Monthly Archives: April 2016


There is a truism that youth imparts a feeling of invulnerability. Indeed, many young people will fly down flights of stairs, ski the break-neck slopes and eschew medical insurance more eagerly than their elders. Living in the moment is more common among teens and 20-somethings.

Thus parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches admonish their youth about personal responsibility and investing for the future, sometimes to little avail. If any practice common to young adults, however, is sure to be of consequence in later years, it is the use of student loans. With Americans owing collectively 1.2 trillion dollars in these loans, they become a burden that affects college graduates for years to come, especially when trying to purchase a home.

Debt Service and Down Payments

When lenders underwrite loans, they calculate how the debt will service, i.e. how the borrower will pay down the debt based on current and projected income; other monthly obligations owed; and other assets held. In terms of student loans, those approving or disapproving the extension of credit want to see that a student can comfortably make regular payments upon graduating. The ratio of debt to income is crucial in making this determination. Yet student loan providers are not the only financial institutions making these calculations. Once a student loan is made, it, too, becomes a monthly obligation for others, namely mortgage lenders, to factor in.

The more money owed on student loans means the less available for a down payment and monthly mortgage remittances. True, young people benefit from mortgages guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Requiring only 3.5 percent of the purchase price down, these loans are understandably attractive to first-time homebuyers. On the other hand, lenders have their limits: most will hesitate to say yes to applicants whose debt to income ratios match or exceed 43 percent. A few might be slightly more generous. Saddled with too much debt, a prospective home buyer has borrowed herself out of contention.

Creditworthiness and Default

Debt service can damage the eligibility of college graduates even when they consistently make their monthly payments. Sometimes, though, the demands of re-payment and the lack of adequate employment opportunities create the perfect storm for default. In 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 593,000 former college students defaulted on their loan repayments. Whereas paying on time and consistently enhances a credit profile, default can lower a credit score significantly, hurting job prospects, much less mortgage applications. There are, it is worth noting, programs to help renegotiate monthly student loan payments and thereby avoid the devastation of default.

What about Insurance?

According to the Wall Street Journal, property insurance premiums are climbing after remaining artificially low for a long period. This has profound ramifications on a figure known as PITI, i.e. principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Mortgage lenders underwrite loans to determine how well a borrower can manage this monthly combination of obligations. PITI grows larger when the home owner’s insurance premium swells. Since the property is the lender’s collateral, the loan is conditioned on you insuring your house, or else fire and flood can destroy the collateral, leaving no value for the bank to recoup.


One business essential, that real estate professionals and everyone else take for granted, is increasingly more challenging to count on: social media.

Does social media allow you to dominate your market by seamlessly integrating several platforms, by creating an automated sales funnel, or by delivering highly-relevant content to targets? However you, your prospects, and clients benefit, it may be dangerous to take for granted that the social media that got you where you are, will keep you moving on.

When was the last time, you dug in and took a close look at your social media return-on-investment? With so much in flux, now may be a good time to be sure that what you believe is happening is and that social media opportunities are not being overlooked.

Year-in-review and forecasting reports and surveys (many of them free) provide useful context for evaluating your social media strategies and results as you project into next year. Analyze a few of the currently available reports, like “The Future of Social Media (And How to Prepare For It): The State of Social Media 2016 Report,” issued by social media management giant and based on data collected from 1200 marketers, or Altimeter @ Prophet ‘s “The 2016 State of Social Business The 2016 State of Social Business” which Includes input from 18 brands, vendors, thought leaders, and 523 global social strategists.

Five Social Media Mistakes to Avoid in 2017

Prioritize the following five mistakes based on your social media perspectives and on changes you believe will impact your corner of the real estate industry. Then, tackle the top mistake or two that, when reversed into opportunity, will generate the greatest benefit to you and those you’ll serve in 2017:

Mistake #1. Free-Wheeling: No Plan or Strategy…How Hard Can Social Media Be?

Opportunity: Did you leap into social media and just let things happen? If so, now may be the ideal time to take stock of what social media has accomplished for you and what more you can gain. The number of followers is not as important as the strength of ties to your selected target market and connections with individual target followers. Do you really know how effective your content and selected platforms are without regularly use analytics like Google Analytics? Believing you know what is going on is not the same as testing and evaluating what’s actually happening. Align sales goals, brand strategies, target market development, and other business essentials with social media potential to set fresh on-point strategies for 2017.

Mistake #2. Putting All Your Social Media “Eggs” in One Platform

Opportunity: With more than 76% of internet-active US adults engaged on one or more social media platforms, according to Pew Research, there’s little doubt that social media is a must for communicating with prospects and clients. With this realization comes the reality that choosing which platforms to master is as complex as profiling your ideal target client and maintaining that ever-changing profile. Since target characteristics and interests change over time, so will target preferences in social media or for the latest “new thing.” That means stick to one platform or two and you may be left behind as target clients move on. For instance, Pinterest has risen high on the list for many buyers and sellers, but it is still a no-go for others. Research revealed 96% of visitors use Pinterest to research a purchase and 87% say the site helped with the buying decision. Keeping up with targets’ “what’s hot and what’s not” is vital.


