The guru of social media in homebuilding tells how

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Mike Means

Homebuilder's advice on social media: 'Be yourself, but yourself without a megaphone.'

Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association has taken steps to encourage members and others in the home-building business to embrace social media.

Published: September 9, 2010

Q&A with Jeff Click Homebuilders use social media to reach out to customers

Q: The Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association presented members and others a panel on social media about a month ago. Did it take? How have builders responded?

A: Our industry has been such that mainstream marketing efforts weren't always necessary, but now that the housing market has changed, many builders are giving their marketing strategies a long-overdue look. Some are even looking at marketing for the first time. Homebuilding is a relational profession, and social media is one way I think builders can relate in ways that they're not all unused to, albeit via different media from the phone or face to face. I think those who are reasonably tech savvy and are serious about relating to the next generation of consumers are heeding the need for making social media one part of their greater marketing strategy.

Q: How does Jeff Click use social media? How does Jeff Click Homes use social media? What are the differences?

A: It's an often-asked question, whether to differentiate yourself personally from your more corporate presence. I treat them separately, but allow them to overlap. Often, people want to know the personal side of who's behind a company they're considering doing business with, and sometimes it's something about you personally that can drive someone to become interested in your company.

Q: What does a builder, or other small-business person, NOT want to do with social media?

A: Overdo it. It's easy to make the mistake of becoming annoying, which is counterproductive in gaining a following. Stick to providing content that's unique to you, rather than always trying to be everyone's news source. Engage in dialogue without being so chatty people question whether you actually do any work. Appropriately inform, but don't overtly sell your product or service. Be yourself, but yourself without a megaphone.

Q: What are the potential downsides to using social media? How do you avoid them or minimize them?

A: Being involved in social media, in a way, amplifies who you really are. So if you do things well, that's what it should project. Some fear the possibility that as you or your company become more visible, you become more of a target for potential public negative attacks. Depending on how you handle these situations, they can often be turned into opportunities.

RICHARD MIZE, REAL ESTATE EDITOR

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Parade of Homes seeks iPhone app for this year’s event

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Mike Means

By Brianna Bailey

Journal Record

September 9, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY - During the 58th annual Parade of Homes next month, visitors to 13300 Canyon Lakes Dr. - a lavish 4,900-square-foot home dripping with crystal chandeliers and glass tiles - and 130 other tour stops may be able to immediately contact builders, as well as view interactive maps and photographs using a new iPhone application.

If approved, the new Parade of Homes iPhone application would be the first of its kind in the country, said homebuilder Steve Allen of Allenton Custom Homes, chairman of the 2010 Parade of Homes.

A self-confessed "iPhone junkie," Allen believes the new application would achieve several goals for the home tour.

"In the past we've had trouble with people being able to find homes on the tour, and we're also able to get more feedback to the builders from people with the app," he said.

Allen's entry into this year's Parade of Homes, 13300 Canyon Lakes Dr. in the gated Canyon Lakes community, features a custom-built tube slide that links the upstairs and downstairs, as well as a private study and spacious master bathroom featuring an opulent circular bathtub ringed with marble under an elaborate chandelier. The home will be priced in the $900,000 range once completed, Allen said. Using the new iPhone application, visitors to the Canyon Lakes house and other homes on the tour may be able to rate each property for Parade of Homes' first-ever visitors' choice awards.

The new Parade of Homes iPhone application is awaiting approval from Apple after being developed by El Reno software engineer Steve Maddox, co-founder of the advertising company Adsfactory.com.

Maddox has developed several iPhone applications over the past few years. The first he created for his teenage daughter after she got lost trying to drive to Quail Springs Mall. Maddox's resulting iPhone application allowed him to give his daughter better directions on the road by allowing him to track her location from his computer via her iPhone.

Maddox's wife and son helped him record the geographic coordinates for some of the homes on the Parade of Homes tour by visiting each site individually.

"There were a couple of challenges," Maddox said. "One of primary problems I had was that some of the addresses are in very new neighborhoods and Google and MapQuest hadn't been there yet, so nothing else would work."

This year's Parade of Homes will be open 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Oct. 9 through Oct. 17. Admission is free. For information, visit www.paradeofhomesok.com.

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Roofer registration law protects homeowners

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Mike Means

Consumers will reap rewards from state homebuilders' legislative efforts to tighten contractor registration requirements.

The first involves roofer registration legislation, where roofers will register with the state's Construction Industries Board. Roofers will provide a small fee, verify their insurance and will then be required to display their registration number on all of their trucks and signs.

This simple measure should decrease the number of out-of-state or illegitimate roofing companies that always seem to appear following one of Oklahoma's numerous weather events.

Although we don't want to admit it, there are some companies out there that are predators. They wait until the right opportunity to catch someone distraught and in need and then do all they can to make a quick buck while doing shoddy work.

Legitimate roofing contractors will now be registered with the state, and consumers will be able to call the Construction Industries Board or go online to make sure their roofing contractor is registered.

The dust has settled on the state's most recent legislative session, and consumers will benefit from the passage of several other measures lobbied for by the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.

OSHBA is a nonprofit trade organization of more than 2,600 members statewide serving as an advocate for the housing industry and an affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders.

OSHBA worked with several other industries in supporting passage of Workers Compensation reform. This reform will provide insurance savings to homebuilder members, which can ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Homebuilders also supported a revision in Pre-Lien Notification on remodeling work. This revision would have helped contractor-customer relations. The governor vetoed the measure, so homebuilders will revisit the issue with the Legislature next year.

No victory comes without some defeat, and the industry suffered significant setbacks on two measures.

The first -- an impact fee proposal -- was snuffed out shortly after making it through the House. This bill would have put safeguards on the required charges that municipalities exact from developers to pay for the construction or expansion of necessary municipal capital improvements to benefit new development.

With no limitation or guidelines on impact fees in place, municipalities are free to increase taxes on builders, costs which are passed on to consumers. This measure would have increased accountability on the collection and expenditures of impact fees.

OSHBA will be working with the Oklahoma Municipal League on a refined proposal to bring it back to the next legislative session. One issue that the tea party phenomenon has shown is citizens want accountability from their government.

Homebuilders also suffered a setback with the Energy Efficient Residential Construction tax credit. As it became clear the state's budget shortfall was too large, the Legislature began looking for ways to raise revenue.

One of those avenues was to mandate a moratorium on tax credits. This tax credit, along with 31 others, was put on hold on July 1 and will remain in moratorium for two more years. Our builders will still build energy-efficient housing, but it will cost consumers a little more up front to reap the benefits of this change.

Yes, these defeats are disappointing, but we are extremely proud of the efforts made by our members and the state association in helping the industry and consumer. I'm looking forward to next year and the opportunity to revisit these important issues, for everyone's benefit.

Tom French is president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, a nonprofit professional organization that promotes the home-building industry and its members.

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Homebuyer: Reputation on line with 'Certified Builder'

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Carol Hartzog

By Carol Hartzog

Special to Edmond Life & Leisure, Fall at Home edition

Terry Neese is a known entity in Oklahoma. Neese made history in 1990 as the first woman nominated by a major political party for lieutenant governor. Prior to that historic campaign, she founded Terry Neese Personnel Services along with five other companies in the personnel, farming, ranching, and real estate industries.

She's since owned many more companies, including a corporate and public policy strategy firm, and is co-founder of a national bi-partisan public policy organization advocating for women in business, representing 505,000 women business owners. In recent years, she has taken her efforts globally through the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women - working with women from Rwanda to Afghanistan, for example.

She's known by the movers and shakers in Congress. Neese testifies on a regular basis before the U.S. House and Senate, and is part of a "Brain Trust" that provides important input to the Small Business Administration, and various coalitions.

She's also learned the value of a professional certification.

From her personnel background, she was a Certified Personnel Consultant.

"If you are part of a certified program, then you have peers that will keep you in check and ensure you uphold the integrity of the industry. That's a good selling point," said Neese.

When she was choosing a homebuilder, the Certified Builder designation was an important part of the decision.

"I spent four years watching (the builder's) homes go up, mostly show homes. I watched the craftsmanship, the detail; I talked with folks and asked if he was true to his word."

She found that to be the case with Steve Allen of Allenton Custom Homes - a Certified Professional Builder.

"With such a designation, you ensure you have someone with integrity, involved with the community and have a long-term belief in Oklahoma. They are a prominent structure of the community and their reputation is on the line when they build for you," Neese said.

In a move toward some form of consumer oversight, Oklahoma State Home Builders Association "certifies" homebuilders. That means the homebuilder carries general liability and workers compensation insurance, has taken the required continuing education classes, agrees to mediation if there is a dispute, complies with building codes and carries a warranty of no less than one year, among other requirements.

Not every builder has this certification but, if they do, a home buyer knows their builder is staying on top of the most current trends in the industry. Buyers can go to https://www.okhba.org to view a list of Certified Builders statewide.

"As with any professional organization, continuing education is a big component," said Edmond builder Tom French, president of Oklahoma State Home Builders Association. "Continuing education allows me to remain at the forefront of building science and knowledgeable of changing trends."

Being a Certified Professional Builder means the builder has taken a certain number of required educational courses. They must have been a member of the home builders association for at least two years. In addition, they have to keep up with continuing-education hours, three courses of which are required - insurance, safety and ethics.

All certified home builders have to carry a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, and provide a written warranty with every house of no less than one year. A home built by a Certified Builder means the construction has to meet minimum standards and all building codes.

The builder must adhere to a code of ethics set forth in state association bylaws. For more information about the Certified Professional Builder designation, go to www.okhba.org.

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Federal housing law creating problem for Walters

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Mike Means

(Walters)

As of last February, those who buy a newly-constructed house using a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, there are some requirements that must be met.

The contractors must supply a 10-year warranty, guaranteeing the quality of the house, or the city has to supply a certification of occupancy, which certifies that the house is livable.

Problem is, that takes manpower to enforce, which small towns, like Walters, just don't have.

City Manager John Sheppard says to comply with this new law, the city needs a full time building code inspector, but the number of new homes built per year in Walters--about 5--doesn't warrant the full time position.

"One of the builders here in town had a new home to sell and he was kind of in a bind because he wants to get the house sold and the people want to buy the house and get the house to move into. Then, the mortgagor wouldn't approve that without the certificate."

Sheppard says bigger cities don't have this problem because they're fully staffed. Among the solutions they're looking at, Sheppard says he's spoken to someone who could open a consulting company. and the city could contract out that company's code inspector.

Another option is to hire Lawton's inspector on a contractual basis.

The Walters City Council will vote on the interim plan next week.

Sheppard says it may take several weeks to find a permanent solution.

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Local media report focuses on bad appraisers making bad appraisals

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Mike Means

Homebuyers, sellers find a way to strike deals and keep prices firm

Home sales dropped last month in the Oklahoma City area, but prices remained firm or better compared with a year ago, according to the Metro Association of Realtors.

BY RICHARD MIZE

Published: July 31, 2010

Home sales fell in June, but homes sold faster here than a year ago even as sellers dug in and buyers gave in, keeping prices at summer 2009 levels or better.

The average sale price of $160,570 was virtually flat compared with the average of $159,400 in June 2009, but the median price of $138,000 was a 2.2 percent increase from the year-ago median of $135,000, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors. The median price is considered a better gauge of the market because one-half of sales prices were higher and one-half were lower.

Homes sell faster

Homes sold in an average of 75 days last month, a day longer than in May but nine days faster than in June 2009. Sales were "stable over the metro area," said Dave Moeller, president of the Realtors group and broker-owner of Redbud Realty & Associates in Edmond. Firm pricing "is indicative of the strength and stability of our market."

Realtors handled the sale of 1,565 houses in June, a drop of 6 percent from June 2009 and a decrease of 6.2 percent from the month before, when the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit was thought to still be driving sales. Realtors who quit the business during slow times may have left more for the rest to do.

Bidding wars?

"Actually, I've been pretty darn busy," said Linda Finch, a sales associate with Paradigm AdvantEdge Real Estate, 16301 N May Ave. Heightened sales activity may have helped even out the marketplace after prolonged buyer dominance.

Finch said she's dealing with multiple offers on the houses she lists, "even though the tax credit's over"  and some buyers in bidding wars are paying more than sellers are asking.

She said three offers came in four days for an extensively remodeled home in Edmond's Sorghum Mill Estates addition, near Sorghum Mill Road and N Kelly Avenue. The 2,918-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath home, built in 1974 on 2 1/2 acres, sold for $292,000 and the sellers were asking for $289,900.

"I about fell over."

In west Oklahoma City, Finch said multiple offers came in on a 1,808-square-foot house with four bedrooms and two baths, a 2004 home that sold for the full asking price of $169,900.

Appraisal headaches

"What I am having trouble with is appraisals," she said, meaning appraisals coming in at less than a buyer and seller have already settled on. Misunderstandings surrounding the Home Valuation Code of Conduct put in place in May 2009 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had lenders hiring inexperienced appraisers. Appraisers using short sales and foreclosed houses as comparables were not taking the nature of those transactions into consideration when formulating values on new houses and formerly occupied ones what were not in trouble. Fannie Mae recently took steps to rectify such extremes.

Finch said buyers and sellers are picking their way through such bureaucratic briars to strike deals. For example, the appraisal on a house in Bethany came in $5,000 shy of the agreed-upon price and the buyer and seller split the difference.

"I've had three where the buyers paid more than the appraised value."

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