Announcing No. 300

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Rob Reuter

By Rob Reuter, YPN Manager

YPN has hit another milestone. On Thursday, Aug. 6 2013, the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association in Florida confirmed the formation of their Young Professionals Network becoming the 300th network of YPN.

In addition to establishing its 300th network, YPN also achieved the following milestones in 2013:

Map of YPN Networks as of August 2013

  • 23 YPN members will be 2014 presidents of their local association.
  • 170 YPN members are RPAC Major Investors so far in 2013.

It’s amazing how far YPN has come in such a short amount of time. But we need to keep going! In an association where the average age is 57, and only 11 percent of total membership are under 40 (according to NAR’s 2013 Member Profile), there is a need for the network to introduce future association leadership and involvement opportunities.

YPN Attendees at NAR’s 2012 Leadership Summit.

The idea of forming the Young Professionals Network grew out of REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30 program as a way to connect young professionals in the real estate industry. In January 2009, local and state associations began to form YPNs, and 17 networks were established by that August. Since then, at least one network has formed every month (with the exception of two months) in the last four years.

In 2011, over 70 YPN chairs and liaisons joined a conference call to answer a question posed to them by NAR’s Leadership Team: Absent of youth, what is the unique competency or perspective that YPN provides to the real estate industry that can’t be duplicated by any other organization?

After an hour of discussion and refinement by the 2011 YPN Advisory Board and association staff, the following value proposition was established for YPN:

The Young Professionals Network is a dynamic entry point for real estate professionals striving to become more successful in their careers and gain leadership experience. By providing this entry point, NAR is building a new, diverse generation of leaders, strengthening members’ affinity for the REALTOR® brand early in their career, and gaining a valuable perspective on generational shifts. YPN’s growth has been driven by REALTORS®. YPN has evolved from a magazine offshoot to a determined, passionate, savvy group of members who use social media effectively and transparently and who are committed to strengthening the REALTOR® brand.

We hope YPN continues to grow and contribute to the betterment of the industry including establishing networks globally.  Look for the announcement of a special YPN initiative in San Francisco at the 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo where we will also be announcing the 2013 Networks of the Year.  Congratulations to everyone involved with YPN on this achievement!

NAR/Realtor.com® Agreement Part 1: Displaying Unlisted New Homes & New Home Communities

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Sam DeBord

By Sam DeBord

The National Association of REALTORS® recently voted to approve updates to its operating agreement with realtor.com® and allow more flexibility for the Web site.  There has been a wide range of reactions from REALTORS®. This blog is part one of my five-part series in which I will discuss the propriety of the agreement.

Let’s start with some background:  NAR does not own the Web site.  It merely owns the domain name, realtor.com®, which it has licensed to Move, Inc. to operate.  Many discussions center on this issue still today. This agreement started in the mid-90s. Whether or not some members liked it, it is a 20-year old moot issue. NAR only owns about 2.5 percent of Move, Inc.  They are merely a marketing partner with whom REALTORS® have regulatory clout because of our ownership of the domain name.

The new agreement between NAR and realtor.com® approves four major changes:

  • Display unlisted new homes and new-home communities.
  • Display unlisted rentals.
  • Obtain listings from entities that are not REALTOR®-owned and controlled, as well as from brokers who are not REALTORS®.
  • Identify properties where a notice of default has been recorded, auctions of distressed properties, short sales, foreclosures, and bank-owned properties. (Listing brokers will have the option to opt out by calling the realtor.com® customer care center.)

Individual consumer FSBOs remain precluded from the site, and the changes will be implemented in a way that preserves realtor.com®’s accuracy advantage, according to Move executives.

NAR directors are members—not some faraway body of executives. The directors who I know are just brokers and agents trying to make the best decisions for our industry. Arguing about all of these issues at once ensures that confusion and disagreement will be the end result. Broken down one at a time, there are some very interesting issues for many different stakeholders that help to explain why the decisions were made. I will look at each issue one-by-one, starting with…

Displaying Unlisted New Homes and New Home Communities

This item flies under the radar of many, but has also drawn some of the sharpest criticism from those who really dug into the meaning of the agreement.  The display of new construction homes often means that “model homes” or “home styles” are being advertised, which draw consumers out to the construction site and, theoretically, directly to the builder.  New construction property ads are often thought of more as just advertising for a community, since the majority of buyers who inquire on that property will actually be sold a different model, different location, etc. when they actually arrive at the community. The attorneys get concerned about the way some people throw around the word listing. An ad on realtor.com® isn’t a listing. It’s a listing if it’s represented by a practitioner and placed in the MLS.

Some members have objected, with the reasoning that new home developers will try to keep REALTORS® out of the process by luring buyers directly to themselves and cutting out the buyer’s representative. This is certainly a valid concern. Most builders are happy to engage a buyer’s representative, but there are also some who strategically try to reduce the buyer’s agent’s ability to earn a commission. By advertising unlisted properties, it has been said that builders and developers take on a role similar to a FSBO.

In the end, the NAR Board of Directors felt that the overall exposure to the marketplace and broader appeal to consumers outweighed those concerns.  I imagine this was one of the toughest points for the REALTOR® members voting. Consumers want a site that shows them the entire market of available homes. The upside is the increased exposure to a larger inventory of homes for realtor.com® visitors.

Realtor.com® is a marketplace.  REALTORS® are a brand of professionals. To have the opportunity to spread knowledge about the REALTOR® brand, we need to create the broadest, most consumer-friendly marketplace possible. Within that marketplace, we can display the great things that REALTORS® do for consumers to a much wider audience.  In our fast-paced, limited-attention-span world, we need to grow our reach, not constrict it.

The REALTOR® brand is better served by allowing more consumers to be informed about their real estate professionals. The more we limit that exposure, the faster consumers flock to other Web sites, which is far more damaging to the brand.

Check back later this week for Part II: Displaying Unlisted Rentals.

Sam DeBord is a State Director for Washington REALTORS®, and managing broker with Coldwell Banker Danforth. Connect with his team at SeattleHome.com.

Use Color Pops in Your Listings to Enhance, Not Distract

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Photo Credit: Lowe’s

Is your listing suffering from the neutral blahs? It’s good to go neutral when selling a home so that you offer up potential buyers a blank canvas to imagine their own decorating, but too neutral can also make your listing look dull and forgettable.

Using pops of color throughout the home’s interior can add more visual interest to rooms and even be used to enhance architectural details or create focal points that you want to make sure home buyers don’t miss.

Here are some ideas:

Photo credit: Behr

Want to be trendy? Reach for the blues — deep and dark blues are a popular color nowadays to decorate home interiors. But you likely won’t want to go overboard with such a dark tone. “There are lots of blues coming in to interiors that coordinate with turquoise and aqua blues,” says color expert Erika Woelfel, director of color marketing for Behr. “Really deep and dark tone blues like sapphire, iris blue, and navy blue are popular.”

Try coordinating the trendy blues with yellow or lime green — “a great contrasting color can be a nice enhancement with a dark blue,” Woelfel says. If you don’t want to paint an entire room a deep blue color, use it as a color for an accent or feature wall. “Paired with white furniture, blue walls can really pop and create a nice, relaxed atmosphere,” Woelfel says.

Photo Credit: Behr

Photo credit: Behr

Color block: Color blocking has become a popular fashion trend, and you can also use the idea to dress up your interiors. For more modern spaces, you could use color and geometry to give a neutral backdrop more visual interest. For example, the photo to the left shows an example of how color blocking is used to dress up a modern kitchen with neutral gray walls. In this example, the cabinets were painted blue and then colors of dark plum were added to create depth in the space as well as a light cognac brown to soften up the hues.

Photo credit: Lowe’s

Create a focal point: This is where accent or feature walls — painting one wall in a room a few shades darker or a more bold color — can really do the trick in leading buyers’ eyes to a place you don’t want them to miss. Feature walls can help you create a focal point in a room, such as in highlighting a fireplace or directing buyers to a hallway. Have some fun with your accent color: You could pick a trendy color here because it’s easy enough for someone to change and it won’t distract from the overall neutral tones of the home.

Photo credit: Behr

Accessorize: You don’t have to commit to paint to add color punches. For example, in an all-white kitchen, add color pops through the accessories, like a red or orange colored small appliance, or a bowl of red apples or lemons. For a neutral living room, use color pops through the throw pillows, blankets, or the artwork to weave in color and more visual interest.

Photo credit: Behr

Make more room: Reach for a darker tone to make a space feel roomier. Blues and greens may be a good choice, but you’ll need good lighting if you’ll be using darker tones.

For example, used with good lighting, “blue actually can make a space feel larger,” Woelfel says. “Blue is a recessive color. It can fade away in your field of vision. It’s a cool tone that can be used to push out a room and to create a feeling of space, but you have to have good lighting.”

On the other hand, warmer colors — like reds, oranges, and yellows — are a color that move toward you in your vision. “They can make your walls feel closer, but it also can depend on the tone,” she notes.

The Place in a House You Never Thought to Stage

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

No detail is too small for a home buyer. And while you’re making sure the kitchen counters are decluttered and sparkling clean, you might want to take a closer look in the fridge too, particularly if it’s staying with the house. The buyer likely will be. And what will they see when they open the doors?

Over-stuffed, sticky shelves? Expired veggies that are growing a friend? Vile smells?

The contents of a seller’s fridge may say a lot about a home owner. It may even have the potential to leave a potential buyer with a negative impression.

The New York Times recently devoted an entire article to a place often overlooked in real estate showings: The fridge.

When writer Richard Samson with The New York Times was getting ready to sell his apartment, he suddenly became alarmed at the contents of his refrigerator. “From the perspective of the nervous buyer, I realized that my freezer contents alone had the potential to terrify and repel: vodka; century-old, virtually empty ice cream containers; more vodka, and then those mysterious foil-wrapped parcels of who-knows-what.”

Samson realized he needed to clean up his ways. When prospective buyers opened his refrigerator, he wanted to send a sophisticated vibe: He filled his fridge with freshly squeezed orange juice; 9-ounce glass bottles of Ronnybrook milk; bright red watermelon chunks; black olive Tapenade; and two bottles of champagne strategically placed on the bottom shelf.

OK, but there’s limit to just how far he would go. He realized that when contemplating buying burrata for $8 for a small container. “There’s a fine line between appearing cosmopolitan and actually looking like a fool,” Samson wrote. “Besides, I can’t risk buyers’ thinking I have money to burn on mozzarella, unless I’m prepared to attract an array of low-ball bids.”

What’s inside your sellers’ refrigerator? Do your sellers need a fridge intervention? Ask them for a drink and then sneak a peek!

It may be a good time to remind your sellers that if the refrigerator is staying with the house, buyers often will take a look inside, and impressions count. Encourage them to clean out their refrigerator. Toss out the expireds and those items that may have been hiding in the back. Clean off the shelves so they sparkle. And possibly even add a few touches, like a bowl filled with colorful fruit or gourmet mustards and condiments. After all, presentation is everything, even inside the refrigerator.

Social Media: Are You Doing it Wrong?

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Scott Newman

By Scott Newman

You’re on Facebook and Twitter four hours a day and you’re telling me you haven’t closed a lot of business lately?  Of course not!  Social media is just a tool in your arsenal — and when used effectively and efficiently it can help you cultivate business.  So, how do you best use social media to benefit your business?  Funny you should ask…

Make Your Time Count

I speak frequently on the subject of social media to all kinds of real estate professionals, and one of the first things I usually do is ask the following question of the audience: “Having reviewed my social media presence, how many of you think I spend more than an hour a day on social media?” Almost all the hands go up.  Then I ask about two hours, then three, then four. Believe it or not, usually at least a third of the room thinks I am spending at least two hours a day on social media, but the reality is that isn’t even close — it’s more like 5-7 minutes, MAX.

There is a greatly diminishing rate of return on the amount of time you spend on social media.  As a real estate professional, it is your job to have a solid, well thought out presence, which showcases you in a positive light and makes it easy for people to reach you.  Beyond that, if you think playing on social media for hours a day is somehow going to replace tried-and-tested business cultivation techniques, you’re dead wrong.

Understand Your Audience

This is the easiest thing in the world to breakdown.  Write this down, save it somewhere safe — even consider tattooing it on your arm so you NEVER forget.

  • Facebook: This is a place for you to share who you are as a person. Remember, clients need to like you before they decide to work with you! Never directly sell on Facebook — it turns people off.  Instead, think of this as a great place to showcase your successes and entice people to seek you out for more information on their own. An example would be posting a picture of you and your clients at closing and tagging them in a congratulatory message (with their permission of course).
  • Twitter: This is where you should be showcasing your local expertise by sharing interesting things that are going on in your local market and community.  Demonstrate your involvement in the place you live and the things you care about, and organically engage with people who share similar interests.
  • LinkedIn: This is the one place where you do not want to share ANYTHING personal.  This is for business and business only.  LinkedIn is a great place to recruit agents, engage with fellow industry professionals, and do research on potential clients and associates. No one here is interested in seeing pictures of your child taking their first steps or hearing about the awesome time you had last weekend at the beach.

