Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Website for The Murray Group Unveiled Today!

For any of our readers who know me, you know that I am usually pretty humble - it really isn't my style to toot my own horn.

However, today I am very excited to announce that our newly designed website launched - The Murray Group ( - with tools for both realtors and our mortgage clients.

Here is a screen shot of the home page.  Please take a minute or two to visit the site today.  Be sure to check out the tab labeled For Realtors!

Thank you all again for your continued support of The Murray Group.  It is an honor to work with you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

True or False? Realtors don't need to know anything about Mortgages.

True or False?
As a realtor, I don't need to know nor do I want to know anything about mortgages - I just tell them to call my preferred lender.
As a Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist, I will say that the correct answer is... False.  

Here's why.  A realtor needs to know the basics when it comes to mortgages. They are supposed to be knowledgeable when showing homes, right?  Well, how does one usually buy a home?  Usually with a mortgage. And in today’s mortgage arena, there are really only four types of mortgages.

Conventional Loans – easiest of all appraisals and what is required.

FHA Loans – appraisal issues are not as strict as the rumors that say FHA is harsh. Maybe back in the day, prior to 2002. The VC sheet was even dropped from the appraisal almost a decade ago. Broken doors, cracked windows, cracks in the foundation, chipping and pealing paint, and mold are usually the biggies.

USDA Loans – people need to be aware that not only does the lender underwrite the appraisal, but that the USDA needs to review the appraisal.

VA Loans – in between conventional and FHA requirements.

Each one is different, and some are more lenient than others when it comes to appraisals. 

But here is the part that a realtor should focus on. 
Many sellers and listing agents want at least a pre-qualification letter from the buyers mortgage company. It makes total sense and is not unreasonable. The pre-qual letter should state what kind of mortgage it is, right? Well, if my pre-qualification letter says that the buyer has been pre-qualified up to x,y,z; with a FHA mortgage, then that means that buyer is getting a FHA mortgage.

Real-Life Scenario
I know of a buyer getting a home with a FHA mortgage and the sales agreement was written as an ”as is” purchase. Which means that the seller will do no repairs. Well, the house is not only a mess, but several things are wrong with it. 

The main issue is that it has mold, and they knew about this because there was a previous buyer, in which that transaction fell a part. Secondly, there are like eight electrical outlets that needs covering and an electrical box. Anyone with little experience regarding FHA mortgages would know that this would need to be addressed and fixed prior to settlement. 

Regarding the mold issue, the realtor said FHA doesn’t get worried about mold issues. The other issue is that the buyer is using a friend as their realtor who really only does commercial deals. So you can see why that realtor didn’t even pick up on these “red flags”, even though the house is being sold “as is”.

Conclusion Realtors should know the basics about mortgages, especially FHA mortgages, since this is about 40% of all mortgages in today’s real estate transactions. Let’s try to look at this another way. Would a buyer really want to buy the property if it has some major issues? Shouldn’t a realtor be focused on the condition of the property prior to listing it? If the realtor sees some potential “red flags”, and they aren’t sure, wouldn’t it be wise to call a few lenders to find out. 

As a sales person, shouldn’t that person know his or her product? If selling a home, not only knowing the condition of the home, but understanding the basic appraisal requirements for the basic mortgages?  

Just some food for thought. Because I have always said, “the stupid question is the question not asked if it has been thought about.”

The Murray Group does FHA and VA loans, and we do them well.  Contact us today to learn more about the basics and how you can help your clients be properly positioned for approval.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Would You Advise Your Client to Allow Black Friday Showings

Not everyone believes that you should have stores open on holidays - true.  But the reality is that the stores are always open, and they are open because millions of consumers love that option (or need it because they are working every other day other than a holiday...)

Donna Harris, a realtor in Austin, TX shared this story on her Active Rain Blog. It brings up an interesting dilemma - especially in the market we have now. 

In the case she presents below - how would you have advised your client had it been your listing she was trying to view?

From Donna's Blog:
"If you have a product to sell, would you close your doors on a busy, holiday shopping day? If you're a home seller with their house on the market for sale, doesn't that mean you're living in your product? Just because it's a holiday, does that mean you should "close your doors" for the sale house closed? 

Here's the picture... Last year, I was 10 months pregnant around Thanksgiving. I was ready to pop. I had buyers I was trying to finish things up with so I could make sure they were taken care of before the baby came. I didn't want my impending hospital stay to ruin their home-buying process. 

The mom was out of the country and was relying on her son to view her favorite house from my opinions. The only time he was available to view this house was several different days over Thanksgiving. We didn't actually expect a seller to allow us in on actual Thanksgiving Day. 

We tried the day before, the day after, and even tried for Saturday or Sunday. The seller declined EVERY appointment I tried to make. He finally allowed us in the house on Monday after the Holiday. Then, the sellers left town for a few days. Even if we hurried and submitted an offer that Monday, they wouldn't have responded as the listing agent said they told her they would not be taking calls. They did want to sell, right? 

I had my baby on Tuesday. I wrote the offer on the house on Thursday. We executed on Friday. We could have done everything a week earlier if the sellers didn't think they could just close up shop and not allow the holiday shoppers in. It's not like there was a 25% off sale or anything. Sellers, if you have a product to sell, make sure it's available for purchase when it's convenient to the buyers buying the product!"

So, Murray Group bloggers - what's the verdict - do you agree or disagree with Donna?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Poem for Modern-Day Realtors

You can't email a mashed potatoes,
or text a piece of pumpkin pie,
eFaxing a roasted turkey - don't even try!

Just silence your cell phone,
except for sending and receiving holiday wishes.
Savor the software of real living on Thanksgiving,
Eat and enjoy until its time to draw straws for the dishes!

Leave your laptop turned off,
unplug your brain,
and see how much joy an old-fashioned Thanksgiving will bring!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! myspace graphic comments

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Marketing Realities for Real Estate Agents

The Murray Group offers marketing support for it's preferred agents via it's marketing department. 
Contact them today to learn more...

Have you ever seen an ad from a competitor only to think - "man, they must be killing it with an ad that good", or "why didn't I think of that - I can't copy it and I can't come up with anything better." 

Well, take a deep breath and relax.  

Here is a HUGE Marketing reality.
Only about 1/4% to 3% of those who hear or read a marketing message are interested in it enough to respond in some way.  5% if you really hit it out of the ballpark. 

That means 95% to 99.75% simply don't care. At least right now.

And those who don't care, well they don't hate you or revile you in any way. 

They simply tune you out. They are paying attention to other things right now. Some may be interested later; some may never be interested. Your marketing is never going to be perfect.

Marketing mastery isn't about perfection. 
It's simply about making an honest attempt to communicate about your services while maintaining some semblance of dignity and integrity and by following these guidelines:

    - Offer services with real value
    - Understand the needs of your clients
    - Tell the unvarnished truth
    - Communicate clearly
    - Talk about results more than process
    - Highlight benefits and advantages
    - Tell success stories
    - Make your message relevant and interesting
    - Follow up unflaggingly
    - Maintain friendly persistence

If you do this kind of marketing consistently, ultimately you will get the attention and interest of those who need your services. 

And even if your response is a just a few percent, you'll attract the right clients who will pay you well. Not only that, you'll get more of the word-of-mouth that you wanted in the first place.

So stop worrying about what people will think. 
Start marketing!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Agents, How Would You Handle These Touchy Subjects?

Agents, check out these scenarios I have heard lately when mingling about Raleigh.  I share them in anonymity - so please no calling me to ask me who said these things!!!

So...what are your thoughts about any of the things I have heard? 

Scenario 1: Conflict of Interest?
"So i am a new agent. I am also a general contractor. If i was representing a seller that had items to fix after the inspection prior to closing (say needed a new roof) how would I approach this?  Would  it be ok give them a bid that they can compare to others, or should i just not go there?"

Scenario 2:  The Family Pet
"I once had a listing appointment with a couple who didn't have any kids but had 3 small dogs who might as well been children. I toured the home and gave my listing presentation. We came to agree on everything but the situation with their dogs. They would not let them outside during the day while they were gone, put them in a kennel, or put them at a "doggie daycare" so showings could be performed.

This was a very upscale home, well kept and clean, & honestly we could have sold it I believe. The major deal breaker is the dogs. They refused to do anything with them (they were major barkers too).   It was beyond reason to them that a potential buyer would be annoyed by this or walk away completely.

What would you have done - would you have taken the listing?"

 Scenario 3: Can I Sue My Realtor?
"I know this may be a touchy subject, but I feel that the seller's agent for a house I just bought did something very unethical. I'll give the very short version...

I recently bought a bank owned home. In the appraiser's conditions for the FHA loan, he said that a full plumbing inspection needed to be done of my home and that all repairs had to be made as to make the house safe.

I came to find out that there was a major leak in the hot water pipe after my living room flooded with a half inch of water, I developed a serious case of mold in the living room, and received a $1600 bill from a plumber, not to mention numerous holes throughout my house that the seller's agent never even ordered the plumbing inspection.

I asked the seller's agent who's responsibility it had been to order the inspection and he admitted it was his, but claims that the appraiser or someone else should have caught his mistake. I don't understand how the appraiser could have even known that the inspection was done because that's something he would rely on the seller's agent to have taken care of.

My question is, is there any action that I can take against the seller's agent?"

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Many Leads Are You Getting from Your Website?

Real Estate Leads
How many web visits does it take to create one real customer? The statistics say that one real new client evolves from every 200 to 300 website visits. Are you generating that much traffic to your site?

What about PPC and SEO?  
If you've had Google Adwords campaigns, you know how expensive advertising to generate traffic and leads can be over time - with no guarantees that those leads (or clicks) will convert into clients for you.   

Search engines want to list true authorities at the top of their search results pages...does your website present you as the authority on any topics -or does it say the exact same thing as everyone elses?

Although anyone can make it possible for search engines to spider your pages and the MLS IDX listings, just making pages accessible doesn't create high rankings. Real Estate boards by the way stipulate in their IDX terms of use, that the IDX listings must be very difficult for search engines to spider. Many agents do have their IDX listings exposed to Google, however you still have to do optimization.  

To make sure your IDX pages don't look like everyone else's (showing up as dupe content and nixed by search engines) - you have to do customization with keywords.

In the End
The final result about attracting leads really depends a lot on your website content, the urgency you present for them to contact you, and how well you can create the relationship with the home buyer or home seller. 

All you really need as a local real estate agent is a site that contains the content that home buyers and sellers want to see. 

Listings, information on homes, maps, mortgages, and taxes and give them first access to new homes up for sale. 

But you DO need that content well optimized by someone experienced who is not working as a cookie cutter process, giving all agents the same exact cookies.  You want something that nobody else will have - totally unique to You!

Did You Know?
The Murray Group offers support for single property websites and other marketing tools. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mortgage Rates Remain Low - Early Holiday Gift in the Making?

The weather outside today may be a bit frightful - but the news on mortgage rates continues to be excellent!

Here is today's laundry list - the best rates* in each category for November 17, 2011.  It would be an excellent Thanksgiving memory for your clients who still need to lock in a rate for their upcoming new home purchase.  Remember, we can lock in the rate while you and your client shop - don't miss out thinking you have to do it the other way around!

 *The listed rates are not firm quotes and could vary based upon each individual's
personal situation.  Mortgage rates change daily and fluctuate even by the hour. 
I invite you to call me, Chris Murray, today to help you get pre-approved for the right mortgage
amount and lock in a low rate for up to 60 days while you shop!  919.656.8375

Jumbo Loans:
Mortgage rates today on 30 year jumbo mortgage loans are averaging 4.49% down from yesterday’s average 30 year jumbo mortgage rate of 4.52%. 

15 year jumbo mortgage rates are averaging 3.79%, a decrease from yesterday’s average 15 year jumbo mortgage rate of 3.81%. 

Conforming Adjustable Loans:
Current mortgage rates on 1 year adjustable home loans are averaging 3.76%, an increase from last week’s average 1 year adjustable mortgage rate of 3.67%. 
3 year adjustable mortgage rates today are averaging 2.74%, an increase from last week’s average 3 year adjustable mortgage rate of 2.60%.

5 year adjustable mortgage rates are averaging 2.77%, an increase from the prior week’s average 5 year adjustable rate of 2.73%.

Current 7 year adjustable mortgage rates are averaging 3.06%, an increase from the previous week’s average 7 year adjustable mortgage rate of 3.30%.

10 year adjustable mortgage rates currently are averaging 3.57%, up from last week’s average 10 year adjustable rate of 3.53%.

Adjustable Jumbo Home Loans
Current 1 year jumbo adjustable mortgage rates are averaging 4.50%,  unchanged from last week’s average adjustable jumbo mortgage rate.

 3 year adjustable jumbo mortgage rates today are averaging lower at 3.39%, down from last week’s average 3 year jumbo adjustable rate of 3.41%.

5 year adjustable jumbo mortgage rates and refinance rates currently are averaging 3.01%, up from last week’s average jumbo adjustable rate of 2.94%.

7 year jumbo adjustable mortgage rates and refinance rates today are averaging 3.47%, up from last week’s average 7 year adjustable home loan rate of 3.44%.

10 year jumbo loan rates and refi rates are averaging 3.89%, down from the prior week’s average 10 year jumbo home mortgage loan rate of 3.95%.

Rates remain low - wouldn't it be great to take advantage and give you clients an early Christmas present? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top 5 Posts In Case You Missed Them

We have many new readers to our blog.  Welcome to you all and thank you to those who keep coming back for more!

In case you missed anything (you can always browse our archives - over 200 articles in here!) - here are the top 5 topics that seemed to resonate with our readers.

How to Price a Home

Fall Winter Selling Tips: Keep your Smells Anonymous

Do Your Clients Really Understand Their Mortgage?

Switching to a More Positive Mindset for Your Real Estate Business

Are You Playing Musical Chairs in Real Estate?

There are dozens and dozens of more great articles in here - happy reading!

Which is your favorite?
 Let us know here or on our Facebook Page Support 4 NC Real Estate Agents.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Using the Monkey to Grow your Client Base

So... are you using "the Monkey"... ?
As a realtor in the Raleigh area, you get feedback from showings from CSS - most of the time.  But let's face it, some realtors don't always fill out the forms.   Or if they do, they don't exactly give you information that will truly help sell that home.  (I know - I've been on the receiving end of some pretty bad CSS feedback...)
So, how can we take this matter into our own hands without adding a lot of time or extra work to our plates - and create information that will help sell more homes and grow a larger client base? 
Enter "the Monkey", aka Survey Monkey.  
What is Survey Monkey?
  • A website where you can make online surveys, free
  • You can create a 10 question survey for FREE on Survey Monkey
What are the advantages of using Survey Monkey?
  • Fast and easy to create
  • You can gain valuable feedback for your clients from other realtors and their clients who visited your listing
  • Easy to review and analyze the results
How can Survey Monkey be integrated into your listing, sales and referral process?
  • develop a survey for your listing client - they fill out online at your listing presentation a series of questions that help you gather facts about the home, neighborhood and nearby amenities such as parks, schools, shopping, etc.  this creates an online database for the information quickly and efficiently, that you can use to create your flyers to promote the home.
  • develop a survey similar to CSS and place a simple index sized card with the link to that survey near your home flyers.  Offer an incentive for the potential buyer to go online and complete the survey...for example:  fill this out and receive our free guide "Things to Do Around Raleigh".  or "Top 10 Recipes for the Holidays."  Yes, you have to create the guides, but only once.  Create the guides digitally, not on paper.  You can build up a library of guides on many topics.  Once they fill out survey - you email them the guide to the email address they provide.  And "wha la" - you have captured a new name for your future mailings in addition to more reliable feedback about the home you are trying to sell. 
  • close every survey with a question that asks for the referral - Who do you know that may be interested in buying or selling a property in the next 1 to 12 months?

    Got Questions?  Contact The Murray Group marketing department today.  As always - we are here to help our local agents grow their business!

Monday, November 14, 2011

How are Distressed Properties Affecting Raleigh Market?

Raleigh has been relatively lucky compared to many other markets - not saying it's been easy - just not as bad as most other cities.  North Carolina is seeing 1 in every 1449 homes foreclosed, compared to South Carolina who is getting hammered at 1 in every 541.

Distressed properties, foreclosures and short sales make up about half of Raleigh's total market now, and are certainly having an impact on the real estate market not just in the larger city environment of Raleigh, but even in areas like Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and Apex. 

Conservative pricing is still the rule — generally good news for investors and buyers who want to stay in their homes for a longer term (5+ years at least), not such great news for sellers.

Another aspect we see locally, is that the number of vacant homes are rising as people who are wanting to move into our market area must wait to sell their home, in a much slower moving market.

One piece of good news for Southern Wake county is that the percentage of foreclosures in Wake County was down a little from earlier in the year, and the concentration shifted slightly to upper Wake.

Here are October 2011 stats courtesy of RealtyTrac:

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 Ways to Improve Your Holidays "Wit Da" Family

Ahhhhh, the Holiday Season is here.  The air is getting crisper, football season is in full swing, and travel plans are being made.

Despite the fact that the towns and stores around us put out their December decorations before Halloween this year, right about now is the the time most of us begin thinking about visits with family over the next 6 weeks.

I have many friends and clients who come from large families. Over the years, their stories about the holidays never cease to amaze me...some good and some, well, not so good.  Got me thinking. With all this new age of blogging - let's write about that today...

Here are 5 suggestions on how to survive the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's. (Or how to turn around the holidays - without any ghostly visitations.)

1. Rediscover the Child Within.
Find ways to "ooh" and "aah" again! Watch "It's a Wonderful Life", "Miracle on 34th Street", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and, of course, Scrooge and all its variations. Or read out loud - with family and friends if possible - "Twas the Night Before Christmas" or The "Gift of the Magi". Make hot chocolate with marshmallows. Sing Christmas carols. Play games. Write a letter to Santa. Spend a morning watching cartoons. Build a snowman or swing on a swing. Think back to your favorite holiday or childhood moments - or imagine some - and go for it!

2. Watch What You Eat.
This may be the least popular suggestion here. But let's face it, when the holidays come around, we all consume mountains of junk. Just be aware that what you eat can affect your mood, and be careful - especially right before those times you know are going to be difficult. So be selective with your junk. You don't have to eat it all! Have smaller portions and don't waste calories on anything mediocre. Save those calories for your favorites - like home made apple pie!

3. Relativity.
It's important to accept that you can't change your relatives. You only have control over you. It's best not to have high expectations of difficult people. Avoid getting pulled into arguments. Smile and say very little. Take a moment to think of the worst possible scenarios - and get creative. Think of the best ways to combat repetitive situations - whether it's by smiling and walking away, changing the subject, or very firmly saying "that's enough." If one person is the problem, focus on everyone else. Just remember to stay calm. Take a chilly walk if necessary. Hang out with the kids. Have a tete-a-tete with a favorite cousin. Or stay peaceful by renting a movie and watching it together. Quiet, please!

4. Reach Out.
Being far from your family and friends at the holidays is rough. You may even find yourself envying those people with difficult families. Instead, step outside of yourself and look around you for others far from home. You can create new holiday traditions of your own. Or make plans to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Lending a helping hand could have an amazing impact on this holiday season.

5. Dig Deep.
Make a list of the positive reasons to go and spend the holiday with your family. There must be a reason, you show up every year! Pull out the list whenever you hit a rocky moment.

There's a lot of joy to be found during the holidays - if you can minimize the stressful elements and maximize the fun! Make the holidays your own and have a great time - and you won't have to go around shouting "Bah Humbug!" ever again.

Have any other suggestions for our readers?  add 'em below...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SEO Myth Series for Real Estate Agents

After RDU Bar Camp - there is a ton of talk all around (and among) those in the real estate business about SEO (search engine optimization), Local Blogging, Optimizing Websites, Effective use of Social media and much more techie stuff.  

As part of our free support we offer local realtors, we want to help dissolve some of the mystery around that three letter word - "SEO".  

The rest of this week we will talk about 5 SEO Myths that seem to crop up everywhere we go...

SEO Myth #1 The Best SEO Content is 1,000 Words.

(or 500 words, or 250 words)

This is a common sentence uttered by people who just don’t know a whole lot. 

You may be inclined to think that longer is better, or that shorter content will leave people yearning for more – but the truth is, there is no “magical” SEO content length.

Instead, the best length for your SEO article, blog posting, or sales copy depends on your topic. 

Sure, it may be easy to create 1,500 compelling, well-researched words about getting over a divorce – but imagine what it would be like to read 1,500 words about heartburn medication or pipe welding. 

Trust me, your readers won’t want to do it, either!

Great SEO content writing leaves readers feeling as if they’ve learned something new.  It instills enough trust in you that readers want to see what else you have to offer. 

Sometimes, you can do that in 400 words. Other times, it takes 1,200 words to get it done.

Tune in tomorrow for SEO Myth #2...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Found It! Top 10 Kitchen Trends - What's In, What's Not

Found it!  here is a great list of what is trending in and out of favor in the kitchen.  Melissa does a great job highlighting them all - and we wanted to share this with you. Although I am not sure why Laminate is just now making the Losing Steam list - we thought it lost steam a long time ago.  Don't you just love that dark cabinetry with light countertops?!

Today's Article courtesy of Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Kitchens are going dark, LED lighting is gaining steam, and trash is getting more attention–all are trends in kitchen designs this year, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which surveyed 100 designers at the end of 2010 to reveal the hottest kitchen trends. 

The following is a list of what’s cooking in kitchen trends for 2011, based on NKBA survey results of which kitchen designs are increasing in demand and which are losing favor.

1. Cabinetry

Gaining steam: Maple cabinetry

Losing steam: Cherry cabinetry (Cherry dominated kitchens in early 2010 but was overtaken by maple cabinetry this year)

2. Kitchen finishes

Gaining steam: Dark natural finishes; light natural and colored painted finishes also remained fairly common, inching up slightly in use.

Losing steam: Medium natural, glazed, and white painted finishes are on the decline and the use of distressed finishes has dropped significantly in the last year.

3. Color

Gaining steam: Grays, beiges, and bones

Losing steam: Brown tones, whites, and off-whites

4. Design styles

Gaining steam: Shaker style, which is characterized by its simplicity, unornamented yet functional, finely crafted style. (Shaker overtook contemporary style this year as the No. 2 most popular kitchen design style). Traditional style remains the most popular kitchen design, although it has dropped slightly in popularity compared to last year.

Losing steam: Contemporary style

5. Cabinetry upgrades

Gaining steam: Unchilled wine storage (yet under counter wine refrigerators are losing favor)

Losing steam: Tall pantries, lazy Susans, appliance garages, and pull-out racks are declining slightly in popularity.

6. Countertops

Gaining steam: Solid surfaces, a low-maintenance countertop surface, has grown in popularity, but granite and quartz continue to hold dominance. Other countertops surfaces increasing in niche use include butcher block and marble.

Losing steam: Laminate

7. Refrigerators

Gaining steam: French door and side-by-side refrigerators

Losing steam: Freezer-top refrigerators and freezer-bottom models

8. Cooktops

Gaining steam: Induction cooktops are closing the gap on gas and electric models; double wall ovens are increasing in use.

Losing steam: Gas cooktops are still popular but their use is falling slightly in favor of induction and electric cooktops. Single wall ovens and warming drawers are also on the decline. 
9. Lighting

Gaining steam: LED energy-efficient lighting options

Losing steam: Incandescent lighting and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights)

10. Trash

Gaining steam: More designers are taking into account trash considerations in kitchen designs, with trash or recycling pull-outs, garbage disposals, and trash compactors on the rise.

Losing steam: Not considering where the trash goes in the kitchen

What is your biggest challenge when listing a new home?

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