April 23, 2014

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Home Office Safe Harbor, Other Tax Changes

Speaking of Real Estate - Mon, 02/10/2014 - 14:43

The IRS has made it easier for you to claim your home office deduction and it has increased the amount of deduction you can take for driving people to and from listings in your car. These are two of the changes that can help you save money as you prepare to file your 2013 taxes.

If you’re in a higher-income bracket, there are some additional changes you need to be aware of. Here’s a look at six changes that can affect how you prepare your taxes this year.

Simplified home office deduction
The IRS is giving you a choice in how you determine the deduction for your home office. You can calculate your deduction the way you always have, by determining the square footage of your office space, then apportioning other costs, like electricity, heating, and depreciation, based on your square footage amount. Or you can use the IRS’s new simplified method, under which you take a straight $5 per square foot deduction, up to 300 square feet, for a potential maximum deduction of $1,500.

Which method should you use? Peter Baker, a CPA based in Washington, D.C., whose client base includes many real estate brokers and sales associates, says you should run your numbers both ways and apply the calculation that’s most advantageous to you. “This method is electable on a year-by-year basis,” says Baker.

Increased mileage deduction
The IRS changes how much you can deduct for business mileage each year, based in part on whether gas prices are heading up or down. For your 2013 filing, the per-mileage rate has been increased a penny to 56.5 cents, from 55.5 cents, per mile. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Baker points out that for every 10,000 miles you drive, that’s an additional $100 in deductions. As a real esate practitioner, you no doubt spend a lot of time in your car and those miles can add up quickly.

New bracket for higher-income households
If you’ve had a successful 2013—so successful, in fact, that you find yourself in the highest tax bracket—be prepared to pay more than you did last year. That’s because in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2011, Congress created a 39.5 percent bracket for taxpayers whose adjusted income is $400,000 for a single filer or $450,000 for joint filers. Last year, the highest tax bracket was 35 percent, so the increase is significant. “The good news is that, for 98 percent of taxpayers, the Bush-era tax cuts were made permanent,” says Baker. Under the Bush-era tax structure, there are six brackets, of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent. The law adds the 39.5 percent as a seventh bracket to that.

3.8 percent net investment tax kicks in
In a new tax that you might already be familar with, in part because it’s received so much attention in the media, is the new 3.8 percent tax on net investment income, which takes effect for your 2013 filing. The tax was enacted as part of the big health insurance reform law passed in 2010 and rumors have swirled around on the Internet and elsewhere since then that the tax amounts to a transfer tax on real estate, but although a small percentage of some home sales can trigger the need to see if you meet the tax threshold, it is not a real estate transfer tax.

Under the tax, households with adjusted gross income of $200,000 for a single filer or $250,000 for joint filers are potentially subject to the tax if they have a certain level of investment income. Calculating the tax can be complicated and is best done with the assistance of a professional tax advisor, but, in short, if your income meets the threshold level and, on top of that, you have non-earned, or investment, income, including net rents and capital gains (including from the sale of a principal residence), you need to do a series of calculations to see if you owe anything under this new tax.

On a positive note, with the sale of a principal residence, you have the added factor of the $250,000 to $500,000 capital gains exclusion, which is key in determining whether the tax would apply to you. Briefly, if you sold your house for a gain of more than $500,000 (that’s gain, not sales amount), then you automatically deduct the $500,000 capital gains exclusion from your gain ($250,000 for a single filer). That means if your gain was, say, $530,000, only $30,000 is considered investment income under the tax.

There are other factors to be considered, but when all is said and done, how much tax you owe, if any, is based on how much net investment income you have compared to your adjusted gross income threshold. You apply the tax to whichever is less, your investment income or your income threshold. So, if your adjusted income threshold is $250,000 and your net investment income is, say, $30,000, you apply the 3.8 percent tax to the $30,000, whch would one out to around $950 in tax.

0.9 percent Medicare tax
The health reform law also created a 0.9 percent Medicare tax, also known as the “additional Medicare tax,” because it sits on top of the existing 2.9 percent Medicare tax, which applies to your wages, compensation, or self-employment income. The additional tax is based on a threshold amount for your filing status, generally $200,000 for a single filer and $250,000 for joint filers. Thus, if your income is at that threshold, your Medicare tax is raised to 3.8 percent, not to be confused with the 3.8 percent net investment income tax.

Individual mandate penalty
Another important change concerns the year 2014 but not your 2013 tax filing, and that’s the fee the federal government will impose on you if you don’t have health insurance by March 31 of this year, which is the end of what’s known as the open enrollment period. The penalty is $95 per uninsured person in your household (half that amount for each uninsured dependent, up to three dependents), capped at 1 percent of your household income.

Not any insurance will do. It has to be insurance that meets the law’s requirements, generally what’s known as a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum plan. These plans differ in their cost and the deductible amounts and other matters but they’re all considered major medical plans that meet the law’s requirements.

