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February 23, 2018

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No Sunset on Housing History

Weekly Book Scan - 7 hours 18 min ago

Edina, Minn. is one of the few suburbs I could see myself living in. It has decent public transportation, boutique storefronts, independent restaurants—and for an extra dose of kitsch—the first indoor shopping mall in America. It’s one of those old-growth ‘burbs, where the houses have character and the streets have sidewalks.

Alas, it also has a dark past. Though it’s one of the few places where I could see myself living outside a city, it’s also one of the many places where certain people couldn’t see themselves living at all. It’s a sundown town.

Sundown towns are places where founders, law enforcement officials, and residents used a combination of violence, coercion, and unconstitutional ordinances to exclude black people (and sometimes other minorities). In Edina, they employed restrictive covenants stating that “no lot shall ever be sold, conveyed, leased, or rented to any person other than one of the white or Caucasian race,” an illegal statement that was still on the books into the 1970s. 

I grew up in a neighborhood everyone called called “Nordeast” in nearby Minneapolis, where a white kid like me was happily in the minority. Later, attending high school in a Twin Cities suburb and college in Boulder, Colo., I was struck by how white the populations were, but I never questioned why. I just accepted the dominant paradigm that cities were naturally diverse, and suburbs and towns were not. But my assumption—while a common one—was incorrect. As James W. Loewen demonstrates in Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (Simon & Schuster, 2006), white places are almost always homogenous on purpose.

Perhaps most chilling were the signs. The reason these towns and suburbs were known as “sundown” was because black people (and sometimes Jews, Chinese, and Mexicans, among others) were forbidden from even being present in them after dark. At the city limits, signs were often posted to tell these supposed interlopers that they shouldn’t let the sun go down on them in the town, or else. Loewen has confirmed some 184 towns in 32 states as having displayed sundown signs, but this wasn’t the only way of reinforcing white-only population centers. Often police officers were expected to pass along the message at the train station, or to pull over cars containing black people to ensure they knew what might happen if they hung around. Certain towns would even sound special sirens each night telling black people it was time to leave, with at least one continuing the tradition into the late 1990s.

These practices were disturbingly widespread from the 1890s through the 1970s; I highly recommend you look up the history of sundown towns in your state using Loewen’s database. While the abhorrent signs are long gone, many towns and suburbs remain mostly white because the mentality of segregation persists. “Residents in some Midwestern towns think their sundown ordinances are still in effect,” Loewen writes. Vestiges quietly survive in the names of towns, where founders and developers used words to subtly telegraph disinviting words to African Americans on the signs denoting their city limits. Sometimes it was obvious, such as employing the term “White,” as in Whitefish Bay, Wis.; Indiana used any color in town and county names to indicate its exclusive nature. Other times it was less so; Loewen writes that “In Florida… any town or city with the word ‘Palm’ in its name was thought to be especially likely to keep out African Americans.”

The most shocking thing about Loewen’s book is how much of this history has been papered over so that people like me can go on with their lives as if it never happened. Loewen exposes false narratives about black people living exclusively in urban areas, showing that between the end of slavery and 1890, they lived in pretty much all areas of the country until they were forcibly removed. He uses Census data to demonstrate how the story we tell ourselves about the Great Migration (when southern blacks moved into cities in the north in the nineteen-teens) masks the cruelty of a separate occurrence, what Loewen calls the Great Retreat, some 25 years prior. It unfolded in different ways and under different pretenses depending on the town, but in general the Great Retreat looked like this: Some incident sparked racial tensions, and then white residents rioted, burned blacks people’s houses to the ground, and chased established populations of their neighbors away with deadly violence.

It’s more likely than not that a town or suburb you love has a hidden history of segregation, even if you’ve never heard it. “In many states outside the south, a majority of all towns can probably be defined as sundown in 1968,” writes Loewen (emphasis mine). He adds that any community founded by a single developer between 1890 and 1960 “kept out African Americans from its beginnings.” Many of them used their all-white status in ads, listing “No Negroes” aside amenities such as “Beautiful Scenery” and “Pretty Homes.”  And even we city-dwellers can’t avoid this history, because in urban areas, officials simply sundowned neighborhoods and made black residents return to their prescribed areas before dark. The only place where sundown towns are scarce is in the traditional south, where the labor of black slaves and later sharecroppers was too valuable and commonplace to expel from white communities.

