Ten Realtor® New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from MAR! I thought that a good theme for my January blog post would be, what else…the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. As CEO, I get a lot of questions from Realtors® about how they can get more involved, be more attuned to what’s going on in the industry, and how they can boost their business. Here are the answers I give them, in a single post. If you take all these steps, I assure you and your business will have the best year yet.

10. ANTICIPATE change. There are some possibly big challenges (and opportunities) ahead this year. Mortgage interest deduction. Flood insurance. Taxes. Energy. First-time homebuyer savings. Student debt effects. The Realtor® “R” should also stand for “read”. Schedule time on your calendar to read the latest industry news and forecasts from reliable sources, rather than just scattershot Tweets and Facebook posts.

9. GET AHEAD of your state continuing education or Realtor® Code of Ethics training requirement by getting it done early this year. No kidding.

8. SUPPORT your community with at least one charitable endeavor this year. Remember, you’re in a relationships business. Join your fellow Realtors®  in assisting association programs like the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brother-Big Sister, homeless shelters, food drives, holiday gift drives and many other programs. Add a fourth leg to the above “balance” table with service to the community this year.

7. LEARN something new this year. Courses leading to GRI, CRS, CRB, CCIM and the like are structured ways to learn profitable skills while adding marketable designations to your business card. (Go to the National Association of Realtors® designation page to learn about all the designations that are offered).

6. ATTEND something new this year.  Again, real estate is a relationships business–even more so across market areas. This industry abounds in networking opportunities, including the state and national Realtor® Conventions, NAR’s Legislative Conference, MAR’s Day on Beacon Hill, local association events, and a variety of other industry events. If you’re already a frequent flier, then make this your year to “bring a friend.”

5. ADVANCE the industry a few more steps forward. Look for committee volunteer notices around June and sign-up. Talk with your local Association Executive about being a town monitor or joining an SPC (State Political Coordinator) or FPC (Federal Political Coordinator) team (we love our acronyms). We know the importance of maintaining balance between your family, business and your industry responsibilities. Just remember that all three support your career balance.

4. REACT. Actually spend the five minutes it takes to respond to Realtor® Call for Action messages this year. Although we reserve these alerts only for the most critical issues facing your livelihood, a paltry 10-15% of Realtors® take time to respond with messages to their legislators. C’mon, we can do much better than that in 2017.

3. INVEST in RPAC. At least $25 fair share investment…but doesn’t your career success indicate a step-up to Major Investor this year?

2. ENGAGE your audience. MAR has done a lot in the past few years to step up our social media and online presence. We are committed to the mission of providing you with the latest news about the industry and data on your community. The good news is, you can share that information with your followers to establish yourself as the expert in your area. For example, share the local market updates in your town or the monthly statewide home sales data to impress your audience and educate your clients. Give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get the latest.

1. COMMENT below. Let us know what you’re planning on in the new year to boost your business, expand your network, give back and reach out this year. We look forward to reading your resolutions!

Pending Home Sales and Market Confidence in Massachusetts Housing Market both up in December and for 2016

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Holiday cheer wasn’t the only thing in abundance in December as both the number of homes put under agreement and prices were up in the final month of the year. This was also true for condominiums put under agreement. This trend was mirrored in the year-end totals for 2016 compared to 2015. Realtors’® confidence in the market was positive again in December as their confidence in prices was down slightly.

December Pending Sales:

Single Family December 2016 December 2015 % Change
Sales 3,430 2,993 14.6%
Median Price $356,950 $342,500 4.2%
  • Pending sales have been up 45 of the last 46 months
Condominium December 2016 December 2015 % Change
Sales 1,198 1,075 11.4%
Median Price $340,000 $323,767 5.0%
  • Pending sales have been up 15 of the last 16 months

Year-End Pending Sales:

Single-Family 2016 2015 %Change
Sales 59,707 54,384 9.8%
Avg. Median Price $352,839 $341,142 3.4%

 

Condominium 2016 2015 %Change
Sales 22,473 21,262 5.7%
Avg. Median Price $319,527 $330,435 3.4%

REALTOR® Market and Price Confidence Indexes:

Confidence Index December 2015 December 2014 %Change
Market 59.76 66.95 12%
Price 70.43 69.70 -1%
  • The Realtor® Market Confidence Index was up for the ninth straight month
  • Measured on a 100-point scale, a score of 50 is the midpoint between a “strong” (100 points) and a “weak” (0 points) market condition

Year-End

Confidence Index 2016 2015 %Change
Market 73.69 68.20 8%
Price 72.18 73.82 -2.3%

 

Read the full December 2016 Future Indicators Report.

Protect Yourself From Cyber Crime

Realtors® inhabit an increasingly sophisticated technological world. New tools designed to make transactions easier and more convenient also expose you to new kinds of risks.

This new reality leaves agents vulnerable to being hacked more than ever. Scammers are specifically targeting e-mail accounts of attorneys, real estate agents, bookkeepers and accountants. Why? Because you have such  valuable information sitting right in your inbox.  “Bad guys” can access client names, transaction data and details that they hope to use to their advantage.

A profitable tactic for scammers is to compromise your email and wait until you’re almost to the closing table. Then, they might interject a malicious email into your regular correspondence with another agent, often a “last minute change,” to wire transfer information or something similar.

We all know how stressful getting to closing can be, and there’s a real pressure to act and react quickly to get your clients into (or out of) their home. But with a few steps you can mitigate or avoid exposure to these types of risks.

  • Trust, but verify. Always follow up with a phone call to confirm emails about any changes to any part of a transaction that involve payment details on either side. No exceptions.
  • Choose a unique password for all accounts—one as long as possible. I know, I know. It’s a pain, and there are so many accounts. If you find that to be too much work, invest in a password manager with encrypted log-ins. (Here’s a link to a list of the top rated password managers.)
  • Strengthen all your other security options. Make your password recovery questions “unguessable” and back everything up.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication for online services whenever possible. This will require that you type a code that is texted to you before access is granted. Search on “two-factor authentication” with the name of the service you’d like to use and you will find simple instructions on how to do this.
  • Secure communications. Business messages should only be sent on secure systems (not public Wi-Fi) with antivirus and firewalls in in place. Public computers, unsecured networks, networks you don’t control are not the place to do business. It’s tempting when you’re on the road, but be cautious. Don’t forget, you have to comply by WISP data security laws from the state of Massachusetts.
  • Use forms management software like ZipForms for every step of the transaction. There’s a reason these companies spend millions on secure systems for managing transactions—they’re looking to save you from being a victim from the billions in fraud cases that happen every year.
  • Keep your work and personal email addresses separate. We tend to be less cautious about casual web browsing than we are when we’re doing business.
  • Update your software and apps, especially anti-virus and anti-malware software and make sure you keep up with Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari updates. Remember, these browsers have security features built in and it’s important to update to keep up with the latest protections.
  • Look for the https://. That “s” stands for “secure.” Use it for Facebook, email, MLS, web browsing and anywhere possible. You leave less of a trail when signed in securely. (Here’s a great browser extension that can help.)

What to do if you do get hacked:

  • Change all your account passwords, not just the account that was hacked.
  • Notify any party or bank/company you’re currently working on a transaction with if it appears they might be at risk, and notify the FBI if it involves wire fraud or theft of funds.
  • Let your local board and MAR know, so we can be aware if patterns develop.
  • Notify your contacts if it looks like lots of scam emails were sent from your address. Apologize for the inconvenience, but know it happens to the best of us and swift action is the best remedy.
  • If unsure, hire a professional to check your computer for malware, viruses, trojan horses, etc.

To learn more, check out this tip sheet from the FBI. In addition, feel free to contact MAR at any time with questions.

Special thanks to Sandy Carrol at the Berkshire County Board of REALTORS, Inc. for her writing and collaboration on this blog post.

These 10 MA towns experienced the highest increases in sales and price in November

Top-ten_blog_purpleWorcester and Middlesex Counties experienced a boom in closed sales in November, with several towns each topping the list with the highest sales increases over last year. Dighton, MA in Bristol County  experienced the highest increase in median price since 2015.

Closed Sales Percent Increase
1. Warren +450.0%
2. Shirley, Southborough +333.3%
3. Carlisle, Dudley +266.7%
4. Bedford, Dalton +250.0%
5. Blackstone, Leicester +233.3%
6. Foxborough +116.7%
7. Concord +187.5%
8. Westport +177.8%
9. Bolton +175.0%
10. Greenfield +162.5%

 

Median Sales Price Growth Median Price Percent Increase
1. Dighton $435,425 + 81.4%
2. Somerville $975,000 + 59.1%
3. Lunenburg $326,000 + 57.0%
4. Southwick $341,125 + 49.6%
5. Hanover $515,000 + 47.4%
6. Cambridge $1,414,950 + 45.9%
7. Wellesley $1,530,000 + 45.7%
8. Lynnfield $799,000 + 39.6%
9. Palmer $185,000 + 38.6%
10. Agawam $230,750 + 37.4%

*A minimum of ten homes must have been sold in each town during November 2016 to make this list.

All data used in the rankings is compiled from the Berkshire County Multiple Listing Service, Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS®, Inc. and MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

Run-up to Election Didn’t Keep Home Buyers on Sidelines as November Sales and Prices Reach New Highs for the Month

Front Porch Of Resedential Home With Autumn DecorationsBuyers didn’t let the presidential election season keep them from buying homes this past fall as closed home sales were up nearly 20 percent in November compared to the same time in 2015. Both sales and median prices for single-family homes reached their highest levels for November since 2004. Inventory continued its downward trend dropping to its lowest level since January 2004. Median prices and sales both rose for condominiums this month.

Read more in the full November 2016 Closed Sales Release.

Highlights from the release:

      • November single-family home sales went up 19.9% over last year. (4,784 sales in 2016 from 3,990 sales in November 2015)
      • November single-family median prices went up 6.0% year-over-year (to $365,000 in 2016 from $344,500 in November 2015)
      • November condo sales went up 14.5% and median prices went up 1.5% (to $339,900)
      • Inventory in November went down -34.6% to 14,300 and condominiums available down -30.5% to 3,887
      • SF listings added to the market in November went down -2.1% over last year. (4,090 from 4,179 in 2015)
      • Condo listings added to the market went up 2.5% over last year. (1,568 from 1,530 in 2015)

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New Year, New Surprises

Person silhouette standing in 2017 on the hill at sunset

The other day, a co-worker asked me if I had any New Year’s resolutions planned. After I told her that I hadn’t planned anything in particular, I realized that others didn’t ignore their New Year’s duties like I had.

This realization became clear when I looked at our planned ITI (Instructor Training Institute) course we have scheduled for January. We sold out all 18 seats and the students seem eager to start! When we originally scheduled ITI for this past summer, we didn’t have a single person sign up for the course. We waited and waited, until we finally decided to cancel.

What changed? This time of year is one of the busiest and even though the class is scheduled after the holidays, it can still be hectic for those getting back into their daily routines. But perhaps these students have the new year in mind? Perhaps they have resolutions planned for some type of life/education revamp?

If you’re stuck or ready to learn something new here are some programs and websites you can explore that can lead to interesting perspectives or possibilities in the new year:

1. MAR has planned three GRI (Graduate Realtor® Institute) courses for 2017 so far, starting in January. This is a comprehensive program that covers many real estate topics. The semester kicks off with GRI 302: Expanding Your Base on January 12 & 16, 2017.

2. Lynda.com is a website I use frequently. Even though a membership is required, this site seems to have courses and tutorials on everything! I’ve even taught myself how to edit videos in Final Cut Pro through Lynda. It’s worth the membership– especially if you want to learn something new easily and in timely manner.

3. Many members forget that any live webinar we’ve done in the past has been archived on the MAR website. The webinars cover a variety of topics from Board of Registration regulations to data breach and cyber crime information. This is a fantastic way to learn something useful in a timely manner too. Even better, it’s free if you’re an MAR member!