Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before.
This week, we talked with Tom Plant, a Realtor with Greenwood King Properties in Houston who, in addition to being a top-producing real estate agent, holds academic degrees from Rice University and the Sloan School at MIT, and has been CIO and CEO for international companies.
Houston Agent (HA): Our story on the changing dynamics between homebuilders and agents generated quite a bit of interest among our readers; do you see co-op commissions and the like remaining, as homebuilding continues to improve, or will new construction revert back to how it was before?
Tom Plant (TP): Your story dealt with a national scenario. For Houston, I do not believe there is a history of Builders cutting Brokers out to which to revert. Of course a builder loves it when a buyer walks in and is willing to buy without representation. However, builders also recognize they need brokers to sell their inventory, even when the times are good.
HA: Our coverage of online marketing strategies never fails to attract readers; what forms of online marketing have you found the most effective for your business?
TP: Most Houston residents do not realize what an asset we have with HAR.com. No other city has a resource that comes close to providing the information in such a consumer friendly manner. None of the national sites mentioned in the story can compete with HAR.com. My experience is that once an out of town Buyer finds HAR.com, they never return to the national sites.
That being said, my approach to online marketing is much different from the agents quoted in the story. My primary market focus is River Oaks, West University, Southampton, Boulevard Oaks and other close in neighborhoods. I do not believe online marketing is likely to produce many leads because neither sellers nor buyers of $1 million-plus properties are likely to look for a broker online.
My primary online strategy is to maximize the impact of my listings on HAR.com by using professional photographers, having professional floor plans and attached documents with very detailed descriptions. I use address specific URL’s to tie to the HAR information, e.g., www.2535swift.com.
My secondary strategy is to maintain credibility by blogging, and using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. When I am referred to a client, they want to know I have an online presence yet they will not make the first contact online. This is true for my market and I expect it is very different for other markets in Houston.
HA: Finally, everyone is sharing their predictions on how Houston’s housing market will develop in 2013; what are your thoughts on where the market will head this year?
TP: This year has started off with a bang. February was the 21st consecutive month of increased sales when compared to the same month the previous year. For the first two months, single-family home sales in 2013 are up 20 percent over 2012. I expect demand to continue strong, primarily due to Houston’s job growth. I expect the rate of growth to slow to single digits as we start to compare results to months in 2012 that had strong sales.
The unknown factor is Houston’s inventory of homes. At the end of February there were 19,054 single family homes actively on the market. Houston has had a steady decline in the number of single family homes actively on the market since May 2011 when the inventory stood at 33,311. The inventory has declined every month except two since then. At the current rate of sales, the inventory would be depleted in 3.7 months. Sellers are reluctant to list because they are fearful their home will sell before they find a place to move.
Overall, I am very optimistic about the residential market in Houston for 2013. An inventory increase of 10 percent to 15 percent would move my optimism off the chart.