTE?

Real estate agents seeking to reach global clients through social media should proceed with caution, as cross-cultural blunders are easy to make when non-verbal communications cannot be read.

For example, it is common in the United States for people to ask personal questions to start a conversation or to address people on a first-name basis; but in some cultures, such communication is frowned upon.

Those who have completed Certified International Property Specialist training know to ask only safe questions. Experts also recommend that agents using Facebook or other social networking sites to conduct business should communicate in a more formal tone. Una Coleman, a marketing consultant from Ireland, says, “Be a reserved version of yourself.”


 RPM ON THE FRONT PAGE OF BUSINESS SECTION OF CONTRA COSTA TIMES

 

Dodging the debris unleashed by a shattered housing market, RPM Mortgage powered to its most successful year in 2010 and is off to a robust start this year.

Walnut Creek-based RPM generated hundreds of millions of dollars more in mortgage business in 2010 and hired hundreds of new employees over the past two years, a track record that sparkles against the gloomy backdrop of the real estate sector.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Robert Hirt, RPM’s chief executive officer. “2010 was the best year in the history of our company.”

The company’s success has been fueled in great measure by its ability to meld its connections to Fannie Mae with a veteran sales force and low interest rates. By being able to sell loans directly to Fannie Mae, RPM has attracted experienced loan officers who can drum up more business.

In 2010, RPM generated $4.55 billion in loan production, up 12.9 percent from the $4.03 billion in loan production in 2009.

The pace is brisk so far in 2011. For the first three months of this year, RPM generated $804 million in loan production, said Elise Watkins, an RPM spokeswoman. That was up 11.4 percent from the $722 million produced in the January-March quarter of 2010.

In contrast, the country’s largest home lender, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, saw originations for residential loans fall 8.1 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, regulatory filings show. However, in the first quarter of 2011, Wells Fargo’s originations for home loans rose 10.5 percent compared with the year-ago January-March period, the bank said.

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