December 8, 2016

Speaking of Real Estate

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Updated: 1 hour 12 min ago

Financial Countdown: 3 Budgeting Secrets for 2017

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 09:51

REALTOR® Magazine is promoting a sponsor webinar on the future of property management. Below is text provided by the sponsor, AppFolio, about the event.

“This is it: the end of 2016 is almost here. As we look at the future of property management, it’s clear that you need an accurate picture of your business’s financials and a solid plan for growth. Join AppFolio Project Director Stacy Holden for a comprehensive (and guaranteed to be entertaining) session on the basics of strategic budgeting, so that you can maximize your profits by knowing where to spend.

Register for our free 60 minute webinar on Thursday, December 8 at 11:00 AM PST / 2:00 PM EST to learn more about:

“Analyzing competitive data for your area
Calculating your Total Effective Rent
Pricing your units for optimal profitability
Assessing and improving your accounting toolbox
… and more!

“This event is brought to you by AppFolio, providers of cloud-based property management software. This webinar is also promoted with the assistance of Realtor Magazine.”


Do You Know the ABCs of Personal Branding?

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 08:00

By Seth Price, digital marketing specialist and vice president of industry relations for Placester

Do you consider yourself to have a great personal brand? Would you buy a house from yourself? If you hesitate in answering those questions, it’s time to take a deeper look at your personal brand. People still like to do business with those they know, like, and trust. And, if you’re not paying close attention to your reputation signals, you could be missing out.

In real estate, your personal brand is more important than ever. Word of mouth and “word of mouse” can make the difference between obscurity and a million-dollar listing. In research for my new book, The Road to Recognition, I interviewed over 250 successful personal branders, from Gary Vaynerchuk and Chris Smith to Brad Inman and Ben Bacal. You may have heard of Ben; he’s one of the top REALTORS® in the U.S. and sold more than $400,000,000 in real estate last year with a team of just six.

What I discovered in my research turned out to be a surprisingly simple road map for building a personal brand. If you want the best personal branding tips in one place, then you’ll LOVE this infographic.

Courtesy of: The Road to Recognition


A Reminder of What’s Good in the World

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 16:05

Good Neighbor Award winners from left: Ed Liebzeit, Cindy Barrett, Susan Gruen Helsinger, Wyn Ray, and Sarah Sorenson.

As I took my seat shortly before the start of Saturday night’s ceremony honoring REALTOR® Magazine’s 2016 Good Neighbors, I grabbed my phone and got on Facebook for only the second time all day. “For once, I’ve been too busy to post about the election,” I wrote in my status update. (Covering the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, which is now being held in Orlando, Fla., will keep you from thinking about almost anything else.)

I scrolled through my feed, looking at articles and comments disparaging this or that candidate, which is pretty much what I see all day, every day on Facebook anymore. (I’m way too guilty of contributing to this myself.) The more I read, the more I became angry and impatient. And then I felt angry for allowing these emotions to take over at a time when I should have been celebrating the extraordinary measures the five REALTOR® winners (and five honorable mentions) have taken to make life better for disadvantaged members of their communities.

I resolved to power down and turn my full attention to these heroes’ amazing stories. What I heard was nothing short of miraculous. If you’re overwhelmed, as I am, by events in our country and world at this moment, I’d like you to hear what I heard Saturday from these awe-inspiring Good Neighbors. Maybe it will give you a much-needed emotional reboot.


“Imagine a house with no indoor plumbing less than a mile from where you live,” said Cindy Barrett as she accepted her Good Neighbor award. For her, it’s not just in her imagination. Her organization, Christmas In Action-Spartanburg, has repaired more than 800 homes for low-income owners who in Spartanburg, S.C., who were living in unsafe conditions because they couldn’t afford to keep up with home maintenance.”

“They cannot believe that someone they don’t know wants to help them,” Barrett said. “I’d like to believe we also restore their hope.”

CIA has helped veterans with disabilities, elderly widows who couldn’t afford to keep up  their home, and many others who have to rely on help from their neighbors. “We need to be neighbors helping neighbors,” Barrett said. “The way it makes me feel to love my neighbor is something I never bargained for. It’s an awesome privilege.”


Susan Gruen Helsinger talked about her son, Jason, with the pride every mother feels. “He loved building model rockets, he was a black diamond skier, he loved computers. He wanted to go to Princeton.” But then, at age 15 in 1985, Jason died from a sudden cardiac event.

In his memory, Helsinger established the Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation, dedicated to funding advancements in cardiac research and screenings for children. The foundation has brought screenings to 2,000 kids – 72 of whom have been diagnosed with cardiac abnormalities.

“I always felt that if there had been a test for Jason, maybe we would have understood and been able to do something more,” Helsinger said. She travels widely, to such places as the West Point Military Academy in New York, to spread her message. “I asked cadets for a favor. Somewhere along their journey, I asked them to do something for a child somewhere in the world and to say it’s their contribution to Jason’s memory. His life had meaning.”


Men have a particular responsibility to stand up to domestic violence, said Ed Liebzeit, whose Community Safety Network offers a safe haven for women escaping violence, harassment, and sexual assault. “Men need to stand and say loudly, ‘That’s enough and we’re not going to accept it anymore.’”

Domestic violence affects every demographic group, Liebzeit said, but too often, people look the other way. He noted that high-profile people such as celebrities and athletes often add to an environment in which domestic violence is excused or swept under the rug. “Every one of us can help by being a friend, recognizing the signs of abuse, and reaching out and being that voice that victims need.

“My wish is that others are inspired by my story,” he continued. “Giving back is really what it’s all about. It’s the best feeling you could ever have. Success is defined by what we have done to make our community a better place.”


“Our story is filled with faith, miracles, and answered prayers,” said Wyn Ray, who, along with his wife, Sunny, regularly travels to the impoverished African nation of Ethiopia to help build projects that improve conditions for the people of the village of Wekin. There used to be elementary and high schools where students would sit on dirt floors and couldn’t drink from fountains or use bathrooms because there was no access to clean water.

“When I’m at home, pouring a glass of water, I think about the 8,000 people [in Wekin] who are forced to drink dirty water,” Ray said. Over the years, he has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help build latrines and a security fence around schools and soon will ship 20,000 books for students.

Ray spoke of the people he’s met who have inspired him to work harder every day for the people of Wekin. “I think about a paralyzed woman who walks on her hands. She lives in her mud hut without electricity, a bathroom, or running water,” he said. “I hope to bring a wheelchair for her.”

Ray also remembers a young, sick boy he met. Ray raised enough money to pay for the boy’s medication for two years. But the boy took the money and instead bought a cow, who then gave birth to two calves. The boy sold their milk to pay for his medication. “What an entrepreneur,” Ray said.


Sarah Sorenson, who founded Wishing Well…For Maui Students in Hawaii, recalled her first career as a public school teacher. It was then that she learned how inadequate school funding was for ensuring a quality education. “The first frustration was convincing people that our public schools needed anything at all,” she said. “Most people don’t realize that in Hawaii, our schools don’t get any funds from property taxes. There is never going to be enough money to fund our schools.”

But her organization and its volunteers have raised $1.5 million in goods to give to Hawaii’s public schools. They gather wish lists from teachers and try to fulfill their requests. “Schools are the backbone of most neighborhoods,” Sorenson said. “If schools improve, our communities improve, too.”

Sorenson closed the evening with a quote from her favorite author, Dr. Seuss. “‘Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened,’” she said. “We’re all glad for what has happened in Maui.”

True Colors of Good Neighbors

Sat, 11/05/2016 - 15:13

Feeling a bit frazzled at the REALTORS® Conference and Expo in Orlando, Fla., and want a fun way to relax? Coloring is a popular and proven relaxation technique. Stop by the Good Neighbor Awards booth (outside the Expo entrance) to help color our Good Neighbor mural. You might even meet some of the Good Neighbors themselves, like 2016 winner Cindy Barrett, pictured at front, who stopped by to give us her autograph on the mural.


Expo Frenzy Kicks Off in Orlando

Sat, 11/05/2016 - 12:42

The latest, greatest products and services for the real estate industry are all under one roof at the Expo. But if you forgot your comfortable shoes, you’ll appreciate this quick peek at a few of the offerings. Some 400 exhibitors are participating at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. — the largest real estate trade show in the U.S.

Floor Time: Meetings & Conference Committee Co-chairs Brenda Ghibaudi, left, and Claire Williams couldn’t wait a minute longer Friday afternoon to open the expo with Past President Ron Phipps.

No Jeopardy: Bank of America’s trivia game is not for lightweights.

The Sky’s the Limit:  First-time exhibitor DJI brings drones to the convention floor.

Trailblazer: How not to get lost in a crowd.

Ahead of the Class: REALTOR® University, an Expo co-sponsor, can help you soar.

Safe and Secure: A home warranty that’s got you covered.

Airstream Adventure: Relola rolls out an old-school RV to let agents know about their cutting-edge marketing software.

How One Association Uses the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 13:45

One tool the Northern Virginia Association of REALTOR® uses to help its members succeed is NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers ad Sellers. This year marks the annual report’s 35th anniversary, and to note the occasion, Ryan Conrad, NVAR’s CEO, sat down to talk about how his association uses the data and
graphs in the report to help its members understand today’s consumers, both on the buyer side and the seller side. That’s especially important now that millennials have become such an important consumer presence in the market.

Conrad says his association uses the data in its magazine and in outreach to the press. It also uses it as material for educational sessions. “What I like most about the report is the value the research provides to add context to our presentations at sales meetings and community events,” he says. “My staff and I use the data to help our members stay on top of market stats and to ensure our association remains a reliable source of information for them, for the media, and for the community.”

Conrad talks about the report in a one-minute video. 

Other association executives and brokers talk about the report as well in another short video:

More on the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Webcast Recording: Understanding the New FHA Condo Financing Rules

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 11:51

REALTOR® Magazine presented a live webcast about the Federal Housing Administration’s new condo financing rules on Oct. 28, 2016. The webcast featured Megan Booth and Sehar Siddiqi of NAR Government Affairs, who discussed and answered questions about the new rules and the business opportunities that can come out of them. Jon Boughtin of NAR Communications hosted the program.

Sponsor Webinar: Why Social Media Has Never Worked For You

Tue, 10/25/2016 - 15:13

Jason Lutz

REALTOR® Magazine is letting people know about a sponsor webinar on how to make better use of Facebook and other social media sites in your business. Below is a description of what you’ll learn by Jason Lutz, COO of REsocialbot, the webinar’s presenter:

Social media marketing: Why it’s never worked for you in the past and how you can change it in 6-minutes flat.

We’ve all heard about people using Facebook and other social media outlets to drum up a significant amount of business, but who are these people and more importantly how do they do it?

You’ve probably seen or even used systems that auto-post new listings to your social media. As you know, the postings rarely result in a deal and they certainly don’t elevate you as a true professional. Simply put, they might help with a listing presentation, but they won’t help build your business.

In this 30-minute web class I’ll show you exactly how to get more followers, shares, likes and most importantly buyers and seller with no effort. Our system takes about 6-minutes to setup. Once you’re done, you’ll never have to mess with your social media for business ever again AND you’ll get more referrals than ever before.

The 30-minute webinar is Nov. 17, at 11 a.m., Pacific time.


REALTOR® Magazine is letting people know about the event because it believes it could contain ideas real estate professionals will find useful in their business but it was not involved in the development of the content and it doesn’t endorse the webinar.


Using Facebook to Generate Offline Referrals

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 07:49

Facebook: is it friend or foe when it comes to building your business? On the face of it, a social media site like Facebook would seem to be a no-brainer for reaching out to people when they’re ready to buy or sell a house. But often the reality doesn’t live up to the potential. You either spend too much time on the platform for little return or you turn off people by marketing too directly to them.

A top producer in the Atlanta area, Maura Neill, thinks she’s found the right balance. The RE/MAX Around Atlanta agent uses Facebook in a variety of ways, but one way she uses it to good effect is to build attendance at events she hosts twice a year. And it’s these events—off-line, in-person, on the ground—that build her business in the end.

In fact, she says, she gets anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen referrals out of these events, and that is part of the concrete ROI she sees from her social media effort.

Neill talks in-depth about how she uses Facebook in The Takeaway with Nobu Hata, a new audio podcast series. Neill’s remarks are featured in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR.

Also looked at in the video is the big win by the real estate industry against what many saw as overreach by the federal government on anti-kickback enforcement. A federal appeals court has shot down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enforcement of Sec. 8 rules under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The CFPB imposed a massive fine—$109 million—against a mortgage company for sending referrals to mortgage insurers that used its affiliated mortgage reinsurance business.

Back when HUD administered RESPA, such “tying” arrangements were considered fine, depending on how they were structured. But when CFPB took over RESPA enforcement, it said they weren’t fine and hit the company for illegal referrals. What’s more, it imposed its fine retroactively, so the company was on the hook for the arrangement even during the years HUD said it was legal.

NAR sent a friend-of-the-court brief to the appeals court that said such retroactive enforcement was wrong, and the court agreed. Not only did it require the CFPB to withdraw the fine, it said CFPB’s interpretation of Sec. 8 was incorrect. HUD’s was the correct one.

In another video segment, an NAR analyst explains why it’s going to take a few years before lenders will be able to make federally backed rural home loans quickly under a new direct endorsement program that Congress created for the Rural Housing Service. FHA already uses direct endorsement and NAR for a long time called on Congress to let RHS use it too for rural home loans. Congress agreed, but RHS doesn’t have the money to make the system changes it needs to make it happen, so even though RHS has the authority, it’s going to be around 2019 before quicker rural home loans happen.

The video looks at another win, albeit a much smaller one. In a change to its FHA single-family loan handbook, HUD removed language requiring appraisers to act as home inspectors by testing appliances when they go to set a value on a house. NAR argued that that was outside the scope of appraiser duties and HUD agreed.

Another segment in the video looks at how well the new closing rules are doing one year after they took effect. NAR found that there are fewer closing delays because of the new rules. But agents are still facing a needlessly tough time getting their hands on the new closing disclosure, which replaced the HUD-1 Settlement Form. But even that is showing some improvement.

Access the video now.

True Tales of Terror in Real Estate Part 2: The House Cleansed Itself of Its Evil Mojo

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 08:00

A couple of weeks ago, we asked our readers for their scariest experiences in the field, and the horrifying stories poured in. We ran a few of the most frightening, but we can’t get enough. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and to stay in the “spirit” as long as we can, we’ve decided to bring you more of your fellow practitioners’ freakiest moments on the job.

This batch of tales are more the eerie kind. They’re not so much about actual paranormal activity in homes — but they’re the kind of situations you’ll be happier to read about than experience yourself. Here’s part two of our favorite scary stories from real estate professionals.

