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Housing value rises through the roof

BY HBSDealer Staff

U.S. housing reached a record-high total value of $29.6 trillion, a 5.7% increase from 2015, according to analysts at real estate site Zillow.

Other big bullet points from the analysis:

• Los Angeles is the most valuable metro, worth a cumulative $2.5 trillion;

• Portland, Ore. had the biggest increase in value among the largest housing markets, growing 13.4 percent in 2016; and
• Renters paid a cumulative $478.5 billion in 2016, a 3.8% increase from 2015.

The number crunchers at Zillow say the U.S. housing market has regained all the value lost during the housing crisis. The cumulative value of all homes in the U.S. declined by $6.4 trillion between 2006 and 2012 as the housing market collapsed.

"Housing is incredibly important to us personally and to the economy as a whole," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "The U.S. housing stock is worth more than ever, which is a sign of the ongoing housing recovery. As buying a home gets more expensive, affordability remains a concern for many, and these numbers highlight just how much people are spending on housing. The total value of the housing stock grew nearly 6% this year, a pace that will likely mean some American families are priced out of homeownership."

Los Angeles and New York metros hold the highest shares of the country's overall housing value, at 8.6% and 8%, respectively. The next most valuable metro is San Francisco, worth 4.2% of the overall housing value.

While several markets are now more valuable than they were at the height of the housing bubble, about 60% of the markets in the U.S. are still below the maximum values reached during the bubble years. For example, Chicago is still about $134 billion below the highest value it reached in 2006.

Renters this year paid $478.5 billion, a $17.7 billion increase from 2015. About 635,000 new renter households formed in 2016, contributing to the amount of rent spent even as rent appreciation slowed. Apartment renters spent nearly $50 billion more than renters of single-family homes, as more multifamily construction became available this year.

Renters in the New York/Northern New Jersey metro paid the most this year, spending nearly $55 billion on rent.

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Jan-04-2017 01:30 pm

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The “Your Website is Lame” New Year’s resolution checklist

BY Steph Koyfman

We’ve talked about this before, but hardware retailers frequently fall short in the web category — still. But what better time than January to deepen your resolve, and resolve anew?

It’s more important than ever to maximize your web presence. We present to you this updated list to help you begin 2017 on the right foot.

Make sure your site is responsive

Not responsive as in “has a pulse” — although that part’s important too. Responsive websites have quickly become the new internet standard for their ability to seamlessly adapt to screens of all sizes. This means you can easily toggle from a full-sized website on a computer monitor to a tablet-friendly version, which then snaps into place as a simplified mobile site when viewed on an iPhone.

In this sense, responsive websites literally “respond” to the size of the screen or web browser, creating a more legible experience for the growing number of consumers who do their browsing on mobile phones. According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic grew 74% in 2015 alone. And for these users, display is important: According to Adobe, nearly 8 out of 10 consumers stop engaging with online content that doesn’t display well on their device. If having an unattractive mobile site could be so off-putting to your potential clientele, just imagine what an attractive site would do for your numbers.

Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a professional web developer to accomplish this. Many DIY site builders, like Squarespace and Weebly, have responsive design built into its package, allowing anyone to easily create a modern website themselves.

Add (or remove) one new social media platform

The message that’s frequently directed at retailers is that they need to have their bases covered on the social web. But striking the right balance on social media sometimes means less is more.

If you’re the type of business that barely has a functioning Facebook page, you might want to set your targets on expanding your social presence this year.

But if you’ve been struggling to maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Tumblr, Pinterest and Snapchat, there’s a possibility that you’re trying too hard, and that it’s not ultimately doing you any favors.

The key is to meet your customers where they are. If the majority of your target demographic has no idea how to work a Snapchat filter, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie — or in this case, converse in their native emoji tongue.

Try your hand at video marketing this year

Have you heard? Video is huge, and it’s only getting bigger. An Animoto study found that 80% of millennials use some form of video content when researching a product or service. Roughly 70% are likely to watch a company video when shopping around. Additionally, websites with video content on their landing pages receive 41% more traffic from search and grow company revenue 49% faster year-over-year, according to Aberdeen. If it’s a strong social media presence you’re after, Brightcove found that social video generates 12 times more shares than text and images combined.

We’ll just assume you’re already convinced this is important. But we’re happy to also say that you don’t need a professional videographer to get your feet wet, though it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Most smartphones on the market are capable of taking decent quality video, and there are mobile apps that allow you to edit videos on your phone.

As for content, you might need to get creative to stand out, but you can’t go wrong with a how-to video series, or an “up close and personal” peek into your operations. New Jersey-based dealer Kuiken Brothers has been on point with its video marketing efforts lately, which often feature a GoPro drone-produced birds eye view of its site deliveries.

Run a contest to boost engagement

It goes without saying that it’s not enough to merely have a passable social media presence. You also need to succeed at actively engaging with your audience.

If this is one of your weak spots, consider challenging yourself to do better this year. One tried-and-tested method is social media contests. In our March issue, Randy’s Do it Best CEO Christian Herrick noted that contests and giveaways have been the most popular — and least expensive — way to drive his store’s engagement on social media.

Not only can you generate a ton of new leads, but you’ll also get lots of likes and shares if you’re offering a particularly desirable prize.

Need some ideas to start? Encouraging customers to like, comment and share as a means of entering the contest is a straightforward approach to boosting your visibility. Caption contests are also a great way to encourage creativity and discussion.

Identify your user personas and recreate your UX around them

In plain English, UX equals user experience and user persona equals a typical, but imagined, visitor to your site with their own unique goals, needs and motivations.

Instead of approaching your site design as a business owner, why not approach it as a customer? Many professional UX designers employ user personas in their work, but there’s no reason why you can’t borrow their technique.

Typically, this process begins with field research, so it might be worth your time to survey your customers about their online habits — particularly when it comes to visiting your site.

However, you can try this exercise on your own if you think you have a good grasp on your customer profiles. Make a list of five of the most stereotypical visitors to your site.

Humanize them if possible — give them a name, age, gender and occupation. Then, jot down the story of how a visitor’s typical visit to your site would go. Would this person take the time to read about your company? Or are they only there to get your contact information? When you start experiencing your website as a typical customer would, you’ll start to see where improvements to your user experience are in order.

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The AWC’s new man in Washington

BY HBSDealer Staff

The American Wood Council (AWC) has selected Andrew Dodson as VP, government affairs. Dodson will develop and implement the association’s government affairs strategy, and will direct and manage federal and state legislative affairs.

Dodson comes to AWC after working as an independent consultant and previously served in government affairs roles at the Bockorny Group and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. He also worked on Capitol Hill for House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and as communications and legislative director for Rep. Max Sandlin.

AWC President and CEO Robert Glowinski said the position is an important part of the association’s presence on Capitol Hill. “I am confident Andy’s broad experience working in and with Congress will contribute to the development of legislation and regulations that demonstrate what is possible using wood,” said Glowinski.

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