Existing Home Sales Grew Slightly in March; Supply Shortage Continues

After two straight months of declines, existing home sales climbed 1.1 percent in March but it was a familiar story as low inventory and high prices kept sales activity to a level lower than a year ago, according to NAR.

As NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explained during this morning’s press conference, gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest – a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February – helped overall sales activity rise to its highest jump since last November at 5.72 million.  Yet low supply and a median sales price increase of 5.9% since last year has home sales at a lower level compared to a year ago.

“Unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace, compared to 3.8 months at this time in 2017. There is a spring seasonal ramp-up in buyer demand but without the corresponding increase in new listings coming onto the market,” said Yun. “As a result, the market is highly competitive and homes are going under contract in about a month, which is four days faster than last year and 17 days faster than March 2016.”

 

Instant Reaction: Q1 Homeownership Rate and S&P/Case-Shiller

The following is NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s reaction to the S&P/Case-Shiller release on February home prices:

“There is no let-up to rising home prices. The Case-Shiller Index and National Association of Realtors® median home price both show gains of roughly double the average wage growth. Even as the tightening job market is starting to boost incomes, those looking to buy are facing a double whammy of fast rising home prices and higher mortgage rates. The way to make housing more affordable is to build more homes, particularly smaller-sized entry level homes and condominiums. 

Regulatory relief to small-sized community banks will also help boost construction loans. Local governments need to speedily approve housing permits. And there needs to be a way to more easily acquire trade skills like carpentry, wood framing and other construction specialties for those wanting to earn good middle-income salaries without having to go to college. Such actions will boost economic growth and provide better access to homeownership.”

Instant Reaction: March Jobs Report

The following is NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s reaction to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on the employment situation in March:

“The March jobs report was a bit soft, and first quarter GDP growth rate also looks to be weak. Heavy snow in parts of the country, and the uncertainty related to potential trade war, may be (as of now) hindering companies from hiring.

Although fewer people worked in construction in March because of the unusually cold wintry weather, job openings in the construction industry do remain at a historic high. If home builders can readily fill those jobs, then home construction significantly ramps up, and thereby brings more housing inventory to the market. 

Looking ahead, 3% GDP growth does look easily possible in upcoming quarters, with more construction jobs leading to more job creations in other segments of the economy.”

Accidental Employee Breaches on the Rise

When it comes to cyber security, ransomware attacks made the most news last year. However, an almost equal threat comes from within an organization.

Accidental breaches caused by employee error and third-party suppliers accounted for 30 percent of all breaches during the first half of 2017, according to a report from Beazley. Breaches that resulted from hacking and malware attacks led by only 2 percent, accounting for 32 percent of all breaches.

The highest rates of employee security breaches were in the financial and health care sectors. Almost one-third of financial data breaches involved unintended disclosure—employees sending personal banking details to the wrong recipient. Unintended disclosure also accounted for 42 percent of health care breaches.

The following are key takeaways from the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study:

  • Although the overall cost of a data breach decreased from $4 million to $3.62 million globally since last year, the United States saw a 5 percent increase at $7.35 million.
  • Having an incident response team reduced the cost of a data breach by nearly $1 million.
  • Health care is the most costly industry for data breaches, costing organizations $380 per compromised record.

The insurance professionals at 3000 Insurance Group can help you evaluate your insurance. As an independent agency and the endorsed agency for OAR, they have access to many companies and products, as well as plans exclusive to OAR members. Contact Lydia Christine Lydia@3000ig.com or Ashley Napier Ashley@3000ig.com today, or visit www.3000ig.com.  

5 simple steps to share your RPR Market Activity Report on Facebook

RPR’s Market Activity report is an ideal option for agents who want to create enduring and results-oriented relationships through social media. The report presents a snapshot of changes in a local real estate market based on listing and MLS information, and includes active, pending, sold, expired, distressed, new for lease, and recently leased properties, as well as recent price changes and upcoming open houses for a period of up to six months.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to post your RPR Market Activity Report to Facebook.

Logon to narrpr.com …

1. Under My Reports, click on the orange plus sign.

2. Choose Share on Facebook.

3. For agents in “non-disclosure” states, be aware of rules prohibiting sharing certain property information.

4. Now choose where to share the report: your profile, a page or group.

5. Choose who can see your shared Market Activity Report. Then select Post to Facebook.

The truth about technology and the role of a real estate agent

According to a report by the National Association of Realtors®, despite the abundance of publicly-accessed property data, more homebuyers and sellers are seeking counsel from real estate agents. In fact, nearly 90 percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker in 2016 — a dramatic increase from 69 percent in 2001 (2016 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers).

Interesting. In the last 15 years, the “golden age of consumerism” has ushered in unprecedented access to real estate data, empowering homebuyers and sellers to potentially or partially manage their experience, yet the positive perceived value of working with a REALTOR® has skyrocketed.

