New Tool Makes Working with Socially Distant Clients Easier

Unfortunately, social distancing isn’t going away any time soon. As you continue to adjust your business practices to keep clients safe, there is a new tool releasing soon that can make it easier for you to sell homes remotely.

OneHome, revealed earlier this month by CoreLogic (a real estate market data and analytics provider) is a virtual collaboration portal that “facilitates seamless interaction between agents and their clients.” Instead of relying on multiple tools to remotely guide your client through the home buying process, OneHome aims to be a “one-stop-shop.” It includes a virtual marketplace where you can directly communicate with clients, AI-enabled home search results, and access to financing, insurance, and home improvement providers all in one portal.

Some unique features that are sure to make your job much easier are the “Planner” and “PropertyFit.” Planner is a guided checklist in the form of a timeline that explains every step of the home buying transaction process - minimizing any client confusion. PropertyFit is where OneHome flexes its AI-learning muscles. It uses the client’s previous home browsing data and shows them homes that are most likely to meet their needs.

OneHome is expected to be nationally available by the end of 2020. As the real estate market continues to shift along with the pandemic, how do you plan on using new technologies with your clients?

PropertyFit Preview Image

PropertyFit uses client search data to match them with homes that meet their needs. Image from corelogic.com

If you’re not already using social media or even drones to help grow your client base, check out our continuing education courses by choosing your state below.

 


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Testing Yourself for Hidden Biases in an Age of Housing Inequality

This month, the National Association of Realtors released a 53-minute training video centered around addressing and overcoming hidden biases in the real estate industry. With a tenet of our mission statement being to “grow our student’s knowledge base,” we’re encouraging real estate professionals in Michigan and all over the country to learn about and assess themselves for hidden biases.

A hidden (or implicit) bias is when our brains automatically (and often unconsciously) associate stereotypes with particular groups of people - which can cause us to treat those people differently. Before you watch the training video, try taking an Implicit Bias test to learn what your unconscious attitudes are. Considering your own hidden biases is an uncomfortable process, but a necessary one. Research shows that “despite people’s best intentions and conscious awareness, some biases can persist.”

Some examples of hidden bias statements gathered from real estate agents are:

  • “I am going to show you some homes in ‘your kind of neighborhood.’ ”
  • You don’t want to live in that neighborhood, you can afford to live over here where you’ll feel more comfortable.”

If you can’t watch the entire course right now, here’s one key takeaway:

Bias Override is a way to make sure that your behavior aligns with your values. Integrating this into your real estate practice means:

  • Developing protocols for how to provide all clients with equal treatment
  • Learning how to manage your mindset so your interpersonal interactions with clients are respectful and successful
  • Creating scripts for how to navigate conversations about subjects such as schools to make sure you are conveying the same information to each client

It’s important to ensure that all of your clients can obtain the exact housing they desire. In Michigan, studies show that housing inequality is still prevalent despite 1968’s Fair Housing Act. A 2016 survey found that in Metro Detroit, black applicants were twice as likely to be denied a home loan as white applicants. In Lansing, black applicants fare even worse with a denial rate three times higher than whites.

This week, join in the fight for housing equality by setting aside some time to recognize your own hidden biases and start taking steps to change your way of thinking.

 


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Love Wins in Real Estate

The LGBTQ+ community across the nation celebrated as the U.S Supreme Court ruled that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. This is a major victory for advocates of gay rights. By formally recognizing LGBT individuals into federal anti-discrimination law, the Court effectively rejected the withholding of rights. The LGBTQ+ movement is determined to gain equality, and this ruling showcases the strides that have been made and the challenges we still face when it comes to discrimination in the U.S.

In a landmark 6-3 decision, the court ruled that employers can’t fire lesbian, gay, or transgender people simply for being who they are. The ruling says Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The passing of this ruling and the many more to come will bring change to real estate and fair housing and allow real estate professionals to tap into a much broader demographic than ever before.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community will not have to cherry-pick which state they can live in to own a home and get fair mortgage rates. According to a poll from Iowa State University, same-sex couples were charged .02% to 0.2% more in interest rates, upfront fees, or both on their loans. While to the average eye it doesn’t seem like much, it can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars over a 30-year mortgage. That same report shows same-sex couples were 73% more likely to be denied a mortgage than straight couples with similar profiles. “It’s very sad that even in this day and age there’s still discrimination in the mortgage process after all the strides we’ve made," says Tim Hur, a previous diversity chair of the National Association of Realtors®. "Everyone should have the same opportunity to own a home. It doesn't matter if you're gay, lesbian, Asian, black, or Hispanic."

Modern communities are more diverse than ever so why the great divide? Lack of confidence may help explain why LGBTQ+ home ownership rates lag those of America overall. According to the survey, 54% of LGBTQ+ respondents owned homes, compared with the national home ownership rate of 63.8% (which is itself at the lowest point since 1993).

LGBTQ+ who rent, particularly Millennials, have their own concerns, however.

For a generation that many have been deemed “Generation Rent”, the survey said, of LGBT Millennials surveyed, 59% say they plan to have children in the future; having children being a potential motivator for purchasing a home. Housing discrimination is a whopping 73% of the survey's respondents’ strongest concerns, whether they wanted to buy or rent. Choosing where to live is the first step in the path to home ownership and immediately we see the importance of being in an accepting and welcoming community. As LGBTQ+ people move from renting to home buying, the right neighborhood remains vital. Unfortunately, the fear of discrimination also plays a massive role in the LGBTQ+ community with 46% of renters fearing it during their future home buying process.

“Recall that ‘We, the People’ were once white, property-owning men,” said Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice. “Native Americans were originally not part of ‘We, the People,’ nor were people held in human bondage, women, or newcomers to our shores. Today, ‘We, the People,’ has a marvelous diversity, wholly absent in the beginning.” We are the people. All of us. Together.

 

 


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Uncertainty in the Real Estate Market

Harry S. Truman once said “America was not built on fear. America was built on Courage, on Imagination, and Unbeatable Determination to do the job at hand.” That statement rings true for all of us once again. We all know, that the current situation makes it extremely difficult to project the future of the economy. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, says: “The uncertainty of the crisis means forecasts of economic activity are more unclear than usual.” Analysts normally look at economic data and compare it to previous slowdowns to create their projections. This situation, as we know, is anything but normal.

Analysts must incorporate data from three different sciences into their recovery equation:

  1. Business Science– How has the economy rebounded from similar slowdowns in the past?
  2. Health Science– When will COVID-19 be under control? Will there be another flareup of the virus this fall?
  3. Social Science– After businesses are fully operational, how long will it take American consumers to return to normal consumption patterns? (Ex: going to the movies, attending a sporting event, or flying).

The challenge of accurately combining the three sciences into a single projection has created uncertainty, and it has led to a wide range of opinions on the timing of the recovery. Quarterly growth contracted significantly in the world’s second-biggest economy – China – for the first time in 28 years, skyrocketing jobless numbers in the U.S., and warnings from OPEC that demand for oil will fall to a 30-year low, have many wondering if it really will be business as usual once the coronavirus pandemic is over. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac still has hope stating, “We expect that most of the economic damage from the virus will be contained to the first half of the year. Going forward, we should see a recovery starting in the second half of 2020.”

Right now, the vast majority of economists and analysts believe a full recovery will take anywhere from 6-18 months. No one truly knows the exact timetable, but it will be coming.  A recent global poll shows that people have some serious doubts despite reassurances from many governments that we will see a quick recovery in the economy once the outbreak is under control. The majority of people in 10 out of the 15 countries surveyed say a quick economic recovery is unlikely once the lockdown from the pandemic is lifted, with this sentiment highest in hard-hit European countries.

The fear and uncertainty we feel right now are very real, and this is not going to be easy. We can, however, see strength in our current market through homeowner equity that has not been there in the past. That may be a bright spark to help us make it through. While some have expected more people to find themselves underwater, new research from Atom Data Solutions suggests U.S. homeowners are still four times more likely to be equity rich, than seriously underwater.

Many companies will be able to bounce back nicely. But yes, there will be some businesses that don’t survive the shutdowns. Other businesses might be operating at severely reduced capacity or will have taken on additional debt burdens and, therefore, won’t be able to bring back all of their prior workforces. Experts agree the pace of recovery, likely in the second half of the year, is uncertain because it depends on the extent of the damage in the first half such as the permanent loss of industry.

Bottom Line

“It is better to plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to be caught unprepared.”

 


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A Home for the Holidays

Nothing says holidays like having your family gathered in your home while you celebrate what’s important. Around this time each year, many homeowners decide to wait until after the holidays to list their houses. Similarly, others who already have their homes on the market remove their listings until the spring. Many sellers believe spring is the best time to put their home on the market because buyer demand traditionally increases at that time of year. What they don’t know is if every homeowner believes the same thing, everyone will list and buy at the same time and therefore encounter far more competition. According to NAR, the sweet spot for selling is November through January. Here are the top reasons why listing your clients house now (or keeping it on the market) may be the best choice they can make.

5 great reasons to tell your clients not to wait:

  1. Buyers at this time of year are serious. Purchasers who are looking for homes during the holidays are serious buyers and are ready to buy now. At this time of year, purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be in the marketplace. Your client and their family will not be bothered and inconvenienced by mere lookers. The lookers are at the mall or online doing their holiday shopping.
  2. The stage is set. Homes show better when decorated for the holidays. There is something about lights, bulbs and ornaments that make you want to cozy up and stay awhile.
  3. Prices are at a sweet spot. Over the past few months we’ve seen the supply of homes for sale decreasing year-over-year. Prices are projected to appreciate by 4.8% over the next year according to Corelogic. If your clients are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind up costing them more in both down payment and mortgage payment if they wait.
  4. The desire to own a home doesn’t stop during the holidays. Buyers who were unable to find their dream homes during the busy spring and summer months are still searching, and your client's home may be the answer. According to NAR, the median days on the market for a listing was only 33 days last month!
  5. Competition is low. The supply of listings increases substantially after the holidays. Also, in many parts of the country, new construction will continue to surge and reach new heights in 2020, which will lessen the demand for their house next year. Temperatures aren’t the only thing that heats up in the spring – so do listings! In 2018, listings increased from December to May. Don’t wait for these listings and the competition that comes with them to come to the market before your clients decide to list their house.

Freddie MacFannie Mae, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all believe homes sales will increase steadily over the next year. Real estate is impacted by the economy (and the consumer’s belief in the strength of the economy). The fact that most economic experts are calling for the recovery to continue through 2020 means the housing market will also remain strong for the foreseeable future. If you have a homeowner who has considered selling their house recently, let them know that now may be the best time to put it on the market.

 


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Falling in Love with Your Open Houses this Autumn

The beginning of autumn is like a breath of fresh air--a bit of relief from the offensive summer heat is more than welcome at this time of year. Real estate professionals can capitalize on buyers' eagerness to enjoy fall by bringing the best of the season into their open houses. By using the weather to your advantage and creating some seasonal charm, your open houses will be a hit!

Potential home buyers are likely to purchase a home before the holiday season gets in full swing--this means they will be more serious and ready to make an offer as soon as they find the right fit.  Here are some tips to planning a sensational autumn open house.

Up the Curb Appeal

Set the tone the second interested buyers walk up with a festive fall wreath and doormat. It’s an easy way to add color and style to the front entry, which is great for curb appeal. A doormat invites people in and can add a touch of personality. Bonus: the doormat can also help keep the floors clean.

Focus on Lighting

Lighting can be just as important during an open house as it is in your real estate photographs. Make sure any exterior lighting is working properly and utilize a mix of lamps and ceiling lights to create the perfect ambiance. Don’t go overboard with scented candles or similar items--some viewers may be allergic to the smell. To play it safe, look into electric candles or other lighting sources that can make your property glow without upsetting potential buyers.

Serve Seasonal Refreshments

Providing refreshments for an open house is an excellent, low cost way to incorporate fall touches into your open house. Think about pairing warm cookies with FAQ sheets on the neighborhood or hot cocoa next to a printed floor plan. This personal touch, while small, can make a big impact. Potential buyers will feel comfortable in the space and leave with all the information they need.

Add Autumn-Inspired Elements to the Decor

Continue the autumn theme throughout the house by adding touches of seasonal decor: fall-colored throw blankets and pillows on the couch, a pumpkin cookie jar and apple-cinnamon potpourri in the guest bathroom.

Open Up the Windows

Now is the best time of year when you can open the windows and let the crisp, clean air inside. If you have a fantastic view or outdoor living space, opening the doors and windows can also call attention to the features.

Hosting a memorable fall open house will rely on your ability to make potential buyers feel at home in the space. Create a cozy atmosphere by relying on little fall touches. Keep the inside of the property warm and incorporate subtle fall decor. To make the house even cozier, you can leave out a few fall activities for kids like coloring pages or word puzzles. Between the activities, the warmer temperatures, and any other fall touches, potential buyers will fall in love with the property.

 


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Fannie & Freddie Experience More Delays

Nearly 3 years ago mortgage financing giants Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that changes were coming on the standard mortgage application. These were to be the first changes made to the application in 20 years. As the process moved forward, the new Uniform Residential Loan Application was supposed to make its debut February 1, 2020. The government – sponsored enterprises decided additional changes were needed and extended the time frame for it’s mandatory use.

“The redesigned URLA is the result of extensive collaboration with industry stakeholders,” said Andrew Bon Salle, Fannie Mae executive vice president of single-family business.

“We are proud to be a part of this effort that enables lenders to better serve their customers by providing ease and clarity to borrowers during the loan origination process,” Bon Salle said.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has requested more changes to the URLA form. At issue are questions relating to language preference, home ownership education and housing counseling. These questions have been moved to a voluntary form instead of being addressed on the main application. After revisiting these changes, additional changes are now being revised as well, including:

Redesigned format: Improved navigation and organization that will support accurate data collection and better efficiency for a more consumer-friendly experience.

New and updated fields: Capture loan application details that reflect today’s mortgage lending business and support both the GSEs’ and government requirements.

Clearer instructions: Simplified terminology enables borrowers to complete the loan application with less help from the lender.

Revised government monitoring information: Incorporates the revised Home Mortgage Disclosure Act demographic questions.

Spanish informational version: Will be available soon.

The new timeline for use is still unspecified as the changes will be assessed yet again to see what the impact will be to everyone involved. The timeline and new implementation dates will be released as soon as they are available until which time the new form is available, continuing the use of the current form is required.

 


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According to New Survey Homebuyers, Now’s a Good Time to Buy

Good Time to Buy a Home

It’s a good time to buy a home, according to research from the National Association of Realtors. 65 percent of people echoed this sentiment in the Housing Opportunities and Market Experience, or HOME, report.  This enthusiasm is the highest it’s been since the second quarter of 2018.

Older boomers and those from the silent generation are the most optimistic, 75 percent said now is a good time. Just 51 percent of Millenials agreed. Home owners are more likely than renters to say that now is a good time to buy.

Good Time to Sell a Home

Even more people say it’s a good time to sell - 69 percent according to the HOME report. Earners who make $100,000 or more, people living in the West and Young Boomers were most likely to respond this way.

Feelings about the Economy

Sentiments about the American economy are mixed. Half of Gen-Xer’s say the economy is improving. And 53 percent of all groups say the economy is getting better. Rural Americans are more likely to say the economy is improving compared to Americans in urban areas.

Data Snapshot

Home Sales: The National Association of Realtors reported that February 2019’s existing-home sales gained their largest month-over-month gain since December 2015. Sales increased 11.8 percent from January.

Mortgage Rates: Mortgage rates have fallen or remained steady across the board, as of data from March 21, 2019. 30-year fixed rates fell 0.4 points 15-year fixed rates dropped 0.5 points, and 4-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages were unchanged.

 


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