Tag Archives: 2017

5 Common Real Estate Safety Myths

Most professionals believe these ideas will improve their personal security in the field. Sometimes, they’re wrong.

Real estate brokers and agents have hyped certain safety protocols in an effort to beef up personal security in the field, but some of the ideas that have become popular in the industry don’t necessarily make you less vulnerable to attack. In fact, some may have the opposite effect.

It’s not that these suggestions don’t have any value in the pursuit of safer practices, but none of them are foolproof. You shouldn’t rely too heavily on any one safety practice; to truly conduct business in a safer manner, you must incorporate a multitude of safety measures. As a longtime real estate safety educator, I offer these five personal security myths from agents around the country, along with my suggestions for how to work around them. (Request a handout to learn 7 More Safety Myths That Can Get You Hurt or Worse.)

Myth number one: Meeting prospects at the office first will enable you to vet them properly and ensure you work with only legitimate clients.

It’s always a good idea to ask prospective clients to come to your office or meet in a public place before taking them out on showings. But you are not equipped to properly vet prospects to determine whether they are criminals. Making judgment calls based on how a person looks, acts, or talks is not a science, and while you may be able to spot obvious red flags during a face-to-face meeting, you cannot guarantee that a prospect won’t intend to do you harm. Many offenders are repeat or career criminals, and they know how to present themselves in a manner that makes you feel comfortable and safe. Never consider yourself safe after meeting with a prospect.

Asking for a prospect’s ID and mortgage approval letter can provide some clues as to their legitimacy as a client, but you should do background research on new clients to get a fuller picture of who they are. Searching for them on Google is the typical place to start, but also search court records and public documents online as well as sites such as Anywho.com and Spokeo.com, which combine public records, social network information, and other online references.

If you want to go a step further, customer relationship management tools such as Great Agent provide prescreened customer leads. The program conducts a soft background check on potential clients and delivers a report of the findings to you. Though this decreases the level of danger in the prospecting process, you must remain alert and vigilant once you begin working with a new client.

Myth number two: Using a code word is a good way to discreetly signal you’re in distress.

Who doesn’t know what the “red file” is? It’s probably the most commonly used safety code word—and not just in the real estate industry—so you can bet criminals know what it means. Could you use a less conspicuous code word? Sure. But here’s the problem with code words in general: In a perfect world, the person you’re calling for help will immediately know that the code word means they should call authorities and have them dispatched to your location. That requires everyone at your office—all brokers, agents, and administrative staffers—to be properly and uniformly trained on the code word procedure. How likely is that to happen?

Unfortunately, when you make that call using your safety code word, there’s a high risk that the person on the other end of the line will have no idea what you’re talking about. If you can safely make a phone call and talk to someone—even briefly—your best option is to call 911 and give police as much information as possible about your situation. If you can’t speak freely, try using apps such as Life 360, which sends covert notifications to your predesignated contacts that you need help.

Myth number three: Safety apps will save you in a dangerous situation.

Speaking of safety apps, more agents are embracing them. Forty-two percent of REALTORS® use a smartphone safety app, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Member Safety Report. While those are a good tool in the real estate professional’s safety arsenal, the problem is that some agents rely solely on them to save their lives. But if you’re in a situation where your cell phone isn’t accessible, you lose a signal, or a criminal takes your phone away, those apps become useless. Safety apps should be part of a layered plan; they alone will not save you.

Investigate standalone or wearable safety devices that offer added features, such as Alert Lion, a pendant-type device that can be used to call for help with the press of a button. Once the button is pressed, an Alert Lion representative can listen in and make the call to authorities or medical personnel.

Myth number four: Dressing to impress will always attract the right customer.

For real estate professionals, the appearance of being successful is an important marketing tactic. Do you broadcast on social media how many millions of dollars in real estate you’ve sold? If you’re a luxury agent, do you take marketing photos of yourself in a high-end car or in front of a mansion?

Wearing expensive jewelry, watches, and other accessories, or carrying around costly gadgets such as tablets and high-end cameras, may project the image you want your clients to see. But it can also garner unwanted attention from criminals who see the cash you’ve got on you. If you think dressing to impress will only attract people who are qualified to work with you, you’re wrong.

Dress professionally, but leave the bling and flash at home. And you typically don’t need expensive devices—aside from your smartphone—when you’re out on showings with a client. Limit the places you take your gear. While trend-conscious clients may appreciate your fashion forwardness, the people you want to attract will be more interested in your service than your cachet.

Myth number five: Avoiding working in the “bad” parts of town will keep you safer.

I always get agents in my classes who tell me they don’t do business in dangerous neighborhoods and never work at night, so they feel safe. These same agents also say they don’t work with “strange” or “scary looking” people.

As long as criminals are mobile, there is no safe part of town. Some areas may be safer than others, but agents need to be alert wherever they are. The worst thing you can do is let down your guard because you think you’re in a nice neighborhood; some criminals target higher-end areas where they can find more valuable items. They also may perceive agents who work those markets to be wealthier.

Your prejudgments on what kinds of people look legit may also cause you to miss out on business. I always reference Sam Walton, the late founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, and his signature overalls and old pick-up truck. Many may have assumed based on his appearance that he couldn’t afford high-end property. By the same token, famed serial killer Ted Bundy cleaned up quite nicely.

Instead of judging people or neighborhoods by their appearance, agents should rely on taking the proper screening steps and always trusting their intuition, gut, or instinct. We all possess a built-in warning system designed to protect us from danger. Too often, we ignore that feeling in the pit of our stomachs. If your body sends these signals, listen to them and get out of the situation. Do not try to rationalize your feelings.

