"On Your Side, By Your Side"

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Zillow's Zero Budget Success

Zillow. Everybody knows it. Some love it. Some hate it. Regardless of how you feel, people are talking about it. 178 homes are viewed every second on Zillow mobile. To many, the Zestimate ® is synonymous with home appraisal. Know your home’s value without paying a penny.  It aggregates public data including most recent home prices, asking prices of surrounding homes and quality of schools into an algorithm to get an estimated property value. Zillow is two cups data, one cup wishful thinking and a fistful of black magic.

February 2006 was the big launch: A million visitors in the first 3 days!! By early 2012, Zillow welcomed 30 million unique users each month. That meteoric growth is due to the team constantly highlighting products and user feedback that infuses social media into everyday culture. They use banners, pop-ups, tweets and Facebook posts to keep their top of mind awareness.

How can a company spend ZERO dollars on advertising for the first 7 years? Zillow’s amazing success story provides real estate agents with lead generation, brand-building and a platform to educate the consumer. It’s a place to showcase your local knowledge as long as you provide useful information to your audience. Agents are Zillow’s #1 fans as it gives agents a springboard for much needed visibility in a swarm of competition. They are creating property websites, video blogs and sharing successes on Facebook and Twitter.  Every week I see an agent friend sharing a new listing on Facebook or congratulating their clients who just closed on their first home.

Whether you own, rent or live at home with the folks, everyone is interested in real estate and home values, especially in their backyard. In the real estate peak of 2006, users had such fun watching their home values steadily during the launch of Zillow. It was a game: how much value did I earn this week? Good times. And like all good things, that came to an end in 2008 when home values plummeted and the foreclosure and short sale rates were sharply on the rise. In 2008-2010, checking your home’s value on Zillow became as much fun as getting a tooth pulled. Not so much! The mobile app was launched in 2009 which meant that you now had the power to obsessively check the value of your house while standing in the grocery store line, sitting at a restaurant or relaxing from your beach chair.

Zillow touts a fresh selection of relevant info for the prospective homebuyers and sellers through data trends, celebrity homes and staging tips. There really is something for everyone. There is also a section called “Zillow Advice” which is a great source for prospective homebuyers to search for topics they have questions on. Zillow was first to display earnings on social media and have seen incredible success as a result.  Now other companies are following in their virtual footprints.

They were first to make a series of infographics out of earnings numbers that communicated concepts and key messages. They take massive amounts of facts and stats and grind them into bite-sized nuggets for consumption by the consumer. 

The app also enables you to edit certain facts which would put your home in its best virtual light. They have a top-notch marketing team which have done a phenomenal job of making Zillow a household name.

Well, the time has come. I type in my home address and hold my breath. Two very long seconds later I receive Zillow’s response. Ok not so bad. $5k less than June, $10k more than August. How does one house lose then gain in value so rapidly? Local home sales and a bit of that black magic. Go figure. What’s your home worth? Just ask Zillow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top 10 Realtor® Safety Tips

On the heels of realtor safety awareness month, a terrible tragedy has occurred. The loss of fellow realtor, Beverly Carter, resulted in shockwaves across the real estate community. It brings to the forefront an incredibly important set of safety issues that every realtor should be mindful of.

1. Always meet your prospective client at the office for your first meeting. Get the license plate number and if possible, the make and model of the vehicle. Leave that personal information about the prospect in the office w/reception or another associate, friend.

2. Always trust your gut. Do not enter a home where you have the intuition that the person(s) or situation isn’t safe.

3. When hosting an open house and someone enters that makes you feel uncomfortable, stand outside the front door until they drive away.

4. Park in the street in front of the home you’re showing; never in the driveway.

5. Text your significant other or a coworker the prospective buyer’s information and text again when you've finished the showing.

6. Never go down to the basement with the prospect unless you feel completely sure of your clients.

7. Pass along the phone number of the prospect that called you to your significant other or coworker whom you trust.

8. Carry your car key fob in your hand or pocket to quickly activate the panic button.

9. Get to the house early and open a few windows. If you yell for help, someone outside is more likely to hear your call.

10. Carry a defensive weapon on you at all times: pen, pencil, pepper spray or mace.

Selling real estate by yourself to virtual strangers is just a daily part of the job when you’re a commissioned agent. I've been a licensed realtor® for the last six years. Upon first contact with the prospective buyer, I would make an appointment with them to meet me at my office to go over buying or selling needs.

However, it is also quite common for agents to meet prospective buyers who call and drive by a home and want to see it immediately. Many agents will cater to this last minute sense of urgency driven by the buyers. Maybe I’m just more cautious than most. Or maybe, just paranoid? Either way, in six years of home showings, I have felt uneasy with a prospect only once.

A man called me one afternoon about wanting to view a property that evening. I had him meet me at my office and both I and my coworker thought he seemed a little “off” or “skittish”. I took down his make and model of car and license plate number. I texted my husband and gave him the property address and meeting time.

After meeting him in my office briefly, I still felt quite uneasy. He was of medium height, lanky, blond and repeatedly failed to make eye contact with me. When I was in my car alone, I called my husband and asked if he could meet me at the property just to be sure. Much to my relief, he confirmed.

I arrived at the house and walked to the front door with this shifty prospect. I then got the key from the lock box and proceeded to open the door. Something inside me could not bring me to get into that house with this guy. It didn't help that he was holding this pointy antique black and silver umbrella with not a drop of rain from the sky or in the forecast: very odd indeed.

I was intimidated and very uncomfortable. Sometimes you just have to follow that voice in your head that says, “Don't do it!” “Do not step in that house or something bad is going to happen!!” I told him to feel free to take as long as he wanted to look at the house to meet me back outside when he's finished touring the home. He obliged.

I never heard from him again after that meeting. (Thank goodness!) What I learned is that I'm extremely cautious and erring on the side of the caution is just plain safe. It just may save your life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Foreclosure IS Avoidable

It’s a sign of the times! Most of us grew up thinking that if we planned well and played by the rules, we’d never have to stand by as our financial lives unraveled.

But upheaval on Wall Street, unacceptable rates of unemployment and plummeting real estate values have taken their toll. Since 2007, 7.9 million homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure. Current estimates are that one in four homeowners owe more on their mortgages than they could get from the sale of their home. Millions more homes will be lost to foreclosure before this real estate crisis runs its course.

The sad fact is that foreclosure is not an isolated event. For months leading up to the loss of a home, financially strapped homeowners live under a cloud of uncertainty. And then for many years afterwards, the blow to credit gets in the way of buying another home or buying anything on credit. Foreclosure even complicates employment prospects.

The impact of foreclosure is huge and the sad fact is that it’s often avoidable. As a real estate professional who has earned the Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) designation, my mission is to provide financially strapped homeowners with options to foreclosure, ensure that they steer clear of scams, and help navigate them through the solution that best meets their needs.

Among the most important facts to keep in mind: the sooner help is sought, the better the options.

These are tough times, but more help is available than ever before. If you or someone you care about is ready to navigate away from the dark cloud of an unmanageable mortgage and realize that hope and blue skies are within reach, contact me today and let’s get started.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

As a member of your community, there are many ways to connect with your neighbors and add value to your neighborhood. A neighborhood can be every bit as important as the dwelling itself. In a recent poll, 64% of the individuals cited quality of the neighborhood as the most valued components when buying a home. Unfortunately, you can’t test drive your neighborhood but you can do a little homework to get closer to your ideal.

I can tell you that I have experienced the good and bad neighbor situation. The bad can be a bit tough to get over with their loud cars coming in and out until the wee hours, yelling and unkempt yards to not shoveling snow from their sidewalk which just happens to span about 100 feet. (Shudder) It definitely adds stress to the living situation. I want to help you navigate towards the good and make an educated decision in your quest for home ownership.

The top 4 influences in selecting a home are:

1. Convenience to job

2. Overall affordability

3. Quality of the School District (In Glastonbury I believe this one is higher on the list. Many families flock to Glastonbury just for the award-winning schools).

4. Convenience to family & friends.

Location! Location! Location!

Remember that you will never be able to uproot the house and move it so choose an area that you can see yourself planting roots for the next 5 years. Here are some of my tips for researching the town you’d like to live in:

1. Walk the Neighborhood: Is it kid friendly, quiet, loud, dog friendly, are there sidewalks, block parties, and do the other homes have curb appeal too?

2. Nearby Amenities: Here in Glastonbury, there are so many great things to do, places to see, including many farms for berry and apple picking, great restaurants, shopping like Somerset Square, an array of activities through the parks & recreation dept., a dog park, skateboard park and just strolling or biking down Historic Main Street.

3. Check with Planning & Zoning to see if adjacent lots to the one you’re considering are town owned or are there future plans to build. You don’t want any bad surprises.

4. Connect with the area because it’s never just about the house. You want to make connections with the people around you to make an easy transition into the neighborhood.

For this and other helpful real estate information, please like my page and subscribe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple Harvest Festival

Everyone in Glastonbury looks forward to the 2012 Apple Harvest Festival.

Click HERE for more information. I look forward to seeing you all there!