Viewing by month: May 2009

Is it time to leave real estate?

I’ve discussed previously the importance of doing a job you love, and why I’ve been in real estate for so long. Similarly to many of us in the CENTURY 21 network, real estate is our passion, and we are lucky enough to love what we do. That said, it’s not unrealistic in the current economy to acknowledge that some agents are doing it tough, and as a result are also doing some soul searching when it comes to their chosen profession.


Even those of us who can’t image doing anything other than real estate sales can probably admit to sometimes wistfully thinking of regular hours and possibly even no weekend work – imagine! And in the current climate there’s no denying many people’s major concern is money. Many people in this industry got into it because they thought they could make a lot of money, but right now that’s not so easy!


Amongst even the greatest realtors, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find even one that can tell you exactly how to go about not failing. Not everyone, no matter how ambitions, smart, good looking, ethical, or motivated, can succeed no matter what, it’s just not possible. Local market conditions are beyond your control, and if there is high unemployment, tight money, and fear, these are difficult times for even seasoned professionals.


So when the going gets tough, the question becomes do you stay or should you go? It’s a big and important decision because the majority of people won’t return if they leave the industry. For those agents who have been considering giving up, just because you’re thinking about it doesn’t mean you should or even that you will. Every business should continue to reevaluate and respond to the market, and CENTURY 21’s approach of getting back to basics and focusing on what’s really important has been our strategy for dealing with the changing economic times. That said, if you’re thinking of leaving the industry more and more frequently and in a short period of time, it’s quite possibly a sign that you need to do some introspection. Being unhappy with the results you’re achieving is one thing, but being unhappy your with duties and responsibilities is quite another.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that now is not really the ideal time to rush into anything. With high unemployment plaguing many regions of the country, alternative employment may be hard to come by, and the thing about real estate is that once you are licensed and in good standing, no individual can stop you from conducting business. That makes right now the perfect time to solidify and establish yourself for when things in the market ramp up again. Down time is always the perfect time to strengthen your business.

  Real estate involves skill, but essentially it isn’t hard. What it is, however, is extremely competitive and highly demanding. It’s not an industry for everyone, and if your enthusiasm is gone, it’s probably time to go, but if it’s in your blood, like it is for those of us working at CENTURY 21, then you will always stay, even when times get tough, and you will always succeed.    
1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 28/05/2009 at 9:18 AM | Categories:

Mobile real estate may be the next big thing

Technological advances and their impact on real estate are something I speak about quite often, and I’ve talked about the internet and applications such as Kindle before. CENTURY 21 is committed to providing our customers with the technological applications they demand, but one thing I haven’t mentioned in the past which is becoming more prevalent in real estate, particularly overseas, is the use of mobile phones to obtain housing data.


With an increasing proportion of the population using devices such as the iPhone and Blackberry, being able to get online is no longer linked to being in front of a computer. With the growth of software and websites that enable mobile searches of listings and neighbourhoods, both agents and consumers alike will increasingly be doing instant home searches on the go.


There’s no denying that customers are becoming more demanding, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. People’s expectations when it comes to customer service and the ability to source information has changed, and almost everyone wants and expects everything on demand.


While the internet has revolutionised home shopping, the designers of phones with mobile applications say that phones with internet capabilities are tapping into consumers' demand for even more flexibility. For example, when it comes to real estate, prospective buyers want to walk or drive through neighbourhoods and do searches then and there based on any number of variables - their current location, price range, size of property, comparable homes. They want instant photos, alerts to open houses quick links to the agents who can show them the home.


Overseas, the increasing demand for these types of features are prompting online listings companies to rush to offer features to users who are still operating standard mobile phones, not just those on iPhones and Blackberries. And although it’s in very early stages for the most part, there is confidence that the use of the technology will take off in a big way once people get used to the idea.

In the USA, Trulia, (a real estate site that lists homes for sale) touts itself as one of the first companies to come up with an iPhone real estate application. It launched in August and has since been downloaded 200,000 times. The application can be downloaded free from Trulia's Web site and is GPS enabled and allows filtered searches - by price range, number of bedrooms and other features. It sends out alerts about upcoming open houses and has a button that will instantly call or e-mail an agent. The idea was to make the application a real utility for people, and it’s been designed with that in mind. If someone wants to attend four different open homes, the application will provide directions to all of them.

Another offering taking off in the USA is Smarter Agent, which launched in January and is available on almost any mobile device and with all carriers. The consumer pays a monthly fee to the phone carrier for the service, but this doesn’t seem to have been a deterrent as the application now has more than 200,000 users and was picked up 20,000 new users in April alone. Smarter Agent taps into a consumer's location through GPS technology and returns information about properties in the immediate area, including sales prices, description, pictures and neighborhood information. Searches can be done by city, postcode or community. A "call to see' button connects them with the agent.

