8 Reasons Why E-mail Marketing Works

Mention e-mail marketing to real estate agents and you may find that many are still hesitant to move away from their tried-and-true snail mail methods. Others, however, are rapidly discovering that e-mail marketing is just about one of the most effective means of generating sales.
Want proof? When Shop.org surveyed retailers for their State of Retailing Online 2009 report, they found that e-mail was the most-mentioned successful tactic overall. The Ad Effectiveness Survey commissioned by Forbes Media in February/March 2009 placed e-mail marketing second only to SEO for generating conversions. And, research conducted in 2009 by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) demonstrated that e-mail out-performs all other forms of direct marketing.
The bigger question, of course, is why? Out of all the hundreds or even thousands of messages consumers are exposed to each day, why is e-mail marketing so effective?
There are several reasons, and real estate agents who embrace these principles will quickly find themselves joining in the chorus of praise.

1. E-mail marketing has a broad reach. It’s tough to find anyone who doesn’t have at least one e-mail address these days, which means you can reach out to your entire customer and/or prospect base. Just be sure to get their permission first by asking if you can add them to your mailing list.

2. E-mail marketing is proactive. Many real estate agents start promoting their services by taking out ads in a phone directory, a real estate guide, a local community newspaper, a billboard, or by sending direct mail and placing door hangers. The problem is your customers and prospects have to happen across the ads in order to see them. E-mail marketing goes directly to a place they’re already looking – their e-mail in-box. And unlike paper-based mail or door hangers, e-mail gives them the opportunity to contact you directly to get a quote or more information by simply clicking a mouse.

3. E-mail marketing is targeted. Most forms of advertising are based on the concept that if you hit thousands of people with your message, even though it means nothing to most of them, a few are likely to respond. E-mail marketing, though, is based on the idea of sending the right message directly to the right people based on their preferences, local market conditions and other factors. You can build one master list, then segment it by geographic location, marital status, gender, age, income, time of year, etc. It eliminates a lot of the guesswork that makes other forms of marketing so inefficient.

4. E-mail marketing provides data. If you’re using an e-mail marketing application or service designed for small business, you can run reports that show which e-mails or messages worked, as well as which didn’t, so you can improve your next campaign. You can even run split tests, sending one offer or message to half your list and a different one to the other half, so you can get a better feel for what exactly makes customers and prospects buy from you.

5. E-mail marketing allows you to engage. It’s nice to get the immediate reaction from a seller who sees your ad just as he/she decides to list a home. But your real goal is to build a relationship with a broader base of prospects so they think of you whenever it’s time for them to sell. E-mail marketing allows you to do that by bringing them community and market news, current mortgage rates, decorating ideas, timely tips (such as how to get a garden ready for spring), and more on a regular basis. It’s a great way to engage them – and keep them engaged.

6. E-mail marketing has a low cost of entry. Most forms of advertising or marketing require a big up-front investment before you see any results. That can get expensive for a real estate agent trying to keep expenses down. E-mail marketing has very little up-front cost, allowing you to market effectively without having to stop your core business work for long periods to get it done.

7. E-mail marketing is less intrusive. Unlike television or radio commercials, or especially telemarketing calls, e-mail marketing doesn’t interrupt a prior activity to deliver a message. Opening e-mail is the activity your customers and prospects are engaged in when they see your message. If you’ve done a good job of building that relationship, they’ll actually look forward to seeing what you have to say (instead of using a remote to zap past your message).

8. E-mail marketing works. According to the DMA’s research, e-mail marketing generated a return on investment of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009. You’re unlikely to find that kind of ROI out of any other form of marketing or advertising. That, of course, is the best reason of all to launch an e-mail marketing campaign.

Done correctly, e-mail marketing allows you to become (and remain) visible to your customers and prospects with highly-targeted messages at a minimal cost. All while delivering outstanding, measurable results. It’s like having an extra agent on your side – without having to split the commission.

Wendy Lowe is director of product marketing for Campaigner (www.campaigner.com), an e-mail marketing solution that enables organizations to have highly-personalized one-to-one e-mail dialogues with their customers, measure how they respond, and analyze those responses to interact in a more intelligent, automated way. Wendy can be reached at wlowe@protus.com.


Don’t let foreclosed homes ruin your neighborhood

Take action to protect your neighborhood and your own home’s value.

Vacant or foreclosed homes can diminish an area’s quality. As they deteriorate from neglect, these homes become eyesores that drag down the property value of other homes in the neighborhood. Luckily, you don’t have to sit back and watch a foreclosed home fall apart. You can take actions to protect your neighborhood and your property value.

The danger of doing nothing
Vacant homes take an economic, physical and social toll on a neighborhood. Empty houses tend to attract trespassers and squatters, and can become havens for illegal and dangerous activities. It’s possible to prevent these problems by taking steps to safeguard and invest in your neighborhood.

What happens to neighborhoods
The 2007 mortgage crisis provides some important clues as to how your neighborhood could be affected by empty homes. Many properties sat empty for more than a year because the foreclosure process was delayed. Banks were overwhelmed by the number of troubled homeowners. Some properties were bought by investors with the intention of flipping them for a profit, meaning these residences were vacant to begin with, and have remained vacant since.

No longer a piggy bank
Nearly half of the home sales in foreclosure or “short sales” in 2009 were sold at a discount, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. It estimated that 69.5 million homes near foreclosures saw a price drop of $7,200 on average per home. This led to a $502 billion total decline in property values. The nonprofit research and policy organization also predicted that 91.5 million nearby homes would be affected within the following four years, causing the tax base to become smaller. Low home values mean less equity. People depending on the value of their home to achieve investment goals, such as retirement or college, have seen those goals delayed.

Encouraging crime
Crime is a major concern with these vacant homes. Unkempt lawns and dilapidated roofs advertise to thieves that the home is empty. Many of these opportunists will steal the home’s copper pipes, copper wiring, appliances and fixtures. A vacant home becomes a magnet for vandalism, drug dealers, prostitution and violent crimes. Poor communities are especially hard hit because homeowners there have fewer resources to make improvements compared to residents of more affluent areas.

The vacant homes also lead to increased municipal costs because of the need for more services, such as police, fire and code enforcement. Funding these services can take away from property tax revenue.

What you can do
Take measures to stabilize your neighborhood before your home loses value. Organize or host foreclosure-prevention workshops. Request a community-based organization to come to your neighborhood and hold a meeting. Contact local lenders, loan servicers and housing counselors to find out whether they are able to hold a workshop at your home or local community center. The workshops could give your quietly struggling neighbors the assistance they need.

When you notice a property going astray — such as obvious damage or grass height not meeting the appropriate community standards — locate the owners of the property so they can immediately handle the situation and reduce the financial loss. Call the real-estate agent who is listing the property if the home is up for sale. To find out who owns the home, you can contact the homeowners association, community managers, or your local housing and inspections department.

Some more tips
Organizing a neighborhood watch is a great way to prevent crime and vandalism. Try to learn who’s moving in and who’s leaving so you know which homes are at risk. Identify block captains to monitor these homes until the situation is resolved. It helps to create a checklist for issues such as:

• Signs of running water.

• Lights left on.

• Trash, debris and other items left outside.

• Broken doors or windows.

• Graffiti.

• Structural damage.

Some active measures include:

• Parking cars in the driveways of vacant homes to give the appearance that the home is occupied.

• Maintaining the lawn.

• Painting the boards covering the doors and windows so they look like doors and windows.

• Clearing trash and organizing neighborhood clean-up projects.

Other creative techniques for you to try include:

• Hanging curtains and blinds in the windows.

• Using deadbolts for the locks.

• Using baby monitors.

• Installing motion detectors, floodlights and cameras to catch burglars.

Before you attempt any of these more creative options, make sure you talk to the owner or a representative of the bank holding the property title. Making alterations to a property, even positive ones, can be construed as trespassing.

Additional community efforts can involve grassroots strategies such as pooling funds from community groups and local government to buy foreclosed properties, renovating the homes or tearing them down to create community spaces. Some mortgage companies may hire a property preservation company to check in on and handle the maintenance of a foreclosed home. The company may contact you to let you know that they are checking on the home and may ask you to contact them if a situation arises. The company sticker will usually be placed on the door of the home, indicating that it is frequently being looked after.

Positive Housing Market Trends

Mortgage rates have hit record lows, which means housing affordability is at an all-time high. But are home buyers taking advantage of this opportunity? The latest real estate news suggests that potential home buyers are becoming actual home owners.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales for November increased 7.3 percent to the highest level in 19 months. The Pending Home Sales Index assesses the health of the real estate market by evaluating housing contract activity. An index of 100 is considered healthy; the November index sits at 100.1, up from the previous year’s November index of 94.5. The index hasn’t been this high since April 2010, when the then-upcoming deadline for the home buyer tax credit created an increased demand in the housing market. In today’s market, there might not be a tax credit incentivizing buyers, but there are record-low mortgage rates. Potential buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines for the market to improve are finally signing contracts to take advantage of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage below 4 percent.

The Supply of Homes on the Market Decreased
The total housing inventory for November fell 5.8 percent. By the end of the month, 2.58 million existing homes were available for sale. Of those homes, 29 percent were foreclosures and short sales, down from 33 percent a year ago; while still high, this is movement in the right direction.

Construction Spending Increased
The improving real estate market is also boosting the construction trade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, construction spending rose 1.2 percent in November, due in large part to a 2 percent increase in residential construction spending.

Residential construction spending is up, foreclosures are down and more real estate contracts are being signed. Unfortunately, not all of those contracts will make it to closing. According to NAR, around 33 percent of its members reported contract failures, on track with October numbers but far above the reported 9 percent of contract failures a year ago. The possible reasons for these contract failures are varied; declined mortgage applications, failed home inspections, and low appraisals can all sink a deal. NAR economists believe that the number of existing home contracts that make it to closing should increase in the months ahead.

Are You Ready to Buy?
If you’re looking to purchase a home, take every precaution to ensure your deal isn’t one of the 33 percent. Secure your financing before placing an offer on a home, and seek a second appraisal if the first is too low. If your first deal falls through, don’t be afraid to make an offer on another home. Based on the latest real estate news, it’s a good time to buy.

Real Estate: It’s time to buy again

Forget stocks. Don’t bet on gold. After four years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset class in America is housing.

The talking heads who are down on real estate will hate to hear this, but America needs to build a lot more houses. And in most markets the price of new homes are going to rise, not fall.

Metro study covers 19 states, or around 65% of the U.S. housing market, including all the ones hardest hit by the crash: Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada. The company’s client list includes virtually every major homebuilder and bank — from Pulte (PHM) and KB Home (KBH) to Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

The key figures that Metro study collects, and that those clients prize, are the number of homes that are vacant and for sale in each city, and the number of months it takes to sell all of them. Together those figures measure inventory — the key metric in determining whether a market has a surplus or a shortage of new housing.

Today we are witnessing an extraordinary reversal of the new-home glut that helped sink prices just a few years ago. In the 41 cities Metro study covers, a total of 78,000 houses are now either vacant and for sale, or under construction. That’s less than one-fourth of the 343,000 units in those two categories at the peak of the frenzy in mid-2006, and well below the level of a decade ago. If we had anything like normal levels of buying, those houses would sell in 2½ months. We’d see an incredible shortage. And that’s where we’re heading.

If all the noise you’re hearing about housing has you totally confused, join the crowd. One day you’ll read that owning a home has never been more affordable. The next day you’ll see news that housing starts have plunged to nearly their lowest level in half a century, as headlines announced in March. After four years of falling prices and surging foreclosures, it’s hard to know what to think. A far brighter view is that the lack of new home building is a huge help that a lot of people are ignoring. People think I’m crazy to be optimistic, but housing is looking like the little engine that could.

To see where real estate is truly headed, it’s critical to keep your eye firmly on the fundamentals that, over time, always determine the course of prices and construction. During the last decade’s historic run-up in prices, Fortune repeatedly warned that things were moving too fast. In a cover story titled “Is the Housing Boom Over? The analysis found that the basic forces that govern the market — the cost of owning vs. renting and the level of new construction — were in bubble territory. Eventually reality set in, and prices plummeted. Our current view focuses on those same fundamentals — only now they’re pointing in the opposite direction.

So let’s state it simply and forcibly: Housing is back.

Two basic factors are laying the foundation for dramatic recovery in residential real estate. The first is the historic drop in new construction that so amazes me. The second is a steep decline in prices, on the order of 30% nationwide since 2006, and as much as 55% in the hardest-hit markets. The story of this downturn has been an astonishing flight from the traditional American approach of buying new houses to an embrace of renting. But the new affordability will gradually lure Americans back to buying homes. And the return of the homeowner will start raising prices in many markets this year.

Of course, home prices are low and home construction is weak for a reason: incredibly low demand. For our scenario to play out, America will need a decent economy, with job creation and consumer confidence continuing to claw their way back to normal.

One big fear is that today’s tight credit standards will chill the market. But we’re really returning to the standards that prevailed before the craze, and those requirements didn’t stop prices and homebuilding from rising in a good economy. The credit standards are now at about historical levels, excluding the bubble period. We saw prices rising with fundamentals in those periods, and it will happen again.

To see why, let’s examine the remarkable shift in home affordability. A new study by Deutsche Bank measures affordability in two ways: first, the share of income Americans are paying to own a home. And second, the cost of owning vs. renting. On the first metric, the analysis finds that homeowners now pay just 9.8% of their income in after-tax mortgage, tax, and insurance payments. That’s down from 17.2% at the bubble’s peak in 2007, and by far the lowest number in the Deutsche Bank database, going back to 1999. The second measure, the cost of owning compared with renting, should also inspire potential buyers. In 28 out of 54 major markets, it’s now cheaper to pay a mortgage and other major costs than to rent the same house. What’s most compelling is that in all of the distressed markets, owning now wins by a wide margin — a stunning reversal from four years ago. Not all markets will bounce back equally, of course. Housing resembles the weather: The exact conditions are different in every city. But in general the big U.S. markets fall into two different climate zones right now. We’ll call them the “nondistressed markets” and the “foreclosure markets.” A more detailed look shows why the forecast for both is favorable.

Nondistressed markets: Ready for launch

No cities went untouched by the collapse in prices over the past few years. But some markets held up reasonably well. In those areas prices spiked far less than in bubble cities — the foreclosure markets, we’ll get to shortly — chiefly because they didn’t get nearly as many speculators who thought they could flip the homes or rent them to snowbirds.

The nondistressed markets will be able to get prices rising and construction growing far faster than the harder-hit areas for a simple reason: Although some of these markets are still suffering from foreclosures, they don’t need to work through the big overhang haunting some of these areas. The number of new homes for sale or in the pipeline is extraordinarily low in nondistressed markets. The challenge for these cities is to generate enough demand to reduce inventories of existing, or resale, homes. In the entire country the resale supply stands at 3.5 million houses and condos. That’s a fairly high number, since it would take more than eight months to sell those properties; seven months or below is the threshold for a strong market.

But in the nondistressed cities, the existing home inventory is lower, closer to seven months on average. So a modest increase in demand will translate into strong gains in both prices and new construction. That should happen quickly, because most of those markets are now showing good job growth.

Moody’s Analytics expects that prices will rise three to four points faster than inflation for the next few years in virtually all of the nondistressed markets. The view is that prices will increase in line with rents, which are now growing briskly because apartments are in short supply. Those higher rents will encourage buyers to cross the street from an apartment to a home of their own.

Buying is better than renting. The main reason? Buying has simply become a far better deal than renting. The market got completely inflated, then it crashed, so prices are coming back to where they should be. As people watched prices fall, they have also watched the rent on their apartment spiral upward. They calculate that they should be able to purchase a townhouse for between $100,000 and $200,000 and pay less per month for a mortgage.

The nondistressed markets will also lead the way in construction. I predict that for the nation as a whole, single-family housing “starts” — measured when a builder pours a foundation for a new home — will rise from 470,000 in 2010 to as much as 700,000 this year. A large portion of that activity will happen in nondistressed markets where a tightening supply of resale houses will start making new homes look like a good deal. The main competition for new construction is from resales. The prices of those homes have stayed so low, because of low demand, that it’s hampered the ability of builders to sell new houses.

But many would-be buyers simply prefer a brand-new house. Eventually they’ll move from renters to buyers, and the trend will accelerate now that prices are no longer dropping.

Foreclosure markets: The outlook is brightening

The true disaster areas for housing since the bubble burst have been in places that boasted great job and population growth in the mid-2000s, only to suffer a housing crash that swamped them with empty homes and condos and crushed their economies. But people always want to live in those sunny locales, and their job markets are starting to recover, albeit slowly. In foreclosure markets the inventory problem is far greater because it includes not just traditional resale homes but millions of distressed properties. Fortunately those houses are now such a screaming deal that investors, including lots of mom-and-pop buyers, are purchasing them at a rapid pace. To be sure, some foreclosure markets won’t rebound for years because they’re both vastly overbuilt and far from big job centers.

But the outlook is brightening for these areas. A big positive is the tiny supply of new homes entering the market. The big test in these cities is absorbing the steady stream of distressed properties. The foreclosures put downward pressure on the market far out of proportion to their numbers because of markdown pricing. We had levels of inventory even higher than this in 1990 and 1991. But they were traditional listings, not foreclosures, so they didn’t create the big discounts you get with foreclosures.

We may see a flow of around 1 million foreclosures a year, at a fairly even pace, from now through 2013. That figure is frequently cited as evidence that the market is doomed for years in most foreclosure markets. Not so. The reason is that the vast bulk of those units, probably over 600,000, are being converted to rentals either by investors or their current owners. Those properties are finding plenty of renters, since the rental market is still extremely strong across the country. Remember, the millions who lost their homes to foreclosure still need somewhere to live.

Individual investors and investment funds are entering the game. Investors have no trouble renting the houses they buy. The “cap rate,” or return on investment after all expenses, is between 8% and 10% — twice the rate on 10-year Treasuries. Investors rent to people who lost their homes but are reliable renters. A lot of people can’t be buyers because their credit got hurt.

Even with investors jumping in, buying activity in foreclosure markets hasn’t yet increased enough to bring inventories down. It will soon. I think prices will fall a couple of percentage points lower in the distressed markets in the short run. But that will be overshooting. It’s like an elastic band. If prices do drop this year, they will need to bounce back because they’ll be far too low compared with rents and replacement cost. Renters will come off the sidelines to purchase homes in the years ahead, precisely the opposite trend of the past few years.

This recovery will look like all the others: It will bring a severe shortage of housing. We’ll get a big surge in demand and the drywall companies will take a long time to ramp up, and it will take years to get new lots approved. Buyers will show up looking for a house in a subdivision, and all the houses will be sold. The builders will tell them it will take six months to deliver a house.” But those folks, will be set on buying a place. And they’ll want it so bad they’ll bid the prices up! In other words: Beat the crowd.

It’s a Great Time to Buy a House

Charity: Why You Should Give Your Money Away

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time because I feel it is very important to give to local charities especially because of the state of the economy is at this time.

Charity – in fact, altruism in general – is a very difficult concept to explain in a general sense. What I’ve found often is that you either have an innate understanding of why you give or you don’t, and introducing the idea to someone who doesn’t see the benefit is likely to get a shrug of indifference. The best I can do is explain in detail why I give to various causes.

First of all, charitable donations are a direct reflection of my values and perspectives. Whenever I donate money, I’m contributing it towards something that I feel has importance. If I want to see food available to homeless people in my community, I can donate to the local food pantry or soup kitchen. If I want to give toys to needy children, there are plenty of organizations that will gladly accept such donations. The real question is whether you have found something with enough importance to you to speak out with your pocketbook.

Second, helping others improves yourself worth in many ways. Once you’ve given something to a charity that you truly believe in, you feel good about it. The money in your pocket went towards a cause beyond what you can manage in your daily life, a cause that combined with the similar actions of others can actually bring about change in the world. That’s not something you can get from buying yourself a flat panel television.

Third, charitable donations have indirect benefits. Here’s an example: My oldest daughter Lexii helped her youth group at Our lady of Angels, get donations for over 200 back packs filled with school supplies. She and her youth group then distributed these back packs at Sister Nora’s Stillpoint House of Prayer to over 200 needy children who didn’t even have a back pack or schools supplies to start this years school year. In the process she also drug her two sisters, Jordan and Taylor along with her. All three of my children not only were able to brighten up child’s face but also learned a valuable lesson. A child can make a difference in this world one child or family at a time. Most of the kids they helped that day were mostly older than my own children. Not once did my children or youth group members feel they were better than the children they helped. They just gave and were amazed at how grateful these children in need were. Lexii not only devoted her time but was an incredibly positive example to her younger sisters. Shortly before I wrote this, Lexii agreed to volunteer three Sundays in October for the Special Olympics’ games at the Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival. At only 14 years old, Lexii not only helped out a large number of needy children but also inspired other children and adults to follow her lead.

One final comment: I don’t think, like many do, that whether or not you tithe or give to charity is a sign of whether you’re a good person or not. I know some very wonderful people who don’t give to charities and I also know some people who give to charities that I wouldn’t trust my child around. A person should only give to a charity if they truly feel it is the right thing to do with their money – if it doesn’t feel right, don’t donate.

In short, even if you don’t donate any of your income to charity right now or you don’t see the purpose, don’t close your mind or your heart to the idea. When the right reason comes to you, open up your wallet and see what happens.

By the way, what have your learned from a 14 year old today. Hopefully, allot!!

Matg Augustyniak

Buying & Selling


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5 Things Homebuyers May Regret Later When Buying a House

In the excitement of finding a home to purchase, buyers may neglect details that could come back to haunt them.

So, you’ve found a house you like, come up with a down payment and gotten preapproved. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, if you and your agent rush through the deal without doing all the homework.

Take look at the little tasks or details that buyers may neglect that could come back to haunt them.

Buying without regret
Buying a house is like getting into a marriage: You must make sure there aren’t any problems you might have missed during the courtship. After all, you might have to live with your mistakes for a long time. Just ask buyers who purchased six or seven years ago.

List of mistakes that buyers make in the rush to close on that house of their dreams.

Here are some of them:

1. They ignore the maintenance and repair costs.
When people see a house they really like, they don’t see all of the bumps and bruises the first time they look at it.

They might disregard the ancient heating and cooling system or not factor in adequately the cost of running or replacing it. Ditto for that awful plumbing system or roof. If a roof is more than 10 years old, a replacement should be accounted for in your bid.

2. They blow off secondary inspections.
After the general home inspection, many rushed buyers blow past other recommended once-overs, such as checking out the pool for leaks and electrical problems or getting that tiled roof looked at by a contractor. These oversights could pose a terrible problem later when an owner has to spend money on repairs rather than on new furniture.

3. They don’t do enough research on the condo project they are buying into.
Often, people scrutinize the unit but neglect to fully inspect its homeowners association documents and the building’s insurance coverage or to do a check for pending litigation.

Read all of the condo documents, such as the financials, covenants, conditions and restrictions, and HOA board-meeting minutes.

4. They don’t check out the neighborhood.
Finding the perfect house is wonderful, but if your neighbors are disrespectful or the local amenities are sparse, you might get buyer’s remorse.

Get the lowdown by knocking on doors around the house. Tell neighbors that you’re interested in purchasing there and would like to know more about the neighborhood.

Don’t forget to check out the local restaurants, grocery stores, parks and service establishments before you commit to a house.

5. They don’t calculate the commute.
Sure, that neighborhood is quiet and kid-friendly, but how long will it take to get back there from the downtown where you work?

Drive the commute to your office during peak traffic time so that you know how much time it will take to get to your job and to get home.

Good luck in your home buying decisions. You won’t regret it, if your smart.