Welcome to the Mortgage Geek Blog

The Geekly Post

Read our Blog

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 11, 2017

Last week’s economic reports included readings on projected top housing markets for 2018, weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Labor sector readings on private-sector job growth, private and public-sector job growth and the national unemployment rate were released. Projected top housing markets in 2018 were also released.

Realtors Release Projections for Top Housing Markets in 2018

Prospective homebuyers and retirees facing home affordability issues in metro areas such as New York City and the West Coast are seeking affordable housing markets according to data released by the National Association of Realtors®.

The top three housing markets for 2018 are expected to be Las Vegas, Nevada with a median home price of $285.405 and expected annual price growth of 6.90 percent. Dallas Texas held second place with a median home price of $339,000 and expected annual home price growth of 5.60 percent. Deltona, Florida held the third position for top housing markets in 2018. Deltona is located between Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida. Within the city of Deltona, home prices average $159,000 in Deltona and $275.000in the metro area. Home prices are expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.0 percent.

Home prices continue to be driven by low supplies of homes for sale. High demand is causing prices in many metro areas to rise to unaffordable levels/ Retirees who are no longer tied to pricey metro areas are moving to less costly neighborhoods.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose 0.04 basis points to 3.94 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 0.06 basis points higher at 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 0.03 basis points higher for an average rate of 3.35 percent. Discount points average 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week, with 236,000 new claims filed against expectations of 240,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 238,000 new jobless claims filed. According to November’s federal Non-Farm Payrolls report, government and private sector payrolls grew by 228,000 jobs as compared to expectations of 200,000 new public and private sector jobs added and the prior month’s reading of 244,000 jobs added.

ADP reported 190,000 private-sector jobs added in November as compared to 235,000 new jobs added in October. The national unemployment rate held at 4.10 percent, which was the lowest level in almost 17 years.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic readings include releases on inflation, the Fed’s FOMC post-meeting statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. 

Powered by WPeMatico

How Lululemon Is Able To Avoid The ‘Athleisure Slowdown’

Amid a slowdown in sales at athletic apparel, Lululemon appears to be standing out, as the Vancouver-based retailer’s earnings beat Wall St. analysts’ expectations with sales rising a healthy 8 percent over Q3 2016.

The brand’s positive news stands in contrast to its “athleisure” peers: As Bloomberg’s Sarah Halzack notes, “Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. is cranking up the discounts to lure shoppers back to its struggling stores. Nike Inc. is scrambling to offer more innovative products and reduce its dependence on “mediocre” retailers. The stock prices of Under Armour Inc., Foot Locker Inc., and Finish Line Inc. have been slammed this year, each tumbling precipitously in response to disappointing sales.”

In eMarketer’s view, “the question isn’t really about whether the athleisure trend is over. Rather, it’s about which retailers are speaking to customers in the right way, not just in terms of products.

“The retail landscape is experiencing unprecedented disruption characterized by increasingly commoditized transaction and short-term focus,” Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin said in a during the analyst call on Wednesday. “Across the globe there was a [consumer] behavioral shift to leave an active mindful lifestyle. Guests are drawn toward the brand focus that reflects who they are and who they want to be.”

Hyperlocal Brand Ambassadors

While marketing budgets in the athleisure space remain relatively high, according to Bloomberg, with spending generally 10-12 percent of sales, Lululemon appears to be doing something different than its competitors: it relies heavily on local yoga instructors and athletic trainers to serve as brand ambassadors.

“As more retailers seek to feature experiences in the store to engage shoppers, Lululemon—a pioneer of free, in-store yoga classes and a brand ambassadors model that has been replicated by other athletic fashion retailers—has continued to attract consumers through new variations and localized experiences, one example being its ‘Mindfulosophy’ meditation space in its New York flagship location,” eMarketer concludes.

In addition, Lululemon has also made sure to strike a careful balance between its 345 brick-and-mortar locations and its e-commerce sales.

During the company’s Q3 earnings call this past week, Lululemon CFO Stuart Haselden said the brand would introduce a “buy online/pick up in-store” option next year.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve seen on other omnichannel initiatives, ship from store has been very successful,” Haselden. “Our business model continues to become more and more omnichannel. Our stores and digital business has become more and more every day. So we’re excited that we’re able to recognize demand in one channel and somewhat in another in a more and more seamless manner as we develop these capabilities.”

“What I guess the most excited about is how first of all agile our stores are in terms of really been able to adapt and to be able to integrate omni into everything they do,” Celeste Burgoyne, Lululemon’s VP, Retail, Americas, added. “The way I really look at is, obviously, omni and digital go hand in hand with stores and its becoming more of a way as we operate and every touch point is really touch point that we own and we’re leveraging those channels for what their best able to delivery for us. As we look at our store portfolio rollout, as well as our digital business we see kind of all those rise and our ability to be easy channel strategically allows for that.”

 

Powered by WPeMatico

A Social Media Image & Video Size Cheat Sheet for 2018 [Infographic]

So, you post visual content across your social media accounts, and you want to ensure the visuals you share are the correct size and dimension for the platform you are using?

Make a Website Hub share the social media image sizes to use in 2018 in this infographic.

Here are the platforms that make their list:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Google Plus
  • Ello
  • Wechat
  • Snapchat
  • Weibo

Check out the infographic for full details.

 

The post A Social Media Image & Video Size Cheat Sheet for 2018 [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

Powered by WPeMatico

‘Pine’-ing for a New Look? 3 Ways You Can Use Wood Features to ‘Spruce’ up Your Home

'Pine'-ing for a New Look? 3 Ways You Can Use Wood Features to 'Spruce' up Your HomeWhether you are renovating an older home or putting the finishing touches on a new one, you would be amiss if you did not consider how to include furniture and other items made of wood. With a diverse range of colors and textures, wooden features are a must-have for any modern home design. Let’s take a look at three ways that you can use wood to add a little spice to your home decor.

Try A Visually Striking Wood Wall

If you are looking to add some ‘pop’ to a room, consider an offset or patterned wall made of wood. Your options are limitless when it comes to adding wood to a wall. Consider horizontal slats with a lighter wood like pine for a warm, modern feel. Alternatively, try a flat wall made of hardwood boards of a darker color than the room’s paint.

Go Rustic With A Farmhouse Dining Table

Does your dining room feel a little boring with your standard table and chairs? A rustic farmhouse dining table is an excellent way to breathe some life into your dining area. In addition, hardwood tables like these are sturdy and can suffer a lot of punishment. They are the perfect choice for families that are used to hosting large dinners or having company over.

If you are so inclined, you can build a table like this in just a few hours. Search around online for plans and head down to your local hardware store to get things started.

Reclaim And Refinish For Timeless Beauty

Finally, give some thought as to how you can use reclaimed wood in your home. Consider replacing tile or linoleum with a some “rip and refinish” hardwood flooring reclaimed from another house. Or if you would rather have wooden furniture, you can get chairs or side tables that are made of reclaimed wood. If you are located near the coast or beach, look around for large pieces of driftwood that can be turned into furniture by a local tradesman. While we cannot help you choose your wooden furnishings, we can help you find the best mortgage for your new home to put them in.

Powered by WPeMatico

3 Tips for Making Your Dream Home a Reality [INFOGRAPHIC]

3 Tips for Making Your Dream Home a Reality [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

3 Tips for Making Your Dream Home a Reality [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • Realtor.com shared their “5 Habits to Start Now If You Hope to Buy a Home.”
  • Setting up an automatic savings plan that saves a small amount of every check is one of the best ways to save without thinking a lot about it.
  • Living within a budget will not only help you save money for down payments but will help you pay down other debts that might be holding you back.

Powered by WPeMatico

How Mall of America Is Using Chatbots And Robots To Connect With Holiday Shoppers

Mall of America has expanded its use of location-based chatbots by adding Softbank’s robot, Pepper, to engage with consumers and provide faster customer service to busy shoppers this holiday season.

The chatbot will live on MoA’s website, its mobile app, and Facebook page, and as an Amazon Alexa skill.  While MoA made use of chatbots last holiday season, that program only connected to its Facebook Messenger presence.

By making this expansion, which includes using chatbots, which were developed by tech partner Satisfi Labs, to power the “humanoid” robot Pepper, MoA is recognizing the mainstreaming of Connected Intelligence and artificial intelligence as a foundation for one-to-one marketing and omnichannel strategies.

A Retail First For Chatbots

MoA claims that the chatbot is the first of its kind for shopping malls. It is Satisfi Lab’s first fully-integrated retail location bot that uses multiple data feeds, over different customer touch-points, to answer customer’s questions in natural language, within seconds in real time.

For example, the bot can answer complex questions around gifting, food recommendations, and attractions and holiday events happening in America’s largest mall, based on a user’s specific location, says Sarah Townes, MoA’s VP of Marketing.

“This expands how we used chatbots last year. We developed more of a seasonal chatbot that provided holiday gift recommendations, holiday itineraries, depending on the type of visit that you were planning to make here, or whether you were a local Mall of America patron, or even someone coming from an international market,” Townes tells GeoMarketing.

“This chatbot is loaded with much more evergreen content that is timely. It actually is connected to a number of APIs that we’ve recently created around events, tenants, and deals,” Townes adds. “It can answer more real time questions, or specific questions relevant to a day or week events or things that are happening at the mall. Last year’s chatbot was very specific to Facebook Messenger. This one is going to be rolling out across our digital ecosystem very soon. It will be available on our website, our app, and then through Pepper as well.”

Black Friday at the Mall of America.

Adding More Pepper

Softbank’s Pepper has been a popular marketing tool for brands seeking to showcase their own AI expansion over the past two years. As we reported in May 2016, Pizza Hut Asia became be the first commerce partner to test Pepper, which is aimed at bringing greater intelligence to machines in order to create a more seamless and intuitive user experience in stores.

“For the most part, Pepper will be answering general questions about the mall, holiday hours, how to get to a specific location, maybe what events are happening at Mall of America during the holiday season,” Townes says. “In addition, she’s able to answer some specific questions about her, how tall she is, where is she manufactured, does she have human feelings, so she has some fun intelligence that is built into her as well.”

The MoA has also added some content on Pepper. There’s a “tell me a story” feature, which identifies specific holiday gifts from across MoA’s 520 retail tenants by category and is aligned with the mall’s online gift guide.

There will be three “Peppers” strategically places around the 5.6 million square foot mall, Townes says.

“The Peppers are placed depending on what events we have happening on a daily basis,” Townes says. “In general, she has spent most of her time around Santa, around some of our mall entrances, around a central parkway or thoroughfare in the mall where she can interact with as many guests as possible.

“For the most part, we do try to deploy the Peppers around the same area all 3 at once, versus having them all over the mall, simply because when she’s out and about, people cannot get enough of her,” Townes continues. “We want to make sure that people aren’t having to wait in line and they can have a nice interaction with her. By having three not lined up one after another, but in the same general vicinity, helps sort of mitigate any of the crowding, or challenges in the experience.”

Softbank’s Pepper

Finding MoA’s Voice Strategy

Pepper and the chatbot program will be at the MoA through its Super Bowl LII promotions. As Townes notes, even after the holiday season promotion, the effort will influence its broader focus on developing its voice-activation strategy via Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual assistants.

As a representative from Softbank notes, it’s all about meeting consumers’ demand for greater personalization.

“Shoppers will now have MoA on any platform they interact with the most, no matter where they are,” Softbank’s rep says. “At home, they can ask Alexa about their upcoming visit, or talk to the bot on the website and Facebook Messenger. If they are already at the mall, shoppers can easily download the enhanced MoA app that can direct customers to the thousands of destinations at the mall based on their current location.

“Every platform delivers the same quality bot experience and knowledge,” the rep adds. “The primary purpose of the bot is to simplify the process of looking through the myriad of options at the mall for the user. To avoid overwhelming the user, the bot provides a personalized shopping experience, but it can still connect shoppers with human concierges thereby augmenting the entire customer service department. This bot program together with the presence of Pepper at the mall definitely positions MoA as an innovation hub of new ideas in retail.”

Rounding out MoA’s voice and chatbot focus its new wayfinding tools within its app, which were launched in October.

“We have a new wayfinding feature in our app that offers guests a turn-by-turn experience,” Townes says. “We have provided even more parking and transportation solutions. We’ve recently started testing a parking by reservation service called My Park, which is an app enabled parking by reservation organization. Once you’re here, you’re able to download the app or use your app to help guide your experience. The goal of all of these new tools is designed simply to make it easier and more pleasurable to come to the Mall of America.”

Meanwhile, Softbank believes that MoA’s use of chatbots and Connected Intelligence will spur other retailers and malls to tap into those technologies as well.

“MoA’s push for a more customer-facing AI definitely paves the way for other malls to use these tools in their guest service and marketing strategies. By creating a useful, fun and easy to use bot program, MoA and Satisfi Labs have allowed other malls to see that quality service can scale no matter how large your property or customer base is,” Softbank’s rep tells GeoMarketing. “Additionally, having more users interact with new technology such as the bot and Pepper allow for more improvements of the tech and greater adoption across industry.”

Powered by WPeMatico

4 Social Media Marketing Tactics to Help You Stand Out in 2018 [Infographic]

Are you looking for ways to get ahead of your competition on social media? Want to know the key ways to get your brand story across to your followers?

Marketing Pizzazz share the 4 tools you need to use in this infographic.

 

The post 4 Social Media Marketing Tactics to Help You Stand Out in 2018 [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

Powered by WPeMatico

Did You Know: Why New Construction Homes Are A Top Choice For Today’s Home Buyer

Did You Know: Why New Construction Homes Are A Top Choice For Today's Home BuyerAre you in the market for a new house? If so, you may have been comparing your options when it comes to open listings on the local market. One decision you will need to consider: do you want to purchase an existing home or build a new one? Let’s explore a few reasons why new construction homes are a popular choice for today’s home buyer.

A Home Designed (By You) With The Future In Mind

Ask anyone who has recently invested in a brand-new home, and many will share that all of the built-in technology was an essential factor. Today’s homes are designed with the future in mind. High-speed networking, better wireless connectivity, high-tech security and other features are all benefits that typically can’t be found in older homes.

Of course, don’t forget that you play a role in the design choices in a new construction home. It is your chance to design all of the features you would want in a dream house.

Energy And Cost Efficient

As you might imagine, homes constructed with modern designs and materials are vastly more energy than older homes. Tighter seals, better insulation and more efficient heating and cooling all translate to lower utility costs. Moreover, while the savings per day might seem small, over time, they add up. Leaving more money in your pocket for investment, saving or other purposes.

If you want to take it a step further, you may even decide to expand your new construction home with solar panels or other high-efficiency upgrades.

Less Maintenance Means More Free Time

Finally, you can sleep soundly knowing that a new construction home needs far less maintenance work than an older home. Of course, there will still be the occasional job that needs taking care of. So you will want to be diligent in fixing up any damage or issues that do occur so that the problem does not spread. But overall, you can expect to spend less of your free time repairing things and more of it relaxing and enjoying life.

These are just a few of the many great reasons to invest in a brand-new home. To learn more about financing a new construction home, contact us today. Our professional team is happy to discuss your needs.

Powered by WPeMatico

The #1 Reason to List Your House Today!