Photo credit: hotblack/

  • I listed a home in which a well-publicized murder had recently taken place. Everyone knew about this stigmatized property, and other agents were asking me, “Did you know this was the house where that guy was killed?” The house was on the market for a couple of weeks with little activity when one day, a neighbor called me to tell me there was sewage running down the driveway. Come to find out, the city was doing work on the old sewer lines on that street, and it backed up into my listing. No other home in the area was affected. The city hired a restoration company to pretty much gut the place, removing the hardwood flooring, cabinets, appliances and 18 inches of the bottom of the drywall throughout the entire house. The company did a great job, and weeks later, the place looked completely remodeled. It sold within a week! I truly believe the house “cleansed itself” — with sewage — of the evil mojo that was lurking there. —Lauren Sato, CRS, GRI, Revelation Real Estate, Chandler, Ariz.
  • When I started selling real estate, I was showing a property in winter, and it was getting dark pretty early. The home was vacant and did not have utilities connected. My buyer was looking in a room and ran out screaming, “I saw a floating head!” We went back the next day to see the home in daylight — and there were three men in the house passed out. We also saw needles on the floor! I have not walked in a dark house since that day. —Myra Dennis, GRI, SRS, Terrain Realty, McAllen, Texas
  • I toured a bank-owned property with my clients that had numerous rooms with blackened walls, a few jars with unrecognizable items on the kitchen window ledge, a tightly wrapped bag hanging from the door between the house and garage, a serrated knife in a room made under the stairs in the basement. Very confused, one of my buyers decided to wait in the car while the other completed the tour. All the strange items made more sense when we looked in the shed, where a voodoo-looking shrine was still intact. As we turned to leave, we saw a sacrificed chicken in a bucket. After the showing, I advised the to send someone out to clear the property. Definitely one of the strangest showings ever. —Jennifer Hafer, SRS, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Bethlehem, Pa.
  • I was taking my buyers through a “teardown” property, and there was an outside staircase that went to the “office.” We got up there and looked around, and when we went into the bathroom and pulled back the shower curtain, there was a jean jacket hanging up with red splatters all over it. I seriously freaked out, thinking it was blood, and my buyer took a closer look and said it was red paint. But I still have my doubts! —Danielle LaCrosse, d’aprile properies, Hinsdale, Ill.
  • I showed a brand-new home and found a pair of black and red panties wadded up on the master bathroom floor. Not creepy in the scary sense, but creepy in the “who was in here?” sense. I took a picture of them and sent it to the listing agent and teased her for a solid week. —Paula Brahan, ABR, CRS, Realty Executives, Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • I was working on-site sales a few years back and had an agent check out a unit for one of her clients. She called to tell me the door was wide open when she arrived. Obviously, I was confused because we never left anything unsecured. So I went to check it out and after looking everywhere in the condo, I opened a closet and a man rushed out past me and out the door. Apparently, he broke in and had friends over the night before. It was actually funny after the fact but could have turned out pretty bad — especially for the agent that went in before me. —Kevin Gallagher, Keller Williams Realty, Charleston, S.C.
  • I had a seller proudly show me his collection of children’s coffins he kept in his dirty, moldy basement. I was so creeped out by the guy that I didn’t take the listing. —John Ravenscraft, Ravenscraft Realty, Hannibal, Mo.
  • One evening, I was reviewing photos I had taken of a creepy foreclosed home earlier in the day. There was a snake I hadn’t noticed on the floor in the photo of the master bedroom. I was so surprised; I zoomed in and sure enough, there it was! I was glad it was the last photo I took before leaving because I know if I had noticed it, I would have run out of there never to return. —Christine Clausen, SFR, Century 21 Lee Real Estate, Ingleside, Texas

Minneapolis Association Puts Its Heart Into Real Estate Love Connections

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 14:58

First, Connecticut REALTORS® brought in the muscle power of the WWE to metaphorically show the strength of a REALTOR® in a home transaction. Now, the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® is playing matchmaker with lovelorn home shoppers, helping them find a spark with the right house.

In its first image and awareness campaign, the association is targeting the first-time buyer crowd ages 18 to 34 with humorous videos likening the home-search process to speed dating, says MAAR President Judy Shields. The campaign, which has been in development since last fall, features 30-second spots like the one above that will air on local television stations and on-demand video, as well as social media, through Nov. 7.

“A consumer-focused campaign is something MAAR members have wanted for years, and they are very happy with the finished product,” Shields said in a statement. “I’m so happy with how we accomplished the messaging and humor. It’s important for consumers to know the importance of using a REALTOR® to help with the complicated transaction of buying a home.”

MAAR has set up a website — — where all its campaign media can be viewed.