Don’t over think it.  Social media is a fun, free, and effective way to cultivate relationships and stay in touch with potential clients you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to connect with.  However, thinking social media will replace conventional sales techniques is a mistake, as it is only one tool in your tool belt for continuing to grow and improve your business.

Scott Newman is the broker-owner of Newman Realty in Chicago. Connect with Scott at www.newmanknowschicago.com or @newmanrealty.

Thank You

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Anand Patel

Anand Patel

By Anand Patel

“Why do you do this for free?”

“What do you get out of it?”

“When do you have time to make money?”

“Why do you waste your time with that?”

“What’s the point?”

If you volunteer some of your time and talents to National Association of REALTORS® (or any other organization) at the local, state, or national level, you have heard all of the comments above before. Obviously there needs to be a balance between giving of your time and working your business, but you and I both know the incidental benefits, rewards and satisfaction that come with giving back to our industry.

thank you

Credit: Jen Collins

Do you have a spouse, a business partner, a friend or family member who takes on some of the burden while you are volunteering? I am not nearly as involved as many of my colleagues in the industry around the country and abroad, but with two young children at home I know my wife takes on a lot of burden while I am away at conferences, leadership academy sessions and other meetings. And I admit, many times I take it for granted. I am writing this post not only to  serve as a reminder to each of you who also give of your time, but also really for me to never forget that we need to take the time and thank those who support what we do in helping improve our industry. They may not always understand why we do it as there are usually no visible short-term benefits, but they still support us. We travel for a few days, we attend events in the evening, we are working on the weekends on matters that do not seem to directly correlate to our businesses, but our friends, family, and spouses still pick up the slack for us.

Take a moment and say thank you to your business partner who stays back while you hit the annual conference, your family or spouse who helps with the kids while you are away, and anyone else who makes it easier for you to keep giving back. To my wife, today, I say thank you! Thank you for always supporting me. You truly are “Super Mom!” Oh….and by the way, I’ll be gone to San Francisco for a week in November for a conference…gotta run!

Anand Patel is broker and president of Pangea Realty Group based in Tampa, Fla. You can connect with Anand on Twitter: @anand_tampa, Facebook: www.facebook.com/prgtampa, or LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/anandpatel1.

Home Trend Watch: Upsized Homes on Downsized Lots

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

More Americans are showing preferences for bigger home once again, even if it means squeezing the home on a small lot, according to the first quarter Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey. The most recent survey focused on home layout and the use of interior and exterior spaces.

During the recession, more Americans showed a preference for smaller homes, setting off speculation that the downsizing trend could be a lasting one as more Americans searched for less upkeep and lower utility bills. But since 2010, the number of Americans showing a preference for larger homes has gradually been on the rise, architects report. Home volumes are increasing, with ceiling heights and two-story entryways making a comeback, according to the AIA survey.

Despite strained lot sizes, more Americans are wanting to invest in larger homes and in more outdoor amenities in trying to blend their indoor and outdoor spaces.

Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, speculates that lot sizes haven’t increased along with the desire for larger homes because Americans are still looking for ways to keep homes affordable. The trend may also be a reflection of location preferences too (with home owners opting for smaller developments in more desirable locations).

“Because lot sizes don’t show any signs of increasing, it’s clear that home owners want to maximize their current square footage to its highest potential. … Smaller lots have not kept households from investing heavily in [outdoor] space,” Baker writes. “Creating outdoor living space — outdoor rooms, covered outdoor space, as well as more traditional decks, patios, and porches — continue to be the property enhancement growing the most in popularity.”

More households are looking to add space inside their homes too, with an increase this year in more home owners finishing attics and basements for added living space, the survey notes. More Americans are continuing to show a stronger demand for flexible layouts, with open space plans. Designs are gravitating toward more open space layouts, with partial wall divisions that allow more flexible use of space, Baker notes, as well as a trend for greater sense of informality in the home.

Evolution of the Point-of-Sale

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Dave Robison

By Dave Robison

When I first started in the real estate business more than 14  years ago, I took classes where everybody touted using flyers to “capture buyers.”   One of the tactics was to leave the price off the flyer so that buyers would call to get the price. Others had special offers or asked buyers to call for more details. The only problem was flyers were always disappearing, and it was a constant fight to keep them in stock.

Around my fourth year in the business — or about a decade ago — the 1-800 call capture systems started gaining traction. The public loved listening to a recording because it was almost like taking a flyer, but they didn’t have to talk to an agent. The public didn’t realize that the agents were capturing their information. Now it seems like almost everybody has one of these systems on their signs to capture buyer leads.

Fast-forward to today: Now we’re seeing another change.  If a buyer wants to know what a home’s list price is when driving by, they  simply check an app on their phone.  They can see pictures of the inside, they can read property details, they have all the info at the touch of a button.

This type of home shopping about to become more prevalent for two reasons:

1. Mobile search is increasing like wildfire.  Smartphones are the new norm.

2. The cost to have a real estate app that delivers this type of quick information is about to get less expensive. MLSs will soon all be using the same language called RETS (Real Estate Transaction Standard). Now third party vendors won’t have to waste time developing their product to fit 100 different languages.  They can spend their time on making better products.

The potential buyer will achieve what they want…the ability to know about the property without calling the toll free 800 call capture systems.  What does this mean for agents? Unfortunately, it might mean fewer leads — unless we come up with a new tactic on how to capture them. We still may have three years before that 800 number call capture system becomes obsolete, so take this time now to work out your new lead capture plan.

What will be the new way to capture leads once mobile starts to rule?

Dave Robison, known as “Utah Dave,” is broker/owner of UtahDave.com Neighborhood Experts.

Understanding Client Psychology, Managing Expectations, and Communicating Effectively

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Sammer Mudawar

By Sammer Mudawar

Buying and selling residential real estate is one of the most emotional transactions consumers conduct. Understanding client psychology, managing expectations, and using effective communication are the three most valuable skills that a real estate professional needs to develop for a successful career with less stress.

Client Psychology

Understand the psyche of your client and your chances of a smooth transaction increase dramatically.

Is the client a standard seller who has lived and raised their family in the home for the past 25 years, but has not done many upgrades?  Perhaps prepping this client for the possibility of offensive offers from cash investors will be important to making sure they don’t take things personally, or worse, become unreasonable sellers.

Understanding client psychology is important, however, equally important is they understand your psychology. It is vital to the client relationship that they understand your goals are in-line with theirs, and as a fiduciary you will only represent their best interests. Breaking down the walls in the beginning is one of the best ways to get on the same page as your client.

Managing Expectations

Here are two examples of how to manage expectations with buyers and sellers.

  1. Home inspection. If the buyer thinks a seller is going to update a 1920 home to the current building code, this is usually a bad sign. The expectation should be set before the report is issued of what will be outlined and items that should reasonably be expected to be addressed. A buyer can always ask for everything and a seller can give nothing, but by setting the expectations upfront you will help clients get more without losing it all.
  2. Setting price with sellers. There is no easier way to upset a seller than continually ask for price reductions. Go through the pain once in the beginning, set the price right, and sell the home. Otherwise you will continually have to explain why the price needs to be reduced. Set the expectation and get the job done right, the first time.

Communication

This will short and sweet:

  1. Call, e-mail, text, or Facebook your clients with updates and information before they call you. Third-party vendors should do the same (lenders especially, escrow, title, etc.).
  2. Bad news early is good news. Do not delay making these calls.

Understanding the client, managing expectations, and communication are key to keeping clients happy and your success high.

Sammer Mudawar is the broker of RE/MAX Prestige in Orange County, Calif. Learn more at www.make125k.com.

10 Most Desirable Do-it-Yourself Outdoor Projects

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

The warmer weather has home owners looking to spruce up their home’s outdoor spaces. So when it comes to do-it-yourself outdoor projects, which projects are most home owners tackling?

A survey of more than 1,200 home owners by the Home Project Council identified the following DIY outdoor projects as most desirable:

1. Plant a garden

2. Use decorative pebbles, stones or rocks for landscaping

3. Build a deck

4. Create a fire pit or barbecue pit

5. Build a patio or walkway using concrete pavers or bricks

6. Install or build a shed or storage building

7. Stain or paint siding or windows

8. Build a privacy fence

9. Stain or paint exterior concrete surfaces (patio, pool deck, driveway, sidewalk, etc.)

10. Repair or seal concrete cracks in patios, steps, or driveways

Home owners identified the most difficult or intimidating DIY outdoor projects as being building an outdoor kitchen and pouring concrete slabs for patios, steps, or sidewalks, or building a deck, according to the survey.