Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Colin Perry of Two Column Marketing Voted ‘Best in Design Photography’ by Houzz Community

Our team just wanted to give recognition to one of our Approved Vendors, Colin Perry of Two Column Marketing. Colin was voted by the Houzz community for best in Design Photography. Colin’s company provides professional quality Real Estate photography, video tours and 360 degree virtual tours. On top of that, they provide custom Ubertor website design, and Realtor branding and marketing.
Check out Colin’s work:
If you’re looking for a professional photographer and videographer that understands Real Estate and the Ubertor platform, get in touch with Colin Perry of Two Column Marketing!

Introducing Ubertor’s Newest Team Member: Danica Lopez De Leon

Please join us in welcoming Danica Lopez De Leon (UberDanica) to the Ubertor team! Her energetic personality is already a big asset to helping out our clients and providing remarkable service.
She was born in the Philippines and moved to Canada when she was 5, and is half Filipino and half Spanish. She grew up in Richmond, B.C.
She comes from a huge family (consisting of 5 sisters, a brother, and two dogs). This is proving extremely helpful when she has to handle multiple clients’ requests!
Danica (third from right) and her family
She loves trying new types of food, and also enjoys playing sports such as basketball and volleyball in her spare time. Her cheerful spirit will undoubtedly contribute to Ubertor’s dedication to keeping our clients happy.
As our newest addition, she’ll be providing our users with top notch support over our Live Chat and phone, so do feel free to introduce yourself and say hello.

Real Estate Websites 101: A Successful Homepage

While tracking the process of building our clients’ Real Estate websites, I’ve noticed that some Realtors are still missing basic, key elements that makes home pages successful. Don’t worry though, I’ve gathered 6 points you can see below, that you should consider adding, when building your home page.
1. Name and Contact Info
It hardly seems fair to even include this on the list as it’s an absolute no-brainer. This is always displayed as prominently as possible as you are marketing yourself. But you’ll be surprised how many times, some Realtors forget to add their phone number or EMail on their homepage.
2. Calls to Action Buttons
Any marketing strategist will tell you that to create leads, you need calls to action. Get visitors clicking on something that interests them to take them to a contact form where they can leave their contact info, or allows them to call you on the spot – this is valuable for you to nurture them into a client.
3. Feature Listings
As a Realtor, what better way to grab your potential clients’ attention than to WOW them with spectacular listings you’re selling. It’s one way to get straight to the point, and also lets your current clients know you’re keeping their property up front and centre.
4. Photography
This is just a surefire way to make your websites aesthetically appealing and not a total bore with just text. If you’re a Realtor focusing on a specific area, add photos that reflect the area you’re marketing and selling in.
5. Testimonials/Awards
This is something you can showcase to emphasize how good you are at what you do – whether it be testimonials from your loving clients, or awards and recognition that you’ve achieved – it’s always nice to have a gold star on your wall.
6. Social Media Links
For the Realtors who are more social media savvy, put your social media links to show how exposed you are, and allow visitors to get connected to your profiles.
Some last minute tips from our experience is that as a general rule, we always try to feature what’s important on top. After all the first thing visitors see on websites is what’s above the fold. Another modern trend that’s popular right now is to keep it simplistic so that the relevant information and call to actions stand out more prominently! Keep it streamlined and avoid cluttered sites.
Feel free to contact our team or Ubertor’s Approved Vendors if you have any questions, or are looking for a second opinion on your home page to get it up to par!

Low Housing Inventory Continues in Charlottesville and Albemarle

If you look solely at the numbers, it looks like housing inventory is up. Not so.
I’ve been thinking for months that we’d be seeing more housing inventory on the market by now. It’s not yet here.
Comparing the first 9 days of February of this year versus last – 116 new listings came on last 1-9 February versus 50 this 1-9 February.
For the MSA (Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson) – 84 this 1-9 February and 210last 1-9 February.
I’m confused. I know this: I have buyers who are looking for homes to to, and we can’t find them. I get emails frequently from buyers’ agents who are looking for homes for their buyers, and they can’t find them.
If you’re interested, here’s a bit more data:
Update 18 February 2014: this is not merely a Charlottesville – Albemarle MSA trend. Redfin’s post today is outstanding.
Redfin agents say the downturn in demand is uneven. “The picture-perfect homes are selling just as fast as last year, often drawing a dozen or more offers,” according to Redfin Washington, D.C. agent Philip Gvinter. “But now the undesirable properties that would have sold in a few months last year aren’t selling at all. The biggest change is in between, with the sort-of-desirable homes. Last year, these homes got multiple offers and sold quickly. Now, they are getting only one offer during the first week, sometimes having to reduce their price, and the home is taking three to six weeks to sell.”
Also, for a national look at inventory, Calculated Risk is always useful and insightful.

In a break from practice, I’m publishing a piece of my monthly note … if you want to read the whole note, subscribe here.
Solely for Charlottesville + Albemarle:
Single family homes sales in January 2014 vs January 2013 – 58/67
Attached homes sales in January 2014 vs January 2013 – 18/21
Condo homes sales in January 2014 vs January 2013 – 11/10
And as I mentioned last month, that I thought we’d see more inventory in 2014 …
Dammit, so I’m wrong (so far). 247 homes were listed in January 2013 and 180 were listed this January. 34 (18.9%) of those 180 went under contract in January and 46 (18.6%) of the 247 went under contract last January. I still think we’re going to see more this month come on the market. Anecdotally, the productive agents with whom I’m talking seem to have a lot of listings to activate this month and next.
Across the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) – Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson, in January, Year over Year for all products – inventory is up and sales are down (see PDF). For single family homes across the MSA: inventory up, sales down. For Albemarle: inventory up, sales down. For the City: same story.
And … for Charlottesville + Albemarle: 122 contracts in January this year versus 149 last year. Hmmm.
For Charlottesville + Albemarle: contracts in December + January were down 11%.
226 – contracts from 12/1/13-1/31/14
254 – contracts from 12/1/12-1/31/13
For the Charlottesville MSA (Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson): contracts were down 7%.
366 – contracts from 12/1/13-1/31/14
393 – contracts from 12/1/12-1/31/13
What does this data mean? To me, it means that if you’re buying, you may be able to be a little more aggressive. If you are selling, you still need to be well-prepared and well-priced.

Charlottesville City Police Ticketing Bicyclists

First thoughts:
- Good. As a bicycle advocate and rider, seeing cyclists cutting in and out of traffic, on and off sidewalks, blowing through red lights, etc. makes it harder for the law-abiding cyclists.
- Really? The number of times I’ve watched a car badly blow through a red light while a police officer sits there watching the offense is itself almost criminal.
- Bad. Points on a driver’s license because of these infractions? Don’t you have to have a license in order to get points on said license?
- Good. Maybe this will serve as a discussion point for educating the police, cyclists and drivers.
- Is there something in the Code of Virginia for distracted pedestrians? Maybe they could target UVA students on the Corner; they’re dangerous, too.
Maybe the City can add this discussion point to their newest $50k study on creating and integrating “complete streets.” (it would be awfully nice to have this discussion include how to traverse City/County lines rather than myopically looking solely at each locality’s needs.)

Will the Western Bypass Ever be Built?

