Viewing by month: May 2009

Kindle and Real Estate

Technological advances still often amaze me as much as they interest me, and how rapidly the technological landscape changes has, as I have discussed before, a big impact on the real estate market.


Although it’s not exactly new, one technology I’ve been pondering lately is Kindle. Amazon have grand plans for Kindle, and their vision is to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds on Kindle. Already the Kindle Store has more than 275,000 books available, plus top newspapers, magazines, and blogs. In addition, anything in the Kindle Store can use the text-to-speech feature, which means Kindle can read every newspaper, magazine, blog, and book out loud to you, unless the book is disabled by the rights holder.


With this technology, Kindle has the potential to become a publisher of open source textbooks, and for this reason it’s been termed “disruptive”. That means it displaces a current method of doing something, and in much the same way that Wikipedia was disruptive to printed encyclopedias, Kindle has the potential to threaten the published book market, and in particular textbooks. And that got me thinking about real estate training and how the technology could apply there.


Imagine how much easier it would be to train and update real estate agents if you could add to an existing text rather than starting from scratch. We’ve all seen the recent impact the global financial crisis has had on real estate, and that’s made much of what has been written previously in regards to trends and projections useless. The technology to include this into training texts that already exist would make the spread of this information much more accessible, and much faster, and that would result in a more educated industry and a more educated market.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 08/05/2009 at 8:27 AM | Categories:

Stable rate still a good sign for real estate

Tuesday’s decision by the Reserve Bank to leave the current interest rate at 3.00% will continue to provide relief to those invested in the property market, and I am confident that the low current rate will still act as a motivator for those considering returning to the market. In a nutshell, even though rates weren’t cut this week, I believe that the low nature of the cash rate is still going to benefit the real estate market and industry.  

The last rate reduction left the cash rate at it's lowest since March 1960 when the average rate was 2.99%, and it can’t be disputed that it’s had a big impact on the market. Although the banks have been criticized for not passing on the full rate cuts in these times of economic stress, about 360 of those basis points have been passed on to consumers. This acts as an incentive for those considering making their move into property, whether for the first time or not, and for those already invested the savings and relief it has provided cannot be denied. At CENTURY 21 we have certainly seen buyers and sellers who have recognised that these factors make it a good time to be in the market.” 

Although the government’s stimulus by way of the first home buyer initiatives is possibly drawing to a close, this group is still currently one of the biggest winners in the housing market.  With the low interest rate and the increased grants available, it is still the first time buyers who are responsible for much of the current activity in the market. I am anticipating that the stable low rate will send a signal to previously hesitant first home buyers to take the plunge, and I am certain that this week’s rate decision will continue to bolster confidence in the market.        


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/05/2009 at 8:48 AM | Categories:

Bigger brand, bigger challenges

As the General Manager for CENTURY 21 Australia, I work with a large and diverse group of people, a situation not uncommon to most franchise networks. For this reason, I find franchising particularly interesting. People aren’t the only great thing about a franchise network - it’s also widely accepted that franchising has had an unquestionable impact on the economies of many countries, being acclaimed for its contribution to GDP, retail sales, job creation and training. That belief makes me wonder however, if people believe that big brands don’t face the same challenges as small businesses. In some ways I think the challenges are sometimes even bigger.  

Some global networks such as CENTURY 21 have managed to create an incredible level of growth and brand awareness but the perception that some international brands are invincible, even the likes of McDonalds, is misplaced. Like any business, and especially during times of economic uncertainty, franchise groups are facing changing market conditions and the need for change to remain competitive. In the case of CENTURY 21, our offices are independently owned and operated, so although we are an international brand, your local CENTURY 21 office is actually also a small business.  

Regardless of their size, in the current economic conditions, smart companies operating in competitive environments are working very hard to operate more efficiently. This often involves testing high yielding new initiatives and introducing new ways to differentiate themselves from competitors. If you look at McDonalds as an example, their recent initiatives have included menu changes, operational changes, restaurant layout tests, operating certain support functions offshore and the introduction of new services like wireless Internet access.  

McDonald's is also promoting a much greater focus on quality in a further attempt to differentiate itself from others. Interestingly, the increased emphasis on quality monitoring has reputedly led more US franchisees to leave the system in the past twelve months than had exited in the previous five years. CENTURY 21 also prides itself on striving to provide quality service and advice to our customers, but I am happy to say that even in these tough times, our network is continuing to grow. It seems our focus on quality is having the opposite effect to that at McDonald’s and is attracting the type of people who are good enough to uphold the brand.  

Regardless of in which area of business a prospective franchisee is interested, someone considering joining a franchise group needs to assess the company and market they are interested in before setline on an individual franchise opportunity. Like I am proud to say CENTURY 21 does, a franchisor should know its industry, the trends affecting it, and be able to demonstrate a clear vision for how future challenges will be addressed. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 06/05/2009 at 10:53 AM | Categories:

Learning real estate

Working in real estate, one thing becomes clear, and that's the difference between how those of us in the industry view the market, and how the general public thinks about real estate. I have blogged before about how it is the responsibility of the the likes of our agents at CENTURY 21 to keep the general public informed and up to date in all aspects of real estate, and it will always remain one of the industry's primary roles.