The IRS is the federal agency charged with enforcing the health insurance requirement, so although the insurance requirement doesn’t pertain to your 2013 tax filing per se, you want to be aware of the March 31 deadline.

You can learn more about all of these tax issues in the pair of REALTOR® Magazine videos above with Peter Baker, CPA, a Washington, D.C.-based accountant, and Evan Liddiard, NAR’s senior policy representative for tax policy.

More on the 3.8 percent net investment tax is discussed in other REALTOR® magazine videos:

The 3.8% Tax Is Not a Real Estate Transfer Tax

3.8% Tax: What’s True, What’s Not

America’s Most Romantic Homes

Styled, Staged & Sold - Mon, 02/10/2014 - 02:00

Can you feel the love in these homes? recently highlighted the most romantic homes for-sale in the world, from the mansions of celebrities to the homes where kings and presidents once lived. Here’s a rundown of the homes that made its list:

1. King Edward’s Love Nest

Location: Just north of Chicago

Price: $12 Million

Chicago’s Schweppe Estate once hosted a former King of England, Edward VIII, who left the British throne in 1936 to be spend time with American Wallis Simpson here. It sits on 5.3 acres and features a 24,500-square-foot English Renaissance mansion with 10 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, and 11 fireplaces, as well as a library, family-game room, elevator, sauna, leaded glass windows, hand-carved limestone stairs, and fountains.

2. The Romance of Remembrance

Location: Suisun Valley, Calif. (near Napa)

Price: $22 million

At the Villa de Madre estate, the owner reconstructed one of the buildings to resemble a 1950s soda shop, where he and his wife had their first date. Also along the estate, he replicated several downtown storefronts – from the grocery store, Rexall Drugs, Harley Davidson, and tackle shop – of where the couple would stroll past when they first started dating. The 80-acre estate also includes 63 acres of vineyards, which produces 150,000 bottles of Cabernet wine annually. The main house includes 22,882 square feet.

3. Romantic Island Retreat

Location: Costa Rica

Price: $29.75 million

This 50-acre oceanfront jungle retreat in Costa Rica belongs to actor Mel Gibson. The Happy Planet Index ranks Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world for its safe streets, gorgeous weather, good medical care, and thriving economy. This estate includes three homes, with the main hacienda-style home overlooking a beach and featuring seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a courtyard, and pool.

4. The Romantic Elkhorn Ranch

Location: Big Sky, Mont.

Price: $26.5 million

This 160-acre, Montana estate featuring mountain views belongs to Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart and husband TV and film producer, Burg Sugarman. It’s located inside the exclusive Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont., a resort that provides a private skiing and lift system as well as an 18-hole golf course. This ranch consists of three building, including a 7,000-square-foot, six bedroom, seven bath main residence, as well as guest quarters and a four-stall horse barn.

5. A Plantation Deep Rooted in History

Location: Off the banks of the James River in Prince George County, Va.

Price: $20 million

This plantation has been designated a National Historical Landmark and has been in agricultural operation since 1607. With a rich history, the plantation once belonged to Nathaniel Harrison, a family that produced multiple governors and two U.S. Presidents, and the plantation also has family ties to William Shakespeare. Thomas Jefferson is credited with designing the central section of the main house as a gift to his friends, the Harrisons. This plantation has more than 4,500 acres – 1,600 of which grow soybeans, wheat, barley, and corn. The farm has 14 structures, including a horse stable, and two-story brick mule barns, a dairy barn, and more. The Palladian styled main house – reminiscent of a Roman country house — is 7,700-square feet with seven bedrooms and seven baths.

6. Sensual Sensation

Location: Palm Springs

Price: $14.5 million

Actress Suzanne Somers home and husband TV host Alan Hamel have been married for 36 years, and have called this romantic Palm Springs home for years. The home is modeled after L’oustau De Baumaniere in Provence, France. It’s located on 73 acres on a mountainside above the valley in Mesa Canyon. The estate features an outdoor amphitheater carved into the mountain that can seat 50, a dance floor, and a pool, spa, hiking trails, and natural waterfall that inches down the hillside.

7. West Indies Hideaway

Location: St. Barth Island

Price: $11.59 million

Actor Steve Martin’s Villa Au Soleil is located high in the hills of Lurin, St. Barthelemy, and includes a 28,191-square-foot, tropical colonial-style home that sits above the Atlantic Ocan. The home features views of the ocean, multi-level terraces, and a two-tiered infinity pool.

8. The Kennedy’s Honeymoon Haven

Location: Beverly Hills

Price: $115 million for-sale, or leased at $600,000 per month

After they were married in 1953, John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned in this 1920s era Beverly House, which features more than 50,000 square feet in a blend of Spanish and Italian style. The home features gardens, which were used as the backdrop for scenes in “The Godfather,” “The Bodyguard,” “Topaz,” “Into the Night,” among other movies. The estate boasts 29 bedrooms, 40 bathrooms, two guesthouses, and a separate apartment. It is located three blocks from Sunset Boulevard.

9. Water Views Everywhere

Location: Houston

Price: $14.5 million

Actors Ryan O’Neal and Jacqueline Bisset, stars of the 1973 movie “The Thief Who Came to Dinner,” filmed most of the movie at this Houston mansion. The home belongs to the Van Dyke family, and is located on 2.8 private acres, which inclues an 11,737-square-foot home. It features plenty of water throughout its grounds – from pools, waterfalls, pool island with trees to pools in shade; pools in the sun; and a small lake. It also has one of the largest private pools in the U.S. The grounds also feature an orchestra stage with an outdoor kitchen, spa, and guest house.

10. A Private Gulfstream Island

Location: Near the Florida Keys

Price: $5.995 million

Located on the Atlantic side of the Overseas Highway, Melody Key is situated a half mile off Summerland Key. The island can be reached by boat only. The home is powered by solar and features a desalination system for fresh water. The main house has 2,800-square-feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms and an observation deck to watch sun rises over the Atlantic or sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico. The grounds include a swimming pool and spa surrounded by tropical trees. This estate also comes with a waterfront lot with dock on Summerland Key.

Read more about these romantic retreats for-sale at

Property Management: Tools, Approaches And Representation

Commercial Source Blog Feed - Fri, 02/07/2014 - 16:27

Along with David Meit of Maryland’s Oculus Realty, web-based course provider Grace Hill, web-based property management software vendor Appfolio, and, representing the property management industry, NAR partner IREM all got together recently for an online webinar presentation covering the hows, wheres and whys of successful property management.

The hour-long video is worth a look for a few reasons.  First, it’s not a vendor pitch dressed up as a business conversation.  The topic of property management is looked at from the points of view of the presenters, certainly, but also the live polling questions and interactivity in the session make it a special look into the thorny fundamental problem of property management: how do people who sell for a living get their arms around the problem of property operations? 


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Rent-to-Buy? Try ‘Vacation-to-Buy’

Speaking of Real Estate - Fri, 02/07/2014 - 07:00

The Red Cloud Estate, Resorts West's most expensive property, is up for sale for $16 million — but costs $12,000 a night for a vacation stay.

We thought we’d seen it all when we caught wind of a peculiar marketing tactic to let potential home buyers spend the night in a house before making an offer. But, of course, things can always go a step further.

At luxury communities in Park City, Utah, a sleepover isn’t going to cut it. Instead, house hunters can vacation there before deciding whether to buy a property.

Resorts West, a company that manages high-end, ski-in/ski-out winter vacation-home enclaves, has a program that allows potential buyers to shack up for a minimum of three to seven nights in one of its exclusive properties before agreeing to purchase. Resorts West has a range of homes for sale, starting with a $1,089,000 two-bedroom condo and sliding up the slope to a $16 million eight-bedroom juggernaut with a stadium-seat theater and slope-side hot tub.

Rates to stay in these homes start at $677 a night for the condo and go up to $12,000 a night for its priciest property, known as Red Cloud Estate. Oh, and that includes the full suite of Resorts West services: daily housekeeping, complimentary shuttle service, and a private concierge. Tracie Heffernan, Resorts West’s communications director, says buyers can negotiate longer stays — a month or more — at higher rates.

“These properties are ski vacation homes that owners use a few times a year and otherwise rent to other vacationers,” Heffernan says. “Sellers do not have to commit to a certain time away [to allow buyers an opportunity to stay], but these properties are not full-time residences.”

Resorts West is also a rental company, and some of their clients are high-net-worth home owners who choose to keep their homes in the company’s rental database when they are away during the off season.

“We manage a small, hand-selected inventory of individually owned luxury properties, and renting these homes to skiers is our primary business,” Heffernan says. “Because we offer higher levels of service and set higher rates than other property managers in town, we do not have the high-occupancy mindset of some property managers. And since we target guests who are also often interested in real estate, owners see the value in keeping their homes in our rental inventory. We particularly find value in attracting a potential buyer who also sees the advantages of keeping a home in the rental inventory. We work with many homeowners whose properties are not on the market.”

In a statement, Resorts West points to recent data from the Park City Board of REALTORS®, which shows strong growth in housing demand in the area, as a sign that “vacation-to-rent” marketing can be successful. According to PCBR, total home sales in Park City in 2013 were up 22 percent from the previous year, and sales were up year-over-year for every month.

Resorts West Broker Jeff Spencer, a past president of PCBR, says that letting potential buyers experience a vacation at a home they’re interested in gives them a unique perspective on how they would use the home if it were their own — and it helps both buyers and sellers with a transaction.

“It’s really a rare opportunity for buyers to get a feel for the home they want, and sellers have a chance to show off the nuances of a property in a way that you just can’t in a walk-through,” Spencer says. “How do you show off the view at sunset from the front deck? Oftentimes, a photo doesn’t do the experience justice.”

Avoid Winter Repairs: How to Protect a Home From Cold

Styled, Staged & Sold - Fri, 02/07/2014 - 04:01

Sellers’ shutters and siding may look great. However, as this winter has repeatedly reminded us, all the beautiful features on the exterior of sellers’ home need to withstand the elements.

