What to Know When Selling a Smart Home

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Smart home technology is becoming more and more popular among homeowners.  In fact, per a recent survey by HGTV, forty-six percent of consumers want their current or next home to have smart home technology.  These gadgets are beginning to reshape how homes operate, and they are influencing our industry such as staging homes, holding open houses, setting sales prices, etc.  With products, such as locks, light bulbs, security systems, appliances and thermostats able to be controlled via smartphone or tablet, an estimated 100 million households worldwide had some type of smart home device by the end of 2015.  Per a German telecommunications company, that number is expected to grow to 300 million over the next decade!

You may ask, what exactly IS a smart home??  “Smart Home” is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet. 1

Now more than ever, real estate agents need to be up to speed with the latest products and trends to stay ahead of the curve.  As we mention in our CE class, Selling to Millennials, the Gen Y generation seeks out smart home technology specifically when buying a home.  Representing a millennial Buyer?  Education on this technology is key.  Listing a home with smart home technology?  It is a good idea to label these gadgets with a short blurb on what they do to educate a potential Buyer that may not realize they are there.  Make sure you sit with the Seller and have extensive knowledge of the smart home features so you can show them off in open houses and showings!  (Remember, over 46% of homebuyers are looking to have smart technology in their next home.)

Here are a few of the most common smart home gadgets you may see:

Amazon Echo or Google Home – These devices are smart speakers that respond to your voice commands to play music and control your smart home gadgets.  With all the different gadgets out there, it can be a lot to manage.  These systems let you connect everything to one hub for control.

Nest Thermostat –  This thermostat not only lets you control your central heat & air via an app on your smartphone, it’s a learning thermostat as well.  It “learns” your behavior with your heat and air and creates a schedule for you.  **On a side note for our Austin, Texas readers, in case you missed it, check out this article detailing a new city regulation requiring smart thermostats in all NEW houses and apartments built in Austin.

Skybell Doorbell – Skybell is a smart video doorbell that allows you to see, hear, and speak to the visitor at your door whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go via an app on your smartphone.

Serena Remote Control Shades – This is just one of many brands of remote control shades letting you control your shades to add convenience and help save on energy via an app on your smartphone.

Nest Protect Smoke Alarm – From features like self-testing, night lighting and voice alerts, the Nest Protect smoke alarm is a very advance smoke alarm system.  You are able to “hush” it directly from your phone and it also tells you what’s wrong as a pop up on your smartphone.

With all this being said, typically one of the biggest concerns regarding any type of technology to any consumer is privacy & security, which is completely understandable.  If you come across a Seller that is concerned about privacy when selling their home equipped with smart home technology, refer to this nifty checklist the Online Trust Alliance and the National Association of REALTORS® recently teamed up to create.  It’s a “smart home checklist,” providing consumers with information to increase the security and privacy of their smart home at resale.


FYI:  The Center for REALTOR® Technology has set up a lab at NAR headquarters in Chicago to explore the latest in smart home technology innovations. Read more at CRT’s Bits and Bytes blog.

Top Five Tech Tips for Real Estate Agents

 

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The Education Team of Independence Title frequently attends conferences and webinars to stay up with the latest and greatest in technology in the real estate industry. Using that information, we created a list of “tech tips” that we think are worth your while. Here’s the first 5 for you to check out:

1)  LinkedIn Export

Did you know you can export the email address and job title/company of all of your LinkedIn connections into an excel file for an easy upload into say… your CRM?!  YES!  We were just as shocked and it’s easy to do.  You can simply follow this LINK (you must be logged into LinkedIn) or click on “connections” on your home page in LinkedIn, click on the settings wheel, and then export your connections.  VOILA!

2)  Assistant.to

Have you ever tried to book a meeting with someone and end up 15 emails later with no agreement on time/date?  So frustrating, right?  Wouldn’t you love to eliminate the back and forth and just send one email with all of your availability and then they can select the time slot that works for them?  AND wouldn’t it be cool if it auto adds to both of your calendars as soon as they select the time slot?!  CLICK HERE to see this life saver you won’t be able to live without.  Note** This is only available for Gmail users through a google extension for our google calendar.  (We see they are working on compatibility with outlook so stay tuned!)  We can’t help but love the quote on their site:  THE TROUBLE WITH BEING PUNCTUAL IS THAT NOBODY’S THERE TO APPRECIATE IT ” — Franklin P. Jones  🙂

3)  RE Clarity App

Out of town clients?  Use the REclarity App to send specific, personalized zoom and point video messages that communicate as if you were there in person.  You can showcase key features of a home that is tailored to a particular client’s needs such as providing specific instructions or requests to contractors for repairs, property management or staging, follow up with clients and answer questions, share visual status on repair work or construction or report/describe property damage or areas in need of attention.  Click HERE for a video demo.  We think this will definitely make you look like a ROCK STAR to your clients!

4)  Google Alerts

Did you know you can get an email as soon as something hits the internet?  Want to stay on top of anything that is on the web about you?  Or maybe a client?  Maybe you want instant updates about a product you like or to keep up with news stories…  By creating a Google Alert, you can get email notifications any time Google finds new results on a topic that interests you.  No need to keep hitting refresh…  CLICK HERE to get started.

5)  GBoard for iPhone

Last but not least, we all got really excited about this one.  It’s a keyboard add on for your iPhone (we hear it’s coming to Android sooner rather than later so stay tuned!)  Basically its main functionality is to eliminate the frustrating back and forth we all go through when bouncing between apps; no more Google searching, copying the link, jumping back into messages, and then pasting the results.  Watch this quick little video… We’re pretty sure you’ll be racing to download it like we did!

 

The future of Texas is bright

With the media attention on the lack of housing starts and the lukewarm national economy, I felt it was time to revisit why Texas continues to stand out from all the negative news about the national economy. The $1.3 trillion Texas economy has shown a complete recovery from the Great Recession and is getting stronger, with few foreseeable economic hurdles over the next few years. To put that in perspective only 3 states are producing a significant number of jobs, Texas with 375,330 jobs, California 331,000 jobs, and Florida with 218,000 new jobs in the last 12 months. There are 18 other states at prerecession employment numbers. But there are still 32 states that have had yet to regain all the jobs lost in the downturn, based on revised state-level employment data from the Bureau of Labor statistics.

The Texas economy is now larger than those in Michigan, North Carolina, and Georgia combined. The Texas economy has recovered from recession and entered into a phase of expansion. This is different than the majority of states in the nation. Texas has left the stabilization and recovery phase that the rest of the country seems to be stuck in. Not all Texas metros are fully recovered as shown below.

• US – Stabilization – The Federal Reserve lowers rates, then gradually allows increase, as housing and job growth historically follow. When the rates are at zero, the Federal reserve uses other means, such as quantitative easing (QE) to encourage growth. As Fed reduce stimulus, rates should rise.
• Texas – Recovery/Expansion – Supply and demand is in balance, and home and land appreciation meets or beats inflation.
• Austin – Expansion – Economic housing formation as well as other real estate channel demand exceeds supply. Housing and real estate appreciation stronger. Austin is at 111% of prerecession employment numbers.
• Houston – Expansion – Economic housing formation as well as other real estate channel demand exceeds supply. Housing and real estate appreciation stronger. Houston is at 309% employment recovery of prerecession numbers.
• San Antonio – Recovery – Demand has picked up, putting pressure on supply. San Antonio is at 93.2% of prerecession employment numbers.
• Dallas/Fort Worth – Recovery – Demand has picked up, putting pressure on supply. DFW is at 228.6% of prerecession employment numbers.

To see how Texas metros rank against the rest of the national metros we have the following chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Texas lost 400,000 jobs between 2007 and 2011 during the recession, but has since added more than a million. Those who lost their jobs may not have gotten one of the new ones. The current oil and gas boom is fundamentally different from one in the late 1970s because it is driven by increased demand and production, not just higher prices.

The strength of the regional economy is apparent when you realize Texas unemployment has been at or below the national rate for 90 consecutive months. Non-agricultural employment in Texas expanded over the last month for the 45th straight time with the addition of an estimated 19,100 jobs in June. This growth followed on the heels of gains of 55,500 and 62,400 positions in May and April, respectively. Seven of the eleven major industries in Texas showed employment increases over the month. Total non-agricultural employment ended the last 12 months at an estimated level of 11,550,000 jobs, an increase of 371,000 jobs over the year. The annual growth rate for was nearly unchanged at 3.3 percent in June and has been at or above 3.0 percent for four of six months in 2014. Trade, transportation, and utilities employment continued its expansion with the addition of 7,700 jobs in June. Regional retail trade grew by 3,100 positions, and wholesale trade added 1,200 jobs in June. Trade, transportation, and utilities employment added 90,400 jobs over the year as its annual growth rate reached 4.0 percent, the highest in this regional channel’s history.

With this employment growth, construction has increased in residential and commercial. Regional construction starts and automobile sales also have helped spur the recovery that would not be here if it was not for the other channels employment growth.

Because of this, consumer confidence in Texas is above average, while it remains low nationally and in other regions of the country as evidenced by the chart from the Texas Comptroller’s Monthly Report (a healthy economy traditionally is shown by the index being above 100). When you have strong consumer confidence, the consumer spends more, which in turn helps the regional economic growth.

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On top of this, Texas-based companies are blazing new trails in innovation, driving job creation and spurring some new record-setting growth for the Lone Star State.

For the first time, Texas recently surpassed California in technology-related exports, according to a report by the TechAmerica Foundation. Technology now accounts for 17 percent of all exports from our state, and there are plenty of reasons why that trend will increase, not decrease.

A significant amount of credit for this pro-tech, pro-investment environment in Texas must go to state leaders, who have enacted some of the smartest, most forward-looking policies anywhere in the nation. The Governor’s office and staff, and local and state policymakers have been squarely focused on public policy that spurs business and manufacturing investment broadly and that encourages the growth of the tech sector, in particular. And that, of course, means more jobs. Particularly in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

It’s because of the economic, regulatory, and business climate in Texas that technology companies are willing to invest billions of dollars and create tens of thousands of jobs with confidence. Notably, a sales tax rebate on certain technology manufacturing equipment (House Bill 1133) correlates to $800 million in new broadband network investment by companies every year in our state. Also, passage of House Bill 800 has promoted Texas as a place for research and development activity, a key element of tech innovation.

The state’s public policy decisions have played an integral part in the decisions technology companies make every day on expansion. With only so much capital to invest, companies must decide where the best environments are for investment. A strong, pro-growth climate with policies that reflect a commitment to growing jobs and the economy make Texas standout from the rest.

Last year, weakness in manufacturing and cuts in federal spending (85,00+ jobs just in Texas) contributed to the state’s job growth slowdown. Still, our regional economy continued to expand, with employment in oil and gas, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and construction growing strongly. Even with slower job expansion, Texas remained the third-fastest-growing state in 2013, trailing only North Dakota and Florida.

Where is the rest of the year headed? 2014 should be another good year, with many analysts expecting improvement in global and U.S. economic activity, Texas should benefit as demand for its products and services increases. Federal government cuts are unlikely to be any harsher than they were in 2013, nationally as well as regionally. The latter part of this year’s national pickup in job growth suggest that 2014 employment will increase by 2.5 to 3.5 percent. Texas will see the same gains in job growth in 2014 with an increase by 2.5 to 3.5 percent. Texas will likely continue growing faster than the national average and most other states.

Texas is the place to be

I came across a great article called “50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History”. The article in my estimation is worth reading and should make us appreciate where we are and when we are living. In reading it, I felt the challenge to state why Texas is presently one of the best places to live and raise a family. California in the early 1950’s was the land of opportunity with many families and corporations moving there. In recent times, the pendulum has moved to Texas. Why?

Instead of government, the big drivers of growth now appear to be three basic sectors: energy, technology and, most welcome all, manufacturing. Energy-rich Texas cities dominate. The state has added some 200,000 generally high-paying oil and gas jobs over the past decade — but Texas is also leading in industrial job growth, technology, and services.

The best prospects for the future lie in places that both experience income and employment gains but remain relatively affordable. When the consumer is looking at affordability, Texas is the state that boasts the most effective pay and cost of living for the dollar. With wages staying stagnant, many consumers are looking to Texas because their paycheck stretches farther. If you are just looking at income, Texas is just above average; cities on both coasts will far outweigh total pay. But when you compare to where your paycheck goes the farthest, Texas metros and cities are constantly in the top 10 in most categories.

Texas boasts warm weather, lots of land, no state income tax, and a cost of living that is lower than the national average. The strong economy is led by low unemployment and a relatively robust housing market. The Texas metros that rank highly on most lists have enjoyed rapid population growth and strong domestic in-migration. Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin all have been among the leaders the nation in both domestic migration and overall growth.

Texas job creation

Texas has far outpaced the national average. The number of jobs in Texas has grown by a truly impressive 31.5 percent since 1995, compared with just 12 percent nationwide, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. When the consumer thinks of Texas, they think of energy, but the technology sector has also seen strong growth.

When we think of Texas and technology, Dell, Texas Instruments, and Compaq/ HP are what commonly comes to mind. However over the last 10 years the social media craze and a surge in private-equity investment has created much more. Homeaway, Bazaarvoice, Rackspace, etc have helped lead the way away from hardware manufacturing to the next level of the technology landscape.

And yet it is not just energy and technology that have helped lead this state to its current economic strength. As stated before in this forum, the demand for teachers, doctors nurses and other positions that require a four year degree have seen over a 42+% growth since 2000. Finance, insurance, real estate, legal, engineering, consulting also have ranked high in the contributing the high wage growth in Texas.

Texas did better than the rest of the United States from 2002 through 2011 in wage growth. For industries paying over 150 percent of the average American wage, Texas could claim 216,000 extra jobs; the rest of the country added 495,000. In other words, the Lone Star State, with 8 percent of the U.S. population, created nearly a third of the country’s highest-paying positions. Texas also added 49,000 positions paying 125 percent to 150 percent of the U.S. average; the rest of the country lost 174,000 jobs in that category.

Not to avoid the lower quartile of jobs, Texas metros also added hundreds of thousands of positions in food services, health care, and other lower-paid fields, in addition to the more lucrative jobs. Texas did lose 10,000 construction jobs, but that was a modest downturn, in light of the massive national slowdown in building caused by the crisis of 2008. Texas is at about 40% of prerecession jobs in construction. So, most job channels continue to look good going into the next few years.

There’s a lot of good news about the current Texas economy. Let’s now discuss some new economic developments that will benefit Texas’s future.

Opening oil exploration in Mexico

How big could these oil reforms be for Texas’s as well as Mexico’s economy? Based on current estimations it could be bigger than the revolution in shale drilling and fracking, and it could end up being one of the most significant changes in Mexico’s economic policy in 100 years. Why would the oil and gas reforms be so significant to Mexico? Because of all the oil and gas it could unlock, and the vast wealth that could be created in the process. How much? Well, according to government estimates Mexico contains proven, probable and possible reserves of more than 45 billion barrels of oil and in excess of 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Under Pemex, the national Mexican oil company, the oil and gas would simply remains locked in the ground.

Why can’t Pemex get it out? Because Pemex, despite being one of the world’s biggest oil companies, does not have sufficient technical expertise to explore and develop promising prospects such as in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico or in the tricky shale layers just south of the border from Texas’ booming Eagle Ford shale. What’s more, Pemex has virtually no hope of acquiring or borrowing such expertise under the current status quo, which allows the company to only enter into service contracts.

That’s enough to attract the likes of most major energy giants such as a Halliburton or Schlumberger to Mexico. But the Big Oil companies with real expertise and giant balance sheets like ExxonMobil or Chevron wouldn’t even consider taking on the massive risks of drilling wells if they weren’t guaranteed a strong cut of whatever oil and gas they found. Couldn’t Pemex develop that expertise in-house? No. With Mexico relying on Pemex revenues to fund a third of the federal budget, the company has been starved of the capital it needs to drill, develop and grow. Big business and oil could supply that.

What state benefits most from that play? Texas.

Repealing the crude oil exportation ban

Since 2008, U.S. oil production has increased over 55 percent, and our imports have correspondingly fallen to the lowest level since the mid-1990s. In response to this oil boom, refineries have been exporting at record amounts gasoline, diesel, and other products refined from oil, which do not face the same federal restrictions as crude oil.
In response to this trend and the broader oil and natural-gas boom, legislators and many companies including Exxon Mobil and others are calling on Congress to lift the ban.

The ban dates back to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, which sent domestic oil prices soaring. In the wake of that incident, Congress decided to restrict exports of crude in most cases as a means to limit future oil-price shocks. In the few cases exports are allowed—mostly to Canada—companies must obtain a specific license from the Commerce Department in order to do so. These policies that limit energy exports have limited job creation, economic growth, as well as progress in reversing our trade imbalance, according to the pro-repeal sector. The latest Census data shows the oil and natural gas sector accounted for 8.9 percent of the total balance of exports in the first 11 months of 2013 – contributing more than $129 billion in exports and leading all other sectors. Our trade imbalance is at a four-year low thanks to the 16 percent trade deficit reduction provided by the oil and natural gas industry.

For those that fear that the open market would raise prices, the latest forecast from the Energy Information Administration demonstrates that surging U.S. production will continue to exert downward pressure on fuel prices – even under increased export scenarios.

If the free market is allowed to work in this arena, we could see even more progress toward the Obama Administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports. And that means jobs. In America’s oil and natural gas industry, good-paying jobs abound – with the average upstream job paying roughly seven times the federal minimum wage. And the state that would probably benefit most is Texas.

Alternative energy economic impact in Texas

We all have heard of the large wind farms throughout the Southwest, but one of the more exciting announcements with short term economic impact is the announcement of Tesla’s electric battery factory. Tesla Motors has said that it plans to invest about $2 billion in a large-scale factory to produce cheaper batteries for their mass-market electric car within three years. The company, which makes all-electric luxury sedans, indicated that it would build the factory in the American Southwest, without specifying which state. Nor would it name its partners, who it said would invest up to another $3 billion in the factory through 2020.

This innovative factory would allow Tesla to develop and cut the costs of its batteries for its vehicles quickly, in part by producing finished batteries from metal ore instead of from components. Sales of its Model S sedan, which costs $70,000 and higher, have been constrained by a battery shortage. Analysts said that Tesla needs more batteries if it is to make its third-generation vehicle, an electric sedan that will be sold for less than $40,000. By building its own factory, Tesla would have more control over the supply and cost of its batteries.

Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are among the states Tesla said it was considering for the factory. The finished batteries would be shipped to Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, Calif. The factory will cover 500 to 1,000 acres and employ up to 6,500 workers. Texas is a good candidate for this opportunity, with the confluence of multiple transportation lines to easily ship between states. That, coupled with cheap land and low taxes make Texas a contender. That said also realize, that all four states under consideration currently have unfriendly laws towards Tesla’s direct sales model. Any change by any state one would think would have a positive influence to recruiting the battery factory to their state. Once a unique product and factory starts like this, the additional industry attracted would have huge benefits to that region.

Besides energy, the greatest growth areas in Texas are the health, medical, and technology fields. All of the major metros have a national, if not global, presence in these industries.

San Antonio–New Braunfels

Home to one of the largest medical facilities in the nation, San Antonio has seen strong job growth from military medical operations. Ambulatory health-care services combined with new technology has created more than 12,000 jobs over the last five years and looks to continue for a while.
Medical isn’t the only thing driving development. San Antonio is also home to the largest oil and gas development in the world in the Eagle Ford Shale. Record drilling levels and high-yield wells are pumping new jobs into energy and related sectors.

The technology strength is obvious to those that live in San Antonio, with the explosive growth of Rackspace and Geekdom.

The city was ninth in job growth over the last five years. A nationwide restructuring of military bases could lead to many new jobs. So on many fronts those looking to find opportunity have a lot of options in the Alamo city.

Houston

Growth in Houston has been fueled by the strength in oil and gas exploration and the supporting technologies. The shale gas exploration in particular is creating jobs in multiple areas. It’s led to 10,500 jobs in professional and scientific services, while administrative, machinery, and manufacturing industries have also seen job gains. Job growth is the seventh strongest in the country over the last five years, largely because Houston’s energy infrastructure is only getting more developed. Multiple companies are building export terminals, fractionaters, and ethane crackers. Expect a huge increase in engineering and construction jobs as a result.

But remember that Houston is also home to one the largest medical centers in the world. The innovation and leadership generated from Houston leads most of the country and world in the industry. This area will continue to be one of the major employers and leaders for the Texas economy.

Last, numerous large energy operations, such as Exxon, Conoco /Phillips, and Occidental and are consolidating their headquarters in this city which in turn has continued to the strong construction and economic growth of the area.

DFW

The DFW metro area continues to have one of the most diverse economies in the U.S., with strong establishments in tech, aerospace, telecoms, and financial services. Population growth is strong, housing sales are rising, financial services added 5,000 jobs from 2011-13, and employment at corporate headquarters increased by more than 4,000 works over the last five years.

Look for Dallas’s job growth to get even stronger as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Lockheed Martin look to expand their presence.

Austin

The Austin metro area has gotten plenty of positive press over the last few years. Nationally, Austin has come in the top five major metros in the country job growth over the last five years, due in large part to a more diversified economic base. Homegrown tech companies like Dell, National Instruments as well as foreign investment such as Samsung ( with the largest foreign investment in the US) and others complement incoming companies like Apple and IBM (which both now have large bases in Austin), as well as startups coming out of the University of Texas. When you look at the explosive growth of new tech companies such as Homeaway, Bazzarvoice, Invoto and many others, the economic future is obvious.

Austin’s decision to back a new medical school that will open in the fall of 2016 will help attract many more in the medical field, research as well as practitioners. Partnering with the university and the strength of the other medical centers in Texas will allow the state to become much more attractive on a global scale to many. Couple that with the aging demographic nationally as well as world wide of the population, you can see the strength of the economic argument.

Austin business leaders plan is to maintain its high-flying output over the next number of years as it focuses on clean technology, data centers, digital media, biosciences, and other industries.

The state is extremely business-friendly with a low tax, low regulation environment that makes it attractive to out-of-state firms. All of the tech hustle and bustle has led to an influx of young professionals, which has led to a boom in construction in all metros. To consider that the state has put its focus on too few industries for a strong future is a weak argument, when looking at the facts. Again realize that we are lucky, blessed to be living in Texas, at one of the best times in history.