What’s Happening In Real Estate Right Now And Where Is It Going?

1. Analysis of Today’s Market

2. Update On Gold

3. Real Estate Prices In South Florida

4. Real Estate Nationwide

5. Yield Curve Is Still Inverted

6. What this means to you

1. Analysis of today’s market

As an analyst of the economy and the real estate market, one must be patient to see what unfolds and to see if one’s predictions are right or wrong. One never knows if they will be right or wrong, but they must have a sense of humility about it so that they are not blind to the reality of the marketplace.

In March of 2006, my eBook How To Prosper In the Changing Real Estate Marketplace. Protect Yourself From The Bubble Now! stated that in short order the real estate market would slow down dramatically and become a real drag on the economy. We are experiencing this slowdown currently and the economy I feel is not far from slowing down as well. History has repeatedly shown that a slow down in the real estate market and construction market has almost always led to an economic recession throughout America’s history.

Let’s look at what is happening in the following areas to see what we can gleam from them: Gold, Real Estate in South Florida, Real Estate Nationwide, Yield Curve/Economy and see what this means to you:


2. Gold

If you have read this newsletter and/or the eBook, you know I am a big fan of investing in gold. Why? Because I believe that the US dollar is in serious financial peril. But gold has also risen against all of the world’s currencies, not just the US dollar.

Why has gold risen? Gold is a neutral form of currency, it can’t be printed by a government and thus it is a long term hedge against currency devaluation. James Burton, Chief Executive of the Gold Council, recently said: “Gold remains a very important reserve asset for central banks since it is the only reserve asset that is no one’s liability. It is thus a defense against unknown contingencies. It is a long-term inflation hedge and also a proven dollar hedge while it has good diversification properties for a central bank’s reserve asset portfolio.”

I agree with Mr. Burton 100%. I believe we will even see a bubble in gold again and that is why I have invested in gold to profit from this potential bubble (Think real estate prices around the year 2002 – wouldn’t you like to have bought more real estate back then?)

I had previously recommended that you buy gold when it was between $580 and $600 an ounce. Currently, gold is trading at around $670 an ounce up more than 10% from the levels I recommended. However, gold has some serious technical resistance at the $670 level and if it fails to break out through that level it might go down in the short-term. If it does go down again to the $620 – $640 level, I like it at these levels as a buy. I believe that gold will go to $800 an ounce before the end of 2007.


3. Real Estate in South Florida

Real estate in South Florida has been hit hard by this slowdown as it was one of the largest advancers during the housing boom. The combination of rising homes for sale on the market, the amazing amount of construction occurring in the area and higher interest rates have been three of the major factors of the slowdown.

For every home that sold in the South Florida area in 2006, an average of 14 did not sell according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data. The number of homes available for sale on the market doubled to around 66,000, as sales slowed to their lowest level in 10 years.

Even though home prices were up for the year of 2006, the average asking price for homes in December was down about 13 percent compared to a year ago. From 2001 to 2005, the price of a single-family home in Miami-Dade increased 120 percent to $351,200. This is also similar to what happened in Broward County. The problem is that wages during that time only increased by 17.6% in Miami-Dade, and 15.9% in Broward, according to federal data. This is the other major factor that is contributing to the slowdown – real estate prices far outpaced incomes of potential buyers of these homes.

Another factor that helped drive the South Florida boom in prices was high growth in population in Florida. From 2002 to 2005, more than a million new residents moved to Florida and Florida also added more jobs than any other state. However, the three largest moving companies reported that 2006 was the first time in years that they had moved more people out of the state of Florida than into it. Also, school enrollment is declining which could be another sign that middle-class families are leaving.

By far though, the area of South Florida real estate that will be hit hardest is and will continue to be the condominium market. Due to their lower prices than homes, condos make financial sense in the South Florida area. However, the supply of available condos has tripled over the past year and it will get worse before it gets better. More than 11,500 new condos are expected this year and 15,000 next year with the majority of them being built in Miami.

