Today’s Brave New World of Englewood Real Estate Marketing

In Englewood real estate as in many other businesses, successfully drawing the public’s attention, then communicating value, are what separate can-do practitioners from the pack. It’s pigeonholed under “marketing” instead of “selling” because the latter sounds more like a one-on-one activity, whereas “marketing” depicts the kind of effort that goes out to the world at large.

The past couple of decades have produced sea changes in the way Englewood real estate brokers and agents need to approach their marketing approach. It’s not just the way all the advertising and communications media have been transformed; it’s also the expectations of the people they are intended to reach—the buyers. When a homeowner intends to put his home up for sale, one way to insure success is to be aware of the elements that make up any marketing plan designed to take advantage of today’s 2015 Englewood real estate marketplace.

  • Technology is at the forefront of good marketing, and today’s Realtors® can choose to put it to their clients’ advantage. A responsive website, striking visuals, good content, and specific details to accompany their business cards, brochures, and other traditional marketing materials build more than their own brand—they launch every client’s Englewood real estate listing across the virtual Universe!
  • Today’s real estate market rewards creativity more than was hitherto the norm. Because the web has made so much information so accessible, having a knack for standing apart from the crowd is more important than ever. Using techniques to attract attention is the first step in guaranteeing marketing success, so understanding search engine optimization (and using that knowledge regularly) is vital. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I make sure to post this blog regularly!
  • A social media presence is a must for anyone conducting real estate in Englewood —and it just so happens that it’s the perfect venue for Realtors® to shine. It’s a very personal (well, not quite an in-the-flesh handshake—but as personal as electronics allow!) way to expand networks and engage people in a diverse cross section of prospective audiences.
  • Using electronic and social media is part of the story, but monitoring their effectiveness (“the metrics”) is a necessity to track how well they are working. By tracking this information and using the results to take advantage of what works best, every Englewood real estate client shares in maximizing their listing’s exposure.

Effective real estate marketing uses ongoing research—and the strategy and energetic tactics that reach out to take advantage of the whole spectrum of today’s communication resources.

If you are thinking of listing your own home, I hope you’ll give me a call to see all that I can do for you!

Englewood Real Estate Watchers Note Rise in U.S. Jumbo Loans

2-27-jumboloan-300x223Inside Mortgage Finance is a periodical that precisely lives up to its name: Englewood residential real estate professionals can turn to it for the latest word on national trends inside the mortgage industry. Admittedly, this usually makes for pretty dull reading for outsiders (that is, everyone else); but one story in last week’s edition was interesting enough that it was picked up by the general business press.

The topic was jumbo loans. In Englewood real estate circles, the issuing of jumbo loans is of particular interest because of their indicator status. Jumbos are the ones with mortgage amounts exceeding the limits for government-backed loans. They’re also known as ‘nonconforming’—and like all the other non-conformists in life, they don’t quite behave like everyone else. Englewood jumbo loans tend to be slightly harder to qualify for than run-of-the-mill mortgages, and as a rule carry higher interest rates. If their share of the home loan market grows, it indicates that high-end home sales are improving.

And that’s what happened in the U.S. in 2014, according to IMF. “Jumbo Lending Stronger than Overall Market, Hits Highest Share in 10 Years” was the headline in a report that pegged fourth quarter jumbo loan volume at $67,000,000,000. That’s a lot of high-end real estate!

When The Wall Street Journal picked up the story, they pointed to a decrease in mortgage lending overall, but pointedly less so for jumbo loans. Bank of America reported a 3% growth in the number of first-time home buyers who took out jumbos in 2014—and applicants were a younger bunch, too: their average age decreased from 46 years to 44. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the largest jumbo provider, observed a similar trend: more first-timers taking out jumbo loans.

If this has local real estate watchers wondering whether the popularity of jumbo loans in Englewood will follow the national trend (and if so, why), there was at least one straightforward explanation. HSH, the housing and mortgage data firm, reported that by the end of this January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage “dropped below 4% and was at a historic low of 3.92%….” With rates like those, the WSJ wrote, “Low interest rates are spurring more older affluent Americans to consider a mortgage.”

You don’t have to be in the jumbo market to seize the financial advantages this winter’s favorable real estate climate offers. Just call me!

 

For Englewood Boomerang Buyers, a Window Opens

2-20-boomerang-300x238There is a seven-year window for some past Englewood homeowners—and it’s one that’s opening, not closing. The ‘window’ in question is the one that could activate Englewood “Boomerang Buyers”—which would come as good news for the local home sales.

Some background about Englewood Boomerang Buyers. It’s a term coined in the wake of the subprime mortgage fiasco, describing those burned by the housing crisis. They were, on the whole, Baby Boomers and GenXers who were caught up in the Great Recession. For many who became enmeshed in the effects of the nasty confluence of the cliff-dive of the subprime mortgage bond market and collapse of residential valuations that swept the nation, foreclosures or short sales became, literally, offers they couldn’t refuse. Not only did the bitter aftertaste leave many with a spoiled appetite for homeownership, but the damage done to the credit ratings of millions made that a moot point: they had fallen off the scale when it came to qualifying for a new mortgage.

But that was then; this is now. It’s a now that, in RealtyTrac Newsroom’s breathless phraseology, “the first wave of…homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure or short sale during the foreclosure crisis are now past the seven year window they conservatively need to repair their credit and qualify to buy a new home.”

Soon, more and more Boomerang Buyers in Englewood will be in the clear, if they choose to be; and they are only the first wave. “Nearly 7.3 million potential boomerang buyers nationwide will be in a position to buy again from a credit repair perspective over the next eight years,” says Newsroom. Bankrate, the mortgage and financial advice website, sees the group as particularly well-qualified. They quote a broker in North Carolina to that effect: “If you’ve been through a foreclosure, you’ve already been a homeowner…you know the process. You’ve been through hell sometime in the last seven years…”

That word ‘sometime’ is apt, because the seven year period has been anything but uniform. Guidelines for that “waiting period” have sometimes been three years for FHA qualifiers, or even shorter for portfolio loans that lenders keep on their own books. But whether it’s three or seven years, the clock usually starts ticking only when a foreclosure has been completed. But according to FICO, although a foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years, “the negative impact will fade as time passes.”

For potential Englewood Boomerang Buyers still waiting for a foreclosure to disappear altogether from their credit reports, there are other routes that can lead to a homeownership reboot. For more on buying or selling, I’m always pleased to sit down and discuss some of the great opportunities in our current market!

News Flash! Men, Women House Hunters Differ!

2-20-a-menwomen-300x300Last week, The Wall Street Journal made it official: they had a slow news day. It was February 11 (that was Wednesday) when they ran the feature story, “A Gender Gap in Real Estate.”

This was something Englewood house hunters (not to mention those hoping to attract their attention) could certainly appreciate: an article about what men and women consider “very important” when it comes to features in homes. Author Adam Bonislawski based his story on National Association of Realtors® survey information; the results pointed to some dissimilarities between what women and men look for.

Now, I’ve had a good deal of experience helping both men and women house hunters in Englewood, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise that their priorities differ. For instance, I was not at all surprised about the contrasting emphases the two put on the importance of having a walk-in closet in the master bedroom. The only surprise was that it was the men who found it much more important (38%-29%)!

What about house hunters’ feelings about the importance of kitchen appliances being new? Same phenomenon: men 38%, women 29% (possibly because appliances are gadgets, and men like the newest gadgets). How important is it that a home be single level? The sexes reverse: Male house hunters think it is very important 18% of the time; women, 31%. I’d bet that within the 18% that are masculine we’d find a disproportionate number of stay-at-home dads.

House hunters registered a big gap when it comes to rating 9-foot or higher ceilings as very important. A miniscule 8% of females agreed, while nearly three times that many of their male counterparts thought so (21%).

One harder to guess feature would have been the desirability of a kitchen island. Nineteen percent of male house hunters found it very important, versus just 8% of the females. Does this mean women are tired of entertaining? Do they no longer consider their masculine counterparts capable of sous chef action? Or is it that more men are taking over the cooking duties?

I’d have to admit, I’m less than certain that these national averages are 100% reflective of what house hunters in Englewood prefer. Yes, Englewood men certainly value attics (13%) more than the ladies (7%)—they do tend to spend more time up there (but neither are terribly committed to that form of high living). Basements are preferred by close to equal numbers.

Being that these findings are sort of interesting (not fascinating, perhaps, but at least sort of interesting), you might be wondering why at the beginning I thought it was evidence that the WSJ was having a slow news day. It’s because of some tiny print at the bottom of a graph, which gave the date of the NAR survey—all the way back in 2013! More up-to-date is what we find unfolding for today’s Englewood house hunters: give me a call to get the latest!

International Home Buyers Might be Englewood’s Next Prospects

1-28-intlbuyer-300x225Englewood homeowners could benefit if the influx of international home buyers continues to expand. According to a study from the National Association Realtors®, the trend in that direction has been accelerating. In the most recent release covering the twelve-month period ending last March, foreign nationals are reported to have spent more than $92 billion in the United States for the year.

That’s growth at a blistering pace: an increase of 35% over the $68 billion spent in 2012!

How Englewood homeowners stand to benefit from the increase in foreign buyers has a lot to do with today’s changing real estate marketplace. Since international home buyers need to learn as much as possible about a property from afar, the improvements in online presentation serve a very necessary purpose. When one of our Englewood listings includes an extensive selection of photos or video footage, it becomes a legitimate part of the emerging international marketplace. Combined with today’s easy-to-navigate links to detailed information about Englewood’s neighborhoods and local amenities, a local property is realistically accessible to buyers from anywhere in the world.

Last year’s foreign sales were split almost equally between foreign buyers whose primary residence is outside the country and those currently living here. Not surprisingly, the greatest number of sales—19%—came from Canadian nationals, closely followed by the Chinese (16%) and Mexicans (9%). Both Indian and United Kingdom nationals weighed in with 5% of last year’s purchases, while lesser percentages of international home buyers hailed from Germany, followed by the French, Brazilians, and Japanese.

The NAR study also delved into the reasons international home buyers increasingly favor U.S. properties—although the answers were wide-ranging. For some, it was the investment potential that was the biggest draw: owning U.S. properties is seen as a solid way to diversify foreign portfolios. International buyers value the relative economic stability and attractive prices present in our real estate market. Other buyers are relocating to the United States for professional reasons, while still others purchase a property for children attending college.

One aspect that Englewood property owners might find interesting is that international home buyers tend to purchase higher-priced houses. That might be due to the impact of the Chinese buyers, whose primary focus is in areas like New York and California where properties are more expensive. In contrast, Canadians are more likely to purchase in lower-priced areas of the country. This is one reason why, although Canadians purchased more properties last year, the amount they spent ($13.8 billion) represented a slight decline from the previous year.

International buyers have another standout attribute that Englewood home sellers should find attractive: they are more likely to pay entirely in cash! About 60% of all purchases made by international home buyers required no financing—that’s up a third from 2007. When you consider the average sales price, it represents a fairly hefty cash infusion.

If your own Englewood home will be on the market soon, I hope you will give me a call to discuss how we can create a strong presentation for local and international home buyers alike!

Moves to the ‘Burbs? Conflicting Trends Shed Little Light

1-28-burbs-300x164Littleton real estate trackers stay informed via the most recent listing and sales numbers, which is the most solid information of all. It’s helpful for planning purposes—even though what has happened in the past is only a suggestion of how real estate in Littleton will perform in coming months. To get another indicator of future activity, the broader national trends are worth watching, along with the analyses and predictions of the top real estate experts. But it’s not always clear which trend is emerging, or which expert is right.

Case in point concerns younger families abandoning more urban areas to take up residence in the suburbs. Everyone acknowledges this group has been slow to settle into their first single family homes; but now there is a trend that has them selling their expensive condominium in downtown core areas, then using the proceeds for down payments on a house in the suburbs.

Real estate commentators who see this trend can bring convincing logic to their argument. Condominiums in most major downtown city cores have become increasingly expensive. For the lucky owners, it means they have gained significant real estate equity. However, especially for those with growing families, the downside is that they can’t afford to grow into a larger condo in their current neighborhood. Their best option is to sell the condo and move to the suburbs, where their money will get them more real estate.

Urban Studies Professor Joel Kotkin confirms that the first group of millennials, now entering their 30s, “are beginning, like preceding generations, to move to the suburbs.” It’s a trend that sounds reasonable enough…but not to everyone.

Others disagree, convincingly. In fact, it’s more than a disagreement: they propound the opposite—a movement is toward city cores. The 36th edition of the seriously respectable Urban Land Institute/PricewaterhouseCoopers Emerging Trends in Real Estate report says, right there in Chapter 3, that “vibrant urban centers are almost a universal trend” in all 75 markets surveyed. That’s quite a few markets (compiled by 1,400 contributors). Lest anyone be unclear about the emerging trend itself, those quotes come from the section called “Continuing Urbanization Trend.”

To be fair, both perceived trends are subject to qualifications and footnotes that, it’s fair to say, muddle the picture. Under the Urban Land Institute/PwC’s Continuing Urbanization Trend heading, for instance, lies the statement, “Interviewees…cited activity in the traditional downtown area and also in suburban nodes.” In other words, perhaps the Urbanization Trend could also be sort of suburban, sort of. Littleton real estate watchers, hoping to spot a trend, could conclude that young families are moving to and fro…

In any case, you don’t have to fall into the Millennial, Gen X, GenY, Boomer or even the Greatest Gen category to follow one distinctly local trend: if you will be looking for a new home in Littleton—or have one to list—giving me a call is the thing to do!

Forecasting the Future for Littleton Housing in the New Year

It does seem to be time for an in depth forecast about Littleton’s housing outlook for 2015. The prediction game is going strong everywhere else this week, with print and online journalists and TV talking heads interviewing experts and each other about what to expect in the coming year. Some make noteworthy predictions—but more seem to be doing their best to sound authoritative while remaining vague enough to avoid provably wrong calls.

I have to sympathize. Last year, after delving into the Littleton housing outlook to come up with predictions, the one I put at the top of my list was a forecast that mortgage interest rates would soon be climbing. That was safe—rates had been so low for so long, history told us they had to rise, didn’t it? Besides, all the experts agreed.

What then happened in 2014 explains why financial prospectuses tend to footnote projections with sentences like “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Rates did rise; but then sank again. So this year, it’s probably a better idea to shelve the crystal ball in favor of laying out some of the factors we do and don’t know—factors that should influence the direction of Littleton housing trends for the coming year.

First, what we do know for sure. Since Baby Boomers make up the largest demographic in the country…

Uh-oh! No they don’t. The Census Bureau now says that the cohort of 23-year-old Americans has just become the largest in the country. Followed by 24- and 22-year olds, respectively. Probably why the chief economist at the NAR® projects that this generation will “drive two-thirds of household formations over the next five years.” He says 2015 will become the point at which the millennial generation’s presence in the housing market will be truly felt for the first time. So what we do know is that younger buyers have begun to join the ranks of homeowners in substantial numbers. That’s different; it has the look of a major trend.

And mortgage rates will rise (because they have to, right?) Again, this one only seems to be a reliable projection. At this point, a 30-year mortgage is actually lower than it was a year ago. It is thought that foreign influences (uncertainty in Europe; economic weakness in the Far East) are what have held down U.S. housing financing rates. If that’s true—and since no one can say with any certainty what to expect from events overseas—mortgage rates and their influence on Littleton housing activity should more accurately be placed in the don’t know column.

So will Littleton housing prices and sales activity rise in the coming year? We do know that the public opinion polling data supports that likelihood. Consumer confidence is building, possibly because of a brightening employment picture (not to mention last week’s record-breaking Santa Claus rally and other strong economic news). In fact, real estate mega site Trulia reports that their samples tell them “consumers expect 2015 to be better, especially for selling a home.”

Economists agree. Fortune.com says that economists are “nearly unanimous in predicting that home values would continue to rise” and that “surveys of homeowner sentiment suggest that more of them will look to sell their homes” in the coming year.

If you are leaning in that direction yourself, there’s one factor we know for sure: I’ll be standing by in 2015, ready to put all of my resources and experience to work for your Littleton home sale!

Englewood Foreclosure Watchers Note Last Month’s Trend Change

12-24-foreclosureEnglewood foreclosure watchers keep their eyes trained on the local market filings, but also stay aware of the national trends as a signal of what might be coming down the pike. Across the U.S., by the end of November there were nearly 112,500 foreclosure filings, which amounts to one out of every 1,170 homes.

The company that keeps an eye on such things, real-estate data source RealtyTrac, just offered a bar chart showing historical trends, which highlighted something that would be lost in the raw numbers alone. It showed about 27 (it looked like 27; the bars were tiny) little bars hanging underneath the “0% foreclosure start” line, meaning months in which foreclosure starts had declined compared with the same month a year earlier. Twenty-seven months is more than two straight years of fewer foreclosure starts (including default notice filings, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions). But the standout was one little line that stood bravely alone above the line—and it was for this November!

That doesn’t mean Englewood foreclosure rates are now destined to explode, but it is the first reversal RealtyTrac has registered in years. For potential home bargain-hunters, it might be a heads-up to keep their powder dry—and perhaps a reasonable idea to once more go over some of the basics that veteran Englewood foreclosure buyers generally agree upon:

Get pre-approved:

For anyone who wouldn’t be ready with cash in hand, when foreclosed homes are in the cross-hairs, it’s really imperative to have advance bank approval. When a good Englewood foreclosure value comes up, you need to be ready to act immediately. About 60% of foreclosed homes are financed—and pre-approval is the way to prevent a cash buyer from swooping in ahead of you.

Find a qualified real estate agent:

A competent agent—one experienced in dealing with Englewood foreclosures—does more than just put you ahead when it comes to the underlying values of homes in the area. Your agent can point out issues others may have overlooked with certain properties, help you navigate local procedures and red tape, aid with inspections, etc.

Focus on REO properties:

Englewood REO properties are foreclosed homes that have already gone through the foreclosure process completely, and are now owned by the lender. They are typically vacant, and are sometimes priced to sell since banks are incented to get them ‘off the books.’ It’s not universally the case, but REOs can be more straightforward to deal with than auctions, pending foreclosures, or short sales.

Check things out thoroughly:

Foreclosed homes often are in need of repair. Since lenders sell them “as is,” prudent buyers know to identify any major faults before making a buying decision. Good foreclosure inspectors will have a generator and other equipment available so they can test all of a property’s major systems.

Check for liens:

A foreclosed home can be burdened by pre-existing liens from utility companies, municipalities, and unpaid contractors. Knowing about them early helps estimate the total true value (and ensure they won’t cause your deal to fall apart).

Buying a Englewood foreclosed home can offer immediate value and equity to those who are prepared to make sophisticated inquiries. I offer my clients the kind of experienced teamwork that makes that happen!

Real Estate Markets Register Steady Improvement

11-19-marketupdate-297x300Englewood real estate observers got some background information last month that seemed to confirm much of what we’ve been seeing for a while now. Mid-term election politicking is now safely behind us (for a brief while, at least), but in the run-up to the elections, this was a comprehensive real estate canvass that yielded some comparisons of note. It was called the 2014 Election Housing Scorecard, released mid-month by RealtyTrac. The idea was to rate how national real estate conditions had fared in the two years since the previous national election. The answer: better off.

Think back just a couple of years, and it’s not hard to recall the period following the bursting of the housing bubble, when it was hard to find anyone with a cheerful attitude about investing in residential real estate (Englewood’s included). It may have been intellectually certain that those deflated prices wouldn’t last forever—but even so, it took hardy resolve to step up and buy into such an outwardly unstable market.

That was then; this (as they say) is now—and by mid-October, the Housing Scorecard ‘s findings were in. By something like five to one, the majority of Americans now live in a housing market that is better off than it was two years ago.

The scope of the study was broad: residential real estate markets in 1,547 counties were evaluated based on affordability, median home prices, unemployment figures and foreclosure start rates. What the study found was largely positive.

A full 811 of the analyzed markets—or 52%—rated as “better off.” Only 176 markets (11%) rated as “worse off.” The remaining 36% were tossups. The total combined population in the “better off” markets was 140 million. The population in the “worse off” category was just 24 million.

Those positives paint a fairly broad picture of the recovering real estate market. Other statistics show that foreclosures and short sales recently hit their lowest level since the start of data collection in 2011. Add to that the sales numbers released in October showing existing home sales in America at their most robust in a year, and with Englewood mortgage rates still down in historically low territory, and it’s easy to agree with Reuters’ opinion that the housing market recovery is gradually “getting back on track.” If you are of a mind to take advantage of the rising market, I hope you will stop by or give me a call!

Englewood Home Sales Charts Are Never a Straight Line Situation

11-12-saleschartIn TV commercials, the idea is to get the point across as economically as possible. That’s why, when the theme is a thriving business, they show a graph with lines that move up (often at an angle that would worry a mountain goat). It makes for an easily grasped, direct message.

Alas, graphs showing Englewood home sales never seem to show such neat, orderly trajectory—and that’s for any number of reasons. For instance, if some closings happen to be delayed by a day or two for clerical reasons, they may show as having fallen out of one month, only to show up the next. The real world is like that.

Keeping track of national home sales numbers is subject to the interventions of that same stubbornly real world, of course; so when home sales registered a slight drop in August, few seasoned analysts saw it as an emerging trend…or so it seemed.

That reading was confirmed when it turned out existing U.S. home sales notched the fastest pace of the year in September. Commentators who had been noting the August falloff picked up on the shift quickly. A few gleanings:

“…existing home sales increased 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.17 million units, the strongest reading since September of last year.” –Reuters 

“…single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million in September from 5.05 million in August. Sales are now at their highest pace of 2014”–the Realtor® 

“…Sales in September were up 17% from a year earlier…in the U.S. rose…to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000…”–The Wall St. Journal 

Area homeowners have been hoping that the continued level of low mortgage interest rates would spur home sales in Englewood, especially now that regulators are working on relaxing tough regulations that have discouraged lenders from issuing loans to any but the most prime credit risks. Young people and others with less than stellar credit have sometimes found themselves eyeing those low rates, but frustratingly unable to take advantage of the situation. It has been a real weak point in the housing rebound, so opening up the mortgage spigots would allow many first time Englewood home buyers a chance to enter the market.

In case you have a rooting interest in the Englewood home sales picture either as potential buyer or seller, don’t hesitate to give me a call to discuss the outlook for this fall and winter.