Tag Archives: tips

Spring and Summer Energy-Saving Tips

by energy.gov

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Here you’ll find strategies to help you save energy during the spring and summer when the weather is warm and you are trying to keep your home cool. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the spring and summer. For more ways to stay cool while saving energy, check out our Energy Saver 101 infographic, covering everything you need to know about home cooling.

If you haven’t already, conduct an energy audit to find out where you can save the most.

Also check out tips to save energy during the fall and winter.

Use Your Windows to Gain Cool Air and Keep Out Heat

  • If you live in a climate where it cools off at night, turn off your cooling system and open your windows while sleeping. When you wake in the morning, shut the windows and blinds to capture the cool air.
    • Learn more about natural ventilation.
  • Install window coverings to prevent heat gain through your windows.
    • Find out about window treatments and coverings that can improve energy efficiency.

Operate Your Thermostat Efficiently

  • Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
  • Keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lower the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature.
    • Find out how to operate your thermostat for maximum energy savings.
    • Also see the ENERGY STAR® June 5, 2008, podcast for video instructions on operating your programmable thermostat
    • Or see ENERGY STAR’s guidelines for programmable thermostats.
  • Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.

Use Fans and Ventilation Strategies to Cool Your Home

  • If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
    • Learn more about using a ceiling fan to increase cooling efficiency.
    • Find ENERGY STAR ceiling fans.
  • Turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room. Remember that fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind chill effect.
  • When you shower or take a bath, use the bathroom fan to remove the heat and humidity from your home. Your laundry room might also benefit from spot ventilation. Make sure bathroom and kitchen fans are vented to the outside (not just to the attic).
    • Find ENERGY STAR ventilating fans.

Keep Your Cooling System Running Efficiently

  • Schedule regular maintenance for your cooling equipment.
    • Learn about operating and maintaining your air conditioner, evaporative cooler, or heat pump.
  • Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
    • Learn additional tips for operating a room air conditioner efficiently.
  • Vacuum registers regularly to remove any dust buildup. Ensure that furniture and other objects are not blocking the airflow through your registers.

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Don’t Heat Your Home with Appliances and Lighting

  • On hot days, avoid using the oven; cook on the stove, use a microwave oven, or grill outside.
  • Install efficient lighting that runs cooler. Only about 10% to 15% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat.
    • Learn more about your options for efficient lighting.
    • Find out when to turn off your lights.
    • Purchase ENERGY STAR lighting products.
  • Take advantage of daylight instead of artificial lighting, but avoid direct sunlight.
    • Learn more about strategies for efficient daylighting.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Consider air drying both dishes and clothing.
    • Learn more about efficient dishwashing and laundry.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
    • Learn more ways to reduce your hot water use.
  • Minimize activities that generate a lot of heat, such as running a computer, burning open flames, running a dishwasher, and using hot devices such as curling irons or hair dryers. Even stereos and televisions will add some heat to your home.
    • Learn more about avoiding heat buildup in your home.

Keep Hot Air from Leaking Into Your Home

  • Seal cracks and openings to prevent warm air from leaking into your home.
    • Learn more about air sealing new and existing homes.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
    • Find how to select and apply the appropriate caulk.
    • Learn how to select and apply weatherstripping.
    • Find out other ways to improve the energy efficiency of your windows.

Lower Your Water Heating Costs

Water heating accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home.

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.

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10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer

beach scene in st. peter-ording / germany

If you don’t have an A/C unit, want to keep your electricity costs down, or simply don’t trust your property’s outdated cooling system to work efficiently, we’ve put together the top simple and affordable tips for keeping your house cool this summer.

