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5 Reasons Why Blog Readers Make the Best Real Estate Clients

shutterstock_85655536By Karen Highland

Keeping a consistent real estate blog is a lot of work. On top of the actual job of being a REALTOR®, a blog requires a layer of technical knowledge and writing skill, and demands some artistic and creative talent as well. Successful blogging also requires continued learning; as search and web technologies change, a blogger must keep up with the changes. Let’s face it, blogging for your real estate business is like another part time job. It takes continued investment of time and creative energy. Is it worth the effort?

There are millions of pages of information available to Internet searchers. When I searched for the term “real estate blog” I was offered 389 million results. That’s a lot! But the truth is much of that information is generic, 10-point, rehashed compost.

There are ways of standing out in the crowd by mastering the blog, and blog leads are often the best online leads a real estate agent can get. Here are five reasons to master the blog and get those great leads:

1. Blog readers value education.

Clients who contact us through our blog tend to be more educated and tend to have a higher income. We can include the purchasers of a $1.55 million farm, the high end for our small market, and we can include first-time buyers as well. With an average sales price of $300,000 in our market, the average home purchase for our blog readers is $450,000.

People who read blogs are generally looking for detailed information. They want in-depth explanations as well as niche neighborhood information. They want to understand as much of the process as they can before they contact an agent. If your blog content provides that information, you will be the one they contact when they are ready to act. You will stand a good chance at becoming their trusted adviser.

An example: Two of our blog readers, a doctor and an aeronautical engineer, were considering buying a farm that was a short sale, and reasoned that they ought to have a short sale expert as a buyer’s agent. They did a search and found our blog, contacted us and we showed them an $800,000 farm. They decided that it wasn’t for them, but we had won them over with our blog content and local knowledge. We showed them two more houses and they ended up buying the $1.55 million home, and not a short sale.

2. Blog readers are usually methodical and patient.

shutterstock_191532938Many of the buyers and sellers who will contact you from your blog have probably been reading your content for a while, typically for six months or more. This is why consistency is the key to successful blogging. As you write week after week, explaining terms and concepts, and sharing stories and tips, you can trust that your readers are taking it in and educating themselves – or even better, both.

An example: We just closed with a client last week who first contacted us from our blog four years ago! He’s a software engineer who’s been analyzing the market and waiting for the right time to buy. The greatest thing about these clients is we don’t have to work anxiously on staying in touch. Our blog content does the work for us. When it comes to nurturing a contact, consistent blogging really works. The beautiful thing is your blog content is keeping you in front of clients you haven’t even met yet!

3. Blog readers are usually already sold on you before you even meet them.

They have been reading your content, watching your videos and absorbing your expertise for a few months, sometimes longer. Most often, you don’t have to do a song-and-dance presentation to win them over when you meet them the first time; they already consider you a local expert. They often even feel like they know you.

4. Blog readers want granular, nuanced information.

They are looking for neighborhood information and expertise. They don’t take it for granted that just because agents market themselves as a neighborhood expert that they really are. Readers are looking for online proof. By providing information about all the aspects of living in a community, and by using local geo-tagged photos of the neighborhoods and the amenities, you will prove to be the neighborhood expert your readers are looking for.

5. Blog readers are Internet savvy.

It makes sense; they are familiar with searching, and reading blogs and websites. They appreciate a good web presence, so make sure that yours is the best it can be. It’s a good idea to check your links regularly to fix broken links and 404 errors. (By the way, I love it when my fellow bloggers alert me to errors on my blog pages.) Again, the best thing about this kind of lead is that they know what they are looking for, and if you’re the one to provide it, you’ll be the one they contact!

Karen and Chris Highland are real estate agents in Central Maryland. You can find Chris and Karen on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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Home Warranties Offer Great Benefits to Agents, Buyers & Sellers

homeumbrellaBy David Glenn

If there was a magic formula for selling real estate quickly and easily, you can bet every real estate agent would be signing up. Real estate sales affect agents, buyers and sellers one way or another. Although homes need to be in good condition and offer what buyers are currently seeking, the real estate agent ultimately drives the sales. To stay on top of their game and work a little magic, smart agents have learned that a home warranty, also called a home protection plan, can work miracles for increasing sales and quick turnarounds. Learn how agents, sellers and buyers benefit from home warranties and all come out as winners.

Home Warranties

Home warranty programs are available for purchase by consumers who want protection for home appliances and major home systems in the event they fail or break down. If any of the items under warranty in the program should fail, the consumer simply contacts the home warranty company and they see to it that the item is inspected, repaired or replaced by a qualified contractor.

Agents Start the Process

Once a real estate agent learns about the advantages of home warranty programs, work takes on new meaning and they see the possibilities for success. Skeptical buyers are no longer afraid to consider older homes when sellers pay for a home warranty. After an agent explains that the warranty covers appliances and major heating, electrical and cooling systems, clients become eager to see a home that was once not considered. The agent just got a shot at another sale!

Real estate agents have more time to devote to selling homes because they are not continually working out last minute problems and negotiations with sellers and buyers over failing appliances and air conditioners. REALTORS® can sell any home that comes with a home warranty faster. Home warranties are almost like having insurance. Customers like the idea of buying a home and not worrying about troubleshooting repairs, hiring contractors and forking over more money. Home warranty programs provide the magical solution for problem homes that aren’t turning over. Some homes may have the most wonderful qualities, but it’s often the bonus of a warranty program that seals the deal.

Warranties help agents to get satisfied sellers and buyers, which in turn, leads to more referrals and increased future business. Real estate agents stand to make more money when they sell more homes. There is no doubt about it; REALTORS® are in business for the money. Selling homes with warranties provided by the seller goes a long way to increasing REALTORS’® incomes!

Sellers Take the Lead from Agents

Sellers are overjoyed at the prospect of a home warranty that gives their home an edge when selling in a competitive housing market. Homes with a warranty typically sell for more money than those with no warranty. Any seller would be pleased to get top dollar for their home. Faster sales are appealing to sellers. Constant cleaning and showing the house weakly is tiring on sellers. The faster the home sells the better!

Buyers Dive at the Opportunity to Purchase Homes with a Warranty

Homes that come with a home warranty help to assure buyers that repairs for warrantied items are covered by the seller through warranty coverage. Interested home buyers don’t have to speculate on mechanical problems down the road and how much it’s going to cost them after they move in.

If we all had our way, homes would sell instantly and would always be a snap. However, life is full of surprises. Sometimes you’ve got to work a little magic with home warranty plans so REALTORS®, sellers and buyers all win.

 

David Glenn is a home improvement expert. He freelance writes about home maintenance and DIY home repair. He’s also knowledgeable about topics like how to improve social presence and build a reputation online.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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10 Best States for First-Time Home Buyers

shutterstock_71599324Buying a home is a financial goal that has been delayed for many Americans, thanks to the recession. With the economy continuing to strengthen in 2015, however, many wannabe homeowners have decided it’s time to buy their first homes.

One-third (32 percent) of home purchases made in May 2015 were by first-time home buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, called this “an encouraging sign” stemming from “strong job gains among young adults, less expensive mortgage insurance and lenders offering low down payment programs.” According to Yun, first-time buyers entering the market will continue to increase.

To see which states offer the best conditions for new homeowners, GOBankingRates ranked the 10 states with the most growth in the number of first-time homebuyers, while maintaining lower levels of foreclosure rates, over the past 10 years.


1. West Virginia

West Virginia saw some of the biggest growth in first-time home buyers in the past 10 years. From 2003 to 2013, the share of new first-time home buyers increased 57.6 percent while foreclosures in 2015 have remained low in the state at 0.01 percent.

The low costs of buying a home in this state also make this housing market accessible for first-time buyers. The median sale price in West Virginia is $115,850, with a monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage costing around $550 a month — more than 40 percent less than the $950 median rent price.

West Virginia also offers some public programs to help its residents buy their first homes. The Homeownership Program offered through the West Virginia Housing Development Fund can provide up to 100 percent financing for first-time home buyers who meet income requirements. Home buyers can also take advantage of the Down-Payment/Closing Cost Assistance program to secure a low rate on a loan of up to $15,000 to help cover down payments and closing costs.


2. New Hampshire

New Hampshire saw an even greater increase in the number of first-time home buyers than West Virginia. The portion of homebuyers in the state looking to purchase a house for the first time increased by 89.3 percent from 2003 to 2013. The state’s foreclosure rate is not quite as low, however, at 0.05 percent, which put it at No. 2 on this list.

The median sales price in New Hampshire, $224,700, is also nearly double that of West Virginia. But buying at that price is still cheaper than renting; a monthly mortgage payment is around $1,060 on a 30-year loan compared with the median rent price of $1,250 in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire state programs can be a big help to first-time homeowners, such as the Home Preferred loans that let borrowers get a mortgage with a down payment as small as 3 percent and provide low mortgage insurance coverage for smaller monthly payments. New Hampshire also offers a tax credit of up to $2,000 each year for first-time home buyers.


3. Rhode Island

Rhode Island had the largest amount of growth in first-time homebuyers; its rate of this type of borrower nearly doubled — up by 97.1 percent — from 2003 to 2013. Foreclosures are also fairly low at 0.06 percent, only slightly higher than New Hampshire’s 0.05 percent.

Rhode Island also has a wider gap between typical mortgage payments and rent prices. The median rent is reported at $1,400 while the monthly 30-year mortgage payment is just around $1,030, based on a median sale price of $217,625.

The state’s FirstHome lending program makes borrowing more accessible for first-time buyers. It offers no-money-down options and assistance with closing costs. Rhode Island’s FirstHome loans also qualify the homebuyers for a FirstHome tax credit of up to $2,000 throughout the life of the loan.

4. Vermont

Vermont is yet another Northeast state that has seen strong growth among first-time homebuyers, with a 48.2 percent rise from 2003 to 2013. The state also has one of the lowest foreclosure rates at 0.02 percent.

The MOVE mortgage credit certificates offered through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency offer low-interest mortgages, lowered monthly mortgage insurance payments and savings on the Vermont Property Transfer Tax. The agency also offers down payment grants that can cover as much as 2.5 percent of the purchase price or loan amount, whichever is lower.

Lastly, there is the local housing market. Vermont’s median home sale price is $224,900, which is slightly above the national median of $215,177. This difference doesn’t push homeownership too far out of reach, but it could mean that hopeful homeowners might need to save a little longer to afford a house.


5. Massachusetts

The ratio of first-time homebuyers in Massachusetts saw a big jump from 2003 to 2013 — 74.3 percent — showing more residents in the state are ready to take the leap. The state also has a foreclosure rate on the lower end, showing that its residents have a good chance at retaining homeownership once they’ve made the commitment.

The median home value in Massachusetts is $323,800 and the median sale price is $309,500, indicating that Massachusetts residents shopping for a home can currently get a deal and pay below market value. Monthly 30-year mortgage payments based on the median price would also be significantly cheaper than the median rent in the state, at $1,460 versus $2,300, respectively.

First-time buyers in this state can also take advantage of mortgage insurance programs like MassHousing, which offers mortgage payment protection that covers up to $2,000 a month in mortgage and interest payments for up to six months should the borrower suffer a job loss. Another option is the ONE Mortgage Program, which is offered through the Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund and allows for down payments as low as 3 percent and publicly subsidized loans for up to 20 percent of the home’s value.

6. Hawaii

Hawaii had a 52.8 percent increase in first-time homebuyers from 2003 to 2013 and has a lower foreclosure rate at 0.03 percent. In terms of state programs to get help buying a first home, Hawaiians have limited options. But, the state does offer a mortgage credit certificate that can reduce the federal income tax homeowners owe.

Like in Massachusetts, listing prices in Hawaii fall below home values, making it more likely that a home purchase will be a good deal. But the $84,200 difference between the median sale price ($453,100) and median home value ($537,300) is more pronounced in Hawaii. On the other hand, this median sale price is still high and would result in payments around $2,140 a month with a 30-year mortgage, which is on par with the $2,300 median rent price.

7. Washington, D.C.

When it comes to housing, Washington, D.C., has the highest prices of all the places on this list, with a median sale price of more than half a million dollars — $511,885. The lower $487,600 median home value also doesn’t bode well for homebuyers, indicating they’ll be trying to purchase in a market that favors sellers. Plus, the median rent price of $2,285 actually beats mortgage payments of $2,420 based on the median sale price. Of course, D.C. is a smaller area than the states surveyed and is a major metropolitan area, so buyers should expect a competitive housing market.

In terms of first-time homebuyers, D.C. saw fair growth of 41.7 percent from 2003 to 2013. It has also maintained one of the lowest foreclosure rates at 0.01 percent. D.C. offers several local programs that can help first-time homebuyers, such as the Home Purchase Assistance Program. The program provides up to $50,000 in gap financing and up to $4,000 in assistance with closing costs.

8. Wyoming

With plenty of wide-open spaces to offer its residents, Wyoming’s real estate comes cheaper than real estate in many other states. Its median home value is estimated to be $179,000 as of May 2015, which is right on par with the national median of $179,200. Wyoming’s growth in the portion of first-time home buyers was fairly average at 48.5 percent, but the state has a lower foreclosure rate of 0.03 percent.

Wyoming also provides state-level assistance through the Home Again Program, which offers reduced mortgage rates for first-time homebuyers. The state’s Down Payment Loan Program can also be a big help to new homeowners; it provides loans up to $10,000 to help cover home down payments.

9. Maine

The median value of homes in Maine. which was estimated to be $118,000, is relatively low — not only when compared with the national median but especially next to the median home values of other Northeast states, such as Massachusetts ($323,800) and New Jersey ($273,700). Even with a reasonable median rent at $1,225, homeownership is still attractive. A 30-year mortgage for a property equal to the state’s median home value would cost around $560 a month.

The portion of first-time homebuyers in Maine has increased significantly, climbing 51.6 percent from 2003 to 2013. The state’s 0.04 percent foreclosure rate is also less than most states. Maine provides a few programs to help homebuyers, including the First Home Program. The program offers low-rate home lending, which requires little or no down payment.

10. Arizona

Arizona saw above-average growth in first-time homebuyers (63.6 percent), but this increase is also paired with a middling 0.06 percent foreclosure rate that pushed the state down to No. 10 on this list. First-time homebuyers in the state also lack many public assistance options; however, the Home Plus Home Loan Program can help first-time buyers secure down payment assistance up to 4 percent of the home loan amount.

Arizona is another state that has low home values compared with slightly inflated sale prices. The median home value is $191,300, and the median sale price is $204,500. The good news is that mortgage payments are still cheaper than renting; a 30-year mortgage on the median sale price would cost around $970 a month, whereas the state’s median rent is more than $200 higher each month at $1,195.

For more information, visit www.gobankingratescom.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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