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Generational changes influence just about every aspect of any market.  From the way that information is consumed to style preferences and beyond.  This fact is evident in the growth of Millennial home buyers.  A Millennial is anyone born between 1981 and 1996; making the youngest of this generation 22 in 2018.  For the fifth consecutive year, this generation is the largest and most active group of home buyers in the United States.  36% of home buyers fall into the age range, with 65% of them being first-time home buyers.  The opportunity for REALTORS® to leverage this emerging population is great.  Here are a few trends that can help you understand and market to these prospective clients.

Have a Digital Presence

While this is important to reach Millennial buyers, this needs to be a priority for reaching any prospective buyers.  Over 74% of buyers from all generations use the internet for research and shopping.

Be Prepared to Guide During Each Step

With the majority of this group being first-time homebuyers, many will want a REALTOR® that can and will help them navigate the different challenges of buying home.  Determining what kind of house they can afford, mortgage types, negotiating, and more will be very important.  Research also shows that 69% of Millennial homebuyers would use their same agent again, so referral and return business opportunity is also there.

Appearance is Important

Offering a visual experience can be vital in the home shopping experience.  Social media platforms like Instagram and Snap Chat are great places to be present from a marketing standpoint, they also speak to the importance of a prospective buyer’s ability to visualize themselves in a home.  41% of young homebuyers prefer homes that are staged.

While these are only a few trends and statistics about the growing Millennial home buying market, they provide an insight into how people are shopping for homes. 

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We are more connected than ever before.  Our phones keep us updated on the latest news, weather, scores, and social happenings.  Our cars can give us diagnostic updates when connected to Wi-Fi.  And now our homes have evolved from simply shelter to “smart”.  Turning on appliances and turning off lights with your voice via different devices; monitoring every inch and ounce of energy your home has and uses from anywhere in the world; these abilities are becoming more important, not only for homeowners but for home buyers as well. 

While the tried-and-true repairs and updates (a fresh coat of paint, landscaping, etc.) are still very necessary, making technological updates are becoming more of a necessity than a nicety.  A “smart home” used to refer to high-end, complex, automation.  Hard-wired entertainment components and closed-circuit security cameras have now been replaced by Nest thermostats, Amazon Echo, Ring doorbells and more.  And the interest is there.  In 2016, a NAR surveyed showed that 42% of agents had clients that were interested in smart home devices.  This statistic is even higher for Millennials.  77% of Millennials have purchased some sort of smart home product, and this segment is forecasted to buy over 30 million homes over the next 12 years. 

Now while it may seem like just another expensive investment into a home you are leaving, The NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology has shown that homes equipped with smart devices have seen about a 5% increase in sale price.  With the modest prices of new devices, this can mean a significant ROI.  So how do you go about making your home a “smart” home?

Start at the Front Door

A smart lock or a doorbell camera is a great, easy, inexpensive ways to instantly upgrade your home.  In addition to the positive first impression it will make on prospective buys as they approach your front door, it also provides instant value.

Stick with Name Brands

Amazon, Google, Nest, and Ring are all very well-known brands inside and out of the smart home market.  These devices will also pair nicely with the majority of mobile devices, making integration easy for the new owners.

Add a Couple of Connected Outlets

Adding an Amazon Echo or Google Home can be an affordable way to instantly enhance your home’s technology.  You can take it a step further by installing the device’s corresponding connected outlet.  These outlets allow you to control whatever is plugged into them.  Turn on the TV, turn off the lights, set timers, and more.   

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Commuting from showings to closings to open houses can take a toll on your odometer.  While your vehicle is one of your most important resources as a REALTOR®, it can also be convenient come tax time.  Did you know that the mileage deduction for 2018 is 54.5 cents per mile?  Now a couple of quarters each mile may not sound like much, but it can really add up.  Let’s assume you drive 50 miles a day on average, five days a week, 48 weeks a year.  You’re looking at approximately $6,500 that can be deducted from your taxable income.  If you aren’t recording your mileage for tax purposes, you are literally leaving money on the table, or road.

How Do You Record and Report Your Mileage

Unfortunately the IRS doesn’t using the honor system.  This means that you’ll need to maintain a compliant mileage log.  In order for a log to be compliant, it will need to include the following information:

·         The qualifying mileage for each trip.

·         The dates of each trip.

·         The locations involved in each trip.

·         The business purpose behind these trips.

Now you won’t need to submit this data when you file your taxes, but it should be saved with your tax documents.  It is recommended to keep all of your tax records for at least three years.

What Miles Can You Include for Tax Purposes?

There are a number of different driving purposes that meet the IRS’s definition of “business related”.  Visiting new properties, meeting prospective and existing clients, traveling between offices, even picking up different supplies.  It is important to know that your commute (from home to work and vice versa) cannot be included in these calculations.

What is the Best Way to Track Your Miles?

There are three ways to track your mileage that the IRS will accept.  You can keep a manual, handwritten log.  You can track your mileage digitally with photos and a spreadsheet.  You can also download a mileage tracking app on your mobile device.  A manual log is typically the cheapest option, as it only requires a notebook and pen.  The downside to this option is that it is difficult to accurately record if you forget an entry, and if you lose the log, there is no backup.  The digital option with photos and spreadsheets can be more reliable, it also tends to be more work.  Mobile apps that automatically track and record your mileage are usually your best bet.   

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April is known for a lot of different things; spring time, showers, baseball, and taxes.  While the latter is the least pleasant of those three, if you sold your house last year, or are planning to sell it this year, you could have a few extra deductions to make, which could make tax season a little brighter.  Here are four tax deductions that every home seller should be aware of.

Property Taxes

Any property taxes that you paid on the home you sold or will sell, are deductible up to the time that you sold it.  This deduction is capped at $10,000.

Selling Costs

Any cost associated with the sale of your home is tax deductible.  Everything from legal fees, escrow fees, commissions, advertising and more can be deducted.

Home Improvement and Repairs

Making improvements and repairs to your home before it goes on the market, or as a contingency for sale, can all be deducted from your taxes.  Whether it was a room remodel, painting the house, landscaping, a new roof, or something else; as long as these improvements were made within 90 days of closing, their associated costs can be deducted.

Moving Expenses

After selling your home, it stands to reason that you likely incurred some moving costs.  If you sold your home and moved as a part of your job, the cost of hiring a moving company, renting a truck, and other associated costs can be deducted from your taxes.

These are only a few of the deductions that can help to take the sting out of next tax season.  Always consult a tax professional when filing to make sure that these, or any other deductions are appropriate for your situation.

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There are 24 hours in a day.  While that may sound like a lot, once we begin those hours fly by.  As a REALTOR® each day is filled with generating leads, following up with potential clients, handling the many moving parts of your current transactions, and of course, the countless other duties and responsibilities that never fail to pop up.  Keeping all of these balls in the air can be quite the challenge, not to mention all of life’s other aspects that don’t fall under the real estate umbrella.  However, with a few scheduling and routine tips and tricks, you can not only streamline your day but even have a few minutes left over.

Add “Time Blocks” to Your Daily Schedule

Did you know that studies have shown that a 30-second interruption can cost you 30 minutes of time and concentration?  This is what makes time blocking so valuable.  Each day schedule uninterrupted blocks of time that are dedicated to accomplishing a single task.  An example of this would be set aside 45 minutes each morning to prospect.  During this time you won’t answer phone calls or emails, eliminating those costly distractions, allowing you to effectively and efficiently complete core daily task.  Studies also show that time-blocking can reduce errors by 50%.

Identify Your Proactive Hours

Keep a record of your activities over a typical week.  How many hours do you spend doing things like taking listings, marketing them, and taking measures to close deals?  How many hours do you spend prospecting?  These hours can be identified as proactive hours, and the more of them you have, the more productive your day and week will be.  Time spent sitting around the office or in other types of meetings can clog your schedule and reduce your potential productivity; while other types of activities are necessary and unavoidable, increasing your ratio of proactive hours can make each day much more fruitful.

Control and Reduce Your Distractions

We live in a distracting world.  We are constantly plugged into all of the information and events from around the world.  Of course, many distractions are unavoidable, but the ones that can derail a day are very much in our control.  Checking email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more easy traps to slip into.  Fortunately, there are some tools out there that can make these time stealing actions easier to avoid.  You can block certain websites on your computer during certain times of the day.  You can even set your email inbox to pause notifications in the same way.  Also while looking at your schedule, make a commitment to only check your email at certain times of the day, and use a time block to respond; this will make focusing on any task-at-hand much easier.

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Have you ever watched a show on Netflix and felt compelled to tell your friends and family about it?  Hoping they enjoy story, cast, and plot as much as you did?  Or have you ever been on the other side of that conversation, where someone recommends a new show to you?  These suggestions, when of quality, can bring hours, days, even weeks of enjoyment.  This time spent binge-watching can be even more enjoyable in a new home; and as a REALTOR®, this is where another type of referral can be valuable.

The highly competitive world of real estate sales means that you need any competitive advantage that’s available.  A great place to start is with your current and former happy clients.  When they refer their friends and family, it makes it easier to keep your pipeline flowing.  Here are a few tips to earn more referrals.

Create and Grow Relationships with Industry Leaders

As you know, there are a number of moving parts in the real estate business.  From mortgage lenders to home inspectors, there are a lot of people who interact with your potential clients on a daily basis.  Fostering a relationship with people in the different industries can help you ensure not only consistent referrals but a smooth home buying or selling process for your client.

Provide Your Clients Helpful Content During and After the Transaction

You are a resource to your client, not only when meeting face-to-face or emailing or speaking on the phone.  When you provide content like articles, blogs, videos, etc. that answers their questions or can be helpful, you become even more valuable.  This practice is great during the home buying or selling process.  Whether it’s to provide more information on a question or issue they had or simply something they may find interesting and helpful; these extra touches set you apart.  After your client buys or sells their home, staying in touch with appropriate content is a great way to stay on top of their mind and build more trust.  Some examples of post-transaction content could be a “new homeowner guide” or “landscaping tips”.

Make Referrals Easier with Branded Materials

You’ve done the hard part by providing great service, building trust, and completing a successful sale or purchase; now make it easy on yourself, and easier for your client by providing a simple way for them to refer you to their friends and family.  Pre-prepared, branded materials that you can hand out at any time makes your information easy to share.  Business cards, one-sheets, and other collateral should all capture your personality and display what sets you apart. 

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Five decades ago Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.  This final piece of civil rights legislation prohibits the discrimination in the sale and rental of residential housing.  The goal of this act was to end the decades-long problem of discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, and several other personal characteristics when it comes to access to housing. 

Overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, this department has the authority to investigate cases of discrimination involving:

•    Home sales

•    Rentals

•    Advertising

•    Mortgage lending and insurance

•    Property insurance

•    And more

It is important to be aware of everything that the Fair Housing Act covers.  It applies to dwellings that are defined as, “any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more families, and any vacant land which is offered for sale or lease for the construction or location thereon of any such building, structure or portion thereof”.  It also covers a number of different real estate transactions:

•    The making or purchasing of loans or providing other financial assistance for the purchase

•    Construction

•    Improvement

•    Repair or maintenance of a dwelling

•    The selling, brokering or appraising of residential real property

•    Access, membership, or participation in multiple listing services, real estate brokers’ organizations, or other services related to the business of selling or renting dwellings.

Originally upon enactment, the Fair Housing Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  In 1974 and again in 1988 it was expanded to include disability and familial status. These are the protected classes under the act. But what exactly constitutes discrimination?

The types of discrimination that the Fair Housing Act protects against are outright, intentional discrimination, and disparate impact.  Outright, intentional discrimination or steering can be proven with direct evidence such as a sign stating that a particular member of one of the protected classes listed above is not eligible to rent or purchase, or making statements dissuading interest based on age, race, sex, ability, etc.  Disparate impact is less obvious.  This type of discrimination will involve a policy that has the unintended consequence of discrimination.  These types of policies can make housing options more restrictive for members of the protected classes than for people not affiliated with those groups.  While this policy was not designed to discriminate, its implementation has a higher impact on people in the protected classes.

While this is a lot of information, this groundbreaking law has changed the lives of countless people and families for decades.  As a REALTOR® it is important to understand the ins and outs of the Fair Housing Act so that you can ensure that every client you have is receiving the protection that they deserve, because Fair Housing Makes U.S. Stronger.

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Spring has arrived.  And, after a colder, snowier, and icier than normal winter across Louisiana, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.  The real estate market is ramping up for home buyers and sellers alike.  Here are a few things to help navigate the spring market whether you are buying or selling your home.

Use a REALTOR®

No matter if you are housing hunting or putting your home on the market, the experience and expertise of a REALTOR® is invaluable.  From helping you find your next home to getting yours sold quickly and for the best price, their skills and resources will be put to work for you.

Pay attention to mortgage rates

Whether you are planning to buy or sell, a mortgage may be in your future.  After years’ of historically low rates, they are on the rise.  Rates have increased in 9 of the 10 weeks so far through 2018.  Currently, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.58% (according to Bankrate.com).

Inventory is expected to be up

The number of homes for sale in Louisiana is expected to increase throughout the year.  As supply catches up to demand, it’s important to take the necessary steps that will set your house apart from the rest.  Landscaping, repairs, paint, etc. all make a huge difference when it comes to curb appeal, especially as buyers have more options.

Know the market conditions

Currently, in Louisiana, the median listing price is $200,000.  Of course there a lot of factors that go into these values beyond just the home.  Schools, infrastructure, location, amenities, convenience, etc.  Your REALTOR® will be able to help your determine both a fair asking price if you’re selling, and a fair offer if you’re buying, based on all of these conditions.

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After a strange winter that was actually filled with snow, ice, and frigid temperatures; spring is being welcomed even more than usual, and not just for baseball games and crawfish boils.  Warm temperatures and sunshine aside, this is the time of the year when prospective homebuyers come out of hibernation.  If you are planning on selling your home, this is the time of the year to make sure it is ready to be shown, and ready to shine.  Here are 5 tips for preparing your home for a spring sale.

Take Care of Small Repairs and Maintenance

While you have a home inspection done before any sale is finalized, it’s a good idea to take care of some of the more minor repairs you may have been putting off before your house goes on the market.  If a prospective buyer notices something small, it can give them the impression that there are larger issues looming.  Tightening knobs and handles, replacing light bulbs, and fixing a small leak can all pay major dividends.

Clean the Outside of Your Home

Curb appeal is a major factor when it comes to selling your home.  This will be the first and most important impression for anyone considering purchasing your home.  Cleaning out your gutters, pressure washing, and adding a fresh coat of paint are well helpful ways to ensure you put your best foot forward.

Address Your Landscaping

Likewise, the landscaping around your home can be a great visual enhancement.  Seed any bare spots in your lawn, keep it freshly mowed, trim bushes, weed, and plant some fresh, bright flowers.

Update and Refresh Your Front Door

Make your front door pop.  Adding a fresh coat of paint, possibly a color that compliments and contrasts with the rest of your home, and replacing old and worn out door numbers can make for an inviting entrance.

De-clutter and De-personalize

Buyers want to be able to visualize their stuff in your home.  You can make this easier by de-cluttering and de-personalizing as much as possible.  Not only will this make the space appear bigger, but it will easily allow visitors to mentally envision this home as theirs.  Removing any knickknacks, photos, refrigerator magnets, and other items like excess and bulky furniture can go a long way in selling your home.

Lastly, once these and other items are taken care of, hire a REALTOR®.  Your REALTOR® will make sure your best interests are protected, as well provide great insight, expertise, and resources for the sale of your home.

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There are many “if-then” scenarios in life.  These hypothetical, cause-and-effect occurrences help us make plans to achieve certain goals.  Some of these goals can be minor.  “If” it doesn’t rain Saturday, “then” we’ll play golf.  Others can carry significantly more weight; fewer more so than the decision and outcome of selling your home.  “If” we sell our house, “then” we’ll move closer to the beach.  Or, “if” we can sell our home for x amount of dollars, “then” we can travel more.  Whatever that “if” is, as a home seller, your eyes are locked on the “then”; it’s your REALTOR’S® job to make the “if” a “when.”  So how do you find a REALTOR that will do exactly that?

Properly Pricing Your Home

This is arguably the most important factor in the process.  A price that is too high will leave your home on the market far too long, resulting in you dropping much lower than fair market value.  A price too low, while it can make for a quick sale, leaves thousands of dollars on the table.  Your REALTOR’S® experience, expertise, and resources will help you determine the most advantageous price for your home.

Recommending Any Necessary Improvements

Before that sign hits your yard, announcing that your house is on the market, you’ve already taken a number of steps to put your best foot forward.  However, there could be some simple, inexpensive actions that can equal a significant return when you sell.  Your REALTOR® will be able to recommend certain repairs and enhancements that can positively impact your bottom line.  Whether it’s a fresh coat of paint, new landscaping, or making minor repairs, the knowledge of what buyers are looking for will help guide your efforts.

Advertises, Coordinates, and Shows Your Home to Prospective Buyers

Selling your home promptly, for your target price is a full-time job.  Making sure it can be found online, through social media, as well as other avenues, on top of scheduling showings, and hosting open houses is no small feat, and it is what your REALTOR® should be doing.  The more exposure your home gets toward potential buyers, the more likely it is to sell quickly and for more money.

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