If you’re planning to put your home up for sale during the holidays, you have a lot of things to consider – most importantly, how to price it right to attract buyers during this busy time of year. But home staging is always a concern when selling a home, and during the holidays, it becomes even more important.

“Although the holiday season can be a hectic time for showing and selling your home, there is a major advantage to  staging and showing your home at this time of year: You have a chance to show your home at its very best, adorned with warmth and cheer that’s sure to charm,” said

Indeed, the good news is that tasteful holiday décor can enhance a home and make it feel inviting. They bad news: Your collection of one-hundred-plus holiday snow globes may have to take a hiatus this year. “You want them to be impressed with your house, not distracted by decorations,” said Houzz. “So keep it simple this year. If minimizing the ‘ho ho ho’ cramps your style, just remind yourself that you can go all-out next year in your new home.”

Follow these tips to hit all the right notes when staging a home for sale during the holidays.

1. Remember the curb appeal

You might like the idea of being the neighborhood spectacle, with every inch of the lawn covered in dazzling displays, but that might have to wait until after you move.

“Step away from the inflatable snowman, Clark Griswold,” said HGTV. “One man’s ‘merry’ is another man’s ‘tacky,’ so tone down any garish light displays while your home is on the market. (No, your neighbors didn’t pay us to say that.) Instead, use simple string lighting to play up your home’s architecture or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard.

2. Don’t overdo the indoors either

You don’t ever want so much holiday decor out that people can’t see the bones of your house. If you’ve covered up your countertops and every other surface, you’ve probably gone slightly too far.

3. Declutter before you design

Decluttering is the No. 1 tip for staging your home for sale at any time of the year. When you know you’re about to layer on a whole bunch of accessories and bring in an actual tree to the home (real or otherwise), paring down is even more critical. “If your living room is already piled high with clutter, your ceramic reindeer collection is only going to add to the sense of overcrowding,” said HGTV.


We have noted that The 2016 National Association of  Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers contains valuable information for sellers and their agents as to how buyers find the homes that they ultimately buy. The profile also contains valuable and interesting information as to how both buyers and sellers find the agents that they ultimately use.

88% of buyers used an agent in purchasing their home. That number has increased steadily since 2001 when the figure was 69%. 6% of buyers purchased directly from a builder, and 5% bought directly from an owner. Of the 88%, how did they find their agent?

Not a lot of “agent shopping” takes place among buyers. 69% interviewed only one agent, 19% interviewed two. So how do you get to be on the interview list? Referrals are far and away the dominant factor. 42% of buyers chose to work with an agent who was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative (or an agent who was a friend, neighbor, or relative). 11% of buyers chose to work with someone with whom they had previously bought or sold a home. The rest of the sources are widely varied — for example, 6% of buyers made contact with their agent as a result of the agent’s name being on a “for sale” or “open house” sign.

This might seem like discouraging news for new agents. “What chance do I have of connecting with a buyer if I haven’t already built a referral base and a list of past clients?” Here, a new agent wants to remember that “friends, neighbors, or relatives” category. 42% of buyers find their agent through referrals from them. You may know a lot of people who aren’t about to sell; but some of them know people who are about to sell. Make a list and make sure your contacts know you are in the business. Not just the first month, but throughout your career.

Moreover, there are, just as there always have been, other ways of coming into contact with buyers who may choose to work with you. Some ways work better than others.

6% of buyers found the agent they used as a result of an open house. Another 9% found their agent through a web site. Interestingly, only 2% found the agent that they worked with as a result of walking into or calling an office and meeting the agent who was on duty at the time. In general, “floor time” is not very productive.

Agents who do want to get connected with buyers can prepare themselves so that a contact is more likely to lead to a relationship. 50% of buyers said that what they wanted most was “help finding the right home to purchase.” In the 2016 survey, 90% said that knowledge of the real estate market was a very important quality for an agent to have. That is, buyers want agents who have “product knowledge” — agents who know the market and the inventory. An agent who can impress a buyer with his/her knowledge of the market (not just his/her company’s listings, or the particular house he/she is holding open) is the one who stands a good chance of establishing a relationship with that buyer who walks into the open house or makes a call to the office.

Sellers are just as likely as buyers to work with an agent. 92% of sellers had their home listed on MLS. But sellers, too, don’t do much “agent shopping.” Similar to buyers, 72% interviewed only one agent; just 16% interviewed two. Again, referrals and past business relationships were the dominant sources of agent contact. 39% used an agent referred by a friend, relative, or neighbor (or an agent who fit one of those categories). 25% of sellers employed an agent with whom they had previously bought or sold a home.

Other seller contact sources drop into single digits. Interestingly, compared to buyers at 9%, only 4% of sellers found their agent through a web site. Again, there are venues that agents who lack a referral or past client list might want to think about. Open houses account for 4% of the contacts that eventuate into a working relationship with sellers. Newsletters and personal contact together account for 6%. There’s still some point to knocking on doors, sending out mailers, and dialing the phone.