What Are you Doing With That CASH?

You have probably heard the term “Cash is King” many times. Well, it is probably true! 🙂  Last year was a year where home prices were low and interest rates were lower. While the media kept perpetuating the idea that homes were barely selling during much of 2011, numbers released by the Arizona Regional MLS show that 2011 saw the second highest number of homes sales this century, which was surpassed only by the “insanity” that was 2005. Go figure.

It’s true, there were 100,959 home sales last year in our market. Of those sales, nearly half ( over 47,000 ) were CASH sales. Yep, greenbacks. No financing, at all. That’s a lot of cash.

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Hey Nick, How’s The Market?

There is rarely a day that goes by when I haven’t had a conversation about real estate. As you know, it’s in my blood and I enjoy talking to people about any aspect of the real estate business.

In the mid 2000s, the conversations were a little different than they have been for the past few years. Obviously, we have gone from what seems to be one extreme to another.

Currently, the topics people mostly ask about revolve around short sales, bank-owned homes, trustee sales, strategic default and more. Often, people just don’t know what to believe. Have we hit bottom? Is it a good time to buy a home? Should I sell now? Can we compete with the banks?

Just a few weeks ago, CNN posted an article titled, “Real estate: It’s time to buy again”. In that article, we read that “the most attractive asset class in America is housing.” They go on to talk about the real estate industry and how low the new-home starts are in the country. Just 5 days before the CNN article was published, I got a call from a reporter asking about the condition of our real estate market in the valley. When Channel 10 called, they asked me a few questions on the phone and then wanted to know if they could come by my office to discuss the market. In the video below, we talk about how builders are in the business to sell homes and how they have had to compete with a high percentage of distressed sales. While I don’t think the market is perfect for everyone, I do believe there are some good opportunities. Waiting for prices to fall might not be the best decision for the long term.

While many of the news reports over the past few years have been quick to say that home ownership isn’t a good idea, it seems there has been a recent change of heart from some of the larger players. To me, it usually seems like many of the media outlets are a few months behind in their assessments. Take a look at this video below where my friend Steve de Laveaga at Fidelity National Title also agrees that the media can be behind and talks about a very strong first quarter of 2011.

In the video, you hear Steve make several interesting points about the current real estate market.

1. They have had “back to back to back record resale openings” at Fidelity.

2. Investors are back. People from all over the world are purchasing property in Arizona right now.

3. At the time the video was shot, they had seen 9 straight weeks of price increases.

4. Steve says, you better buy something quick or you are going to pay more for it.

So, are we out of the woods and back to doing the happy dance every day? No way. Many challenges remain. Some areas are doing better than others and each person has a unique situation. If YOU want to talk about the current real estate market… “Just Call Nick!”

Can You Compete?

The last few years have been tough on traditional home sellers. Downward pressure on pricing has made it very hard for many people to compete against the large numbers of bank-owned and short sale properties. Unfortunately, many home sellers price their home for what they “should have sold for” when they first thought of selling. Over-pricing a home can be a huge mistake. In order to price properly, you need to take many things into consideration. Location, features, competition, and several other key factors should be considered when looking to sell. The fact that you “need” to get X amount of money isn’t always the most realistic place to start. I hate to tell people that, but it’s the truth.

Bank owned homes - A "sign of the times?"

In the current market, buyers are looking for a deal. Obviously buyers have always wanted a deal, but with media reports of homes being sold for pennies on the dollar, people have been told that foreclosures and short sale homes are a great way to go. Let’s face it, for the average buyer, many things go into a decision to move. But with interest rates bordering on ridiculously low, and prices many thought they wouldn’t see again, people are looking for a deal as much as a home. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors tells us that first-time home ownership is way up, and I have seen lots of smart people moving up into larger homes in better areas to take advantage of the current market. Fortunately, competing with the banks in today’s market may not be as hard as you think. As long as the correct value is in place, many buyers are looking to avoid the short sale process and the headaches that can come from bank contracts. A traditional sale sounds pretty darn good to many people in the market to buy that may have had a bad experience with a short sale or a bank transaction. As a seller, you can compete – you just might need to have someone on your side to help you through the process. 🙂

Bottom line is this… If you have questions about buying or selling real estate, "Just Call Nick!"

Google investing in real estate

I saw an article in Forbes Magazine this past week announcing the fact that Google is investing in real estate. No, not just to continue to gain market share in searching for homes on the internet, they have actually invested $86 million into helping fund 480 low-income housing units across the Midwest and West Coast.

Apparently, the boatloads of cash they are sitting on is now being invested in places other than dominating their competition in search-land. While Google has been involved with real estate search for quite some time, this investment is different. This is an actual investment that “will go into a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that will give tax credits to builders and developers of  homes for low-income families and senior citizens.” Yes, they will probably receive tax breaks on their investment, but let’s face it, they are in the business of making money and keeping shareholders happy. This investment is a business decision.

I have had conversations with people in our industry and with friends in the financial services industry about the amount of people waiting to “time” the market so they can buy at the bottom. While many Americans are sitting on their cash, the big boys appear to be doing something different by investing in low income housing.

One Lexington ad at light rail station

While many people struggle with job stability and economic uncertainty, there are others that are waiting for someone to tell them it is ok to own a home again. None of us has a crystal ball, but for some, the market is looking like an opportunity to purchase more home at a lower interest rate than they thought would have been possible in the past.

For sure, we will continue to help people through this market where short sales and bank-owned homes are so prevalent. Like Google, people will continue to put their money where they see fit. Of course, when you decide it is time to buy or sell real estate, “Just Call Nick!”

Realty Executives Tech Initiative – BIG Website Changes Announced

Today is a day long in the making for some people at Realty Executives that have worked very hard on a project known as the “tech initiative.” Technology and innovation have combined to change two web sites from old school to cool school with what many will think of as a simple flip of a switch. This switch has taken the CTO at Realty Executives many, many hours of preparation and research along with countless hours of blood, sweat and tears.

I don’t try to hide the fact that I am a “bit of a geek” when it comes to my interest in the effective use of website strategy. Although I love working at Realty Executives, if there was one thing that I wasn’t completely thrilled about, it was the “outdated” websites the company had. For me, it wasn’t that big of a deal because I mainly point people to my own web sites instead of the Realty Executives web site for information. My “main” website simply consists of a Tempe real estate agent sharing information with people looking to buy or sell homes in the South East Valley. I’ve had the site at NickBastian.com for about a dozen years or so, and it too has gone from really bad to ( hopefully ) improving over time, a constant “ work in progress,” for sure. Another site where I occasionally post some drivel about “stuff” is my work at RailLife.com. Here, I write about things that hopefully interest a few people in what is considered a “niche market” web site focused mainly on “life” along the Phoenix light rail line.

Several months ago, I was introduced to Darrell Smith and we immediately hit it off. As the “Chief Technology Officer” brought in to design and implement a massive internet presence for Executives locally, nationally and internationally, Darrell has definitely had his work cut out for him. Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of really smart people in the “re.net” where web site development, blogging and implementation are looked at as a way of life. Within minutes of meeting Darrell, I knew he was a guy that really “gets it” when it comes to knowing what a real estate company needs to have to be found and to be effective online. Strength in numbers, a huge web site with thousands of pages of searchable content is what quickly piqued my interest. Talking a bit more of the development and execution side of these new sites with Darrell made me want to learn as much about what he was working on as possible.

OK, I need to cut to the chase. What is happening at Realty Executives and why?

Before today, Realty Executives had a platform that quite frankly was horrible. With the re-launch of www.RealtyExecutives.com and of www.SearchHomes.com that instantly changes. ( in my opinion )

As an international web presence built upon the very powerful WordPress platform utilizing cutting edge search capabilities, Executive profiles, blogs, marketing resources and more, this first phase of the Realty Executives web site will be light years ahead of the old Realty Executives web sites and light years ahead of many of the current real estate related web sites online today. Sure, there are some really good web sites out there, but I believe the ideas behind what these new sites will become have the potential to help Realty Executive agents all over the world in creating a much stronger web presence. Better yet, I believe these sites have the ability to increase MY internet presence which benefits myself AND my clients. One of the great things that has not been overlooked is the fact that real estate agents are independent contractors. The company philosophy is focused on the “Executives” in knowing that we all have individual businesses to run. The ways that Darrell has come up with to help us succeed will be a big part of the success of the main web site(s) which will be designed to tie into our individual web sites. ( more on that in the coming weeks )

The launch is today, take a look and give em’ a test drive. If you are a Realty Executives agent, make sure to take advantage of the things that are going to be available to you on an individual basis. There will be ongoing announcements soon and over the next couple of months as tests, tweaks, improvements and additions to the web sites roll out. ( you really should pay attention and take advantage of these tools )

If you are a real estate agent from another company or a person looking to join a great brokerage that will also be able to help with some serious “Google juice,” I’d be happy to give you my .02 on why Realty Executives might be a great choice for you. No, I am not a recruiter. I just happen to think this web site project is VERY cool and can be a great asset to all of us.

There will be a LOT more information available soon but, ssshhhhh, this is a “soft opening” and kind of a secret, so don’t tell anyone. OK? 🙂