As a result of the oversupply, asking prices for condos are down 12% in 2006 in Miami to $532,000. And incentives are substituting for price cuts. These incentives include paying all closing costs to free upgrades and more.

The last point to think about affecting South Florida real estate is the escalating costs of property insurance and property taxes. These increasing costs are putting more downward pressure on real estate prices.

My strong belief is that we are only starting to see the slowdown of the South Florida real estate market and that prices will continue to fall. Due to the fact that many real estate investors are pulling out, where are the next wave of buyers going to come from at these current prices? Unless a serious influx of new, high paying jobs enter the South Florida area, real estate prices, just like any asset that falls out of favor after a large runup only have one way to go… down.


4. Real Estate Nationwide

A report released last week from the National Association of Realtors showed that in the last three months of 2006 home sales fell in 40 states and median home prices dropped in nearly half of the metropolitan areas surveyed. The median price of a previously owned, single family home fell in 73 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed in the 4th quarter.

The National Association of Realtors report also said that the states with the biggest declines in the number of sales in October through December compared with the same period in 2005 were:

* Nevada: -36.1% in sales

* Florida: -30.8% in sales

* Arizona: -26.9% in sales

* California: -21.3% in sales

Nationally, sales declined by 10.1% in the 4th quarter compared with the same period a year ago. And the national median price fell to $219,300, down 2.7% from the 4th quarter of 2005.

Slower sales and cancellations of existing orders have caused the number of unsold homes to really increase. The supply of homes at 2006 sales rate averaged 6.4 months worth which was up from 4.4 months worth in 2005 and only 4 months worth in 2004.

Toll Brothers, Inc., the largest US luxury home builder, reported a 33% drop in orders during the quarter ending January 31.

Perhaps most importantly, falling home values will further decrease their use of mortgage equity withdrawal loans. In 2006, mortgage equity withdrawal accounted for 2% of GDP growth. Construction added 1% to last years GDP growth, so the importance of these factors are to the health of the US economy are enormous.

The other concern is sub-prime mortgages. Today, sub-prime mortgages amount to 25% of all mortgages, around $665 billion. Add to this the fact that approximately $1 trillion in adjustable-rate mortgages are eligible to be reset in the next two years and we will continue to see rising foreclosures. For example, foreclosures are up five times in Denver. These foreclosed homes come back onto the market and depress real estate values.

The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that as many as 20% of the subprime mortgages made in the last 2 years could go into foreclosure. This amounts to about 5% of the total homes sold coming back on the market at “fire-sales”. Even if only 1/2 of that actually comes back on the market, it would cause overall valuations to go down and the ability to get home mortgage equity loans to decrease further.

Prepare yourself now because you can still get great advice from the eBook. Buy it with this secure link: https://shop.outstandingebooks.com/displayProductDocument.hg?productId=1


5. Yield Curve is still inverted!

The yield curve is still inverted. In a normal market, you get more interest (yield) for longer term investments. But very rarely the short-term rates become higher than long term rates such as now.

History has shown that an inverted yield curve is the best indicator of a future recession. The yield curve has been inverted since last fall, and if history is any judge we should be in a recession by the 3rd quarter of 2007. Throughout history, we have never had an inverted yield curve without a recession within the next 4 quarters.

The inverted yield curve does not cause the recession, it is simply a signal that something is out of whack in the economy.


6. What this means to you

One of two things could happen going forward in the real estate market: real estate prices will go up or they will go down. History has shown us that any asset that runs up, must come down, whether we are talking about the Dutch Tulip Market, the stock market bubble, the gold bubble of the early 1980s, or Japan’s run-up in housing in the 1980′s and subsequent 15 year decrease in values.

The big picture of the real estate market is that it goes up and down in cycles. It has been in an up cycle for 10 years and it is most likely time for it to face it’s down cycle.

This is the natural cycle of assets:

* Markets go up

* Greed and insanity take over

* An excess forms (i.e. overbuilding)

* A downturn corrects the excesses in the market

This natural cycle is the same principle in “the big picture” as crash dieting is in “the little picture”. We starve ourselves to lose 15 pounds, which shuts down our body for the short term, only for it to crank up higher when we go back to “normal” eating patterns.

And speaking of diets, I heard from an old high school buddy who has lost weight on a “cookie” diet where he eats one high protein dinner a day and only 6 low fat cookies throughout the day whenever he is hungry. While he has lost weight on this 800 calorie a day diet, I can’t see how it is healthy to starve yourself like that. He told me that whenever he breaks his diet and eats any sodium, he immediately gains one and a half pounds. Talk about your body out of whack! I still recommend exercise (www.mattfurey.com) combined with a low white-carb diet (no white bread, white pastas, and limited sugars). It works for me.

Set your portfolio up correctly now by reading the eBook at http://www.myrealestatebubble.com.

***Disclaimer: This information and the corresponding websites do not constitute professional services, including, but not limited to investment advice. Please consult a finance and/or investment professional for services and advice.

Want to be a Full Time Real Estate Investor-Don’t Give Up Your Day Job til You Follow These Steps

It simply isn’t good enough to just want to be a full time real estate investor. The most important element is knowing actually how to be a full time real estate investor. If you don’t know how to do it you will not succeed and quickly find yourself back at square one. With just more than 38,000 full time real estate investors in Australia it goes to show that it isn’t a common profession so the odds are against you if you don’t have what it takes to succeed. real estate however is the basis of every business and has the potential to provide you with the very wealth you need to make it as a full time real estate investor.

As a full time real estate investor you need to have talent and be dedicated to the real estate investment market. To make it in the real estate investor’s world you firstly need to be a good student so that you know what is happening in the real estate world. This will allow to properly analyze market indicators. You need to be knowledgeable about all of the information regarding real estate investment including updated information on building trends, union activities; Reserve Bank of Australia decisions and the list goes on. You need to be a good reader and dedicate yourself to reading as much about the subject as you can.

If you are considering taking the leap as a full time real estate investor it is wise to sit down and write a list of the negative and positive forces which can affect the real estate market. There are more than you think so take your time. After this you can enter the research phase of your new career. You need to be able to understand what will happen if housing purchases are down one month and the effect that this will have on interest rates and even as far fetched as the effect upon building supply prices. The real estate investment arena is a complex and interwoven labyrinth and you need to be able to speculate what is going to occur from one day to the next.

Don’t think you can give up your day job just yet though you need to develop the technical skills to interpret all of this information so that you can make cash flow positive decisions. You don’t want to start your career as a full time real estate investor when all of your assets are creating a negative cash flow scenario. You need to be able to stay on top of your finances and identify cash flow trends so that you can plan your future activities.

If you don’t stay on top of your finances and make wise decisions from the trends that are appearing you are nearing financial ruin. Finances is the most important aspect of a full time real estate investor because you do not have the security of a full time wage and all of your income is dependent upon market conditions and choices you have made in the past. When you come to the heart of the matter – becoming a full time real estate investor requires four key characteristics:

1. Business Skills

2. Management Skills

3. Financial Skills

4. Ethical Skills

These four skills are the basis for your success as a full time real estate investor. And are discussed briefly so that you can identify whether or not you can gain the skills required or whether you should simply choose another career path. If you cannot adapt to these critical skills then you will not be successful in the real estate investment arena and it is better to find out now rather than later. Otherwise you will have risked everything and gained nothing.

