hourglassFebruary 2017 — If you're like many real estate agents, you struggle with feeling truly productive. After all, you're busy each day, working non-stop to serve your clients. When you go home for the day, are you nagged by the tasks on your to-do list that you didn't get around to doing? As a real estate professional, there's no shortage of fires that demand your attention each day. Unfortunately, it's these little things that take our focus away from the activities that drive our business. Here are a few tips to help you boost your productivity and reach your goals in 2017.

percentageFebruary 2017 — First-time homebuyers are shying away from their plans to purchase this spring, according to a recently released report by realtor.com®, due to the surge in mortgage rates in the last two months of 2016. Though rates have deflated since the end of the year, they remain hovering above 4 percent—high enough to scare off first-timers this spring, now down to 44 percent from 55 percent in October.

"The rise in rates is associated with an anticipation of stronger economic and wage growth, both of which favor buyers," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. "At the same time, higher rates make qualifying for a mortgage and finding affordable inventory more challenging. The decline in the share of first-time buyers since October suggests that the move-up in rates is discouraging new homebuyers already."

First-time homebuyers affording a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home at the current average 30-year rate would be responsible for an additional $720 in interest each year, according to realtor.com's report.

peopleJanuary 2017 — There's no stopping it: the population is aging. In less than 20 years, in fact, one in three households will be headed by someone aged 65 or older, according to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies—a finding that emphasizes the already-dire need for accessible, affordable housing.

Even more stirring, according to the report, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035: though the 65-and-older population will expand from 48 million to 79 million by 2035, with 50 million acting as heads of households, just 3.5 percent of existing houses feature supportive amenities such as widened entrances and pathways. Moreover, much of the 65-and-older population will have the means to finance an aging-in-place lifestyle, aggravating demand.

Addressing the incoming—and overwhelming—call for outfitted housing is essential, says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

controller smartJanuary 2017 — Novel, not novelty. Comfort and safety are the primary reasons more homeowners are adopting smart home technology, according to a recent study by Scripps Networks Interactive in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). "Keeping up" with the latest technology, the study shows, is less of a factor, with three-quarters of those surveyed saying they implement smart home technology "to keep their family safe and comfortable." Energy-efficiency, as well, is another motivator, with the intention to boost resale value and reduce energy costs.

Millennials are the most likely to adopt smart home technology, according to the study, "to make their home convenient for daily tasks;" those in Generation X, conversely, prefer smart home technology as a means "to make their home a healthy environment." Baby boomers, in addition, favor smart home technology "to add value to their home." Eighty-five percent of millennials are likely to add smart home technology to their home, compared to 73 percent of those in Generation X and 67 percent of baby boomers.

chart up blogDecember 2016 — Housing markets in the U.S. overall continue to progress, supporting the best year in homes sales in a decade, as indicated by Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®) value, which stands at 86—a market on the “outer edge of its historic benchmark range of housing activity.” The MiMi value, which has climbed back up 45 percent since its all-time low in 2010, is still trailing its high of 121.7.

“The National MiMi stands at 86, a 5.6 percent year-over-year increase, but still below its historic benchmark normalized to 100,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac deputy chief economist. “The purchase applications indicator is up nearly 19 percent from last year, indicating strong housing demand and a market that’s poised to close out the best year in home sales in a decade.

“National home prices have surpassed their pre-recession nominal peak with about half of states still below their pre-recession peak,” Kiefer continues. “Factoring in low mortgage rates and modest income gains, house prices still have some room to run, as indicated by the MiMi payment-to-income indicator which is nearly 33 percent below its historic benchmark.”

instagram cameraDecember 2016 — In real estate, agents focus on stories. Whether it’s the seller’s memories in their old home or the buyer’s hopeful dreams in their new one, agents use these emotions to connect with their clients. While Instagram was once thought to be a social network that was only for pictures of fancy food and artful lattes, 85 percent of top brands now have profiles, and 60 percent of the 400 million active users log in each day, making it the second most-engaged social network second only to Facebook.

When Instagram released major updates back in August, users were introduced to Stories, a photo-sharing opportunity similar to Snapchat. Stories allows users to create a string of pictures and videos viewable to their followers for 24 hours. With the popularity of Stories increasing, Instagram has created additional features to make the platform even more unique.

downarrow2016November 2016 — Distressed sales - including bank-owned (REO) sales, sales of homes actively in foreclosure, and short sales - accounted for 12.9 percent of all U.S. single-family home and condo sales in Q3 2016. According to ATTOM Data Solutions' Q3 2016 U.S. Home Sales Report, these numbers are down from 15 percent in the previous quarter and down from 15.9 percent in Q3 2015 to the lowest share of distressed home sales since Q3 2007, when distressed sales accounted for 12.3 percent of all home sales.

The peak in share of distressed sales was Q1 2009 at 43.9 percent of all U.S. single-family home and condo sales.

The report also shows that all-cash purchases accounted for 25.9 percent of all single-family home and condo sales in Q3 2016, down from 27.4 percent in the previous quarter and down from 29.2 percent in Q3 2015 to the lowest level since Q3 2007, when all-cash purchases accounted for 24.3 percent of all home sales.

dollarNovember 2016 — Signs of improvement continue in the national mortgage market, with the second quarter of this year ushering in the highest year-to-year growth in near and subprime originations and the third quarter seeing delinquency rates fall, according to TransUnion’s recently released Industry Insights Report.

Originations overall, the Report shows, grew to 1.99 million in the second quarter of this year, up 3.7 percent from last year. Near prime originations grew to over 262,000 in the second quarter, up 5.7 percent to its highest level since the recession, while subprime originations grew to approximately 64,000, up 10.9 percent. The delinquency rate (60 days past-due) dropped by 8.4 percent in the third quarter.

“Mortgage originations have experienced steady growth across all risk tiers, and these new milestones in subprime and near prime account originations reflect growing credit access across the risk spectrum,” said Joe Mellman, vice president and mortgage business leader at TransUnion, in a statement on the Report. “While access has grown, it’s important to note that the subprime share of originations was only 3.2 percent, and the near prime share was 13.2 percent of all originations. We do not see a cause for concern.”

Balances, in addition, grew 1.7 percent in the third quarter, according to the Report, up to $8.39 billion. Average debt in the third quarter was $193,489, up from $189,428 the year prior.

WaveOctober 2016 — The recently released ATTOM Data Solutions 2016 U.S. Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index found that home sales in the first six months of 2016 increased 4.2 percent from the same time period a year ago in the bottom fifth of U.S. counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk—more than twice the 1.9 percent increase in the top fifth of U.S. counties with the highest level of natural hazard risk.

More than 3,000 U.S. counties were indexed based on risk of six natural hazards: earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes and wildfires using data collected by ATTOM’s neighborhood research portal www.homefacts.com. ATTOM also analyzed home sales and price trends in more than 800 counties with at least 100 single family home sales in the first six months of 2016. Those 800 counties—which combined have more than 70 million single family homes and condos—were divided into five equal groups (quintiles) based on the natural hazard risk index and assigned to one of five risk categories: Very High, High, Moderate, Low, and Very Low.

consumers1October 2016 — A new national survey of millennials reveals a generation convinced the economy is failing them, a generation that is willing to work hard to better their lot, and a generation experiencing a great deal of anxiety about the future.

The report, recently released by EY and the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), gauged millennials’ views on a variety of issues related to the economy, education, American institutions, and the challenges they continue to face almost seven years into the recovery from the Great Recession. Many millennials entered the workforce in the midst of a deep economic crisis and today find themselves racked by student debt and lacking confidence in most American institutions.

Highlights from the study include:

chart up blogOctober 2016 — Home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months, according to recent data from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 5.1 percent annual gain in July, up from 5.0 percent last month. The 10-City Composite posted a 4.2 percent annual increase, down from 4.3 percent the previous month. The 20-City Composite reported a year-over-year gain of 5.0 percent, down from 5.1 percent in June.

Portland, Seattle, and Denver reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last six months. In July, Portland led the way with a 12.4 percent year-over-year price increase, followed by Seattle at 11.2 percent, and Denver with a 9.4 percent increase. Nine cities reported greater price increases in the year ending July 2016 versus the year ending June 2016.