Friday, August 29, 2014

A Day in the Life of a REALTOR: The Personal Touch

This is the tenthepisode of A Day in the Life of a REALTOR® - a weekly article series published each Friday on RESAAS Blog and written by Kay Conageski. To read the first episode, click here; second episode, click here; third episode, click here; fourth episode, click here; fifth episode, click here; sixth episode, click here; seventh episode, click here; eighth episode, click here; ninth episode, click here.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Kay has some stories to tell...

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My Broker always tells the story of how he wrote a personal thank you note to a customer many years ago. That customer was so taken by the fact that someone took the time to sit down, get out stationary, put thoughts on paper, address an envelope and mail the card, that she ended up marrying him.
While not all personal notes will end with a wedding, they can have similar impacts on your clients.

In this techno world we live in today, zipping off an email that says “thanks for choosing me as your Realtor” or sending a text to thank someone for a referral, is….well….just sad. Everyone is wrapped up in their own lives, time somehow seems to speed up, and there is never enough of the rare commodity to “stop and smell the roses” anymore. Even the thought of having to pick up a phone and dial a number and actually speak to someone can make your hands sweat.

Real estate is known as a people business, but this lost art of personal communication is making a comeback – and in a strong way.

There are seminars and webinars about taking the time to write a personal note to someone who is in your sphere of influence, to reconnect with a past client by stopping by to just say “hi”, or calling that person who just shared their business card with you at a networking event.
I recently took a 12-week Peak Performers course taught by Brian Buffini. The entire course centered around this very topic. And your homework each night was about connecting with your database on a personal level. I have to admit – I was skeptical at first because I, too, fell into the quick text or email communication and called it a day.

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But as the course continued, I found myself buying stationary and inviting people in all categories of my database to have a cup of coffee with me, or a quick bite to eat. I even picked up the phone and called some past clients to wish them a happy home anniversary and it was like no time had passed at all.

In the past 6 months since the class ended, I have gotten 23 referrals that led to 7 closed sales from that database I never had time to work. I guess that a simple card or an actual call can go a long way. Besides, who better to ask for a referral than from someone who knows you best?

And who knows….that next thank you note might end up in the hands of Mr. or Mrs. Right.

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Kay Conageski is a REALTOR® with The Keyes Company, based in Plantation, Florida. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 Little Mistakes That Are Big Liabilities in Real Estate Sales

Today's Guest Contributor is Lee Davenport, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Around Atlanta, based in Georgia.

She does a great job lending her expertise to other real estate professionals, whether they're just starting out or have spent years in the biz. Visit her website to see exactly what I mean.

So here she is, with a list of small-yet-potentially-very-harmful mistakes that you should watch out for.

As real estate practitioners, we are constantly examining how we can grow our business - and rightfully so. But how often do we stop and take inventory to see what may be harming our business?

No matter what your answer is to that questions, take a few moments today to assess how your business fairs in the following 5 areas:

1. Not verifying that "Active Adult Communities" comply with Fair Housing laws before marketing them.

For example, Have you ensured that your marketing of senior housing or an active adult community complies with federal and state regulations? A community may label itself, "Active Adult" but it may not actually comply with the various laws required to use such age-specific terms, getting you into hot water for potential discrimination and Fair Housing violations.

Therefore, verify this for yourself. Review the qualifications provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (our buddy, HUD) found at their online information portal.

You may rarely work in senior housing communities but this is all the more reason why it is vital for you to stay current with this information. Please do your business a favor and bookmark HUD's site.

2. Emailing wiring instructions.

"What's wrong with that?" you ask.

Cyber-theft is on the rise and internet hackers and scammers are smart. They have figured out ways to intercept wiring instruction emails so that your client's money is stolen. Ned Blumenthal, an attorney with the law offices of Weissman, Nowack, Curry and Wilco, attested (in a comment to the Georgia Real Estate Commission (GREC)) that he is aware of several instances of such theft having been reported.