Business Skills

o An understanding of real estate and investing

o A historical appreciation of real estate investment trends and real estate cycles and the ability to interpret future trends

o Ability to identify long term prospects of the housing market

o Ability to fiercely negotiate

Management Skills

o Ability to deal with people and conflict

o Ability to communicate effectively with professionals, trades people and tenants

o Ability to display charisma and get people to think the way you do

o Ability to manage effective records

Financial Skills

o Ability to calculate the real return on investment

o Ability to increase profits and equity

o Ability to Balance your financial books and keep track of expenditure

o Ability to calculate the true value of your investments

o Ability to forecast cash flow and debt

Ethical Skills

o Ability to maintain true and correct records

o Ability to meet the needs of your tenants

o Ability to openly and honestly communicate with all those who you deal with as a full time real estate investor

o Ability to be honest with yourself and make honest decisions

As you can see there is more to becoming a full time real estate investor than merely just wanting to become one. To take this on as a full time career you need to devote your life to the real estate market and also maintain basic business principles which will help you to succeed even when times get a little bit rocky. Once you gain the understanding that you need you will realize it is not a tricky business to be in, just one that requires time and devotion. People always dream of becoming a full time real estate investor but few ever do. If you meet these skill levels and have a strong desire to succeed then perhaps it is time for you to take the plunge.

real estate investing is the way to true wealth. If you remain cautious and rationale there is no reason why you can’t succeed. Don’t just jump in at the deep end though take your time. Start with some investment properties while you are still in full time employment. As you see the cash flow increasing to at least the same level as your wage then start reducing your previous working activities. It is always wise to try before you buy and make sure that this is truly the life that you want to live. Remember there will be some scary times ahead wondering if you will be able to continue but if you have taken all the precautions and show the necessary skills you should be fine.

Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties are still sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to change the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. In addition, the Internet and other technologies have automated much of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers can use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the number of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for many investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all the online real estate information?

Online real estate information is a great research tool for buyers and sellers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently research the market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next step is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

In the sections that follow, we provide strategies and tips on how to use the Internet to locate properties for sale and research information relevant to your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Web site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources in most cases or to be so popular that they need mention. One way to test a Web site’s accuracy is to search for information about a property you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the widely available access to real estate listings, many believe that MLS databases continue to offer the most complete and accurate source of real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily operated by real estate agents). An excellent starting point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site, realtor.com, which is also the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs have an agreement with realtor.com to display much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems also have a publicly accessible Web site. However, to get complete information you will most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local real estate agents will also provide their customers (via email) new listings that are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

There are also many Web sites that display both real estate agent listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. Some of the more popular Web sites include zillow.com and trulia.com. These sites offer other services too. For example, zillow.com is best known for its instantaneous property valuation function and trulia.com for providing historical information. Another source of properties for sale is the state, regional, and local Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, remax.com or prudential.com. Search engines like yahoo.com and classified advertising sites like craigslist.com also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at trulia.com you can shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through to the agent’s Web site for more information. Many new real estate search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to fill out a form. The best strategy is to browse a few of the sites listed above to find geographic areas or price ranges that are interesting. Once you get serious about a property, then that is the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choice to conduct a complete search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to search the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that interest you. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block when you are making a serious investment decision. In this sense, real estate is still a very local business and standing in front of the property can lead to a much different decision than viewing a Web page printout.

Valuing Real Estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is zillow.com’s instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in and you get a property value. It even charts the price ups and downs, and shows the last date sold (including price) and the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools such as housevalues.com and homegain.com. Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, these are only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the local county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly over a short period of time and do not appear to always track actual market changes, which are normally more gradual. In addition, these estimates do not automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and can provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are other strategies that are more trustworthy. One is to go directly to your county’s Web site. More often than not the county assessor’s area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for all properties in the county. If you want to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the local assessor’s sites are really helpful. When you visit a county’s Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you cannot only see the price a previous owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

Given the importance of valuation to investing, we are also going to remind you of the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: real estate agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is an accurate and efficient way to get value information for a property. While one of the primary purposes of the MLS is to market the active property listings of its members, the system also collects sales information for those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and produce comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of a particular property’s value for the market in a particular area.

Finally, the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser produce an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both the sold information in the MLS system as well as county information and then analyze the information to produce a valuation for the property based on one or more approved methods of valuation. These methods of valuation can include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences between the properties, determine the cost to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on a particular neighborhood. For example, census data can be found at census.gov. You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like outside.in or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where people discuss topics by posting and responding to messages. Start by looking at placeblogger.com and kcnn.org/citymediasites.com for a directory of blogs. Trulia.com has a “Heat Map” that shows how hot or cold each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity among the sites users.

Schools

When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the area school district makes a huge difference. There are many Web sites devoted to school information. Check out greatschools.net or schoolmatters.com. Most local school districts also have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of information about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in real estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. You can search to find an agent with a particular expertise, geographic area of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site AgentWorld.com lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the right expertise using keyword searches and clean and simple agent profiles. AgentWorld.com also enables agents to post personalized blogs, photos and videos to help consumers find the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent’s web site where you will likely find the local MLS listings.

Maps and Other Tools

The Internet has made mapping and locating properties much easier. To get an aerial view or satellite image of a property or neighborhood, go to maps.live.com or maps.google.com or visit walkscore.com to see how walk-able a particular property is. These sites can give you an idea of the neighborhood characteristics and the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. Maps.Live.com provides a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for certain neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of these satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The Internet is a very effective research and marketing tool for real estate investors but is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and money by enabling quick and easy property research and marketing options. Sites like AgentWorld.com also help you efficiently find a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate: More knowledge is better. You need to use the Internet to build your knowledge base on a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you need. However, the big caution here is that the Internet should not replace human judgment and perspective, expert advice or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.

Real Estate Search Engines – A Home Buyer’s Guide

In recent years, real estate search engines have exploded in both popularity and quantity. It seems that every time you turn around, there’s a new real estate search engine being launched or announced.

The use of real estate search engines has also skyrocketed. People go online by the thousands every day, conducting real estate searches through websites like Yahoo, Trulia and the others listed below. This usage will only increase as new search engines emerge, and as existing engines become more advanced.

This article reviews some of the most popular real estate search engines available today. But before we get to those reviews, let’s cover some quick terminology.

What’s a Real Estate Search Engine?

Here’s my informal definition of a real estate search engine: “Any website that allows consumers to search for real estate listings.” I think that’s a basic definition we can all agree upon. Of course, there are many different types of real estate search engine, but in their basic form they all match the definition above.

Popular Real Estate Search Engines

Here’s a list and summary of some of the most popular real estate search engines online today (with popularity measured by prominence in the marketplace, website traffic, and general buzz).

REALTOR.com

This is probably the most popular real estate search engine, just because it has been around the longest. When you land on the home page of REALTOR.com, you’re offered a variety of real estate-related information. But the primary element on their home page is, of course, their real estate search engine.

To begin, you simply enter a city and state, provide some qualifying information like price range and number of rooms, and then click “Go.” Once you get to the actual home listings, you can sort them by price, number of rooms, etc.

One thing I’ve always liked about REALTOR.com is the way the results are presented. You can view 10 homes per page, with thumbnail photo and basic information. This lets you “eyeball” shop and weed out any homes that don’t interest you right off the bat. That way, you only have to click the “learn more” link for homes that you’ve screened first. A lot of the newer real estate search engines are map-based, meaning you have to click on an icon to see the house and details. I prefer to see a lot of listings at a glance and then “drill down” as desired … but that’s just me.

HomePages

This website offers another map-driven approach to real estate search. As with most real estate search engines, you start the process by entering a city and state. After sitting through a map-zooming process that makes you feel like you’re skydiving, you’ll be asked for the usual follow-up parameters (price range, number of rooms, etc.). Properties for sale are presented as icons that you can click on to learn more about.

Personally, I didn’t like the interface because it doesn’t show as much data at a glace as other real estate search engines — you have to sort of scroll around the map to find what you want, and that annoyed me. From my perspective, it seems to be another one of those websites that’s so “slick” it’s just plain hard to use. But that’s just me!

Trulia

Trulia bills itself as delightfully smart real estate search. Their “About” page offers a more detailed description: “We are a real estate search engine that helps you find homes for sale and provides real estate information at the local level to help you make better decisions in the process.”

From the home page, you simply enter a zip code to see real estate listings for that area. You can also refine your search by price range, number of rooms or bathrooms, etc.

Like many real estate search engines, Trulia is powered by Google Maps. Trulia has customized the Google application to show pushpin icons for each property listing, which adds a nice visual element to the search.

You can use Trulia’s real estate search engine with or without an account, but if you sign up for a free account you’ll be able to save your searches for future convenience. If you like Trulia and plan to use it often, I recommend creating an account. It will save you a lot of time on future visits because you won’t have to enter your search parameters all over again (unless you want to).

Yahoo Real Estate

Yahoo’s real estate search offers a lot of information in addition to property listings. You can also find information on schools and neighborhoods through their site. But this is an article on real estate search, so let’s stick with that.

From the home page of Yahoo Real Estate, you can search for homes, apartments, or even home values. For homes, you simply enter the city and state and hit enter. You are then shown a map with icons representing homes for sale.

Hover your mouse over an icon and it will show the listing price. Click on the listing price, and it will pop up a bubble with street address, a thumbnail photo, and a “learn more” link. To get around the map, you simply click-and-drag with your mouse (as with MapQuest or similar mapping sites).

NeighborhoodScout

NeighborhoodScout is a different sort of real estate search engine. As the name implies, this website focuses more on neighborhoods than actual home listings. Here’s how they describe themselves:

“NeighborhoodScout is a web-based patent-pending neighborhood search engine that uses neighborhood statistics to build neighborhood profiles that allow individuals and families to instantly find the best neighborhoods for them, in any part of the United States they choose.”

So if you’re relocating to a new area, this website might help you refine your search by narrowing it to a few select neighborhoods.

A Word of Caution

When using any real estate search engine, you need to understand they do not operate in “real time.” The accuracy of a real estate search engine is determined by the age or “freshness” of their data, which varies from one search engine to the next.

Also, while a real estate search engine can be a helpful research tool, they do not take the place of a qualified real estate agent. If you are new to the real estate world, I strongly recommend that you have professional help when buying or selling a home.

* You may republish this article online if you retain the author’s byline and the active hyperlinks below.

Top 7 Mistakes Rookie Real Estate Agents Make

Every time I talk to someone about my business and career, it always comes up that “they’ve thought about getting into real estate” or know someone who has. With so many people thinking about getting into real estate, and getting into real estate – why aren’t there more successful Realtors in the world? Well, there’s only so much business to go around, so there can only be so many Real Estate Agents in the world. I feel, however, that the inherent nature of the business, and how different it is from traditional careers, makes it difficult for the average person to successfully make the transition into the Real Estate Business. As a Broker, I see many new agents make their way into my office – for an interview, and sometimes to begin their careers. New Real Estate Agents bring a lot of great qualities to the table – lots of energy and ambition – but they also make a lot of common mistakes. Here are the 7 top mistakes rookie Real Estate Agents Make.

1) No Business Plan or Business Strategy

So many new agents put all their emphasis on which Real Estate Brokerage they will join when their shiny new license comes in the mail. Why? Because most new Real Estate Agents have never been in business for themselves – they’ve only worked as employees. They, mistakenly, believe that getting into the Real Estate business is “getting a new job.” What they’re missing is that they’re about to go into business for themselves. If you’ve ever opened the doors to ANY business, you know that one of the key ingredients is your business plan. Your business plan helps you define where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what it’s going to take for you to make your real estate business a success. Here are the essentials of any good business plan:

A) Goals – What do you want? Make them clear, concise, measurable, and achievable.

B) Services You Provide – you don’t want to be the “jack of all trades & master of none” – choose residential or commercial, buyers/sellers/renters, and what area(s) you want to specialize in. New residential real estate agents tend to have the most success with buyers/renters and then move on to listing homes after they’ve completed a few transactions.

C) Market – who are you marketing yourself to?

D) Budget – consider yourself “new real estate agent, inc.” and write down EVERY expense that you have – gas, groceries, cell phone, etc… Then write down the new expenses you’re taking on – board dues, increased gas, increased cell usage, marketing (very important), etc…

E) Funding – how are you going to pay for your budget w/ no income for the first (at least) 60 days? With the goals you’ve set for yourself, when will you break even?

F) Marketing Plan – how are you going to get the word out about your services? The MOST effective way to market yourself is to your own sphere of influence (people you know). Make sure you do so effectively and systematically.

2) Not Using the Best Possible Closing Team

They say the greatest businesspeople surround themselves with people that are smarter than themselves. It takes a pretty big team to close a transaction – Buyer’s Agent, Listing Agent, Lender, Insurance Agent, Title Officer, Inspector, Appraiser, and sometimes more! As a Real Estate Agent, you are in the position to refer your client to whoever you choose, and you should make sure that anyone you refer in will be an asset to the transaction, not someone who will bring you more headache. And the closing team you refer in, or “put your name to,” are there to make you shine! When they perform well, you get to take part of the credit because you referred them into the transaction.

The deadliest duo out there is the New Real Estate Agent & New Mortgage Broker. They get together and decide that, through their combined marketing efforts, they can take over the world! They’re both focusing on the right part of their business – marketing – but they’re doing each other no favors by choosing to give each other business. If you refer in a bad insurance agent, it might cause a minor hiccup in the transaction – you make a simple phone call and a new agent can bind the property in less than an hour. However, because it typically takes at least two weeks to close a loan, if you use an inexperienced lender, the result can be disastrous! You may find yourself in a position of “begging for a contract extension,” or worse, being denied a contract extension.

A good closing team will typically know more than their role in the transaction. Due to this, you can turn to them with questions, and they will step in (quietly) when they see a potential mistake – because they want to help you, and in return receive more of your business. Using good, experienced players for your closing team will help you infinitely in conducting business worthy of MORE business…and best of all, it’s free!

3) Not Arming Themselves with the Necessary Tools

Getting started as a Real Estate Agent is expensive. In Texas, the license alone is an investment that will cost between $700 and $900 (not taking into account the amount of time you’ll invest.) However, you’ll run into even more expenses when you go to arm yourself with the necessary tools of the trade. And don’t fool yourself – they are necessary – because your competitors are definitely using every tool to help THEM.

A) MLS Access is probably the most expensive necessity you’re going to run into. Joining your local (and state & national, by default) Board of Realtors will allow you to pay for MLS access, and in Austin, Texas, will run around $1000. However, don’t skimp in this area. Getting MLS access is one of the most important things you can do. It’s what differentiates us from your average salesman – we don’t sell homes, we present any of the homes that we have available. With MLS Access, you will have 99% of the homes for sale in your area available to present to your clients.

B) Mobile Phone w/ a Beefy Plan – These days, everyone has a cell phone. But not everyone has a plan that will facilitate the level of use that Real Estate Agents need. Plan on getting at least 2000 minutes per month. You want, and need, to be available to your clients 24/7 – not just nights and weekends.

C) Computer (Preferably a Laptop) – There’s no way around it, you have to have a computer & be savvy enough to use email. You would be wise to invest in some business management software, as well. If you’d like to save some money (and who wouldn’t) then you can get the client & email management software Thunderbird from http://www.mozilla.com and you can get a free office suite from http://www.openoffice.org The only downside to these programs is that they do not sync with your PDA or Smart Phone. A Laptop is a BIG plus because you’ll be able to work from home or on the go. New Real Estate Agents are often surprised by just how much time they spend AWAY from the office, and a laptop helps you stay on top of your work while on the go.

D) Real Estate Friendly Car – You don’t have to have a Lexus, but your Miata won’t do the trick. Make sure that you have a 4 door car or SUV that is comfortable and presentable. Keep it clean, and for God’s sake, don’t smoke in it! You’re going to spend a LOT of time in your car, and put a lot of miles on it, so if it’s fuel efficient, it’s a BIG plus. If you’re driving a sporty convertible, or still have your KILLER Jeep from college, it’s time to trade it in.

4) Lack of Proper Funding

If you’ve taken the time to create your business plan, than you should definitely have your budget, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having and following your budget. However, the budget alone doesn’t address the important aspect of funding. 90% of all small businesses fail due to lack of funding. Typically, new agents will want to have 3 months of reserves in savings before taking the leap into full time agency. However, money in the bank isn’t the only way to answer the question of funding. Maybe your partner can support you for a certain period of time. You can keep a part-time job that won’t interfere with your business as a Real Estate Agent. Many successful waiters make the transition to successful real estate agents with no money in the bank. When you start your new business, don’t expect to earn any income for, at the least, 60 days.

5) Refusing to Spend Money on Marketing

Most new Real Estate Agents don’t realize that the hardest part of the business is finding the business. Furthermore, they’ve just shelled out around $2000 for their license and board dues, so the LAST thing they want to do is to spend more money! Again, the problem lies in the lack of understanding that you’ve just jumped into the Real Estate Business, you haven’t taken a new job. And any good businessperson will tell you that how much business you GET is directly correlative to how much you SPEND on marketing. If you choose the right brokerage, then you will get some good inbound leads. However, don’t neglect a good, personal marketing campaign from the beginning to get your own name out as the Real Estate Agent to go to.

6) Not Focusing Their Marketing Efforts in the Most Effective Areas

One reason why many new Real Estate Agents who do begin spending money on personal marketing stop is because they spend it in the wrong place. The easiest place, and where conventional Real Estate tells you to spend your money, is in conventional print marketing – the newspaper, real estate magazines, etc… This is the most visible place to see real estate advertising, it’s where large offices spend a good part of their money, and so many new agents mistakenly spend their money here. This becomes very frustrating to new agents because of its low return. Large brokerages can afford to spend their money here because they’re filling two needs – they’re marketing their own properties for sale while creating new buyer traffic for their buyer’s agents. New Real Estate Agents should look to their own sphere of influence and referral marketing to see the most effective return on their investment. An agent can spend as little as $100/month marketing to their family, friends, and colleagues and see an incredible return. There are many great referral systems around that all focus on the same premise – that if you consistently market yourself to your sphere of influence as the Real Estate Agent to go to – then you will get more business. The key is to pick a system and to follow that system. You will see results.

7) Choosing the Wrong Brokerage for the Wrong Reasons

New Real Estate Agents choose their new broker for a variety of reasons – they have a good reputation, they offer the most competitive split, the office is close to their house, etc… While these alone aren’t bad reasons to choose a broker, they aren’t going to do a lot to help you in your success. The #1 reason to choose a broker, and the question to ask is, “What do you offer your new agents.” If the answer is, “The most competitive split in town” you should definitely keep looking. Remember, 100% of $0 is still $0. If you’re leaning towards the largest broker in town, who has a great reputation, remember this: You’re starting a BUSINESS not a JOB. While it might be fantastic to brag to your friends about landing a job at a prestigious company, it’s no accomplishment to hang your license on the same wall in the same office as other successful agents.

Your #1 concern when interviewing new Brokers is what they offer you as a new agent. Do they have incoming leads? What does their training program consist of? What’s their retention level? What’s their average sales price? Do they encourage their agents to promote themselves? A Broker’s purpose is to help new agents start successful careers and to help established Agents progress their careers to the next level. As a new agent, concern yourself less with commission split or agency name and more with specific programs and agency standards.

A new career in Real Estate is very exciting. Starting a Real Estate business provides the new Agent with opportunities for limitless potential and freedom. New Agents have a notoriously high failure rate, however, so a new Real Estate career can also be a very scary prospect. However, if you avoid the 7 Top Mistakes Rookie Real Estate Agents Make, then you’ll be far ahead of the competition!