Add to your blog a free article, How to Protect Your Home from Severe Cold, from the REALTOR® Content Resource. It’s one of five free articles now available in the February “Smart Snow and Ice Removal” article package. Share all five today.

Visit for more articles like this.


REALTOR® Content Resource is brought to you by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. With it, you can download free homeownership content from HouseLogic to your marketing materials.

Philadelphia REALTORS® Show Their City Some Brotherly Love

Speaking of Real Estate - Wed, 02/05/2014 - 11:08

Philadelphia has the ninth largest municipal economy in the world, by some measures, but despite its size, it’s struggling with budget matters like many major cities. Among other things, it has some 40,000 buildings and 10,000 lots that are vacant and off the taxpayer rolls.

In the past year or so, the Greater Philadelphia Association of REALTORS® (GPAR) has tried to step up with concrete proposals to help the city improve its financial picture, and by extension the quality of life in the city, exemplifying what NAR’s “Power of R” campaign is all about.

If you’re not familiar with “The Power of R” (or #PowerofR for tweeting purposes), it’s a campaign that NAR launched a few months ago to show how REALTORS® use their expertise in real estate and knowledge of their community to help bring about positive change that benefits everyone.

In Philadelphia, the association worked with other organizations on a proposal for a land bank, which brings in a single entity to handle the sale of the city’s 50,000 vacant properties. The idea is to let this entity evaluate at each property and get it back onto the market in the best way possible, maximizing the return to the city but also improving the value of the property and the surrounding area.

The association has a number of other ideas it’s discussing with city officials, including one to help the city sell some two dozen schools that were closed last year. Depending on factors that real estate professionals are well-suited to determine, the city would sell each school based on its highest and best use. That might be as a new hall for one of the city’s many world-class universities or as a condo development or as something else. The point is that determining what that best use is is something REALTORS® know a lot about, and so by leveraging their expertise, the city can benefit itself and the market.

Taken together, the association’s many proposals are exactly what the “Power of R” campaign is all about: it’s REALTORS® using their expertise to improve their community for everyone’s benefit. In the 5-minute video above, GPAR President Allan Domb talks about his association’s ideas for helping Philadelphia leverage its assets. There might be ideas there to take back to your association.

When Selling a Home, Don’t Forget About the Garage!

Styled, Staged & Sold - Mon, 02/03/2014 - 02:00

By Charlene Storozuk, guest contributor

Could your listing's garage need a makeover?

Being the car enthusiast my husband is, when we were shopping for our home, the first thing he wanted to see was the garage. After checking it out, some of the homes would only get a cursory glance before he’d announce that he didn’t like it. There were some that I had to agree with him on; however, there were others that I thought were “the one”.

Finally, I got him to put into words what it was that he didn’t like about them. In a lot of cases, it was the garage. If it was being used as a dumping site, he was put right off. Like many buyers, he couldn’t visualize its potential.

To make your home appeal to the car enthusiasts out there, here are a few simple ideas for the garage:

· Don’t use the garage as a storage facility. Rent a unit to store all of your extra furniture and unnecessary belongings. Storage units can be pricey, but the benefit of having one definitely outweighs the cost. Not only will your garage look great, but other areas of your home will also be less cluttered.

· If you have a double car garage, you may want to set up a portion of it as a workshop (unless you are fortunate enough to have a separate workshop in your home). It’s not necessary to go to a lot of great expense. A set of saw horses underneath a piece of ¾” plywood will create an instant work area.

· Good lighting is very important in a garage. Buy a three- pronged fluorescent light fixture, hang it from chains and plug it into the ceiling receptacle socket. You can even remove it when you move and replace it with a standard light bulb. However, be sure to exclude the fixture from your agreement with the buyer.

· Keep your gardening and workshop tools organized by installing pegboards on the wall. It’s an easy DIY project that will add bonus storage space.

· In a large garage, create a loft storage area by installing ceiling mounted shelving units. If possible, don’t install them above where your car(s) will be parked.

· If you have a very small garage that just manages to fit your car, you may want to have it parked in there for showings. Potential buyers will see that a car fits in there. If the garage is empty, they may not be sure if one will fit.

· The floor of the garage should be clean. Remove oil stains as best you can. A solution of TSP works well, however, you may need to visit your local hardware store to get advice on what to use for your floor. If you’re really serious, fill in any cracks and roll a concrete sealer onto the floor followed by a primer and top coat of white paint. Your garage will look cleaner and brighter and may possibly seem a little larger.