Wiring instructions should be accessed only from a secured site that is best provided by the attorney or title company issuing the wiring instructions. You can also encourage your client to call the closing office for instructions over the phone.

3. Not securing documents that have personal identification information

No one wants to have their identity stolen, especially if it was not protected by a trusted professional. Emails that contain your clients' personal information should be encrypted, computer files with sensitive data should at the least be password-protected, and physical documents should be under lock and key.

This is the mistake that many of us know we should be better about, yet many times are too busy with our real estate business to put the proper protections in place. However, we should be too busy to NOT ignore this any longer since such a liability can destroy our businesses and all that we have worked hard to build.

Let this be the prod that gets you proactive in securing your client documents.

4. Not making sure your referring agent is ACTIVELY licensed.

This may vary from state to state but in Georgia, for example, if Real Estate Ralph is helping the general public buy and sell real estate without a license (or with a lapsed license) and sends a buyer to your listing, then YOU can be liable if you share your commission.  Make sure you stay apprised of your state's legal stance regarding commission sharing with unlicensed and inactive licensed persons.

If you are using a custom or state-approved REALTOR(r) referral contract, make sure you get the refering agent's license number and verify if he or she is still active.  This can be quickly done by visiting the online website of your state's real estate commission if the person is local, or performing a web search for the real estate commission in the state that the person is supposedly licensed.

Save yourself headaches and fines by making sure you are lawfully engaging with the unlicensed.

5. Being unpleasant.

I am sure you may think this one does not fit under liabilities - annoyances, yes, but not under legal responsibilities. Well, “dissatisfaction is often the reason a Request for Investigation is submitted to the Commission by an individual", noted Craig Coffee, the Deputy Real Estate Commissioner of Georgia, while speaking at the GREC Annual School meeting.

Various complaints filed against real estate agents to local commissions may be preempted simply by offering better customer service. Just by being nice, courteous and gracious to a seller, buyer, or anyone (who may even be clearly in the wrong), can go a long way in keeping you out of trouble.

So if you have been unknowingly or knowingly lax in any of these areas, then today is a good day to take inventory and make some adjustments to ensure your real estate business is not burdened with superfluous legal action and fines.

If you have more questions on how your real estate sales business can avoid costly mistakes, do not hesitate to contact me at

Here's to your success!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Less is More

Today's Know It Now Guest Contributor is Paul Nicol, our favourite professional real estate photographer who is an expert in his craft.

Need convincing?

Just take a look at all the incredible work he's done!

He's here today to lend some expert advice and how to take your photography skills to the next level and let your listing stand apart.

Less Is More

Real estate photography is all about getting as many photos of a property with every photo having as much of the room visible as possible, right?

Not so fast.

In a well designed and well decorated home, often times less is more. In these cases, as a real estate agent, you are selling not just a home, but individual spaces that lend themselves to various aspects of living and entertainment. And those spaces, collectively, make up a home that is your listing. So, it’s critical that you don’t lose sight of the individual spaces and the value that they can have in attracting buyers.

Often a real estate agent, and some photographers, will walk into a room and go directly to the corner of the room to snap a photo. So, now we can see most of the room and what’s in it, right?  But what are we missing when we use a photo like this?

Intimacy, detail, and imagination, that is what is missing.

Take the example below. Can a buyer imagine themselves in front of the fireplace with a group of friends or family engaging in conversation and entertaining? Maybe.

How about in this photo?  

Now a buyer can fully engage themselves in the space and the main selling point.  Less is most certainly more in this case.

Kitchens are always a crucial selling feature in a home. And many times, a buyer isn’t concerned only with the size of a kitchen, but the functionality, the fixtures, and the finishes in a kitchen.  

A photo taken from the corner of a kitchen may show off square footage (one could also argue it sometimes exaggerates the size of the room). However, a photo taken from the corner of a kitchen usually will not sell the details and functionality in a well designed kitchen.