  1. Switch your ceiling fans. Change your ceiling fan setting so the blades turn counter-clockwise in the summer. This seasonal fan adjustment will force air down into the room creating a windchill effect, that will make the room feel cooler (even if it isn’t). Check out this video for how to easily change your ceiling fan’s direction of rotation.
  2. Change Your Bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs turn about 90 percent of the electricity they use into heat, and only 5 to 10 percent into light. By switching to fluorescent, compact fluorescents or LED lightbulbs your lighting systems won’t be adding unwanted heat inside your home. Plus these types of bulbs last longer and use less energy so you’ll be saving money in the long run beyond your cooling bill. Not sure you want to commit to higher priced LED bulbs, Lloyd Alter provides a great explanation of the different types of LEDs and his experience converting his home to 100% LED lighting for treehugger.com.Electrical bulb, white light isolated
  3. Turn off the lights. Even better than changing your lightbulbs, try to use as little artificial lighting as possible. The longer days means you can rely on natural sunlight to see throughout the day. So flip the switch when you leave a room and let daylight be your guide during your summer activities.
  4. Unplug electronics. Although seemingly minimal, your electronics still use electricity when they are plugged in and not turned on. Try unplugging your tv, chargers and computers when they aren’t in use, to avoid the passive heat generation.
  5. Don’t touch Your stove – It’s time to get creative with your summertime meal prep. Using your stove or oven in the summer can significantly increase the inside temperature of your house. After all the work you’ve spent trying to keep hot air from coming inside, why would you reverse it by making heat source from within.There is a reasons grilled foods are associated with summer, so it’s time to fire up the bbq. For stovetop cooking, try using an electric skillet setup outside for easy cooking options. You can essentially make anything that you would saute or pan fry in an electric skillet without ever needing to touch your stove. If you don’t have an outdoor patio to keep the heat outdoors, instead of cooking on skillet, you can try using your slow cooker at night, so the appliance is on during the coolest part of the day, resulting in minimal house heating.
  6. Install Blackout window curtains. Keeping your blinds or curtains closed during the summer essentially prevents your home from becoming a miniature greenhouse, especially if you have a south- or west- facing windows. Adding blackout curtains to your windows can provide additional protection for keeping the heat out during the summer. The Department of Energy claims that, “Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%. Check out more elaborate energy-efficient window treatments for keeping out summertime heat at Energy.gov.
  7. Consider Outdoor Window Treatments. Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside the window during the summer to stop 60 to 80 percent of the sun’s heat from getting to the windows.  If you rent your property, make sure to check with your landlord or HOA about allowable outdoor window coverings.
  8. Open Up the Windows (at night). You can help get rid of unwanted heat through ventilation if the temperature is lower outside than it is inside. To facilitate ventilation, window fans should be located on the downwind side of the house facing out. A window should be open in each room. Interior doors must remain open to allow air flow.
  9. Try this fan hack. Fill a mixing bowl with ice (or something equally cold, like an ice pack or ice block) and position it at an angle in front of a large fan, so that the air whips off the ice at an extra-chilled, extra-misty temperature. Trust us: it’s magic.Put a block of ice (in a pan big enough to catch the melted volume of water) in front of the fan. Makeshift air conditioning!
  10. Tint your windows. If you don’t want to commit to new window treatments or hate the idea of keeping the outdoors out of view all summer long, try a temporary tinting solutions for your windows. Gila makes window film that clings to your window as a temporary heat reducing fix.

Credit to  Kaycee

Kaycee manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct, bringing a unique perspective to the world of property management and proudly shares industry news, products, and trends within the community. More from this author.

 

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Tech Secrets from Rising Real Estate Stars

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Online reviews aren’t just for restaurants; they are equally useful for real estate marketing. They also happen to be Kimberly Sethavanish’s secret weapon.

Sethavanish, a salesperson at Century 21 Alliance in Santa Rosa, Calif., has gained three listings from clients finding her positive reviews on Yelp. After each transaction, Sethavanish asks her clients to share their experience with her services and, for the most part, they are happy to help. And best of all, these highly persuasive online reviews are free.

“If you’re not putting yourself out there, you’re not able to be found. That’s worse than anything else,” says Sethavanish, a member of REALTOR® Magazine’s 2016 class of 30 Under 30.

For this year’s 30 young entrepreneurs, technology and online tools are a way of life in their business, keeping them connected to clients and organized at the office and helping to smooth out any bumps in the road to a successful transaction.

We asked a few of the 30 Under 30 honorees to share the tech tool that keeps them on track. Here’s what we found:

They’re Paperless

In addition to online reviews, Sethavanish is also a fan of DocuSign because it helps cut the response time in her hot seller’s market. “I’ve seen it make or break a sale,” she says. “With DocuSign, you can get your counteroffer in before someone else does.”

Several other 30 Under 30s also attest to the benefits of electronic signatures.

Shari Anhorn, CRS, GRI, team member and broker-owner at Brokers 12 Inc. in Minot, N.D., has been using DocuSign, a REALTOR Benefits® Program partner, since 2011, putting her among the first agents in Minot to use electronic signatures.

“This is rural North Dakota, and to be able to have a seller or buyer who is two hours away sign a document from afar is tremendous,” she says. What’s more, many of her clients are military personnel who have to purchase property sight unseen, and DocuSign has eased the process, Anhorn says.

But some 30 Under 30 members are careful not to assume every client knows how to use even the most basic technology.

The market that Diego Espinoza-Martinez, salesperson with Keller Williams Realty-Tulare in Visalia, Calif., serves is largely agricultural and heavily impoverished. While he uses DocuSign with some clients, it’s not always appropriate, he says. Instead, Espinoza-Martinez takes the time to learn his clients’ comfort level with technology and then decides on the appropriate tools for the transaction.

Another tool for going paperless is Genius Scan, available through both the App Store and Google Play. Wade Corbett, CRS, GRI, salesperson with Keller Williams Realty in Raleigh, N.C., is an avid user. “I scan a business card and import it into my database. That way, I don’t have to carry around a bunch of cards,” he says.

Genius Scan can be used to scan forms, receipts, or a multitude of other real estate documents from your smartphone. Save the images as PDFs and email them on the go. You can also export the files to your cloud service of choice, such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

Alexander Parker, also a 2016 30 Under 30 honoree, creates property folders in Dropbox for his clients, where they can share pictures, maps, and other relevant documents. Parker, salesperson with Lord & Stanley Realty in Tallahassee, Fla., is also rarely without his iPad so that he can access files anywhere and look them over with clients in the field.

In San Diego, Sarah Davis, SRES, broker owner of Davis Estates, takes her Surface Pro tablet to every client meeting. “I can take it to a showing and the buyers can sign a purchase order and send it to the listing agent while we’re still in the house,” she says. In California, agents are required to give a copy of the contract to the signer at the time it is signed, so she emails a copy to her clients directly from her tablet.

For software, she uses Microsoft OneDrive for Business, a secure cloud service, for all her transaction files. “It’s safer than email, and if my computer dies, everything is still in the cloud,” Davis says.

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They Work Hard at Staying in Touch

Connie Chung, salesperson with Vanguard Properties in San Francisco, considers herself old-fashioned when it comes to staying in contact with her clients. She prefers dinners and coffee meetings over informal emails. “I can see their facial expressions, hear the tone of their voices, and have them hear mine,” she says.

And when a client needs more attention — when they’ve expressed unhappiness with a property or have an issue that needs to be resolved — Chung says that writing an email is the last thing you should do. “I find it simplifies my life if I pick up the phone, so I can really hear where they are coming from and ask if we can meet for coffee,” she says. “A lot of times, meeting face-to-face takes away any discomfort for both parties.”

On the social media front, she engages with clients and her sphere predominantly through Instagram. “Recently, I was touring a new development. It was great to wear a hard hat and neon vest and post behind-the-scenes photos that a lot of people don’t usually get to see,” she says.

Corbett describes his database as the core of his business, so he uses Brivity, a cloud-based CRM, to stay in touch. “It helps me follow up better and makes me able to utilize my time better,” he says.

Honoree Rebekah Eaton, associate broker with RealtySouth-MB-Crestline in Birmingham, Ala., is always looking for meaningful ways to stay connected to her sphere. So she recently started using BombBomb, a service that helps users produce video greetings that can be shared via email or text. “I take a little time to record a short video saying, ‘Thinking about you.’ And then I send it on. Bam.”

They Prefer to Market in a Meaningful Way

Scott Steadman, a Windermere Real Estate agent in Draper, Utah, uses his real estate blog to tell the story of his clients. “I talk about the family who spent years gathering around the fireplace for birthdays and holidays, and how that room was the place where they felt whole,” Steadman says. “Pairing posts like that with social media always gives my followers a reason to come back to my website for more info.”

Consistency is also key, Steadman says, so he rarely lets more than a few days separate his posts, which cover everything from market trends to before-and-after renovation photos.

Brittany Barsky-Allison, team member with Wydler Brothers in Bethesda, Md., focuses on promoting her business on Facebook in a “fun, organic way.” She creates an advertising campaign for every one of her listings, and she often posts pictures with clients or of homes she’s toured on her personal and business pages. She celebrates each closing with a status update and is frequently “liking” and commenting on her friends’ statuses and photos.

“This has helped me to pick up referrals and create a sense of expertise amongst my peers,” she says. “Brokerages must continue to place more emphasis on the people in the real estate industry and recognize that people buy homes, not computers, robots, or smartphones. Technology strengthens our industry, but people are at the core, and we cannot forget that simple fact.”

Barsky-Allison uses Salesforce.com to track her pipeline and communicate with her sphere of influence. She sends out weekly and monthly emails as well as monthly market updates, and acknowledges the buy or sell anniversaries of her clients by sending a note or gift.

Customer service is a top priority for honoree Jessica Bean, salesperson with Century 21 Price Right in Lewiston, Idaho. That’s why she arms herself with data from NAR’s Realtors Property Resource® before every marketing or listing presentation.

“It’s one of the most integral pieces of my business,” says Bean, who will compare RPR’s detailed reports against her own research on comps as well as the assessed value of a property. The reports also help her make the case that presale updates can make a listing much more attractive.

Bean also notes that RPR can help her craft a competitive offer in the seller’s market that currently defines much of her area. She uses it to help buyers put themselves in sellers’ shoes, explaining how she’d use the RPR data to price the home if she were the listing agent on the property. And finally, Bean loves the fact that she can pull RPR up on her phone on the go: “I literally use it every day in my business. Man, it’s a lifesaver for me.”

 

Credit to Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a consulting editor for REALTOR® Magazine.

 

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Style a Master Bedroom as a Sleep Retreat

There’s big buzz these days about the importance of getting enough Z’s for health, happiness, and productivity. Help clients analyze if a master bedroom can incorporate all the essentials to promote a good night’s sleep.

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Adults spend more time in their bedroom than in any other room in their house. But you wouldn’t know it from the home sales process. Buyers and sellers alike often pay more attention to kitchens, master bathrooms, closets, and yards than they do to this vital space where they will usually spend more than a third of their 24 hours each day.

“Who spends that kind of time in the kitchen?” asks sleep expert Nancy H. Rothstein, founder of The Sleep Ambassador in Chicago, a source for education, consulting services, and resources that optimize healthy sleep.

Yet more attention is being paid to the importance of getting adequate sleep, from high-profile advocates like Arianna Huffington, who recently published her book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time (Harmony, 2016), to medical professionals. “Fewer than six hours [a night] can lead to diseases — a higher rate of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, and even shorter life spans,” says Dr. Susheel Patil, clinical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Medicine in Baltimore.

While there’s no magic figure for the amount of sleep one should get, Patil suggests adults try for seven to eight hours on average. Dr. Michael Breus, a board-certified sleep specialist in Los Angeles known as The Sleep Doctor, uses his household as an example of the variation. “I need between 6 1/2 and 7 hours while my wife needs between 8 and 8 1/2,” he says.

Buyers and sellers alike should strive to furnish a master bedroom that contributes to high-quality sleep. Updating or remodeling the room offers another benefit, says certified color consultant Michelle Mohlere, a salesperson with Gibson International in Los Angeles. A nicely designed bedroom is likely to bring in more money at resale than one without these touches, she says.

Rustic Bedroom In Traditional Farmhouse

Sellers looking to better stage this room will also gain from the following six steps:

1. Stage the bed in a choice spot. Connecticut architect and author Duo Dickinson prefers the bed be set away from the room’s entrance to keep it out of the main circulation path. Kathryn Baker, vice president of design services with Polaris Pacific, a real estate sales and marketing firm in San Francisco, likes to place a bed in a spot so occupants can enjoy the best view — whether that’s inside (maybe toward a fireplace or favorite piece of art) or outdoor (with views of trees or water where possible). Chicago designer Michael Del Piero suggests pairing a bed with an upholstered headboard for those who like to sit up in bed and read; she dresses up the bed with decorative pillows, a duvet, and a throw to personalize it and make it more welcoming to tuck in for sleep.
2. Install the right window treatments. Minimal is the design mantra when it comes to much of the standard room décor today. But while no coverings in some rooms, such as kitchens and living rooms, allows in more light and views, some amount of treatment in a bedroom is needed to block outside light and provide privacy. Del Piero likes to use a blackout shade behind a transparent shade or drapes or a woven wood shade with blackout drapes. Baker favors motorized shades to make opening and closing a task that can be performed from the bed or set by a timer.

3. Use the right lighting. Dickinson discourages installing recessed cans since they chop up a ceiling and aren’t attractive to look at while in bed. He prefers task lighting from lamps on night tables or wall-mounted sconces. Michigan designer Francesca Owings likes hanging one decorative fixture in a ceiling’s center for an aesthetic punch. Sensitive sleepers might appreciate the new Good Night Biological LED bulbs that claim to help regulate a body’s natural circadian rhythm through the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps control sleep and wake patterns, says Breus.

4. Conceal or banish electronics. For years, scientists and health professionals have known about the danger of the blue light that comes from certain electronics equipment and adversely affects melatonin production, says Patil. But only recently have they suggested that you can enhance unwinding and falling asleep by turning off TVs, smartphones, and iPads at least an hour before bedtime. Shutting them off also helps train the brain that the bedroom is primarily a place to sleep rather than stay awake, Patil says. If the temptation is too great, home owners might consider making the master bedroom a no-electronics zone. Baker’s company furnishes model bedrooms in its residential projects without TVs and other electronics technology to demonstrate this idea. “People have responded favorably, and some put TVs in a second bedroom or home office” instead, she says.

5. Pick a soothing palette. Of course, color is a personal preference, but color experts can offer guidelines. “You can’t say one is soothing for all and will make a person feel calm,” says Jessica Boyer, a Chicago designer with Susan Fredman Design Group. Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, says colors that aren’t extreme are more restful. “They’re neither too bold, dark, bright, or intense. Rather, soft and calming,” she says. Designer Kimba Hills of Rumba Style in Los Angeles prefers a palette of pale blues, greens, beiges, grays, and whites for the bedroom. Boyer also likes to bring in bedding in white and light creams because she finds they’re calming. “It’s the equivalent of sleeping in a cloud with nothing to distract me. What’s important isn’t what’s trendy but nurturing,” she says.

6. Add creature comforts. If the room’s size allows, consider adding a chaise, chair and ottoman, and night tables. Also, a large area rug or wall-to-wall carpeting can help deaden noise and provide warmth underfoot, says Owings. If the room is located so it opens directly to the outdoors, play this up. Mohlere says real access to bucolic scenery can contribute to a sense of tranquility even more than just viewing the outdoors can. If outdoor access isn’t possible, check to see that windows are operable for fresh air. Other amenities worth considering: a gas- or log-burning fireplace for coziness, artwork for eye candy, and good storage for tidiness. “Too much clutter is distracting,” Rothstein says.

At the end of the day — or the beginning of a new one — real estate pros can emphasize the master bedroom as one more “fabulous room where you spend time in your new home,” Rothstein says.

Credit to Barbara Ballinger

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

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5 Ways to Green Up Your Business

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Go green and you’ll see more green. Taking measures to make your brokerage more resource conscious and sustainable will result in positive results for your body, your company, and your community. Check out these simple actions we took at my brokerage, TrailRidge Realty in Boulder, Colo., and you’ll see how easy it can be to start implementing a green plan at your office today.

1. Go Digital
What to limit paper waste? There are so many digital platforms available today for document storage that keeping paper files in the office seems like the work of ancient times. Most systems include backup, encryption, and two-step verification for security. Our office uses Google Apps for Work, which provides built-in security to keep out unwanted hackers. We are also subscribe to Google Vault, which automatically backs up all the files my brokerage has stored in Google Drive as well as all company e-mails for up to 10 years. Not only does that protect us against hackers and computer or server malfunctions, but if we accidently delete something important, we can pull it from “the Vault.” Everything is saved in the cloud for longer than we would ever need, and it only costs each user in our office $10 per month. It’s a great service to offer your agents, a huge time saver, and it keeps the cost of paper and printing to a minimum. We no longer have the need for a mega printer that requires a costly maintenance plan.

2. Be Smarter About Property Brochures
While we’re cutting down on paper, let’s examine why we think buyers and sellers want it so much. Agents typically place brochures inside sellers’ homes and on for-sale signs outside. These documents are always the last thing to be replenished, and if there is a price reduction, it can be the devil’s work to remember to make updates – and that leaves the seller feeling their listing is being neglected. The simple solution is to ditch the stack of brochures in favor of just one piece that displays the property website and an invitation to text or e-mail for more information. We usually place a laminated brochure on the for-sale sign in front of the property, and another inside for showings and open houses. We use TrustyText and create a distinct text code for inside the house and a different code outside. That way we can guess if the person requesting information has an agent (inside the house) or is a passerby outside reading the sign who may need an agent. This method helps make sure buyers get the most up-to-date information, sellers aren’t sitting around waiting for replacement brochures, and our company is able to respond accordingly to potential client requests.

3. Turn Off Your Computer
Optimize those computer settings. No machine needs to be left on while you or your agents run out to show a house or see a client. But that doesn’t mean you’ll remember to turn it off before you leave. Check the energy-saving settings to make sure your computer turns fully off after a certain amount of time without use. When printers and computers are on standby they continue to draw power. Consider using a power strip for all devices, including the computer, cell phone charger, speakers, etc. That way you can switch off the power strip without unplugging everything, ensuring that no extra power is being consumed while you are away.

4. Don’t Let Single-Use Coffee Pods Take Over the World
It’s been reported that almost one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee maker. Imagine how that statistic might increase if we add in all the real estate offices that use these single-cup machines. Reports say that more than 3 million disposable coffee pods are used daily. Let’s just imagine what that does to landfills. And most people don’t think about where those plastic pods are made. A quick Google search showed me that the coffee might be placed inside the receptacle here in America, but the plastic mold is likely made overseas. That’s a lot of traveling and even more energy wasted so that we can make one single cup of coffee. Leading the way, Hamburg, Germany has banned single-use coffee pods from government buildings. Let’s follow their example in our real estate businesses and homes. Please, brew drip coffee in your offices and encourage your agents to bring in reusable mugs. Better yet, give them all company-branded travel mugs so they can take their coffee (and your logo) into the field.

5. Can You Walk To Work?
Even though environmentalists suggest that working from home is the greenest alternative to a commute, I know this isn’t possible for many real estate professionals. While it works for some, I can say that my level of success doesn’t happen working at home. I operate an office in the heart of our community and neighborhood – I also chose a location for TrailRidge Realty that’s close enough to home so that I can walk to the office. At first I thought it might disrupt my day if a client called and needed to see a house while I was walking to or from the office. However, I find that it takes about 20 minutes total to walk home and get my car if needed, which is easily factored into my commute. I’m reducing my carbon footprint, spending less on gas, and burning more calories all at once.

 

Credit to Leanne Goff

Leanne Goff is the broker-owner of  TrailRidge Realtyin Boulder, Colo. She was named Distinguished REALTOR® in 2015 and given the President’s Award in 2013 by the Boulder Area REALTOR® Association. Leanne also completed her master’s degree in real estate through REALTOR® University in 2016.

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3 Things You Should Do Before Applying for Your First Home Loan

By Catherine Alford

loan

Buying your first house is such an exciting time. You’ve finally decided not to send a rent check to someone anymore, and you’re now off on a journey to get something all your own. Sometimes getting your first home loan can be a challenge, though. Not everyone will qualify for a mortgage or be ready to make the payments on their first home.

However, there are a few things you can do before starting the home search process to make sure your finances are in order so that you have the best chance of securing a home loan at a great rate.

Here they are:

1. Pull Your Credit Report

You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Before you look at any houses, be sure to pull this report. If you are planning to purchase a house with your spouse, they should pull their credit report too.

When you get your credit report, look for any adverse accounts that may cause a lender to disqualify you from a home loan. See if you can settle any outstanding debts or fix any errors that may be on your account. According to a Federal Trade Commission study, at least one in five people have errors on their credit reports that could affect their ability to get the best loans, so be sure to scan your report thoroughly. Does every account on your report match one you currently have? Is there something on there you don’t recognize? If so, send a letter to the credit bureau and ask them to make corrections. This can help improve your credit score, which will make you a more desirable borrower to mortgage lenders.

2. Increase Your Savings

When you apply for your first home loan, your lender will ask you for copies of all of your bank statements. They want to know how much money you currently have in your accounts. You should be genuine about this because you’ll have to explain any amount that you have in your accounts that is unusually large.

The best thing you can do is to prepare for this by increasing your savings. Work extra jobs, have a big garage sale, or cut back on your expenses and save the difference. All of this is good because you’ll want to save a large down payment as well so that you can own a large portion of your home from the beginning. A sizable down payment also helps to keep your monthly payment low.

3. Shop Around for a Mortgage Lender

When it comes time to get a mortgage, you shouldn’t go with the first lender who offers you a loan. Instead, email or call several lenders to get pre-approved for your mortgage. When you go through this process, you can see how well you work with each of the lenders, how responsive they are, and if you think they’ll help you moving forward with your loan. These lenders will often offer different interest rates and terms, and they will often have different fees. So, if you shop around, you’ll be more likely to get the best possible mortgage for you.

Ultimately, buying your first home is a very exciting time, but to ensure that the process goes smoothly, it’s important to do your research, make sure you are financially ready, and shop around for the best loan for you.

Credit to  Catherine Alford

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Let Your Tenants Paint, but with 4 Specific Conditions

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Landlords often paint their properties in shades of white or gray, which are great colors to choose because they are easy to maintain, and they make rental units easier to show.

Your renters, however, might prefer more vibrant and interesting colors in the place they call home and might wish to repaint. Is it ever appropriate for tenants to take the job upon themselves? If you agree to let your tenant change the paint color, who should pay for it?

1. Tenants Should Always Check with You First

Color harmonization can improve a person’s life. But even so, this is not a basic human right or need.

If your tenant paints without your blessing, you can deduct from their security deposit the amount it will cost to repaint, assuming they don’t return it to the original color before departing.

It’s wise to have a paint policy in your lease to make sure there are no surprises. If you allow your tenant to paint, here are some ways to go about it:

  1. Discuss a color
    Pick a suitable color scheme consisting of one or two hues. Sometimes, a tenant will feel as if it’s a vast improvement to simply change the color of a single wall.
  2. Go pro
    Consider hiring a pro to make sure the job is done right. If you do the work yourself, put extra care into protecting the floors and woodwork. If you let your tenant paint, you can deduct any money spent toward cleanup needed when they move out.
  3. Don’t paint wood
    Avoid painting woodwork and other surfaces that haven’t already been painted and that would have to be stripped to restore them to their previous unpainted state.

There is a good chance you’ll have to restore the original colors when your tenant moves out, but if you do an excellent job that significantly improves the look and feel of the unit, you might be able to rent the place with the new colors.

2. You Can Veto a Color

If your tenant feels out of place because of the color scheme, don’t laugh. The colors in a home can affect a person’s moods and overall sense of wellbeing. However, that doesn’t mean you should allow a tenant to paint the kitchen red. Reds and pinks are some of the most difficult colors to cover up.

Feng Shui and Color

Color plays an important part in the ancient Chinese art of space harmonization — or Feng Shui — and many interior decorators use Feng Shui principles to balance energies in the home. Color harmonization at home can help your tenant relax while boosting concentration. It can also enhance social interactions by helping visitors feel more comfortable.

Balancing the Elements

Although landlords and real estate agents think of white and gray as neutral, Feng Shui practitioners don’t. Both colors represent metal, and they give a space a sharp or crisp quality. Earth and wood tones, water colors (such as blue), or the reds and oranges of fire could be more relaxing, inspiring, and generally beneficial for your tenant.

3. Do a Good Job

Few tenants are professional painters, and even if you like the colors your renters use, you may not be happy with the workmanship.

But if you do allow them to paint anyway, here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge good work
    Recognize a good thing when you see it. If your tenants do a professional job, and the colors are attractive, don’t be too set on going back to neutral colors when they leave. Reward the tenants for their good work with a full refund of their painting deposit if you plan to leave the paint as is.
  • Allow them to nest
    Tenants are more likely to stay if they feel they have the freedom to decorate according to their taste, and they save you the trouble of having to do the painting yourself, which is part of regular maintenance.
  • Put it in writing
    Get a written agreement before allowing your tenants to paint. Among other things, the agreement should stipulate if and how the tenants are reimbursed if they pay for materials and labor.

With a few exceptions — notably New York City — no state or local laws require landlords to repaint when a tenant moves out. It’s important to know, however, that some small-claims courts have considered periodic repainting a condition of habitability in the case of long-term tenancies. That’s an incentive to give the green light (or the lime light, or maybe the emerald light) to tenants with the motivation to do the job themselves.

4. Make Them Pay for All (or Some) of It

For some landlords, it’s a standard practice to repaint between tenancies, and once a rental is occupied, the paint job can be expected to last for at least a year. If you select quality tenants and choose quality paint, you won’t have to repaint for three to five years.

If tenants wish to repaint during the first few years of occupancy, it’s reasonable to expect them to pay for paint and materials. Over the years, paint ages and loses its luster. Repainting then becomes a maintenance issue, and responsibility reverts to the landlord. Every material, including paint, has a natural life expectancy.

A willingness on the part of both landlord and tenant to negotiate is always beneficial.

A common solution is for you to purchase the materials and the tenant to contribute their time and labor (as long as they do a good job).

 

Credit to Chris Deziel

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

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4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

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One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

These days, universal design features are an everyday fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

As we remodel our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I have incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs $12 to $25; you’ll pay $25 to $50 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $3 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $25 for a set of three-way switches.

3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15 to $50) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($30 to $50) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($80 to $170) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

 

Credit to John Riha

John Riha has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

 

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3 Simple Steps to Building a Referral-Based Business

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With 20+ years working in the real estate sector, most of my best (and favorite) clients have been the result of someone else’s referral.

In any given year, 85% – 90% of my business is directly attributed to referrals. Imagine what your business would be like if every day your phone rang or your inbox received new messages from people who already trusted you because they heard great things about you?

It’s called building a referral-based business and it’s easier than you might think! Here are 3 tips that have helped me build a referral-based business that thrives.

Tip 1:  The Relationship

The relationships you build with your clients are vital to your business. Most agents and investors tend to focus more on the transaction rather than the relationship with the other parties involved with the deal. Transactions come and go, but relationships can last for an entire career and beyond.

Building trust, keeping the client’s best interest at heart and doing the right thing is the foundation for building a lasting relationship. It’s easy to feel compelled to get the latest tool or gadget that will solve all of your lead-generation problems. The issue with this approach is that most real estate professionals fail to develop lifelong relationships that can result in far greater business success over the long term. While many buyers go online to search for properties, the majority of them will be happy to continue working with the person who provided them a great service and opportunity in the past, not a stranger who electronically reached out to form an e-relationship.

Tip 2:  Build a Reputation People Can Count On.

When someone refers a friend, family member or colleague to you, they need to be assured you are going to provide the level of care that they were promised – so it’s important that you build your reputation around what you can deliver.

Building a reputation can be as easy as just doing what you say you’ll do. When you commit to a task and follow through, it builds trust. It is important to note that you must be consistent and don’t over-promise. If you commit to something, you must see it through or risk losing trust. Most people are quicker to share a bad experience than a good one, so you must understand your capabilities and act in accordance with them. If you’re not able to help, offer them a solution or refer them to someone who can.

Tip 3: Stop Prospecting and Start Cultivating

How should you spend your marketing time and effort? The answer is simple: build relationships, serve your customers and ask for referrals.

When you focus your attention on your relationships, generating leads is more fun too! You’ll look forward to picking up the phone to chat with them and you’ll enjoy taking them to lunch. Lead-generation won’t be a chore, but an opportunity to connect with some of your favorite people. What better way to replicate your best clients than by spending time with them? Here are some ways I have found success in generating referrals:

  • Make the call. Sometimes there is a specific reason for a follow-up call with a past client, but often you are just calling to check in and talk about the market or a home you saw on caravan. So many times I’ve made impromptu calls and heard them say, “I was just thinking about you, my friend is planning on selling”. It is a win-win and I am more than happy to take the information and follow-up. The important thing is that you are calling to remind them you are still there. If someone doesn’t hear from you, they’ll assume you’ve moved on. It’s the single most important reason for the call.
  • Write a hand-written note. Set a goal for how many notes you want to write each day and write your daily notes before you check your email. A good hand-written note only needs to be two or three quick sentences… simple phrases like “Thinking of you today” or “It was nice talking with you” will suffice! Everybody appreciates a handwritten note.
  • A short visit to your key referral sources. For example, in the autumn season, you can drop by with a pumpkin carving kit. Over the Fourth of July, you can bring a BBQ item or an American flag. The point is for you to get face-to-face time with your current and potential clients and when you’re working by referral, face-to-face communication is the best by far.

So there you go – 3 tips that can help you build a business that levels out the peaks and valleys of real estate sales. Before I sign off, I will say that it is important to set goals and stay at it. Implementing a referral-based business takes time, so track your activities and be consistent with your prospecting. These efforts will help you achieve your goals and before you realize it, daily lead-generation, client calls and handwritten notes will become part of your subconscious.

 

Credit to Kathleen Finnegan

Kathleen Finnegan brings more than twenty years of selling real estate, office management and investment ownership to her role as real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Calabasas.

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8 Tips for Real Estate Investing Success

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As you prepare to become a successful real estate investor, I encourage you to take the following tips into consideration. They have helped me greatly as I have navigated my way through the world of real estate–and life in general. I hope these tips will make just as big of an impact on your life as they have had on mine.

Tip #1: Create a game plan.

Decide what you want to accomplish and outline the steps that you must take to get there. Who will be involved? How will you meet them and gain their cooperation? How much time will it take? Where will you find this time? How much will it cost, and where will you get this money? What’s the risk? How will you handle it?

This plan will serve as your guide each day, so you need to get it right. That brings us to the next tip…

Tip #2: Have an expert review your plan.

The first real estate investing plan I created involved me single-handedly buying 100 houses in a year. And it listed several different marketing strategies that were completely cost ineffective. I had a friend of mine (who isn’t even involved in real estate) review the plan, and he said it looked good. How silly of me!

About eight months into working this over-reaching and misguided plan, I had an expert investor review it. He tore it apart, and together we reconstructed a better plan with more realistic goals (buy 12 houses, not 100) and a more effective marketing plan. 

Shortly thereafter, I bought 6 houses, and I actually felt good about my progress. Six out of twelve feels much better than six out of 100!

Tip #3: Don’t give up.

The life of a new real estate investor is filled with countless highs and lows. You’re on a high when you think you have a property all locked up to purchase, and then you hit a low when it suddenly falls though at closing.

Or you’re on a high when you finally do close on that house, but you hit a low when you hit a 3-week dry spell and it feels like you couldn’t get a seller to agree to your price–even if you paid double.

I hit a personal low when I was jobless and $5,500 in debt from fruitless marketing attempts. But I got up early each morning and worked toward my goal of financial freedom. Even though a voice in my head told me to give up, I never did.

That’s probably the #1 key to success: Don’t give up. Even someone who’s as dumb as a box of rocks will eventually succeed if he doesn’t give up.

Tip #4: Take baby steps.

When you break it all down, big goals, big dreams, and big plans are nothing more than a series of miniature action steps or “to do” items. When you dissect the daily life of a successful investor, you’ll find that he or she does 8 to 12 things each day that are real estate related.

One item might be “Watch DVD #5 in the new investing course I bought.” Another item might be “Call the title company about the name on the warranty deed” or “Meet the inspector at the house on Watson Street.”

All of these little tasks each day add up to what is, or what eventually will be, a large and highly profitable real estate investing operation. So don’t toss that “to do” list by the wayside, thinking that your small efforts today don’t mean much. They mean everything.

Tip #5: Become comfortable with discomfort.

I was actually nervous at the first real estate investing meeting that I attended. I was wondering if I would say something stupid or if I wouldn’t fit in. After all, most of the investors in the room were 40 or 50 years old, and I was 22.

But by the third meeting I attended, I became comfortable with the crowd. Had I quit after the first meeting, I would have missed out on the very information that enabled me to buy so many properties.

I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to success is persisting though uncomfortable situations until they eventually become comfortable. This is where true growth occurs.

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Tip #6: Do what you say you’re going to do.

As a real estate investor, your reputation means everything. They say it’s a small world, but the world of real estate investing is even smaller. So be honest, be courteous, and for heaven’s sake, do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to buy another investor’s house, by golly, you better move mountains–if that’s what it takes–to buy it!

Otherwise, your name will eventually become mud, and you’ll have a tough time buying from not only that investor, but just about every other investor in town. Believe me, I can count at least 10 local investors of the top of my head who I will NOT do business with because their word means nothing. And I know several other investors who won’t deal with them either. You DO NOT want to be black listed.

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Tip #7: Be on time.

Showing up late is just about one of the most disrespectful things you can do to another real estate investor, inspector, contractor, or anyone for that matter. It shows them that you don’t value them or their time, and time is MUCH more valuable than money. Money can be replaced. Time cannot.

When someone shows up late for a meeting with me, they instantly lose credibility. And there are countless other investors who feel the same way I do. On the other hand, when an investor or business associate shows up on time or early, it makes me want to smile, reach out my hand, and strike a win-win deal.

So be on time. You’re much more likely to create trusted allies who can help you along your path to success.

Tip #8: Eliminate certain activities.

I’ll wrap up with one more tip that is closely linked to the first tip, “Create a Game Plan.” That game plan will involve a series of goals and steps or “to do” items that you must follow to become successful. But what many people don’t seem to realize is that for all of these things to happen, certain activities in your current schedule must be REMOVED.

For example, if you’re going to attend two real estate meetings and make five offers per week, what must go? Possibly TV time. Possibly a friendship. Possibly your workout plan. Of course, what has to go is unique to each of us, but you must realize that if you’re an extremely busy person, you’ll have to make some TOUGH sacrifices.

But these sacrifices are only for the short run. If you have to quit your exercise program to have enough time for real estate, for example, then so be it. You can resume in two years after you’ve achieved financial freedom through real estate. And you’ll have more time to exercise than ever.

Early on in real estate, I gave up friendships, exercise, sleep, vacations, and leisure time. How much you give up depends on how quickly you want to become financially independent.

It can be a tough to integrate all of these tips into your daily routine at once. So for now, I encourage you to focus on the one tip that you think can benefit your investing business the most. After you’ve turned that tip into a habit that’s part of your daily routine, then move on to the next. Keep moving forward and never give up, and you’ll be a successful and financially free investor in no time!

 

Credit to Doug Smith

Doug Smith has bought and sold over 40 properties using almost every method–wholesaling, rehabbing, landlording, subject to, lease options, and more. He is the founder and president of MyHouseDeals, a company that provides a constantly-updated list of bargain-priced investment properties in some of the nation’s largest metro areas.

 

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