Piggy BankDecember 2015 — Here’s why saving for a down payment on a home purchase is a growing challenge for many Americans: About 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and 21 percent don’t even have a savings account, according to a new survey of more than 5,000 adults conducted by Google Consumer Survey for GOBankingRates.com.

“It’s worrisome that such a large percentage of Americans have so little set aside in a savings account,” says Cameron Huddleston, a personal financial analyst for GOBankingRates.com. “They likely don’t have cash reserves to cover an emergency and will have to rely on credit, friends and family, or even their retirement accounts, to cover unexpected expenses.”

Echoing these findings, a similar survey by Bankrate.com earlier this year of 1,000 adults found that 62 percent of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair. If they needed money, the Americans surveyed say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (26 percent), borrowing from family and friends (16 percent), or using credit cards (12 percent).

tractorDecember 2015 — Rural households often face significant hurdles to obtaining mortgage financing, in part because there simply aren’t many lenders in sparsely populated areas. Incomes are often low as well.

That’s why a little-known program of the U.S. Rural Housing Service is something you might want to let homebuyers know about. The agency’s Sec. 502 direct loans are intended for low-income households (50-80 percent of area median income) who live outside population centers and haven’t been able to obtain financing from conventional lenders. The loans are made directly by the agency and come with zero-down, one-percent financing terms.

For more information, see: http://www.rd.usda.gov/about-rd/agencies/rural-housing-service.

NJ2November 2015 — The Ocean County Board of Realtors reports home values continued to rise through August 2015, and homes are spending less time on the market, which illustrates a high demand for housing in Ocean County and a housing market that remains dedicated to recovery.

Adult communities also saw a 6.5% rise in the number of new listings—in August of 2014, there were 444 new listings, while August of 2015 saw 4473 new listings. Adult communities had 298 closed sales in August 2014 and 309 in August of 2015, resulting in a 3.7% increase.

The Single Family Home market saw 1,093 new listings in August of 2014 and 1,096 in August of 2015, resulting in a 0.3% increase in the number of new listings. Single family homes saw a 13.7% increase in the number of closed sales, from 467 closed sales in August 2014 to 531 in August 2015.

Townhouse-condos saw a 4.9% decrease in the number of new listings, from 163 in August 2014 to 155 in August 2015. Closed sales for townhouse-condos increased by 6.1%, from 66 in August 2014 to 70 this August.

facebookNovember 2015 — In 2015, Facebook passed 1.49 billion monthly active users, 874 million mobile users, and 728 million daily users. Combine those staggering numbers with recent NAR stats that show that more than half of all homebuyers learn about houses on social media sites, and you’ll quickly understand why establishing a Facebook network to interact with clients is necessary for success.

Here are four ways to turn those Facebook followers into clients:

1. Utilize Facebook Analytics. Facebook offers a series of free tools for real estate pros to measure the effectiveness of their Facebook marketing efforts. In addition to a business page, Facebook also offers insights, analytics and targeted advertising as a way to improve your branding presence and increase your conversion rate. Analytics can tell you which of your posts are engaging followers, allowing you to create similar content for more interaction. Also, use your Facebook insights to determine the type of audience most frequently interacting with your posts, and then tailor your content and marketing accordingly.

computerNovember 2015 — More than 70 percent of real estate agents purchased online leads in 2014. But do they find it worthwhile? Inman recently surveyed real estate agents about the effectiveness of online leads in their business. Bottom line? Converting leads into business isn’t easy. The majority of agents said online leads accounted for 5 percent or less of their closed business in 2014. Forty percent said online leads accounted for 2.5 percent or less of their business last year. The vast majority of respondents think one word-of-mouth referral is more valuable than 10 online leads.

However, some agents have luck with online leads, attributing 46 percent or more of their deals in 2014 to online leads. These agents might have more discipline than others when it comes to converting leads. They might also do a better job of selecting the type of online leads that deliver the best results.

questionNovember 2015 — Consumers remain optimistic about the long-term prospects of the housing market. Still, homeowners say they’re hesitant to list their home for sale for a number of surprising reasons, according to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ Homeowner Sentiment Survey.

The most common obstacles cited by homeowners for not yet listing their home are due to inventory concerns, including “waiting for the right opportunity” and “haven’t found my ideal home yet.”

What’s more, of consumers considering selling their home but who have not yet listed, 73 percent say that home prices have not recovered from pre-recession levels enough for them to sell. Sixty-eight percent of current homeowners surveyed said underwater mortgages remain a big barrier to them. Sixty-one percent say they’re uneasy about the economy, which has kept them from selling.

And some 55 percent of homeowners contemplating selling said they’d be more likely to do so if they had additional information on the home-selling process.

gapNovember 2015 — No surprise here for agents representing enthusiastic sellers; for the seventh consecutive month, the gap has widened between what home owners say their home is worth compared to what appraisers say, according to Quicken Loans’ Home Price Perception Index.

Homeowner estimates now stand 2.65 percent higher than appraiser opinions, the largest gap in more than a year, according to the index.

“The perception trend of most of this year suggests home owners may be assuming that home values have been in a steady, linear path upward,” says Bob Walters, Quicken Loans chief economist. “In reality, home values have remained mostly flat this year, and this false assumption may be leaving home owners disappointed when their appraisals come in.”

WizardOctober 2015 — Emotional mistakes are common among homebuyers, particularly first timers. Here’s a list of common errors and tips on helping your clients navigate the unfamiliar terrain.

Always looking for a better deal.

Every market has its up and downs, but many homebuyers make the mistake of thinking there’s a better deal just around the corner.

The antidote is to help your buyers do their homework, understand value in their neighborhood and let them know that in the current upbeat market, today’s purchase will be more expensive tomorrow.

Falling in love at first sight.

The rush to buy is understandable for those waiting to get out of a less than perfect situation. But buyers who purchase the first property they see may overpay, minimize serious condition issues or become remorseful later on when they take off the rose-colored glasses and see what else is available around them. None of the outcomes will reflect well on you, and you may end up losing a valued referral source or worse, gain an anti-referral.

green houseOctober 2015 — Remember all that equity lost during the downturn? It’s back, or much of it, anyway.

In 2015, single-family homes and condos sold for more above their original purchase price than at any time since prices peaked during the real estate boom.

Homes sold for an average of 13 percent above their original purchase prices, the highest average percentage in home price gains realized by sellers since 2007, when it was 30 percent, according to RealtyTrac.

“Home price appreciation has settled into a nice groove over the past few months, and ought to remain there going forward. This is still more proof that the for-sale market, while certainly not yet fully healed, is continuing to return to normal,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries.

QandASeptember 2015 — The average real estate professional made $1900 less last year than in 2013 because home sales declined and Realtor membership increased. The 2015 National Association of Realtors Member Profile also found the average Realtor is older than ever.

“After gradually climbing for three consecutive years, the decline in existing-home sales in 2014 resulted in a slight reduction in business activity and income last year since home sales didn’t surpass year-over-year levels until October, which is likely the reason the typical member had 11 transactions last year versus 12 in 2013,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“Slightly fewer transactions resulted in the median gross income of a Realtor falling to $45,800 from $47,700 in 2013,” he said.

social mediaSeptember 2015 — Despite the continuous cycle that drives housing, there’s one commodity, arguably more valuable than any other, relentlessly in demand while in an ever-present glut. That’s information.

“As a real estate professional, if you are not helping consumers clear a path through this dense information jungle, you’re leading them — and your business — astray,” said Brett Johnson content expert with RISMedia Content Solutions. The solution? Learn how to use high-quality content for four very specific strategic purposes. Here they are:

Earn Repeat and Referral Business. Maintaining relationships with past clients is key to repeat and referral business, but unless clients have demonstrated an interest in your services, engaging in follow-up conversations can be a challenge. You can make those conversations pertinent by sharing timely and topical information in a personally branded email.