The #1 Reason to List Your House Today! | Simplifying The Market

Many people believe that selling their house during “the spring buyers’ market” is the best thing to do. Their reasoning is that there will be more buyers than there are during the winter months and, therefore, their house will sell quicker and for a higher price.

Historically, this made sense. However, today’s real estate market is not following the rules of the past.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) measures buyer “foot traffic” each month. It receives data on the number of properties shown to a prospective purchaser by a Realtor® (based on the number of lockboxes used). The data reveals the number of buyers out actively looking for a home, not just window shopping on the internet. NAR explains:

“Foot traffic has a strong correlation with future contracts and home sales, so it can be viewed as a peek ahead at sales trends two to three months into the future.”

According to the latest Foot Traffic Report, buyer traffic is greater now than it was during this year’s spring market and there are more buyers out now than at any other time in the last five years (March of 2012).

The chart below shows that buyer activity over the last three months (blue bars) was greater than it was during this past spring market (green bars).

The #1 Reason to List Your House Today! | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

If you are waiting for next spring to list your home because you think that’s when the buyers will be out in force, perhaps you should reconsider. Buyers are out right now!

Powered by WPeMatico

How Marketers Can Use Location Data To Find Brand Affinities Among Holiday Shoppers

With everything from voice search to omnichannel ad targeting changing the way brands attract holiday shoppers, the use of location data to make the connection between brick-and-mortars and consumers.

But figuring out the best ways to use location data remains an issue. While retailers pay attention to online browsing patterns, consumers still make the majority of purchases in stores, and how they move in the physical world influences their path to purchase, notes Ocean Fine, VP, Agency and Strategic Accounts at geo-data specialist Factual.

One of the things that location data does best is find the unusual shopping patterns of mobile consumers so that brands can anticipate who, when, and where shoppers might be more receptive to a geo-targeted ad.

Among the things Factual found at the start of the holiday shopping season:

  • 3.6 percent of Target customers visit a Starbucks before, while 6.3 percent visit a fast food restaurant
  • 4.6 percent of Walmart customers visit a gas station, while 4 percent visit a Walgreens
  • 9.9 percent of Macy’s customers visit a clothing and accessories retailer

“This kind of data could help retailers understand where they should focus ad dollars — Walmart could advertise deals at gas stations, or Target could partner with fast food restaurants,” Fine says.

GeoMarketing: Does Factual’s data have anything to say about the state of retail at the start of the holiday season? Was this a strong opening for retail? Or too soon to tell?

Ocean Fine: Per Adobe, Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 were among the highest sales days of all time – definitely a strong opening for retail! What remains to be seen is how sales will hold up throughout the season and, most importantly for brand marketers, how well their campaigns perform to drive people to purchase, both in store and online.

What does this data say about affinities between brands in terms of being able to reach a store’s likely shoppers before they’re in a retail location?

Understanding where shoppers go before and after they visit particular stores, as well as their brand affinities, helps marketers paint a more complete picture of their habits and interests, and better design advertising experiences that will elicit a positive response. Messages that are personalized and make sense in context are preferred by consumers, and a clear map of the consumer journey allows marketers to create them.

Are there any particular ways that retailers should look at location/mobile data when trying to figure out when as well as where its best to reach potential customers?

Mobile is a primary point of purchase for consumers, now more than ever. Using location-based behavior data combined with the insights derived from mobile purchase behavior, retail marketers can understand the entirety of the path to purchase, allowing them to tailor relevant content and achieve the marketing trifecta, targeting the right consumer, with the right message, at the right place. Marketers are able to see patterns in their consumers’ place visits over time, make inferences about their interests and build custom audience segments to ensure they’re reaching those who are interested.

Powered by WPeMatico

Inspiring the American Dream With Intelligent Design

Subscribe For The Latest Updates

Sign up for the Mortgage Geek newsletter and get access to articles curated just for you!