CENTURY 21 prides itself on providing clear, expert advice to people making real estate decisions, but in order to do this we ourselves need to ensure our training is up to date, and that we too are informed. That said, there are a few key differences between training real estate agents, and teaching the general public about real estate. 

One interesting aspect of real estate is that there are actually many non-licensed individuals who are actively involved in real estate sales and property management. There are many examples of private individuals wishing to negotiate and purchase real estate, and there is no requirement that these people even use an agent, much less be licensed. I regularly see property for private sale, as I’m sure you do, and likewise, if an owner wishes to lease or sell his own property on the open market, he may do so without the requirement for any education in the field of real estate. 

What’s also interesting about public interest in real estate is that one of the primary focuses is the profit-making potential of the industry – basically the mentality of if I buy a house today, how can I make it pay for itself and how much will it be worth in the future? Those of us who have made a career in the industry know that the real estate market is an imperfect market, and as has been evidenced only recently, is capable of being a volatile one. No two pieces of real estate can ever be considered identical, and there will always be properties will be priced higher or lower than an individual thinks they ought to be. For a member of the public with an interest in real estate, the goal should be to educate yourself in the markets that interest you, then make offers when you sense a bargain. 

Whilst historically real estate tends to be a slow and steady performer, lending itself to long-term investing, a lot of the public want an investment program that’s based on win-win opportunities. By that I mean there is no need to take advantage of others in order to prosper at real estate. For many reasons some sellers are highly motivated to sell their property and if they are motivated enough to be flexible on their price or terms or even both, it becomes possible to find a solution that benefits all parties.  

At the end of the day, regardless of your level of interest in real estate, the key to a good outcome in is a good education in the beginning, and your local CENTURY 21 agent is the best first step to get that education happening.   


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 05/05/2009 at 10:01 AM | Categories:

Are first home buyers the only current buyers?

There is much speculation that the boosts to the first home owner’s grants will be coming to an end with the financial year. There is also much hope that the Government will reconsider and extend the boost, particularly for new homes. It is being argued by many that a continued extension of the boost for newly constructed homes has the flow on effect of helping the construction industry and other associated trades.


There is no denying that from a real estate perspective, the increased first home buyer grants have had a positive impact on the market. The movement of stock up to the $500,000 mark as a direct result attests this. Figures released last week also showed that new housing sales increased during the month of March and it has been implied that it was the first home buyers who were responsible for this. Interestingly, in a statement made by the REIA President last week, it was noted that this claim failed to recognize the buying preferences of first home buyers.


According to the information released, most first home buyers have clear preferences in regards to where they live, and they choose proximity to entertainment and work over new housing estates. The reasons cited for this are lifestyle choice including an avoidance of long commutes but also an awareness of the environmental impacts of new estate developments.


Whilst there is no denying that some builders and purchasers of new homes are indeed first home buyers, some members of the real estate industry are providing information which suggests established homes are being sold to first home buyers, and it is the sellers of these homes who are moving into the new properties. So it would seem the argument for which boost should be extended indeed has two sides. In light of the information released by the REIA, the President of the REIA is urging the Government not to restrict an ongoing boost to only those first home buyers investing in newly established properties.

  Realistically whichever way the Government chooses to do so, the economy still needs support. It will be interesting to see in which way the Government chooses to deliver that in the new financial year.
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 04/05/2009 at 3:01 PM | Categories:

Creative selling ideas

The real estate game can be a tough one, as many involved in it currently know. But even in boom times, the ability to attract the right buyer for a property is a skill. I have mentioned CENTURY 21’s focus on training before, and we are constantly trying to provide our agents with the tools to offer our customers the best possible solutions to their buying and selling situations.

Creative selling techniques are often a great way to attract the right people to a home, often making them worth the effort required to think beyond the square, particularly when the property in question has unique features or is a cut above the rest. I recently read about a home for sale in Port Angeles (in Washington State) where the owner is offering a 3 night stay in the property at no cost to potential buyers who are qualified to purchase within the expected sell price bracket. Their time at the property also includes a professionally guided bus tour of the area. 

The idea behind the mini holiday approach to selling is that buyers are likely to be from outside of the area, coupled with the belief that if buyers could actually see the views and experience the home, they would get a sense of how extraordinary the property is. Through finding a like-minded realtor, the promotion of this property is virtually unheard of in the area, but is driven by the understanding that selling the home is a matter of connecting with the right buyer, not just dropping the price in light of current market conditions.  

This story is a great show of the collaboration required between a real estate agent and a home owner to achieve the right marketing strategy and result for a property. Working together to sell a property requires communication and trust, and in this instance, a shared creative approach. The home owner in this story has been happy to pay for additional advertising out of state, designed to attract the out of town buyer he ultimately believes will be the final buyer.

Within the CENTURY 21 network we’ve seen creative approaches to home selling, in recent months a prestige property on the market hosted a party for prospective purchasers so they could experience the home as a home, rather than in a walk through environment. Knowing who your market is, and the best way to promote a home to them is the crux of any selling method. And while its not suitable for everyone or every property, the joy of getting creative in selling is that the home viewing experience is often a lot more enjoyable one for all involved!   
0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 01/05/2009 at 12:00 AM | Categories: