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Health insurance and agents

Welcome back! Sorry about the January hiatus. It was a crazy month!

I read an interesting article about real estate agents and their lack of health insurance. Seeing as we are all independent contractors, we are not covered by our companies. When I owned my graphic design studio and worked as a freelance designer, I encountered the same thing. You had to belong to a professional organization (I joined the local Chamber of Commerce) to be able to obtain health insurance under their plan. Due to the fact that I have MS, I have to have insurance.”Nearly 30 percent of NAR members lack health insurance, and cost is the primary reason – 84 percent of REALTORS who do not have coverage say they can’t afford it.” (NAR)

I remember over 10 years ago, the membership to the Chamber was $300 a year + my health insurance. A pretty big nut for a single person who is supporting herself. If I had a family then . . . I can’t imagine.

This is a scary statistic in this day and age. I am fortunate to be able to fall under my husband’s plan, but for those agents who are unmarried or cannot use their spouse or partner’s plan, the cost of insurance is looming.

Around the beginning of the new year, I received a call from the pharmacy that sends my medication for my MS. It is a 1 time a month IV and it gets sent from a pharmacy in TN. They usually just call my Dr. but they called me and the woman, very nicely tells me, “Hi Keli. I was set to send up your meds and I see you terminated your insurance.” WHAT??? “No, there is a mistake. There was no termination. I don’t know what you are talking about,” I tell her.

“I’ll look into it and call you back,” she says. I figure, it is the new year, something is screwy. She calls back a few minutes later. “I looked into it and called your insurance company and your husband’s employer canceled the policy.” I sat there in stunned silence. The kicker? My husband is the employer! So I told her no way.

Anyway, long story short, the insurance company discontinued that policy and because there wasn’t an equivalent one to put us into, they canceled us. On top of everything, my brother in law’s wife had a c-section on Jan. 2 and they had canceled our insurance on January 1! She told me I could pay for my medication and get reimbursed. Uh, let me think about that. How about, NO? My meds are about $2500 a month.

Anyway, we got that straightened out finally, after almost 2 1/2 weeks. It turns out our new policy saves up quite a bit every year, but I blame the liason for the group my husband has his insurance thru. Why didn’t he tell us that the policy was discontinued or tell us of other alternatives? There is a serious breakdown in communication and I think that is common with insurance.

I would love to hear others’ stories.

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The housing market

“The housing market plunged deeper into despair last month, with sales of new homes plummeting to their lowest level in more than 12 years. The slump worsened even more than most analysts expected, heightening fears that the country might be thrust into a recession. New-home sales tumbled 9 percent in November from October to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 647,000, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That was the worst sales pace since April 1995.”

This was from our paper, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle from the end of December, stating the national trend. Not the best of news at our year end.

The Rochester market seems to have fared a little better than the nation. In November, while closings were down 10.5% from October, the median sale price was up .4% from October to November and stayed unchanged from 2006 comparisons ($115,000). This price nationwide is slighly higher at $210,200 but this is down 3.3% from last year. Although monthly closings were down and number of homes listed for sale was down 31.6%, some of the metropolitan areas of the nation are much worse. (stats from the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors, Inc.)

There seems to be some glimmer of hope, so all we can do it hope for the best.

Interestingly enough, in our paper on January 1, 2008 there is some new information. They state that the NAR (National Association of Realtors) reported that sales of existing home rose 0.4% in November from October. The pace of sales was still the 2nd slowest since 1999.

A dip in the mortgage rates in November for a 30-year mortgage may help home sales slightly. This small boost may be a sign of market stabilization, but keep in mind that earlier signs of a stable market have all been dashed.

The housing market had 5 years of record breaking activity, so this slump is particularly hard. The credit problems and sub-prime mess has added fuel to the fire. More would-be buyers are having trouble securing financing.

Representing a builder and having clients who are interested in existing homes, I have been seeing both sides of the coin. While existing home sales have sagged, we have been busy with new builds, especially the patio/empty-nester homes that we have been focusing on. We have seen a steady market and have not experienced the lag that existing homes have seen.

2008 brings new hope, new resolutions and hopefully a new housing market!

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Rochester Top 100

We just had the Rochester Top 100 awards here. A very prestigious award, it recognizes the companies who have had the most growth over a three year period. Over 2200 people attended the event and I am happy to say that DiRisio Builders came in at number 35 on the list! And with only 2 employees, that is an amazing feat! So congratulations to Lou and Bill! Keep up the good work!

DiRisio Builders was the only home builder on the list.

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Real Estate and Technology

I’ll admit it. I am a computer geek. From my days as a graphic designer, I always had to have the latest and greatest, the fastest and the slickest machine. And yes, I am a Mac lover. As designers, we all used Macs. I cannot switch over to the Dark Side and use a PC. I do when I have to, kicking and screaming all the way, but now that I am not doing much design anymore, I am definitely in the minority.

I attended a couple of great classes over the last few days. They were taught by the same woman, Amy Chorew. She was fantastic. We talked alot about the role that technology plays in real estate, and how under utilized it is by agents. The ironic part is our audience, our clients, they are using it at an ever-increasing rate.

These were some interesting stats that Amy shared with us from the 2006 National Association of REALTORS© Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:

51% of first time buyers are between the ages of 25 & 34 years old
85% of buyers used a real estate professional
84% of first time buyers used the Internet to search for homes (compared to 79% of repeat buyers)
81% rated their real estate agent as very useful in the process
Median age of sellers: 46 years
Typical home is on the market for 6 weeks

These are some interesting numbers. It is good to hear that alot of buyers are using agents and realizing the importance of a good agent! But the Internet is a powerful tool and as agents, we need to grasp its potential.

With the age range of first time buyers between 25 and 34, this generation is what is driving the housing market. Generation X (and the fringe of Generation Y) is computer savvy, busy with jobs and families. They want to sit down at night after the kids are asleep and surf around and see what grabs them. They know how to find sites with homes and they know how to cull the information down to suit their needs. Don’t get me wrong, agents are still needed. We are necessary to point out some of the features, desirable and not-so-desirable of homes they may see on the Internet. I had a client and he and his fiancée were looking to buy. They were constantly sending me links to homes they found. One home they were particularly hot on and wanted to see it that day. I looked at the link and the first thing I noticed was it was septic. I immediately called my client and told him. He said, “Oh. I didn’t know what that meant on the website. We definitely don’t want to look at that one.”

We as agents definitely need to embrace the technology, but we also need to impress on our clients what we bring to the party as people, too.

HG

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