Loewen also details how this history affects our communities today and will continue to do so in the future. The book is an important read particularly for real estate professionals because of one word in the title: hidden. It’s part of the larger reason why we’re commemorating the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in the first place: So many of us are unaware of how housing discrimination has shaped the development of our communities. I’d never heard of sundown towns until I picked up this book, but this is more than a vocabulary lesson. This book flies in the face of the narrative I (and most other Americans) accept about the layout of our towns, suburbs, and cities. And ignorance of the law—even if it’s a web of unconstitutional, outmoded local ordinances that never should have existed in the first place—is no excuse. This is American history everyone should know, especially those in the real estate industry.

The 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

This review is part of Books in Brief: Lighting the Path to Housing Equality, the Weekly Book Scan’s series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Learn more about how fair housing makes us stronger at fairhousing.realtor.

3 Tech Benefits Helping New NAR Members Get Started

YPN Lounge - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:20

By NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® team

You have many choices to make as a real estate professional—especially when it comes to investing in yourself and your new business. NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program is designed with you in mind, offering savings and unique offers on products and services just for REALTORS®. With more than 30 carefully selected partners, we have several specializing in technology with tools to help new agents launch their business. Here are a few to get your technology buzz going.

Back At You Media

Social media marketing is a significant part of many new agents’ business plan. But getting all your ideas organized and planned accordingly can be a daunting task, especially when you need to spend time networking for new clients and driving from showing to showing. This is where Back At You Media comes in. Their Social Media Center provides you with a simple, customizable way to integrate the important element of social marketing into your overall marketing strategy. Choose your level of automation, and Back At You Media does the rest: promoting you and your listings on popular social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.

Back At You Media has a simple and affordable starter plan that also allows you to schedule and boost listings and content, and receive performance reports on your marketing efforts. Users can also enjoy unlimited access to mobile-friendly single property websites and capture leads using a “What Is Your Home Worth” landing page. You can choose from an annual or monthly subscription. A monthly plan is $15 per month and an annual plan is $10 per month ($120 per year).

The NAR Starter Plan is exclusively available to REALTORS®. As an additional NAR member benefit, you’ll receive a discount off the one-time activation fee for this plan. Visit NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits/BackAtYouMedia.

DocuSign

DocuSign is the National Association of REALTORS®’ official and exclusive provider of electronic signature services under the REALTOR Benefits® Program. Did you know that they have exclusive pricing for NAR members on the Real Estate Starter plan? The plan is available for single users and is great for agents new to the industry. In this plan, you can take advantage of benefits such as:

  • Five document sends per month – Save time by sending documents to others for their signature. One “envelope” send can include any number of recipients and any number of documents. Your clients and customers sign for free.
  • Select appropriate document fields – Collect name, date, signature, initial, company, title, and email from your signer, or add text and checkboxes to allow your signer to fill in information themselves.
  • Work on the go – Download the free Android or iOS app to create, send, and sign documents anywhere.

NAR members received preferred pricing at only $13 per month for monthly plans or $96 for prepaid annual plans. For additional information, visit NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits/DocuSign.

Intuit® (QuickBooks® Self-Employed and TurboTax®)

Get ahead of the tax season and maximize your deductions. Intuit®, a leader in financial management software, can help. They are proud to offer NAR members special savings on their signature products QuickBooks Self-Employed and TurboTax.

With QuickBooks Self-Employed you will get automatic mileage tracking, receipt capture (no more stashing receipts in a shoebox, wink-wink), and expense categorization – all in a single app. Take the busy work out of organizing your finances, so you can focus on your business. QuickBooks Self-Employed helps you claim every deduction – so you keep more of what you earn. Users find an average of $4,340 in potential savings per year. Try it risk free for 30 days. After the first 30 days, get 50 percent off retail price for 12 months ($5 per month for NAR members).

When you’re ready to do your taxes, get them done easily with TurboTax, America’s best-selling tax preparation software. Choose the version that best fits your needs with special NAR member pricing offered on TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed editions. TurboTax Deluxe: annual discount is $10 off. TurboTax Premier: annual discount is $15 off or TurboTax Self-Employed: annual discount is $20 off.

There is also a QuickBooks Self-Employed + TurboTax Bundle to maximize your savings. You can enjoy the best of both worlds with TurboTax and QuickBooks Self-Employed with 29 percent off retail price for the first 12 months ($12 per month for NAR members). To get started visit: NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits/Intuit.

To learn more about NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program and its partners visit NAR.realtor/RealtorBenefits.

Comment on Styling Tips to ‘Wow’ Spring-Time Home Buyers by Amy nguyen

Styled, Staged & Sold - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 03:32

Great style for spring. They look very warm and cherish.
For selling emty properties, I would love to share these tips.
Read more at: https://goo.gl/Q5RFZ7

Comment on Hot Home Trend: Bamboo Everything! by Kevin M

Styled, Staged & Sold - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:32

Bamboo can be a good choice for flooring but it’s also good to know that many floor guys won’t sand bamboo due to the high level of toxic Chinese chemicals in them that is released during the restoration process. That can be a potential issue down the road when they start to wear and need refinishing.

Comment on The Forecast: 2018 Trends in Staging by Specialty Floors

Styled, Staged & Sold - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:49

We work with a number of professional stagers and the transformations they do are incredible. Well worth the investment. This is good news for us: “A lot of people are replacing carpeting with wood and faux wood flooring–at least on the main floor”.

Comment on Smarten Up Your Showings With Smart Home Technology by Doug Buenz

Styled, Staged & Sold - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:48

Home security must be the top priority in smart automation.

Comment on View the Possibilities With Virtual Staging by Doug Buenz

Styled, Staged & Sold - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:43

Great and inexpensive tech advancement!

Comment on 7 Ways to Add More Romance to a Home’s Decor by Amanda Davidson

Styled, Staged & Sold - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 18:36

Whites and pastels will never go away. Always classic even with splash of colors!

Comment on The Forecast: 2018 Trends in Staging by Amanda Davidson

Styled, Staged & Sold - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 18:21

The prepping is most important where the seller decides to take or toss!

Comment on The Forecast: 2018 Trends in Staging by Karen Peyton

Styled, Staged & Sold - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:10

Thanks for the forecast on counter-tops. I knew quartz was the brightest star but thought granite was dead.

Comment on Hot Home Trend: Black Is Back by Karen Peyton

Styled, Staged & Sold - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:06

Did it ever leave? I mean with the advent of black stainless appliances? It’s my favorite. I wouldn’t change. All things old come back as new. Nice to be part of the trend once more.

Comment on White Kitchen Fatigue? by Karen Peyton

Styled, Staged & Sold - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:00

When the newest trend, white was a nice change of pace – however, not livable. It will be nice to see some contrast, a change of pace, color! Truth be told I’m growing tired of the other neutrals too…paper bag brown, blues and grays. Go big, go bold!

What’s the Right Way to Structure a Marketing Service Agreement?

Speaking of Real Estate - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:49

Real estate practitioners entering into marketing service agreements with lenders, title companies, and other settlement service providers is a well-established practice, but a recent court decision shows why you have to structure these agreements the right way.

An appellate court just ruled that it’s okay for a mortgage lender to refer business to mortgage insurers who are buying reinsurance from an affiliate of the lender, because the reinsurance is a bona fide service and the insurers are paying fair market rates for it. In other words, the arrangement doesn’t amount to a kickback.

Although the case involves a lender, insurance companies, and a reinsurer, the structure of the agreement is something that applies to the kind of marketing service agreements you might be involved in as an agent or broker. Any agreement you enter into with a lender or title company must be for actual services rendered and priced at fair market rates and not simply an arrangement for referrals.

How do you ensure a marketing agreement is appropriate under federal anti-kickback rules? The most important thing is to have it looked at by an attorney who’s familiar with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA. For a general idea, though, there are two tests you can apply:

1.Is the marketing fee you receive based on the number of referrals you make to the company, whether it’s a title company, a lender, or another service provider? If the fee corresponds to the number of referrals, you could be inviting a close look by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is the federal agency that enforces RESPA.

2. If you have an arrangement to split costs on a joint project, like a newspaper ad, is the split reflective of what each of you get in return? For example, if you and the title company are splitting the cost of the ad down the middle, then half the ad should go to the title company and half should go to you. If the title company is covering 75 percent of the cost of the ad but only taking up 25 percent of the space, that split makes it look like the company is subsidizing 50 percent of the ad cost. Again, you could be inviting a close look by the CFPB.

Learn more about the recent court decision in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR. The video also looks at what was in the budget agreement enacted into law about two weeks ago. Among other things, the new law extends the tax deduction for mortgage insurance premiums and retains the prohibition on taxing forgiven mortgage debt as income. It also looks at why a recent Supreme Court decision on the regulation of bodies of water is important to your inbdustry.

Watch video now.

Comment on Styling Tips to ‘Wow’ Spring-Time Home Buyers by Amanda Davidson

Styled, Staged & Sold - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 18:31

The pops of bright accent will surely brighten and liven up every space!

Comment on #CES2018: Tech Up Your Style by Christine Pappas

Styled, Staged & Sold - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 03:52

More consumers these days eye for tech smarts. There are just some more things we need to keep in mind. We should upgrade or get left behind!

Comment on Home & Design Resources by Home Team Hawaii

Styled, Staged & Sold - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 14:59

Excellent resources and design ideas. Thank you!

