Tag Archives: homes for sale

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.

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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.

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Top 10 Pain Points for Landlords and How to Fix Them

Rent, property taxes, insurance

Being a landlord can be incredibly profitable, but also very difficult at times.

I don’t know about you, but my properties aren’t exactly on Easy Street.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve experienced many of the issues that plague owners, and cast fear into the hearts of wanna-be landlords.

Through endless reading, trial and error, and tenant feedback, I’ve learned that almost every rental problem has a solution.

Based on my experience, here are the top 10 pain points that most landlords will eventually experience, along with ways to fix or prevent them.

1. Loss of Rent/Income

  • Vacancy
  • Rent Default (Tenant Stops Paying)
  • Tenant Hold-over (Tenant Won’t Leave and Won’t Pay Rent)

Solutions:

  • To reduce vacancy, start listing your units for rent 60 days prior to the end of the current lease.
  • Screen your tenants better – make sure you don’t let a deadbeat or a scammer into your property.
  • Terminate the lease immediately for nonpayment – with proper notice for your state, of course.
  • Learn about your local eviction process, and be ready to file the paperwork immediately after lease termination.

2. Eviction

  • Court Costs of Eviction
  • Strict Legal Rules for Eviction
  • Tenant Retaliation by Damaging the Property

Solutions:

  • Require a large security deposit (1-2 month’s worth of rent, depending on what is allowed in your state) at the beginning of the lease to alleviate potential expenses of court costs and damages.
  • Learn about your local eviction process, and be ready to file the paperwork immediately after lease termination.
  • Include a clause in your lease that mandates court costs and attorney’s fees be paid by the prevailing party.

3. Stress of Property Management

  • Cleanliness of Tenants
  • Unintentional/Intentional Destruction of Property
  • Illegal Drug Use
  • Lawsuits
  • Chasing Down/Collecting Rent
  • Tenants Lying to You
  • Noise and Nuisance Complaints
  • Dealing with Disgruntled Neighbors of Your Rental
  • Police/Domestic Violence Issues
  • Ensuring Tenant Satisfaction
  • Ensuring an Unbiased and Fair Screening Process

Solutions:

  • Find a rock-solid lease and stick to it.
  • Stop by or drive by the property at least once a month.
  • List the tenant’s cleaning responsibilities in the lease.
  • Put everything in writing (or email).
  • Ask the neighbors to call you first, whenever there is an issue.
  • Don’t be afraid to call the police.
  • Find a local landlord-tenant lawyer and build a friendship with him or her, before you actually need an attorney.
  • Use an automated tool, such as Cozy, to accept applications, screen tenants, and collect rent online.

Resized_stress-concept_My8zvkPd_L

4. Stress on Personal Life/Relationships

  • Spouse or Partner Worried About Finances
  • Always Being On-call for Rental Issues

Solutions:

  • Include your spouse or partner in the financial decisions and respect their opinion.
  • Keep a three- to six-month emergency (or vacancy) fund for each property. Yes, it takes a while to build that up, but you’ll sleep better.
  • Ask your tenants to report issues via email or text, which only takes a second to review. If it’s urgent, you can deal with it immediately.

5. Tenant Turnover

  • Trying to Find a New Tenant
  • Cleaning up After a Previous Tenant
  • Feeling of Rejection When Prospective Renters Don’t Want to Rent Your Place
  • Exhaustion from Showing a Unit Week After Week
  • Handling, Storing and Disposing of Abandoned Personal Property

Solutions:

  • When looking for new tenants start early, while the unit is still occupied.
  • List your units for rent 60 days prior to the end of the current lease.
  • Refresh your listing on Craigslist every three to five days.
  • Don’t sweat the clean-up, just hire a maid service and deduct the cost from the deposit (excluding normal wear and tear).
  • Schedule showings back-to-back, every 30 minutes, in a four-hour block on a Saturday. I call this “The Landlord’s Open House.”

