Week in Review: Things We Liked from the Week That Was

On the one year anniversary of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), more than one million homeowners have gotten temporary reductions in their mortgage payments, with 12 percent receiving permanent modifications. Although to date this is just minimal success, plans announced this week will increase this percentage significantly as banks rethink their policies and qualifications. This kind of strategy is necessary, as new studies show that most efforts to modify loans with easier terms will only delay, not prevent, the loss of homes to foreclosure (For those of you looking to understand the intricacies of HAMP or HAFA, here is a good article).

All of these efforts are to help the 2.4 million borrowers expected to lose their homes this year, with the biggest blows in states like California, Florida and Nevada, where home prices have dropped the most. The looming exit of the government in the real estate market has experts wondering how severe the effect will be, especially for these borrowers. What do you expect?

One in five people believe their home’s value increased during 2009, according to a Zillow survey. In reality, 28 percent of home’s values increased last year. Turns out, it’s a little better out there than we think!

NAR this week recognized the autonomy of today’s homeowner with the launch of HouseLogic, a Web site designed to help homeowners plan and organize their home projects as well as offer  home improvement advice and how-to’s, among other things. For those who want a hands-on experience, however, a duo in California opened a DIY Academy, where homeowners can learn everything from hanging drywall and installing crown molding to painting and wiring. As homeowners increasingly consider renovating their homes, we may see these types of schools pop up across the country. Anything like this in your area?

As these DIYers understand, for all the talk about digital and online interaction, it is still nice to have the one-on-one experience. While it may seem as ancient as a hand-written letter in the email age, there are plenty of valid arguments on the value of open-houses, including further engaging consumers and agents alike. What do you think is the biggest benefit for hosting open houses?

In advertising news… We have come a long way since Hot Wired ran the first banner ad in 1994. Now we can get as targeted and localized as you want, thanks to advertising exchanges like Google’s DoubleClick and others. Banner ads are still a great tool for the real estate industry. We should keep a close eye on this medium as Jon Brod, the executive vice president of AOL Ventures, believes “online local is the largest commercial opportunity yet to be won.” I bet leaders will start to emerge this year.

Following on the heels of Google’s Buzz announcement, Microsoft announced integration plans this week with Facebook and MySpace for its Outlook Social Connector. Thoughts? Do you plan to use either?

Speaking of, I know a lot of you are concerned with the ROI on social media efforts. Let’s be honest, being active in social media takes hard work and it is sometimes difficult to see the payoff. Fortune 500 companies are also wrestling with this same issue. Yet, we have to remember that the most important thing about communicating with consumers is talking to them where they already are. And I bet a lot of your audience is online. The effort is worth it!

This week I have been busy cheering on both of my “home countries,” Canada and the United States, as the world’s best athletes battle on the slopes of Vancouver at the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Besides the competition, there is a lot to be said about the advertising opportunities available on this world stage. Many brands, including Procter & Gamble, tied the launch of campaigns to the lighting of the torch, leading to one of the most concentrated periods of big-name marketing efforts in years. Although your companies’ soapboxes will likely never allow you to be as “loud” as these mega-brands, we can take an important lesson from these brands: talk to your consumers when they will be listening. If the Olympic Games are inspiring more than just your branding and you’re looking to hit the slopes and challenge the likes of gold medalist Lindsay Vonn, there are new interesting (and cool) GPS ski gloves that could navigate you safely. I might have to get myself a pair!

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