These tips will help your home become more attractive to potential buyers. Believe it or not, there are people out there that put a lot of emphasis on the garage when house hunting. I don’t think my hubby is the only one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlene Storozuk is the owner of DEZIGNER DIGZ, a professional home staging, interior decorating and redesign firm based in Burlington, Ontario Canada. She is certified as an International Staging Professional, International Design & Decorating Professional, Professional Colour Consultant, and Feng Shui Design Professional. Her work is published in the book “FabJob Guide to Become a Home Stager,” 2009 edition. Storozuk is recognized as a local leader in the home staging industry. She founded the Halton & Hamilton-Wentworth Real Estate Staging Association Chapter and served on the association’s Executive Committee for two years as Regional Vice-President, Canada. Storozuk is a past recipient of RESA North American Leadership Awards for Chapter President of the Year (2007) and Regional Vice-President of the Year (2011). For ideas on how to bring “WOW” Factor to your home, follow her HIP TIPZ Series for daily home staging, design and decor inspiration. HIP TIPZ can be found on the Dezigner Digz Facebook Fan Page and on Twitter: @dezigner_digz .

When to Hire an Assistant

YPN Lounge - Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:07

Scott Newman

By Scott Newman

Your business is on the way up, and everything is perfect because you’re making more money, right? Wrong! As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo money, mo problems.” One of the biggest as a real estate professional is how to spend your money wisely to continue to grow your business.

Today’s blog will focus on when it’s the right time to bring in an assistant or other support staff. Here are 3 signs you’re ready:

1. Promptness is becoming difficult.

If everyone got what they wanted right when they wanted it, you’d be out of business. I get that, so I’m not expecting miracles. However, if you’ve built a reputation on being fast to respond, easy to reach, and quick to get people information, then you risk doing major damage to that reputation if you can no longer live up to those expectations.

If you are finding that you’re no longer able to get people a comparable market analysis the same day you meet with them to preview their home, then it might be a good time to think about what portion of your daily tasks could actually be handled by an administrative person. If there are too many A-level tasks to finish by their due dates because you’re constantly bugged down by B- and C-level tasks (which never seem to end), then it’s definitely the time to consider staffing up.

2. Things consistently slip through the cracks.

We’ve all forgotten to write something down, or missed an appointment or a call – that’s understandable. However, if you’re finding that you’re so busy that you’re getting distracted while trying to stay on task, then finding some help is definitely worth looking into.

I knew it was time to hire my first assistant when I sat in my office staring blankly at a dry-erase board, completely unable to remember all of the prospects I had in my pipeline. I was so busy that I had no time to right anything down – and I’m awful with details to begin with – and I knew that someone I forgot would turn into a paycheck for another agent who had it together.

3. You’re on the opposite schedule of everyone else.

If you are not utilizing staff when you should be, you’re essentially working two jobs but only being paid for one. This is going to have a negative impact on your life in a variety of ways.

For starters, many of the things put off doing during the day because you’re out in the field taking listings, showing properties, and networking to get new business, are time sensitive. Attorneys and lenders don’t usually work beyond 5 p.m. or on weekends. If you’re never around to take phone calls or respond to emails during regular 9-5 business hours, and don’t have someone doing that for you, by the time you get home at 8 p.m. and start responding, you’re forced to wait until the next day for a response.

Being available and reachable during standard business hours and having flextime in the evenings for a variety of professional activities is crucial to building a successful business. If you constantly find yourself burning the candle at both ends, consider adding someone to your company.

Remember, as I always say, don’t look at yourself as just a real estate agent, but instead as CEO of YOUR NAME, INC.  You need to make smart decisions, not only with the real estate related matters, but also with the general business matters you need to address to continue to grow your business – staff is one of the most crucial!

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

The Danger of Always Being On

Weekly Book Scan - Fri, 01/31/2014 - 17:48

OK, I’m going to be honest: I don’t read Huffington Post. There. I said it. It just felt like, because this blog is about what we’re reading, if would be weird if I didn’t say that. Anyway, I have my reasons, and let’s say most of them come from an aversion to the overuse of ALL CAPS and multiple exclamation marks.

Huffington speaking at Inman Connect, January 2014

Phew. That said, I truly enjoyed hearing HuffPo Chair/President/Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington speak at Inman Real Estate Connect this month. She talked about the topics she’ll address in her next book, which is broadly about unplugging from a constantly-on life.

As I’m reflecting back on what I heard in New York that day, I’m also reading through a sliver of the hundreds of 30 Under 30 applications we received for the 2014 competition. This year we asked applicants about their business challenges, and so many responded that time management and work-life balance have been real struggles. So now seems like a perfect time to share Huffington’s excellent observations and tips with you.

Now that the market is red-hot in many areas across the country, agents are still trying to do it all like they did when things were slow. Huffington’s message to real estate pros was this: It’s a different market, and we need to adjust.

“We have all focused so much on surviving,” Huffington said. “Its really exciting to be alive today.”

So, what’s changed? First, we all need to stop talking about sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Huffington told an anecdote about meeting an unnamed gentleman for dinner who boasted of only getting four hours of sleep. She thought to herself that, if he had bothered to get five, the dinner conversation would have been a lot more interesting. Similarly, instead of praising the guy in our office who never takes lunch, she said, we need to start re-framing.