6. Repairs

  • Knowing When to Do It Yourself and When to Hire a Pro
  • Finding and Evaluating Qualified Contractors

Solutions:

  • Create a handy tool bucket that you can keep in your trunk.
  • Your rentals will provide great opportunities to learn basic handyman skills, but don’t get in over your head. I’ve made small leaks much worse because I didn’t know what I was doing.
  • Buy an all-purpose DIY book, and skim through it regularly. Keep it in your car, so you always have it nearby.
  • Ask to observe every service professional that comes to your property. You’ll learn a lot through observation.
  • Research contractors on Angie’s List, Handy (formerly Handybook), Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau.

7. Compliance with Laws

  • Obtaining Business Licenses and/or Landlord Registration
  • Understanding Landlord-Tenant State Laws
  • Knowing Landlord vs. Tenant Rights

Solutions:

  • Don’t try to circumvent the government. You may get away with it for a while, but eventually it will catch up to you.
  • Learn your state’s rental laws.
  • Join a local landlord association, rental housing association, or real estate investor association to network with other landlords.
  • Attend landlord training in your city. Landlordology provides free guides and occasional online webinars. Join our newsletter to stay in the loop.

8. Adequate Insurance

  • Insuring Each Property
  • Insuring Against Rental Income Loss and Lawsuits
  • Insuring Your Portfolio

Solutions:

  • You might get a better rate if you insure all your properties with a single provider.
  • Inform your provider that your properties are rentals, and not homeowner occupied (critical!).
  • Sign up for “Fair Rental Income Protection” in your policy to cover the rent during a covered loss.
  • Make sure you have proper coverage.
  • Consider getting “umbrella” insurance to cover excess liability and risk not covered by the individual policies. An umbrella policy will insure your entire portfolio, not just your properties.

9. Leases

  • Finding a State-compliant and Bullet-proof Lease
  • Explaining Lease Clauses to Tenants
  • Knowing Whether or Not Your Lease Will Hold up in Court

Solutions:

  • Use a premium, state-specific lease that has been reviewed by lawyers. It’s worth the investment. Check our toolbox for suggestions.
  • Don’t ever use a “free lease” that you find on the internet. It could cost you thousands in lawsuits.
  • Review your state laws for any required or prohibited clauses.
  • Review the entire lease with the applications before signing.
  • Use online document signing tools, like SignNow, HelloSign, and Docusign, to digitally sign leases remotely.

10. Finances

  • Keeping Track of Security Deposits
  • Calculating Interest on Deposits
  • Commingling Funds

Solutions:

  • Keep the security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing bank account.
  • Open a separate security deposit bank account for each property.
  • Collect and give interest on the deposit money if you are required to by law. If the statutes don’t regulate interest, just give the tenant all the interest that is accrued.

BONUS: Taxes

  • Keeping Track of Income and Expenses
  • Calculating Depreciation
  • Sending out 1099s to Contractors
  • Deciding to DIY or hire a CPA

Solutions:

  • Use an all-in-one property management software that lets you track income and expenses. If not, there are other great tools, like Freshbooks, Excel, and Quickbooks.
  • Property Managers (not landlords) who pay a contractor more than $600 in a given year, must send out 1099s. Some tools like, Buildium and Appfolio can make this task easier.
  • TurboTax can easily prepare and file the taxes for most small landlords. If you have multiple business entities, joint ownership, or tax shelters, then you should probably hire a CPA.
Credit to Lucas Hall

Lucas is the Chief Landlordologist at Cozy. He has been a successful landlord for over 10 years, with dozens of happy tenants and a profitable income property portfolio.

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Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

If you’re tied to your phone all day and night, try these strategies for untethering yourself—even for a little while.

Close-up of a businesswoman sending a text while driving to work

Maria Azuaje admits that she can’t be without her phone. “I tried to turn it off at 8 p.m., but I have never been able to. I’m addicted, completely,” says Azuaje, a sales associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group in Miami.

If you take your phone to bed with you, can’t manage not to peek at it even when you’re with a client, and use it to scan social media whenever you have a minute of downtime, you’re probably addicted to your phone. But what if it starts to affect your business—or your life? Here are some tips to keep your addiction in check:

Shut it down during one activity each day.

Pick a time when you do something routine—eat dinner with family, play with your kids, or take a relaxing bath—and turn your phone off during it. After spending some uninterrupted time focusing on an activity, you might feel refreshed. If you’re really serious about ungluing yourself from your phone, pick a time each night to turn it off until morning. You’ll probably get better sleep.

Turn off the vibrate function.

You probably put your phone on silent when you’re with a client, but you might leave it on vibrate mode. Even when it vibrates, you instinctually reach for your phone, and you don’t want that distraction when you’re conducting business and it sends the wrong message to the person you’re meeting with. Turn the vibrate mode off, put it on silent, and put your phone away when a client needs your full attention.

Disable notifications.

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other app you have on your phone, you could get a new notification of activity every minute. Turn notifications off on your phone so you don’t feel compelled to keep up with every alert.

Create a social media hour.

Set aside an hour each day to focus solely on your social media channels. Even if it’s just to scroll through feeds on your phone for fun, put a time limit on it.

Hire an administrative assistant.

Let this person be the first point of contact for new clients so you’re not constantly fielding phone calls. You can also forward calls from your cell to your assistant during times when you need to minimize distraction. This approach provides callers with immediate attention without interrupting you.

Credit to John N. Frank

John N. Frank is former managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine.

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10 Unconventional Tips To Help Minimize Home Allergies

If you’ve ever experienced coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, a scratchy throat, rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble or an asthma attack, allergies could be to blame. So is there a way to minimize home allergies?  Absolutely but let’s first take a look at the magnitude of the problem.

  • According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), over fifty million Americans suffer from allergies today, including 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.
  • Allergies are among the country’s most common, yet often overlooked, diseases. Since there is no cure for allergies, prevention is key.

10 tips to minimize home allergies

While many people only concern themselves with certain times of the year, for others, “allergy season” is a year-round, dismal reality since allergens can be found indoors and outdoors. Reducing allergens in your home is a great first step towards prevention and optimal health. Your home should be a safe haven where you rest, rejuvenate and recuperate from daily stress and toxic exposures – but what you can’t see – can hurt you. Your home may, in fact, be harboring a broad range of allergy triggers.

From insects and furry companions to toxic, synthetic fragrances in cleaners, air fresheners and candles, it may be difficult to identify the exact source in the home causing your unwanted allergy symptoms. Why not prevent allergens from entering the home in the first place rather than treating or masking allergy symptoms? Awareness and simple action steps can result in profound changes for both your home and your health.

Here are 10 tips to minimize home allergies:

1.) Reduce clutter

Go on a paper cleanse and say sayonara to unwanted piles of  papers, books and magazines lurking in your bedroom, under your bed or in your home office. Keep only what you need, and recycle the rest. The same applies to cluttered shelves, cabinets and closets, which can be breeding grounds for insects, mold, rodents and their droppings.  You’re home will not only look better, you’ll feel better, too.

2.) Change the filters

Since biological contaminants like dust and dirt permeating your home’s air can’t be always be seen, it’s often overlooked. Be sure you are changing the furnace filter for your HVAC (heating and cooling) system every season; or every three months per the EPA’s recommendation. A high performance filter will capture over 95 percent of large airborne allergens such as mold spores, pollen, and dust mite debris from the air passing through it. Not only do these filters help maintain better airflow to reach your desired temperature, but will also reduce energy use resulting in savings on your bill.

3.) Wash linens naturally

Bright colorful linen.

Are you washing your bed linens in HOT water every two weeks (or more)? If not, your beloved bed is likely home to millions of dust mites – ewww! Be sure to wash your sheets and pillowcases in at least 140 degrees (Fahrenheit) to kill those nasty dust mites. You should also be seasonally washing your curtains, comforter, area rugs and duvets. Be sure to use a nontoxic detergent free of synthetic fragrance, petroleum based solvents and optical brighteners. I also recommend vacuuming the top of your mattress with a HEPA, airtight vacuum hose or handheld device. Also, let the sunlight hit your mattress and open the windows when changing your bedding. The sunlight will kill bacteria and absorb the moisture that creates a perfect breeding ground for dust mites.

4.) Bring the fresh air in

Road in a beautiful forest in the morning

Open the windows during non-allergy season to let your home breathe and allow for better circulation and removal of built up toxins, dust and debris. During allergy season, this isn’t always an option. Instead, place low-pollen plants such as Peace Lilies or Swedish Ivy, throughout the home and out of pets reach. In addition to removing CO2 and creating oxygen, these plants have been shown in studies by NASA to remove several toxic chemicals from the indoor air. Plants can gather dust, so it’s important to clean them regularly.

Also, be sure to keep moisture at bay by using exhaust fans after showering and when cooking to vent out particulates. Keep wet towels off the floor and fully dry them to avoid mold and mildew build up. I recommend a mildew resistant shower curtain such those made from hemp. If you live in a high moisture area, consider implementing a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 50 percent.

5.) Snuggle with a mate, not a mite

Since your skin is your largest organ, you want to make sure what you’r sleeping on will prevent unwanted dust mites. In addition to throwing your pillow in the dryer on high heat to kill dust mites (or washing, depending on the material of your pillow), you should definitely use an organic cotton pillow and mattress barrier cover if you have an allergy to dust mites. Avoid plastic barrier covers as these can off-gas dangerous VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the air.

6.) Clean greener

In addition to wet mopping and damp dusting to capture accumulated dust, avoid cleaning products that can agitate allergy symptoms. Instead, make your own from ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. A mixture of baking soda and natural dish soap makes a great tub, tile and toilet cleaner; while two parts water to one part white distilled vinegar can be used for streak-free windows and glass surfaces.

7.) Use an air purifier

If you don’t have a whole house air filtration system, then implementing a stand alone room air purifier is a must! A good unit will not only remove airborne allergens, but will also capture dangerous VOC’s, gases and odors from the air your breathe. Place this in your bedroom for optimal effectiveness.

New technology allows for air monitoring and air purification all in one system. One example is the
Dyson Pure Cool Link that detects and removes harmful pollutants and allergens in the air down to 0.3 microns. It’s an effective and convenient solution to reduce air pollutants and allergens as they emerge.

8.) Choose allergen friendly fabrics

Allergens could be permeating your bedding and wreaking havoc on your health. Some materials and fabrics are prone to harbor allergens, moisture, bacteria and dust mites. Down, for example, is one such material that should be avoided. It’s highly allergenic and the treatment to animals to create down is downright inhumane. Opt instead for wool which naturally wicks away moisture and acts as a natural flame retardant as well as natural (not synthetic) latex which is inherently dust mite resistant.

9.) Bare it on the floor

While it is warm and cozy underfoot, carpet can harbor all kinds of nasty things. Millions of microorganisms and over 120 nasty chemicals can be found in carpet backing, adhesives and the fibers themselves, as well as stain and water resistant treatments that have been applied to the carpet. Wall to wall carpeting is a no-no, especially in the bedroom and wet areas such as laundry and bathrooms. Choose hard surfaced flooring instead such as cork, FSC-certified hardwood flooring, concrete or ceramic tile. If you’re on a budget, look for linoleum or Marmoleum which is made from linseed oil (not vinyl flooring made from PVC which should be avoided at all costs). Carpet, in particular, harbors allergens and should be cleaned thoroughly with a HEPA vacuum and non-toxic cleaner.

10.) Make it a furry-free zone

We all love our animal companions, and many like them soo much they share the same bed. This can create allergic reactions from pet hair to pet dander. Establish rules from the beginning so your pet sleeps in his or her own (organic) bed. Also, you should shampoo and groom your pet with a nontoxic formula to protect their health (and yours).

Credit to Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home expert, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health
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4 Ways to a More Honest Sales Relationship

You’ve got the skills prospects are looking for, but to truly connect with them, you have to stop being a salesperson.

young architect team

What does it take to really connect with someone, to have them feel comfortable with you and truly trust you? Those are the people who will end up your customers for life, and those relationships will open doors to a multiple number of other contacts. But it takes being more than a good salesperson to connect with prospects on that level. Here are four strategies to build a deeper, purer relationship with potential clients.

Connect With Your Client, Not the Other Way Around

Your actions are most natural when you feel relaxed and confident in your own skin, and people can connect to that. But no matter how well trained you are, you’re not in your most natural state when you’re trying to make a sales pitch. Instead of trying to get a prospect to connect with you and your services, sometimes the best way to facilitate actions that are pure is to connect to them first — by listening.

When prospective clients ask me about what I do or how my experience will help them, I usually highlight the most important points of my job, as if I only have 60 seconds with them in an elevator. Then I say, “Before I get into more detail about that, I’d like to explore more about what your goals are.” I always turn it back on them until I have a good understanding of their key needs. Keeping the focus on the client allows you to customize your approach and gives you insight on when to move the conversation forward or back off.

That approach has also helped Lisa Lang, sales associate at Keller Williams Suburban Realty in Livingston, N.J. She says it’s imperative, especially in the beginning of a client relationship, to do more listening than talking. “I need to gain their respect and trust immediately. Otherwise, our relationship will falter,” Lang says. “Listening to them is a must. I have to hear what they have to say and what their needs are, and learn what kind of personality they have. I try to make our first meeting as casual as possible, whether it’s at an open house or at my office.”

Lang lets prospects drive the initial conversation, talking about more than just their real estate needs but also their families, current location, people they are affiliated with, and any common bonds she may share with them. “Once they feel at ease, everything else comes naturally,” she adds. “I never try to be someone I’m not.”

Stop Caring About the End Result

There is a saying I’ve tried to follow that is difficult to understand at first but has tremendous benefits for lasting relationships: “Those who desire nothing possess everything.” Now this doesn’t mean you don’t care for your customers or don’t have goals and dreams. It has to do with getting rid of your personal attachments and working from your true gut; it’s an approach to business and life that’s good not only for your success and peace of mind but also for your customers.

Too much caring and desire for winning get in the way of the performance. Your action is pure and comes naturally without thought. The key is detachment: Don’t think too much about it and just do it. When you don’t care so much about the end result, you can be at ease, and that’s when people feel comfortable around you.

One of my favorite books on this subject is Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams. Hyams tells a story of training with his sensei, who instructed him to punch a baseball mitt the sensei was wearing. As soon as Hyams got ready to punch, he tensed up. His sensei was aware of his intention, and he moved the mitt before Hyams could strike it.

“Relax,” the sensei said, according to the book. “Stop straining. The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” As soon as Hyams relaxed his body and mind, he hit the target.

His sensei told him, “You stopped caring whether you hit or not. It is the caring or desire which stands in the way of effortless effort. You must stop caring about doing it and just do it — effortlessly and naturally as snow falls from the tree or water bubbles up from the spring.”

Eye Contact Is Powerful

We always hear how important it is to maintain eye contact. When you’re making a point or listening to your customer, it enables you to deliver the message with sincerity or see the truth in your customer’s eyes.

“The essence of the [client] relationship is how the transaction begins,” says Hal Maxwell, president of Coldwell Banker in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. “You must build a relationship with trust and understanding immediately. You do that by eye contact, by being honest, by being who you are, telling people the truth and not just what they want to hear. If you’re sitting across from somebody who bought their home, and they paid at the height of the market, you can’t sugarcoat that. You have to tell them the truth, and you have to have something to show them and back it up.”

The truth may make your client angry, Maxwell says, but the anger isn’t directed at you. But your client’s anger will be about you if you tried to hide the truth. “Three or four months down the road, you come back and tell them that they have to do a major [price] reduction, and then they get mad at you because you didn’t tell them the truth up front.”

Maxwell says his company lives by three rules:

  1. No commission is worth your reputation.
  2. Do the right thing.
  3. When you give your word, you keep your word.

Follow Up

This is the glue that keeps the relationship together. Whether it’s a simple handwritten card thanking the individual for their time and business, or specific actions you take to ensure the long-term success of your client. Following up with a client after the sale is critical so they see that you’re there not just for a commission but to make sure they’re satisfied long with their decision.

This often leads to new business, referrals, testimonials, and a solid reputation. Email and other forms of follow-up are key, but an in-person meeting is the most powerful — where body language, eye contact, and a handshake can make all the difference.

“In this increasingly digital world, where email and texting have become the standard for business communication, the personal connection of a call — and, even better, a meeting — is more powerful than ever,” says Brian Stolar, president and CEO of real estate development firm The Pinnacle Companies. “One good meeting can be vastly more effective for finding a resolution to an issue or accomplishing a goal than dozens of digital messages. In important business relationships, a collaborator who knows that and practices it well and often is appreciated.”

 

Credit to Barry Farber

Barry Farber is a radio and television host with expertise in sales and marketing topics, as well as a marketing consultant for corporations, professional athletes, and entertainers. His brand of FoldzFlat® Pens can be used as a tool to break the ice with prospects or to follow up with clients along with a handwritten thank-you note.

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How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

Business man hands holding money

If you have ever been in a situation where you felt confident about getting all of your security deposit back, only to find that you were charged for areas you never even considered checking, this checklist is for you.

The coveted return of the security deposit, at the end of tenancy, can feel elusive to some renters. In fact, according to a Rent.com survey, 1 in 4 renters have not gotten their security deposit back when they expected to. The security deposit is not something that should leave your mind as soon as it’s paid, only to come back around at the end of your lease.

In most cases, a landlord will want to return the full security deposit back to you, because that means there was no damage or extra cleaning that needed to be done to the property. Be sure to be aware of the lease agreement throughout your tenancy, and be active about making sure you’ll get your deposit back. Ensuring that your security deposit is returned can require day-to-day tending to during your time as a tenant.

Follow Rental Agreement: Not all security deposit charges are due to direct abuse of property. Your landlord can charge for any work required to make the property look like it did before the start of tenancy. Additionally, a rental lease will include terms to further prevent property alterations and unauthorized changes to your rental.

Even if you consider a change, like a new paint job or new window treatments, upgrades, your landlord might disagree. If you do not have formal permission from your landlord, you could be charged for the living room’s new paint job, or the hole created to install that new curtain rod you put in.

Other lease-breaking damage charges can be caused due simply to negligence throughout your residence on the property. If you failed to change the air filter in the central air system, causing damage, or you didn’t keep the property clean—thus encouraging bugs, you could face a truncated return at the end of your lease.

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Deep Clean Before Leaving: Even if you factiously clean your rental, there are always problem areas that are left in the dust. Places like baseboards, the tops of cupboards, and under the entertainment center are rarely examined on a daily basis—and even more rarely cleaned.

Furthermore, high traffic areas can start to look dingy and dirty after a few years. Deep clean and pull out all the stops—use a steam mop, get on your hands-and-knees, and use that elbow grease to make your rental shine! Ensuring that your landlord won’t have to pay a professional cleaner because of a mess you leave behind, is a surefire way to increase your deposit return.

Alternatively, consider hiring your own cleaning service before moving. You will probably find a better rate if you contract a professional house cleaner, than if you leave it up to your landlord to find one with your security deposit fees. If you hate cleaning, or don’t feel like spending time scrubbing the floors during the moving chaos this may be the best option for you.

Touch Up Minor Damage: If you have areas with small holes in the wall from nails or screws, touch them up so your landlord does not need to. A landlord faced with minor damages, will also need to consider the time spent repairing them, save yourself the cash (and your landlord the hassle) by making it a non-issue from the start. Apply this same attentiveness to falling or lose hinges on the cupboards, or any other areas that might have small repairs that could be done. Consider this trick from Nestment, about re-caulking your bathroom to instantly make the shower look new again.

Finally, if you do find that you did not receive your deposit back, or only received a portion of the original amount knowing your rights as a renter can help you find out why you were charged. In most states, it is a requirement that the landlord inform their tenant in writing of the charges to your security deposit. If you live in a state that requires it, this required written document can help you learn what damages you need to avoid for the next time you rent, or can ensure that you were not charged for an issue that you shouldn’t have been.

 

Credit to Brentnie

Brentnie is a contributor for Rentec Direct. She occasionally stops by to deliver practical industry tips, providing guidance for tenants and landlords alike.

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How to Take Better Rental Listing Photos

Making photo or video with pad of old street in Tallinn, Estonia

It’s an old cliché, but everyone still loves to say it: “a picture is worth a thousand words” and trust us, when it comes to enticing potential tenants into making inquires, the old cliché rings a lot of truth.

Including quality photos in your rental listings is no longer a courteous extra, it is necessary. No longer are they the cherry-on-top for a listing, photographs of a rental can be the deciding factor in many potential tenants’ eyes.

Quality images of your rental’s best features and could be the difference between finding the perfect tenant quickly, or unneeded vacancies. Knowing this, it’s important to be able to represent your property with the best quality photographs you can.
Check Your Camera Settings

Planning to DIY your way through the rental listings and take your own photos? Be sure to use a camera that has the technology to sufficiently capture your property. Using an outdated and low end camera can cause blurry or grain-filled photos that distract from your rental rather than highlighting its best qualities. Poor images not only fail to highlight your rental’s best features, they express a sense of apathy and a lack of care toward your listing, a considerable deterrent to a potential tenant.

This isn’t to say that you need the finest equipment money can buy, many new cell phones have the capacity to take great images with the right planning. If you use an iPhone or your new smartphone, be sure to change your settings beforehand. Ensure that your camera’s files are not being compressed for storage on your device, and play around with the light settings to find the best representation of what your eyes see in the room.

Pro Tip:Many cameras have settings to input your light source: tungsten, cloudy, sunny ect. (often referred to as ‘white balance’) changing these settings will ensure that your rooms indoors do not look harsh and yellow or blue and dull.

Empty hotel room with king-sized bed

Use Natural Light

While you don’t need a fancy flash or studio light to achieve a nice white and clean image of your property, you do need to be aware of the do’s and do not’s of lighting. It is impossible to showcase your freshly painted white walls, when your photos all look dim and dingy.

To get the best possible look, take your photos in the daytime when you have a lot of natural light to work with. While this may be hard for some rooms or apartments that do not have a lot of windows, eliminate the use of lamps and ceiling lights.

Pro Tip: Open all the curtains, and even doors to make sure your room is as light as possible before taking your picture. This will make your room look brighter, cleaner and even bigger. 

Eliminate Clutter

The best time to take the photographs for your rental is after your normal reinventions and cleanings between tenants have taken place. However, if timing only allows for you to take the images mid-process, make sure to clear out any clutter, or cleaning materials. If your listing is furnished, don’t be afraid to rearrange the room specifically for the photo.

The most pleasing furniture arrangement for the photographs could be different than what logistically works best in day-to-day life—this is okay. Move the couch to new wall to create a new focal point—even if you know most tenants will prefer to face the TV hook-ups adjacent to the couch. As long as you’re not misrepresenting the listing’s assets, feel free to experiment to see ways that you re-arrange items to open the floor space and make the room more inviting.

Pro Tip: Potential renters respond positively to a house that is staged during their rental search process. A staged home is decorated to look its most beautiful for the purpose of selling or renting a house faster. Staged homes allow a person to see what the house looks like when someone lives there. If your house is empty, consider bringing in a couch, side table, flowers and a throw blanket to stage a cozy living room for a photo shoot.

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Get Your Rental’s Good Side

Be sure to capture all the necessary shots: the living area, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms, but be sure to be discerning with what you include. If your rental has particularly beautiful landscaping, be sure to include a photo of just the garden. Was the kitchen newly remolded? Take a close up of the new counters and appliances.

Pro Tip: If you recently purchased top of the line appliance for your rental, it is not necessary to a picture of the appliance logo. You future tenant will appreciate a shot that shows the whole appliance so they can see that is actually new and fits the room nicely.

When to Leave it to the Experts

In some circumstances, despite a working knowledge of your camera, and the best intentions, there can be times when it might be worth it to call a professional. If you are noticing that your photos are not the quality you hoped for, or if you have a lot of rentals, it could be time to pick up the phone and call a photographer who specializes in property listings.

For any owner, the reality is that even the best DIY-er will be outmatched by the quality that a professional can offer, and that can translate to finding a tenant sooner. Extended vacancies can cost you more than a professional’s fee.

Pro Tip: For owners of multiple listings, the time investment required to do it yourself may not be achievable—and you can check around to see who offers a multiple property discount.

The next time your rental is ready to be listed, don’t hesitate to do what it takes to include great photos. By following our simple tricks, you’ll know precisely how to display your listing in the best light possible–literally and figuratively.

 

Credit to Brentnie

Brentnie is a contributor for Rentec Direct. She occasionally stops by to deliver practical industry tips, providing guidance for tenants and landlords alike.

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