Real Estate Blog

December 21st, 2016 10:09 AM

Housing Market

This year the housing market was different than what was forecasted. A review of Rein’s monthly market reports show that inventory has steadily declined since the beginning of the year which started at the lowest point since 2013. Sales have remained strong throughout the year with the best months being February and May while July had a large drop year-over-year. The drop in July was not in Hampton Roads alone, in fact the Hampton Roads market has followed the national market with low inventory and low sales in July. Redfin is attributing the July sales to a month of fewer business days due to five full weekends and a national holiday. New construction has continued to be strong since May with double digit growth and the median sale price has remained relatively stable since April which had a 4% increase year-to-year. The mild winter may have helped the spring market and May had the lowest state unemployment rate since 2008.

 

Interest Rates

Although the Federal Reserve threatened to raise mortgage rates this year, we have actually seen a decline of approximately 0.5% since January with rates below 4%. Many of the foreign economies are experiencing slow growth which is keeping our rates low. If China, Japan, and Europe’s economies turnaround, our rates may rise a noticeable level but until that happens, economists don’t expect to see a significant change. We may continue to see rates near 4% for a while.

 

Homebuyer Shift

While the market has remained strong and rates low, the homebuyer market has seen a change in homebuyers. According to NAR, in this past year, 17% of homebuyers were single women, which was twice the rate of single men. Many female buyers of single family homes are in their 40’s or older and are divorced or widowed. The report also showed that single millennial women are buying condominiums.

 

MLS Tools

This July REIN implemented single sign-on technology to allow easy access to all the necessary transaction tools. You no longer have to recall numerous websites and passwords to process a single transaction. This should speed up and simplify the transaction process. In October zipLogix Products were replaced by Instanet Solutions to also simplify the transaction process.

Matrix is now the sole MLS system. This decision was made by the product vendor who is no longer going to support the technology behind Fusion. The REIN staff was busy working with the vendor to create reports and functional processes to make the transition seamless while offering all the tools that we need to run our businesses. Change can be painful for some, but in a world of changing technology and data access it is important that we stay up-to-date to effectively service our clients.

 

Since this year’s market has been so strong it is believed that it will remain strong into next year. Rates may increase to 4.5% but this should not have an impact on the market. It will still be difficult for first time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage. If inventories increase, appreciation should slow down and keep prices at an affordable level, allowing many first time home buyers to qualify for a loan.


Posted by Betsy Hughes, SRA on December 21st, 2016 10:09 AMLeave a Comment

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December 21st, 2016 10:07 AM

Energy conservation, high performance homes, and sustainable products are not a major concern for homeowners in the Hampton Roads area. Most believe the cost far outweighs the return for these items. That belief could not be further from the truth. There are simple things that can be done around your existing house to improve your home’s efficiency and help sustain the environment. By implementing these features, a homeowner will save money and have a healthier and more comfortable home.

Energy efficient upgrades that can easily be done include;

Windows - High-Performance windows with protective coatings and improved frame assemblies, also known as thermal or Low-E, allow in light but resist a temperature transfer. An annual savings of $126 - $465 can be seen when replacing single pane windows. This is an easy retrofit when it is time for an upgrade.

Insulation - Insulation should be installed in the floors, walls, and attics. Most standard built homes have fiberglass insulation in these areas. Over time the fiberglass will sag and will no longer be effective. Remove the fiberglass and use spray foam insulation to seal cracks and holes then replace the old insulation with new fiberglass or rigid foam insulation, which has the highest R-value and can be used more effectively than fiberglass. Fiberglass and blown-in insulation will need to be replaced or added to over time to maintain the efficiency.

  • Radiant barriers in attics are great in our climate. It is a thin aluminum sheet that looks like aluminum foil. It lays on top of the insulation in the attic and will block the heat from the roof to the attic, keeping it cooler and saving on air conditioning.

HVAC/Energy - All of the new heat pumps are more energy efficient than the prior models. They are quieter, can reduce humidity which improves comfort, and require less maintenance. Upgrading your heat pump when necessary will show an immediate energy savings. Sealing cracks and holes in the ‘envelope’ of the home and in the duct system, it will reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise. In a typical home, about 20% of air is lost in the duct system. Tightly sealed and properly insulated ducts can save a homeowner $120+/year.

  • Install a programmable thermostat if no one is home for long periods. A comfortable temperature can be programmed when the house will be occupied.
  • Many homes have an attic fan to exhaust the hot air. Install a solar powered attic fan to save on those energy costs.
  • Install light switch and outlet insulation gaskets. This could be one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to stop air from leaking around your plugs and switches. It is a white foam gasket that is placed behind the cover plate. They cost around $0.25 each and can stop drafts from sneaking into your house!

Water Conservation - Water savings can be found by using low flow toilets and faucets. These fixtures use approximately half the water as standard fixtures and costs about the same

  • Place water barrels at the end of the gutters to catch run off for outside water use in gardens and flower beds.


Air Quality - Good air quality is a big factor in homes and one that goes unnoticed most times. Many people suffer from allergies and sinus issues. Have you ever thought that it was because of your home?

  • Many of the home goods we purchase now are full of synthetics or chemicals which give off a gas or odor which is called ‘off gassing’. Use no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint and products to decorate your home to avoid these chemicals.
  • Install an ultraviolet air purification system in the air ducts to kill bacteria, germs, viruses, mold, and mildew. It also eliminates odors, destroys VOC’s, and decreases dust.
  • If the envelope of your home is sealed too tightly, where odors linger in your home, this means you are not getting enough air exchanges. Use a mechanical ventilation system to increase the number air changes to prevent mold and remove gases.


If you are not sure where to start or would like to know how efficient your home currently is, get a home energy audit. The audit will show how much energy your home consumes and will tell you what you can do to improve the efficiency. There are several companies in this area that do energy audits. To learn more about the audits, go to www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-energy-audits.

 


Posted in:Green Your Home and tagged: Green Living
Posted by Betsy Hughes, SRA on December 21st, 2016 10:07 AMLeave a Comment

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September 2nd, 2016 8:42 PM

The real estate market is constantly changing, so it is important to stay up-to-date on regulations and procedures. The best way to do this is through education. Failure to take continuing education could cause the loss of your license. Take seminars and classes on relevant topics that can help you grow professionally or personally to earn a designation or certificate or review an area in which you struggle. Locally, the Hampton Roads Realtors Association offers training each month, and each Council offers presentations on relevant topics.

A common concern is there is not enough time to take classes. As busy as we are, it is important to invest in yourself to remain successful. Numerous options are available for continuing education. Most schools and organizations offer webinars, online classes, self-study programs, and live classes, which are usually the most beneficial. Another option is to attend a professional conference in which you are interested. Most professional conferences offer continuing education. VAR’s Annual Convention is September 19 – 21, offering various continuing education seminars and keynote speakers.  In November, NAR is hosting the REALTORS Conference & Expo in Orlando. Classes and programs are offered throughout this four-day conference. Also in November, VAR is hosting the Property Management Conference in Charlottesville. This conference has seminars and classes with 25 CE credits offered.

To remain a licensed professional, continuing education is necessary; however, it need not be a hindrance. Use education to your advantage. Learn a new process or review a topic you have not taken in a while, such as contract writing or escrow accounts. Although these are common items in every transaction, a class may point out areas completed incorrectly or left incomplete inadvertently. It is easy to develop a habit, whether good or bad; the bad habits need to be corrected. 


Posted in:Education and tagged: Education
Posted by Betsy Hughes, SRA on September 2nd, 2016 8:42 PMLeave a Comment

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September 2nd, 2016 8:40 PM

A leader leads a group or organization. To be a leader, you need to be willing to take control and direct others.  Many agents believe they do not need to be leaders, but they just need to do their jobs well. It is easy to concentrate on your own business and not worry about others. The problem with this philosophy is that if an experienced agent does not lead and train new agents, the industry will not grow. Every experienced agent today had/has a mentor who helped them get to where they are. In the real estate industry, each transaction can be different. An agent grows through their experiences; many of which cannot be taught in a classroom. If an effective leader assists in the process, it can be a successful learning experience.

 

Being a leader has its benefits. An authentic leader will build meaningful relationships. Your work will reflect your skills and values. Leadership can build strong relationships. The support from others will typically lead to success. A leader will strengthen their self-awareness by knowing their strengths, and weaknesses.  When you invest in someone, they will invest in you. It is a win - win situation.  Good leadership reaps higher levels of productivity, which creates profits for all involved.

 

A good leader understands that success is more than themselves and their team. Giving back is a great leadership example. Lead through organizational boards and volunteer positions. Volunteering in the community is rewarding both personally and professionally.  A good leader knows when to lead and when to follow. If you make it a habit of surrounding yourself with others who are smarter than you, you will continuously grow, which will give you the ability to be a more effective leader.

 

Sow into others as you will both reap the harvest and the cycle will continue. 


Posted in:Training and tagged: leadership
Posted by Betsy Hughes, SRA on September 2nd, 2016 8:40 PMLeave a Comment

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July 16th, 2016 2:19 PM

Summer is right around the corner, and most of you probably have your summer vacations planned or are in the planning stage. What will happen to your business while you are gone? Does your business go on vacation when you do? If so, you are losing valuable leads and momentum. Your business should be able to run without you. What if you or a family member is sick, do you still work? With today’s technology and the numerous types of assistance available you should not have to be a ‘hands on’ operator. Your business should keep running in your absence.

The key is to find a system that will maintain consistency. If your business is dependent on when you are working it will never grow. Using assistants, whether virtual or in person is necessary to grow your business and maintain a personal life. Vacations and time off from work are necessary to clear your mind and recharge your body. However, your time off will not be relaxing if you have to play ‘catch-up’ when you return or work twice as hard to find clients because your business stopped.

Here are some processes that can be implemented to run your business smoothly.

  • Hire an Assistant or Transaction Coordinator. They can help with daily routines, answer calls, manage paperwork, set appointments, show listings, etc. Not only will this help in your daily process, but it will also allow you to take time off seamlessly.


o   It is an investment in your business.

o   If you don’t have enough work to keep them busy, share your assistant with another agent in your office until you have enough work to support them.

o   Hire a Virtual Assistant to work on an as needed basis.

  • Use technology to automate systems. What can be automated to make the business run smoother?

o   Keep files in a secured cloud environment so you and your assistants both have access.

o   Use a shared schedule for business appointments.

  • Set boundaries – Don’t take a client’s call at 10 PM. Let it go to voicemail and return the call promptly in the morning. You will set the boundaries between your personal time and work. If you allow your client’s to dictate your time, you will never have any of your own.

  • Clients – Make your client’s aware of your time off in advance and give them your assistant's contact information.

By implementing processes, your business will run without you. This will allow you to take time off but will also give you time to work ON your business instead of IN it. This is necessary to grow the business and be successful. If you are still working independently and doing all the work yourself, look at the agents who are the top producers in your company or market area. How do they become a top producer? They have a team that helps them get there.


Posted in:Real Estate and tagged: business
Posted by Betsy Hughes, SRA on July 16th, 2016 2:19 PMLeave a Comment

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