That’s fairly Pinteresting

It’s not all about Facebook and Twitter anymore folks. Throughout my online travels I have come across all sorts of different ways of showing the world those things we find most interesting. One of the most fascinating ones was the site that offered to turn your Twitter posts (‘tweets’) into rolls of toilet paper. You can probably guess the name of that service.

One site that is much more useful is an up-and-comer called Pinterest. I often tell people that social media is a very visual medium; Pinterest takes this to a whole new level.

Think of it as a twenty-first century online scrapbook. Members ‘pin’ images to a ‘Board’, and other members can ‘like’ them, leave comments and share them with their followers.  The pictures can also serve as links to other websites.

So what on earth does this have to do with real estate, I hear you ask? Well, I am hereby making a bold prediction: if used correctly, Pinterest and similar websites will one day become a hugely useful tool for real estate photographers, agents, and ultimately the buying and selling public.

It’s been done before. Facebook started out as a tool to assist Harvard students who were short of ways to procrastinate. A few years on, as the Facebook phenomenon expanded worldwide, it became a way for businesses to build lasting relationships with new and existing customers and, in turn, build their brands and increase their sales.

Pinterest has the potential to do the same, possibly faster. Currently it has between 11-13 million members (depending on who you ask), and was one of the fastest sites ever to exceed ten million monthly visitors. And it’s different enough from the big two so that you can use all three and not feel like you’re saying the same old stuff to the same people. Indeed, around 65 percent of Pinterest members are women, and they drive 85 percent of the website’s traffic.

But here’s the biggie. A recent survey showed that 21 percent of members had bought something they had seen on Pinterest. That is huge, but comes with a caveat. These are mostly products like clothing and arts and crafts. As the site grows, and the fan base diversifies, this figure will come down – but the sales figure for larger goods will go up.

Expect one of those products to be property. Pinterest is extremely visual – and so, of course, is real estate. It’s a match made in heaven.

A Pinterest pioneer of our own is Richard Ellender, a Melbourne-based Open2view photographer. One of his strengths is twilight photography, and if you check out his page you’ll see why. His photos look pretty awesome. If, as a Pinterest member, you agree, you can leave Richard a comment, click on the photo to see the listing on our website, and of course share it with others who might be looking for their dream home.

Pinterest is easy, it’s visual, and therefore it’s good fun. It’s exactly what social media is meant to be; and anything that makes house buying and selling that much more enjoyable will be welcomed by the public with open arms.

What do you think – is Pinterest where the future lies, or is my prediction destined to be printed off for loo paper? Place your bets below!

Good news on the housing affordability front

Two recent pieces of housing news that caught my eye:

Now is not a bad time to go house hunting. The Home Affordability Report, a quarterly survey conducted by Massey University’s Real Estate Analysis Unit, shows an improvement over the last three months in the all districts national affordability index of 4.9 percent, and an annual improvement of 8.8%. In English, this means it has become a fair bit easier over the past 12 months to afford a house in New Zealand.

In the quarter ending February 2012, seven of the twelve regions showed increased affordability, notably Southland, with a 9.1 percent improvement, Auckland (6.0%) and Otago (4.9%). At the other end Northland, Hawkes Bay, Nelson/Marlborough, Wellington and Waikato/Bay of Plenty all became a little less affordable.

It seems the reason for this can be put down to a positive alignment of the stars. The key drivers used by the REAU to measure affordability are the national median house price, average weekly earnings, and the average monthly mortgage interest rate. And right now, they’re all looking pretty good. The median house price dropped to $355,000, the average wage rose by $4.06 and mortgage rates went down from 6.15% to 6.08%.

According to the REAU’s Professor Bob Hargreaves, it’s first time homebuyers who are reaping the most benefits thanks to “historically low mortgage rates, combined with more relaxed lending criteria by the banks”.

So that’s all pretty good news for the public, and especially first time buyers. It does, however, come with some caveats – something you may have suspected from their slightly ominous title ‘Home Affordability Improves – But For How Long?’

One source of future problems will be interest rates. Having been so low for a while now it’s clear they must go up at some point. We are also, according to the study, seeing demand rising strongly in Auckland and Christchurch. (Canterbury’s housing shortage meant it was the only region to become less affordable in the past year. But you‘d somewhat expect that, following what has just been declared the third most expensive insured natural disaster in history.)

The REAU also calculates how far above or below the national affordability index each region comes in at. At 125.5% of the index, Auckland retains its title as the most expensive place to buy a house, just pipping the Otago/Lakes region. And all the way at the bottom – appropriate, geographically speaking– is Southland, at just 54%.

The price gap could not be better illustrated than by this article on Stuff. Quotable Value has just announced the most expensive and cheapest houses sold in New Zealand last year.

At the top of the pops, this stunning Herne Bay home for a whopping $8.3 million.

The cheapest? This renovator’s dream in Ohai, Southland for just $10,000.

It’s fair to say, in terms of quality, most houses on the market likely fall somewhere in the middle. But whatever your taste now is a good time to take advantage of favourable conditions and see what’s out there.

Might I suggest you start by checking out our listings!