The success measure for REALTORS®, then, becomes how well they properly interpret the data on the client’s behalf, how responsive they are to inquiries, and how likely they are to seamlessly manage the total customer experience. All three of those assets require a commitment to adopting marketplace efficiencies through the use of technology.

The truth about technology

It’s a big sweeping word that basically encompasses nearly every aspect of our lives. And, in real estate, it can be daunting. The truth is, though, that technology is simply an electronic way of 1) accessing digital assets that help consumers make informed decisions, and 2) automating our business practices or tasks in order to make ourselves more available and more valuable to our clients. Compartmentalized, that is, broken down into bite size pieces and choosing only those tasks essential to our cause, is the key to taking those first steps toward making technology an agent’s friend, not foe.

In the real estate landscape, nothing has helped REALTORS® become more responsive than mobile technology. The anytime, anywhere access to property data and reports has afforded agents even more opportunities to convey their value to consumers.

One such digital asset is the app offered by Realtors Property Resource® (RPR® ). Available only to REALTORS® , the exclusive portal offers an unparalleled platform of nationwide property data on residential and commercial properties. For example, within seconds of getting a call or text from a client, users can jump into the app, create a report and text or email it back to the client. The Platform has also just released a CMA tool on its app. Other cool features include the ability to use your phone’s location to search on-and-off market properties, valuations, tax and mortgage info, distressed data, mapping, market trends and more.

In the end, real estate agents who recognize that technology is a tool that can and should be leveraged to support new ways of conducting business and building successful relationships will lead the way. Educating consumers has become our best asset. We should use it to our advantage.

REALTORS® share 10 RPR strategies for success

A look back at our 2017 REALTOR® stories reveals compelling and insightful strategies for creating workplace efficiencies, earning client trust, and generating new business –– all while leveraging the data and reports found within Realtors Property Resource® (RPR® ).

1. 5 ways to fight the good fight in real estate


The accuracy of the data obtained by consumers, and the availability of the most up-to-date data, is a point of concern for many REALTORS®. Here, an agent describes how he finds new opportunities to reinforce his value to consumers while leveraging challenges brought on by real estate’s “age of information.”

2. Mortgage data turns table in buyer’s favor


Knowledge is power in the real estate space, especially at the negotiating table. Here’s a quick anecdote from a REALTOR® who successfully turned the tides in his buyer’s favor just by checking the listing’s mortgage information in RPR.

3. Economic area report gives voice to association staffers


Staffer earns a voice among community leaders who now see her Association and REALTORS® as information providers who can help shape conversations about the future of their communities.

4. 3 ways to go over & above when working with referrals


America is on the move, and this Realtor is ready to roll with it. Learn how he capitalizes on the surge by building a robust referral market in one of the country’s hottest relocation markets.

5. Easy icebreaker ideas for creating new business


In supercharged real estate markets like the Denver metro area, every move counts. That’s why Jickson Chacko never overlooks an opportunity to shop for new clients, literally.

6. School report cuts sales cycle in half


According to this REALTOR®, an app only needs to do two things for her: “Prove that it’s going to help me make money and make my life easier. From there, we should be able to put our minds to using it.”

7. Client engagement leads to early buy-in


This Broker/Owner takes client engagement seriously. He believes securing an early buy-in from would-be homeowners gives them ownership for the process. And he uses the RPR app to do so.

8. An economist’s tour from Wall Street to Main Street


REALTORS® are often looked at by clients as local economic experts, with expectations to time markets precisely, identify opportunities before anyone else, and to determine the optimal purchase or sale price for projects. Having the right resources can vastly improve their odds at projecting things accurately.

9. Real estate’s most important four letter word is “next,” not “sold”


There’s somewhat of a science when using social media to generate new business. In all, follow the 80/20 rule. Here’s how one one flexible, easy-to-use social media platform, combined with the nation’s only REALTOR®-owned data and reporting platform, can help.

10. REALTOR® owned technology sweetens showings


Today, consumers have access to more real estate data than any other time in history so it’s an agent’s job to have the right data at the right time, and be able to both show and tell her way through a tour.

Introducing RPR Connect: a new Facebook Group

Introducing RPR Connect:  a new Facebook Group. RPR Connect is an interactive forum that connects REALTORS®, Brokers/Owners, and other industry leaders who want to keep ahead of the curve. RPR Connect provides an open, professional dialogue for real estate pros who want to share their RPR success strategies as well as those who want quick answers to their RPR-related questions. Contributors can also catch up on the latest and greatest tools from RPR, register for webinars, and link to other important learning resources.

Join like-minded agents who enjoy sharing business building tips and tricks, or try to stump an RPR pro with your question. It’s the perfect setting for any REALTOR® who knows the value of networking and has a desire to succeed.

RPR Connect is about you!

1. Get answers to your RPR questions

When RPR related questions come up, ask the group for answers.

2. See what’s new

Be the first to hear the latest RPR news. Get updates on new features and datasets, and learning opportunities.

3. Strategize with other REALTORS®

Network with other RPR users to hear how they leverage the system to their advantage. Tips, tricks and use cases.

4. Pick up tips to build your business

Scan how-to articles covering topics that drive awareness and action in your real estate business.

5. Uncover new learning resources

Find exactly the topic you want to know more about with brief tutorials and handouts like, How to Create an RPR Seller’s Report or Understanding the Realtor Valuation Model® (RVM®).

So what are you waiting for? Visit Facebook and request to join the RPR Connect group.

Aluminum, steel tariffs impact on residential real estate

Following is a statement from National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun on the proposal to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and the potential impact on residential real estate:

“International trade requires reciprocal understanding of mutual interests. Trade has to be fair and intellectual property rights have to be respected on both sides. Still, the proposed tariffs could measurably raise the cost of building materials and hinder home construction of affordable homes. But more importantly, tariffs and restrictions to international trade will hold back economic growth and job creations. A better way to raise GDP growth is to produce more homes. Job growth and additional housing inventory will greatly help American workers and American consumers.”

Dos and Don’ts of Screening Tenants Legally

In October, a Massachusetts landlord who refused to rent to pregnant women or families with minor children was found guilty of violating the federal Fair Housing Act and fined $40,000. The same month, the Fair Housing Justice Center in New York sued a landlord for allegedly quoting higher rental rates to black prospective tenants, rejecting applicants with public rent assistance, and making children undergo unnecessary lead tests. Five months earlier, a federal jury in Montana fined a landlord $37,000 after she charged a disabled tenant $1,000 to have a service animal.

Cases such as these are stark reminders for property managers and landlords that neglecting to follow antidiscrimination rules designed to protect renters can come with big consequences. You know the fundamentals of fair housing: You shouldn’t ask any questions or base any housing-related decisions on an applicant’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status, and you mustn’t promote a property in terms such as “great building for single professionals.” But knowing the law and complying with it are two different things, which can be made difficult by the continual evolution of case law related to housing discrimination.

Tenant screening provides a first line of defense against discrimination complaints. That’s because differences in factors such as an applicant’s income, employment, references, and credit histories can help justify the selection of one tenant over another and thereby help landlords avoid discrimination charges. Here are eight recommendations for using the screening process to keep discrimination lawsuits at bay.

DO apply your policies and procedures uniformly. Avoid running a full tenant screening report on some applicants and only a credit check on others. If you have a policy of renting to applicants with the best credit, don’t make an exception for a would-be tenant with a better personality but a less positive credit report. Be consistent or be vulnerable to discrimination complaints.

DON’T get too personal on rental application forms. Ask about jobs, previous addresses, income, and references. But stay away from specific questions about spouses or children, as well as other protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act. (You can provide space for an applicant to list all the individuals who would be living in the apartment.) Even asking the question may give the impression that you would limit housing access based on the answers.

DO choose a “colorblind” screening service. Some services have a scoring system that enables landlords to establish their preferred tenant profile based on specific parameters, such as income, past evictions, and credit score. The software then evaluates each applicant according to the criteria and returns a “recommend” or “not recommend” verdict completely independent of race, religion, or other potentially discriminatory factors. This ensures that applicants are evaluated equally, providing a strong defense, assuming you follow the software’s recommendations.

DON’T automatically reject an applicant with a criminal record. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a memorandum on housing providers’ use of arrest and conviction records to make housing-related decisions. According to Jodie McDougal, a partner at the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa, these guidelines mean that you cannot have blanket policies excluding all applicants who are felons or consider arrest records. Instead, you should perform a case-by-case evaluation. Read McDougal’s explanation and recommendations.

DO stay abreast of new developments affecting screening. One of them is a pending amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, introduced in Congress last August. Currently, eviction reports used in the tenant screening process can include records dating back seven years. Under the proposed amendment, called the Tenant Protection Act, only eviction records no older than three years and resulting in a judgment that is not being appealed would be allowed. Use of older records would be viewed as discriminatory.

DO keep all documentation for up to 10 years. That includes rental applications, signed releases, tenant screening reports, and any other data or documents collected during the screening process—even if you don’t rent to the applicant. This information may be crucial if a rejected applicant questions your denial or selection of a different tenant. A paper trail can help you prove that the person was not denied residency based on discrimination but because a more qualified tenant was selected instead.

DO send a declination letter when rejecting a potential tenant. This document, also called an “adverse action letter,” specifies the reason or reasons for rejecting a rental application, such as income, employment, or credit history. Some screening services provide free declination letters with all the federally required language, along with a checklist of legitimate reasons for turning down a candidate.

DO call your attorney when in doubt. With new legal challenges and decisions coming out on a regular basis, it’s wise to have a legal resource you can turn to with questions. Find an attorney who can periodically review your rental application form to make it sure it complies with the latest antidiscrimination requirements. It will help prevent you from making a mistake that may land you in court.