Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Rethinking the Way You Cut Your Grass

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

(MCT)—Thomas Christopher is a lawn and garden expert calling for a radical revamp of how we approach yard care. "Lawns. I keep struggling with them," says Christopher, editor of the just-published The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening (Timber Press, $34.95). "I try to persuade people to do it in an easier, more environmental way, but people are stuck back in the Eisenhower years.

"It's got to stop," he adds. "People have to get a grip and break the habit."

Here are some ways to break turf's hold on your life, resulting in a greener and "greener" lawn that takes far less time to maintain.

Make sure the mower blade is very sharp. "A dull blade leaves grass looking ragged and encourages disease or lawn problems," Christopher says.

Set the mower level higher. "Most people set their lawn mowers way too short," he says, noting too close a cut damages the grass, encourages weed growth and calls for too-frequent mowing. It's never about how short the grass is but how neat and trim the lawn looks when finished. Grass varieties grown in cooler climes should be 3 inches long or longer; warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda and centipede grasses, can be cut a bit shorter, to around 1 1/2 inches.

Let your mower "design" the yard. Once you start the mower rolling, do not back up or make, in Christopher's words, "turns so tight they require slowing down." When you finish, look around for any areas of uncut grass. "The trick is to eliminate the little corners, peninsulas and island of grass," says Christopher. "Those patches are time-waster areas." What to do then? Don't mow those patches; replace with ground covers or mulch.

Start mowing in the most visible area of the property, like the front lawn. Christopher says the most efficient way to mow is to choose a specific area and mow in a circular motion from the edges toward the center. Mowing back and forth in rows is also acceptable.

Let no single bush or tree be an island in your yard. If there's something planted in the middle of the lawn that makes mowing hard, like a large bush with overarching branches, Christopher recommends ripping out the grass under the bush. Create a garden bed or plant some more bushes. Use mulch to create a large, even shape that's easy to mow around. "Don't drop plants into your yard," he warns.

Be aware of your terrain, especially any steep slopes. Christopher had a friend who was mowing downhill, slipped, and his feet went under the mower. "He lost a couple of toes," Christopher recalls. Where the ground goes downhill, mow back and forth across the grade.

Don't be overeager about mowing. Christopher has encountered a number of guys who can't cut back on their grass-cutting routine even when their yards really don't need it. Be honest about whether or not you can give up the mower.

For more information visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/.
Tags:

QR Codes: The 'Fanny Pack' of Tomorrow?

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

Whenever a new trend hits any market I have to ask, “Will it simply become another fanny pack?” You know, have its heyday then fade away, only to be held onto dearly by a few mullet-wearing fans for way too long.

I have spent the last eight months completely consumed in mobile technology and real estate. During this time, I have been talking often about QR codes (Quick Response Barcodes) because you cannot discuss mobile technology in real estate without addressing QR. In the 30-plus major U.S. cities I have been in, I have found that QR is a hated and loved technology trend right now.

Some say it is too early for the public to know what to do with it.

Some say the public will never use it.

Some say they are landing more listings than ever before by how they have implemented it in their marketing.

Some still think computers are a bad idea. (Long live the type-writer.)

Let’s get down to the bottom of this. Will QR fade away or is it here to stay? In my humble opinion…drum roll please…QR is here to stay!

Any new technology or product should exist for one purpose: to serve the customer by improving on a way to meet either current or future needs. QR does exactly that.

It creates an opportunity for a consumer to more quickly and easily access information. If the QR code is directed to an excellent experience, then not only is it easy to access information but it is an improved and robust experience.

In real estate, is it important for a potential buyer to have access to accurate information about a property in a timely fashion?

How much quicker can you get than pointing your phone at a listing in the newspaper and shazam…there, instantaneously, is a slide show of the properties along with Google map directions to the house. Plus, the REALTOR® can text you right from his/her phone, which now has your contact info cued up to be engaged.

For those REALTORS® out there that are skeptical and think this is a waste of time, know that 72 percent of smartphone users recall an ad if it had QR on it. Do you realize the power of that?! Does it take a bit of strategy? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!

Even if you think they will fade away down the road, now is the time to capitalize. Heck, even the fanny pack had a few years of incredible sales.
Tags:

The New Rules of YouTube Marketing

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

YouTube has changed dramatically over the last five years. Everyone in video marketing feels like they’re playing Calvinball, the game invented in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. As Calvin once said, “The only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can’t play it the same way twice!”

So, in this ever-changing world, here are four of the new rules of YouTube marketing:

1. Keep to a schedule and theme when publishing video content. People want to know what type of videos they'll be watching week after week on a particular channel. They like a recognizable topic and show format for the videos.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t mix it up, but consistency definitely counts. The top YouTube partners highlight when they publish new episodes in the header banner of their channel so fans know when to return for fresh content.

2. Think about the next action and viewer engagement. What do you want someone to do after watching your video? You can ask viewers to rate, comment or share your video. Ask them for their opinions. You can even ask them to click on a link and purchase your product.

3. Cross-platform promotions (the first 24 hours are huge). As soon as partners upload a new video, their YouTube subscribers are automatically notified when they return to the site and log in. Notify your fans via Twitter, Facebook and other sharing options as well. You can also email influential blog editors and traditional media outlets that are relevant to the topic or that have featured your videos in the past.

Leverage every distribution channel you can to promote your new videos. Don't forget about using paid media to launch new videos, too. Both promoted videos and traditional display advertising can provide lots of additional views.

4. Don’t watch comments too closely, but obsess over insights. Comments can provide valuable feedback and additional information about your videos and your audience. But you need to have thick skin since there will always be haters and trolls; don’t take them too seriously.

Focus on YouTube Insights to determine where and how people are finding your videos and if any external sources are directing a lot of traffic. If you do discover that a particular blog is sending you a lot of referrals, for example, reach out and say thanks. Then add that blog to your notification list for the next time you publish a video. Hot spots tell you when people start to lose interest in your video.

As of May 2011, these were the new rules of YouTube marketing. But these rules can “be changed, amended or deleted by any players involved.” What should you do then? It's pretty simple—make up the rules as you go.

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine marketing firm that provides search engine optimization, search engine advertising and search engine promotion services. Reach Greg at greg.jarboe@seo-pr.com.
Tags:

Is the iPad Generating Listings and Sales for REALTORS?

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

This business is about connections and relationships. Before you can ratify a contract and go to closing, you have to connect. You have to engage. You have to collaborate. You have to deliver an experience, not just a transaction. Finding the right technology to help you accomplish this objective is critical.

For the better part of a decade, technological advances allowed consumers and REALTORS® to increase efficiencies, but did very little to enhance an experience. People did pretty much the same things, only faster.

Enter the iPad.

An immersive device, an iPad delivers an experience on an emotional level, an experience critical to effective consumer engagement in real estate. And perhaps more importantly, you don’t have to be an IT administrator or tech “guru” to use one in your business. REALTOR.com and Top Producer are delivering on three immediate needs via the iPad. Here is a way to get started if you have yet to engage with customers and prospects using your iPad:

1. Get the free search app and cultivate your buyers. Customers are searching for homes on the iPad. They begin their search looking for property; hopefully they end it by finding you. The consumer search on the iPad is fun and intuitive. Tap the screen, open the app, and they’re on their way. After exploring neighborhoods and viewing homes, each trace of their finger on the polished glass surface brings them that much closer to realizing a dream. For you, as a real estate professional, the app allows for seamless collaboration by delivering all of the requests for information and appointment requests from your clients directly to you. Consider being the one who shows them the application for the first time. That way you can teach them how to use the “send to agent” function to route all requests to you.

2. Digitize your listing presentation
. Paper is so 2005. Realtor.com’s iPad-ready listing presentation lets you prepare a customized and interactive listing presentation in just minutes. Imagine the contrast between an agent who has a flutter of papers protruding from a three-ring binder as you simply flip open your iPad and perhaps start with some stunning photos of the subject property. Hand over the iPad. Deliver a rich presentation. Impress with an interactive experience tailored to your seller. Watch as they use their fingers to glide through your presentation, pausing to view the photos of their home you took today. This is a truly immersive experience you can leverage to win the listing.

3. Start a conversation at an Open House. Forget the archaic open house guest register. They don’t work. Grab your iPad and showcase your listing. Engage your walk-through traffic with this interactive, 21st century “property flyer.” Talk about the salient features of the home. Talk about the market. Ask if they want some detailed information about the current local market conditions relevant to them. Tap the screen and open up your TopProducer Market Snapshot, input your new prospect’s contact information, and deliver them timely, relevant content. Instantly. Now that’s engaging and delivering in the 21st century.

These are just a few ways you can turn your iPad into an important part of your customer engagement and lead generation arsenal. But this just scratches the surface. To learn more about the three strategies outlined above, and to get our free guide to the top 10 iPad apps to plug into your business, visit www.Marketing.realtor.com/tablet.
Tags:

Finding a Home for the Hazardous

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

Trying to figure out how to properly dispose of hazardous waste can oftentimes be frustrating. From construction waste to old paint cans, there always seems to be materials sitting around the house because your local town or city won't accept them with the weekly collection.

Many cities have hazardous waste disposal days, which is usually a great place to start unloading. Another recommended resource is the website Earth911.com. Earth 911 has a searchable directory of drop-off programs for various materials so you can learn the details before loading up. Consider the following when trying to dispose your junk:

Lightbulbs. Big-box retailers, such as Home Depot and Ikea, often take used compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) runs a website called Lamp Recycle (found at www.lamprecycle.org) that contains a full list of lightbulb-accepting retailers. If you have a plethora of old lightbulbs, don't just mix them in with the trash. Recycle them properly.

Appliances. Appliances can often be tricky things to get rid of, but there are plenty of options for properly recycling them. If you're buying new, most retailers will take your old one away (if this is not offered, you should inquire about this before purchasing). Some states have state-run programs for free pickup and/or cash rewards for old appliances, called the Cash for Appliances program. The federal government also has a program called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which recycles appliances containing ozone-depleting gases. Lastly, some appliances can be tax write-offs if donated to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army.

Unused building materials. ReStore, a project by Habitat for Humanity, accepts extra building materials and then resells them. ReStore sells to the general public at a fraction of the retail price, and proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities. It's a win-win-win for donors, consumers and communities.

Construction waste. The U.S.-government sponsored Construction Waste Management Database website will direct you to recyclers within your zip code that will get rid of your wasted carpeting, ceiling tiles, flooring and more. If you are working on a large at-home project, keep track of your waste materials and check the website. You can properly dispose of each item with ease and know-how.

Using the Internet as a resource, homeowners can find out how to dispose of many different types of waste, much of which can surely be recycled somehow. Using the aforementioned websites as tools will help you clear out your garage, and may sometimes even put a little cash in your pocket as well.

Sources: Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog, Earth911.com

Tags:

Organization is Key when Finding a New Home

May 24, 2011 8:57 pm

When trying to find a new home, a well-thought out strategy is always beneficial to have. By being organized, you can save yourself lots of valuable time and narrow your search as you cruise through the buying process. To help you get prepared, here are a few things to think about before going to that first showing.

Know exactly what you want. What type of home will suit you and your family? Are you looking to buy new or buy an existing home? What style do you want, and how handy are you to fix things up? All of these questions are important to ask yourself. Don't forget to consider commuting time, school districts, price ranges, and recreation and entertainment as well. With a little introspection, you can communicate to your REALTOR exactly what you're looking for and you can save yourself and your agent lots of time. The quicker you declare your wants and needs, the quicker you'll be living in your new home.

Figure out the finances. It's imperative that you know exactly what you can afford. Most lenders claim that you can afford a home priced two or three times your gross income, depending on location. Create an estimated budget beforehand so you can know which homes are within your price range. Also, be sure to meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter. This letter will tell you exactly how much you are eligible to borrow. Waiting until after you've found your "dream home" to do so may turn out to be a devastating mistake.

Determine when you want to spring into action. Having a timelime is a surefire way to achieve your buying goals. If you already own, you'll need to incorporate selling as a factor. If you are building your credit, that may take additional time as well. Although it may be difficult to juggle buying, selling and multiple closings at the same time, a solid game plan will be the key to your success.

Try to remain realistic about your decisions. Refrain from being closed-minded about new possibilities. It's good to be loyal to your wants and expectations, but entertaining some new ideas may help you in the long run. There's no such thing as the "perfect" home, so try not to let "wow"-factors make the decision for you.

Planning for your future is the best way to guarantee that you'll find a home that will make you happy. By thinking long-term and mapping out your buying strategy, you will save time and facilitate the process considerably.

Source: HouseLogic

Tags:

Housing Scorecard Shows Growing Evidence of Economic Progress

May 23, 2011 8:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 24, 2011—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently released the April edition of the Housing Scorecard—a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market. Officials caution that the latest housing figures underscore fragility in the housing market and highlight the importance of the Administration’s foreclosure-prevention programs, which continue to help tens of thousands of struggling homeowners each month and play a critical role in setting standards for the mortgage industry.

“The housing data in this month’s Scorecard offer continued mixed signals and some signs of weakness in the market—despite growing evidence of progress in the broader economy,” says HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic. “The Administration has been consistently committed to helping American homeowners and borrowers who have been hit hard by the economic recession and housing crisis, and our efforts have helped millions to avoid foreclosure and gain a more stable footing. That said, we still have more work to do to reach the many households who still face trouble.”

"The numbers of homeowners both entering HAMP and converting from trial to permanent modifications each month are a powerful reminder of the role this program is playing in delivering much-needed assistance to families facing a housing market that is still very tough,” says Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Tim Massad. “And by providing modifications that are sustainable for homeowners over time, HAMP is setting standards for the industry that ultimately mean more options for more families to avoid foreclosure."

The Housing Scorecard features key data on the health of the housing market and the reach of the Administration’s foreclosure prevention programs, including:

• The Administration’s efforts have helped millions of families deal with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. More than 4.5 million modification arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of March 2011—including more than 1.5 million trial modification starts through the Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), more than 808,000 FHA loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions, and nearly 2.2 million proprietary modifications under HOPE Now. While some homeowners may have received help from more than one program, the total number of agreements offered more than doubled the number of foreclosure completions for the same period (1.9 million).

• Tens of thousands of new homeowners continue to receive real payment relief from HAMP every month—and are able to keep up those arrangements over time. In March, servicers reported more than 36,000 trial HAMP modifications and more than 36,000 permanent modifications with a median payment reduction of 37%—or over $500 every month. Since the start of the program, more than 670,000 homeowners have received a permanent HAMP modification, saving approximately $5.9 billion. More than 1.5 million homeowners have started a trial modification. With more than 84% of homeowners in their permanent HAMP modification after one year, HAMP modifications continue to perform well over time and are proving more sustainable for homeowners than traditional industry modifications.

• The housing market remains fragile as data through March paint a mixed picture of recovery. Home prices remain weak under continued strain from foreclosures and distressed homes. However, mortgage delinquencies continued a downward trend compared to early 2010 and foreclosure starts and completions remain below peak. As lenders continue to review internal procedures related to foreclosure processing, many foreclosure actions have been delayed. The decline in foreclosure processing is likely to be temporary as lenders eventually revise and resubmit paperwork in the coming months.

For more information, visit www.HUD.gov.
Tags:

Tips for Upgrading to a Master Bedroom

May 23, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 24, 2011--If you just bought a home or are looking to spice things up, renovate your room into a full-blown master bedroom. A master bedroom provides luxuries both big and small to help you fully utilize your space for rest and relaxation. With these tips, you can customize your room’s lighting, windows and more, to open up the room and turn it into a real sanctuary.

In-suite Bathrooms
It’s always nice to have your own bathroom away from the kids or other household members. His and hers sinks and vanities are popular, as are separate tubs or showers. Incorporate some fun by adding things like a jetted tub or heated towel racks. If you plan to take the shower route, consider adding a shower bench or making it a steam shower. If you have the space to spare, the possibilities are endless.

Add a Balcony or Patio
If your bedroom is on the end of the house or on a higher floor, adding a balcony or patio could really add some flavor to the room. French doors add an intense amount of natural light to the room and can open up to your balcony. If big enough, add a small patio set so you can read, tan or eat outdoors. Outside electrical outlets are perfect for music. A private patio is a great way to escape stress and have some alone time.

Attach a Library or Living Room
Creating your own library or living room may be easier said than done, but if you’re building from scratch it’s an option you should definitely consider. A library can also act as an office for working at home. If a living room is what you desire, consider mounting a small flat screen television on the wall. A small loveseat and ottoman would provide you with the chance to catch some of your favorite shows in your own space without having to lie on the bed.

Create a Nook
Turning a corner of your bedroom into a reading area can be great to help you relax, especially if you don’t have the room for an attached living room. Add a fireplace next to your reclining chair or ottoman to add ambiance in the winter time. A bedside fireplace would definitely add to your home’s resale value.

Walk-in Closets are a Must
A walk-in closet is essential for any master bedroom suite. The bigger you can expand it, the better. Not only will you have extra storage space for your belongings, but you can customize the shelving and drawers to suit your personal style. Add full-length mirrors and maybe even a window for some natural light. Creating your own closet will also add to the resale value of the home.

With a little bit of money and the proper time and space, you could transform your modest bedroom into a relaxation haven. As you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor, you’ll be glad you did.

Source: FrontDoor.com
Tags:

Home Improvement Month Upgrades

May 23, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA May 24, 2011--Forget what the inside of your home looks like for just a bit and focus on outside enhancements during May’s National Home Improvement Month.

“The exterior of your home makes a lasting and daily impression on your friends and family, along with your neighbors,” says Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show. “While the weather is good, my advice is to get outside and fix up problem areas. Work on the landscaping and invest in products that make your home’s exterior not only look great, but work great. Then, once the weather gets too hot during the summer months you can re-focus on interior home improvement projects.”

Clement, who is in the middle of an ongoing renovation of his 100-year-old home in Pennsylvania, recommends assessing your needs and then diving into projects. “On the exterior of the home there are three big, critical areas I recommend people evaluate every year: the roof, the windows and the entry door. Those are key areas because, along with being focal points of the home, they help protect a house from severe weather. And, if you have problems with older windows, doors or roofing tiles, you’re looking at higher energy bills and growing problems that can affect your wallet long-term.”

When it comes time to focus on improvements for these vital areas of the home, Clement offers these recommendations.

Roofs
Check yearly to determine the condition of your roof. Look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be “flapping” in the wind. These are all indications that a new roof may be in your future.

Don’t forget to check the sides of your roof. The southern exposure weathers significantly faster than the other sides of the roof, so make sure to examine this side of the roof carefully. Also, shallower pitches weather faster than steeper pitches. So again, if your roof has a shallow pitch—like a shed dormer—make certain you can clearly see it to get a true indication of the condition of your roof.

If you’re in the market for a new roof, investigate polymer roofing tiles as a good option. These impact-resistant slate and shake tiles are man-made in a wide variety of colors.
Since the installation of a new roof exceeds the capabilities of most homeowners, make sure to research and hire a professional roofer. Check to make sure your roofer is insured, licensed and certified. Ask for a written job estimate and references along with warranty information for both the roof you select and the professional’s installation services.

Entry Doors
If you can see light around your main entry door from the inside, the door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it’s time to consider a new door.

Even if you can’t see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate. On a very cold or hot day, hold the back of your hand an inch or so away from the bottom and perimeter of your door. If you can feel air moving or a significant cold spot, that’s a signal your existing door could benefit from better sealing.

Determine what role you would like an entry door to play on your home’s exterior. Do you want it to be a focal point with a splash of color? Is it important that you have decorative glass in the door system? Will you need vented sidelights to allow more light and air into your home? Search the Web for “Door Designer” and “My Saved Door”—online tools to help visualize how a new door will look on your home.

Think about the weather conditions your home’s door faces along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing your entryway with a high-performance fiberglass door (which has four times more insulation than wood doors).

Established by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), National Home Improvement Month focuses on enhancements that can be made throughout the home. For details and more information, visit www.nari.org.

For more home improvement tips, see tomorrow’s news or visit www.myfixituplife.com.
Tags:

Tips for Throwing A Successful Housewarming Party

May 19, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 19, 2011--After you move into a new home and your family is settled, a housewarming party is the perfect way to introduce your home to your friends, extended family and new neighbors. In order to ensure a successful soiree, proper planning must be taken into account. Here are a few tips to help you through the process:

Decide on a budget. The very first step is to decide on a budget. Depending on the space, you may need to limit your guest list. If money is a bit of an issue, stick to close friends only and consider having a pot luck. Once a budget has been determined, you can continue making decisions from there.

What kind of party will it be? You can mold your party into any sort you'd like. Choose a theme or have a costume party, if you'd like, but be sure to tell your guests well in advance. In addition, plan some activities or games. If you are blending many different groups together, try a nice icebreaking game that will assist your guests in getting to know each other. If themes and games don't suit your taste, create the perfect playlist to set the perfect tone for your party. Music is a must.

Make your menu decisions early. Decide on the menu early so you can give yourself plenty of time to go shopping for food. Cook or prepare anything you can in advance to give yourself some breathing room on the day of the party. Have some vegetarian options available, and be sure to choose items that adhere to your budget.

Be a good host and introduce everyone early on. Be sure to introduce your guests to each other upon their arrival. If you are learning names for the first time yourself, introducing that person to someone else is a great way to make sure you remember the name. Walk your guests around the party when they arrive and be sure to offer and refill the guests' beverages.

As always, display gratitude for your guests' time. Be sure to send thank you notes, when appropriate, to thank your guests for their time and any gift they may have given you. Share any photos or videos you may have captured at the party or give out small favors the night of. If one of your guests has an event of their own in the near future, make a point to attend. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

It's not hard to make your housewarming event a great success, but planning is crucial toward achieving this goal. Start your planning as early as possible and enjoy!

Source: Relocation.com Blog

Tags: