How Do I Engage With Customers on Instagram?



Instagram is primarily a visual platform, used to share photos and videos. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use text to connect with customers on Instagram.

One way to engage your followers is to post a photo along with a question, and prompt your customers to respond in the comments. When they do post a comment, make sure to reply back to them. Make it a conversation.

You should also pay attention to what customers are saying about you on Instagram. If they post a photo with your business location or tag you in a post, you should get a notification. Go to that person’s post and add your comment. You can thank them for their business, and follow up with whatever it is they shared about your company.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram works best when you create conversation and build relationships with your current and future customers.





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Pending home sales in March maintained their recent high level, but momentum slackened slightly in most of the country as dearth supply weighed on activity, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the South saw an uptick in contract signings last month.

The Pending Home Sales Index,*, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 0.8 percent to 111.4 in March from 112.3 in February. Despite last month’s decrease, the index is 0.8 percent above a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sparse inventory levels caused a pullback in pending sales in March, but activity was still strong enough to be the third best in the past year. “Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range,” he said. “In most areas, the lower the price of a home for sale, the more competition there is for it. That’s the reason why first-time buyers have yet to make up a larger share of the market this year, despite there being more sales overall.”

Pointing to revealing data from the March Realtors® Confidence Index, Yun worries that the painfully low supply levels this spring could heighten price growth — at 6.8 percent last month — even more in the months ahead. Homes in March came off the market at a near-record pace 1, and indicating an increase in the likelihood of listings receiving multiple offers, 42 percent of homes sold at or above list price (the second highest amount since NAR began tracking in December 2012).

“Sellers are in the driver’s seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers,” said Yun. “Buyers are showing resiliency given the challenging conditions. However, at some point — and the sooner the better — price growth must ease to a healthier rate. Otherwise sales could slow if affordability conditions worsen.”

Yun forecasts for existing-home sales to be around 5.64 million this year, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2016 (5.45 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 5 percent. In 2016, existing sales increased 3.8 percent and prices rose 5.1 percent.

The PHSI in the Northeast decreased 2.9 percent to 99.1 in March, but is still 1.8 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index declined 1.2 percent to 109.6 in March, and is now 2.4 percent lower than March 2016.

Pending home sales in the South rose 1.2 percent to an index of 129.4 in March and are now 3.9 percent above last March. The index in the West fell 2.9 percent in March to 94.5, and is now 2.7 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.



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Trump’s Tax Proposal Means For The Housing Market

Last week the White House released what it is calling a “first draft” of President Donald Trump’s promised tax-cut plan. The outline, which fits on a single page, largely adheres to pledges Trump made on the campaign trail, as well as to the details that have slipped out in the frenzied days leading up to the announcement.

The release does confirm that the president would like to preserve the home mortgage interest deduction, while doubling the standard deduction—two points of particular interest to homeowners, buyers and the real estate industry at large.

As it stands now homeowners can deduct interest paid on mortgages with values up to $1.1 million. This deduction lowers the amount of income a person needs to pay tax on and, in effect, lowers the cost of owning a home. (It was not immediately clear if Trump intends to change the cap.) In 2014, 32 million people claimed $279 billion in mortgage interest deductions. That’s about $8,718 in deductions each for a savings of $2,173, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The mortgage interest deduction is one of just two the proposal promises to protect. The other is for charitable donations. Both popular deductions can only be taken if a taxpayer itemizes. If not they take the standard deduction, which for an individual was $6,300 in 2016 and is adjusted annually for inflation. Under the proposal the 2016 deduction would have been $12,600.

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Building Trades Warranty Report

Unlike most other industries, in the new home construction business, the builders have lower warranty expense rates than many of their suppliers. But the makers of appliances and heating/cooling systems are now cutting their costs and narrowing the gap between their expense rates and those of the makers of fixtures, furniture, and building materials.

While suppliers generally have lower warranty expense rates than the name brands facing the end user customer, things are a bit different in the building trades, where appliance and heating/cooling system manufacturers have the highest expense rates of all. New home builders are in the middle, with the companies supplying them with building materials, fixtures and furniture lowest of all.

For the homebuilders, warranty expense rates have generally remained below 1.0%, except for those lean years between 2007 and 2012. And while they had their problems with mold, leaks, and smelly drywall during that period, the elevated expense rates had more to do with low sales than high costs. That’s why, in Figure 5, the claims rate rose while the accrual rate didn’t. If there are no sales, there’s no need for accruals. But even when current-year sales fall, claims have to be paid for past-year sales.

Figure 5
New Home Builders
Average Warranty Claims & Accrual Rates
(as a % of product sales, 2003-2016)

Figure 5

In the past year, Hovnanian saw its claims rate fall significantly, while PulteGroup, Taylor Morrison Home, and NVR saw more modest decreases. All saw double-digit sales gains. At the other extreme, Lennar, Toll Brothers, and M/I Homes saw modest increases in their claims rates, while Beazer Homes saw its claims rate rise from a worrisome 3.6% to a painful 4.4%. Still, the company kept its accrual rate at a steady 0.8%.

Among the dozen largest builders, in fact, accrual rates changed hardy at all. The exceptions were Cavco Industries, which raised its accrual rate from 2.7% to 3.0%, and Hovnanian, which cut its accrual rate from 1.6% to 1.3%. But since sales are rising so quickly for most of them, even if the percentage rates remain the same, the total dollars accrued will rise, as was seen in Figure 2.

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3 Ways to Save Time & Post Great Content on Facebook

It takes just a few hours every week to keep your Facebook page full of fresh content. Learn how to market your small business without wasting your time.

According to the Pew Research Center, 68% of all U.S. adults use Facebook. In other words, your customers use this social media platform, so if you want to engage them online, your business should, too.

But posting on Facebook one to three times a day might sound overwhelming. If you don’t have much time to log on and tinker with content throughout the day, here are three tips to help streamline your Facebook time investment while maximizing results:

  1. Create content in batches. Make your social media process more efficient by setting aside time to create content in batches. As Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith suggested, “Write out the top 10 frequently asked questions from your customers. Make that into a blog post. Then, create 10 short videos with each point or tip, as well as 10 image quotes.”
  2. Consider hiring a part-time social media pro. If you can afford part-time help, it might be worth it. “Hiring a good social media assistant for even a few hours a week can make all the difference,” Smith said. “For example, you can provide your assistant with photos and video clips that you have on your phone anyway and they could use them to create many wonderful videos using a tool such as Animoto.”
  3. Take advantage of scheduling tools. Smith added that small business owners should take advantage of a social media scheduling tool such as Hootsuite, Buffer, PostPlanner or Edgar. That way, you can schedule your posts in advance, instead of stopping in the middle of the day to update Facebook. Facebook also allows you to directly pre-schedule posts.

For more tips on how your small business can get the most out of Facebook, check out Manta’s complete guide, “Facebook for Small Business: 23 Expert Tips to Reach More Customers on Social Media.”

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Housing starts were up 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,288,000 in February, 6.2% ahead of the pace of the same month last year, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Single-family housing starts surged 6.5% to a rate of 872,000, 3.2% ahead of the pace of a year earlier. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 396,000, down from 429,000 in January.

Building permits in February declined 6.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,213,000 but remained 4.4% ahead of the February 2016 rate of 1,162,000. Single-family authorizations in February were at a rate of 832,000; this is 3.1% above the revised January figure of 807,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 334,000 in February, down sharply from 457,000 in January.

Housing completions in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,114,000, 5.4% above the revised January estimate of 1,057,000 and 8.7% above the February 2016 rate of 1,025,000. Single-family housing completions in February were at a rate of 754,000, 6.5% below the revised January rate of 806,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 344,000, up from 247,000 in January.



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The Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index® (HPSI) increased by 5.6 percentage points in February to 88.3, a new all-time high, the Government Sponsored Enterprise said Tuesday.

Five of the six components that comprise the HPSI were up, and three hit record highs. The net share of Americans who reported that now is a good time to buy rose 11 percentage points, while the net share who believe that now is a good time to sell rose 7 percentage points.

Consumers also demonstrated greater confidence about not losing their jobs, with the net share rising 9 percentage points. On net, the share of respondents reporting that their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago increased 4 percentage points. Additionally, more Americans expect home prices to go up, with the net share rising 3 percentage points. The net share of those who think mortgage rates will go down over the next 12 months remained unchanged for the third consecutive month.

“The latest post-election surge in optimism puts the HPSI at its highest level since its starting point in 2011. Millennials showed especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time home buyers,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Preliminary research results from our team find that millennials are accelerating the rate at which they move out of their parents’ homes and form new households. However, continued slow supply growth implies continued strong price appreciation and affordability constraints facing millennials and first-time buyers in many markets.”

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Why The Housing Market Is Ready To Boom



In the run-up to the financial crisis, the number of homes built within the US surged to over 2 million and it has taken some time for this ‘overbuild’ to work its way out of the system. According to additional Newgate research, the average build over the past seven years has been just 850,000 per annum. This below average annual build is fair considering the housing overbuild prior to the global financial crisis. However, now data from the US Census now shows that this ‘overbuild’ has been almost completely eliminated and the market has moved into a shortage of 700,000 houses.


But why hasn’t the additional demand emerged for new units if the housing market is technically in shortage? Newgate proposes that ‘weak household formation’ is to blame for a lack of demand:

“We argue that these alternative living arrangements are temporary. The natural human desire for independence and to start a family – combined with supportive economic conditions – should see household formation recover.”

“If we assume household formation increases back to more normal levels, we would expect an increase in demand for one million new houses. This is in addition to the natural annual demand for housing of 1.5 to 2.0 million houses per annum.

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US home builder confidence hits highest level since 2005

US homebuilders’ confidence soared this month to the highest level in 11 years, reflecting heightened expectations of better sales now and well into 2017. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday jumped seven points to 70. The last time the reading was at this level was July 2005, during the high-flying days of the last U.S. housing boom. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been above 60 the past four months after hovering in the high 50s much of this year. Builders’ view of sales now and over the next six months rose sharply, as did a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers. The sharp increase in the latest builder survey is consistent with recent gains for the stock market and improving U.S. consumer confidence, said Robert Dietz, the NAHB’s chief economist.


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Consumer sentiment surges to 98 in early December based on surprise Presidential election

Consumer confidence surged in early December to 98.0, or just one-tenth of an Index point below the 2015 peak-which was the highest level since the start of 2004. The surge was largely due to consumers’ initial reactions to Trump’s surprise victory.


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