By Zoe Eisenberg
As we head toward a warmer season, the real estate market is heating up. Agents and brokers across the country are steeling themselves for the busy season to come, and they’re looking for outside assistance to ensure maximum success. But where exactly is the industry heading, and how can you be sure you’re business is in a prime position?
“We’re of the party that the glass is half full, and filling,” says Ted C. Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title, a leading provider of real estate services and solutions that facilitate successful real estate transactions. “As the weather warms, so will housing sales and job growth,” Jones predicts. “There are a lot of very positive indicators out there—retail sales are at all-time record highs, car sales are up and consumer debt is as low as it’s been in 40 years. They’ve recharged their batteries, they’re getting ready to buy, and I think it’s going to happen this spring.”
While existing-home sales were down in January, Jones notes that new-home sales were 9.6 percent greater in January than in December, showing a 2.2 percent increase year-over-year. That, according to Jones, is an indicator the pipeline is filling up. New-home sales are counted as sold when the contract is signed versus existing-home sales when the property actually closes.
Another positive indicator? The 2014 residential lending forecast. Jones explains that Fannie Mae is forecasting an increase of 14.4 percent more in purchase lending than they forecasted for the same period a year ago.
“You can’t control the economic landscape, but you can control the performance,” comments Jones, who believes we’re heading into a definitive seller’s season. How can industry professionals prepare themselves?
Stay on Top of Listings
“Sellers will have the advantage this spring,” says Jones. “Look at the number of existing homes for sale. It’s a very tight market, buyers have little to pick from, and they’re going to have to act decisively to get homes before they’re sold to other people.”
This means agents and brokers have to be up on the absolute latest listings, because, Jones notes, they age at an incredibly rapid pace.
According to Jones, the role of the REALTOR® has changed. Instead of just being a show service, REALTORS® now help with everything from negotiation to industry insight to paperwork and escrow assistance. There is truly more value-added today than ever before.
“If you empower your customer with information, they make better decisions,” says Jones. “While today’s consumer is more informed than ever before, they still value your professional real estate services.”
Keeping on top of tech trends is a no-brainer when it comes to implementing a fierce marketing strategy.
“You need a consumer-facing website, and a real good analytical tool,” says Jones, who says it’s crucial to provide consumers with information about neighborhoods, school systems and nearby cultural attractions.
However, a winning website isn’t enough. Stewart offers several technology services that provide convenience to the consumer and real estate professional. For example, staying on top of real estate transactions is easy with the company’s Weekly Summary Report, an automatic report sent straight to the customer, detailing the status of their transaction. The report also includes a list of completed tasks and documents received within the last seven days.
Know the changing market dynamics and how fluctuating rules and regulations will affect you, your clients, and your business. “We’ve taken a leadership role for our real estate customers,” says Jones. “Our clients have that education outlook, so they understand how regulations will affect them. We’re proactive and we make sure our customers don’t suffer because of changes. A few years ago, I used to say: Adapt, mutate, migrate or die. The old normal is gone. We don’t know what the new normal is yet, but it will be different, so you better learn how to live in that economic space.”
With more than 120 years of experience, Stewart Title has long been working to provide clients with a myriad of support systems, including global title insurance, escrow and settlement services, lender services, underwriting, specialty insurance and other solutions that facilitate successful real estate transactions.
For more information, please visit www.stewart.com.