April 24, 2008

Using Twitter to introduce home buyers to FSBOs

Marathonbuyers_042108This time of year, most real estate agents are helping sellers prepare their homes for the Spring housing market.  But as fee-for-service real estate consultants who specialize in representing buyers, The Real Estate Cafe wants to introduce our clients: 

  • To sellers BEFORE they list their homes in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and
  • To homeowners who are selling "for sale by owner" (FSBO).

That's why we celebrated the Boston Marathon Monday by updating some buyer profiles from our 1,000 Click Club, a highly-motivated group of buyer clients who have viewed at least 1,000 pages on the MLS.  If you're a seller who falls into either category above, we'd be glad to introduce you to our buyers.  We assure you that our menu of fees are quite modest by comparison to traditional real estate commissions, and the potential savings are substantial.

For example, one of the buyer / sellers matches we helped earlier this year will save approximately $80,000.  We can't guarantee those kinds of savings, but if you're a seller who's struggling to get your home ready for the Spring market, we can offer you three hours of decluttering / organization / home staging for just $99 for three hours (limited offer).  We'd also like to invite a limited number of sellers to attend one of our upcoming "for sale by owner" seminars, most likely in Arlington, MA or to schedule an in-home presentation.  (One of our dreams is to teach 50 to 100 sellers how to save $1 million as a group.  We passed that milestone for buyers during one recent 12 month period, see map of client savings).

We'll publish more buyer profiles, special offers, and seminars for buyers and sellers in the future.  You can receive updates by following us on Twitter.com/RealEstateCafe

03:46 PM in Extreme Househunting, Fee-for-service, FSBO: Best Practices, FSBO: For Sale By Owner, Savings & Rebates, Social Networking, Timing the market | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 19, 2008

Unlisted properties represent opportunity for proactive home buyers

Mainventorypie_011008v6 This graph of active listings versus unlisted properties during the 4th quarter of 2007 reveals two significant trends behind today's lead story in The Boston Globe: 

"Thousands in Mass. foreclosed on in '07:
7,563 homes were seized, nearly 3 times the '06 rate

TREND 1: The Globe reported that "...lenders initiated foreclosure proceedings against 7,467 Massachusetts homeowners" between July and September.  That means that foreclosure petitions during the 3rd quarter of 2007 were nearly equal to the total number of actual foreclosures year round.  Add that trend to the fact that foreclosure petitions topped 3,000 listings during October 2007, and you can see that the problem is growing.  In fact, the number of foreclosure petitions in October approached the number of MLS sales in December 2007 as graphed in a previous blog post.

TREND 2:  The inventory of unlisted properties or homes for "potentially for sale" across Massachusetts is also growing.  It's difficult to identify how many expired and canceled listings have been already been relisted in the MLS, and we can only guess at how many homeowners facing foreclosure would be willing to sell.  Still, the inventory of homes "potentially for sale" may be approaching the number of active listings during this slow time of the year, as shown in the graph above. 

Should you wait for more homes to come onto the market or be more proactive?  The Real Estate Cafe is exploring ways to help home buyers search expired and canceled listings, and to approach homeowners with "unlisted" properties - particularly those who have received foreclosure petitions - with unsolicited offers.  If you're a homeowner willing to consider an unsolicited offer, or rent your unlisted property until you put it back on the market later this year, please contact us.  Our qualified buyers are looking for ways to negotiate sales outside the MLS, and recognize that savings can be shared by doing so.  (PS.  Our menu of hourly and flat fees are modest by industry standards; and depending on negotiations, may be paid by our buyer clients so sellers retain more of their home equity.)

02:12 PM in Commission Reform, Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, Foreclosures, FSBO: Best Practices, Savings & Rebates, Timing the market, Unbundling the Commission | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 04, 2008

Thousands of MLS page views over 2 to 4 years: Will Bubble-wary buyers extend wait thru 2008?

1000pageviews_010308v1Temperatures in Boston are approached zero yesterday which, regrettably for this fee-for-service real estate consultant, was about the level of client billable activity over the Holidays.  But that doesn't mean that The Real Estate Cafe's "do-it-yourself" home buyers aren't busy house hunting; to the contrary, 36 of them have looked at over 1,000 MLS pages online.  As shown on the graph above, house hunts of 2,000 to 6,000 MLS page views stretching two to fours years are not uncommon.

Can you imagine how long it would take to drive by that many properties, particularly in this frigid weather?  That's why The Real Estate Cafe offers two MLS access systems, one which includes thousands of expired listings plus another map-based search with links to Zillow estimates. 

That's also why we're eager to invite new and long-time home buyers to network online and off in 2008. Regardless of whether you're a member of our "1,000 click club" graphed above, please join one or more of the subgroups on The Real Estate Cafe's new experimental social networking web site and exchange market insights with other clients -- particularly if you're in a long-term holding pattern

Our survey of housing prices in Greater Boston includes a few questions about potential educational and networking events, like our "Bubble Hour."  Please let us know what interests you and where you think housing prices are headed in 2008 and beyond.

09:10 AM in Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, Housing forecasts, Real Estate Bubble, Timing the market | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2007

Best site to identify commuting costs & hassles, in good weather & bad?

Earlier today, Bryan Person launched a wiki called Awful Commutes.  Right now, it seems to be focused on collecting stories from yesterday's snow emergency in Boston which unexpectedly turned commuting into winter sport.  No need to limit the wiki to accounts of those 5 and 6 hour marathons.  Three years ago, I thought about moving to Lowell, MA but decided to stay in Cambridge because I could walk to so many important places in my life. My understanding is that Walkscore.com helps potential homebuyers identify the most "walkable communities."

Not everyone has the option to live in a walkable community, hence the need for a decision-making tool that helps home buyers evaluate communities -- and specific listings -- based on their household's commuting needs.  Does such a tool or site already exist? If so, what's the best one to use to assess the cost of commuting in Greater Boston, and hassles factors on alternative routes?  Do "best of breed" commuting sites already include wikis?  If not, hope Awfulcommute.pbwiki.com becomes the commuting equivalent of RottenNeighbor.com, at least here in Boston.  I'd certainly recommend that kind of interactive tool to The Real Estate Cafe's 'do-it-yourself" home buyers.

If Bryan's wiki continues to focus on winter commutes, wouldn't it be fun to ask readers who are old enough to contribute memories of the Blizzard of '78? Maybe some can offer first person (no pun intended Bryan) accounts of their commutes yesterday and 30 years ago.  Is anyone already planning something to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78 in Boston next year?  (I lived in Montreal at the time of the storm, but was amazed by the size of the snow drifts when I visited two weeks later. Nothing like today's relatively quick meltdown.)

02:12 PM in Defensive Homebuying, Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, In the News, Mapping, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2007

Will homebuyers create their own "Twitter posses"?

Powerofus_twitterposses Thanks to PBS.org's Idea Lab for introducing me to the phrase, "Twitter posse."  Their vision of reporters asking questions via Twitter reminds me of Real Estate Cafe blog posts about "home buyers turned embedded real estate reporters."  Three years ago, February 11, 2005, we said:

"...our goal is to help seed a new generation of "embedded real estate reporters" or citizen journalists."

A more pointed question, "Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?" followed on April 17, 2005, four months before the housing market peaked in Massachusetts and a year before we invited bubble bloggers and citizen journalists to contribute to our Real Estate Bubble Map.

We've only begun to scratch the surface of potential uses for Twitter in real estate, so why limit brainstorming about Twitter Posses to reporters?  Just substitute the word "home buyer" for reporter in the original Idea Lab post and you'll see that "homebuyer posses," "househunting posses," or "neighborhood posses" could become commonplace:

A potential home buyer could enlist a dozen or two dozen passionate, driven home buyers to serve as a kind of Twitter posse. Whenever she was about to tackle a big story or difficult interview, the home buyer could begin a mobile dialogue with fellow home buyers.

What I like about the concept: It brings a much-needed air of transparency to the house hunting process.  It expands the home buyer's field of vision.

Combine that with interactive mapping, or add Twitter posts to our Real Estate Bubble Map, and consumers could create a powerful new way to share market insights by typing 140 character messages into their smart phones as they tour open houses, drive through new neighborhoods, etc.

Any home buyers or sellers in Boston or elsewhere already using Twitter?  Any real estate professionals, particularly buyer agents, already organizing "househunting posses"?  (Any developers want to work on the idea?)  Post examples below, or @realestatecafe on Twitter.  You can follow our latest Tweets on our blog, or http://twitter.com/realestatecafe

10:33 AM in "We" companies, Bubble map, Extreme Househunting, Mapping, Moblogging in Real Estate, Real Estate Blogs: Best Practices, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2007

Will real estate consumers begin comparing hourly fees to savings?

What's a familiar story about agents vs "for sale by owner" properties doing "above the fold" on page one of the New York Times?  Because:

"The findings [-- that "One City'€™s Home Sellers Do Better on Their Own --] fly in the face of studies by the National Association of Realtors. The group has said that houses sold via its members' local multiple listing services get a 16 percent premium over homes sold by their owners."

