How to drive leads to your Real Estate Website

What is it that we all want to achieve with our websites? Traffic and, most importantly, leads. Getting a lot of traffic directed to your site will only happen one of 2 ways:

- You truly have a unique product or service that EVERYONE is searching for, which is unlikely in the real estate realm

- You put in some work to create the traffic you desire.

There are many ways to create immediate jumps or spikes in traffic and that can be costly. But are these visitors really interested in your proposition of value? Will they return to your website to search for real estate or information? Your goal is to create a mass amount of traffic of visitors who not only want to do business with you, but are motivated and willing to work with you. Here are a few ways that you can increase your traffic, it is then your job to focus on conversion.

1. Offline marketing – Lots of realtors forget this crucial piece of the puzzle when focusing their marketing online. Does your email signature have your website, your blog, or link to your niche? Does your signs, , business cards, neighborhood mailers, riders have your website on them? This is a crucial piece. Lots of online traffic comes from these offline efforts

2. Provide something of value – Buyers come to search for property. Sellers want information on how to sell their homes. Verify that these major pieces of the puzzle are there and grow from there. Also, there should be some sort of registration on your website…just how far will you let them go before it is required?

3. Site map – Create one for your site. This will allow the search engines to better understand your site and the pages within so that you can be indexed.

4. PPC, or pay per click- This is one of the easiest ways to get traffic. You can specifically target the audience you are after. It may be pricey to get ‘homes for sale in East Baton Rouge’ (for example). But, it may be much easier to target a hot neighborhood or area of town with those keywords. It would be a lot more specific and a less expensive, yet targeting movtivated buyers or sellers

5. Social Media sites – who has not been hearing how critical social media sites are becoming?They are everywhere. Ning, Facebook, twitter, active rain, linkedin, etc. I highly encourage you to use these sites to your advantage. Post links to your blog or your website, let everyone know when you put up an interesting blog, added a listing to your page, etc.

Attacking with a balanced and well thought out plan is key to success when marketing online. You will need a consistent and steady amount of traffic to get the leads, convert the leads into appointments, and then taking these appointments to the closing table!

Tim Houk

Baton Rouge home prices continue to rise!!

From the Baton Rouge Business Report:

B.R. home prices continuing to rise

“After posting a slight drop, Baton Rouge home prices are continuing to rise above 2008 numbers. Capital Region home prices rose by 1.74% in June, when compared to the year before, according to First American CoreLogic’s LoanPerformance Home Price Index. That’s better than the 7.8% decrease reported in the index nationwide. June’s numbers come after Baton Rouge home prices were down 1.61% in May, compared to May 2008. Louisiana’s index was up 0.6% in June, the sixth highest gain of any state. West Virginia saw the biggest increase, with the index going up 3.35%. Nevada and Florida had the biggest decreases in home prices, with the index showing drops of more than 25%. First American bases its Home Price Index on public records sources such as property sales, tax assessments and mortgage filings.”

Not tooting my own horn, but I am busier now that I have been in a very long time, as are MANY other agents.  It is a great time to purchase in  Baton Rouge and surrounding area’s. While there are SOME financing difficulties that can arise, don’t let that discourage you from jumping at a GREAT opportunity!

Tim Houk

The trouble with appraisals. Sellers in Baton Rouge beware

This article explains the pitfalls with appraisals currently. To those not aware, appraisers are no longer chosen by the lenders. Instead it is a lottery system that may get you an appraiser that is not from where you live which can cause serious pitfalls. I am not saying the sky is falling…but there are issues out there and this helps explain why.

This article is from the Wall Street Journal:

After being blamed for helping to inflate home values during the housing boom, the appraisal business is again coming under fire.

Squeezed by a drop in fees, some appraisers are compensating by driving long distances to handle more assignments. Their wanderings are raising questions about whether they know enough about the neighborhoods to accurately assess the value of homes—which has implications for both home buyers and owners.

Bob Blake, a flight-test engineer who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was shocked when an appraiser who traveled 44 miles from Port St. Lucie, Fla., valued his home at $228,000 in late May. Mr. Blake’s mortgage broker, Skip McDonough, protested to the appraisal-management company, Nations Valuation Services Inc., that the appraiser had failed to look at comparable homes. Eventually, Nations sent another appraiser, who valued the home at $295,000. The dispute delayed Mr. Blake’s refinancing by more than six weeks.

A spokesman for Nations Valuation declined to discuss the details of the appraisals but said, “We feel we handled it properly.”

Appraisals are supposed to shield home buyers from paying too much and lenders from overestimating the value of collateral. If appraisals come in too high, buyers may overpay, making defaults more likely. If they are too low, it becomes hard to sell or refinance homes. Many real-estate agents and builders say that the pendulum has swung too far toward caution, and that lowball appraisals threaten to snuff out any recovery in the housing market.

In June, Evie Salazar traveled about 75 miles from her office in Corona, Calif., to do an appraisal in Cathedral City, Calif. Usually, Ms. Salazar says, she tries to work within about 40 miles of her home, but business was slow at the time she accepted that job. “You do what you’ve got to do at times to feed the family and pay the bills,” she says.

Ms. Salazar, an appraiser for the past 12 years, says she researched the Cathedral City market carefully and did a good job. But many real estate agents and mortgage brokers charge that some wandering appraisers are coming up with dubious estimates. Too many appraisers are getting assignments in places where they “just don’t know the nuances,” says Rick Turley, who oversees the San Francisco Bay area for the Coldwell Banker real-estate-brokerage chain.

The debate over appraisals is inflamed by a natural tension: Real-estate agents and mortgage brokers, who need to complete transactions to collect their fees, are unhappy when an appraiser nixes the sale price. But it also suggests that there may be unintended consequences to an attempt by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to reform the appraisal business.

Using the threat of litigation, Mr. Cuomo last year prodded the government-backed mortgage investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into adopting a new code of conduct for appraisers. Since those two companies provide funding for the bulk of U.S. home mortgages, the code, which took effect May 1, has become the national standard for most home loans.

The code bars loan officers, mortgage brokers or real-estate agents from any role in selecting appraisers. One result is that more lenders have outsourced the selection to appraisal-management companies, or AMCs, which take a sizable cut of the appraisal fee, often 40% or more. The AMCs pay appraisers as little as $175 to $200 per assignment, compared with the $350 or more that many get when they work directly for a lender.

“Many appraisers are struggling to survive on the fees paid by the AMCs,” says Bill Garber, a spokesman for the Appraisal Institute, a trade group based in Chicago. Appraisers are being asked to work faster even as their fees are cut, and that conflicts with the goal of getting reliable appraisals, he says.

Squeezing Appraisers

Appraisal-management companies deny they are squeezing appraisers too hard. A spokesman for banking giant Wells Fargo & Co., which owns an AMC, says it “has invested substantial time and resources in the quality control of the valuation process to, among other things, ensure that individual appraisers have relevant knowledge of the markets and properties they review.” A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo says the new code is working well and helping protect appraisers from pressure to inflate estimates.

Appraisers are required to follow a set of national rules known as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Among other things, those rules require that “an appraiser preparing an appraisal in an unfamiliar location must spend sufficient time to understand the nuances of the local market.”

Yet some appraisers who travel long distances to find work may be hard-pressed to spend “sufficient time” in an unfamiliar market. LaRon Hall did an appraisal in early June on a home being sold in Palm Desert, Calif., about 86 miles from his office in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He says he needs to accept jobs within a broad swath of Southern California to earn a living. Under the new appraisal code, Mr. Hall says, “you’re getting less money and you’re having to do more. … It’s definitely a sticky situation.”

Mr. Hall appraised the three-bedroom home at $186,000, far above the $138,000 for which it sold in late June. Concerned about accuracy, the mortgage lender that financed the purchase rejected Mr. Hall’s appraisal and ordered one from another party before making the loan, according to a person involved in the transaction.

A spokesman for Equifax Inc., whose AMC unit ordered the appraisal in Palm Desert, says Mr. Hall has an excellent record on appraisals and that Equifax has a “rigorous quality-control process.”

Though consumers can’t choose their own appraiser—unless they’re paying cash for a home—they should request a copy of the appraisal and examine it to see whether it contains any errors in the description of the property and whether the nearby homes, or “comps,” used to gauge its value are truly comparable. If they aren’t, the consumer should present any evidence of flaws to the banks and insist that the appraisal be reviewed and redone if necessary.

Carol Kearns, herself a real- estate agent, complains that an appraisal done on her own Montvale, N.J., home in June was “an unprofessional guess.” The appraisal came in at $730,000, which was more than enough to qualify Ms. Kearns and her husband, Robert, to refinance their mortgage. But Ms. Kearns, upset at what she sees as sloppy work, maintains that the home is worth more than $900,000.

The appraiser was Uchenna Eboh, whose employer, Kobi Group, is about 46 miles away in Mendham, N.J. Ms. Kearns says Mr. Eboh didn’t seem to know her neighborhood and used dissimilar houses as “comps.” Among those, she says, were two on much smaller lots and one on a busy street corner.

‘Reasonable Proximity’

A colleague of Mr. Eboh says he couldn’t comment and referred questions about the appraisal to the AMC that ordered it, Lender Processing Services Inc.’s LSI unit. A spokeswoman for LPS says the appraisal “followed the processes required” by federal standards and LSI’s “more-stringent requirements.” She says LSI “only uses local, knowledgeable appraisers located within a reasonable proximity to the properties.”

Sometimes appraisers are called on to express opinions on the values of faraway homes without even seeing them. LandSafe, an appraisal unit of Bank of America Corp., in May assigned Jane Price, an appraiser in Dallas, to review another appraiser’s estimate of a home in Cathedral City, Calif. Ms. Price didn’t visit the neighborhood in question, but her review cited nearby homes she used to determine comparable value.

Ms. Price declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Bank of America says Ms. Price was asked to do only a “desktop review” of the original appraisal. “California is a state which has a lot of market information available, which allows a reviewer to gather credible data about a property even when they are not in the immediate area,” the spokeswoman adds.

Month to date residential sales in East Baton Rouge

Sold Terms Total Total List $ Total Sold $ Avg List $ Avg Sold $ Med Sold $ Avg DOM Avg DTC Avg $/SF % SP/LP
CASH 50 $9,303,479 $8,914,001 $186,069 $178,280 $139,500 102 29 $98 95.81%
CONVENTIONAL 184 $47,547,208 $45,699,326 $258,408 $248,365 $220,000 92 42 $115 96.11%
FHA 119 $19,547,114 $19,062,609 $164,261 $160,189 $152,500 85 42 $97 97.52%
FMHA 1 $227,850 $227,850 $227,850 $227,850 $227,850 428 49 $120 100%
OTHER 5 $776,800 $759,400 $155,360 $151,880 $148,500 51 23 $96 97.76%
OWNER FINANCING 1 $1,400,000 $930,000 $1,400,000 $930,000 $930,000 420 17 $169 66.42%
VA 12 $2,394,900 $2,346,600 $199,575 $195,550 $174,050 88 38 $100 97.98%
TOTALS 372 $81,197,351 $77,939,786 $218,272 $209,515 $180,500 92 40 $113 93.08%

Baton Rouge forecasted at the top 10 for home appreciation

I was reading the Business Report article this morning and noticed this little tidbit of information I found VERY interesting. Baton Rouge real estate IS the investment to make!

Still appreciating: Baton Rouge is ranked seventh on Housing Predictor’s midyear list of the 10 hottest housing markets for buyers. Housing Predictor says the Capital Region is among the places most likely to see home prices inflating over the next few years, despite the national recession. Amarillo, Texas, topped the list, with Sioux Falls, S.D. second and Biloxi, Miss. third. This is a bump up for Baton Rouge: the city was ninth on the list Housing Predictor released at the start of the year.”

Great home that is available for Lease-Purchase

I have a GREAT home in Westhaven subdivision that is available for lease, lease-purchase, or purchase.  3 bedroom/3 bath home in a growing area.  Westhaven subdivision near Bluebonnet extension.  Available immediately.  Immaculate and ready for move in!