Archive for December, 2010

Glancing Back and Jumping Forward

Friday, December 31st, 2010

I can’t tell you how many blogs and articles I have read over these last few weeks based on New Year predictions and goals. I am not going to launch into an evaluation of 2010 and tell you my personal goals for the New Year (but I may use some personal examples), nor will I review what is history. The highlight of 2010 was finally breaking out on my own and opening my own brokerage…I honestly have never been so excited about work and can’t wait for the New Year to start.

As for the jump forward, tomorrow, January 1, is the beginning of a new chapter in all our lives–tabula rasa and all that. You can choose to make it mediocre, more of the same, or to really make a change. You can jump or you can leap…it’s all up to you. No matter what business you are in, there are a few things you can do to really make this coming year count, both in your business and your personal life. Here are some suggestions:

1. WRITE down your goals and focus on what you can do daily to stimulate business in the future. This is really a combination of two things, but they go together. I attended a seminar a few years ago where we spent a few hours making formal business plans. Personally, that didn’t do it for me (it was all based on money and numbers). So this year I did it my own way, by taking into account the things I need to do to be productive. I feel great about all this, because my goals are not based on how much money I want to make, but rather on attainable daily goals I can accomplish each day. Personally, I think if you focus on the money aspect of your job you lose sight of the more important aspects: building relationships and being a community expert.

2. Spend time with the people who matter. I don’t mean your family and friends, although surely they matter most to you (and you NEED to schedule time for that daily); I am talking about your client or customer relationships. In my industry SO many agents finish a transaction and rarely ever speak with their clients again. In fact, the National Association of Realtors conducted a study on this not to long ago and found that around 70-75% of agents don’t keep in touch (I am going off of memory so I am not certain of the exact number). Amazing. You have to make time for these people, as they are the most important people in your business! Personally, I love my clients so this is actually fun for me. Schedule time once a week to meet a past or current client for coffee, breakfast, lunch, a walk, or a visit to their home. I am going to be doing a lot of this in the new year.

3. Get rid of the things that don’t work. If you have been in business for more than a year and have tried different types of marketing, you likely know by this point what doesn’t work. Personally, I cut out several forms of marketing from my budget in the last few months. I know where my business comes from and that is what I am sticking to. Really evaluate what works and what does not.

4. Step outside your business and view it from a buyer or seller’s (or customer’s) perspective. I am speaking about real estate, but this concept can apply to any business. Look at your logo, your mantra, your colors and marketing pieces. Are you consistent in everything you do? That is very important to me. Your marketing is a reflection of YOU.

5. Evaluate your personal position. I mention this because there are a lot of people in America who really don’t like what they do for a living. If you are not passionate about what you do then you should not be doing it. Most people are too afraid of this, but trust me on this one. About six months ago I considered leaving real estate. I found that I actually love what I do, but was not in the right place. Leaving the corporate real estate world was what I needed and now I am happy. A new year is a great time to reevaluate and just go for it!

That is my very simple list, and although it is short it actually contains a LOT of powerful information and gives you some homework. I wish you the best of luck on your personal journey, and a very happy New Year!

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San Diego January Calendar of Events

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Outdoor Ice Rink at Horton Square
November 18 – January 9

Want to experience skating ice skating in the heart of America’s Finest City all while benefitting a great cause? Come to Horton Plaza and join us in a benefit for the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. Admission includes rental ice skates for the duration of the public session. http://www.sdice.com/horton/index.htm

Broadway/San Diego Presents ‘West Side Story’
January 4 – 9

More than fifty years ago one musical changed theater forever. Now it’s back on Broadway mesmerizing audiences once again. From the first note to the final breath, West Side Story soars as the greatest love story of all time. Directed by Tony Award¬Æ-winner Arthur Laurents, West Side Story remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. Family friendly for pre-teens and older. http://broadwaysd.com

Stephen Strasburg 5K Walk & Fun Run with Tony Gwynn
January 15

Come join Stephen Strasburg and Tony Gwynn in a 5k walk & fun run benefitting the Aztec Baseball program. The Inaugural Stephen Strasburg 5K Walk & Fun Run with Tony Gwynn will take place Saturday, January 15, 2011 at SDSU. This is a family-friendly event that will include games and fun for everyone. By registering for this event you will receive an all-inclusive package loaded with great prizes. Please check out the website or all the details and registration info. http://www.strasburg5k.com/

13th Annual San Diego Multi-Cultural Festival
January 15

Enjoy this free, family-friendly, fun festival with cultural entertainers, food, vendors, an entire children’s area, Global Villages and an education fair. There’s something for everyone! http://www.ccdc.com

An Evening with Joan Rivers
January 15

An entertainment legend of unparalleled accomplishment and talent, Joan Rivers is an internationally renowned comedienne, Emmy-winning television talk show host, Tony-nominated actress, best-selling author, playwright, screenwriter, motion picture director, columnist, lecturer, syndicated radio host, jewelry designer and cosmetic company entrepreneur, red carpet fashion laureate and businesswoman. Enjoy a special evening as Joan Rivers delights you with stories and her humorous observations of people and her world live from the stage at the historic Balboa Theatre! http://www.sandiegotheatres.org

Tango del Mundo: A Tango Odyssey
January 15

Tango del Mundo is part of the Gallery Series, which takes place at the Meyer Fine Art Gallery, 2400 Kettner Blvd., #104, in Little Italy. The Gallery Series offers the ultimate sensory experience by combining hand-crafted wine, evocative art, and eclectic music. The evening begins with a curated wine tasting complimented by light hors d’oeuvres. Following the musical program, guests are invited to meet the artists. http://www.camarada.org

Whale Watch Weekend 2011
January 15 – 16

Cabrillo’s annual Whale Watch Weekend and Intertidal Life Festival from 10 a.m. ‚ 4:30 p.m. features presentations, exhibits and films. Rangers are also on hand throughout the weekend to assist visitors in spotting whales in the ocean and explore the park’s magnificent tide pools. Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego’s picturesque national park on the panoramic Point Loma peninsula, offers a glass enclosed observatory for whale watching. Visitors can also explore whale exhibits and listen to a taped narration describing characteristics of these popular animals. http://www.cnmf.org

Exploration Hike of the NEW Heritage Trail
January 16

Join us as we hike the not yet open-to-the-public, planned route of the Heritage Trail, connecting the San Dieguito River Park’s San Pasqual Valley Trail with the extensive, nearly 60-mile Poway trail system! This 6.5-mile hike will feature sweeping views of San Pasqual Valley as we travel through coastal sage scrub and oak riparian woodland. Participants will learn about the Conservancy’s large-scale efforts to combat the invasive plants that threaten these native vegetation communities, as well as what will be needed to complete the remaining challenging segments of the Coast-to-Crest Trail. This hike is a fund-raiser for the Conservancy to support its work protecting additional lands for the River Park, extending trails, and restoring habitat. Reservations are required. To RSVP, visit sdrvc.org and click the “Join Now” button and please select ‚ÄúSan Dieguito Exploration‚Äù from the fund menu or contact sdrvc@sdrvc.org or (858)755-6956 by January 13th. Refreshments will be provided

San Diego Restaurant Week
January 16 – 21

Extraordinary three-course menus from San Diego’s best restaurants from $20-$40 per person. Experience cuisine that delights your palate and defines the art of dining in San Diego. Choose from over 180 of the city’s best restaurants and enjoy a fixed price, three-course dinner for $20, $30 or $40 per person, depending on the restaurant. Now in its seventh year as San Diego County’s largest and most successful dining event, San Diego Restaurant Week runs from January 16-21, 2011, and is designed to spotlight San Diego as a premiere dining destination. http://www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com/

San Diego Symphony: Judy Garland in Concert
January 21 – 22

The legendary voice and film archives of Judy Garland are combined with the San Diego Symphony performing live to create this remarkable concert event at Symphony Hall. Judy Garland in Concert features over two dozen of Judy’s greatest musical hits, including “The Trolley Song,” “The Man That Got Away,” and “Over the Rainbow.” Experience Judy Garland’s dynamic life in song as she performs on multiple screens, accompanied by the orchestra in the classic repertoire and arrangements that thrilled worldwide audiences. Using breakthrough technology, this unique entertainment incorporates rare home movies, photographs and the star’s own reminiscences to present a magical and timeless concert experience. For ticketing and more information, check out www.sandiegosymphony.com

Whale Festival on San Diego Bay
January 22

Join us at the 2011 Big Bay Whale Festival to celebrate the annual migration of Gray Whales! The festival is from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m and for this day only, kids cruise for free on either of our Whale Watching cruises. Receive 1 free child ticket with purchase of each full fare adult ticket. Limit of 6 people per offer. Not valid with any other offer. Reservations are recommended. www.hornblower.com

All That Glitters: The Splendor & Science of Gems & Minerals
Through January 15th

San Diego Natural History Museum is proud to present the gem and mineral exhibition: All That Glitters: The Splendor and Science of Gems and Minerals. Witness a stunning selection of spectacular natural mineral crystals, exquisite jewelry, and works of art. See objects on display for the first time ever. Discover “first finds” in the world, found right here in California: benotite, gold, kunzite and morganite. View stunning objects on loan from major U.S. museums including the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. http://www.sdnhm.org

Seeing Beauty Exhibition
Through January 23rd

The photographs in the exhibition at the Museum of Photographic Arts examine the elements of art and design, composition and framing, as well as subject matter. In examining these elements in the context of aesthetic beauty, the exhibition poses the question of how our personal interpretation and notions of what constitutes beauty affect our experience of looking at art. The exhibition is meant to engage viewers to challenge, redefine, or confirm their understanding of what beauty is, and what factors contribute to their aesthetic evaluation. http://mopa.org

California Roll
Through January 31st

From Woodies to hot rods, from custom cars to lowriders, California had produced more ideas and trends than anywhere on the planet. This exhibit features many cars that made the statement that California is a unique and different place – full of ingenious ideas. From dune buggies to the iconic hippie VW Microbus, California has always catered to the diverse populations that make up its people, define the moment, and shape our future. This exhibit has something fun for everyone, including a facsimile of an early Jack in the Box restaurant, the pioneer of drive-thru restaurant culture. http://www.sdautomuseum.org

San Diego International Auto Show
December 30 – January 2

As the industry continues to evolve, automakers will be unveiling vibrant, new vehicles with more innovative, hi-tech products than ever. Show visitors should look for exciting and fun new features, family entertainment and interactive activities. This year’s show will highlight hundreds of new-model vehicles, classics and exotics, a salute to classic VW buses, five decades of Mustangs, and an art sculpture exhibit made from old car parts. Come in and find your favorite 2011-model vehicle or one you are considering for purchase. Better yet, take one of several models from Toyota, Ford, Kia or General Motors on a test drive. http://www.sdautoshow.com

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Real Estate and the iPad

Monday, December 27th, 2010

The iPad has become an incomparable tool in my business, by enabling me to work smarter for my clients. To see how it can help you, please read my newest blog on MoneyPress.com about how the iPad can help you and your clients. http://www.moneypress.com/can-ipads-really-help-realtors.htm

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Do Loan Modifications Raise Debt?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Could it be that loan modifications are actually raising debt? I read a short article today by Dean Calbreath in the San Diego Union Tribune that stated yes, they are. Mr.Calbreath points out that more foreclosures could be prevented if, instead of increasing the debt on the principal of troubled mortgages, the lenders reduced the principal. This makes sense, right?

A study released last week by a Federal Reserve branch points out that principal reductions over time have a lower chance of loan redefaults than do those with mere payment changes. But this scenario is not the case in the majority of modifications. The norm is for the lender to reduce payments only, rolling any missed payments into the loan balance. This is obviously a problem, especially for those living in homes where the value has dropped substantially. It’s simple logic: if you are given a loan modification based on current market value, meaning not only your payments but your principal balance is reduced, you may be more motivated to keep making payments.

This refusal to follow logic will not only limit the effectiveness of loan modifications, but will lead to more foreclosures down the road. According to the recent study the current loan modification practice tacks on between $7400 and $8160 to the balance of the loan. So, you ask, why are the lenders not following this logic? That seems to be another million dollar question in the sea of million dollar questions when referring to lender behavior over the last several years.

The potentially good news is that the current investigation into how banks handle loan modifications and foreclosures may have some bearing on future cases. Currently less than 40% of the potential foreclosures in San Diego county have been prevented through permanent loan modifications this year under the federal HAFA program. Maybe reducing the principal on troubled mortgages will be the new foreclosure prevention method that helps get that number up. I sure hope so.

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Free Christmas Tree Disposal for Carlsbad Residents

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

If you live in Carlsbad the city offers free Christmas tree disposal, two ways. This is a great way to help the environment, as the trees are recycled and used as renewable resources.. Your help prevents waste by keeping the 35 million trees sold each year in the U.S. out of our landfills. You can either drop off your tree or dispose of it curbside from December 27 to January 17.

Curbside Disposal: Remember to remove all decorations, lights and stands. Your tree must be cut in half if taller than 6 feet. Set the tree on your curb on your regular trash day. No flocked trees will be accepted.

Drive-to Disposal: You may bring your tree to one of the following recycle centers between December 27 and January 17. You need to make sure the tree is stripped of all decorations, lights and the stand. Here are the locations:

  • Calavera Community Park, 2997 Glasgow Drive
  • Poinsettia Community Park, 6600 Hidden Valley Road
  • Stagecoach Community Park (lower park section), 3420 Camino de los Coches
  • Fire Station #1, 1275 Carlsbad Village Drive
  • Palomar Transfer Station, 5960 El Camino Real

This information was obtained from the Carlsbad City website. For more information, contact Waste Management at 760-929-9400 or visit http://northcounty.wm.com/christmastree.asp.

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Red Flags of Forgery and Fraud in Real Estate

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

When you come across a “red flag” on a property–something that tells you there may be something fishy going on– you need to make certain you understand the meaning before proceeding with a real estate transaction, as it could mean fraud or forgery. Your Realtor or Broker can investigate, but if you are doing so yourself you need to know what questions to ask to make certain there are no real problems. It is imperative to connect with the title company to verify anything you feel is suspicious before proceeding with any property transaction. Here are the important things that should cause you to do so:

1. Is the property free and clear? If there are no liens showing on the property you need to find out why. Some property is free and clear of liens, but most property is not. This is where your title company comes in handy.

2. Title was obtained by uninsured deed. An uninsured transfer is usually ok if it was from the grantor to the grantor’s family trust, or from one grantor to himself and his spouse as joint tenants. If one of these is not the case in an uninsured deed in the chain of title, you need to contact your title company for further investigation.

3. Customer is a new escrow company or broker you do not know. Make sure to know with whom you are doing business.

4. Third party disbursement of funds. Beware of a seller’s instructions to pay a third party who does not hold a secured lien.

5. Buyer walking away with money, or substantial buyer credits made outside of closing. If a buyer is walking away with money instead of paying money this is a red flag for loan fraud. This is not to be confused with credits to the buyer for things agreed upon under contract, such as repair issues.

6. Reconveyance is not accompanied by a transaction that could have paid off the deed of trust. Most people do not pay off a deed of trust with cash instead of with a new loan. Although it can happen it is rare, so be aware if this is the case, as it could be fraudulent.

7. Proceeds are being wired offshore. This is a big red flag, which could place you at the helm of money laundering on behalf of the bad guys.

8. No documents are executed in the escrow office. Often paperwork is NOT signed in the escrow office, with mobile notaries out of area buyers, for example. But if this is combined with other flags of forgery–beware!

9. Absentee owner. Obviously there are many out of area owners, but forgers prefer to prey on property where the owners are not around, so beware. This also brings up another (off topic) issue relating to rentals: if you are renting property and the owner is out of area you have to use extreme caution before sending any money to the owner…but that is a subject for another blog. I did post a blog on this topic relating to Craigslist scams).

10. Trust you instincts! Even if none of the above scenarios are in place, if you feel that something is not right then trust your instincts. If you feel a red flag is waving then address it with your Realtor, Broker or management.

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Keeping the “Real” in Real Estate

Monday, December 20th, 2010

With all the technology available to Realtors these days it is easy to get caught up in the tech spiral–Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, mobile apps, texting, e-signatures, videos, blogs, websites…the list is endless. But the result of all this technology, while helping provide customers with relevant and instant information about the community and real estate in general, is that it becomes easy to forget that the real estate business is all about PEOPLE. Once you lose touch with the people, well, you simply lose touch.

I believe there are four things that need to happen in order for a Realtor to provide the best service possible to the client and the community in which s/he works. It is a balance of these that will make one not only a community expert and good salesperson, but also a real person who truly cares about the client.

1. Keep it real: your client is you number one priority and your best bet for future business. You might think “duh,” but believe it or not this is easy to forget in these technologically savvy times. It used to be we picked up a phone to check in with our client and discuss the market, their home search, or even just chat. But it is so easy nowadays to send a text or email instead. Most Realtor websites have back offices that send out automatically generated messages to our clients. Knowing that we are “staying in touch” with our clients may make us feel we are covered, leaving more time to focus on technology to build our businesses. But the client is, and always will be, the pulse of our business.

I suggest that we all make it a New Year’s resolution to return to basics: CALL our clients, take them to lunch, stop by their houses and say hello. Honestly, there is no better way to generate business. Your past and current clients are the ones who will come back to you and send you referrals, but not if you don’t stay in touch. I know it is hard, especially if you have a big client database. But you can always pick up the phone and make a call just to say hello. Make it a part of every day by setting a goal for yourself. You can start out simply by making a goal to call two or three people a day. Make sure to set a time to do this, and put it in your schedule. Eventually it will become a routine.

2. Blog. I know you have heard this before, but I can assure you that there is NO better way to help people in your community. By providing content about community issues and real estate issues in general, you become an expert in your community. This makes it easy for your clients and others to keep up with community news. I love blogging. I write about all kinds of things I find will interest people. My clients love it, and I also get emails from others asking questions, seeking further information, or wanting my assistance with real estate needs.

The most important thing to remember with blogging is that you want to develop your own style. Don’t worry about blog length: there is no rule as to how long your blog needs to be, what content you need to discuss, or what style of writing you should use. You just have to be yourself–as if you were speaking with a client about the issue. For some writing comes easier (ok, I am a writer so blogging is fun and easy for me), but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Use bullet points or numbers, and bold your sub-topics. This way the reader can skim through your information easier.

Setting up a blog is a no-brainer. Personally I use WordPress. Just go to WordPress.com and you will be walked through setting up your blog. Have an interesting name, OR you can tie your blog into your website (which I highly recommend). Remember to POST TAGS on every blog. These are words or short groups of words that will drive people to your blog on the web. For example, if you are writing a blog about Carlsbad’s newest shopping center you may want to use tags such as “Carlsbad new shopping center,” “Carlsbad shopping,” etc. You also want to categorize your blog. On WordPress the categories are on the right side of your post area, right above Post Tags. Choose categories under which your blog fits. This way when a reader comes to your blog and you have many blogs, he or she can go through the categories to find exactly what they are looking for. You can see an example of this on the home page of my website. Scroll down a bit and you will see the categories on the right, next to my blog section. Finally, you need to give each blog a catchy name, one that will entice people to read it once they find it. If your title is “Carlsbad’s New Restaurant,” it may be less exciting than “Hungry For a Delicious Lunch in Carlsbad?” You get the idea.

It may sound like a lot to remember, but I simply suggest you just start writing. In time you will get the hang of all the categories and tags. I also suggest you post links to your blog on Twitter, your business Facebook page, Trulia, LinkedIn, and any other places you like. You can send an email out to your clients with a link, telling them about your blog and asking them to please check back periodically.

3. Use technology, but use it wisely. Here is the most important thing you need to know about using technology in real estate: it is necessary BUT it cannot be your main focus. Use it in conjunction with 1 and 2, above. IF you haven’t already, create LinkedIn, Twitter, Trulia and Facebook business page accounts. Use these social media sites to post links to your blogs, interesting articles you find online, books you have read, or to re-post information you find others have posted. Because it is so easy to sit on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn all day if you could, set times during your day where you check these sites and post information.

4. Connect with industry leaders. Make sure to follow industry leaders on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. You will get a lot of great information from these people, and you will learn a lot in the process. Connect with them, comment on their tweets, read their blogs and post interesting comments there. It is incredible what is out there for you if you just spend a bit of time each day on these sites.

The real estate field has come so far in such a short time, and there is so much more we can provide our clients. Gone are the days of huge notebooks stuffed with listings. Clients can get a lot of information on the internet, it’s true, but you have to make yourself stand out as the community expert. Keep in mind that there can be many community experts–I personally don’t understand agents (and there are quite a few) who think this business is all about competition. I believe that all of us have different skills and ways of doing things, and we all should be able to learn from each other. Whom a client clicks with is up to the client. We can all offer the best information we can and if the client wants to take it a step further, that is terrific; if they choose another agent then that is their prerogative. We all need to support each other, because we all have (or should have) the same goal: to make sure our clients have the best information, the best service, and the most positive experience they can in buying or selling real estate. That is how we will continue to keep real estate “real.”

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Basic Real Estate Apps You Need to Have

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

I just posted a new blog on MoneyPress.com for the Realtor/agent who has not yet embraced social media and smart phones. Here is a basic list of some apps you should have on your smart phone to streamline your business and provide your clients with the most current data and information. Many of these apps are great for buyers and sellers too, so check it out: http://www.moneypress.com/the-best-apps-for-real-estate.htm

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The Next MAJOR Foreclosure Issue

Friday, December 17th, 2010

After the robo-signing scandal you thought there couldn’t be anything else in the foreclosure arena that could surprise you, right? Think again. The next major issue concerning foreclosures and their legality falls into the lap of the lawyers and law firms who handle them: faked attorney signatures.

Several lawsuits have been filed claiming that law firms have allowed members of their staff–non-lawyers–to sign paperwork related to foreclosures that has not been reviewed by lawyers. These papers, consisting of affidavits and other documents, could present a big problem for firms. Since an affidavit is a sworn document, the signer is stating that he or she reviewed and understood the information contained therein before signing. If a lawyer did not do so severe consequences could be meted out against the attorney, the firm or both, including disbarment.

Another problem which falls under this same category is when foreclosure processing companies (acting to help people with foreclosure issues) “practice law.” The practice of law without a license is a big no-no, as is the taking by these companies of kickbacks from law firms, and illegal fee sharing deals.

Keep your eye on the radar folks, because these issues are shaping up to be the next big foreclosure news. I am surprised by this, as we lawyers take an oath and know that signing things without reviewing them is not ok, nor is fee sharing with those who do not practice law.

What will be next in the foreclosure drama? We will just have to wait and see…

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New HUD Website for Housing/Economic Data

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

There is a new HUD website for regional and state-specific information on housing and the economy. The “Regional Economic and Market Analysis Site” contains information compiled from HUD, the Census Bureau, Labor Department, state and local governments and other sources. It can be accessed at http://www.huduser.org/portal/regional.html.

The site allows users to click on a region of the country. From there one is able to click on a state or get regional information, or you can select different parts of the state, then individual counties within, to get more specific reports for the desired area. The county reports are very thorough and contain lots of information and statistics on the housing market and local economy.

I visited the site and clicked on Region 9, then California, then San Diego. While I did not spend time reading through the entire report (the market analysis report for the San Diego region was 18 pages long), the report appears to contain a great deal of information. The only issue I noticed was that the report appears to be old (it has a report date “as of July 1, 2005). Maybe HUD is planning to update all the local information soon so that it is current.

Regardless, it is a nifty site for those wanting more information and statistics on housing and the economy. Here are some things you can expect to find there:

  1. Market at a Glance reports: Economic and housing market data trends for county and metro areas, with monthly employment data.
  2. Regional housing market profiles: Employment, population and construction data.
  3. Regional narratives: Economic and housing market trends within 10 U.S. regions.
  4. Comprehensive housing market analysis: Metro-specific housing market reports prepared by HUD field economists.
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