  It will be great to see this type of technology make its way onto our shores, and when real estate agents begin to use this technology, it means we’ll be equipped to provide even better advice and information.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 27/05/2009 at 9:33 AM | Categories:

Century 21's Annual Awards

I’ve blogged before about the importance of motivating staff and keeping your team happy, and one of the most difficult tasks of any business owner is doing exactly this. Staff are the most valuable asset of any company and retaining staff should be a priority for every business. At CENTURY 21, we have a comprehensive awards programmes in place to recognise outstanding performance on a state, national and international level.  

CENTURY 21 Australia recently held our Annual Awards at a gala dinner on the Gold Coast. The awards night was designed to recognise our highest achievers in 2008, and it was a fabulous night of fun and, with the risk of sounding clichéd, family. Since the event, many people have commented to me in regards to how much the CENTURY 21 Australia network genuinely like each other. It makes for a great working environment, and a great company to be a part of.  Two of the most prestigious awards in the CENTURY 21 system were awarded at the event, namely the Hall of Fame, and the 2100 Cup.      

Max Comben of CENTURY 21 Max Comben in WA was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his ongoing commitment and his myriad of awards over the years. To be inducted, a franchise owner must:

  be a prolific Centurion winner
  be totally supportive of the C21 system
 be looked up to by peers
  put back into the community and profession

Max has demonstrated these qualities during his long association with CENTURY 21, and he is a total asset to the organisation. Congratulations Max! 

Our other big winner for the evening was CENTURY 21 Central in South Australia, who took home the 2100 Cup. This award is presented to an office that:• Believes in the CENTURY 21 System and all that it stands for
• Embraces and successfully implements our tools and systems
• Plays a significant role in community leadership
• Continues to evolve and change and is not afraid of new ideas and ways of doing business

The CENTURY 21 Central Principal Andrew Koukourou and his team do exactly that and are fitting winners of the Cup. As a surprise, members of Andrew’s family were flown in on the evening which made for an extra special award win. Congratulations to everyone at CENTURY 21 Central!  

And congratulations also go to our newest Centurions, who are amongst the top 2% of sales people in the CENTURY 21 sales force internationally. We breed a whole host of dedicated, award winning people at CENTURY 21, so I can’t encourage you enough to stop in at your local CENTURY 21 office and meet your local team.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 26/05/2009 at 10:22 AM | Categories:

The other way online impacts real estate

There’s no denying that the online world has impacted greatly on the real estate industry, and I’ve discussed this before. Even me blogging every day is a sign of how times have changed! We know that the majority of people in the market for a home will at some point end up online to  search for information, which has impacted how the industry markets and communicates massively. There is another way the online environment has impacted on the real estate industry though, and it’s not quite as friendly.


Although when selling a home, both the agent and the vendor need feedback, the freedom and anonymity of the online space has sparked brutally frank discussions about specific properties for sale, and the agent representing them. These types of forums can result in hundreds of comments being posted as buyers search for as much information as they can in a market that has proven volatile.


Knowing your property is possibly being picked apart online by strangers can be unsettling for the hardiest of vendor, and realistically hiding behind a computer screen to make scathing comments about a vendor’s personal taste when it comes to furnishings are nothing to do with the property itself and its suitability to a new owner.


How these online assessments can be helpful however, is to the agent. It pays to be aware of what’s being said about a property for sale and taking key points from it. Great brands have set up online forums specifically so their customers can let loose about what they consider to be a product’s failings, purely so they can make amendments accordingly. Agents need to take the same approach. If the general consensus from people who have viewed the property is that it’s priced too highly for the area, or that the agent isn’t approachable, maybe that’s something both the vendor and the agent have to consider.


These types of forums have been established not so people can be deliberately nasty, but so people can ask the questions they feel they can’t ask the agent – that’s not a good sign to begin with! As agents we have a responsibility to be open and accessible, and most importantly – honest. I’ve said before that CENTURY 21 prides itself on providing clear, expert and accessible advice and that needs to become an industry mantra if scenarios like this are to be avoided.

  For the most part, these people aren’t online to be critical, they’re there to gain a qualitative perspective and opinions from others. The moderators of these sites know that, and they do tend to err on the side of giving their users freedom, but a responsible site will remove comments that cross the line into personal slander, like making fun of someone or revealing personal information such as phone numbers. It’s important that customers can source information online, but what is more important is providing a level of service and communication that makes these types of potentially damaging forums redundant.  
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 25/05/2009 at 10:27 AM | Categories:

There's no such thing as an average home

When you’ve been in the real estate game as long as I have, you realize that there’s no such thing as an “average” home. You only need to have a quick browse through the properties we have here at CENTURY 21 to demonstrate that. Just like people have had to adjust their ideas of what constitutes an ‘average’ family or an ‘average’ person, when it comes to property it’s really quite a misleading term.

If you’re in the market for a property, or even if you just have an interest in real estate, you would have noticed how prevalent use of the word ‘average’ is when it comes to describing properties and real estate trends. Statistics refer to average prices in particular, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to understand the true value of a home.

With this in mind, what is helpful is to base the value of a home on the selling prices in the neighbourhood. If you’re considering selling your home, this is the best approach to take. For example, if five homes in a neighbourhood recently sold for $200,000, $220,000, $260,000, $290,000 and $500,000, the average price is $294,000. But when you look at the prices independently, it’s obvious that the $500,000 sale has pushed the average higher than it should be. This is where use of average starts to mess things up. If you omit that sale, the average becomes $242,000 which is a more accurate indicator of the value of the homes in this fictional neighbourhood.

This type of skewing occurs frequently in home price surveys and makes its way into the public’s eye when statistics are cited. It’s no wonder people get confused. In a slower market like we’re experiencing now, the statistics are subject to a further blip because higher priced homes don’t sell as quickly as lower priced homes.

All this boils down to a realization that you can’t and shouldn’t rely on 'average’ home prices to make sense of the selling climate where you live, or where you want to live. If you keep your eye on your own neighbourhood, or that of the one you want to move into, you've got a much better chance of seeing the real of homes. 
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 21/05/2009 at 12:31 PM | Categories:

Renovations on the rise as property owners stay home

As I mentioned yesterday, the increase in upgraders is having a positive impact on industries other than just real estate, and is providing stock that first home buyers are in the market for. But for those who are feeling the effects of the global recession, another trend amongst home owners is beginning to take shape, and its that of renovators.


Renovation has always played a big part in real estate. People renovate in order to sell with the hopes of achieving a higher price, and many people buy with the intention of renovating. What we are seeing now is the continued popularity of renovation, but it’s so people can stay in their current home for longer. The current economy has resulted in many people spending more time at home – something Foxtel has cleverly worked into their current advertising premise – and therefore many are renovating to make that home their ideal.


This trend is becoming particularly prevalent in the USA where home values have been hit much harder than on our own shores, and it means that many small business owners are seeing an increase in demand for their services. The equivalents of the likes of Bunnings and Mitre 10 are expected to show these benefits also when they announce their first quarter earnings later this week. Some companies are saying they’ve seen the biggest increase in sales month over month for the last year and a half.

  Realistically most people are still renovating with a final sale in mind, it means they enjoy the home they’re in now, but ultimately will hopefully add to the value of their home when they do come to sell.   
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 20/05/2009 at 9:44 AM | Categories:

Recovery in new housing demand begins

There are signs that demand for new housing is beginning to recover with thanks to the recent announcement of extended government incentives and low interest rates. This is a good sign not just for those of us in real estate but also for those people in related industries such as building and construction.

A recent report from BIS Shrapnel stated a solid increase of 7% in national dwelling approvals has been seen over the three months to March 2009. This is an indication that things are looking up for home building, and the latest demand is increasingly coming from home owners looking to upgrade. Known as “upgraders”, this group consists of those who have sold their properties to first homebuyers recently and as a result are looking for a new home.

Upgraders have been most active in Victoria, where dwelling approvals jumped 22% in the first quarter of 2009. South Australia wasn't far behind, with an 18% increase. Melbourne and Adelaide have especially benefited from lower land prices, as land affordability is much cheaper than in some other capital cities. That contrasts sharply with Sydney, where high land prices have pushed a greater dependence on medium to high density dwellings, and those types of projects just aren't being built fast enough to keep up with the demand in Sydney. 

The slow building in New South Wales has kept supply well below demand, which is a benefit to investors, but to help the economy more needs to be done to encourage building. The governments extension of the first home owner boosts will hopefully go some way towards this.  That said, the global financial crisis has made it much more difficult for developers to access credit, and the plunge in apartment projects has reduced this opportunity for all households, including first homebuyers. 

At the end of the day, residential building is the traditional driver of recovery from recession, so it is vital that policy efforts are focused on this sector. The report from BIS Shrapnel predicts that dwelling approvals throughout Australia will increase 10% during the June quarter which is certainly a good start.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 19/05/2009 at 10:42 AM | Categories:

First Home Buyer Boosts Extended - Great news for real estate!


Last night’s Federal Budget 2009 announcement of the continuation of the first home buyer boosts has led to a sigh of relief for the real estate industry, and those first home buyers who had been rushing to sign contracts before the new financial year after the included the extension of the boosts, as can the real estate industry.


The extension of the increased grants has certainly been highly anticipated, and greatly discussed and lobbied, and there was definite concern that the market would experience a downturn if the boosts had not been extended. The extension and shows that the Government is carefully considering the state of the property market, which is a good sign for those of us involved in it, such as myself! The continuation of the boosts will certainly act as a motivator for even more first home buyers to get back into the property market, and that’s good news for the real estate industry.


It is indisputable that in the face of global economic instability and reports of real estate prices and markets crashing internationally, that the boost has helped bolster our market here in Australia. Already around 59,000 Australians have bought their first home with the assistance of the grants, and the newly announced six month stimulus package is estimated to be costing the Government $539 million over three years. An extra three months of the full boost up for grabs is bound to motivate those who had been hesitating.


I believe the reduced extension after that will still act as a motivator for those considering entering the market to do so. It will hopefully also have the effect of encouraging market activity for a longer period, with the flow on effect of helping to stimulate construction and other related industries.


With the full boost now available until 30 September, first home buyers have another three months up their sleeve to take advantage of the largest grant available - they will continue to receive the boost of $7000 in addition to the First Home Owners Scheme Grant, providing them with $14,000 for the purchase of established homes, and $21,000 for the purchase of new homes.

  After this date, those first home buyers entering the property market will be eligible for half the boost until the end of the year. In dollar terms, this means first home buyers entering contracts for established homes between 1 October and 31 December will receive $3,500 and those buying new properties will receive $7,000 in addition to the First Home Owners Scheme Grant.     
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 13/05/2009 at 10:02 AM | Categories:

Fixed rates surge to 9 month high

I was reading Your Mortgage the other day, and was very interested to see stats indicating that people have started to lock down fixed rate mortgages in light of the ongoing rate cuts. It seems that maybe consumers are seeing an end to the cuts, speculation which would have been confirmed with the recent hold put on the cash rate, and they are committing to current rates as a result.


The latest report from mortgage broker Australian Finance Group showed that sales of fixed rate home loans jumped to 6.8% in April from March’s 3.7% which is a fairly significant leap! This followed the increase in the month of February where a jump of 2.5% was seen, indicating that home buyers haven’t been prepared to let these low rates pass them by for a few months now.


The increase in sales comes as some banks have already started to raise the interest rates on their fixed mortgages. In late April, CBA added 0.44% to its 3-year fixed rate, taking the figure to 6.19%, and Westpac increased its rate by 0.40%, resulting in 5.79%. ING also got on the bandwagon and increased its rate by 0.20% to 5.89%.


As first homebuyers are in the real estate market, this group remained the driving force in the market for fixed rate home loans, and the group accounted for 27.7% of all new mortgages sold in the period. NSW recorded the highest proportion of first homebuyer loan sales at 33.8% while Victoria notched up 27.3%.

  Already many of us in the industry are wondering what the government’s decision regarding the first home buyer boosts will be for the new financial year, and what the impact will be. It will be equally interesting to see what the impact will be on the mortgage industry once the decision is made.


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 12/05/2009 at 10:40 AM | Categories:

Real estate bargain hunts

It’s not difficult to see why so many people are confused when it comes to the real estate market. There are conflicting reports everywhere about the economic impact, if the market is recovering or still dropping and when things are likely to return to where they were.


We have to acknowledge that the market has suffered, that much is undeniable, but whilst this causes difficulty for some, others are actually prospering, so to make sweeping statements is virtually impossible. An interesting benefactor of the GFC’s impact on real estate is the travel industry out of China, namely travel to the USA which has picked up in the first few months of 2009. Interestingly there are some indications that the reason for this increase in travel is the U.S. housing market.


Real estate is a top priority for many wealthy Chinese investors, and there are a quite a number of them. Reportedly more than 50,000 individuals in China have a net worth over $10 million and the number of people with a net worth over $1 million is more than 800,000. Currently these wealthy investors tie up around 21% of their assets in real estate holdings where the global average is approximately 14%. So it makes sense that switched on property buyers are heading to where the bargains abound, and currently everyone knows that’s in the United States.


Amongst these elite of Chinese society, specialised housing tours are beginning to prove popular. One of China’s largest real estate companies, Soufun Holdings, ran a USA bound trip at the end of February for 40 of the country’s wealthier buyers. Starting in Boston then traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, the trip cost the equivalent of roughly $4,800 and allowed the group to view homes in the US $500,000 to $1 million range. The trip was so popular that the company had to turn away 400 applicants.

  Thankfully the impact of the economy on the Australian real estate market has been nowhere near profound enough to warrant fly in bargain hunters, but there are still great purchase opportunities for people who are in the market currently. If you’re looking to buy or sell or have questions about real estate, drop in and see your local CENTURY 21 agent – your local real estate expert.  
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 11/05/2009 at 8:41 AM | Categories: