Depending on your point of view the USA are ahead of us in many industries. In housing, and certainly in real estate service, we keep an eye out for their genuine innovations. Two of our team has just returned from Florida where, along with 21,000 American realtors, they attended their Association’s annual conference. So here’s some of the latest from the land of the Big Mac:
Online everything. Their use of the web in real estate is miles ahead, with much richer content on the properties, their neighbo(u)rhoods and the realtors themselves. One site even charts the map location of all nearby registered pedophiles! Home buyers and tenants are armed with enormous quantities of info, they’re overwhelmed with choice and in such a crowded marketplace only realtors with innovative marketing are helping their clients’ properties stand out.
Blogging is the great opportunity for sharing with millions of people (or just your mum if it’s purely self-promotional) and a handful of agents are doing this well, providing useful and entertaining content. One seminar speaker credited Obama’s presidential success to a savvy online campaign with viral email content, blog pages and genuine interactivity where voters felt their opinions were heard.
TV’s in bathrooms. With the average American watching more than 8 hours of TV every day (Australia averages 3.2) it’s pretty much mandatory for new U.S. bathrooms to include at least one flatscreen. Video is taking over the online world too with content quickly moving away from long paragraphs of text. Many American buyers are finding their next home on YouTube and through other social media sites.
A market that’s bottomed. Setting aside some positive thinking (famous for it those Americans) we got a genuine sense the approx 20% drop in house prices was at it’s worst. Volumes of sales have improved enough to give confidence (up 29% in California’s Orange County one realtor told us) while banks are staying the executions on the 1 in 6 of mortgages that are “upside down”, that is, the debt’s more than the house value.
A banking system that’s the butt of jokes. Home owners unable to make their repayments are free to simply mail the keys back to the bank (called “jingle mail”) and a bad credit rating is the only consequence for a default. Loans at 100% created massive demand and builders quickly oversupplied the nation. One Los Angeles realtor explained it like this: “Some of those folks could never afford a home, then they could, and now they can’t again. They had some years living the great American dream so good luck to them!” He agreed their banking model was “craaazy mannnn”.