January 24, 2015

Speaking of Real Estate

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Updated: 49 min 24 sec ago

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.

Tour the Latest in Tech with REALTOR® Mag

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 16:07

Ready, set … CES! From smartphones to smart homes, from the super-practical to the wild and wacky, it’s that time again, when technology companies roll out their newest products and tout their ideas for the blockbuster gadgets of tomorrow. The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show is almost here, and REALTOR® Magazine is traveling to Las Vegas to give you a front-row seat to the annual high-tech extravaganza.

Join me next week for a multimedia look at the innovations and trends vying to define the technological landscape this year—with a particular focus on what you need to know as a real estate professional, of course. I’ll examine the leading edge of home automation, break down the safety and security tools coming onto the market, and give you a sense of the latest advances in heating and cooling. I’ll also be watching for trends in key tech sectors that intersect with your day-to-day business, such as home entertainment, mobile communications and photography. Look for my coverage of CES on NAR’s Speaking of Real Estate blog and on the REALTOR® Magazine website (

Finally, I’m excited to bring our readers a view of the show from the perspective of a major real estate company, as I work alongside a team from Coldwell Banker that will also be on the ground at CES. I’ll feature a running selection of material about CES from Coldwell Banker’s Blue Matter blog throughout the week right here on Speaking of Real Estate.

Of course, my trip to CES won’t end when the event wraps up. Look for more coverage of the show in REALTOR® Magazine and on our blog in the weeks ahead. And be sure to share your own thoughts about the fast-moving world of technology in the comments section below.

In the Big Leagues

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 11:45

Many REALTORS® have been wondering what the News Corp purchase of Move Inc. will do for the visibility of®. For those who aren’t online readers of The Wall Street Journal, here’s what it means in black and white: an all-important spot in the newspaper’s site navigation. Looking at today’s tumultuous news, I spotted® between links to WSJ Live (the Journal’s video news) and Barron’s. Although I just saw the link today, it has apparently been there since early December. The Wall Street Journal has 39 million digital readers per month, according the WSJ media kit. It remains to be seen how that placement will translate into traffic to® — and, more importantly, leads for NAR members. Move’s new chief executive officer, Ryan O’Hara, takes the helm Jan. 1, and we hope to talk with him soon about his plans for building further on the News Corp-Move synergy.

14 Ways You Made 2014 Your Best Year

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 06:00

If you’re mulling over your New Year’s resolutions, add this to the list: Make 2015 at least as good as you made 2014.

As the year comes to a close, we all look back and reflect on our accomplishments. You should be extra proud of your wins this year. Despite the roller coaster the housing market was on (historic indicators show a sad state for sales), real estate professionals powered through and made great strides. REALTOR® Magazine asked its Facebook followers about their greatest successes in 2014, and a congratulations is in order! Here are 14 of the biggest accomplishments this year that our readers told us about. Take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for a job well done, and if you have an accomplishment you’d like to gloat about, tell us in the comments section of this post.

Kristen Gadd
Co-owner, Key Rental Management at Keller Williams Performance Realty
Pueblo, Colo.
“I formed a team with my husband, opened up a property management company, and went from 13 transactions my first year to 40 this year!”

Graci Brown
Broker, Equinox Real Estate Investment
Eugene, Ore.
“My biggest accomplishment was playing a huge part in the success of newer real estate professionals in my office with the support I provided. Also, I became the president-elect of my local board … at age 26.”

Tom Sullivan
Sales associate, Howard Hanna
Irwin, Pa.
“My last five transactions of the year were first-time home buyers who either just came home from Iraq or just retired from the armed forces.”

Brian Brooker
Broker-associate, Carrington Real Estate Services
Boca Raton, Fla.
“$900K in closed sales in the fourth quarter of 2014, with two pending for the million. I did this while taking broker classes two nights a week for two months and passing my state broker exam. That’s finishing strong.”

Jacqui Scoggins
Sales associate, Coldwell Banker Premier Realty
Las Vegas
“I closed 15 transactions from June to August — my first 4 months in the real estate business. My husband also joined the last sales meeting of the year, as he is retiring from the military and joining me in real estate!”

Joe Prian
Broker-owner, RE/MAX Pines by the Sea
Cambria, Calif.
“I got more involved with my profession on both the state and local levels. I was named 2014 REALTOR® of the Year with the Scenic Coast Association of REALTORS®. What an honor.”

Craig Bell
Sales associate, Keller Williams Realty
Charlotte, N.C.
“Nine listings in one day.”

Kimberly Gettle
Sales associate, Old South Properties Inc.
Pensacola, Fla.
“Winning the Rising Star Award over 1,600 other practitioners in my area and becoming a member of the Florida REALTORS® Board of Directors!”

Mike West
Broker-associate, Legacy Realty Inc.
Greencastle, Pa.
“I got certified to teach real estate classes by the state of Pennsylvania. I taught my first broker class in November.”

Katie Monroe
Sales associate, RE/MAX 8
Blackburg, Va.
“Getting my ABR and e-PRO® certifications, and I’m working on my CRS.”

Robert Hall
Sales associate, Keller Williams Realty
Lafayette, Ind.
“Giving a client a sense of financial security by helping her become a home owner after renting for 45 years.”

Kathy Curtin Tuschhoff
Sales associate, Reece & Nichols Real Estate
Leawood, Kan.
“Getting licensed in my home state and then the state next door, starting my business with the best office for me — very positive, encouraging brokers and a support staff that is out of this world — and feeling for the first time in my professional career that I can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Wendy Walker
Sales associate, William E. Wood & Associates
Williamsburg, Va.
“I became an investor. Since November, I now own three properties. My tenth year in the business will be in 2015.”

Ryan Asjla Moss
Sales associate, Edina Realty Inc.
Monticello, Minn.
“Receiving my license: I have been wanting this for a very long time and finally got my license last month. So that’s my biggest accomplishment; I have a great business plan for next year and goals I am shooting for. So next year, I will have a lot more to say!”

REALTOR® Safety When Meeting Strangers: 12 Tips

Wed, 12/24/2014 - 09:51

It’s unfortunate, but as a real estate professional you put yourself at risk when you meet someone for the first time. That’s why you should always meet a new customer at the office, not at the property. It’s also why you should let someone in your office know where you’re going, with whom, and when you plan to return.

These are basic safety tips and there are plenty of resources for you to become your own best safety advocate at You’ll find pages of resources, including safety apps you can add to your phone. Did you know there is also GPS-enabled jewelry? This is a discrete way for you to let someone know exactly where you are without you having to make a call. If you find yourself in a threatening situation, it could make a difference in the outcome.

For 2015, NAR President Chris Polychron has made safety a priority. Look for more on safety in the months ahead. And, of course, every September is REALTOR® Safety Month.

To help you right now, REALTOR® Magazine has produced a short video that walks you through 12 steps you can take to reduce the chance of something bad happening to you when you meet a new customer.

To be sure, the vast majority of people you meet just want to look at a home. But for that one exception, when a stranger’s intent is something else, you’ll want to be armed with a few things that can help you out. The video is intended to be a place to start.

Watch it on REALTOR Magazine’s YouTube page.

NAR safety resources.

More safety coverage.

A Year-End Meeting With a Tax Advisor Can Yield Big Dividends (VIDEO)

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 17:49

With the holiday season upon us and America deep in shopping mode, now is a good time to consider whether buying equipment or supplies for your real estate business might help lower your taxes for 2014. The federal tax code allows you to immediately deduct the cost of business-related purchases, which could help you reduce your taxable income—but to decide whether it pays to buy those things now or wait until next year, you need a clear understanding of your tax situation. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to meet with a tax advisor for a final meeting before 2015 begins.

NAR tax analyst Evan Liddiard recently sat down with Peter G. Baker, CPA, of Business Planning Group in Washington, D.C., to talk about the benefits for real estate agents of a year-end meeting with a tax professional. In addition to discussing how incurring business-related expenses can help improve your tax picture, Baker talks about the importance of knowing what your commissions for the year will be, the value of keeping good records and how the self-employment tax differs from income tax.

Information from the IRS for self-employed individuals

Past tax-related videos:
Home Office Tax Safe Harbor
New Taxes for Higher-Income Households

NAR Shows It’s a Safety Stallion

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 14:50

NAR’s horse sculpture dedicated to fallen Chicago police officer William R. Mooney (Credit: NAR)

On the second day of the new year in 1908, Officer William R. Mooney, a Chicago policeman, lost his life while protecting his community. A 16-year veteran of Chicago’s finest, Mooney, 45, was shot in a gun battle with three robbery suspects. He was rushed to the hospital, where he later confronted his attacker after the man was apprehended by police and brought to Mooney’s hospital room. The last thing Mooney did before he died was identify the man who killed him.

That’s the story of the hero, according to archived accounts from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. The memory of Mooney — along with more than 500 Windy City police officers who have died in the line of duty over the years — lives on, and the National Association of REALTORS® made sure his death wasn’t in vain, even to this day.

Artist Rich Lo adds final touches to NAR’s horse. (Credit: NAR)

NAR, which is headquartered in Chicago, participated in Horses of Honor, a public art installation honoring the Chicago Police Department’s fallen comrades and benefiting the CPMF. The installation featured 90 life-size replicas of horses in the CPD’s Mounted Patrol Unit, each dedicated to an officer who was killed on the job. The horses were placed in various locations around the city. NAR sponsored one of the horses, hiring artist Rich Lo to paint a deconstructed American flag on the sculpture, which spoke to its theme of “The A-MARE-ICAN Dream of Home Ownership.” NAR dedicated its horse, which stood outside its Chicago office, to Mooney, who died the same year the REALTORS® association was founded.

“NAR’s sponsorship is in keeping with our support of community, safety, first-responders, and fallen officers,” says Bob Goldberg, NAR’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Fifteen of the 90 horses garnering the most votes on Facebook, including NAR’s, were chosen for auction to raise funds for the CPMF. NAR’s horse pulled in a $2,000 winning bid — the third-highest amount of the auction.

NAR’s display of dedication to its community moved many, including former Chicago police officer Linda Vidmar and her daughter, Lindsey.

“This project holds a special place in my heart,” Linda Vidmar writes in a letter to Lo and NAR. “So many CPD families have and will benefit from this amazing project. You have inspired and touched people in so many ways, including my family. Your particular piece is my daughter’s favorite. She actually sketched out what her horse would look like if we were to sponsor one, and it looks similar to yours. She, too, is an artist. So after seeing your horse, we contacted Horses of Honor to locate and visit your horse. It truly is beautiful! Not only did you help CPD families and make our city look amazing, but most importantly, you showed a young artist how art can benefit everyone. It’s a gift that keeps giving.”