The timing of the story is also important because it echoes a Wall Street Journal headline this week cautioning "What You Don't Know About Real Estate May Cost You."

One of the stunning findings in research conducted by the AARP and Consumer Federation of America is that "Only about one-quarter of respondents knew that they can negotiate broker commissions." Apparently another WSJ story three years ago which advised consumers that "It Pays to Negotiate Your Agent's Commission," has had little impact (despite a reference to The Real Estate Cafe's 100% rebate model ;-)

So how can an enlightened homebuyer or seller compare the value added by real estate agents versus their level of effort and cost of doing business?  One of the researchers in the NYTimes article concludes that real estate consumers will begin asking for time sheets:

"...sellers [and homebuyers?] will begin to examine more closely the cost of all the small tasks handled by agents. To justify a $12,000 fee on a $200,000 house, he said, "you'd have to have a very high hourly rate" for an agent's work."

Another industry critic, Mark Nadel, says that kind of disclosure could help deliver an estimated $30 billion annually in consumer savings.  Yes, existing fee-for-service business models like The Real Estate Cafe would benefit greatly from such a regulation, but if "unit pricing" is now commonplace in supermarkets why not require similar transparency in real estate so homebuyers and sellers can compare effective hourly rates? 

Want to see time sheets for our past clients and compare their total hourly fees to savings last year?  Ask our competitors -- traditional full commissions or competing rebate business models like Redfin -- for the same information so you can compare hourly fees and savings side-by-side.  (Our goal is to help you save so much money, you're GLAD to help save a life as well.)

02:15 PM in Change Agents, Defensive Homebuying, Extreme Househunting, Inside The Real Estate Cafe, Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights, Savings & Rebates, Unbundling the Commission | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2005

Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?

Bubble_selfprotrait_3Yesterday's conference on Grassroots use of Technology at MIT has reenergized my interest in moblogging in real estate.  Will the prevalence of iPods, smartphones, and digital video recorders create a new generation of house hunters turned citizen journalists?  Not if the decade-long, lemming-like rush continues to cause home buyers to view each other as competitors, is my guess.

But if the housing market begins to slide as real estate bubble watchers caution, buyers may look to each other for information about what is really happening in the marketplace rather than traditional real esate agents / listing agents who are obligated to get the highest price for sellers and continue to fan the flames of "irrational exuberance."

How will those peer-to-peer exchanges occur?  Will those amatuer roving real estate reporters begin to post their own comments in writing, audio clips, or video clips to the web?  Those are the kinds of questions I would like to explore in this discussion of "Moblogging in Real Estate." 

In addition, I'd like to use the forum to experiment with my own attempts to learn each of the means of communicating above.  I am particularly interested in experimenting with Podcasts and Videoblogging, and seeing how VR images can be incorporated into blog posts to give real estate consumers richer information than otherwise possible from look-alike listing sites published by over a million real estate agents nationwide.

Here's one attempt at posting a VR movie in Quicktime.  Does it load on your site and are you able to rotate the VR image with left or right with your mouse?  Need to learn how to make my videos load online... anyone else in the real estate community -- or any home buyers or sellers -- experimenting with moblogging?

Download top2_030205.mov (296.4K)

10:14 AM in Extreme Househunting, Moblogging in Real Estate, Real Estate Bubble, Tech Trends | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

Extreme Househunting: 5,000 Click Club

5060pageviewsThe self-sufficiency and perseverance displayed by some of The Real Estate Cafe's clients is simply amazing!  This particular client, an out of state buyer, has viewed over 5,000 pages of MLS listings via our self-service "virtual office website (VOW).  Needless to say, that would be an exhausting and expensive task if one of our agents were doing the work.  Instead, the buyer does their own work, making the process more efficient and less expensive for themselves.

One of our goals is to invite our clients, and blog readers, to share their perspectives on the housing market, neighborhoods, and "extreme househunting" techniques they have developed on their own.  As comments come in, we'll share them here so check back often.  If you are already one of our clients, call us at 617-661-4046 or email RECafe@mac.com to find out how you can earn commission rebates by posting comments to this blog.  True to the metaphor of a cafe, we call it The Real Estate Cafe's "Tipping Policy."

Wouldn't you love to talk to another home buyer who has looked at 5,000 homes online?  That's the kind of peer-to-peer conversation The Real Estate Cafe is hoping to host online and off in 2005 via this blog and our upcoming series of educational and networking events.  Stay tuned for more information.

10:22 AM in Extreme Househunting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack