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:
- 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.
- 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!
Chair, The AARC
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.
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.