“Ultimately, we all need to redefine success,” she said. “You should be really worried [about those people] because they can’t be possibly making good judgements… Leadership is about seeing the icebergs before they hit the Titanic, and you’re not going to be able to see the icebergs if you’re sleep deprived.”

And it’s not just sleep, either. Huffington said we’re all spending a little too much time on our devices. She talked about how liberating it was, during a week without social media, when she realized that she could eat something without taking a picture of it.

“They make [these devices] deliberately addictive. It’s not accidental,” she said. “There has to be an AA for devices. You know, ‘Hello, my name is Ariana and I am a tech addict.’”

According to Huffington, the real problem with devices isn’t what your mom told you when you were a kid about too much screen time ruining your eyesight. Mobile devices by their nature divide one’s attention, which creates more stress and only provides the feeling of being more productive.

“Multitasking is a complete illusion. You are doing neither [task] well,” she said. “As a result, we’re not giving anything 100 percent.”

Huffington does have science backing her up on that assertion, and she referenced plenty of recent studies and stats regarding how this always-on lifestyle is negatively impacting our health and bottom lines. For me though, the most compelling reasoning behind moderating our connectivity was psychological. For many, myself included, always being tuned in reflects a worry of the unknown. After all, how can I possibly anticipate what will malfunction in the future if I don’t have a live stream of the present constantly in front of my eyes?

“Things will go wrong in our lives,” Huffington assured the crowd. “It’s much harder to deal with them in advance, in your head, before they happen.”

Cue deep breath. Spread smile. Repeat.

So, the question to which you’re all dying to hear the answer: Will I read Huffington’s new book when it comes out?

Maybe. We’ll see what the font looks like.

Turning Ego Systems Into Ecosystems

Weekly Book Scan - Tue, 01/28/2014 - 16:46

There’s nothing like traveling for a conference to put you behind in your work. Sorting through all my notes from attending Inman Connect earlier this month, I realized I heard from a whole bunch of really smart authors in New York. It seems unfair to hog all this juicy knowledge to myself, so I’m starting the share-fest off with Dana Ardi, the author of The Fall of the Alphas: The New Beta Way to Connect, Collaborate, Influence—and Lead.

Credit: en-shahdi

Ardi is a corporate anthropologist, meaning she looks at corporations in a similar way to that which Margaret Mead approached the Samoan people or Franz Boas looked at Native Americans.

“I look at all the social mores,” she said during an interview at the general session. Ardi examines a company’s physical space, as well as their values, sense of humor, diversity, and more. She’s looked at everything from big multinational corporations to the military. When she examines large organizations, she often finds “layers of management that prevented people from spreading their wings.”

“People kept coming into my office for consultation and they were really unhappy,” she said. “They just didn’t like the politics… or they felt like they were silenced.”

Sound familiar? If so, you should tune in. Her new book sets out to show how these corporate environments can be changed. I haven’t read her book yet, but at Inman Ardi cited examples from Zappo’s holacracy, where they’ve gotten rid of job titles, to how West Point is trying to see itself as an orchestra, where everyone has a vital role to play. She also told the audience that the one question everyone always asks her is “That all sounds good, but can you teach old dogs new tricks?”

Well, things are changing, but of course, it’s easier said than done. Ardi remembered one head of a Fortune 100 company telling her that he was ready to act on her recommendations by putting out a memo and telling people that’s the direction the company was going to go. She said that story illustrated the problem with the classic top-down CEO approach to change.

“The CEO is a classic reactor,” she said. Instead, if managers and executives want to make changes, they should start with their own conception of the place from which company-wide change should emanate. “It has to do with a lot of retraining yourself to be a better listener…You have to replace ego systems with ecosystems.”

While this type of change can make for a more collaborative, productive, and creative environment for everyone, one main benefit that accrues to a business that embraces this philosophy is attracting younger people to the fold.

“The next generation knows no other way,” Ardi says. “They’re used to collaborating… that’s their social system.”

Anyway, I hope to check out Ardi’s book for myself soon, but I thought I should get this out there so you could pick it up for yourself if you’re so inclined. Also, you can read my technology coverage from Inman here and here, and read what I learned about global real estate while I was there. And stay tuned for more of my notes from Inman right here on the Book Scan Blog.

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup: January 28, 2014

Commercial Source Blog Feed - Tue, 01/28/2014 - 07:00

Above: An early method of obtaining news called a “newspaper”.


Multifamily (Photo credit: Ogilvy PR) Related articles

Indianapolis: A Portrait Of Recovery

Commercial Source Blog Feed - Mon, 01/27/2014 - 12:02

The commercial property market in central Indiana has had an exemplary recovery in 2013 and 2014 appears to promise more of the same.

In Colliers’ 2013 year-end report on the Indiana region, the low-tax, low-services state is highlighted with many big industrial property deals in and around Indianapolis.  These include:

  • An 809,000 s.q.f renewal for Hachette Books in Lebanon, IN
  • Chrysler’s single-tenant purchase of 781,000 sq. ft. in Tipton
  • the 446,000 sq. ft purchase of the Hillsdale Technical Center in Indianapolis

Read the full Colliers report here.

Race To The Bottom (Of  Tax Rates)

Indiana has long subscribed to the idea that economic activity needs to be shepherded by state policy favoring production. The state has a reputation for being aggressive in keeping its low-tax appeal to business, but it’s possible that limits are being encountered in that campaign. One example of the priorities on display: Indiana is one of ten US states that does not have state-funded preschool while at the same time its state legislature is considering foregoing a further billion in tax revenue for schools and local governments by eliminating a property tax on business equipment.

The picture for 2014 politically is less clear than the state’s track record has been: the tax cut proposal from Governor Mike Pence (R), addresses the burgeoning industrial sector, but is getting little traction in the state house Republicans  and concern from local mayors.

Cassidy Turley Report: Hot Spec Construction Continues

CRE national firm Cassidy Turley sees strong fundamentals in the Indianapolis area, issuing a raft of positives at a recent event. 

The Cassidy Turley report — and State of Real Estate event — had plenty of positives to say about the industrial market in central Indiana. Cassidy Turley reported that in the fourth quarter of 2013, the vacancy rate in the Indianapolis industrial market stood at a low 4.9 percent. The market absorbed more than 1.9 million square feet, according to the report. The best news from Cassidy Turley regarding this market? Spec construction was strong in the industrial sector in 2013. It should be just as strong in 2014 as developers race to provide space for new tenants hoping to move into the Indianapolis market.

In terms of property markets, the Hoosier State’s recovery in 2013 looks terrific in the rearview mirror. Can the state maintain a rosy horizon? Only time will tell.

Related articles

The Power of Gray in Staging

Styled, Staged & Sold - Mon, 01/27/2014 - 02:00

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Gray is a subtle color that can bring sophistication to interiors while also the neutrality that home buyer crave.

“It’s the hot new neutral, a sleek and sophisticated color option that adds refinement to almost any room,” says Debbie Zimmer, a paint and color expert with the Paint Quality Institute. “Walls that are painted gray are great backdrops for almost any style of décor, and gray is such a dignified color that it can elevate the appearance of even the most modest furnishings.”

Zimmer says that gray can be a great color choice for embellishments throughout interiors, such as a gray wash on wood furniture or the fabric in seating.

In her 2014 color forecast, she expects grey to be used more in homes. “We will even see gray’s flashier cousin, silver, used as an important accent color,” says Zimmer.

Traditional Living Room by Toronto Home Builders Sherwood Custom Homes

Zimmer also predicts “white” to stage a comeback in 2014, with white and off-white back in vogue.

“As with gray, the ease of coordinating furnishings with a neutral hue like white is appealing to almost everyone,” she says. “Those who are downsizing will favor white or very light-colored walls to make their new, smaller interiors look more spacious; and for those who may soon put up a ‘For Sale’ sign, white is the wise paint color to apply before listing a home.”

Traditional Living Room by Vancouver General Contractors Kits Construction

My $25,000 Commission From a Rental Call

YPN Lounge - Fri, 01/24/2014 - 15:39

Lynn Minnick

By Lynn Minnick

When I was a new agent back in 2000, I took a rental call. It was a young couple, around my age, looking for a rental in town. Once we started talking, they told me they could spend $1,400 per month. That was higher than my mortgage payment at the time, so I asked them if they’d considered talking to a lender about being approved for a mortgage. It hadn’t occurred to them that they could be homeowners for the same payment…and so our relationship started! I got them into an adorable little house by the lake and they began to build equity.

Fast-forward to 2014, when this week I’m starting my ninth transaction for them (including all of the referrals they’ve sent me). There’s a possible tenth transaction on the horizon if I can find the dream home for a friend of their family.  (Challenge accepted!)

I call them my “A+ Clients.”

We’ve been through a lot together – births and deaths, good markets and bad, and even though they’re now in their “forever” home, I know that all of the time and work I’ve put in with them will continue to bring business my way.  I’m happy to help anyone they refer, because I know they are quality referrals.

As a side note, if my A+ Clients hadn’t been able to qualify for a mortgage, I would have put them into a rental and kept in touch, because eventually (as Laura Rubinchuk Schwartz points out in a previous Lounge post), they would have become buyers. It’s a mistake for agents to place renters and forget about them. They just may be your next A+ Client.

Lynn Minnick is a REALTOR® in Connecticut known for her love of all things international, organic, travel and design. Connect with her at or @LynnMinnick.

Tax Tips Help Clients Deduct Remodeling Costs

Styled, Staged & Sold - Fri, 01/24/2014 - 04:00

Can homeowners deduct the cost of their kitchen remodel on their 2013 taxes? How about the interest on the home equity line they used to fund their bathroom upgrades?

Answer those and other homeownership tax questions by posting to your website a free article, Your Top Homeownership Tax Questions Answered, from the REALTOR® Content Resource. It’s one of five free articles now available in the January “Get Your Tax-Filing Party Started!” article package. Share all five today.

Visit for more articles like this.


REALTOR® Content Resource is brought to you by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. With it, you can download free homeownership content from HouseLogic to your marketing materials.

VIDEO: Coldwell Banker’s Latest Hit to Be Released During Grammys

Speaking of Real Estate - Thu, 01/23/2014 - 16:55

With the 56th Annual Grammy Awards coming up on Sunday, we’re all reminiscing about some of the classic hits over the decades. Coldwell Banker Real Estate has one in mind: Mötley Crüe’s anthem “Home Sweet Home.” It’s the perfect blend of everything that makes music great along with a message of the importance of home. And that makes it the perfect soundtrack to Coldwell Banker’s latest advertising campaign.

The real estate giant will air its “Home Sweet Home” commercial during Sunday’s Grammys telecast, the second year in a row Coldwell Banker has chosen the coveted nationally televised awards ceremony as the launching pad for its campaigns. The commercial features vignettes of all those little moments of joy after arriving home from a long day — kicking off your shoes, falling into the couch, sinking into the tub — as Mötley Crüe’s hit wails in the background.

“Music and home certainly go together, no matter where you are in the world, and we believe we have found the appropriate major events to showcase the emotional value we place in our homes,” says Sean Blankenship, Coldwell Banker’s senior vice president of marketing. “We felt the words and energy of ‘Home Sweet Home’ matched the emotional attachment people have with their homes.”

The commercial will coincide with Coldwell Banker’s social media hashtag campaign, appropriately called #HomeRocks. Coldwell Banker is planning to launch a second ad campaign called “Your Home,” which will mark the third campaign in which the company has used the voice of actor Tom Selleck, during the telecast of the Academy Awards on March 2.

“The Grammys and Academy Awards give us a unique opportunity to speak to millions of Americans with a brand message that lays the groundwork for continued dialogue with Coldwell Banker sales professionals,” Blankenship says. “Those local, one-on-one conversations are critical because that’s where consumers can learn about the positive changes that have occurred in their housing markets.”

Drones Offer Promise in Real Estate—Once Rules are Out

Speaking of Real Estate - Wed, 01/22/2014 - 09:31

The excitement around drones is increasing and for good reason: the technology is steadily getting to the point where commercial applications are increasingly possible, including for use in marketing real estate. Being able to hoist a camera on a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, has the potential to be a cost-effective way to get dramatic shots of property you have listed for sale, particularly for large, high-end homes or big expanses of land.

But while the technology is falling into place, a lot still needs to be done on the regulatory side, because drones present very real and very difficult issues, including safety and privacy issues. The safety issues are clear: people operating drones have to be trained and systems have to be built to help protect people nearby should something go wrong. On privacy, a regulatory system has to be in place to help reduce the chance of drones being used to take unauthorized photos and video.

Along with these two concerns is the bigger national security concern, since a weaponized drone is a danger of national importance.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of developing rules that would address these three concerns. It’s working against a timeline by Congress to have something ready by next year, although with a matter like drones, it’s important for the FAA to get it right and not just get it in a hurry.

As it is, drone use by hobbyists is already allowed, although there are strict limits to what constitutes hobbyist use. How high a drone goes up is one of the criteria for determining whether a use is hobbyist or not. For non-hobbyist use, the FAA authorizes drones for research, public safety, and, to a more limited extent, commercial use, but all of these uses are approved on a case-by-case basis. The rules that FAA is developing are intended to give commercial and other drone uses more clear-cut guidelines for what’s okay, a different approach than today’s restricted case-by-case approval system.

To fill you in a bit more on what’s happening with drones and where they might fit in with real estate once the FAA comes out with its rules, REALTOR® Magazine sat down for a video interview with NAR Government Affairs to learn about the rules and the timeline. The video is four minutes long.

The bottom line is, the regulatory environment hasn’t yet caught up with advances in drone technology, so as of right now, drone use outside of hobbyist use is limited. But it makes sense to start familiarizing yourself with the potential for drones in your business so when wider commercial use gets the green light, you’ll know whether drones has a place in your business model.

“Is That a Drone in Your Bag?”

NAR to Help CFPB Monitor QM Impact Commercial Headlines - Thu, 01/09/2014 - 14:41

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray explains new mortgage credit rules and their impact on consumers, lenders, and the housing market.

Winter 2013: The People. The Market. The Communities. Commercial Headlines - Thu, 12/26/2013 - 09:09

Commercial Connections recognizes associations and members who have gone above and beyond to serve their members and clients. Also, The Counselors of Real Estate get us ready for 2014 by giving us the top ten issues affecting real estate.

Secure Foreclosed Commercial Real Estate Listings Commercial Headlines - Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:28

In this edition, our guest is Ted Blank, CCIM, owner of Ted Blank and Associates in Denver, Colo. Ted is an instructor for the Society of Exchange Counselors (S.E.C.), where he previously served as President. In Ted's discussion with host Alex Ruggieri, CCIM, he gives pointers on what to do before approaching banks to secure foreclosed commercial real estate listings.