Credit to Tracey Hawkins

Tracey Hawkins, a.k.a. “Tracey, the Safety Lady,” is founder and CEO of Safety and Security Source. She is a former real estate agent who, for more than 20 years, has been a national speaker and educator on real estate safety issues. She has created the country’s only real estate safety designation, the Consumer Safety and Security Specialist (CSSS) program.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us:

Most Consumers Are Wrong About Home Insurance

What’s Your Retirement Plan?

Learn what people are planning at various stages of their real estate careers.

You know how you go the extra mile for your clients—running a quick vacuum before a showing, bringing in flowers or even your own furniture to create that wow factor, wearing out your tire treads to find someone the perfect home. That’s because you’re taking your clients’ dreams seriously.

But even as you help your clients with their plans, are you thinking about yours? What about that ultimate plan-ahead task, your own retirement? Without an employer-based 401(k) or pension set up for you, your long-term financial wellness is fully on your shoulders—and it can be a daunting responsibility.

Financial planner Tad Cook, who specializes in serving real estate clients at @Financial in Chicago, says that a quick rule of thumb is to set aside 25 to 35 percent of your gross income for taxes; save 10 percent for retirement; and then base your working budget on the remaining 65 percent.

What plans are best for real estate professionals? Take a look at four retirement options for independent contractors.

But this is a key point to remember: Retirement plans are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. “It really all depends on the volume of business you have and how aggressively you want to pursue a program,” Cook says. “We have to look at the whole financial picture—and age comes into it.”

Here are stories of three individuals at different ages and stages of their careers. What you learn about their situations and solutions may help you come up with your own set of strategies.

How to face down inflation

Alison Parker, 36, a newly licensed practitioner with Keller Williams in Glen Ellyn, Ill., recently had her first closing. She loves real estate, is a mother of two toddlers, and is excited about how she can blend her budding career with the rigors of motherhood. Her husband, who works in IT, has a pension and 401(k) through his company. She does not. Parker knows she should save for retirement, but at the moment, she’s concentrating more on building her business and setting up college money for the kids.

The plan for the kids, in fact, is pretty well developed: Alison’s young family recently moved from Chicago to the suburbs, but instead of selling their condo when they bought their single-family home, they decided to refinance the condo on a 15-year note and turn it into a rental. It will be paid off when the kids are ready for college. The plan is to sell it at that time to generate funds for the children’s college. At least that’s the thinking so far.

Cook strongly endorses the Parker family’s decision to hold on to their first property, but instead of tapping it for college funding, that second property makes more sense as a retirement vehicle. “Income is so much the key to retirement,” says Cook, “and inflation is an issue.” Because the cost of living is always rising, you can expect living expenses to increase during your retirement. If all your assets are in a fund, you would need to take more money out to meet rising costs. “But with a rental,” Cook says, “you can raise the rent every year and fight inflation.” Cook says real estate agents who have investments in two or three homes have the easiest retirement planning, so there’s no time like the present to get something in place. And even while many practitioners are advising clients about investment opportunities in real estate, a majority haven’t heeded that wisdom themselves. Only about 30 percent of REALTORS® currently own investment property, according to the latest Member Profile by the National Association of REALTORS®.

If you’re looking to set aside money for college, Cook says investments in a 529 college savings plan are recommended since they grow tax-free, at an average of 6 percent, which may be more favorable than real estate values, which tend to increase at an average rate of 3 percent a year. Of course, as a caveat, he adds that performance of any asset can vary. Another cautionary note from Cook: Don’t pay for your kids’ education out of your retirement fund. “That doesn’t work well for anyone,” he says. Think about it: Most kids would rather pay off their student loans than support you in your old age. And, if for some reason you do have to take funds out of a 401(k), Cook advises that you replace it as soon as possible.

How to sock it away

Dave Mattes, 52, has been a real estate agent for most of the last 20 years, not including a five-year excursion into mortgage lending before returning to his passion. Now a sales associate at RE/MAX of Reading in Wyomissing, Pa., he and his wife Melanie, who is also an agent, are aggressively putting money into two Roth IRAs and a SEP IRA . “I’ve been slow to the party, like most people, unfortunately,” Mattes confesses. “It is truly ‘do as I say, not as I’ve done.’ You need to be socking money away starting at age 25 and never, ever, ever stop.”

The Matteses may have been late starters, but they made other investments along the way, now owning eight properties, most of them in the Reading area. “It’s perfect for self-employed agents to acquire properties with 10 percent down,” he says. Mattes purchased his properties with conventional 30-year mortgages, then gradually converted to 15- or 20-year notes. The properties will be paid off as the couple moves into their 60s. “Now I’ll have an asset sitting there that I could cash in, or will have rental income that should provide a decent quality of life.”

Mattes acknowledges that the advice to put money away for retirement was always out there, at the fringes of his awareness. “You know the whole time you need to do it,” he says. His brokerage even encouraged people to make retirement planning a priority by providing contacts and programs for agents and staff. “Our office is very proactive about making tools available to us. They bring people in from outside—accounting firms, financial advisers. They make it easy for us to put a percentage of our income into various accounts.”

Mattes himself now relies on his accountant and financial planner to guide him with his savings program. “They were referred to me by someone I trust,” he says.

But real estate pros should be sure they understand whose best interest their financial counselor is committed to. The Trump administration in February sought to delay the Obama-era “fiduciary rule” that was slated to take effect in April and would require investment advisers to disclose whether they had a commission-based payment structure that favored their own financial gain over their clients’ interests. Cook from @Financial says it’s important to inquire about how investment advisers are paid for their work with you. “First and foremost, ask about fees, which can involve commission, startup costs, ratios, percentages, or other management expenses,” he says. If you’re getting advice from stockbrokers paid on commission, their greater loyalty may be to their brokerage and its products rather than you. Independent financial planners are paid directly by clients, so their interests are not aligned with any particular investment product or brand.

The important point, Cook says, is that the earlier you start saving, the more you earn over the long term. In fact, when you start saving matters more than how much you save, because of the power of compound interest. Mattes finds he must now put away three times as much each month as he would have if he had started years ago. “So I’m taking the complete opposite approach with my son, who’s 26,” he says. Mattes is strongly encouraging his son to start putting money away in a retirement fund—and he is matching those contributions for him.

How to be a serial investor

Wayne Reuter, 62, and his wife, Teresa, 58, retired in 2016 and 2014 respectively, after lengthy careers. Wayne originally worked for the Union Oil Company of California, then 20 years ago joined Teresa’s real estate business RE/MAX Excels in Geneva, Ill., and they continued to build their practice together.

For decades, Wayne has been a religious tracker of the family’s income and expenses. He could tell you what he made and spent in any given year, going back to the 1990s. “In ninth grade, a Ouija board said I was going to live to 86,” he says wryly, “so that’s what I’m planning for.”

He and Teresa made many real estate investments, over the years. The first house they bought was in Boca Raton, Fla., in 1978. They paid $37,500 for it, and when they moved, instead of selling it, they decided to make it a rental. They finally sold the house for $185,000 in 2016—but more important than the appreciation was that in the interval, it generated more than $300,000 in income for them.

Over the years the Reuters bought and sold about 30 other properties in Illinois, owning usually about five at a time. They bought them, rented them, managed them, paid them off, then sold them.

“If you’re in real estate,” Wayne says, “you know what a good deal is.” His advice: “Get one investment property and see if you like being a landlord.” Some people find it a headache, but not the Reuters. “Managing a property and being a landlord is similar to managing people,” he says. They communicated carefully with their tenants, striving for flexibility and honesty. “And the good thing about being a landlord is that you can delegate tasks (for a fee).”

But real estate was not the Reuters’ only investment. They always saved. “You can start with saving 1 percent of each commission in year one and increase that amount in each subsequent year, but get in the habit of saving and every year putting money into your retirement accounts.”

Not everyone has this kind of discipline, and according to Cook, age 50 seems to be the magic number that kicks people into gear. “If a real estate professional has not done a lot of savings in their 20s, 30s, or 40s,” he says, “then in their 50s, that’s when people wake up to fact they need to be saving aggressively for retirement. At this point, the Solo 401(k) is often the vehicle that we use.” That’s because the higher contribution limits can help you do your best to make up for lost time. Or you can split your contributions between types of accounts, deductible and nondeductible. Find a certified public accountant or financial planner you trust who can advise you. The best retirement advice is to practice smart money management—the rules you’ve always heard about. Says Reuter, “Spend less than you make, pay off your credit card balance each month, try to keep three to six months of cash on hand for emergencies and the months you don’t make enough, plan your taxes ahead, and make your quarterly payments. And put away 10 percent every year.”

And own real estate. “Once you get your short-term expenses under control, you should have a property. There’s nothing like having someone else to pay the mortgage.”

Reuter makes it sound easy, and of course it isn’t for everyone. So if you feel overwhelmed at the prospect, it might help to remember that adage about how to get a big tree in your yard:

The best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. But the second-best day is today.

Credit to Beth Franken
Beth Franken is a writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois.
homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us:

Who’s Responsible for Furnace and HVAC Maintenance?

HVAC is an acronym to which landlords need to pay particular attention. It refers to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—systems which have to be in good working order.

Keeping a rental unit warm in winter and cool in summer obviously benefits your tenants, but it also benefits the HVAC unit itself, which can suffer damage from extremely high or low temperatures as well as from moisture buildup caused by a lack of ventilation.

Definitions

1. “H” is for “Heat”

The implied warrant of habitability requires landlords to supply some method of heat, and some communities get pretty specific about heating requirements. For example, New York City requires heating units to maintain a minimum temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit from October 31 to May 31, and San Francisco requires a minimum temperature of 68 degrees between the hours of 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. all year.

Don’t give your tenants the cold shoulder! State laws define what temperature your rentals need to conform to.

Most states set heating requirements. Maine, for example, requires a minimum indoor temperature of 68 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 20 degrees. It’s important to be familiar with requirements established by your state as well as your community.

2. “V” is for Ventilation

The “V” in HVAC” doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Central heating and cooling systems provide automatic air circulation, but rentals that rely on room heaters and lack air circulation systems may suffer the effects the stale air. These include paint deterioration, wood rot, pest infestations, and mold.

Ceiling fans and room fans can provide the circulation needed to control moisture and keep tenants comfortable. You also need to maintain them unless otherwise specified in the lease agreement.

3. “AC” is for Air Conditioning

Landlords generally don’t have the same responsibility to provide air conditioning. If you rent a unit with air conditioning, though, there’s a contractual responsibility for you to maintain it. If you don’t, your tenant may be entitled to a rent reduction or some other consideration.

Common HVAC Maintenance Issues

Whether the heat in a rental unit comes from a forced air furnace, a heat pump, or a radiant heat system, there are usually two main maintenance concerns. One is the heating unit itself—which includes the heat source and the blowers—and the other is the control network. An air conditioning system, which is essentially a refrigeration system, also has a control network, and it’s often the same one that controls the heating system.

The Thermostat

Blowers, burners, heating elements, and refrigeration coils can all malfunction, and when they do, the landlord has to repair or replace them. Many HVAC problems, however, result from the thermostat, which can easily be maintained by tenants.

  • Programming
    Failure to program the thermostat properly is such a common occurrence that many appliance repair specialists address it first. Is the thermostat switch properly selected for heating or cooling? Is the target temperature properly selected? Is the unit even on? Tenants should have a copy of the manual so they can check the settings themselves before calling for help.
  • Batteries
    If the batteries in the thermostat are weak, the heating/cooling system won’t get the message to turn on. Batteries are easy to replace, and the tenants can do that themselves, especially if they have the manual.
  • Cleaning
    Thermostat leads can get dusty, and all it takes is a blast of compressed air to clean them. Accessing the leads means removing the cover, which tenants can do if they have the manual to guide them.
  • Location
    Persistent failure of the central air system to maintain the target temperature could be caused by a poor thermostat location. It may be in the sun, behind a bookshelf, or in the path of a draft. Moving the thermostat, as well as replacing worn wires, is usually a major job.

Filters

The heating and cooling system connects to the living space via a network of metal ducts, and if you’ve ever looked inside one of these ducts, you’ll appreciate the need for filters. When dust enters the ducts and gets drawn into the central system, it can block gas orifices, hinder fan rotation, reduce heating and cooling efficiency, and even potentially create a fire hazard.

Many HVAC pros offer duct cleaning services, but you generally need these only if you’re renovating; if animals, mold, or contaminants got sucked into the ducts; or if someone in the house has become ill. In most cases, however, you just need to service the filters.

The MERV Rating

Changing the filters at least once a year, which is the best way to maintain system efficiency, is another job that tenants can do, especially if you supply the filters. Filters are classified according to their MERV rating, which is an acronym that means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter.

Filters with high MERV ratings can filter out contaminants as small as bacteria, but they also restrict air flow, so it’s best to stick with a filter with a rating in the range of 5 to 8. Ratings go as high as 16, so this is on the low side of average.

Two Ways to Approach Maintenance

The HVAC system, like the rental unit itself, belongs to the landlord who has a vested interest in maintaining it in good condition. As the beneficiary of clean, conditioned air from a properly functioning system, however, the tenant also has an interest in keeping things in working order. You can retain full responsibility for maintaining the system or can share that responsibility with your tenant.

  • Landlord Controlled and Maintained
    The landlord assumes full responsibility for maintenance. The lease usually specifies standard hours for maintenance, such as from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. If maintenance is required at other times, there is usually an extra charge. This arrangement is typical in multi-unit dwellings.
  • Landlord Controlled/Tenant Maintained
    The tenant pays for filters and minor service calls, such as cleaning and minor malfunctions, while you pay for major service. The tenant also typically pays the utility bills. This can be a good arrangement for sensitive tenants who require enhanced air filtration or who require temperatures outside normal ranges.

Hang Onto Repair Records

Minor HVAC maintenance responsibilities are seldom overwhelming, so it’s usually in your best interest to maintain your property’s HVAC system. That way, you ensure that proper repairs are made and that all servicing conforms to acceptable standards.

Whether you opt to share the maintenance responsibilities with your tenants or not, keep all the maintenance records in a safe place to ensure faster resolution to problems when they do arise.

Credit to Chris Deziel

Chris has owned and managed 4 rental properties in Santa Cruz, CA, and Salida, CO. He is a DIY handyman expert for popular sites like Pro Referral.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us:

Help First-Time Sellers Through the Sale

Like rookie buyers, clients who are new to selling need extra hand-holding through the sales process.

Even the most steely-eyed sellers can get emotional when it’s time to list their home. It’s the place where they raised their children, gathered friends for annual holiday parties, or painstakingly executed their design vision over many years. The longer they have stayed in a home, the greater the challenges they may face getting up-to-date on the rules and regulations governing transactions. Those who have never before sold are, indeed, in uncharted territory. Here are suggestions for working with first-time sellers who may find the financial and legal complexities, as well as the emotional terrain, especially daunting.

First-time sellers who have never contended with buyer demands may not initially understand how neutralizing their home or adding small upgrades can make their property more competitive on the market. Using data to highlight comparable nearby homes and what they’re selling for is a good place to start, but make sure to explain how the data supports your argument. Andy Werner, abr, e-pro, associate broker at RE/MAX Realty Group in Gaithersburg, Md., says many first-time sellers don’t realize how minor repairs can elevate their property’s market value. Buyers typically expect a home to be in move-in condition, so sellers who choose not to upgrade could face a $10,000 to $15,000 price reduction, he says.

“I tell buyers that if you don’t fix up your house, the buyer will go around the corner and buy from someone who did—and they’ll pay $5,000 more,” Werner says. Such an explanation demonstrates market fundamentals to your clients and keeps them on track toward the closing table. The costs of modest repairs, such as repainting, installing carpet, and refinishing or replacing kitchen cabinetry, are often recouped at resale, Werner adds.

Selling After Decades of Owning

Some common seller issues become more difficult simply because of how long a first-time seller has lived in a home. Decluttering, for example, can be hard enough for someone who’s been in their home only five years. Imagine how challenging it is for sellers who have lived in a home for their entire adult life.

It’s not just emotional resistance they’re experiencing. First-timers may simply not be aware of how clearing out personal items improves the odds of a sale. Alice Chin, psa, a broker with Keller Williams Infinity in Naperville, Ill., recommends that sellers who have never dramatically decluttered their homes before do it in stages, clearing one room at a time. Slowing down the pace can ease the mental and emotional pressure involved in getting rid of personal items, she says, and once sellers see the results in one room, it can encourage them to continue working on the rest of the house. If your client needs more convincing, ask a professional home stager to weigh in, Chin says.

Patience Is a Virtue

All sellers benefit from practicing patience while waiting for the right buyer, but this is doubly true for those who are listing a vacation home in resort areas for the first time. They face different market dynamics than if they were selling a primary residence, says McKee Macdonald, a broker with Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate in the ski resort town of Stowe, Vt. Many of his clients who are new to selling are shocked to learn how long it can take to sell—an average of 250 days in his market. Some properties have languished for as long as five years, he says.

Therefore, first-time sellers require a higher degree of communication so they can be prepared for the realities of a niche market, Macdonald says. He explains that traditional marketing tactics such as open houses aren’t always effective because the number of skiers (who are prospective buyers) in town on weekends is unpredictable. Instead, he advises his clients to consider renting out vacation properties while they wait for a buyer. After all, selling a second home often isn’t urgent, and a seller’s motivation can change. “Some sellers say, ‘Throw it out there. If we get the price we want, great. If not, I’m still using it,’” Macdonald says.

Experienced Sellers Can Be Rookies

Even seasoned sellers can feel like newbies when market conditions have changed markedly since their last sale. A client who sold one property during a downturn may be ill-prepared for today’s tight-inventory environment and the stress of handling multiple offers. Though it’s a nice problem to have, it can still be overwhelming.

Ashleigh Fredrickson, sales associate at 8Z Real Estate in Denver, says the biggest challenge for sellers of all experience levels is determining which offers stand the best chance of holding up. In a strong seller’s market, buyers can get swept up in the heat of the moment and bid 10 percent over list price only to realize later they won’t be able to qualify for financing, she says. So it’s important to counsel sellers—particularly those who have never been in such a situation—that the highest bid isn’t necessarily the best. “You want to make sure you’re getting the most qualified buyer so that you’re not back out on the market again,” Fredrickson says.

She suggests using a spreadsheet to help sellers analyze competing bids, taking special note of any contingencies. Your clients need to understand that a higher offer with more contingencies may not be in their best interest. “Maybe the timeline is paramount, so the seller will sacrifice a couple of thousand dollars to ensure the deal is done by a certain time,” Fredrickson says.

Above all, directness and thorough education are what every first-time seller needs, Macdonald adds. When a sale isn’t going the way a seller had imagined it would, “you need to look for strategies to offset the negatives.” But always “give sellers the honest truth, and don’t sugarcoat it,” he says.

Credit to Judith Crown
 Judith Crown is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in business, government, and education.
homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com

Save

Please follow and like us:

Tech Trends to Embrace in 2017

If you’re looking to increase your company’s tech savvy, then you need to be on board with these innovations.

From big data to virtual reality, technology continues to make huge strides in the real estate space year after year. But, if you’ve ever worried that these advancements will make your brokerage services obsolete, never fear. I’m here to put your mind at ease.

The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey found that 87 percent of buyers used an agent last year compared to only 81 percent in 1981. You read that right. As technology and internet connectivity have increased, more consumers are turning to agents, rather than fewer.

But that doesn’t mean you should become complacent. We must remain the experts in all things real estate and continue to offer irreplaceable value in our marketing and negotiation skills. That includes incorporating tech trends that will help buyers and sellers achieve their goals.

“Aside from internalizing technology on an everyday basis to run your real estate business … there are some very huge tech trends that literally can change everything as we know it,” said Niraj Ranjan Rout, cofounder and CEO of Hiver, which publishes the Gmail app of the same name, in an email interview about the biggest tech trends of 2017.

Here are a few such trends:

Virtual Reality

Consumers have long been enjoying virtual realty in the gaming industry. Now, many — especially millennial buyers and sellers — have come to expect the VR and 3-D video experiences. Even in my own household, it’s unheard of to go see a movie like “Star Trek” without seeing it in 3-D. VR has seeped into our society’s collective expectations, and that doesn’t turn off when it’s time to house-hunt.

“VR is most certainly one of the most exciting and course-altering tech trends for real estate,” said Rout, who notes many different real estate firms are experimenting with VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear.

Sotheby’s International Realty, in partnership with Matterport, recently introduced 3-D and VR tours online. John Passerini, the brand’s global vice president of interactive marketing, was recently quoted on Sotheby’s blog as saying, “Distance can present a challenge when looking to buy a home, and virtual reality has provided a provocative solution. This technology is allowing buyers to purchase homes without having to physically travel to view them, which is especially relevant to the global clientele we serve.”

Indeed, as VR continues to grow, it will completely change the real estate customer’s experience by providing buyers the ability to experiment with different home styling options, navigate floor plans, and get a full 360-degree view of the house. Imagine the day when “a prospect can take a slow walk around the garden of the house, experience the wine cellar, [and] stretch their arms to see if the kitchen is spacious enough,” said Rout.

Big Data

You may not be immediately attracted to Facebook posts from friends checking in at restaurants and post about their lunch, but all that data can actually be useful for your business. Well, maybe not exactly the lunch specials, but geographical check-ins and other types of information being shared may help direct you and your agents to the people who will soon be buying and selling.

Facebook and other companies are collecting all that data in order to tailor advertising and digital marketing. “It allows you to access detailed information about a customer and analyze their past behaviors,” said Rout. “Even simple factors such as the life stage of the prospect, their employment status, marital status, number of kids, and demographics can be included to generate a list of rich targets for whom you have the information to provide rich customer experience.”

There are various ways to retrieve such data, including Facebook ads. With more than 1 billion people logging in daily and sharing bits and pieces about their lives, Facebook is a gold mine of data for real estate professionals to help connect with people when they are gearing up for a move. In fact, Facebook allows advertisers to target consumers by categories such as “likely to move” and “For Sale by Owner.” The days of arbitrarily mailing postcards to people who may not be in the market to buy or sell are long over. Now you and your agents can use big data to directly find the ideal client. And it’s affordable — an ad can cost as little as $1 to $5 per day.

Home Technology

If you’ve ever caught an episode of the old cartoon “The Jetsons,” then you’ve likely fantasized about your own smart or fully automated home. Well, what was once reserved for luxury properties is now available to the mass market. Technology such as smart lighting, automated door locks, temperature controls, and more are increasingly in demand among all home buyers. It’s improving energy efficiency, quality of life, home functionality, and more, said Rout.

Are your agents ready to market smart-home features or advise buyers on the technology that’s available? Do they know the price points and the best local vendors? Do they know what smart-home upgrades can help a home sell faster? “Dismissing technology as some overrated unnecessary luxury can be a not-so-smart thing to do, and so is being a late adopter of new tech trends,” Rout said.

Technology is changing, and it’s enhancing our ability to market to and connect with prospects. Start embracing these trends at your brokerage now to keep your business in tune with what buyers and sellers want, while ensuring that your services continue to be irreplaceable.

Credit to Lee Davenport

Lee Davenport is a real estate broker and business doctoral candidate who trains real estate agents and brokerages on how to work smarter in real estate. Join Lee’s free RE Tech Insider’s Club at LearnWithLee.REALTOR for tips and tools to help your business thrive.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us:

Best Technology for Your Brokerage in 2017

Don’t fall by the wayside while your competitors take the reins. Learn about seven tech trends that will truly bring your marketing into the new year.

Staying at the forefront of your market means leading with technology. Equipping your brokerage with quality tools will allow you to be faster, smarter, and, well, cooler than your competition.

In 2016, the industry focus was on social trends, including Snapchat, Instagram stories, and Facebook Messenger bots. Heading into 2017, there are seven technology assets that can set brokerages and individual agents apart.

1. Accessible Virtual Reality

When the Google Cardboard VR viewer was launched in 2014, virtual reality started to take off because suddenly, all the VR videos on YouTube became more accessible to smartphone users. For real estate, we’ve had to rely on expensive equipment or outside companies to make VR property videos, but that’s changing. The new Giroptic iO is a 360-degree camera you can attach to your iPhone. For $249, you can take photos, record videos, and even livestream videos in 360 degrees of real estate bliss. They’re available for presale now, with the first units scheduled to be released Jan. 17.

2. Snapchat Marketing

Snapchat continues to be an excellent tool for agents to engage with millennials — all 150 million of them — and other tech-savvy clients in real time. You can boost visibility and brand loyalty by sharing properties and neighborhoods, creating buzz with contests, and offering personal advice. Show followers the real you (within reason), behind-the-scenes action, or silliness at your office. It’s an easy tech tool that makes you real, timely, and approachable.

Additionally, the click-through rates for Snap Ads are five times than for comparable social media platforms, according to Hootsuite. The key to local engagement is to take advantage of geofilters, an illustrative overlay for images based on a geographical location and selected time frame. Snapchat’s On-Demand Geofilters start at just $5. You can build your own artwork using an app like Canva.

Here’s a real-life situation where it makes sense to try Snapchat geofilter marketing: Say your target neighborhood hosts an annual parade. You could build a geofilter for that date and location that all users in the area could access. You could reach thousands of people and it could cost you as little as $20.

3. Social Media Live Video

According to the Web Video Marketing Council’s annual survey, 73 percent of marketers said that online video had a positive impact on their business. With live streaming, expect to see an even larger impact. Here are some platforms to consider:

  • The Facebook Live streaming tool is built right into your news feed. Simply click on the live button in the new post field and your followers can see what you’re recording and respond as it happens. Plus, you can save the video for users to watch later.
  • Once available only through its Periscope app, live video is now integrated into Twitter itself. Instead of posting a text tweet, you can go live for up to 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Like tweets, your videos are saved and are searchable by the public (so think carefully about what you say on air). Maximize this feature for revealing new listings or promoting upcoming Facebook Live events, videos, or Q&As. If you’re already invested in Periscope, you might want to start letting your followers know you’re on Twitter.
  • Instagram live videos can be up to to 60 seconds long. Because it’s a strictly a live feed that disappears immediately with no replay function, this tool offers a serious “sense of urgency,” which is why it could be a great property preview tool. You can still upload a recorded video to Instagram that can be replayed without limits, and Instagram’s direct ephemeral messages lets you privately share images and videos with a maximum of two views.

3. Programming Alexa and Google Assistant

The advent of smart-home devices and hubs has created a huge opportunity for real estate companies. Finding a home value or researching the cost of homes in a certain neighborhood is just a question away.

  • For Amazon Echo and devices like the Fire TV stick, more people will be asking their virtual assistant Alexa a wide range of questions. The race is on for real estate companies and individuals to develop custom skills under unique invocation names (and get people to use them). For instance, you could program a response for when users say something like “Alexa, ask Redefy Real Estate how much my home is worth.”
  • The Google Assistant can be used to make similar queries through the Google Home or Google Allo apps. Google breaks down these questions into patterns of components that include a trigger phrase (such as “ask”), invocation name (such as “Redefy Real Estate”), action preposition (such as “about”), and action phrase or deep link invocation (such as “my home value”).

Yes, you’ll need a web developer to create these services. And yes, it’s probably costly. But as the number of homeowners who employ this technology continues to grow, eventually it’ll be something you wish you’d done sooner.

4. Virtual Spaces

Brick-and-mortar brokerages may persist for some time, but more companies and individuals will explore and possibly transition to a virtual office model. Between technology and meeting spaces like Regus suites, more walls will fall in 2017. While saving overhead, budgets can be put toward more tech. Also expect to see more virtual transactions in 2017.

5. Data on Tap

Evaluate how well you’re using the data you have access to. Can you provide an instant, accurate market valuation? Can you become a thought leader in the industry based on your own ability to mine data? Big, smart data is also essential for predictive analytics. Though they’ve long been staples for lead generation in the business world, data and algorithms are finally being used to drive marketing in real estate.

6. AI Chatbots

Artificial intelligence has been refined to the point that it’s now a viable and affordable option for customer service. Chatbots provide an incredible opportunity to meet customers where they are, provide instant service, and initiate conversation that converts to leads. For shy or hesitant customers, this provides a neutral platform for conversation. The AI portion can respond and adapt based on what the customer asks to hone in on their real motivation (such as I need to sell now, I’m just curious, I’m lonely and will waste your time talking about nothing).

7. UX

UX — or user experience — is the key to encouraging customers to embrace your technology. If you’re not making it easy and fun for prospects and clients to use all the aforementioned technology, they will disengage. Apps, websites, and other touch points need to be designed for visually pleasing and ridiculously simple navigation. Ask your grandma to “drive” your site or app and you’ll quickly realize how cumbersome it is. Now go test out some of the 2016 Webby Award winners, such as Virgin America. You’ve got some work to do, don’t you?

The landscape is changing in front of you, and the longer you wait to employ new technology to market your business, the less relevant you will become. As an agent or a brokerage, getting ahead in this business depends on your ability to get ahead of technology. So whether you throw yourself into all seven of these assets or utilize a few, you’ll be taking definitive steps to a stronger 2017 and beyond.

Credit to Chris Rediger

Chris Rediger is president and co-founder of Redefy Real Estate, heading all operations since its inception. Chris also oversees Redefy’s rapid expansion and continues to develop and deploy its software infrastructure. He has been in finance and real estate for the last 10 years. As an agent and investor, he has been involved in over 500 real estate investment projects.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us:

2017 Home Design Trends

Housing styles emerge slowly and typically appeal first to cutting-edge architects, builders, and interior designers. As a trend spreads and gains wider interest, it may go mainstream, become almost ubiquitous, and eventually lose its star power. Just look at once-favored granite, which now has been replaced by the equally durable and attractive options of quartz and quartzite.

The economy, environment, and demographics always play a big role in trend spotting. But this year there are two additional triggers: a desire for greater healthfulness and a yearning for a sense of community.

1. Community Gathering Spaces

Why it’s happening: The combination of more time spent on social media and at work and the fact that fewer people live near their family members has caused many to feel isolated and crave face-to-face interactions.

How it will impact you as a real estate pro: Multifamily buildings and even single-family residential developments are rushing to offer an array of amenity spaces to serve this need. Some popular options include clubhouses with spiffy kitchens, outdoor decks with pools and movie screens, fitness centers with group classes, and drive-up areas for food-truck socials. At its Main+Stone building in Greenville, S.C., The Beach Co. began hosting free monthly events such as its “Bingo & Brews.” Make sure you know which buildings, communities, and neighborhoods offer these sought-after social events and gathering spaces so you can help clients connect.

2. Taupe Is the New Gray

Why it’s happening: White remains the top paint color choice due to its flexibility and the fact that it comes in so many variations (PPG Paints has 80 in its inventory, according to Dee Schlotter, senior color expert). Though white has been upstaged by gray in recent years, this year many will be searching for a warmer neutral, which is why paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams named “Poised Taupe” as its 2017 Color of the Year. “Poised Taupe celebrates everything people love about cool gray as a neutral, and also brings in the warmth of a weathered, woodsy neutral and a sense of coziness and harmony that people seek,” says Sue Wadden, the company’s director of color marketing.

How it will impact you: Dallas-based designer Barbara Gilbert considers taupe a smart alternative since it still performs as a neutral with other colors, cool or warm. She expects to see taupe on more exteriors — blending well with roofs, doors, window frames, and surrounding landscape — but it also will turn up indoors on walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, furnishings, and molding. It might even work to help update a listing clad in gray, she says, as the two colors work well together.

3. More Playful Homes

Why it’s happening: Americans work harder now than ever, with many delaying retirement or starting second careers, so they want their homes to be a refuge and a place to unwind.

How it will impact you: Be sure you’re asking buyers how they like to spend their free time. Spaces that encourage play are trending higher on their wish lists, whether it’s a backyard bocce court (the latest outdoor amenity to show up in residential backyards) or a putting green. And sports don’t have to be relegated to the outdoors. says Gilbert; technological advances have allowed for rapid improvement in indoor golf simulators, for example. While some of her clients have installed modest models, she’s working on a dedicated golf room with software that gives homeowners virtual access to any golf course in the world. Though landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture in Southampton, N.J., designs putting greens with synthetic grass that range from $12,000 to $30,000, he also notes he’s seeing more playfulness outdoors in the form of non-sports amenities, such as pizza ovens.

4. Naturally Renewable, Warmer Surfaces

Why it’s happening: The pervasiveness of technology throughout homes has resulted in a corresponding yearning for more tactile surfaces and materials that convey warmth. Natural cork is a perfect expression of these needs, with the bonus of being low-maintenance.

How it will impact you: In recent years, cork, a renewable material harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, has resurfaced as a favorite for myriad uses, and for good reason. Some credit designer Ilse Crawford’s introduction of cool, edgy cork pieces in her “Sinnerlig” collection for IKEA for the resurgence. Aside from aesthetics, the material is appealing since it’s resistant to mold, mildew, water, termites, fire, cracking, and abrasions. Moreover, cork can be stained and finished with acrylic- or water-based polyurethane. Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange likes to incorporate cork to clad walls and floors. “It’s an especially effective and forgiving choice since dents bounce back and floors retain heat,” she says.

5. Surface-Deep Energy Conservation

Why it’s happening: As energy costs continue to increase, the search is on for ways to save. Incentives to do so only increase as states and municipalities enact new, stricter energy codes. While energy-wise appliances and more efficient HVAC systems are still appealing to homeowners looking to save on their utility bills, less costly surface upgrades are gaining in popularity.

How it will impact you: After New Jersey increased its requirements for insulation, architect Jason Kliwinski, principal at Designs for Life and current chair of New Jersey’s AIA Committee on the Environment, went looking for new options. He found new low-E window film that can double the performance of glass at one-fifth the cost of a full window replacement. Several options for this film are on the market now, and Kliwinski says manufacturers such as EnerLogic are producing versions that are invisible when installed. Other surface-change artists that lower energy use and that are cost-effective and relatively easy to apply include a ceramic insulating paint coating for walls and a thermal energy shield for attic interiors. Tesla, the innovative manufacturer of electric cars, is just debuting solar glass tiles that resemble traditional roof materials such as slate and terracotta, but provide passive heat gain.

6. More Authentic, Personalized Use of Space

Why it’s happening: As home prices escalate — up 5.5 percent, according to CoreLogic Case-Shiller — and baby boomers downsize to retire or cut costs, every inch of available space counts more than ever. To make the best use of space for each resident, design professionals are zeroing in on how clients want to live rather than thinking about how people use space generically. “One size doesn’t fit all any longer,” says Mary Cook, whose eponymous Chicago-based design firm specializes in amenities, public spaces, and model home interiors.

How it will impact you: You and your clients are likely to see a greater variety in terms of layouts, building materials, home systems, color palettes, and furnishing choices, both in model homes and in houses staged for sale. Listing agents can take the cue from this trend by helping sellers highlight the flexibility of their spaces when putting a home on the market. Buyers’ reps should similarly showcase a range of living options in each home-shopping session.

7. The Walkable Suburb

Why it’s happening: Urban centers have long been a magnet for residents wanting to walk rather than drive to work, shopping, and entertainment. But the trend is now spreading to the suburbs where being close to a town center — and public transit into a larger city — offers similar appeal.

How it will impact you: A high walk score has become a recognized real estate marketing tool. Real estate salesperson Stephanie Mallios of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Short Hills, N.J., has seen a huge uptick in interest and value in single-family homes and townhouses close to town centers, especially those near a train station if residents commute to a large metropolitan area. “Most homes for sale in my area list the number of blocks and steps to public transit in their marketing materials. Homes far from everything have become less valuable,” Mallios says. The most appealing towns also incorporate individually owned shops rather than chain stores.

8. Healthier Homes

Why it’s happening: Consumers have been increasingly aware of hazardous indoor environments over the last few years, but news of the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich., raised awareness to a nationwide level in 2016. Homeowners are actively seeking out healthy water supplies, purifiers, and HVAC systems, along with nontoxic paints and adhesives. A newer element to this trend in 2017 will include enhanced environmental testing.

How it will impact you: A growing number of builders, remodelers, architects, and interior designers expect health to influence their business decisions due to consumer demand, according to studies from both the Urban Land Institute and McGraw-Hill Construction. You should expect to see more buyers hiring health experts to examine listings and requiring in-home contaminant removal prior to a sale. Your clients will also have greater access to additional home products that promote healthy sleep patterns, such as those featuring UV and LED circadian lighting.

9. Shifting Hearths

Why it’s happening: The traditional log-burning fireplace has lost some appeal as homeowners realize it’s less energy-efficient and can send more particulates into the air. But there are a number of replacement options waiting in the wings.

How it will impact you: Homeowners have been switching out their log-burning fireplaces with new gas models for many years. Newer on the market are the ventless alcohol-burning fireplaces that can be placed almost anywhere and without costly construction, says Los Angeles–based designer Sarah Barnard. Another increasingly popular solution is to build a fireplace outdoors, according to landscape architect Chepurny.

10. Counter Options

Why it’s happening: Much like granite did, quartz and quartzite are predicted to be kitchen favorites until another material comes along. But other green laminate options are gaining in popularity, and they’re no longer just for the budget-minded consumer.

How it will impact you: A new countertop can make a big difference in the appeal of a room. Sally Chavez, senior product designer at Wilsonart in Temple, Texas, which manufactures engineered surfaces, says laminate options that mimic stone, wood, distressed metal, and concrete are gaining in popularity. But she recommends avoiding designs that include the “spots and dots” or speckled patterns from decades past. Some newer countertop options offer an additional perk: They lessen the time and cost of installation and also eliminate the need to discard the old countertop. Trend Transformations, an Italian manufacturer with a U.S. manufacturing facility, incorporates recycled granite, glass, and even seashells in its surfaces, which are installed over an existing countertop. Installation can be finished within a day, and prices are competitive with quartz and quartzite. Because these countertops are less porous than traditional stone, they’re also more resistant to stains and scratches.

11. The Transforming Office

Why it’s happening: Regular work-from-home time among the non–self-employed population has grown by 103 percent since 2005, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego–based research and consulting group focused on workplace change. Her organization estimates that number will continue to grow at between 10 percent and 20 percent a year.

How it will impact you: More of your clients are likely to need a work-from-home space, but due to the diminished size and highly transient nature of technology tools, there’s less need for a dedicated, separate office. Brad Hunter, HomeAdvisor’s chief economist, says almost any area of a house can become a workplace, but the most functional ones incorporate built-ins and furnishings that serve a dual purpose. That same desire for flexibility may someday translate to layouts that can easily change to a homeowner’s whim, such as the KB Home ProjeKt movable wall concept in its “Home of 2050” at the Greenbuild Conference and Expo this past October

 

Credit to Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
Please follow and like us: