While the real estate market may be sputtering due to tight credit and tough economic conditions, the love affair with owning a home in the U.S. is still going strong.
During the first week of April, 40 of real estate’s female leaders met in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Fifth Annual Awesome Females in Real Estate Conference (AFIRE), a conference that I founded. Today’s column looks at four key trends influencing today’s market as well as an important new Facebook app that allows you to reach global clients in their native language.
Deborah Falcone opened the conference with a trends update from the Wall Street Journal.
Trend No. 1: The real estate industry makes peace with the auction companies.
For many years, the brokerage industry has viewed auction houses as competitors. As the REO and foreclosure inventory has continued to grow, moving excess inventory through the system as quickly as possible has become an important component in stabilizing downward-trending markets.
Auction houses have become important players in this process by tapping the bulk-buyer market. Banks and distressed developers are often willing to take huge discounts to move several hundred units in a single sale.
A number of auction companies have also seen the wisdom of working hand in hand with the brokerage community. This can include allowing agents to collect commissions when they refer a listing or represent a successful buyer.
To capitalize on this trend, actively seek auction listings to see if they offer opportunities for your buyers. If you have developer clients who are struggling, determine if there is an auction company that would take on the account and send you a referral fee. (Be sure to obtain a signed referral fee agreement that clearly outlines the commission arrangement prior to introducing your clients to the auction house.)
Trend No. 2: Differentiation is the name of the game.
The Journal’s research illustrates the importance of clearly differentiating yourself from the competition. The agents and brokerages having the greatest success are those who utilize a multimedia marketing approach that integrates both print and digital strategies.
Trend No. 3: The luxury and the "all cash" market make a comeback.
The wealthy are suffering from "frugal fatigue." As a result, there has been an uptick in luxury purchases across the board. This includes real estate.
In February, 33 percent of all home sales were all-cash. In the luxury market, 28 percent of sales were all-cash, double the percentage from 2008. These buyers are primarily baby boomers and "close-to-retirees."
To capitalize on the improvement in the all-cash market, search for potential clients who have owned their home for 10 years or more. In fact, the longer someone has owned their home, the more likely they are to pay all cash for their next property.
In terms of the luxury market, if you have been on hiatus, now may be a good time to consider returning to this high-profitability niche.
Trend No. 4: The Russians are here and the Chinese are coming.
Russian investors love buying the best. This is especially true when it comes to U.S. real estate, as evidenced by the Russian billionaire who just paid $100 million for a home — the most expensive U.S. residential sale ever. Russian investors have been investing in ultra-high-end properties globally.
The Journal’s research reveals that the Chinese are also strongly involved in investing in the U.S. residential market because they have been "priced out" of the mainland China market.
The first Facebook global listings marketing tool
This is my favorite tool from the entire AFIRE conference. Janet Choynowski’s company, Immobel.com, has developed the first ever Facebook application that translates your listings and your Facebook profile into 13 different languages.
What’s exciting is that a when user in Mexico visits your Facebook page, your listing information will display in Spanish. If they send the information to a friend in Japan, the information will display in Japanese.
Users can "like" and share listings with others who speak any of the 13 languages on the site. When users register on your Facebook page, they can also receive new listing alerts. All email alerts go to subscribers in their native language.
If your multiple listing service IDX (Internet Data Exchange) is subscribed, they will see the alerts with your branding in their language on your page.
The individual agent package costs $9.99 per month. This includes translating your listings into 13 different languages, showing your listings on your Facebook page, plus entry into the Immobel.com system.
The Global Business Package includes access to Immobel’s global listings exchange. In addition to the tools above, it allows you to show up to 1 million listings internationally, including all listings in France. French listings have been translated into English so that American customers can easily view them.
Immobel also provides live translation services 24/7. International Organization for Standardization-certified interpreters translate as you and your clients speak, just like they do in the United Nations. You can make sure that your negotiations in another language are clearly understood (just $3.95 per minute, plus the costs of international calls if necessary).
With the upticks in the luxury, all-cash and global markets plus Immobel’s new tools, there is no better time than now to get the jump on competitors. As Deborah Falcone put it, "The real estate love fest is alive and well." The time to take advantage of it is now.