Who knows if and when the Western Bypass will be built? Know this – lots of people will show up to comment on it. Again.
A vote on the resolution could follow the hearing, set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the County Office Building’s Lane Auditorium. That session is expected to stretch into the night and generate huge turnout, the latest turn in the enduring saga of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.
I asked years ago a question about the Meadowcreek (John Warner) Parkway that could (and should, in a reasonable world) be asked of the Western Bypass – How would they design the Western Bypass today, with today’s human settlement and development patterns in place?
The answer is that the road would likely be a very different solution. Because implementing infrastructure solutions in the Charlottesville – Albemarle region takes a minimum of 30-50 years, plans should change, but they won’t.
I know this -
- The proponents aren’t going to give up just because the road is a flawed design. Terminating at Forest Lakes is the wrong terminus – it was probably the right location 30 years ago, but now it should dump traffic north of the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport, probably north of the UVA North Fork Research Park and really should terminate in Greene County. Those necessary changes aren’t going to happen.
- The opponents are accused of using flawed data as are the proponents, whenever these arguments arise. They don’t want the bypass and disregard the studies saying that the Western Bypass will save time.
- I just wish there was unbiased data and analysis by which the citizens could make informed decisions. I also wish that unicorns were real and

What’s Affecting the Charlottesville Market? Student Loans, New Construction & Employment

As with some stories I post here, I’m posting for two reasons. First, I want to educate and inform those who read (thank you) and second, I refer to my blog all the time – and it’s much easier to google my blog than my brain. For now.
I’ve been looking at some national trends lately and how they affect home buyers and sellers. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, has been very candid lately. (he also noted a few years ago that there were too many Realtors)
Hearing this story on NPR yesterday was timely, as the two economists echoed what I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks:
Lawrence Yun has been crunching numbers too. He’s chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. He says for the last six months, fewer than 30% of all home sales were to first time buyers.
“And this is historic lows,” he says. “Typically it should be about 40% to 45%. And I believe the key reasoning is that many of the younger households, they are saddled with student debt.”
Which makes it harder to qualify for a mortgage.
But before we wag the finger at student loans, there may be a twin culprit. Rohit Chopra is the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He says student loan burdens are rising much faster than wages.
“Real wages when adjusted for inflation have actually been flat for new college graduates for about the past ten years. So young people have more debt but are earning the same or less income,” he says.
From what I’ve seen in my real estate practice, the home buying cycle is slowing down. First time homebuyers are now buying at later stages in life. As noted a couple years ago, the 0-5 Buyer is Gone. And right now,
First time homebuyers, when they do choose to buy, are buying at later points of their lives – once they’ve established themselves in their careers* and found their mates if they so choose, and have determined that their lives – kids on the way, jobs … have or represent some sort of stability.
Many of these first-timers have either seen their friends and families decimated by the housing market or have experienced it themselves in selling or trying to sell – either normal transactions, short sales or foreclosures.
As I noted in my monthly note, so far I (and others) have been wrong about the inventory coming to the market in the Charlottesville area. March and April should prove telling. If more quality, well-priced homes don’t come on the market in those months, I suspect that we’re going to see reduced home sales for the entire year. Keep in mind that “new normal” is another way of saying “today.”
A few more things I’ve been reading:
Unemployment is a key factor here, he said.
“This recovery is not feeling right even though unemployment has been declining measurably – from 10% at its peak to 6.6%,” Yun said. “But if you look at the employment rate – not the unemployment rate – you look at how many in the adult population have jobs, and we have not made any progress since the depression began. We are only at 58% of the adult population working now, same as it was in the depth of the recession, and well below the historical trend of 63%.”


How to Pay for Albemarle County Schools?

It costs nearly $12,000 per year to educate a kid in Albemarle County Schools. This year, the County Schools are facing a proposed funding gap of nearly $7 millionand the cry from many parents, administrators and citizens has been to “fully fund the schools. (including emails from the schools’ email distribution newsgroups).”
Rather than repeat myself, this is a story I wrote three years ago and it’s still relevant. Schools matter for housing values. Period. People move to the Charlottesville area all the time for the schools. Schools. Matter. (this is as good a time as any to remind folks to check your school district before you write an offer to purchase a home )
But …
How should the citizenry pay for the schools?
Asking for “more!” without referencing the “how?” in my opinion diminishes the argument.
* note: one of my kids graduated from Western Albemarle schools and one is currently enrolled.
Why does it cost $12k per year? Some local private schools cost that much – and much, much more.

Drink Wine, Save Puppies!

Join us on Thursday, January 30, 6-8pm at Colorado Wine Company (2305 Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock) for a wine tasting benefiting the North Central Animal Shelter. Flights of wine will be $20, with net proceeds going towards sponsoring kennels for cats and dogs at the shelter. We will be raffling prizes from local shops and restaurants (ticket $1 each, or $5 for 7), including Leanna Lin's WonderlandDave's Chillin-n-GrillinRock Dog and Cat, andAcorn .

Charming Petite Cottage at 5025 Los Robles Street

Sparkling with personality and charm, this petite 1924 Eagle Rock home offers much more than the tax records show.
Besides the many original and period details, from the decorative fireplace, wood floors, light fixtures, doors, windows and their hardware to the office space in the full walkout basement, there are modernized systems as well.
Enjoy sunset views from the back deck, then walk down the winding path through over a hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables, past the chicken coop, and into your very own funky honky tonk bar at the bottom of the  backyard.  
The plumbing and electrical were updated by the previous owner, and the central heating system was installed within the last couple of years.
The 1-car garage currently houses a separate office while the long driveway easily accommodates a couple of vehicles.
Located close to the Colorado Blvd shopping and dining hotspots like Trader Joe's, Little Beast, Cacao Mexicatessan & more!
Listed for $499,000
2 bedrooms, 1 bath
672 sq. ft. on a 4,800 sq. ft. lot
Built in 1924
For more photos, details, and open house information visit 5025 Los Robles on our website.

Drink Wine, Save Puppies Fundraiser a Success!

Thank you to all who attended our Drink Wine, Save Puppies fundraiser on Thursday!  We had a great turnout and were able to raise $900 which allows us to sponsor three kennels for one year at the North Central Animal Shelter.  Each kennel is a $300 donation that directly benefits the animals and is not used for administrative costs.
When we went to the shelter today to make the donation, there were lots of people checking out the animals for adoption, as well as volunteer groups working away. 
A huge thank you to our sponsors:
And thank you to Colorado Wine Company who hosted us and planned a wine tasting especially for the event AND provided a delicious cheese plate!
If you are interested in sponsoring a kennel, click here for more information.

Exciting News for Cindy's Diner!

Cindy's Diner, an Eagle Rock neighborhood staple, has been closed up for several weeks with rumors flying that it was being sold or that it was just going to be used for filming from now on.  Well now the truth is out, and it's great news!
The folks behind the delicious Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena have taken over and will be bringing the diner back to life! 
From the new owner, Paul, on the Firefly Facebook page:
My self and Monique have just take over a new restaurant space in Eagle Rock! We now own Cindy's Restaurant on Colorado Blvd. We are looking to have it open again in about 6 weeks if forces of nature will permit. We are keeping it Cindy's and keeping it a diner, so all you diner fans out there start warming up your taste buds because it should be great. I even have room in the kitchen to put in a smoker, so we will have bbq on the menu as well. To commemorate the moment I had a picture taken with Bob, the previous owner when we got the key's from him. So come on out to Firefly, ask me some questions if you wish, or offer some money to help with the remodel, I'm easy. I now look forward to seeing you all in both locations.
We are very excited to welcome them to the neighborhood!
For more information on Firefly Bistro you can visit their website and their Facebook page.

Vintage Traditional at 574 Kendall Avenue

Step back to 1938 with this captivating traditional home in the 111-year-old community of Hermon in Northeast Los Angeles.  Perched on a corner lot, the house features original and vintage details that will make you feel right at home--and better.
The spacious living room has a decorative fireplace and views of the mountains from each window.
The dining room also has views of the mountains and sunset, and is open to the kitchen with a pass-through.
The kitchen has new countertops and flooring, and opens onto a lovely covered patio.
Hardwood floors, a lovely decorative fireplace, enchanting light fixtures combined with two secluded patios, a large 2-car garage, and an additonal 2-car parking pad give this home special appeal.
Hermon is home to the Los Angeles International Charter High School which has the highest API score of any high school in Northeast Los Angeles. The local supermarket, Fresco, has a fabulous seafood and meat market, an impressive produce section, and rivals Whole Foods for interesting healthy products.

Dog lovers know the appeal of the Hermon Dog Park, a large off-leash park supported by neighbors and fellow dog lovers, and this home is also near Debs Park and the Audubon Center for more outdoor activities.
For a list of features, click here.  For a floor plan, click here.
Listed for $479,000
2 bedrooms, 1 bath
875 sq. ft. on a 5,610 sq. ft. lot
Built in 1938
For more details, photos, and open house information visit 574 Kendall Avenue.

Top 10 photographic crimes real estate agents commit

This post by Sheila Newton, Realtor at Re/Max Realty/Sheila Newton Team in South Carolina, was originally posted on ActiveRain.
Since cameras have been getting better and better over the past years, why are the photos most real estate agents take not getting any better? Most agents take photos of rooms without a thought as to what it will look like in print or online. The photos in the MLS can be very poor, and some agents don’t even put in photos at all.
Below is a list of the 10 mistakes I see most often in our MLS.
1. Photographs that still have the date stamps on them. Not only does it look bad, but most often the date is more than a few months old!
Crooked House  2. Crooked photos of the inside or outside of the home. Most everyone has a photo editor that will automatically straighten  your photo. Use it.
3. Blurry or out-of-focus photos. You should always take several shots of each room so that if some are blurry, you have others to use.
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4. Partial room shots where just the corner of the room is shown. You should always stand in the corner of a room and get as much of the room in the shot as possible. In fact, if you can stand in another room and still get the whole room you are shooting, it’s even better!
5. Photos with people or pets in the shot. Really? If you can’t get a shot without pets or people (which there is no reason why you can’t), then at least Photoshop them out!Open Toilet
6. Photos with open toilets in them. Close the lid! It looks a lot better.
7. Interior photos with bad tint (orange, yellow or green). Again, take more than one shot per room just in case, and try photo-editing software to help as well.
8. Exterior shots taken into the sun. No home can look its best that way. Make sure to time your photo shoot so that this doesn’t happen.
9. Interior photos that are dark because there are no lights on or it is too dark outside. Most all rooms will look better during the daytime.
10. Photos with mirrors or windows that show a flash of light and the agent with a camera. You can usually shoot rooms with windows or mirrors from an angle and keep this from happening.
Our team markets our listings mainly over the Internet, and to do that we need the best photos possible. It is our belief that most homebuyers and sellers don’t care how the agents’ headshots look, but they do care how the homes look online! What good is a great website to market your listings if the photos of the listings look horrible?

Content marketing for real estate: a beginner’s guide to building trust in your brand and turning engagement into profit

In today’s marketplace, grabbing the attention of potential clients is a difficult task. With people so inundated with advertisements, their tolerance has gotten lower and lower. Any old message or clever tagline isn’t going to pique their interest — what they crave now is useful, interesting content.
By now, you’ve probably read enough about why content and content marketing are important for your business. So, we’re here to answer the “what” and “how.” A lot of blogs will tell you to think like a publisher, which is funny, because the traditional publishing industry is kind of dying.
We’d rather encourage you to think like a businessperson who is using publishing as an effective conversion tool. Why? Because people simply reading and liking your content isn’t going to increase product sells. Rather, you have to make sure your content builds trust in your brand, positions you as an authority figure, and assuages any fears your reader might have in working with you.
So what you need is more than just content. You need strategy. You need a plan for how you will engage with audiences and how to turn that engagement into profit. A starter kit on how to do content marketing right.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started.

1. What do I want to accomplish?

Copyblogger has an excellent post on the 10 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing that will help you define the purpose of your content marketing. While all the goals are great, we definitely co-sign on: