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Reclaim Your Time Through Time Blocking

By Geoff Woods All of us have the best of intentions when it comes to managing our time, but then life gets in the way. As we direct our attention to one task, texts, emails, calls, and social media notifications begin pouring in. Soon, we find ourselves in a cycle of respond, start, stop, respond.
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Staging Tip: Remove the Window Screens Prior to a Photo Shoot

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Besides a good window cleaning, there’s another way to boost your curb appeal and get those windows shining: Remove the screens. Home stagers love this trick, and it’s taken straight from the film industry. Remove the outside screens on your windows in the front of your home prior to your home being photographed, or prior to an open house. Your windows will look shiny and clean. After all, a window screen can make a window appear filmy and dark. But whatever you do, don’t throw away those screens! Keep them in the garage, and don’t forget to reinstall them later. The new homeowners will most certainly still want those. Photo by Rellion Homes – Browse exterior home ideas Photo by Dennison and Dampier Interior Design – More exterior home ideas Photo by Winn Wittman Architecture A.I.A. – Browse exterior home ideas
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5 Steps to Creating the Perfect Outdoor Living Room

Submitted by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) Photo credit: OPEI 1. Declutter & Clean
The first step to sprucing up the outdoor living room is to clear dirt and clutter from the space. Store lawn equipment, children’s toys, and pet play things in a shed or garage. Give the entire area a good scrub down, sweeping away dust and debris so you’re left with a fresh, clean canvas. 2. Invite the Outdoors In
Blending interior and outdoor living spaces helps the exterior area feel like an extension of the home, not an afterthought. Ensure blinds and curtains are open to the family yard, highlighting the outdoor oasis. Make certain the indoor and outdoor décor complement one another and use similar colors, materials, and styles both inside and out. It’ll help better connect the two spaces. 3. Create Cozy Sitting Areas
Create easy traffic flow throughout the outdoor living room, while offering a number of places for people to sit–at a table, around a fire pit, or in a cozy chair configuration. Also, offer some shade by using umbrellas or outdoor curtains to minimize sun glare and maximize visions of enjoyment in the outdoor living room. 4. Soften the Outdoor Space Introduce a few soft design features into the outdoor area to create an inviting atmosphere. Rugs, throw pillows, and upholstered patio furniture are a few ways to accomplish that “cozy” feel. Ensure these items look fresh and clean and are not worn or dated. It’s relatively inexpensive to swap out new pillows and rugs. Create outdoor ambiance by hanging string lighting, introducing a fire pit in the center of a patio, setting up a zen-like water feature, or adding candles, small plants and freshly-cut flowers to tabletops. 5. Use Living Landscapes
Nothing says “welcome home” quite like a beautiful living landscape, complete with flowering shrubs, trees, flowers, and other vegetation. Freshen up the family yard by weeding, mulching, and planting flowerbeds and pots with colorful flowers and verdant plants. Vases of flowers can also help bring life—as well as a pop of color–to outdoor tablescapes.
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KonMari Your Contacts - An Epic Approach to Organizing Your Database

By Lalaina Rabary Any successful real estate agent will tell you that having a high-functioning database is key. But like clothes in a closet, contacts can pile up over time, leaving you with a disorganized and dysfunctional database. If your database is in dire need of a makeover, tidying expert Marie Kondo offers inspiration and practical advice for tidying up. Her Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and two best-selling books lay out the principles of her decluttering process, the KonMari Method™.  Here’s how to make it work for you.
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How to Prep a Yard for Spring Buying: 5 Tips

Photo Courtesy: OPEI By Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) As the spring selling season kicks into high gear, real estate and staging professionals can help their clients enhance their listings by creating an outdoor space that is attractive to buyers. The family yard not only can expand living space, it also reconnects families and pets with nature and provides a natural setting to reduce stress, improve memory, boost mood, among many other benefits. Here are five points to consider: 1. Understand potential buyers’ lifestyle needs.
Determine how a potential buyer might use the yard, then plant accordingly. Does the yard need more shade for hot summer days? Is it lacking a grassy area for kids and pets to play? 2. Know the climate zone.
Help your clients select climate-appropriate plants that will thrive with minimal input. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map indicates which grasses, shrubs, and trees are most likely to succeed in a specific location. 3. Plant for pets.
More families are including pets in their lives so consider animal’s needs when planting. Hardy grass withstands pet traffic. Soft, yet sturdy, foliage is a good choice for heavily-trafficked areas. See which plants are dangerous to pets by downloading the ASPCA’s list of poisonous plants. Photo Courtesy: OPEI 4. Attract pollinators & wildlife.
The home habitat is also vital for pollinators (bees, butterflies, and birds) and other wildlife that rely on backyard plants for food and shelter. Planting climate-appropriate, pollen-rich flowers will help nourish pollinators, while creating a vibrant outdoor scene buyers will appreciate. 5. Stage the outdoors. Showcase how the space will be used, including setting outdoor tables, having a barbecue grill set up, and other touches that show people can “live” in the space.     ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kris Kiser is the president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and the OPEI Education and Research Foundation. OPEI is an international trade association representing 100 small engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment manufacturers, and suppliers. OPEI is managing partner of GIE+EXPO, the industry’s annual international trade show and exposition. Prior to joining OPEI, Kiser, also an attorney, served for 14 years in senior management at two major, Washington, D.C. trade associations representing the automobile manufacturing and forest products industries. He was vice president of state and international affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and vice president of governmental affairs for the American Forest & Paper Association. Learn more about OPEI: OPEI.org  
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Home on the Road

Home takes on many meanings and often can shift or grow as a result of life experiences. We recently caught up with realtor.com employee, Vicki Cunningham to get her take on the meaning of home after she checked a few international destinations off her bucket list. She shares why home is about the memories and people that fill it, as well as the biggest lesson she re-learned during her adventures. What does home mean to you? Home, to me, are the places you retreat to — the places you feel comfortable, safe, and at ease. I grew up in Australia and have lived in Canada for 20-plus years, and I’ve always described Australia as home. But I visited India a couple of years ago, and found myself saying “Canada” when people asked me curiously, “What country?” So Australia is home, Canada is home; my house is home. It is a place that feels familiar, where I can relax. Home is a place where I belong, and that belongs to me. You recently traveled throughout Thailand. Why was that a bucket list destination for you? Thailand was part of a trip that satisfied three bucket list items: seeing the Yee Peng lantern festival in Chiang Mai; cycling through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam; and visiting my brother in Singapore. My bucket list is long, and the destinations on it share one thing in common: they are all completely different to home. When I travel I want to experience different food, architecture, music, clothing, traditions, languages, animals, scenery — I want to see how people live around the world, taste their food, learn about their customs. Why travel if it’s just like home? I’ve wanted to visit Thailand ever since I saw “The King and I” as a kid. Golden palaces! Beautiful clothes! Years later I saw images of the Yee Peng lantern festival, thousands of paper lanterns floating up into the sky, and knew I had to experience it for myself; like Yul Brynner’s palace, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Finally, stories of the diversity and deliciousness of Thai street food made Thailand a must-go destination. So, I had a lot of things I wanted to experience, but the trip was full of surprises. What made you feel at home despite being thousands of miles away from your home? Feeling at home is a feeling of belonging. I’ve had that feeling in the most foreign and unfamiliar places, and it’s usually the people that make me feel at home. Now that my kids are grown, I typically travel alone, and that seems to encourage locals to reach out to me, especially in non-touristy places. Those are often the memories that stick: the woman who helped me navigate my first street food breakfast in Bangkok, where no one spoke English; the cafe owner who shared her life story and spent the morning chatting with me in Chiang Mai; the old man who washed mud off my bike and legs after a misadventure biking through the only accessible, very muddy pathway in the countryside outside Saigon. All of those people made me feel at home. The highlight of my trip was cycling through the Mekong Delta with a local guide; I saw only a handful of other foreigners in four days. My guide (Tien) taught me so much about life in Vietnam, and introduced me to local food, customs, and people. We became friends, and he showed me a side of Vietnam I would never have seen without him; the language barrier alone would have been a challenge. We spent one night at a home stay, which I highly recommend: you stay in a home-turned-hotel and eat home-cooked food. The family taught me how to make spring rolls, and cook using chopsticks on a wood fire. They were so welcoming, and proud to share their home and their life. On your personal blog, you shared that you were happy to stay in a Bangkok neighborhood that wasn’t necessarily a tourist locale. How did that shape your experience? Bangkok is a modern metropolis, and I somehow managed to find a hotel off the beaten path, in a neighborhood with almost no tourists and very few English-speakers. This became my neighborhood, and I loved participating in daily life, perhaps even more than the grand palaces and temples. The area wasn’t fancy; some would call it run-down. The streets were lined with tiny homes, often with a family-run restaurant or store attached; the sidewalk was full of people selling lottery tickets, produce, flowers, and food. Like every neighborhood in Bangkok, it had a 7-Eleven, an elaborate temple, and several markets. Every morning I would line up for gaa fae yen (iced coffee) at a hole-in-the-wall, eat breakfast from the ever-changing lineup of street food stalls, and browse the market with locals shopping for dinner. For a short time, I got to experience someone else’s idea of home, and I loved it. What was it like to come home after your travels? How did it impact what home means to you? It’s always strange to return to North America after travelling through countries where people have very little, and live so modestly. After weeks with just a backpack, my average house felt enormous and empty, with just me, my son, and a cat. Travel doesn’t change what home means to me, but it does change what I see as necessary.     What take away from your trip is most important to you? I re-learned an old lesson on my most recent trip: embrace opportunity. Talk to the tuk tuk driver and get his advice. Eat the mysterious street food. Explore the back streets. Get off the beaten path and experience life as a local. You never know what you will find, or fall in love with (and it’s often not what you’d expect). I’m naturally shy, and feel awkward when I don’t know the local language. But the best things happen when I get over myself.
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Staged to Sell: A Virtual Transformation

Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett The real estate professional: Cris Grayson, broker associate at Baird & Warner in Glen Ellyn, Ill. About the home: The five-bedroom home in Glen Ellyn, Ill., was built in 1975. The home has been meticulously maintained, and the homeowners had recently made some updates to the interior as well. It is listed for $569,900. Grayson wanted to make sure the online presentation of the home would appeal to the widest buyer pool. Grayson’s tips: Don’t skimp on photography. Grayson places a high value on quality photography for her listings. She uses a professional photographer who is trained specifically on taking real estate photos through VHT Studios, a national real estate photography firm. A good real estate photographer will know how to capture a space from the best angles as well as the flow of the home, Grayson says. Show off the possibilities. Grayson also likes to use VHT’s Virtual Redecorate tool, which allows spaces to be virtually changed and staged for photos. Here’s the kitchen “before” and then virtually staged “after.” See how it changes the look of the table area. Photo credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett Grayson also used virtual staging to change the look of the home’s family room. In its current state, the family room appears comfortable and cozy, but some buyers may be looking for a lighter, more modern look. Through virtual staging, the wall décor and upholstered furniture was presented in a warmer look in the photographs. Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios  – Chrissy Barrett   Re-cast the room’s purpose. In some cases, you may want to change the purpose of the room to appeal to a wider pool of buyers. In the upstairs of the home, Grayson and her VHT photographer Chrissy Barrett used virtual staging to transform a teen room into a young child’s room with a play space. They also presented it another way too as an office and reading or crafts room. Grayson labeled any pictures as “virtually staged” when they appeared online. The virtually staged photos appeared after a photo of the actual room. Photo Credit: VHT Studios / Chrissy Barrett Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett Virtually Staged / Photo Credit: VHT Studios – Chrissy Barrett The Result? Days after the home was listed with the virtual staging pictures included, Grayson said they received an offer and were in negotiations with an interested buyer. Grayson has found that using virtual staging in her listings doesn’t just show potential buyers the possibilities of a space but also offers buyers a styling guide to use when they move into their new home and make it their own. Have a home you recently staged that you’d like to show off here at Styled Staged & Sold? Submit your staging photos for consideration, along with three to five of your best spruce-up tips. Contact Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.
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Make your emails POP

How to Quickly Add Emojis to Your Email Subject Line There’s a super quick keyboard shortcut that allows you to add your favorite tiny hearts , smiley faces , and balloons to your subject lines (or even inside your email copy).   Try it on your Mac or PC. Just follow the steps in this article.    Step 1: Open your email draft inside your email. Step 2: Place your cursor where you’d like the emoji to appear in your subject line. Step 3: Hit the three buttons of the keyboard shortcut (Control + Command + Space bar) down at once. An emoji window will pop up. Step 4: Click on an emoji to insert it into your subject line.    FOR PC USERS: Step 1: Open your email draft inside your email. Step 2: Place your cursor where you’d like the emoji to appear in your subject line. Step 3: Hit the two buttons of the keyboard shortcut (Windows key + . (period) or Windows key + ; (semicolon)) down at once. An emoji window will pop up. Step 4: Click on an emoji to insert it into your subject line. Should you use emojis in your email subject lines? We wanted to find out. That’s why we recently analyzed 1,000 emails from 100 of today’s top marketers. The result: 6.9% of subject lines included emojis. While that’s a small percentage, using emojis could increase your open rates, according to Mark Asquith, marketing expert and founder of Rebel Base Media. (Asquith was also one of the 100 top marketers whose emails we included in our research.) “A well-placed smiley, timer, or contextual emoji used alongside a well-thought-out subject line will really make your message stand out within someone’s already very busy inbox,” said Asquith, who frequently uses emojis in his own subject lines.     This information was provided by Think with Google and Aweber: https://blog.aweber.com/email-marketing/how-to-quickly-add-emojis-to-your-email-subject-line.htm?utm_source=awemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blogdigest&utm_content=blogdigest041119blog1      

Instagram-Worthy Pics and Ga-Ga-Like Amenities to Attract Millennials

By Justin M. Riordan, Spade and Archer Design Agency Surveys show that millennials prioritize home buying over getting married or having kids. They’re eager to buy, as soon as they  get their finances in order. So, how do you appeal to the millennial home buyer? Here are some tips in speaking their language: 1. Make it Instagram Worthy When it comes to reaching a millennial buyer, here’s one simple thing to keep in mind: Is your home Instagram worthy? Seriously, an empty room with a price attached to it is not enough to grab the attention of those 25 to 35 years olds. The space needs to have an awesome interior design through home staging–along with great lighting, photos worthy of being reposted along with copy that makes people think, laugh, and repost.     If you happen to get a millennial to actually visit your listing in person, be sure to have signs prepared that say “Home tour today!” and “1107 Elm Drive is AWESOME!” This way they can hold up the signs, you can take their picture, post it on your Instagram and tag them in it. All of their friends get to see what they are doing, where they are, and perhaps become interested in both your listing and in you as an agent. It’s like building your own little army of social media influencers. Add hysterical descriptions to your listing. Make them laugh. If you raise an emotion with your listing, your audience will be more apt to “Like” and share your listing. Create short videos, by using TikTok or Boomerang, of you or your visitors being goofy in the house. Again, make them laugh, and you’ll gain followers. Include ironically vintage items in your house. That exercise bike that your mom used to workout with when you were a kid is now an Instagram worthy moment. The vintage typewriter with a description of the house typed on the paper already inside is a great #coolhouse moment. Anything you can do to get your house organically in front of more millennials, the better. 2. Amenities That Millennials Will Go Ga-Ga Over Furry Friendly Funmenities: Millennials are having less kids, and they are opting to fill their empty nests instead with dogs and cats. Providing cat doors, fenced dog runs, pet surveillance systems and pet washing stations could be a huge appeal to these perky parents of pets.   Photo by LDa Architecture & Interiors – Search entryway design ideas Photo by Sage Interior Design – More laundry room ideas Super Smart Shelter Stuff Smart homes are all the rage. Millennials were raised in a world of the disposable. They have very little concept of how to fix or repair anything in their home. The more their house can take care of itself the better. Here are some of the best self-caring items we are in love with currently: Keyless entry systems: Opening doors with your smartphone or a memorized code, means you never have to carry a key with you again. When you join the shared economy, you can simply text your entry code to your renter, how easy is that?   Shavonda Gardner   Smart light bulbs: Change the level and temperature of light with a simple voice command or from your smart phone. Take your lighting from “selfie” mode to “Netflix and chill” with a simple code word. kasasmart   Smart home management systems: From Nest to Alexa to Siri, there is some disembodied smart voice that can take care of everything from your temperature to your locks to your lights to your security system.   kasasmart Refrigerators with cameras: It comes down to this–every time you open the door to figure out what you want to eat, you are essentially killing the Earth. If you want to be a better person without actually doing anything, you can now turn on the camera inside your refrigerator and see what’s inside guilt free. Earth saved! Electric vehicle support systems: Speaking of killing the Earth, gas powered vehicles are doing just that too. By providing your millennial home buyers with electric charging ports, wall mounted batteries, and solar cell panels, you can make owning an electric vehicle so much easier. Now, we just need to get past the $80,000 price tag of the car! USB ports in the outlets: This will allow your millennial buyers to charge their devices anywhere in the entire house. Community Conscious Conveniences There is a serious desire for millennials to find ways to meet other people without seeming forced. Skip the media room, millennials don’t watch TV on big screens, they instead use their laptops to download the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” and “Broad City.” Instead, promote outdoor BBQ spaces, community gardens, and high Walk Scores to show your listing is community-minded. Photo by Harrison’s Landscaping – Search landscaping pictures   When it all comes down to it, millennials are going to need the same (vegan) meat and (gluten-free) potatoes everybody else needs: Living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. The rest? It’s all (dairy free, non-GMO) gravy in getting them attracted to your listing.  
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Justin M. Riordan, LEED AP is the founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency, a home staging company with locations in Portland and Seattle. He is a thought leader and trendsetter in the real estate industry as well as the energy behind Spade and Archer, creating home staging that is simultaneously aspirational and obtainable. Prior to opening Spade and Archer in 2009, Riordan practiced interior architecture and interior construction for 12 years, bringing a diverse background as well as a bachelor of architecture to the home staging industry. With more than two decades of hands-on project management and design experience, Riordan delivers an unmatched level of precision, expertise and service to his clients. In addition, Riordan is an accomplished and engaging speaker who regularly presents at real estate industry events, sharing his expertise about home staging.
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The Top Energy Efficient Home Trends That Home Buyers Want in 2019

Article Submitted by Fixr.com As the cost of energy continues to rise, many home buyers today are looking for homes that are going to be easier and less expensive to run long term. I’ts important to know the trends to look for, whether you’re helping a seller update their home prior to selling or you want to keep an eye out for the perfect property for a buyer. Not only would following these trends allow you to better advise sellers, it also can help you ecuate buyers on to what to look for. Each year, the home remodeling site Fixr polls industry experts and leaders in their field to help determine some of the top trends in the home improvement industry through their Energy Efficient Home Design Trends report. Here are some of the most relevant findings to help you maximize your clients’ potential when buying or selling a home. Energy Star Dryers One key trend to watch for in properties is an Energy Star rated dryer. Of all the various appliances with the Energy Star label, experts felt that the dryer made the biggest change in energy usage when switching to a more efficient model. This is due in part to the fact that dryers use nearly as much electricity as central air conditioning. Home shoppers today are focusing more on the laundry room, as well as where it’s located and what it contains more so than they ever have before. An energy efficient dryer can have a big impact on monthly energy budgets.  Heat Pumps When it comes to heating a home, the heat pump is the most recommended method of heating for providing consistent heat and energy savings. Heat pumps work by exchanging outside air for inside air. It extracts the heat energy from the air outside–even in cold weather–and transfers it indoors. An electric heat pump is 50 percent more efficient that other forms of heating. It’s also the most frequently installed energy efficient heating system in homes today. Day Lighting for the Kitchen and Living Room While experts agree that the best way to save money on electric bills without reducing the amount of usage is to use LED lights, there are still important things to consider when looking at a home for sale.   Day lighting is an important component of reducing electricity. This has to do with how much natural light a room gets. The kitchen and living room are two spaces that use the most electricity. As such, it makes sense that home buyers may want to opt for homes that have sufficient natural light in these areas either through windows or skylights.   Tankless Water Heaters While the heat pump is the most popular way to heat a home, a tankless water heater is the most popular method of heating water. Tankless heaters are installed inside the walls of a home, and heat the water as it’s being used. This is in contrast to a heater that is constantly maintaining the temperature of any gallons of water at a time. Households that use this method of heating water can expect to save $100 a year on their energy bills. Heat pumps and tankless heaters are both popular, but hybrid heat pump hot water heaters tend not to perform as well universally. Tankless heaters can be installed in more places, and perform better in cold-weather climates in general. Low Flow Fixtures in Full Bathrooms  Households use a lot of water each day when they aren’t using low flow fixtures to try to restrict this usage. Experts felt the place that made the biggest difference when installing these items is in full bathrooms. This makes sense, as the full bathroom will include a tub and shower, as well as a sink and toilet. Installing low flow fixtures in full bathrooms can help reduce the load on the water supply. Solar Panels  If home buyers are looking at homes with renewable energy sources, experts say that solar panels are by far the most popular method. Renewable energy is increasing everywhere, with millennial homeowners leading the biggest push into this sector. Experts also reported that millennials were the most likely to invest in cleaner energy sources, with Gen X taking second place. Saving Energy Means Saving Money and the Environment   Homeowners and home buyers today are motivated to make energy-efficient changes in their homes due to the potential to save money as well as energy. More people generally aware of a need to protect the environment so it makes sense that protection coming from within the home ranks second place. Homeowners and home buyers that want to maximize their potential in both these areas should seriously consider paying attention to these and other important trends in energy savings. While individually each of these factors may not save much, added together, they can have a significant impact on both the homeowner’s wallet, and their overall comfort inside the home. Help your clients by pointing out these trends ,and how they can make them work to get better results for everyone involved. To learn about the cost of household remodeling projects, visit the Cost Guides.
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Staging Tips for the Coffee Table Top

By Karen Post, guest contributor In today’s competitive marketplace, if a listing is going to stand out, and say “tour me” it needs to do more than show rooms. It needs to project a lifestyle for potential buyers. To achieve this dream home result, you must think beyond furnishings and decor. You’ve got to think “sell theater” and create scenes that reaffirm the home’s quality and unique character. As a home stager and designer, I’ve discovered that all coffee tables are fabulous opportunities to emotionally connect with home buyers. Why? Prospects will often sit down to chat about the property with the real estate professional, or they will wait for the rest of their family to show up. Either way, their eyes are all looking at that coffee table. Here are some tips and looks to improve your coffee table effect. Photo Credit: Karen Post, Home Frosting at homefrosting.com Here’s a transitional look using three risers with gray, brass, navy accents, candles, and a pop of color in flowers. Photo Credit: Karen Post, Home Frosting at homefrosting.com Rustic and natural items are still very on-trend. This tabletop includes books to help lighten up the area, as well as was layered metal vases and finished off with a bed of green balls.   Photo Credit: Karen Post, Home Frosting at homefrosting.com An artisan grouping mixes floral with turquoise wish beads along with some distressed elements, books, and coasters. Photo Credit: Karen Post, Home Frosting at homefrosting.com Black and white is always a crisp statement. Here, we mixed silver and gold with geometric items. Some of my favorite tips for staging a coffee table: Keep it simple and in sync with the home’s style. Rule of thumb: No more than three to seven elements on your tabletop. Compliment the story of the home’s staging. Scattering sales materials from real estate professionals or any vendor here will cheapen the impression. Market softly. Place beautiful books in one area. Top off the pile with your firm’s magazine or create a custom book wrap. The wrap cover can tout your brand mark, the back can include a brief story with successes or testimonials. Or, add an elegant dish with branded candy or place tastefully branded coasters with your vignette. Don’t block the view. Yes, scale is important, but oversized, distracting accessories can make it difficult to see the outdoors, the water view, or even a TV. That won’t win you any home points. Add some life. Fresh flowers are a nice touch for open houses. For extended periods, there are great looking faux plants and florals that don’t look cheesy. These can add a nice pop of color too. Tidy up the table. When you’re doing a pre-showing walk through to open windows, turn on lights, etc., don’t forget to tidy up the coffee tables too. If you had the home professionally staged, mimic exactly how the pros left it.   ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Post is president of Home Frosting, a Tampa-based home staging and design firm. She has bought, rented, and sold numerous properties and has been creating memorable environments for over three decades. Post began her career in visual merchandising and has worked with top luxury retailers, fashion, and hospitality brands. She later evolved into an international branding expert. Post is also a published business author and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, FOX News, and The New York Times. She is also a regular guest on nationally syndicated daytime TV, where she shares home décor ideas and trends.  
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Tax Deductions and Homeownership

At the end of 2017, the United States underwent the largest tax law overhaul in more than 30 years. The new law, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), is effective from 2018 - 2025 and makes several changes to oft-used tax deductions. If you own a home or are in the process of buying or selling, here are the key points you need to know.
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How I Staged It: The Master Suite

The master suite is a place where relaxation should be paramount. A calming color scheme and carefully staged space can do exactly that. Staging and real estate professionals submitted some of their favorite staging photos and tips for our new slideshow, How I Staged It: The Makings of a Master Retreat. Check out these stylishly staged master bedrooms >>> View more How I Staged It: The Fireplace   Want to have your photos featured? We’re looking for staging insights and photos for making over the entryway and dining room. Submit your pictures to mtracey@realtors.org.  
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International Women’s Day 2019 at realtor.com®

Our offices recently came together for International Women’s Day, a global day of reflection with origins dating back to the early 1900s, to celebrate our employees. As part of our day’s events we hosted  a dynamic panel conversation about this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter. Our panelists included Iris Fujiura Bombelyn, an angel investor and retired rocket scientist, Caitlin Hatzenbuhler, a wellness champion and marketing professional, René Shimada Siegel, a marketing CEO and public relations professor, and Suzanne Zinn Mueller, realtor.com Senior Vice President of Industry Relations. Our Head of Employer Brand, Sarah Staley, moderated the discussion, which explored the diverse experiences of our inspirational panel. Hatzenbuhler described her life as a “carefully crafted tower of blocks” instead of a scale that’s perfectly even. “I have to look at my tower of blocks and sometimes one of my blocks is a little bit to the side and of course that’s going to make my tower lean and wiggle a little a bit, so I have to bump that block back in line. This has really helped me change my perspective of what it means to balance and manage it all.” In considering her own path to success, Bombelyn shared the importance of risk-taking. Although it can elicit a fear of failure, she believes that failure is something that should be embraced as a stepping stone to achieving one’s goals. As well, through her career, risk-taking has been a necessary component to advance female representation in STEM-related fields. Fostering one’s professional and personal networks was another factor the panelists attributed to their success. Siegel explained that connecting others is a mutually beneficial exchange and that in so doing, it is something that is deeply rewarding for her. She  mentioned that mentoring is her way of paying it forward and investing in the future. Mueller urged attendees to not be afraid to ask questions and to never stop learning. She advised that advocating for yourself, being present, and reminding yourself of the purpose of what you are doing goes a long way and makes room for further growth. From our headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., to our seven other offices, our employees shared what the day meant to them. In an effort to pay it forward, our employees are contributing to a company-wide drive benefiting Dress for Success, a global organization that has provided clothing and career guidance to more than one million women since 1997. One of those women is our very own Michelé Bailey, an employee on our Customer Care team who serves as a desktop technician. After meeting with a Dress for Success consultant in preparation for a career move and an interview with realtor.com, Bailey received interview-ready attire. Once hired, Dress for Success invited her to return and provided additional clothing items for her new career. As a realtor.com employee now for five years, Bailey recalled, “It was such a relief not to worry where I was going to find the money to buy new clothes as I was paying off my student loans.” Bailey’s story is one we’re proud to be a part of and highlights the very real opportunity each one of us has to impact each other’s lives. Bailey making her Dress for Success donationBailey with Vancouver colleagues celebrating International Women’s DayRegardless of gender, profession, ethnicity, or age, the day underscored the multi-dimensional journey all of us share as we navigate professional and personal endeavors. Although International Women’s Day comes only once a year, it is a reminder that we all have a chance and responsibility on a daily basis to make a more inclusive, diverse, and balanced workplace.
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Exhaust to Fuel: How Keller Williams Is Transforming Data into a Competitive Edge

There is an almost unimaginable amount of data generated every second. Stop for a minute and think about the number of online interactions you’ve had over the past 24 hours, for example. Did you go to the doctor? Information was exchanged electronically. Did you make a purchase on Amazon? Another exchange of information about your preferences and behaviors. Did your clients sign the contract? Congratulations are in order, and, you and your clients just participated in another exchange of information between multiple parties.
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Story Branding 2019-2020

Have you ever had one of those moments, where something just hits you in the face multiple times in a short period of time?   Well, it started with my team leader Manda Price sharing a book with me, Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller.   From there it has been crazy with the request I have received from my clients, Realtor Friends, and other community entrepreneurs, about the top marketing strategies for 2019 and 2020.   If you have not noticed the Story feature FB & Instagram offers, well then you are missing out on some great opportunities on branding. Did you know that You Tube has created a beta for their version of Story Feature? You have to have 10k followers in order to use this feature right now but it will be coming soon to everyone. Also, Twitter has jumped on board with this idea and created their version of Story posts.    So, I have experienced a serious trend that is taking over and I want to share with you all what I have learned and know about leveraging these features, marketing in real estate, and building an audience that will stick with you and keep your audience engaged with your posts on social media.    Call me today 910.233.2442 to find out when my next class on how to leverage these social media features in your real estate business!

The 3 Most Important Rooms to Stage in a House

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Staging not only results in a quicker sale but also tends to increase the home’s value too, according to the newly released 2019 Profile of Home Staging report conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. One quarter of buyers’ agents say that staging a home increased the dollar value of a home between 1 to 5 percent compared to similar homes on the market that weren’t staged. Seventeen percent of agents said that staging increased the home’s dollar value between six to 10 percent. Which rooms are the most important to focus on in the house? Staging the living room was found to be the most important for buyers (47 percent), followed by staging the master bedroom (42 percent) and staging the kitchen (35 percent). For inspiration on sprucing up the master bedroom, view our slideshow: How I Staged It: The Makings of a Master Retreat The least important area to stage? The guest bedroom, according to buyer agents. Only 8 percent of buyer agents said it was “very important” to stage a guest bedroom in the home.  
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Optimize Your Real Estate Marketing with Facebook

Optimize Your Real Estate Marketing with Facebook     How the Facebook pixel works When someone visits your website and takes an action (for example, buying something), the Facebook pixel is triggered and reports this action. This way, you'll know when a customer took an action after seeing your Facebook ad. You'll also be able to reach this customer again by using a custom audience. When more and more conversions happen on your website, Facebook gets better at delivering your ads to people who are more likely to take certain actions. This is called conversion optimization.   So Using Facebook Pixel IDX Broker you would go into your Facebook Business Ad Account and click on measure and report. You will see pixels listed, from here you go to add new data source. Create and then select the manually install. You will see a section with the HTML code, copy and save.  From this point you want to go to your middleware account (IDX BROKER backend), click on wrappers management and under the header in the HTML paste your code you copied from Facebook.  It will automatically have selected, all website visitors in the past 30 day but I recommend selecting all website visitors in the past 90 days for real estate.    You can also create pixels for people who visited specific web pages, just make sure  you put in the URL contains option, copy and paste the url of the page you are wanting to create the pixel for. This is great for farming neighborhoods or if you have a new construction page, etc. When you are creating your ad in Facebook ad manager, choose your campaign objective. I recommend Traffic at this time but conversion would also be another good option.  Keep in mind that when creating a pixel, this is a step that is further into your funnel, you are remarking to an audience that is already made aware of your brand. This is an extremely powerful step in the marketing process. When it comes to leveraging this tool, I would create Google ads to drive new traffic (this is the top of your funnel) and then take that pixel to use for Facebook ad later to keep the same audience engaged and using your website during their research phase. Building the trust. Another option to use a pixel at the top of of the funnel process, is to use Facebook as television marketing concept and create a short video that emphasizes on your brand and directs the audience to your website.    Have questions? Need more hands on help? No problem! Call me Katherine Farber, 910.233.2442 or email me Katherine@sympletrack.com 

The Pros and Cons of Building a Real Estate Team … Are You REALLY Ready?

By Rachel Adams Lee I would bet that at some point in your career, you’ve questioned whether or not you should build a team. Maybe you’ve already embarked on your journey. Maybe you’re working three transactions too many and are thinking, “At what point do I get help? And is help really all I want, or could I grow this hustle into something bigger?” Welcome to the conversation ambitious solo agents and team owners have in our heads. You’re one of us!
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The Jewelry in Your Kitchen Design

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Great lighting is definitely stealing more of the spotlight in kitchen design lately. Pendant lights that hang from the ceiling above your kitchen island—usually in a row of two or three–is really a place to show off lighting to dress up your kitchen. Some designers refer to pendant lights as the jewelry of your kitchen. They add a little decorative sparkle to catch the eye. Blown glass pendants are one of the top trends. This is a clear glass light fixture with an exposed Edison light bulb inside. Glass pendants in geometric shapes, like a glass boxed pendant or a glass sphere, are popping up in more kitchens lately. Glass pendants can be a great choice for smaller kitchens or kitchens within an open floor plan. That’s because the see-through glass doesn’t disrupt the line of sight in your kitchen space. The lighting adds just enough statement and shine to accent that kitchen island. Check out a few examples. Photo by William Byrd Homes – Browse kitchen ideas Photo by Revision LLC – Discover kitchen design inspiration Photo by erik kitchen design – Browse kitchen photos
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At the Heart of Home

The concept of home has always been a little complicated for me. They say home is where the heart is and if that’s true, then my many moves have gifted me with many homes. I’ve had the privilege of living in so many great cities and when you move somewhere new, you’re forced to make a new empty space you have no ties to your home. What at first became a tedious task eventually became something I thoroughly enjoyed. Taking items I’ve collected along the way and using them to carefully curate a space that reflects my personal style, is warm and inviting, and is ultimately an expression of who I am and what I love. Not too long ago I had been living in San Francisco for years, and eventually started getting that gnawing feeling I get when I’m in need of an adventure. This time it was stronger than ever, and this gut feeling turned into an intense pull that I couldn’t fight back. A few months later, I shipped off my life in 20 boxes to my childhood home in Florida and embarked on a nomadic journey that began with a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, a backpack, and a blank itinerary with no plan whatsoever. For six months I wandered around the globe, visiting 23 countries, making countless friends and memories, and satisfying that hunger to travel without the bounds of luggage or time. At the beginning, the concept of not having a home and swapping my flimsy hostel dorm mattress for a new one every few days was novel and exciting. What those Instagram travel bloggers don’t tell you is the toll long-term travel can take. By the end, I was torn between continuing this amazing journey or seeking out the comforts I had started to miss so much: my bed, my dog, a kitchen to cook a warm meal in, family. I eventually began my journey to what I realized was the only place, that no matter what city I was living in, would always be there for me — my childhood home in Florida. Orangutans in Sumatra, IndonesiaGorilla trekking in UgandaAfter an overnight bus into KosovoOne could imagine what living back at home with family is like after over 12 years away. It’s comforting, yet strange and a little confusing. I embraced this precious time with my mom and knew that after backpacking for months (and being the impossibly antsy person that I am) I needed a project. Despite being away from my childhood home for so long, I noticed it felt like it was frozen in time. It needed serious updating — especially our kitchen, which looked liked a relic of the 1970s (in reality it was, being as old as the house). With my first project decided on, I got to work. I was so naive to think this was something that could be done in a couple of weeks. Anyone who has ever done a remodel or renovation will tell you to take your expected project completion time and double it. Listen to these people! This labor of love took almost two months of blood, sweat, and tears, 20+ trips to Ikea, 15+ trips to Home Depot, and way too many trips to tile shops where I’d catch myself saying things like, “this white is too white” or “I’d really like to see warmer gray tones.” Don’t even get me started on backsplash — “this is more of a Mediterranean vibe and I’m really going for Moroccan.” Underneath the many (and I mean MANY) layers of exhaustion, I not only felt of sense of joy being able to do this for my mom, truly the most hard-working and kind human I know, but I realized how capable I was. Being a woman who can lay tile, assemble cabinets, and that understands plumbing, gives me a huge sense of pride and independence. More importantly, I not only remodeled a part of the house, but the MOST important part of the house. In my family’s Latin American culture, the kitchen is the central point for everything. It’s where you hang out after coming home to share your day. It’s where you share your meals with the people you care about most. It’s where you discuss the latest gossip from your big, crazy, but always entertaining family. The kitchen is the core of everything, so it was only fitting that it was transformed, creating a new chapter for both my mom and I. BeforeProgressFinalJoining realtor.com’s Santa Clara office has been the latest homecoming for me. It’s important to work on something you believe in and I believe deeply in not just finding a home that’s right for you, but creating a home that’s reflective of who you are. Here at realtor.com, we help real people find homes for all those real moments in life — for me, that’s making Venezuelan food with my mom and dishing about our day in our humble (but new) kitchen that we love. I’ve realized along this wild journey that home is not just the four walls you sleep inside, your home is a marker of a time in your life and something you can create, whether you’re there for a month, a year, or a lifetime. While Florida is no longer a place I reside, I’m proud to have my mark on a place that will always be home. My mom and I celebrating the kitchen renovation 
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The Do's and Dont's For Digital Ads - what does it mean for Realtors?

Ad blocking is really a symptom of a broken user experience. This is why it is important to know best practices of how to use ads.  Did you know?  After a survey of nearly 66,000 web and mobile users, more than half of all consumers said they would not revisit or share a page that had pop-up ads, video ads that automatically played audio, ads with countdowns, and sites featuring sticky ads that obscured large portions of a site's content.  So what does this mean for the real estate industry and how we generate leads through our websites? For ads, leveraging social media and google ads, directing customers to your website is a great way to get customers, but if the first thing that they expererience on your site is a pop-up to view the listing then this will create an unenjoyable experience. Unfortunately, those pop-up register forms are just as annoying for the user experience. So how can you make the user experience more enjoyable but still capture their information? There are a few options but I suggest offering more value to your customers, have listings openly available, a good blog with local and national advice on the industry and keep it fun with local events, blog about your listings or the areas you farm and offer smart code lead capturing for your customers to get more information through.  For more information: http://bit.ly/2VNIP6i