Feb. 3: Virtual tools for agents; California real estate moving right along

Rob Chrisman

Rob Chrisman began his career in mortgage banking – primarily capital markets – 31 years ago in 1985 with First California Mortgage, assisting in Secondary Marketing until 1988, when he joined Tuttle & Co., a leading mortgage pipeline risk management firm. He was an account manager and partner at Tuttle & Co. until 1996, when he moved to Scotland with his family for 9 months. See more

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance legislation that will expand opportunities for homeownership. H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act,” includes a number of initiatives that have strong support from the National Association of Realtors®, who hailed the vote as important progress for home buyers and sellers.


“This legislation will put homeownership in reach for more families, and we applaud Congress’s work to take us there,” said NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “We look forward to seeing it advance through the legislative process and to the President’s desk, so it can be signed into law.”


NAR testified last year in support of H.R. 3700 before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. In particular, NAR championed the inclusion of reforms to current Federal Housing Administration restrictions on condominium financing.

Condominiums are among the most affordable homeownership options for first-time homebuyers, as well as lower income borrowers, but barriers to safe, affordable mortgage credit for condos still exist. H.R. 3700 takes a number of steps to address those concerns.


These include efforts to make FHA’s recertification process “substantially less burdensome,” improving a process that is often costly and which condo developments must repeat every 24 months. H.R. 3700 also lowers FHA’s current owner-occupancy requirement from 50 percent to 35 percent and requires FHA to replace existing policy on transfer fees with the less-restrictive model already in place at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.


Additionally, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act” streamlines the process for exemptions to FHA’s rule requiring that condominium projects have no more than 25 percent of the space dedicated to commercial use. This effort is in line with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s initiative to promote neighborhoods with a mix of residential housing, businesses and access to public transportation.


Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index grew in November, increasing 1.0 percentage point to a level of 120.6. November’s reading is 37 points, or 43 percent, above the index cyclical low of 84.1. The index averaged 113.7 points for all of 2014, seven and two-fifths points above the average for all of 2013. October’s index reading was 119.6.


“Our California Economic Activity Index increased again in November after dipping from July through September. Two index components contributed to California’s summer doldrums: housing starts and the tech stock index. Both of those components improved in November. Also in November, we see only one index component in decline, state exports, likely being weighed down by the strong dollar,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Year-over-year job growth in California remains well above the U.S. average, registering a strong 2.9 percent in December while the U.S. as a whole gained 1.9 percent.”


Commercial real estate current and future conditions in California:


Allen Matkins and UCLA Anderson Forecast have partnered to create a Commercial Real Estate Survey and Index to better predict future California commercial rental rates and vacancy rates. The ability to predict the real estate markets and understand the timing helps make better business decisions. Because of long lead times for real estate development, general economic conditions, such as job and income growth, are not always in phase with the real estate business cycle. This tool surveys supply-side participants, commercial developers and financiers of commercial development, for insights into their markets. Since participants make investment actions based upon these views, it provides a leading indicator of changing supply conditions. Click the link to view the Allen Matkins and UCLA Anderson Forecast Commercial Real Estate Winter/Spring survey results.


Virtual Home building, no imagination required:


Constructing a new home is a daunting task. Choosing floor plans, fixtures, countertops, room location, etc. involves a great deal of imagination for a buyer in the two-dimensional world. But what if it were possible to virtually create and tour the home that dreams are made of?


Occulus Rift, the virtual game changer (so to speak) is already being used by builders such as Magnolia Homes, Memphis Tennessee, and Blue Homes Vallejo, California Occulus Rift. The high-fidelity simulations in which you are physically in the environment viewing a projection of the home, 360 degrees in every direction and actually seeing what your home will look like. Albeit a very expensive tool, builders investing in this technology are getting result.


Another digital wonder in use is GoTour by Avid Ratings. GoTour is an app that lets you tour model homes from the comfort of your iPad in vivid detail. Builders can virtualize existing homes and allow potential buyers to take interactive video tours online, with details about individual rooms’ options. GoTour can also be used on site, with radio devices placed throughout a model home to provide buyers with location-based information. As they tour the model home, the application will highlight the home’s features and the options available. And as you can imagine, an interactive experience like that will set you and your home apart from the competition.


Marketing in the world of cyberspace:


Marketing has its complications, but appealing to the masses has never been easier than it is today. A well-engineered and fresh-faced website should be at the top of your marketing plan. You need good content that is constantly updated so you not only get the attention of search engines, but you also give site visitors a reason to keep coming back. An ever expanding video library with virtual tours or homeowner interviews should be posted weekly. You no longer need bulky, expensive camcorders to shoot a fabulous video. Also, be sure your website developer creates a mobile app for additional ease of communication. Use QR codes (two-dimensional barcodes) on your signage and promotional materials. Buyers are savvy enough to know that scanning the QR code (with a free app) directs visitors to the relevant page on your site.


(PPC) Pay per click advertising (Banner advertising / sponsored links or ads) is another great tool. Be sure to focus keywords to be as specific as possible. Also, utilize referral sites for free like Realtors.com, Trulia and Zillow.


Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest keep you connected with your marketing pool and allow you to stay “personal”. Realistically, you should have a professional monitoring your website as well as posting and updating your social media accounts as well.


Customers prefer less paper so take advantage of all the digital options available. Preferably dabble a little in each. The most important consideration when planning how to distribute your marketing budget is to be clear on how your customers shop for a new home. Where do they go for information? What are the strongest influences? You need a plan that hits your target from different directions, not just one.


A little girl asked her mother, “Mom, what’s it like to have the greatest daughter in the world?”

Her mother replied, “I don’t know – you’ll have to ask Grandma.”






(Copyright 2016 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman. To subscribe please visit www.knowledgeforrealestateagents.com.)