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Congress Extends & Expands the Home Buyer Tax Credit

After seeing a Senate vote of 98-0, the House approved the extension & expansion of the home buyer tax credit by a vote of 403 to 12.  The overwhelming bipartisan support was applauded by the NAHB and the National money-pocket-home-buyer-tax-creditAssociation of Realtors® (NAR).

The new bill extends the expiration of the current $8000 tax credit to first time home buyers purchasing a principle residence.  The bill further expands the credit to include existing purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for the past five of eight years.  Existing purchasers will receive a credit of $6500.

The income restrictions on qualifying buyers have also been increased.  Single filers earning up to $125k/year are eligible for the full credit, and those earning up to $145k/year are eligible for a partial credit.  Joint filers are eligible for the full amount with a combined income of up to $225k, and eligible for a partial if earning up to $245k.

The new law has seen wide support, especially from the real estate blogging community. Continue reading this post

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on November 9th, 2009 under Buying or Selling a Home, Financing, Mortgage and Home Loans

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Evaluating Online Advertising Vendors

I’m not sure if it’s the real estate downturn, but my phone has been blowing up with online advertising vendors lately.  I monitor my advertising revenue very closely, so I ask a lot of questions when talking with their salespeople.

dollar-sign-real-estateSalespeople like to throw around big numbers to entice you to buy, so it’s important to ask for the proper metrics when analyzing different potential advertising sources.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should measure, and what to ask:

1) ROI (Return on Investment) is the bottom line number that you need to use after you have given an advertising source long enough to perform.

ROI is simply how much you’ve earned on an advertising source divided by how much you’ve spent.  So, if you’ve earned one $6000 commission from Website A, and spent $2000 advertising there, your ROI is 3:1.  You’ve earned $3 for every $1 you spent.  Most advertising sources won’t track their customers’ ROI because there are so many “real world” variables that can create different results for different buyers – predominantly how well each customer can convert.

2) Conversion Rate is the number of leads you get per click.

If you have different types of leads (contact requests, registrations, property info requests) then it’s best to track the bottom line conversion rate, and then crunch it down to conversion rate for each lead type.  So, if you get 100 visitors in one month from a traffic source, and you get 5 registrations, 2 contact requests, and 3 property info requests, then your conversion rates are as follows: Continue reading this post

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on October 27th, 2009 under Online Marketing

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Want to Predict the Market? Keep Your Ear to the Ground

People often ask me the “crystal ball” question, “What do you think the market is going to do?”  I check off the many indicators I watch, including unemployment, demand, and crystal-ball-market-predict-real-estateinventory.

I then follow up with one of the most important indicators, “What do you think the market is going to do?”

In 2008, Austin’s real estate market was relatively healthy but flat.  We saw slight appreciation in the median price.  However, when speaking with clients & friends not in the business, it was their impression that the sky had and was falling.

Luckily, in Austin, the sky didn’t fall, but it did drop.  Home prices have depreciated slightly in 2009.  There are many factors that combine to cause this, but the public’s general impression of the market is a big one.

Since all real estate is local, it seems a bit counterproductive to watch national real estate trends closely.  Continue reading this post

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on August 15th, 2009 under Market Trends

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Mid-Year Real Estate Poll

[polldaddy poll="1798421"]

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on July 21st, 2009 under Polls

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Open Source Software for Agents

I’ve been a fairly big proponent of open source software for some time.  For those of you not familiar with the open source movement, it’s the idea that many developers across the world, working together through peer reviews, can develop evolving, superior products. 

Open Source software are typically described as “projects,” rather than products, as there are typically many more releases/revisions than commercially driven products, and there are many more collaborators, who often contribute a small amount of their time.  Open Source projects are typically labors of love for programmers.

You probably already use some open source products.  Firefox is extremely popular, in a large part because it is open source.  The reason there are so many cool add-ons and extensions for Firefox is because the source is “open” to other developers to put together these cool tools. 

In contrast, Internet Explorer has little in the way of customization because Bill Gates et al don’t want anyone messing with their code.  The same rings true for WordPress -– lots of extensions/add-ons because it’s open source.  You’ll notice that the larger a project is, the more stable the releases, and the more customizations that are available.  Be careful of really small projects unless you like tinkering and are ready to invest some time.

One of the most attractive aspects of open source is the price: It’s free! Continue reading this post

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on March 14th, 2009 under Technology

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Preferred WordPress Blog Plugins

It’s been quite some time since I posted my last list of preferred WordPress plugins.  Since the HomeGain Real Estate Blog is all about helping real estate agents succeed, I thought this would be a great place to post an update. 
Man have things changed!  WordPress has always had great plugin’s, but I really think it’s reaching a breakout point.  After installing the right stuff, WordPress behaves like an incredibly functional CMS for a highly dynamic website (not just a blog.) 

Without further adieu, here’s my list of preferred plugins for WordPress blogs:

Akismet – There’s a reason this plugin comes standard with every WP install.  It’s the only spam plugin you need.
Lucia’s Linky Love – In my opinion, this is the cadillac of do-follow plugins.  Most do-follow comment plugins blindly follow any commentator link on your website or blog.  This makes it really tough to let marginal comments through — even though the commentator might simply be uncreative, rather than spam commenting.  Lucia’s allows you to set a minimum # of comments before the links are followed, and allows you to follow any specific comment that you don’t like, along with a number of other useful settings.
Minimum Comment Length – I’ll say it right now — Joost de Valk is the man.  Not simply because of this plugin, but because I’m currently rocking 3 of his WP plugins and 2 of his Firefox extensions.  Minimum Comment Length does what it says — you set a minimum comment length and you frustrate the daylights out of spam commentators. Continue reading this post

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Posted by: Eric Bramlett on October 14th, 2008 under Blogging and Social Networking

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