Monthly Archives: October 2016

Homebuilders are struggling to end the ‘new housing crisis’

construction worker crane sunsetReuters/China Daily

You’re finally ready to buy a house. Got a decent down payment in the bank, a solid credit history and even a preapproval from a lender. You’re golden.

Except you can’t find a house. At least not one you really love that’s in your price range. Something about a lack of inventory in your market. Apparently, there are just not enough houses to meet the demand.

But why? If there are people looking to – and able to – buy, why won’t builders build?

It Starts With Lending

Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, says that nationally, on average, there’s less than a five-month supply of single-family homes. That’s the number of months it would take for all the current homes on the market to sell. Redfin says four to five months’ supply is about average.

The thing is, in many metro markets, the supply of homes for sale is even tighter. For example, this year in San Francisco and Denver, inventory supplies have been less than three months and two months, respectively.

“The primary thing that’s holding back homebuilders is that they can’t get access to credit,” says Christopher Whalen, senior managing director and head of research for the Kroll Bond Rating Agency. “During the [housing] crisis a lot of banks around the country, especially in the Southeast from Georgia on down, got hurt very badly with construction and development loans on residential homes.”

That led to now-risk-averse lenders making fewer builder loans for land acquisition, lot development and construction.

“The predominant sector that the banks have been lending to, really since 2008, has been multifamily housing, which has done very well and has been relatively low-risk,” Whalen says. “[But] the developer that wants to do single-family homes really has a hard time – unless you’re in Texas, for example, where it’s been a boom. But other than that, in most areas of the country the banks just don’t want to lend on dirt.”

However, of all the factors hindering homebuilding, Dietz says lending is likely the most improved.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen loan growth in excess of 15 percent on a year-over-year basis,” he says. While still challenging, strict lending conditions are easing.

But there are two other obstacles that builders need to overcome.

Land and Labor Are Also Issues

“It’s become more difficult and more expensive to develop land, and that’s restricted the pipeline for builders to buy in order to put up a home,” Dietz says. As proof, he points to an NAHB survey in which 64 percent of builders say lot supplies are “low” or “very low.”

Labor is another issue builders face. In fact, it’s the top business challenge for builders, according to NAHB surveys. Dietz notes the residential construction industry lost 1.5 million jobs during the Great Recession, and only 600,000 to 700,000 jobs have been replaced in recent years.

And the housing industry is struggling to replace an aging workforce. Dietz says the existing construction workforce has a median age over 40. He says the challenge is to attract the next generation of construction workers.

How Long Until We Get Back to Normal?

So a shortage of lots, labor and loans are holding builders back, but things are getting better. The gap between available home inventory and demand is slowly shrinking.

“We’re effectively just shy of 60 percent of the way back to normal conditions,” Dietz says.

However, “normal” won’t be the level of building that existed during the pre-recession housing boom. Dietz says the housing industry will be in good shape when it hits 1.3 million single-family starts per year – but that might take another three to four years.

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IDC: Tablet shipments decline for eighth straight quarter, no company surpassed 10 million units

The Apple Pencil and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.


The tablet market has now been in decline for eight quarters in a row. Q3 2016 saw a 14.7 percent year-over-year decline: 43 million units shipped worldwide, compared to 50.5 million units in the same quarter last year. The estimates are provided by IDC, which counts both slate and detachable form factors, meaning tablets with keyboards are included.

The top two tablet makers maintained their positions: Apple was first and Samsung second. Amazon also seems to have solidified its spot in third place. The top five vendors accounted for 55.8 percent of the market, up from 46.8 percent last year, and nobody managed to ship more than 10 million units:

idc_tablets_q3_2016

Both Apple and Samsung saw their shipment numbers fall once again, though Apple gained share, up 1.9 points to 21.5 percent market share. Samsung slipped 0.9 points to 15.1 percent, but still shipped more than double the units than those behind it.

Because of the larger drop for Samsung, the gap between the South Korean company and the U.S. company increased. This is unique to 2016, as in the previous year the gap had been shrinking. The reversal can likely be attributed to Apple’s iPad Pro lineup, though Apple is still selling fewer and fewer iPads overall.

This is the third time that Amazon has placed in the top five in a non-Q4 quarter – typically, the company only shows up due to the holiday season. The company’s low-cost Fire tablet has propelled the company to the top, though the growth shown is skewed by the fact that IDC did not include the 6-inch tablets offered by Amazon in Q3 2015.

More to follow

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China’s richest people plan to invest in housing abroad – three US cities are their top choices

Chinese Theater Los AngelesGetty Images

More than 60 per cent of China’s richest people plan to invest in properties abroad in the next three years, with three American cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle – topping their list of destinations, a report shows.

Many of the nation’s wealthiest residents were looking to invest their money in foreign properties and live abroad in response to the fall in the value of the Chinese yuan and an overheated domestic property market.

About 56 per cent of China’s richest people said they were worried about the continuing depreciation of the yuan, which has fallen about 10 per cent against the US dollar since last summer, according to the “Immigration and the Chinese High-Net-Worth Individuals 2016”, an annual report compiled jointly by the Hurun Report magazine and Visas Consulting, and released on Friday.

The survey was compiled following conversations with 240 wealthy people with average net assets of 27 million yuan between August to October. These people have either emigrated or are planning to do so.

Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report, said: “A weakening yuan and concerns about a possible property bubble bust in China’s first-tier cities have made China’s high-net-worth individuals consider overseas investment more seriously.”

In the five years since 2011, housing prices have soared 205 per cent in Shenzhen and 94 per cent in Shanghai, according to Bloomberg data – far outpacing other cities that had also recorded property price rises, including San Francisco, London and Los Angeles.

There are an estimated 1.34 million rich Chinese with wealth worth 10 million yuan or more. “Sixty per cent of them – 800,000 people – are likely to invest in properties overseas in the coming years,” Hoogewerf said.

San Francisco Chinatown marketGetty Images

In their choice of emigration and investment destination, the US topped the list, followed by Britain, Canada, Australia and Singapore.

David Chen, a partner at Visas Consulting, a global immigration consulting services provider, said: “Taking account of children’s education, living environment and asset preservation needs, the high-net-worth individuals almost unanimously focused on North America.”

Los Angles was chosen by 17.8 per cent of the respondents, almost unchanged from last year, followed by 13.2 per cent for San Francisco, 12.8 per cent for Seattle and 11.6 per cent for New York.

Only 1.1 per cent of those surveyed chose Hong Kong as the city where they hoped to relocate – a sharp decline from the 2.2 per cent of people who selected Hong Kong last year.

Those taking part in the survey have already invested around 15 per cent of their wealth in overseas assets to diversify the risk, prepare for their children’s overseas education or emigration.

Their choices of investment have been relatively conservative, with foreign exchange deposits, mutual funds and insurance products dominating their asset allocations, the report said.

More than 80 per cent of the people in the survey said they had also invested their money on their hobbies, including artworks, luxury watches, stamps, wine and vintage cars.

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The Anatomy of Virality: How to Engineer the Perfect Viral Blog Article

You hear the term viral all the time.

I’m regularly reading Internet content that has “gone viral” or watching the latest viral video post. I research virality, and I read articles about content virality.

Virality is a big deal. If you think about it, viral content is what shapes our culture.

The idea of viral content has become rooted in Internet culture. It’s obviously something that most bloggers and marketers strive to achieve with their content.

Viral content can come in many forms and mean different things to different people.

For example, by some standards, I’ve written several “viral” articles-articles that were viewed by millions and shared by thousands. But when I compare my little blog article to other viral pieces of content, I see that its reach is tiny.

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The underlying quality of a viral piece of content is that it circulates rapidly across the Internet and reaches a widespread audience in a short period of time.

It can go from obscurity to mass exposure overnight.

Whether it’s a meme, video, blog post, or commercial, viral content has a way of capturing the attention of people from all walks of life.

There’s something exceptional about it even if you can’t necessarily put your finger on it.

Although there’s no magical recipe that instantly makes a blog article epic and uber-sharable, there is certainly a formula you can follow to achieve virality. After all, virality is a scientific phenomenon, even if achieving insane levels, like 2.5 billion views, isn’t predictable.

You can engineer virality to a certain degree. You start by understanding a few factors and elements that unite viral content.

Here’s a sequence you can follow to engineer the perfect viral blog article.

Content type

First things first. Which types of content receive the most shares?

I think you’ll agree that it’s easier to watch a four-minute music video, for example, than to read a 2,000-word article.

I’m interested in written content for the purposes of our discussion, so I’ll stick to long-form articles.

OkDork and Buzzsumo analyzed over 100 million articles to uncover underlying patterns that contribute to virality.

Here’s what they found in terms of what content was shared the most:

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When it comes to blog content, you’ll notice that list articles performed the best overall by a fairly large margin.

This is followed by “why posts,” “what posts,” and “how-to articles.”

So, in theory, you’d have the best odds of your article going viral if you created a list-more specifically, a 10-item list because it increases your odds even more.

According to OkDork, “10 item lists on average received the most social shares-on average 10,621 social shares. In fact, they had four times as many social shares on average than the 2nd most popular list number: 23.” The next best performing articles were lists of 16 and 24 items.

The exact number isn’t as important as the fact that it’s a list. BuzzFeed, the king of listicles, regularly produces viral listicles. When I checked on Buzzsumo the most popular articles in the past year, two of the top five were listicles.

image05

The number seems a bit arbitrary. But the fact that it’s a list? That’s the appeal.

Keep this in mind when deciding on the number of items to include on a list.

Content length

The word count of an article is another huge factor in determining the potential for virality.

There’s a common misconception about long content.

It goes like this:

  • If the content is long…
  • …then nobody will read it.

Guess what? That’s totally false.

Obviously read is a slippery term, so I won’t get into the mechanics of what reading means to people.

Here’s what I do know: longer content gets more shares, backlinks, views, and all the good things that great content deserves.

Here’s what the study mentioned above revealed:

image04

By analyzing this graph, it’s clear that the higher the word count, the better the likelihood of a blog article going viral: 3,000-10,000 words generated the highest overall number of shares.

And this totally makes sense if you think about it.

I’ve definitely noticed a pattern where long, well-researched, in-depth content kills it, while your average, run-of-the-mill 500-word articles achieve only marginal results.

Although people may not read a long article in its entirety, they’re still likely to scan it. To me, that’s important. I try to create articles so people can get value from them even if they don’t read every word.

Aiming for at least 2,000 words per post is ideal if you want your content to get shared across a wide audience.

Evoking the right emotions

Next, there’s the issue of getting readers to feel certain emotions.

The same study from OkDork and Buzzsumo revealed which content received the most number of shares based on the emotions it evoked:

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According to these findings, the top four emotions to target are:

  1. Awe
  2. Laughter
  3. Amusement
  4. Joy

What’s the underlying pattern of these emotions?

They’re primarily positive emotions.

Although awe could be positive or negative, laughter, amusement, and joy are all emotions that make people smile and bring about good feelings.

You’ll also notice that negative emotions, like anger and sadness, don’t perform as well. What’s the takeaway? Positive content has a far better chance of going viral than negative content.

Capitalizing on trends

Striking while the iron is hot is also important.

If you can create blog content based on something that’s wildly popular at the moment, the potential for virality increases exponentially.

Although this approach is likely to have a fairly short shelf life and probably won’t be evergreen, you can still generate some massive exposure for a little while.

And if your content is epic, there’s a good chance that many readers will return to your site to see what else you’ve been up to.

Buzzsumo offers a great example.

They mention an article on Fox News Travel from 2015 that talks about a zombie-themed “Walking Dead” cruise.

image00

This article managed to generate a whopping 1.5 million shares and over 400,000 comments. Not bad for a piece about undead brain eaters.

The lesson here is that writing content based on current trends can definitely work in your favor.

Visuals

People love visuals. They make even the most mundane content come to life and bring the points of a blog article into a cohesive whole.

So as you might imagine, images play a considerable role in virality.

To put it simply, including images in your content increases your odds of getting shares.

Skipping images reduces those odds.

Here’s a graph that shows the impact images can have:

image02

As you can see, articles with at least one image greatly outperform articles without any images.

In fact, having just one image will theoretically double your number of shares.

However, I wouldn’t stop at just one. The more visual appeal, the better.

That’s why I always make sure I include at least a handful of images in every blog article I write.

Author byline

There’s also the issue of a byline, which briefly tells the reader who the author of an article is.

In this case, that’s you.

OkDork and Buzzsumo found that this is also a factor in virality:

image06

Overall, content with a byline/bio receives more shares than content without one.

While there’s virtually no difference in terms of shares on Facebook, it definitely makes a difference on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

But why?

It’s simple. Having a byline lets readers know who the author is, which adds to the article’s credibility.

More trustworthiness = more shares.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to include your byline with each article, ideally with a professional-looking headshot.

Posting at the right time

One factor that’s commonly overlooked is the day of the week a blog article is posted.

Research has found that the odds of content going viral are increased considerably when the article is posted during the weekdays. More specifically, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are your best bets.

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There’s a very clear drop off on the weekends, which makes sense, considering many people are out and about and less likely to be glued to the Internet.

For the best possible chances of your article going viral, it would be smart to post on a Tuesday.

The power of influencers

One last thing. If you can get influencers to share your content with their audiences, the potential for virality goes through the roof.

Here’s what I mean:

image01

Even if you can get just one influencer to share your content, the results can be significant.

But if you can somehow get five influencers to do this, it can have a monumental, earth-shattering impact.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

But one strategy for getting an influencer on board is to first see which types of content they’ve shared in the past.

You can then base your article around a similar topic and reach out to the influencer once it’s completed.

Putting it all together

Here’s the deal.

You can never tell for sure whether or not any given piece of content will go viral.

There is a nearly infinite number of factors involved, and you can never fully predict how people will react.

However, you can follow a formula to give yourself the best possible chance.

Let’s recap.

  • Create a “list article,” ideally with 10 items. Otherwise, lists with 23, 16, and 24 items work best.
  • Make sure it’s a fairly long article with at least 2,000 words. However, the more words, the better. Pieces with 3,000-10,000 words receive the most shares on average.
  • Try to stick with positive themes that evoke awe, laughter, amusement, and joy. Don’t kill the vibe of your audience with overly negative themes.
  • Base your article around a popular trend that’s sweeping the world at the moment.
  • Include visuals. One image is a must, but don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with your images. Your audience should respond favorably.
  • Insert your byline/bio at the end of the article to boost your credibility.
  • Post during the weekdays. Tuesday is ideal.
  • Reach out to relevant influencers, and try to get them to share your article with their followers. If you can manage to get five influencers to share, your exposure will quadruple.

Conclusion

Just think of all the benefits a viral blog article can have.

You can create instant exposure for your brand, grow your social media following, generate a massive volume of leads, and increase your brand equity.

Along with this, it’s reasonable to expect that your sales numbers will increase significantly as well.

By understanding the key elements contributing to content going viral, you can devise a more effective strategy.

And once you “crack the virality code,” you can simply rinse and repeat.

What do you think the most important element of a blog article is in order for it to go viral?

16 Things Only People Who Have Played Lotería Will Understand

I just need one more card…

The only reason you’re even playing is because your mom brought it out.

The only reason you're even playing is because your mom brought it out.

Twitter: @silvanaalfaro80

And every single time it gives you childhood flashbacks, so of course you’re super pumped to play.

And every single time it gives you childhood flashbacks, so of course you're super pumped to play.

Twitter: @ariannughh

So you grab your handful of beans…

So you grab your handful of beans...

gus_del / Via instagram.com

…or whatever’s available…

…or whatever's available…

mirellestrada / Via instagram.com


View Entire List ›

16 Things Only People Who Have Played Lotería Will Understand

I just need one more card…

The only reason you’re even playing is because your mom brought it out.

The only reason you're even playing is because your mom brought it out.

Twitter: @silvanaalfaro80

And every single time it gives you childhood flashbacks, so of course you’re super pumped to play.

And every single time it gives you childhood flashbacks, so of course you're super pumped to play.

Twitter: @ariannughh

So you grab your handful of beans…

So you grab your handful of beans...

gus_del / Via instagram.com

…or whatever’s available…

…or whatever's available…

mirellestrada / Via instagram.com


View Entire List ›