August 23, 2017

Speaking of Real Estate

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Updated: 12 min 1 sec ago

Staging: More Money, Fewer Days on Market, Report Shows

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:55

To many real estate pros, home staging has gone from a luxury to a necessity. The National Association of REALTORS® found in a recent survey that sixty-two percent of sellers’ agents believe staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, and a third say it increases the selling price.

The survey also found that staging can help buyers envision themselves living in that home. NAR’s Home Staging Report found that another 77 percent say that staging makes it easier for the buyers to visualize the property as their home. Staging can help transform a home into the type of residence that is demanded and desired in the market.

Some staging services that can be useful include photoshoot styling services. This involves prepping and photographing staged living areas to be featured in an online listing. This staging service is attractive because many home buyers are beginning their home search online and a nicely designed home can draw a buyer to the open house. Independent of how the market is, a staged home has a move-in ready feel and buyers will pay for it.

Of course, these benefits don’t come free. Staging services can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the home’s condition, desired outcomes, size, and where it is and whether it is occupied or vacant. But home staging doesn’t have to involve a complete makeover. As NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Staging shows, there are really three rooms one should consider staging: living room, kitchen, and the master bedroom.

Home buyers decide within eight seconds of seeing a home whether they like a home or not, according to the Real Estate Staging Association. That first impression can be long lasting. To help you learn more about the topic, we spoke with an NAR researcher and a Chicago-area stager and report on what they say. Access the video. 

Sponsor Webinar: Win Listings and Sell Them Quickly with 3-D and VR Technology

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 13:59

Real estate professionals looking to outsell their competition are turning to 3-D and virtual reality technology to help them win listings, connect with home buyers —and close sales.

Among the options is an all-in-one media solution from Matterport that enables agents and brokers to create dynamic 3-D house tours with embedded video and audio, immersive virtual reality walkthroughs, high-resolution photography for print advertising, traditional 2-D floor plans, teaser videos, and more, from a single shoot. With Matterport’s easy-to-use technology, you can integrate 3-D and virtual reality technology into your marketing for the same cost of a traditional 2-D photo shoot, and in about the same amount of time. This means you can spend more time winning listings than generating marketing assets.

By combining traditional marketing techniques with sophisticated 3-D and virtual reality technology, Matterport has become an effective tool for real estate professionals. One RE/MAX agent improved her listing conversion rate from 60 percent to 95 percent, while another from Keller Williams hasn’t lost a listing since using Matterport’s technology to build listing presentations. An Alain Pinel broker says his agents are winning listings that might otherwise have gone to competitors by using 3-D tours in their listing presentations.

This technology does more than win listings. Matterport’s tool also helps sell houses and build your brand. You can share every digital asset created with the Matterport system quickly and easily across all of your online channels to reach buyers from anywhere. One RE/MAX agent said she used the system to sell two homes to remote buyers who never saw them, and reduced the amount of time it takes her properties to sell by 56 percent. You can use the tool yourself or connect with a service partner who can do the work for you.

You can learn more about using 3-D and virtual reality technology in your real estate business by viewing a webinar featuring Mark Tepper, vice president of Matterport, and Paul Grasshoff, a senior account manager for the company.

REALTOR® Magazine is promoting this webinar, but did not participate in the development of the content.

Source: Matterport, an immersive media technology company, contributed this post to let agents and brokers know about a webinar it’s sponsoring on how 3D and virtual reality technology can help them stand out.

Typical Commercial Agent Now Makes $120,800

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 13:09

Commercial prices continue to head up, at least among smaller properties in secondary and tertiary markets. As a result, the typical commercial agent is making $120,800, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, when the median income was $108,500. The income gains come even as agents on average are doing fewer deals, eight as opposed to nine. These are among the findings from NAR’s 2017 Commercial Member Profile. Another finding: Agents are more experienced. The typical agent has been working in the business 24 years now.

The profile just looks at commercial agents who are members of NAR. These are not typically agents who work on big transactions, like those involving skyscrapers in big cities. Rather, these are agents who do smaller deals, typically under $2 million.

Details of the commercial profile are a top story in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR. Another story looks at sustainability. That’s a topic that seems remote to many agents. While promoting sustainability might be a good thing in the abstract, why would an agent care about it from a business point of view?

That’s a good question, and that’s one of the questions NAR was trying to answer when it hosted a sustainability summit two weeks ago in Washington. The summit was a typical Washington event, in which experts from around the country are brought in to talk about an issue. In this case, though, there was an emphasis on the concrete: how does sustainability affect the business agents are in. Do they make more money? Are households demanding sustainability in their housing choices? The answer appears to be yes on both counts. Research shows houses with green features, like solar panels, fetch higher prices in the market. And consumers are increasingly asking to look at listings that showcase green features.

The video also looks at the bipartisan cooperation on an issue of vital importance to residential home sales: the availability of federal flood insurance. Although there are several hurdles that have to be gotten over before federal flood insurance is renewed, NAR and lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee agreed to improvements to the bill that will reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program. Under the agreement, home owners who live in an area that’s been newly designated as a high risk for flooding won’t find their insurance premiums suddenly going up. Instead, they’ll be grandfather in under their old rates. The agreement also imposes a cap on how much existing owner’s premiums can increase at any one time.

Other stories in the video look at the latest home sales trends, how you can connect to NAR’s new CEO, and how you can stay safe while meeting new clients . Access the video now.






Are you Using Virtual Reality to Win More Buyers and Sellers? Learn How to Get Started

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 14:26

Matterport, a virtual reality company, contributed to this post to let agents and brokers know about a free e-book on using virtual reality in real estate that it’s making available.

Top real estate agents and brokers agree—virtual reality is the future of real estate. With incredible ease and accessibility, home buyers can have the immersive experience of walking through a home and its surrounding neighborhood, without leaving the comfort of their couch. Increasingly, top producers are using virtual reality to differentiate their marketing offering and really impress buyers and sellers alike.

“We win nearly every listing presentation because we come in with Matterport 3D and VR technology,” according to Matt Altman, star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing. “If you don’t have it, you have no chance, especially in luxury. The value to us – it’s priceless.”

Matterport, a virtual reality company that works with real estate brokers and agents to increase leads and inbound interest with immersive digital experiences, has published a free e-book to help you understand the state of VR in real estate, and how to apply it to your own business. Without a doubt, letting home sellers know you can give their listing a virtual reality treatment is a way to set yourself apart. Although, as the company points out, given how quickly virtual reality is being adopted in real estate, it might not be too long before the technology is standard practice. Use it or be left behind.

You can get more information on the e-book on the company’s website. It’s called 10 Ways to Use VR to Win Listings in Real Estate. Look out for more webinars and educational programs about interactive technology in real estate from Matterport – and download this ebook today to understand specifically how to start driving leads and sales results with virtual reality.

Is $600 for Staging Worth It? A Report Says Yes

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 10:20

How much sellers spend to stage their home will vary by where they are and what they have done, but generally speaking they can expect to pay $500-$600 for a few hours for a pre-photo shoot styling session and costs for other services, depending on what they want to have done.

In general, staging tends to break out into three categories: 1) The consultation, which can run between $300 and $600, depending on home size, home location, and so on, according toy Julea Joseph a stager in the Chicago area, 2) the actual staging of an occupied house, which can run between $500 and $600, and 3) the staging of the house if its vacant, which can start at  $1,800 a month per month. Vacant homes tend to cost more because furniture has tho be brought in and the house decorated from scratch and also the furniture might have to stay in there for a while.

Whatever the actual cost, it’s clear it’s not cheap, and it’s typically the seller who foots the bill. But an NAR report that just came out suggests the cost is worth it, because staged homes sell for more money on average and they spend less time on market. One reason they sell more quickly is because online pictures of staged homes attract more viewers, which in turn gets more people walking through the house itself.

The latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR looks at staging. It quotes from Joseph, who talks about what sellers get for their money, and it excerpts from NAR’s recent report, the 2017 Profile of Home Staging. The video also covers three important public policy topics:

1) NAR’s recent victory on the closing disclosure, which agents have been having trouble getting their hands on. The problem started about two years ago, when the federal government revamped federal closing rules. Since that revamping, lenders have cited privacy concerns in resisting to give agents a copy of the closing disclosure, which replaces the old HUD-1 settlement form. NAR argued that the new rules changed nothing about privacy and so agents should continue to receive closing information, as they always have. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau agreed and in a rule it published last week, confirmed that it’s customary for agents to receive a copy of the form.

2) NAR’s proposal to create a mortgage market liquidity fund. The fund is NAR’s solution to a problem Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac face. Since they were taken under conservatorship by the federal government about half a dozen years ago, they’ve been giving up larger and larger shares of their earnings to the federal treasury and now they’re on track to give up all of their earnings to the federal government by the end of the year. Why would the government take all of their earnings in this way? The answer is, lawmakers were using the gradual transfer of their earnings to spur them to enact comprehensive reform of the secondary mortgage market. As it turns out, lawmakers have had to focus on other priorities and it doesn’t look like major reform is going to happen any time soon, and yet the companies face losing all their earnings by year’s end. So, NAR’s proposed fund would create a mechanism for allowing the companies to retain part of their earnings for reserves, which would help protect taxpayers.

3) NAR’s joining a coalition in support of net neutrality. Net neutrality is the law of the land now, but the Federal Communications Commission has proposed rolling back the rules and NAR opposes that, because it wants to ensure real estate brokerages and other content providers don’t get stuck having to pay money to ensure their customers have a good experience browsing their websites. The concern is that, without net neutrality, Verizon, Comcast, and other Internet Service providers could strike deals with some content providers to give them faster Internet service while everyone else gets stuck with slow Internet service. The coalition that NAR joined could file a lawsuit to block the rollback of the rules.

Access the latest Voice for Real Estate.



Social Media’s Power Is Tempered by Risk, Expert Says

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 15:50

Even as organizations have embraced tweets, Facebook posts and other social media tools as central elements of their communications strategies, many are not paying enough attention to making sure the information they put out sends the message they intend. The result has been a slew of embarrassing, offensive and otherwise inappropriate information that organizations have had to remove and apologize for—problems that might have been avoided had the people who posted the material had proper training and gotten approval for the information before it went up.

That was the message Don Heider, dean of the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago and a social media ethics expert, shared with approximately 180 REALTOR® association communication staff who gathered last week in Chicago for the NAR Communication Directors Institute.

“There seems to be a lack of training and editing,” an oversight that is leading people who handle social media to sometimes post information that, while perhaps factually correct, can be taken out of context and cause offense, says Heider.

Pointing to a series of what he terms social media “epic fails,” where prominent organizations or individuals have had to retract posts and issue public apologies, Heider says people who handle social media for companies and nonprofit organizations often don’t have the life experience to know that an image they post or a comment they make may be inappropriate or even offensive.

“We live in a world now where one tweet and your life can be over,” says Heider, founder of Loyola’s Center for Digital Ethics & Policy.

Don Heider, dean of the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago, speaks during the 2017 NAR Communication Directors Institute

The challenge organizations face is that in the social media age, they often can’t risk waiting to post information, Heider says. This means that developing an effective approval system requires striking a balance between ensuring accuracy and proper context with the need to get material out as quickly as possible. “If you’re trying to get stuff out, it can’t sit on somebody’s desk for a week,” he says. “That system for editing and approvals can’t be so onerous that you never get anything out. So it has to be quick. You have to have somebody who will approve it in a timely fashion.”

Heider suggests developing a set of guidelines that govern what your organization posts on social media. In addition, make sure you have a diverse team that can evaluate information from multiple points of view to keep from inadvertently posting something that could be taken the wrong way by someone, he adds.

It’s also essential to monitor what people are saying about your organization on social media, Heider advises. “Our worst nightmare as communicators is not to be ahead of the story. We want to know as soon as possible. The most devastating cases happen when something trends and we don’t know it’s trending.”

Also be sure to have a response plan in place ahead of time so you can act if someone in your organization posts something that shouldn’t have gone out, or information from another source demands a response, Heider says. “Mistakes happen. I get that. But it’s how we respond to the mistake and how quickly we respond and how sincerely we respond,” he says. “If we don’t know about it, we can’t do any damage control.”

Learn How Tax Reform Might Affect Your Business

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 13:48

Note: The tax reform webcast being hosted by NAR on this topic is postponed because of a scheduling conflict. Registrations are not being taken at this time. Sorry for any inconvenience.Robert Freedman, director, multimedia communications, National Association of REALTORS®. Please email me with any questions at

Health care is on top of the Senate’s agenda right now but tax reform is not far behind. The exact shape of reform won’t be known until a proposal is put forward, but lawmakers in the House several months ago released a reform concept that raises serious concerns for the real estate industry. The administration has put something out as well that, in its broad outlines, shares many of the concepts of the House plan.

NAR has ben communicating its concerns about the concepts for some time now, but it’s important for you, as a real estate professional, to have a good sense of what’s being talked about and to ask hard questions on behalf of your industry. That’s why NAR is hosting a live webcast on Wednesday, July 12, that will give you a chance to ask questions about the House and administration concepts.

In broad outline, the House concept 1) doubles the standard deduction, 2) eliminates itemized deductions except those for mortgage interest and charitable giving, and 3) lowers tax rates and increases the  number of brackets.

On the face of it, it’s good to lower rates and double the standard deduction. But for most households, those two changes, when combined with other changes that are contemplated, are not enough to offset what’s lost by the elimination of most itemized deductions. And yet most households will still end up taking the standard deduction as the better of the two choices.

Of course, any tax reform that’s proposed will be far more complicated than this simple scenario. There are many other factors included in the House concept that would come into play, but analyses NAR has had done are clear that most middle-income households will pay more taxes and receive no benefit from investing in their community as a homeowner.

What’s important is to learn about these reform concepts for yourself so you can decide what makes sense and what doesn’t. The webcast NAR is hosting is intended to help you do that. Here’s information on registering for it:

What Tax Reform Means for Real Estate
Live webcast
Wednesday, July 12, 2 p.m., Eastern time NOTE: This webcast has been postponed due to a scheduling conflict.
Evan Liddiard, NAR Senior Legislative Policy Representative
Danielle Hale, NAR Managing Director of Housing Research