Let’s look at the photos below for example.  

This kitchen was massive and it would have been easy to take one or two photos from corners of the room in order to capture its size. But, by taking a series of tighter and more detailed shots, I was able to focus on the elements of the kitchen that help a buyer imagine themselves actually in the kitchen using and enjoying the space. That, in turn, helps sell the home.

Listings that show photo after photo taken from the corner of a room with little to no detail are a dime a dozen. Go to any major market and you can see listings like these, and often you can find a correlation to increased number of days on the market for these listings as well.

A real estate agent needs to ask themselves from the beginning if they are just trying to sell a house, or sell a lifestyle and what’s in the house.  Not every home is going to look like it’s straight out of Architectural Digest. But almost every home is going to have a selling feature or features, that if highlighted correctly, will draw in a buyer and make them want to see and experience the property in person.

Most all properties are enhanced by professional photography. As a real estate agent, your business and your reputation will benefit from the use a professional photographer that knows how to best showcase your listings. And showcasing a property has more to do with highlighting the selling features of the home, than simply photographing its square footage.

Photographers who offer the ability to sell features, intimacy, and the overall lifestyle of a  property are photographers that bring in buyers and help sell homes.  

So, get out there and sell smart and sell with professional photography.  

And remember, sometimes less is more!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Day in the Life of a REALTOR: Education is King

This is the ninth episode of A Day in the Life of a REALTOR® - a weekly article series published each Friday on RESAAS Blog and written by Kay Conageski. To read the first episode, click here; second episode, click here; third episode, click here; fourth episode, click here; fifth episode, click here; sixth episode, click here; seventh episode, click here; eighth episode, click here.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Kay has some stories to tell...

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I just returned from the annual Florida Association of Realtors Conference in Orlando, and just like the infamous David Knox during the general session, I feel like running around a stage, completely recharged!
The speakers always pump you up, and the attendees from all over the state are so eager to chat with you and share their “battle scars” that you soon realize we are all the same, regardless of where we call home.

What makes these conventions so invaluable are threefold.  

First, you have amazing educational programs that highlight the best of everything. Whether it’s social media and what to do with it, acquiring designations to increase your reputation in the market, or the smaller, more intimate panel discussions on the latest political topics that are affecting us all, you find yourself overwhelmed wishing you could be cloned in order to be in more than one place at a time.

One of the highlighted classes this year was “90 listings in 90 days”. The speaker basically worked every aspect of everything you have ever learned in real estate – going back to your sphere of influence, knocking on doors, or the dreaded “picking up the phone and making a call.” But it was the fact that they were presenting it to you in this setting that made each item seem like a new idea and you were actually motivated to do them. Another class showed you “50 Apps in 50 Minutes” and there were 48 different ones this year as compared to last year.  

The second benefit of attending these events is the vendor showcase.  

This year there were over 400 exhibitors from all walks of the real estate world highlighting everything from the new technologies to try, to enhancements of known products. And of course there are the “regulars” such as the familiar lenders and title companies where you can finally put faces to the emails that you receive.

The final, and I feel the most important benefit, of these occasions is the networking with your peer group from all over. I ran into an agent that I only see once a year at these affairs, but she has sent me five referrals since we first met last year. Not a bad ROI for sharing a boxed lunch with someone!

The real estate market changes on a dime – and trying to keep up sometimes is hard. Events like your annual state conference or the upcoming NAR Convention in November reminds us all that you can never learn too much or experience too many things. Maybe it’s the fact that my mom was a teacher and my dad a journalist, but they always stressed constant learning and the fact that “life is a classroom where you are continually doing show and tell.”   

Think about that as you register for your next conference.

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Kay Conageski is a REALTOR® with The Keyes Company, based in Plantation, Florida. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Low Cost Tips to Prepare a Home for Sale

This week's Know It Now article is contributed by Bill Gassett, a top real estate agent in Framingham, Massachusetts. He is a 27-year veteran of the industry, possessing a wealth of knowledge when it comes to technology, marketing and social media.

So, naturally, we asked him to provide a few tips for our dedicated audience of real estate professionals.

Not everyone has an unlimited budget to fix up and restore a home to pristine condition prior to listing it, but there are some steps that can be taken to get the most out of your time and money.

Without further ado - take it away, Bill!

Low Cost Tips for Selling Your Home

1. Get an Inspection

It is way better for you to know of any issues with your home before you put it on the market, rather than after. You can expect buyers to be hard bargainers looking for any opportunity to make you go down in price, which is why you need to be on top of any problems. Home inspections are affordable at anywhere between $300 and $700 – not a lot of money if it saves you thousands. Get the home inspected and accept the information the inspector gives you, even if you don't want to hear it. What many homeowners fail to realize is that the home inspection is one of the biggest hurdles you will need to cross in the home sale process. It is important to understand what the top home inspection issues are that can cause home sales to fall apart and rectify them.

2. Repair What You Can

Depending on your budget and your ability to do repair work, you could possibly fix many of the issues the home inspector will bring up. Every little bit helps, so do what you can. This may include planting some flowers, fixing torn screens, repairing caulking in the bathroom or shower, and replacing small broken items like fixtures or doors. Whatever you can do, do it. It all adds up in the end and may be the little bit that pushes a buyer to make an offer. Some of the more common home inspection items include small electrical safety items like a fault GFI (ground fault interrupter) that are now required in kitchens and baths so you don't get electrocuted if you drop something electrical into water. Double tapping of breakers in an electrical panel are also quite common and easily rectified for short money.

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3. Get Estimates on What You Can't Fix

There will probably be a repair or two that you just don't have the money for. Maybe it's a vital repair and maybe it isn't. Either way, you will have more power at the negotiating table if you know what all these repairs will cost. Get a professional to come in and look over what needs to be done and get a written estimate. Maybe even get two if it is a big ticket item. This way when the buyer makes a low offer based on the repair work needing to be done, you will have the ability to counter offer based off of the actual repair costs. Part of preparing for a home inspection is knowing what is likely to surface in the home inspector’s report and the probability that the buyer will either ask for a repair or concession. It is not unreasonable to conclude that a buyer will ask for more than what it actually costs to fix. This happens all the time in real estate sales!

4. Clean

It cannot be overstated how important it is to clean up your home and your property before you show it to buyers. You wouldn’t go into a job interview in your cut off shorts and tank top, would you? Think of showing your home like you would an interview – put your best foot forward. Part of the reason why this is considered a necessity is because it is so easy. It may take time to clean up your house but it is also something pretty much anyone is capable of. Hiring cleaners would be easier, but if you don't have the money you can do it yourself. Besides, you want buyers to think of you as a responsible home owner – one that takes care of his or her home. Cleaning up well will encourage this perception. If you just don't have the time or the means to do the clean up yourself then take a look at Merry Maids which is a cleaning company that can be found in most places.

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5. Get Rid of the Clutter

Part of your cleanup process should involve the removal of clutter. It is not enough to clean up around your piles of boxes – you need to move them out of site, preferably off of your property and into a storage space. Part of what people pay for is square footage, the space hidden by all of your clutter. You want your home to be open and inviting. You want to show off all the wonderful space available. However, this will be impossible if your garage, basement, attic and closets are filled with clutter. HGTV actually has some low cost home staging tips that you can follow to increase your homes appeal without breaking the bank.

6. Painting 

There is not another low cost improvement that will have a bigger bang for your buck than painting. A fresh coat of paint can totally transform a home especially if the property has bright unappealing color schemes. You want to have neutral colors or even earth tones which have become really popular in recent years. Another thing that should be noted is that wallpaper is out! Nobody wants wallpaper anymore. It really dates a home. Removing wallpaper is a lot of grunt work but once it is gone and the walls are painted, you will have a huge return on your investment when selling a home.

7. Landscape 

There are a number of cheap plants and flowers you can buy to give your property curb appeal. Combined with a coating of mulch in the beds – which makes everything look more put together – you can drastically improve the landscape of your property for very little money. It will take a little work and a bit of sweat, but you can renovate your flower beds and mow your lawn for next to nothing. It could make a big difference in how buyers perceive your home. If you are selling a home in the late fall or early winter, many larger nurseries will practically give away their plants because they will be dying soon enough if not planted. Typically you will see nurseries selling pallets of plants on the cheap. This is the perfect time to make your home really pop.

Use these low cost tips to prepare your home for sale and you will be well on your way to having a smile on your face at the closing table!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Day in the Life of a REALTOR: The Art of the Open House

This is the eighth episode of A Day in the Life of a REALTOR® - a weekly article series published each Friday on RESAAS Blog and written by Kay Conageski. To read the first episode, click here; second episode, click here; third episode, click here; fourth episode, click here; fifth episode, click here; sixth episode, click here; seventh episode, click here.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Kay has some stories to tell...

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If someone were to ask me to name one fundamental thing in real estate, it would have to be the infamous “Open House”.
For the lost years of the recession, when every other home was a short sale or a foreclosure, the art of hosting an Open House was a mere memory. But now that the market is in a rebound state, Open House signs are popping up everywhere and filling weekends with droves of people scampering from one to the other, making sure they don’t miss any along the way.

The first Open House I ever did was four weeks after I got my license.  

A senior agent in the office asked if anyone would like to host one for her at a listing she had in an exclusive area of town. I jumped at the chance and soon found myself putting up signs and balloons all over the area to guide those passing by to stop in and have a look. I did everything the real estate text book told me to do: I did flyers and information sheets highlighting the home and all its features; I had a welcome sign at the door and a buyer sign-in sheets with a chance to win a $25 gift card to the local grocery store; I even made cookies in the seller’s oven so that the smell of fresh baked goodies permeated the rooms.

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After five long hours of only one person showing up, I was ready to call it quits when a family approached. After I so eagerly showed them the home, they told me that they had driven by it for years and always wanted to buy it. They asked me to come to their home once I was finished and to bring a contract with me.    
When I got to their home, I found that they were seasoned buyers. They knew the contract better than this freshman, and in no time the offer was made. Before the ink could dry on the offer, they asked me to come back the next night with the market analysis on their home and a listing agreement. The following night I got my first listing and for the next few weeks did an open house at their home, rain or shine, every weekend until it sold to a buyer that came to my open house. A few months later the entire deal closed.

Open Houses have come a long way. 

There are progressive open houses highlighting many listings in a neighborhood, as well as theme based ones with casino nights or samba dancing. Others do “Open House” happy hours with wine tasting or Sunday brunches by a local chef. I went to one a while back that had mermaids in the swimming pool.  

Whatever the thought behind your next Open House, it’s a great way to showcase the home and get everyone talking, meet the neighbors, find potential new clients and, most importantly, get the word out that you’re a Realtor.  Posting pictures afterwards on social media is a wonderful way to do the follow up and show those who couldn’t be there what they missed.   

And if all else fails, bake cookies.

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Kay Conageski is a REALTOR® with The Keyes Company, based in Plantation, Florida. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Real Estate Crowdfunding Pt. 2: Society's Unsung Hero

Today's Guest Contributor is Marco Rivera from Patch of Land, a peer-to-peer lender for real estate investors and developers. 

With over seven years of experience in the real estate industry, Marco has worked as a Residential Appraiser, as well as a Foreclosure Specialist within JP Morgan Chase’s Retail Financial Services division.

Last week, Marco outlined the basics of Real Estate Crowdfunding, and what this exciting new trend means for the industry. 

Today, in Part 2, we'll get a closer look at some of the tangible rewards that real estate crowdfunding can provide. More specifically, how to increase the value of an entire neighbourhood and how real estate professionals can stand to benefit.

Read what he has to say:

Real Estate Crowdfunding Pt. 2: Society's Unsung Hero

Despite the recent improvements in the housing industry since the Great Recession, many neighborhoods around America are still distressed and in dire need of rehabilitation.

Even cities that are doing relatively well still suffer from abandoned or abused homes that only serve as a black eye to the community. Some of these properties are a result of owner neglect due to foreclosure, bankruptcy, or other insurmountable factors. Regardless of what caused the problem in the first place, the reality is that many of these houses remain unkempt and continue to lower property values in their surrounding areas.

Over time, the effects have weakened the demand for homebuyers to move into certain neighborhoods, and have driven people out who would otherwise stay. The result of these circumstances have taken its toll on society, and while the government uses taxpayer’s dollars to repave streets and clean up parks, those cosmetic improvements only cover up the underlying problem.

At this point, it’s become apparent that fixing up our communities will take a group effort and will require careful planning and a sound strategy to make it happen.

One of the concepts being used to help give communities a face-lift is real estate crowdfunding.

In fact, members of Real Estate Investor Associations (REIAs), usually real estate professionals and small business owners, across America are beginning to see wonderful opportunities to earn a profit while simultaneously cleaning up their surrounding neighborhoods. The strategy of using crowdfunding as a form of profitable social finance revolves around pooling resources together to target key geographic areas where rehabbing homes will have the biggest impact. However, instead of building brand new homes around the distressed ones, the focus is to restore the vacant and abandoned houses found scattered throughout the neighborhoods.

Crowdfunding helps facilitate this process because of its ability to network investors and developers with one another using an innovative and simple-to-use platform.

With this technology, local real estate developers are able to create a strategy that consists of good planning geared towards rehabbing houses as well as enhancing the quality of life for others. Subsequently, investing resources to make a city more competitive in the housing market benefits real estate professionals as well as residents at all income levels, and will ensure more opportunities for future growth and expansion.

Rehabilitating neighborhoods doesn’t just benefit the people with a vested interest in the crowdfund, it helps a wide range of stakeholders within the community as well.

For example, newly renovated homes can improve the comparable rates of houses in the surrounding area, which ultimately increases the value of existing homeowners’ properties. The added equity also gives residents an incentive to stay in their homes, rather than cutting their losses and leaving their neighborhoods behind for good.

Another added benefit of revitalizing a community is an increase in demand.

Let’s face it, homebuyers are more likely to choose to live in an area that appears to be on the rise, not on the decline. The increase in attraction will draw more activity, and for real estate professionals who specialize in that area, showing a vested interest in such projects will lead those home shoppers to trust their knowledge and expertise.

Furthermore, real estate crowdfunding projects can also be used to preserve the culture of a neighborhood by restoring historic properties that are falling apart. Reconstructing significant landmarks adds a visible value to the community, and subconsciously instills a “never give up” attitude within the spirit of its inhabitants.

Overall, the financial and psychological benefits of fixing and flipping a neighborhood have a positive impact on society all the way around.

Improving the quality of life for others is a statistic that doesn’t show up in the bottom line of a financial report.

As the concept of real estate crowdfunding continues to mature, it’s extremely important that we monitor the way we’re using this new innovation to positively affect communities. The reality is there are still many at risk neighborhoods worth saving throughout America. However, in order for meaningful change to occur local REIAs and developers must come together to formulate a plan of action.

Once Title III of the JOBS Act is passed, real estate crowdfunding will become an even stronger tool, giving residents the power to get involved and make a change by investing in the improvement of their own communities. Without a doubt a new age of capitalism is on the horizon, but we can’t rely on other people to get the job done.

Ultimately, it will be our civic duty to take pride in our own patch of land and come together as one to make society a better place to live.

For more information on Patch of Land and how real estate crowdfunding works, visit
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