June 27, 2012
June 22, 2012
The real estate business (and business as a whole) has changed- ALOT. Looking specifically at real estate, one of the latest points of evolution is the increasing infiltration of mobile into a realtors daily routine. From texting, to email, to social apps and calendars, a real estate agent can (dare I say it) almost safely pack his or her pc deep into a closet. But, with the deluge of apps, social media and software updates an individual encounters everyday, its often tough to extract important information from all the noise. Which begs the question, how does a realtor, or any kind of company focus on becoming a mobile business? How can entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies alike, leverage mobile tools to gain the coveted title of a successful mobile business? Well, here are some thoughts to get the ball rolling:
Start from the inside
It is important to understand and promote the cultural shift to mobile usage from within a company. While coming out with the most addictive app since Angry Birds may be a great marketing move, it may not encourage your employees to rethink how they approach daily business. A top down approach could work better. Create weekly messages or YouTube videos with management promoting productivity mobile tools, such as Evernote, Clear or even more complex platforms, such as CRM or workflow applications. Small and large companies alike can try to provide mobile charging stations for tablets and smartphones. Weve been particularly successful with creating a mobile culture by releasing a mobile CRM and marketing productivity tool, William Raveis Agent Dashboard, which we are now proud to say has a 85% adoption rate amongst our associates.
Promote Social Media Use
54% of people using Twitter access it using their mobile phone. 40% of social users access accounts through their mobile devices. Facebook was the third most-visited app by both iPhone and Android users in 2011. Yes, these are facts, and they are credible (Nielsen, Pew and comScore, respectively). The point is, people like to access social media from their mobile phones and the majority of the population in this country utilize smartphones (53%, according to Pew). Encouraging your employees to participate in social media use is a surefire way to help them become and stay mobile. One of the ways to do this is to post intriguing questions, or other shareworthy content, such as photos and videos. As an example, weve had particular success with our weekly Whats The Price Wednesday contest on facebook, in which our followers (who, may I add, do an awesome job) guess the price of a featured home.
If You Cant Create an App, Create a Mobile Site
Lets face it, unless you happen to utter code in your sleep, creating a mobile app is a challenge. However, there are workarounds, specifically, a mobile-enabled website. Creating a mobile friendly site is now as important as having a website in the first place. You want to be able to let potential customers learn about you on the go, 24-7, be it on a crowded subway, or a secluded island. Here are a list of tools to help you create a mobile site:
Wapple.net the drag drop features of this site can help you build a mobile site in about 30 minutes. Or, for those looking for something uber-sophisticated, you can drill-down and edit every single element of your page.
MobilePress- For all the WordPress users out there, this is really gold. MobilePress is WordPress plugin that will make your site mobile-browsing friendly, with added customization. In addition, there are mobile tracking tools available to enhance your site analytics.
Conduit Mobile- while I have not had a chance to test this one out, Conduit mobile looks like a great solution to create a mobile site. You can customize the site and add Rss, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube content.
There are several other solutions available, but these are some of the easier ways to get a clean mobile site up and running in very little time.
Personally, I believe creating a mobile business needs to start from within. If you, the boss, believes in and utilizes the power of mobile, it only makes sense that your employees should do the same. With a workforce that committed, creating all the snazzy mobile technology necessary to be considered a mobile enterprise, will become less scary and more fun!
What else do you think makes a successful mobile business?
June 19, 2012
There have been several stories published lately talking about the improving housing market across the country. While these headlines are great, it sill bears to mind what factors are contributing to this improving market. Phyllis Lerner, an associate at William Raveis Legends in Tarrytown, New York, presents some key indicators below. Read more of her insights on her blog, right here.
The latest National Association of Home Builders Improving Markets Index (IMI)numbersconfirm thatthe real estate markets of 35 states in the United States are improving.
In order for a state to be considered an improvingmarketit must have shown growthinconstruction permits, employment, and home prices for the last 6 months. Their dataisderived from employment growth reportspublished by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation numbers from Freddie Mac, and single-familyconstruction permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Each month new markets have been joining this list, while some previously improving markets havefallen of it. Much of the improvements comefrom an overallrobustSpring selling season, including in the northeast, where unit sales numbers saw a significant jump.
There is also now enough evidence ofthe stabilization ofmany markets. After 5 consecutive months of steady gains, theIMIhas began to plateau just now. Many markets are holding steady andsome experiencing thegyrations that are to be expectedthroughout a choppy recovery.
Westchester County NY, the market I call home, is holding its own and the most recent sales numberssuggest a strong Spring market with slightly appreciating prices for mostneighborhoods within the county. There have been even some bidding duels for some of the more attractive properties for sale (this is a trend that is being seen in different parts of the country, as well). If this trend continuesour localmarketsare poised to favor sellers once more again.
Is the housing market improving in your town or city?
June 14, 2012
Savvy buyers know they must hire a buyers agent to help them make the best decisions possible. I am meeting more and more buyers who are demanding a buyer agency contract because they understand it is in their best interest.
In choosing a buyers agent, though, it is important to ask the right questions and ensure that whoever you hire represents you well. Even though hiring a buyers agent almost always bears no added cost to the purchase, it is still a binding contract for several months. Since youll be spending a lot of time with your agent, Ive compiled to top questions to ask a buyers agent before you sign the dotted line. Dont be shy!
- Whats your experience working with buyers? Its not that your agent has to have oodles of experience, but he or she must have some, especially recent experience. In the past few years, many things changed in the home buying world, due to both new mortgage regulations and economic realities.
- Do you have testimonials from past clients? If a friend recommends an agent, great. But dont simply work with agents because your friend or cousin knows them. Find an agent who has a history of satisfied customers with similar needs to yours.
- Can you explain the process of home buying? This is a great way to see how well the agent is versed with the process of home buying. This is an especially critical question you are a first time home buyer and this is all new. A qualified agent will have a thorough understanding of the home buying process, from home search to closing. You may not want to hear all the details up-front in an interview, but you should get the sense the agent is on top of things.
- Whats the most important part of your job? This is a great question to ask anyone you hire for anything. It is a nice way of asking, What is that youll do for me? Wrong answers include: To show you homes, or To point out defects in the house. A buyers agent work really kicks in when youve already chosen a home. Negotiation, home valuation, managing all the parts of the process. The buyers agent is there to prevent you from overpaying for your home, and to ensure your escrow deposit is never in jeopardy!
- Do you have a mortgage calculator? In the iPhone / Android world, if your agent doesnt have some sort of mortgage calculator, run fast. No, your buyers agent doesnt have to be a mortgage expert, but she must know the cost of borrowing and what it means to you. A real estate agent who is not in tune to the mortgage market is like a home decorator unfamiliar with paint.
Your take away from this list is when interviewing an agent to represent you, the agent must demonstrate value. A qualified buyers agent will save you money, time, effort and a lot of frustration. So go arm yourself with a great buyers agent that you like and trust! It will likely cost you nothing and youll be a stronger, smarter and happier buyer.
June 8, 2012
Bill Raveis, our Chairman and CEO, recently announced William Raveis has been chosen as the #1 company to work for in Massachusetts 2102 by the Boston Business Journals 2012 Best Places to Work survey. This annual honor recognizes company achievements in creating a positive work environment that attracts and retains employees through a combination of employee satisfaction,
working conditions and company culture. This is the 3rd consecutive year Boston Business Journal has recognized William Raveis as the top workplace in Massachusetts. Were humbled, but really psyched to be on this coveted list!
The events leading to this included making a first cut of over 400 companies amidst thousands that completed an employee satisfaction survey. The second round selection was even tougher, with only 75 companies qualifyingWilliam Raveis made the cut. We felt thankful to be in the top 75, considering the number of participants in the survey and being amongst 5,000 or so real estate companies in the state of Massachusetts, said Bill.
The top 75 companies were invited to a function at the renowned Boston Convention Exhibition Center in Boston, attended by nearly 1,000 participants, including high level executives from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Accenture, Ritz Carlton and Hubspot. Bil and the Massachusetts management team attended. Once everyone was seated, members of The Boston Business Journal staff began counting down the best companies starting with number 75. The Raveis team held its breath before each company was called, expecting to soon hear its name. However, when the firm made the Top 10 and then Top 5 cut, a sense of excitement came over the Raveis team. # 2 was calledand it wasnt William Raveis. When #2 was announced and it wasnt us, I looked at our team and we realized that we won the #1 Place to work in Massachusetts. It was quite a moment for me, and our Massachusetts group, said Mr. Raveis, feeling humbled to receive the prestigious accolade for the 3rd year in a row (company placed as a finalist in 2011).
William Raveis sales associates and staff members completed an anonymous online survey submitted for review amidst nearly 20,000 other responses. This award is particularly meaningful because it reflects upon our company mission of treating agents as our customers not only in Massachusetts, but throughout the northeast. This is a testament to our hardworking agents, management and staff-congratulations to them for an excellent job! said Bill.
The video clip you see here was the standing ovation Bill received as he accepted the #1 workplace award. He also gives an awesome speech. Check it out!
What do you think makes a great workplace?
June 6, 2012
Closing on a home is an exhilirating and exhausting experience. You thought all the hard work was simply in picking a place to build your future? Well, not really. The closing is like crossing the last hurdle on the track before move-in day. You have to make sure your financing is in order, appraisals and inspections are completed and all the is and ts are dotted and crossed in the contract. With all the steps you need to cover, its ok to feel overwhelmed. However, at some point, you need to focus and make sure the most important purchase of your life is completed flawlessly. Chris Sigg, an associate in our New Canaan office, put together the Ultimate Guide to Post Closing and Move-In-Day below. Check it out and tap into his wealth of knowledge on his blog.
The move in manual is a checklist when you are buying a home of information needed from the seller.
Manuals for Appliances and Systems: These should be kept in one place for the homeinspection. Review the model names and numbers to see if any have beenrecalled.
Water Heater: Type, Service date, and name of Company that does the service
Furnace: Is there a maintenance contract ,Type, How many zones ? What room does each thermostat serve. Is there a humidifier built in. Service date and Company that does the service
Electrical Service: How many amps is the panel ? Are the fuses detailed with each room ? Name of electrician that has worked on the house.
Air Conditioner: Is there a maintenance contract ,Type and number of zones. Is there one thermostat for the entire house or multiple ? Name of company that services the unit and last service date.
Sprinkler System: How many zones ? Last time it was worked on and name of the company that services it ?
Alarm System: Co0des, Name of Company that provides service and length of the contract
Refuse: Company that picks trash up, which dayand what do they charge ?
Lawn Mowing: Which company and how much do they charge ?
Plow Service: How much and which company ?
Pool Service: Is there a maintenance contract , How much and which company ?
Phone, Cable, Internet: Which companies and how much?
Electric Company: What is the monthly/yearly cost and their phone number ?
Water: Town or Well ? If well when was it last serviced, which company and does it require a water pressure/softening system. Town: what is the monthly/yearly cost and do they have a maintenance contract ?
Septic or Sewer ? If septic what was last date of service and the name of company ? Sewer: what is the cost and contact info ?
Paint colors: Is there leftover paint and which colors for each room and name of the painter ?
Thanks for reading !!!
June 1, 2012
It used to be in the relocation world, when an employee was asked to move, most relocation packages were pretty cookie cutter based on if an employee was a new hire, renter or homeowner. If you were a homeowner chances were you would receive a guaranteed buyout(GBO) offer of your current home from your employer to get you moved to the new location. Well, times have changed based on economic and housing market conditions. But, what hasnt changed is the need for employee mobility. I recently read an article in Mobility, the magazine of Worldwide ERC that highlighted some policy changes that have become more prevalent that impact the home sale portion of a company sponsored relocation.
Pre-decision counseling offers both the company and the employee pertinent information prior to offering a relocation package. Identifies current or further down the road issues for departure and destination. In some cases, companies may require their employees to obtain 2 market analysis and/or appraisal of their home to determine up front before any expenses are incurred in a relocation then backing out due to factors of the real estate market or out of pocket loss on sale of the home.
Increasing number of AV (amended value) sales meaning employee receives a bona fide offer from an outside buyer and a GBO (guaranteed buyout) is avoided. Many relocation policies have been modified which may require the employee to:
- Market their home for a specified period of time,
- Allow employee to accept offers below the GBO amount as a policy standard this loss may be more cost effective than letting home go to inventory
- Provide home sale bonus to employee
- Require employee to list within a certain percentage of the BMA and/or GBO value
- Require employee to adjust list price of their home within 105 percent of the GBO offer
- Require list price adjustment within 31 days of receiving GBO offer
- Require employee to market their home during the entire GBO offer period
- Requires employee to review all outside offers with their relocation consultant
Creating well-structured home marketing assistance programs by mandating employee do the following:
- Fully participate in the home marketing assistance program to retain eligibility for homesale benefits, including a homesale bonus, loss of sale, etc
- List with preferred brokers, specifically brokers with experienced relocation trained agents
- List home within a certain percentage of 2 broker market analysis, ordering a 3rd broker market analysis if the most likely sales price of the initial 2 market analysis are 5-7% apart
- Reduce list price after 30 days of aggressive marketing
- Begin appraisal process after 30 days of marketing rather waiting 60 days this way the employee will have a more realistic view of anticipated sales price and not waste precious early marketing time of the home
Providing allowances that can be offered to either the buyer or broker, i.e. capped closing cost incentive to buyer or capped broker incentives. Providing an upfront allowance to a homeowner for repairs/improvements, general clean up or staging.
Although some of these policy changes or enhancements may require additional up-front costs on behalf of a company, they may reduce the overall cost of a homesale by increasing the number of AV sales whereby a company does not take a home in to inventory. A general rule of thumb of the costs associated with an inventory home is 1.5 percent of its purchase price for every month the home remains unsold. Using the Worldwide ERC average home purchase price of $326,000, it equates to $5,430 per month, after six months thats a cost of $32,000 per home.
While all relocation policies differ, I believe that many companies have really done a good job of balancing the need to cut costs while still offering an attractive relocation benefit to their employee. In the end, particular attention is being paid to initial list prices especially given the amount of inventory that is available to a potential buyer. Whether a seller has a relocation sponsored move or is moving for personal reasons, because time = money, be sure your home is the best priced home in any particular price point.