April 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to the second “At Home” edition of the American Association of Retirement Communities’ monthly newsletter.  I hope that you are staying safe and sane!

Things are clearly not “business as usual,” so its tough to write compelling content as an intro.  And as there are plenty of venues out there where you can find copious written content on how bad or overblown things are and who to blame for it, this won’t add to that.  The short term is going to continue to be challenging, but there is a long-term that we will need to address.  So, a brief bit of marketing about marketing.

It is fairly obvious that it will be really, really unlikely to get folks to actually visit your community right now.  But the “initial awareness-to-actual purchase” lag time for destination and/or retirement communities is typically measured in years, and there are folks starting their shopping now (and why not…you can only spend so much time on Netflix).  I’ve had a bunch of chats with colleagues of late, and we are seeing surprisingly strong and engaged web traffic.  Marketing budgets are an early cut when times get tough, but marketing and communications are how you influence the long-term buyer pipeline on your community.

You might want to take a fresh look at your website – pretend that you know nothing about your community, and experience your website as a first-timer would.  Could your website do a better job engaging new folks?  Might be time for a refresh.

Two other activities:

  1. The AARC May webinar on May 5, featuring Jeff McManus. Jeff will share how to become adept at navigating change amidst an ever-shifting landscape.  Learn to pivot quickly, reset and regain momentum, resists and you may get left behind.
  2. A thank you to the front-line workers in your communities is certainly in order. Even in normal times, all talk of marketing is useless without the services they deliver – and COVID-19 shows the depth of their character, and that of their managers. We all cannot thank them enough.

Until next month, stay well!

Bill Houghton
Chair, The AARC

How to Lead Well During a Crisis – May 5th Webinar

How quick is your normal routine changing? When will it be time to update your strategy to meet the changing needs of your customers and the new expectations? Great leaders have known they need to continually look at the path they are traveling and adjust what they are doing along the way.  Jeff will share how to become adept at navigating change amidst an ever-shifting landscape.  Learn to pivot quickly, reset and regain momentum, resists and you may get left behind.   Join us as Jeff guides you through the shifts necessary to thrive in these changing times!

Jeff McManus
Since turning around two major properties, Jeff has worked with many organizations instilling leadership initiatives at every level – achieving phenomenal change in unexpected places. Throughout his career, Jeff achieved results-based accountability in an environment where he couldn’t make the rules. He chose to focus on the one thing he could influence: his team’s attitude.  He quickly learned that a solid growth culture is the ultimate competitive advantage for any organization. That’s why Forbes Magazine, Facilities Executive, Huffington Post and others have cited Jeff’s work.  Learn more about Jeff at JeffMcManus.com.

AARC Members & VIP Guest – Click Here to register

Mortgage Rates Hit New All-Time Lows—and They May Fall More

Clare Trapasso, Realtor.com | April 30, 2020

There is at least one bright spot for home buyers, sellers, and owners amid the economic mayhem brought on by the novel coronavirus. Mortgage interest rates have fallen to a new record low, a boon to homeowners who may want to refinance and save money, and buyers (if anyone feels like buying a home right now).

Rates have been on a wild ride since this crisis began, and the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit 3.23% for the week ending April 30, according to Freddie Mac. That’s the lowest it’s been since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. The average rate was 4.14% a year ago.

The drop may not seem all that substantial, as it’s not even a full percentage point. But the lower rate will save borrowers $132 a month for a $320,000 home (the national median home price) if they made a 20% down payment. That’s $1,584 a year—which adds up over the life of that 30-year loan.

Mortgage rates could continue falling as the pandemic continues wreaking havoc on the economy.

“Rates are not in a hurry to move back up from here,” says Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. “Unless there is a sudden and significant change in the global economy in response to a sudden and significant development in the fight against coronavirus, we likely haven’t seen the lowest rates yet.”

Those ultralow rates aren’t likely to save the slumping housing market, though.

“In a normal market, that would be great news for buyers,” says realtor.com® Senior Economist George Ratiu. “In today’s market, rates are likely to have little impact.”

More than 30 million people are out of work as businesses across the nation have been forced to temporarily close to stem the spread of COVID-19. Even those that remain functioning have seen their revenue plunge, raising the prospect of more layoffs.

That should give both buyers and sellers pause. Add a severe shortage of properties for sale, with double-digit drops over the past few months, and it’s clear that this year’s spring home-buying season, already well underway, will end up far slower than usual.

Can borrowers snag these low rates?

Though rates have reached record lows, not everyone will be able to snag them. Mortgage rates can fluctuate throughout the day as well as vary quite a bit among lenders—by as much as 0.5%.

Riskier borrowers with lower credit scores, higher debt loads, or lost income due to the crisis may get stuck with higher rates, if they’re granted a loan at all.

“These rates are really available, but the catch is the restrictions are tighter at many lenders for things like lower credit scores … and other risk factors,” says Graham. “These either make for higher rates or flat-out unavailability, depending on the scenario.

Why rates are falling again

As the economy shifted into a downturn in early March, rates reached then-record lows of 3.29% in the week ending March 5. But just two weeks later, they had risen back to 3.65% despite the Federal Reserve slashing mortgage ratesto between 0% and 0.25%. They’ve since fluctuated, sometimes multiple times a day.

They’re settling down again, thanks to changes the U.S. government has made to the secondary mortgage market. Lenders typically don’t want to keep a mortgage on their books once it’s made, as that ties up money that could be used to make new loans. So they sell the mortgages, which are bundled together into mortgage-backed securities, to investors in the secondary market.

With so many people out of work and unable to make their mortgage payments, many investors have shied away from these securities, also called mortgage bonds. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now permitted to buy these riskier loans in forbearance. That’s boosting investor confidence in these securities and driving up prices due to demand.

When mortgage bonds prices are up, mortgage rates go down. Hence, the lower rates.

“These low rates are driving higher refinance activity and have modestly helped improve purchase demand from their extremely low levels in mid-April,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “While many people are benefitting from low mortgage rates, it’s important to remember that not all people are able to take advantage of them given the current pandemic.”

Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of realtor.com and an adjunct journalism professor at the College of Mount Saint VIncent. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She is also a licensed real estate agent. Contact her at clare.trapasso@realtor.com.

How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More

Erica Sweeney, Realtor.com | April 15, 2020

For home sellers in the era of the novel coronavirus, showing off your home to potential buyers may seem like an impossible task. As people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, most open houses are on hold, and in-person home showings are limited across the country.

But there are still ways to reach potential buyers and show your home in the best light—through virtual tours.

In the third part of our series, “Home Selling in the Age of the Coronavirus,” we highlight all the ways home sellers can give buyers an in-depth look at their property without actually opening their doors and risking the buyers’ health (or their own).

How virtual tours work

Virtual tours offer home buyers a remote, video-enabled walk-through of a property that will give them the sensation that they’re actually there—or at least darn close.

Real estate agents used virtual tours before COVID-19 as a unique marketing tool. Now, online tours are more important than ever, since they’re often the only easy way for buyers to check out a home without physically entering the property.

“With the current shutdown, more and more home sellers are requesting that we offer buyers a virtual tour to help expedite the sale,” says Peggy Zabakolas, a real estate broker at Nest Seekers International in Bridgehampton, NY.

Real estate listing sites like realtor.com are featuring virtual tours on more and more listings. (Look for the virtual tour icon on the bottom of the listing page.)

Types of virtual tours

Virtual tours can be conducted in a variety of different ways, depending on time, technology, and budget.

Probably the least complicated is where sellers or real estate agents use their smartphone camera to record a video as they walk through the home, showing off each room.

A more interactive option is to livestream a one-on-one showing with the buyers. This will give them more control over where you are pointing the camera, via FaceTime or another video streaming app (“Could you take a peek inside that closet/outside that window?”).

Yet another option home sellers might consider is a virtual open house.

With gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited across most of the United States, real estate agents have been forced to cancel open houses. But many are using tools like FaceTime or Zoom to host live virtual open houses so they can show potential buyers around a home.

Buyers often enjoy seeing the “raw footage” that a virtual open house or showing can offer, as opposed to a professionally produced video, says Angela Hornburg, team leader at the Hornburg Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Buyers can also ask questions, which may help them to feel more secure that they can be fully informed about the property—or perhaps even allow them to make an offer on the spot.