Want to know your Home's Value?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Will home values stop DECREASING?

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Economists at the semi-annual National Association of Home Builders forecast conference are saying not soon, but that the end is in sight. The consensus says that home prices will bottom out as early as the middle of next year.

The latest conference was downbeat, but with a glimmer of hope-many of the economists seemed optimistic that the government's bailout plan, which includes buying toxic mortgage debt, will lead to housing's recovery. More affordable prices, pent-up demand, incentives on new homes, fewer housing starts and expected declines in interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages also should help ease the crisis.

Although economist agree that we are in a recession-despite lack of official government confirmation-and have been for many months, several characterized the current financial turmoil as an overreaction, given the country's narrowing trade gap and strengthening the dollar.

But even if the stock market bounces back, don't expect housing to rally right away. The forecasters pointed out numerous factors that are likely to drag out housing's convalescence: Unemployment is currently at 6.1%, compared with 4.4% last year, and it is projected by some to reach 8% next year. Home prices have already tumbled 20% from their peak three years ago, and will probably sink another 10% before stabilizing. Some 12 million homeowners currently owe more on their mortgages than the houses are worth, meaning more foreclosures and a drop in the already-weakening homeownership rate. And bloated supply will continue to outpace demand in most parts of the country for another year or two.

As terrible as this is for people who have lost or will lose their homes, overall, this painful contraction is necessary-a counterbalance to the era of easy money and over-leveraging. When it is over, homes won't be worth as much as they were before, but their prices will be more in line with people's incomes. Loans won't be given to everyone with a pulse, but they will be available to people with good credit. The market will be back to normal.

Perhaps by then we'll have learned some lessons: Just because someone is offering to loan you money doesn't mean you should take it. Don't assume lenders and regulators will look after your interests. Before you sign a contract, read the fine print. Since neither job security nor rising equity is guaranteed, stick with fixed-rate loans. Don't live beyond your means. Pay your bills on time, and keep enough cash on hand to pay for at least six months of expenses. Think of your house primarily as shelter, not a cash machine.

And finally, don't despair. Remember that markets are cyclical; the bigger the binge, the worse the hangover. We'll have to suffer this one for months or even years to come. But if we learn not to over-indulge, we'll all wind up healthier in the long run.

~Alicia Lagarde Craig

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are You Too Busy For Success?

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Are you too busy for success?

If your best clients think highly of you, why aren’t they referring business your way? Your unconscious actions could be the impediment. Many of us telegraph our importance by talking about how busy we are. We speak quickly, pass off clients’ routine questions to someone else, take cell phone calls during meetings, or leave a caller on hold for more than a few seconds.

There’s nothing wrong with being busy. But looking busy can be a problem. Your clients may feel the need to protect their relationship with you by not adding to your workload. Worse still, you may be setting up your best clients to be poached. If they’re concerned about imposing on you, they’ll be relieved to find someone—anyone—who’s willing to take the time to answer their questions.

Keeping established clients is essential to finding new ones. These 10 ideas, many from Max Dixon, a Seattle-based communication coach, will help you make others feel important—and encourage them to refer friends and family your way.

1. Create a ritual. Between points, great tennis players will often adjust their racket’s strings. Their strings don’t need adjusting. These players have just trained themselves to perform a ritual so that they can maintain their concentration, regardless of what’s happening in the match.Before an appointment, stop what you’re doing and sit or stand silently for a full 10 seconds. Take a deep breath. This lets you collect your thoughts and increases your oxygen intake, which has a calming effect. The calmer you are, the more attentive you can be to clients.

2. Perform a slow behavior. This can be as simple as walking over to the client and shaking hands while making eye contact. The key is to do it slowly and deliberately. Spending even two extra seconds on this gesture will send the message that you consider this person important.

3. Enunciate your vowels. People who are in a hurry tend to emphasize their consonants, making their language sound unemotional and clipped. By sounding out vowels when you speak, you express yourself with compassion. You and your client will be more emotionally involved in the conversation and feel more connected. In addition, your word speed will slow, giving the conversation more impact.

4. Carry out important conversations away from your desk. At the office, meet with clients in a conference room. Moving out of your position of authority demonstrates that the person is important enough to meet on an equal basis.

5. Listen to people. I’m often asked for advice. For years I’d get a rough idea of the problem then launch into possible solutions. In one typical encounter, after I’d talked myself out, the person said, “Well, I was thinking about doing such and such. What do you think?” She already had the answer and just wanted my confirmation.Now when someone asks for advice, I ask, “What do you think you should do?” Then I listen. This shows respect and sends the message that you believe the person is smart enough to have the answer.

6. Stay with people a beat beyond. Do your conversations have an air of “let’s get this over with”? One of the symptoms is responding before the other person finishes. To counteract that impulse, do what Dixon recommends: Wait at least two full seconds after the other person stops speaking before responding. This ensures the person is finished and gives you time to consider your response.One good friend puts his telephone on mute during conference calls so that he can concentrate on what others are saying. If a question is directed to him, he must release the mute button before he can speak. This gives him a moment to collect his thoughts before he speaks.

7. When clients leave your office, walk them to the door. It’ll demonstrate your respect and give you the chance to emphasize, with a handshake or another gesture, the connection you’ve created.

8. Read a life-management book, such as What Matters Most from Franklin/Covey. People who are critical of themselves or irritated by where they are in life tend to be irritated with everyone around them. When people know their values—for instance, that financial stability ranks below family life—they tend to be more at peace.

9. Write a description of your ideal client and jettison those who are farthest from that ideal. Most professionals are afraid to give up clients. But there’s an important reason to do so: Parkinson’s Law. It means a job expands to fill the time allotted. So if you have 200 clients, you’ll fill your days taking care of those 200 clients; if you have 100 clients, you’ll fill your time servicing 100. With fewer, you’ll be able to develop a closer, more trusting relationship with each client.

10. Create a system that lets your clients know, when they least expect it, that they’re important to you. Have you ever received a letter of appreciation or a gift that you kept for a long time? I’m not talking about sending flyers or calendars—I’m talking about sending personalized letters and gifts that your clients or prospects don’t expect. By mailing one appreciation card a day, you send a powerful message to clients that they’re worth your time. Isn’t feeling special something all of us want?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Slowing Foreclosures May Mask Woes

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

When the research firm RealtyTrac Inc. releases its latest foreclosure report Thursday, don't be surprised if the number of filings declines again.
Dusan Petricic
Last month, RealtyTrac reported that foreclosure filings totaled 252,363 in June, down 3% from the previous month. Some analysts are expecting the July data to show another decline or very little change.
If that happens, could the improvement be a sign that the foreclosure problem is ebbing? Probably not. The data may reflect several developments aimed at reducing foreclosures, including new state and municipal laws that put a temporary moratorium on foreclosures. Such laws are designed to give homeowners more time to work with their lenders and modify troubled loans. Some cynics say the laws are designed to give the appearance that the housing crisis is easing ahead of the November elections.
Whatever the reason for the laws, they are starting to kick in. A new state law in California requires lenders to wait an additional 30 days after a homeowner misses the first payment before filing a default notice and use more "due diligence" to attempt a loan modification. The law took effect July 8.
In Massachusetts, homeowners now have a three-months grace period after they default on their mortgage before the lender can file to foreclose. The Massachusetts law is credited with an 84% drop in foreclosure petitions -- the first step in the foreclosure process -- filled statewide in June from a year earlier, according to the Warren Group, a Boston-based research firm.
"The 90-day cure period will lead to more dialogue between borrowers and lenders and increase the prospect that loans can be modified," says Dan Crane, Massachusetts's undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
Several other states are following, including New York which passed a bill last week that requires lenders to send a preforeclosure notice to certain borrowers at least 90 days before foreclosure proceedings may be initiated.
Mortgage companies and lenders on their own are also showing more patience with borrowers who fall behind. Mortgage giant Fannie Mae, for example, said it will increase fees it pays loan-servicing companies, which collect payments, for "workouts" that prevent foreclosures. Freddie Mac also said it will give servicers more time to pursue workouts.
Critics, however, say the new laws are only delaying inevitable foreclosures and may signal a false bottom in the housing market.
"It's all smoke and mirrors," says Vincent Valvo, group publisher at the Warren Group. "People are going to trumpet this and say foreclosures are going down. But three months from now it will surge right back up."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why You Lose Customers & What To Do About It

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig and Jeff Craig

Do you know the reasons businesses lose customers?

I'll bet you're going to be surprised about what a major survey showed.

1% die - guess there's not a lot we can do about that.

3% move away - not much you can do about that either if your business only sells locally.

5% follow a friend or relative's advice and change suppliers for what you do. If you were doing a good job of communicating your Unique Selling Point (USP) and why they should do business with you, this shouldn't happen - in fact, you should be getting referrals from satisfied customers.

9% change because they perceive a better value is available elsewhere - same response as the last one.

14% change because of product or service dissatisfaction - you can't please everyone, but you shouldn't lose that many for this reason. All these reasons combined only add up to 32% , what about the rest?

You are not going to believe it, but...68% leave because they don't feel "wanted" or valued. This number should be zero! If you are not contacting all your customers frequently with offers, "what's new", or other reasons to do business with you, they'll leave. Contact your customers at least once per month, this is a must!

Dan Kennedy has a great way of explaining this. He says your customers are your "herd" and you're a rancher. It's your job as rancher (business owner) to grow your herd and fence them in to prevent others from stealing them! Ignore them (don't build & maintain fences) at your peril - they'll wander off or someone will steal them from you!

It is MUCH more expensive to get a customer than to keep one so my advice to you is:

1. If you are not contacting your customers at least once a month but you are spending money to get new customers, STOP! For most businesses, your first priority should be to nurture and build relationships with your customers with frequent contact.

2. Your second priority should be to set up systematic referral and word-of-mouth programs to bring you referrals from those customers.

3. Next, and only AFTER you have done steps # 1 and # 2, test different methods to acquire new customers. Do this only after you have tracking set up to evaluate the cost effectiveness of every dollar you spend compared to the business that results.

To Your Success!

Monday, July 14, 2008

5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig
To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind.

1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the “mouth of chi” (chi is the “life force” of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It’s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.

2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.

3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It’s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.

4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.

5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig



The single biggest mistake folks make is setting their asking price too high. In today's down market homeowners need to price conservatively or they risk turning off potential buyers, says Michael Corbett, author of "Ready, Set, Sold." Figuring out how to set the price is tricky. Gone are the days when you can expect to sell your home for as much as your neighbor did just six months ago. Existing home prices have fallen 7.7% over the past year, according to the National Association of Realtors. So rather than looking at how much homes in your area sold for six to 12 months ago, compare prices for similar properties currently on the market. If you see a listing for a house that's sitting unsold for a few months, chances are the owners are asking too much and you'll want to set your price lower, says Corbett.


Too many sellers reject their first offer, even if it's close to or at full asking price. Holding out for more money is a strategy that rarely works, especially at a time when credit is tight, lending requirements for mortgages are in flux and potential buyers have less purchasing power.
The reality is that in any market a home's first offer is often its best, says Elaine Clayman, a real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens. Typically, educated buyers will seize on a property they like -- with a competitive bid -- as soon as it comes onto the market, she says. Of course, given the glut of houses on the market, sellers should expect to receive some low-ball offers. Just don't assume that you'll get better bids the longer you hold out. As Clayman warns, the more time a home sits unsold, the greater chance a seller will have to reduce his price.


What if you get an offer that's simply too low? Don't reject it outright. See if you can negotiate. First of all, you can't blame someone for testing the market -- after all, in today's market, many buyers are confident that they have the upper hand. Secondly, by entering into negotiations with one party, you'll gain leverage with other potential buyers, says Corbett. Most importantly, it allows you to tell brokers that your property is in play and sends a message that if someone is interested, then he better present a competitive bid quickly.
Just don't get cocky. During this process, it's crucial for sellers to set a realistic bottom-line price they're willing to take, even if it's several thousand dollars below asking, says Corbett


In a depressed market, it's more important than ever that your property stands out from the competition. But unless you're trying to sell a multimillion-dollar mansion, you don't need to pay a professional to stage your home. There are a number of free or inexpensive things you can do on your own to get your house into show condition. Most importantly, paint the walls. Nothing does more to brighten up a place, says Peter Comitini, a real estate broker with Corcoran Group. Next, he recommends getting rid of all the clutter, excess furniture and family knickknacks. Finally, make all the necessary repairs before your first open house. If a buyer sees a small problem, say, a leaky faucet, he's likely to wonder about larger issues like the furnace or roof.


Now more than ever, sellers need to select their buyers carefully. As we mentioned earlier, thanks to all the defaults in the subprime market, lenders are tightening their lending practices, making it more difficult for consumers to qualify for mortgages. So it's critical to find a buyer with a recent prequalification letter (issued no later than four to six weeks ago) for a loan.
Next, watch out for buyers who need to add contingencies to the contract, including a clause stating that the deal won't close until they sell their own home. A better bet is to look for cash-flush first-time home buyers or someone who has already unloaded his existing house. In a slowing market it's difficult to estimate how long it could take your buyer to find someone to purchase his dwelling, warns Brown Harris Stevens' Clayman. And if that property doesn't go for as much as he expected, that person may no longer be able to afford your agreed-upon price

Monday, June 30, 2008

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig
10 Fastest-Growing Real Estate Markets

Yes, even amid the housing crisis, parts of the U.S. are still expected to post price gains in the coming year, according to Money Magazine. Here's where to look.

The housing implosion is nowhere near over. In 75 of the 100 top U.S. cities, prices are expected to fall in the next 12 months according to Fiserv Lending Solutions.

The S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks 20 of the largest housing markets, showed prices plummeting by 12.7% in the 12 months ending February. That's the biggest fall since the index began tracking prices in 2000.

Meanwhile, foreclosure filings more than doubled in the first three months of 2008, spiking 112%. So far this year 156,463 families have lost their homes to repossessions. Many markets won't hit bottom till late 2009 or even 2010.

Pity the residents of Stockton, Calif., whose homes are likely to lose more than half of their 2006 value. But if you happen to live in Texas -- or any of the other cities below -- congratulations:
The housing tornado passed you by.

1. McAllen, Texas
12-month forecast: 4%Median home price: $109,000One year price change: 2.1%Five year price change: 23.3%Change in foreclosure rate: 23%

2. Rochester, N.Y.
12-month forecast: 2.7%Median home price: $121,000One year price change: 3.4%Five year price change: 20.1%Change in foreclosure rate: 5%

3. Birmingham, Alabama
12-month forecast: 2.7%Median home price: $156,000One year price change: 2.9%Five year price change: 29.4%Change in foreclosure rate: 20%

4. Syracuse, N.Y.
12-month forecast: 2.6%Median home price: $126,000One year price change: 0.8%Five year price change: 29.5%Change in foreclosure rate: 27%

5. Buffalo/Niagara Falls, N.Y.
12-month forecast: 2.4%Median home price: $105,000One year price change: 1.6%Five year price change: 24.5%Change in foreclosure rate: 14%

6. New Orleans, La.
12-month forecast: 2.2%Median home price: $158,000One year price change: 1%Five year price change: 43.7%Change in foreclosure rate: 49%

7. Scranton, P.A.
12-month forecast: 2.2%Median home price: $128,000One year price change: 7.2%Five year price change: 41.1%Change in foreclosure rate: 8%

8. Grand Rapids, Mich.
12-month forecast: 1.9%Median home price: $124,000One year price change: -3%Five year price change: 8.3%Change in foreclosure rate: 37%

9. Baton Rouge, La.
12-month forecast: 1.9%Median home price: $170,000One year price change: 5.7%Five year price change: 38.3%Change in foreclosure rate: 14%

10. El Paso, Texas
12-month forecast: 1.8%Median home price: $134,000One year price change: 6.9%Five year price change: 51.9%Change in foreclosure rate: 32%

By: Money Staff
Copyrighted, CNNMoney. All Rights Reserved.