March 2, 2015

Speaking of Real Estate

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Updated: 27 min 36 sec ago

Push to Renew Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Gains Steam in Senate

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 11:23

An effort is under way in the Senate to renew legislation that spares underwater homeowners from having to pay income tax on mortgage debt forgiven by a lender, one of the chief supporters of the tax-relief provision told a group of politically active REALTORS® during NAR’s Federal Policy Conference in Washington.

“I can’t make sense of anyone having to pay tax on income they never see,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said at NAR’s Federal Policy Conference.

Speaking on Feb. 5, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he is working with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to again extend a provision that Congress renewed for 2014, which lapsed on December 31. The Heller legislation, the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, would exempt forgiven mortgage debt from taxation through the end of 2016.

Heller and Stabenow are both members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. Heller is also chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy.

Although he didn’t give a timetable for when the Senate might move forward on the measure, Heller indicated that he considers passing such a bill a priority and would like to see it happen quickly. He said that as a lawmaker from Nevada—which was particularly hard-hit by the housing downturn several years ago and has yet to fully recover—he especially aware of the severe impact falling home prices can have on home owners.

“I can’t make sense of anyone having to pay tax on income they never see,” Heller said.

Heller also said he thinks a deal on broader changes to the tax code is “within our reach,” although Hill staffers who spoke at the conference indicated that fundamental divisions over the issue between Republican lawmakers and President Obama will make achieving progress hard, particularly if the sides do not find common ground by late 2015.

One way the government could move ahead on tax reform is to reach an agreement on how to modify taxes on corporations, which Republicans on Capitol Hill and Obama agree should be a priority. The White House and Congress are further apart when it comes to the way the tax code treats individuals, because Obama has proposed raising taxes on the highest earners—a non-starter for Republicans, analysts say.

A key concern for some lawmakers, however, is that tinkering with corporate taxes without also providing relief to individuals would be unfair to small business owners such as real estate professionals, who often operate their businesses as limited liability companies (LLCs) or S corporations, meaning that income they generate passes through to their owners, who pay tax on it at their individual rate.

Understand the Aug. 1 Changes to HUD-1, Closing Process

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:23

The days of filling out the HUD-1 settlement form and getting a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) from the lender are winding down. On August 1, those two forms are going away. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) disclosure form is going away, too. Replacing them are two new forms: the Closing Disclosure and the Loan Estimate. You can familiarize yourself with these new forms on the website of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has taken over administration of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) from HUD. Just go to and type in the name of the forms in the search box.

There are also new rules for the closing procedure. One rule requires all forms to be ready three days prior to closing. NAR is recommending you actually get everything ready seven days prior to closing, so when you go into the three-day period, you don’t have to make any changes. Because making changes as the clock winds down comes with a cumbersome  set of hurdles.

What this means is, you and the other settlement service providers, including the lender and title agent, are under the gun to get everything squared away earlier than you have to today. And the buyers and sellers have to be cooperative as well, because if last-minute changes are made, a new three-day waiting period kicks in, at least in some cases.

The good news is, you have until August 1 to get familiar with the new forms and learn about the new closing procedures, and NAR is hosting a series of webinars on the topic. To learn when the next one is, go to

The video above, with Ken Trepeta of NAR Government Affairs, provides a concise overview of what to expect and also shares some tips on how to decrease the likelihood of snags in this new environment.

The CFPB’s goal in making these changes is to increase transparency for consumers. Start your education process by accessing the 5-minute video.




Commercial: Secondary Markets Gain Attraction

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 11:40

The dollar is strengthening, so you would expect institutional real estate investors from outside the U.S. to hesitate before buying here. But that’s not happening, because the relative stability of the U.S. economy and commercial real estate markets offsets the higher buying costs. That’s one of the takeaways from Scaling New Heights, a 2015 commercial real estate outlook from NAR, Deloitte, and Real Estate Research Corporation/Situs, which the groups released February 5.

What’s more, big buyers from outside the U.S. aren’t just looking at properties in New York, L.A., Washington, and Miami; they’re looking at properties throughout the U.S., including secondary markets.

That means buyers from London or Toronto might be interested in your apartment or office property in Omaha or Indianapolis. What investors are looking for, says George Ratiu, NAR’s manager of quantitative and commercial research, is higher yield, and they can often get that more readily in secondary markets than they can in the big markets.

If you have commercial properties in even smaller, “tertiary” markets, your buyers will probably be mainly from the area or region, as they always have been, Ratiu says.

Looking ahead, expect financing to be more widely available this year than in the previous few years. That’s because all the major sources of financing are back: pension funds, commercial banks, institutional investors, even commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS), which virtually disappeared during the recession. Today they account for about 30 percent of financing.

Despite the improved availability of money, you still have to have a performing asset to get financing at the best terms, as you would expect.

All in all, it’s a good time to be in commercial real estate, because the momentum is on the upswing.

Learn more about the findings in the video with NAR analyst George Ratiu.

More about the report.

What Your Videos Should Really Be Selling

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 16:23

Leigh Brown, ABR, CIPS, broker-owner of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Concord, N.C., has become known as the video queen. So it seemed to make sense that she was leading a session at Real Estate Connect in New York on Friday titled “How I Use Video to Sell Houses.” There was just one problem.

“I don’t use videos to sell houses,” Brown said. “I use videos to sell myself.”

Many agents think of video as a more dynamic way of showcasing their listings, but really, they should be using it to showcase themselves — their personality, their expertise, the people they are, Brown said. Instead of focusing on creating video home tours, consider creating video tutorials on how to buy or sell, or just to give your opinion on market conditions.

“Here’s the thing, you are the product,” Brown said. “I’m the one people come to to ask how to sell a house.” She gave an example where focusing the camera on herself instead of a house pays off: “I want my sellers to understand that it means nothing that they have wire shelving in their linen closets.” A video focusing on the home itself won’t explain that, so it makes more sense for her to make a video of herself explaining the concept to viewers.

“Sellers hire me because they’ve watched all of my videos and they know what I’m about,” Brown said. “They come to me because they want someone who’s engaging. They know what to expect when they come to me.”

Check out some of Brown’s videos below.

Secrets to Reaching International Buyers

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 15:33

With foreign buyers snapping up $92.2 billion worth of U.S. real estate between April 2013 and March 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, it’s obvious that there’s huge opportunity in the global market. But how do you reach buyers living in other countries?

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find advice at the Real Estate Connect conference this week, hosted in New York, which is a top city for international buyers. Agents from some of New York’s biggest brokerages offered their top tips for getting introduced to buyers from around the world and becoming their go-to agent for buying U.S. real estate.

  1. Either learn another language or hire a translator. Before attempting to market to international buyers, you need to have a good understanding of where they come from. “Trust doesn’t come easily in other cultures,” said Nikki Field, associate broker at Sotheby’s International Realty, whose international business grew from 17 percent a few years ago to 76 percent last year. “People here generally believe you are who you say you are, but you have to earn people’s trust in other countries.” A big step in that direction is taking language classes so you can speak to them in their language. Asians are a big home-buying sector in New York, so Field takes Chinese-language courses at The City University of New York. “But if you don’t speak another language, it’s not the end of the world,” added Maria Babaev, CIPS, CRS, associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “You can hire a translator. But it’s important that you do something to show you’re trying to connect to their way of life.”
  2. Advertise experiences that speak to your international knowledge. Field writes in her marketing materials that she’s trained in the Chinese language at CUNY. You can also use familial connections in other countries or any past experience abroad in your marketing. Nora Ariffin, associate broker at Halstead Property, has family in Singapore and travels there at least twice a year, which she notes on her company profile, along with stints living in Europe and South Africa.
  3. Get on a plane and go. There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, so if you want to reach international buyers — go to them, Field said. Take trips to the countries where you want to find buyers, and once you’re there, get in with the real estate crowd. “Research the companies in the cities you visit, and go and introduce yourself to the agents working there,” Ariffin said. “When I go to Singapore, I bring materials for some of my best listings with me, and I can pass them on to agents who may have interested clients.” It also gives you a chance to show your knowledge and become known as the go-to agent for your market.
  4. Build a network of people who work in other global industries. Babaev has gotten to know wealth management advisors, immigration lawyers, and certified public accountants, all of whom have international clients. “These people can pass my information along to their clients when they’re looking for real estate here,” Babaev said. The more people you know who touch other people around the world, the more you become part of the international community, she said.
  5. Be a real estate advisor, not an agent. Once you’ve begun making contact with international buyers, don’t just focus on selling to them. Help them make decisions for the people they know, too — even if you aren’t the agent who facilitates the deal. “I want to know where every single one of their family members lives,” Field says. “So if a client tells me his son is moving to London and wants to know whether he’d be better off renting a flat or buying one, I can give him my opinion regardless of whether I get a commission off it. What that does is it lets him know that I am truly international, that I know markets everywhere. So when he’s ready to make a move here, he’ll know who to call.”

What Will You Need to Cut in the Next Downturn?

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 11:08

In 2006, as the collapse of the housing market set in, real estate franchisor Realogy was carrying $2.7 billion in debt. The darkest days of the meltdown were still to come — and the company knew it. Painful cuts were cruelly necessary if Realogy was going to stay afloat.

So over the course of the next five years, the company reshaped how it worked, Realogy CEO Richard Smith said at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York on Thursday. Realogy was forced to reduce its staff by 30 percent over that time and cut its costs for office space. It once had 1,200 offices worldwide, but for many of them, the company either moved the operations from a physical space to all-online or dramatically reduced the office size.

What Realogy learned — and what brokerages should, too — is that bricks-and-mortar businesses stand to be at a greater disadvantage during economic slumps because of the extra costs of operating a physical space, Smith said.

That doesn’t mean that Realogy doesn’t still have some storefronts, he noted, but they aren’t as expansive as they were historically.

“I don’t think we need 8,000-to-10,000-square-foot offices anymore,” Smith said. “The fixed costs of brick-and-mortar don’t allow us the flexibility to be successful in good and bad times.”

With mobile becoming a larger part of the online experience, and more consumers turning to their mobile devices to search for real estate, brokerages would be smart to encourage more of their agents to untether themselves from the office and operate online, Smith added. That would mean fewer agents needing to come to an office, and brokerages could downsize their space — and their costs.

“Arguably, consumers don’t need to go to real estate offices anymore,” Smith said. So why should brokerages throw away money on them?

Rupert Murdoch’s One-Liner Heard ‘Round the Industry

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 10:16

Rupert Murdoch chats at Inman Connect in New York on Thursday.

Even billionaire media magnates sitting on the largest media empire the world has ever known have a sense of humor.

News Corp founder and executive chairman Rupert Murdoch took the stage at Real Estate Connect in New York on Thursday to explain why he chose to buy Move Inc., the operator of®, over its chief rivals, Zillow and Trulia. He had plenty of good, substantive reasons. But there was one thing he said that sent the audience into an uproar of laughter and cheers.

Murdoch was saying that he believes in the power of the® name to attract consumers away from its rivals because “we all know what ‘REALTOR®’ means.”

And then he quipped: “What the hell does ‘Zillow’ mean?”


Barbara Corcoran: When You Fail, Get Over It

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 18:29

Barbara Corcoran at Inman Connect on Wednesday.

Who doesn’t love Barbara Corcoran? The venerable real estate mogul who built The Corcoran Group, New York’s largest brokerage, brought the sharp tongue she’s become known for as a “shark” investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to Real Estate Connect on Wednesday. One of the most talked-about speeches of the day, Corcoran had the crowd in stitches as she recounted her life and career, as well as her early competitive spirit. (At one of the 20 odd jobs she held by the time she was 23, Corcoran devised a plan to woo customers from her blonde, large-breasted co-worker by tying red ribbons to her pigtails and “being the sweet one,” she said.)

But the biggest takeaway from Corcoran’s session didn’t come in a grand monologue about building a multimillion-dollar company or investing in 22 startups over the years. It came in a passing comment she made at the tail end of her 20-minute talk: “The thing about the most successful salespeople is that they don’t take very long to feel sorry for themselves when they fail,” Corcoran said. “I’m very, very good at bouncing back.”

That should be a lesson to every agent and broker. Hard times will come and go, and you won’t be successful at everything, but you have to get right back up and keep going. Corcoran said she’s invested in venture companies “on gut instinct” and came out on the losing end a fair amount of times. She even almost lost her spot on “Shark Tank” when producers of the show told her at the last minute that they decided to go with another personality, she said. (She wrote them a scathing letter expressing her disappointment, which convinced them that she was a “shark” after all and deserved to be on the show.)

But what all of you should know is that successful people don’t win them all. They just don’t allow themselves to be losers for very long.

Think Like a Startup

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 13:31

If you’re attempting to start your business from scratch, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. You’re pressuring yourself to create a rock-solid business plan that will earn you a certain percentage of growth over the next few years. You need a flashy logo. Do you have a support team to help keep your business afloat? What about marketing? Do you have enough money to roll out your first major campaign?

Slow down. Actually, you don’t need any of that.

If you’re thinking like a true startup would, then the only thing that really matters is simply creating a product that people want. All you need to worry about is how you do that today — and think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Just ask Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the juggernaut social media website Reddit, which now is valued at $500 million. As Ohanian told attendees at Real Estate Connect in New York on Wednesday, Reddit was launched by him and a friend in the kitchen of his apartment.

“Companies today get started with a couple of founders, a laptop, and an idea,” Ohanian said. “So many startups aspire to launch day. They’re not thinking about what they’re going to be doing 10 years from now. … You may see where the world is headed in 10 years, but if you’re not solving problems for people today, you’re not going to get there.”

When the first version of Reddit was launched 10 years ago, “we had no idea what we were doing,” Ohanian added. “But that’s OK. No one has it all figured out.

“None of our success was planned, and none of it was mapped out. We just kept trying to improve every day.”

Developing a business strategy shouldn’t be your top priority when you’re starting out, Ohanian said. Why? Because as an entrepreneur, your job is to rethink the way your industry works and come up with a new way of serving customers. That kind of innovation is often realized as you go, not planned ahead of time.

“Many startup founders get extremely frustrated because this model they’ve gotten used to no longer works,” he said. “The free market does not have a Cliff’s Notes or an obvious ‘yes, this is how this works.’”

The best thing you can do is simply to do your job as best you can, and the single most important aspect of growing your business is to engage your customers, Ohanian noted. When someone comments about your product online, respond to them and show them you appreciate that they’re paying attention.

When Your Life Hangs in the Balance, You Learn to Reprioritize

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 19:50

“I’m not supposed to be here right now,” Imran Poladi told the audience at Real Estate Connect’s Agent Reboot seminar on Tuesday. He didn’t just mean that he shouldn’t have been at the conference in New York. He meant that, according to his prognosis a couple years ago, he shouldn’t be alive today.

Poladi, vice president of San Francisco-based real estate franchisor NextHome Inc., switched the tenor of the business conference to a more personal, touching tone when he took the stage to talk about his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma during his talk, “30%: Lessons of Life.”

Imran Poladi

The REALTOR® community was shocked when Poladi, 37, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2012 — this after he survived testicular cancer in 2007. Doctors found more than 30 tumors throughout his body, and he was given a 30 percent chance of living a year. But even through more than eight months of chemotherapy and more than four months of radiation treatment, Poladi refused to bow to his illness.

“I’d have chemo on Friday, I’d be in the fetal position Saturday, fetal position Sunday, and back to work Monday,” he said. “If I act like I’m dying, then I’m dying.”

During his treatment, Poladi said, he learned life lessons that changed his outlook and way of thinking. These lessons are also applicable to real estate and can help practitioners not only reprioritize their lives but also think differently professionally. Here are Poladi’s six life lessons:

  1. Don’t let other people’s expectations dictate your future. “When you go out and try to do something new in your career, don’t listen to what other people say to you,” Poladi said, “because you haven’t done it yet.” There will be plenty of people who will tell you not to waste your time on something, but some of the most successful people today are those who took a chance when everyone else thought they were crazy, he added.
  2. Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you. “We all had our first day in real estate,” Poladi said. Remember the people who helped you, and pass on the favor by helping someone else. Poladi said there are three types of people you should keep in your life: someone who is older and wiser than you, someone who is your equal to bounce ideas off of, and someone to mentor and help be more successful.
  3. Use positive self-talk to lead you to success. Nearly twice as many words in the English language have a negative connotation than those with a positive connotation, Poladi said. “You have to think twice as hard not to be negative,” he added. “Don’t drag yourself or other people down. Let people try and explore and do new things. Don’t beat people up because they’re doing something crazy.”
  4. Just because you’re not standing on a stage doesn’t mean you don’t have an audience. Poladi spoke openly about his cancer diagnosis and treatment on Facebook, sharing emotional stories about his journey on Facebook. One day, he got a Facebook message from someone who was going through a divorce. The messenger said he could relate to a lot of the things Poladi wrote about related to his medical condition, and that helped the messenger through his own ordeal. “I didn’t know I was having that kind of influence,” Poladi said. “When you get into real estate, you’re no longer a private figure. Everything you do and say is being watched. How you react to that will be calling card. What are you doing to either inspire or discourage others that you don’t even know you’re doing?”
  5. Read until it hurts; your brain will thank you for it. Poladi said it’s essential to open your mind and learn things you might not normally be exposed to. He said two of his favorite books are The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci, and Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom.
  6. It’s better to sing along with friends than dance for strangers. “When you do something different than everybody else, you might look silly,” Poladi said. “But what ends up happening is, people start thinking that they wish they were more like you. … Before you know it, more and more people end up joining your movement because you were brave enough to stand there while something was not popular.”

Walk a Mile in Your Clients’ Shoes

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 17:33

There are two ways to express empathy for someone: “I feel for you” and “I feel you.” Think about the difference between those statements. “I feel for you” tells the person that you understand their situation from your own perspective. “I feel you” tells them you understand from their perspective — because you’ve been there. Can you “feel” your clients instead of “feeling for” them?

Real estate brokerages and agents have to empathize with their clients in order to design the best customer experience, said panelists during Tuesday’s “Designing Great Real Estate Experiences” session at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York. When you can see the home-buying or selling process through your clients’ eyes, you can create an experience for them that better serves their needs.

“You have to think about the journey of the customer and what that feels like,” said Michele Serro, founder and CEO of Doorsteps.

One company that has designed an exceptional customer experience is the taxi service Uber, she said. Uber has incorporated both low-touch and high-touch moments into its customer experience. Its app allows users to request a car at the touch of a button and see the car’s distance from the arrival point in real time. “For all the things that happen before I get in the car, Uber decided to use technology for that,” Serro said.

The high-touch part of the Uber experience begins once a customer is picked up. That’s when the driver makes a connection with the customer.

“Uber has really thought about the journey the rider is going to take,” Serro said. So how can Uber’s example influence real estate? “What does it feel like to get excited about a house, realize you can’t afford it, then have to go look at another house? Where can technology help with these moments? If you get more deliberate about the design of your experience, it can be really incredible.”

Angela Raab, director of training and technology advancement at FC Tucker Company in Indianapolis, said her company emphasizes agents’ use of hyperlocal data to enhance the customer experience. For example, agents need to be able to tell clients the shortest route to any destination from a given address, whether that be by walking, driving, or taking public transportation. “It’s just so important to us, and I think it’s powerful,” Raab said.

Judy Weiniger, broker-associate at RE/MAX Premier in Warren, N.J., said she has “created a hub” by starting a Facebook group for her community where she posts videos and other local information to engage with her audience. “As broker-owners, you’re taught to have cutting-edge technology, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the empathy question. The bottom line is: Do you care for your clients enough, and do you want to put their interests ahead of your own?”

When you truly put yourself in the shoes of your customer, the experience they’re getting feels different, more real. It doesn’t have to be a large gesture, Serro noted. It can be something small, such as using more personal language when you’re speaking with a client on the phone.

‘Potentially Historic’ Blizzard Won’t Stop Real Estate Connect Conference in NYC

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 06:00

Snow from a previous storm in New York. (

A massive snowstorm that the National Weather Service is calling “potentially historic” threatens to dump 20 to 30 inches of snow on New York City from Monday night into Tuesday — just as the Real Estate Connect conference kicks off at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square on Tuesday morning.

But despite the blizzard’s guarantee to cripple travel plans — the potential exists for NYC’s three major area airports to shut down by Monday night, as well as the city’s subway system, officials say — the conference, which will feature heavy hitters such as keynote speaker Rupert Murdoch, will go on as planned.

The @InmanConnect Twitter account was tweeting several reassurances to followers Sunday that the conference wouldn’t be called off because of the snow. “Absolutely NOT!! Full steam ahead!” Inman Connect tweeted to a follower who asked if the conference would be cancelled or postponed because of weather conditions. “No contingency plans,” it tweeted to another follower, noting that many conference attendees have made last-minute flight changes to fly in early ahead of the storm.

Still, anyone traveling to New York should take caution. Plan to stay close to the hotel — at least in the opening days of the conference — as getting around the city could be very difficult. “This could be a storm the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Sunday. He noted that the snow accumulation could beat the  26.9 inches that fell in the city in 2006, and it could snarl transportation worse than a 2010 storm did, when the snow pileup left streets impassable for days.

No matter how the blizzard plays out, REALTOR® Magazine will be in New York covering the conference. In the coming days, check the Speaking of Real Estate blog and the REALTOR® Magazine website for our coverage.

The Office of the Near Future

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:04

After years of major companies decamping from the cities and setting up in sprawling suburban locations, the tide has turned. Motorola, Hillshire Brands Co., and United Continental Holdings Inc., United Airlines’ parent company, are just a few of the employers that have relocated their headquarters in recent years to downtown Chicago, beckoned by the creative dynamism of a vibrant urban center. Not coincidentally, it’s also where the next generation of workers are.

“Employers realize workers won’t come to them. So they have to go to the workers,” said Roger Heerema of Wright Heerema Architects.

Heerema was part of a panel called The Teching of Downtown Chicago at the 13th Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference held — naturally — in downtown Chicago. It has become abundantly clear that Millennials are generally uninterested in relocating to distant suburbs for work or enduring long commutes. The demand for cutting edge tech workers means companies both large and small are keen on designing workplaces that are both appealing to young workers and conveniently located.

So what does the “office of the near future” look like? “The pendulum is tilting away from open collaborative space,” said Heerema. “There has to be lots of flexibility in the way space is designed.” As square footage allotted for individual employees decreases, there needs to be ample space for employees to gather for small-group, focused work.

And the building itself should be constructed for easy retrofitting for new tenants that come along. “Keeping costs down for tenants is very important,” added Heerema.

Because office tenants are more interested in shorter leases, flexible designs are paramount. Ari Klein of property management company Cushman & Wakefield said he can no longer predict what tenants will want five to 10 years from now.

“Technology is outpacing all predictions. What’s important in the design of spaces is that they can change within 18 months,” Klein said.

The age of the “keyless” office is also near. Constance Freedman, vice president of strategic investments for the National Association of REALTORS®, said workers will soon be able to gain entry to their office through apps on their phone, replacing the need to show a badge or tap an ID card to get past security. Building managers will no longer need to change locks when a tenant leaves.

“Devices will communicate with each other” through the so-called Internet of Things, said Freedman, who oversees the REach®

Constance Freedman

technology accelerator program for NAR.

Still, the notion of full-time workers showing up daily in their downtown offices is also changing. Remote work is becoming de rigueur thanks to technology. Freedman cited forecasts showing that by 2020, some 40 percent of the workforce will work virtually on a regular basis.

Next-Generation Fridge Saves Money—and the Environment

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 10:21

Tucked in a small space at the side of Chinese appliance and electronics manufacturer Haier’s enormous booth at CES, a nondescript yet cutting-edge wine cooler embodied the future of refrigeration technology. Unlike traditional refrigerators, which are cooled with hazardous fluids linked to global warming, the prototype refrigerator uses an experimental technology that depends on water-based coolant that won’t harm the atmosphere—and consumes substantially less electricity to boot.

The new technology, called magnetocaloric cooling and developed by Haier in conjunction with Germany’s BASF and Astronautics Corporation of America, promises to cut energy use by a third or more compared with current systems, said Markus Schwind, a BASF research scientist based in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Rather than a compressor, the technology uses a magnetocaloric heat pump that cools by using a magnetic field to remove heat from the coolant.

Because it does not rely on a compressor, magnetocaloric cooling technology also should also allow refrigerators to run more quietly once it is further refined, Schwind added.

Don’t expect to see magnetocaloric cooling-based refrigerators in stores for a while. The technology is still at least a year or two away from being ready for production, and even then likely to show up in specialty products like wine coolers before making its way to standard refrigerators, Schwind said.

BASF has produced a video about magnetocaloric technology, which is available on YouTube.

Polaroid Returns With a Modern Take on Instant Photography

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 19:58

Ever miss the old Polaroid instant photos that once defined the cutting edge of technology but have long since been replaced by digital cameras? Well, now’s your chance to reconnect with the past.

At CES this week, the company that now owns the Polaroid brand showed off a modern interpretation of the iconic camera invented back in the 20th century by Edwin Land. Due to be released to the public in mid-January, the new Polaroid Socialmatic camera produces 2 x 3-inch digital photos using a built-in printer. Prints take less than a minute to emerge—and there’s no need to wait for them to develop or flap them back and forth to dry them.

The new Polaroid, which will cost $299 and is already available for preorder on, features a touch screen, a 14-megapixel sensor and 4 gigabytes of built-in storage. It also comes with a 2 megapixel rear-facing camera for selfies. Based on the Android mobile operating system, the device uses proprietary paper that the company says will costs about 50 cents each and come in packs of 10.

Unlike the new Polaroid’s famous ancestors, the new camera doesn’t make you commit an image to paper unless you like it. You can crop and touch up photos before hitting the print button, and share images electronically using WiFi and Bluetooth.

If the idea of a Polaroid camera intrigues you, perhaps you’ll also be interested in Polaroid’s take on wireless communications. The company plans to release a line of smartphones and tablets later in 2015.

CES: More from Coldwell Banker

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 17:38

The Coldwell Banker team I’m working with at CES this week has produced a video featuring some of the products from some of the world’s biggest consumer electronics companies. Click here to watch.

You may also be interested in a blog post by Victoria Lee, Coldwell Banker’s brand engagement manager, about app-based irrigation systems. In addition, Jason Pantana, director of agent learning engagement for Coldwell Banker, has posted a piece about smart watches–which are very prominent at this year’s show.

Connected Appliances Take Center Stage at CES

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 17:17

Linking time-honored home equipment like washers and dryers to the Internet is the latest trend being touted by some of the biggest names in the appliance industry at CES this year–with smartphone apps playing a leading role. Read my article on the REALTOR® Magazine site for details.

The Future of the Laundry Room

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 11:28

Technology is making the chore of doing laundry easier, reports Victoria Lee, brand engagement manager for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Take a look at her post from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show on Coldwell Banker’s Blue Matter blog.

Let’s Get Visual: What Design Says About the Quality of Your Real Estate Business

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 16:39

As part of our coverage of the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, we’re featuring contributions from a Coldwell Banker team that’s on site at the show. Here’s a piece about the importance of paying close attention to design when running your business from Jason Pantana, Coldwell Banker’s director of agent learning engagement.

I’ll guarantee it: take the [exhausting] walk through the exhibitor halls of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and you’ll conclude the same as me—design matters! From floor to ceiling, CES is covered with exquisite marvels sure to leave you dazzled. I was struck by the stylishness of 4K, curved television monitors, stunning smart appliances, chic app interfaces, and wearable accessories one would actually feel confident wearing! It seems evident to me that any hardware, software, or electronic worth its keep better be dressed to impress.

Success, for any business, is earned by creating exceptional customer experiences. However, think about the many things which might shape the overall impression a customer has of your real estate business: the accessibility and design of your website, the appearance of your business card, or the layout of property fliers, for instance. These days, the visual experience you provide to customers sets the stage for the exceptional services you ultimately perform.

So get prepared, today’s consumers are being conditioned by tech giants like Samsung, LG, Fitbit, Apple, Nest, and countless others beyond just the tech industry to associate expectations for a given product (or service) by the quality of its visual stature. It’s not shallow—simply consider the sheer volume of choices consumers (ourselves included) face these days when enlisting a product or service to perform a needed task. It’s overwhelming!

In his TED Talk titled, “How to get your ideas to spread,” Seth Godin said, “In a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.” Filtering out those products or services which aren’t visually stirring is simply a device performed by consumers to manage the selection process. So here, perhaps, is the wisdom to gain from the deducible design strategies of CES’s top tech innovators: make sure your visual materials are enthralling to consumers.

Here are some materials you may want to evaluate:

  1. Your listing presentation;
  2. Property photos, videos, and copy;
  3. Your personal website;
  4. Your business card;
  5. Fliers and brochures;
  6. Personal photos and videos;
  7. eMarketing materials (e.g., a newsletter);
  8. Web profile pages.

For more content about CES from Coldwell Banker, visit and follow along via social media using #CBCES.

CES: The First Day

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 09:38

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m working with a team from Coldwell Banker to follow the action at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas this week. They’ve put together a video and blog post featuring some of the products they spotted at the show yesterday that might capture your imagination as a real estate professional. You can find the video, as well as a related article, on Coldwell Banker’s Blue Matter blog.