By Mike Parker
RISMEDIA, December 1, 2009—Now that the first-time home buyer tax credit has been renewed and improved, it’s time for you to pick up some of this low lying fruit and to profit from it.
Some agents report that up to 60% of their transactions this year have been these first-time tax credit buyers. Now is the time to start positioning yourself to attract these buyers and to prosper from the credit. Fifty-nine percent of all homes are purchased using a federal benefit, today.
VA, FHA, or other financing—coupled with the tax credit – gives a powerful incentive to a large section of the marketplace. With a conforming loan only requiring 3% down (in many cases), this credit can literally put people in a home with no out of pocket money down—and that makes it far easier to get first-time (and even move up) buyers into the home buying process. Veterans who are buyers have a great opportunity today: low interest rates, depressed home prices and the first-time homebuyer tax credit combine to put these buyers in a place where everything lines up in their favor—and with FICO scores of 550 rumored to be adequate to obtain financing for them, you need to be courting them.
We’re not going to list all the reasons the first-time homebuyer tax credit is a great incentive to purchasers as just about everyone has that figured out. We’re going to give you some pointers on where you can find prospects and develop them into buyers. There are two very simple places to find prospects: 1) the Internet; 2) every apartment building in your territory (and any renters you might personally know). Let’s take them one at a time.
How to find first-time homebuyers on the InternetYou must add optimization for these buyers to your existing website. That means that you should add a page and a tab on your navigation bar for “First-time tax credit” or “First-time homebuyers” on your homepage. The page should recite information about the final specifics of the program, who is eligible, and an actual illustration of the benefits or the page should tantalize the visitor to sign in and ask you for a packet you produce or obtain containing that specific information. (Remember: your website is not only about giving information, it’s for collecting information. A good virtual assistant can put something together for you for about $500 if you are too swamped to get this done, and it is well worth the effort, provided your site can be found by Internet buyers on the search engines).
At the same time you are modifying your site with this information, you must add the specialization to your description and keywords tags (remember the geographic identifier; without it, the effort is futile. The popular booklet “SEO Secrets for Realtors” tells you the right way to write these phrases and you can obtain it here. No one will call you). Once this is done, you should start seeing real leads show up in your inbox in about a month or two, provided you have proper lead capture installed on the new pages you install. (If all this sounds like too much technical work, you can hire someone to do it all. Doing so is well worth the investment).
How to find first-time homebuyers in your town on the groundEighty-seven percent of homebuyers begin online these days and most people who are Internet shoppers have heard of the first-time homebuyer’s tax credit; however, a high percentage of renters aren’t even tuned in to this great program. They also don’t know about the 3% down availability on conforming loans. They surely don’t know that the tax credit can actually be that down payment on a $264,000 home or condo. How are you going to let them know this?
1. Think inside and outside the boxHere’s the thing: your local small town newspaper wants local business to succeed. How about calling the editor and suggesting a feature on this fabulous program? Better yet, if you are so inclined, write a chatty column about it and bring it down to the local editor. If you can tie the credit into a homecoming from duty overseas, so much the better. “Returning Veteran makes home in Smallville thanks to Homebuyers Tax Credit” would be a great story line. Chances are good that your hometown paper will run a story such as this. If not, take out a small classified ad in the real estate section, inviting renters to contact you for information about a fantastic federal program that might put them in a home for less than they are paying now in rent and with a minimum down payment, if any. If you are in a bigger metro area, place a small classified ad in CraigsList that makes the same offer. Give your Web address (but don’t do that unless you have lead capture on your site—without it, the prospect can’t register with you) and your phone number and name. You’ll be surprised, but only if you call these leads immediately upon receiving them.
2. Go directly to the prospectsMail or drop off a flyer offering classes in “the thousands of reasons you should attend our first-time homebuyers class” at every apartment complex in your town. Schedule a class and have your loan officer attend (they might even pay for your promotional efforts—including your online marketing services for Realtors subscription) and give a good presentation to those who show up. Do it several times on different days. (Richard Beckman, an agent in Washington, has used this method to his benefit—about 60% of his transactions come from this approach, and you can see how he promotes it on his basic website at http://www.washingtonrealestateresource.com/.) Please do not contact Richard, but feel free to view his site and check out his method—he’s a hard working fellow who can’t spend all day talking to agents who want to succeed like he does—for tips on what you should do.
Consider hiring a high school kid looking for a little extra spending money to do this every Saturday for you at every apartment complex in town. Don’t be shy about doing it at your supermarket parking lot, either. Post your flyer in every community posting availability. Put it on the bulletin board at your church. Make sure the flyer contains your Web address, your name and phone number, and if possible, a smiling photo of you. Welcome these people into the tent and you will sell quite a few of them. Remember, they don’t think they can afford a home. You are here to show them they can.
This isn’t 2005—you need to find your own leadsWalk-ins, referrals, move up buyers—they are all getting harder and harder to find. (The first-time homebuyers’ tax credit now can also be used by move-up buyers). Fancy print advertising is going the way of the dinosaurs and newspapers and magazines aren’t the place to find your new clients anymore. The Internet is a great place to make a presence and succeed. Likewise, get out there with those flyers before everyone else in town does. Only by actively seeking out buyers will you find enough to keep you financially viable. Those who can’t or won’t effectively prospect might not find enough clients to earn a decent living in 2010.
Although it is possible to do your own work on your website and to make it perform for you, often, professionals can help you do this better than you can do it yourself. How you do it is your choice; I’m simply telling you that you must do more than just think about doing it. Your time is money, and learning how to do all the necessary things to succeed online is not an overnight thing. Another factor is that when you use professionals to help you, your success can be subject to a written guarantee and the price can be quite reasonable. There will not be a better time to get positioned to take advantage of real estate trends with first-time homebuyers. Even better, many of these people will be thrilled to learn that they can actually afford a home, possibly for even less money each month than the rent they spend now. Get after them and get your share of these buyers, because the thinking is: this tax credit is G-O-N-E for good when it expires later in 2010. This program amounts to an invitation to succeed for real estate professionals. The question is: will you take it?
Mike Parker (www.theblackwatercg.com) advises thousands of agents and brokers on the subject of online marketing services for Realtors. If you’d like to investigate having professional help with first time homebuyers or any online marketing, click here and fill out the form for a confidential free evaluation of your online marketing and to find out if your website is set up to deliver buyers to you.