Comment on Stagers Who Stand Ready to Transform Properties by Mike Murfreesboro Real Estate

Styled, Staged & Sold - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:45

I would’nt even know where to begin with the before status. Kudos to these stagers.

Comment on 7 Ways to Add More Romance to a Home’s Decor by Mike Murfreesboro Real Estate

Styled, Staged & Sold - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:35

Fresh flowers throughout the home always a nice touch. Thanks for sharing!

Key Tips to Give Your Website Curb Appeal

YPN Lounge - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 16:32

Anita Clark

By Anita Clark

There are few things real estate agents understand better than curb appeal. It is one of the major factors motivating people to go into a house predisposed to buy. Curb appeal is one of the top factors that can shield a property from low-ball offers, and it’s one of the factors that help close the deal.

As a real estate professional, you make sure that your clients’ homes have curb appeal. But do you make sure that your own website has curb appeal? The first impression your visitors get when they land on your website sets the tone. It determines whether they will read further. If they do read further, it determines how excited they will be to do business with you.

Here are a few quick tips about to help you give your local real estate website instant curb appeal.

Use a Simple Web Design

@geralt, 2017. pixabay.com

There are so many ways to design a website. You can use a lots of shapes and colors. Or, you can keep it simple.

Modern websites have a mobile-friendly, easy-to-read layout, so that even on a phone screen they come up looking great. Just like a home design, you want your website design to include smooth lines rather than being cluttered by too many elements. If it looks complicated, people will think it is complicated and you’ll lose them.

When buyers stand in front of a house, the facade tells them what to expect. Make your website do the same thing. The design should reflect your business, too. If you focus exclusively on luxury homes, trim your site with images of high-end properties. If you focus on a community or neighborhood, your imagery should communicate that. Use a color scheme that reflects your brand. Create the right expectations.

Get Rid of the Clutter

Just as in a home, clutter on a website makes the place look unkept. You might be tempted to put as much content and information as you can on your home page with the idea of providing something for everyone. But too much information simply drowns out what is most important.

Put the very most important things up front, the things that will make people dig deeper into your website or to pick up the phone and contact you. It might include a new-listings widget. It will surely include easy-to-find contact information, such as your phone number and a contact form.

Push less-important details lower on the page or to interior pages. Don’t hide them, because some people want to learn about neighborhoods in your market, mortgages rates, or how the economy is affecting home prices. Make sure viewers can easily navigate to that content without it getting in the way of the important stuff. Once you have their attention, that’s the time to answer questions and offer more details.

Use Powerful Words

Sure, you can use big, fancy, hundred-dollar words hoping to impress your visitors into listing with you. But big words usually won’t impress. Plain language will impress. People want to understand what you have to say without wasting their time.

Before you show a house, you make sure the bicycles and skateboards are in the garage, or even off the property. Don’t make your prospects trip over complex sentences when they visit your website. A simpler sentence structure that conveys information accurately will be the most helpful to your readers. And it’s not just the words you use, it’s also how you lay them out. Sound familiar? You wouldn’t just throw plants willy-nilly in front of a house you’ve listed. You place them carefully for maximum effect. The same goes for the words on your website.

Bullet lists help visitors quickly read a lot of information without having to dig for it. Subheadings are a great way organize your information. Just like people instinctively know how to navigate a well laid out house, they should have the same comfort with your website. Showing that you are organized will help instill trust your information and in you.

Show Them What To Do

@janeb13, 2016. pixabay.com

Finally, make it clear how to navigate your site, contact you, view listings, and how to list their own property. Don’t make your web visitors search to hard, and don’t be cute or cryptic with links or buttons. The more work it is to hire you, the fewer people will do it.

If you were showing a house to a prospective buyer, you would make sure it’s easy for them to find. You don’t want them to have to work to view the house, and you want them in a great mood when they step inside. Similarly, if a visitor to your website has to search too hard, you’ve already lost the client.

In Other Words…

Have you noticed a common thread through all these tips? Make your website easy, easy, easy for people to use. Make it look simple and make it act simple. Make everything clear and give it great curb appeal.

Don’t be shy to hire a user experience expert to test it all out. You might be surprised how many more clients you get once your website is more user-friendly than it is today. You are focused on curb appeal for your clients, so do it for your own business, too.

Anita Clark is a residential real estate agent with Coldwell Banker SSK, REALTORS®, in Houston County, Ga. She is from Coventry, England, is a retired military spouse, and has been assisting buyers, investors, and sellers in middle Georgia since 2007. Connect with Anita on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or on her Warner Robins GA Real Estate Blog.

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