Talking To Clients About Home Automation

If you’re a real estate agent today, there’s a good chance you’ve sold and listed a house with home automation features. Connected “smart home” devices have gained popularity rapidly in recent years.

According to a recent report, in 2016, the number of smart homes reached 169 million and installations are projected to grow at an annual rate of 30 percent over the next few years.

With such rapid growth in recent years, it can be a challenge to keep up the home automation industry, let alone explain its myriad pros and cons to buyers. By explaining various smart home offerings and their comparative value, however, you can turn a possible unknown into a selling point.

What Makes a Home Smart?

Home automation features have been around since the 1970s, but were a concept way before then (think “The Jetsons” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”). But with the advent of WiFi-connected devices, the industry has exploded.

Generally, any home feature or device that can connect to the internet is considered a “smart” device. These items can be as minor as a lamp or as vital as a thermostat.

In general, smart devices sync with a smartphone or computer application where you can view data and control the device. Smart garage doors can be opened from your phone and allow you to check if you remembered to close the door without driving back home.

Smart smoke alarms can send a notification to your pocket if there’s a fire. Ultimately, these devices are built with two main goals in mind: convenience and cost savings.

Explaining Value

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of home automation devices available, their function and price, and what type of value they add to the home.

One thing to remember is that most home automation features do not offer a big return on investment (ROI). But, that doesn’t mean these devices can’t be strong selling points for buyers.

Because the home automation market is so vast and varied, its value differs with each consumer. A young family might be much more interested in in-home child-monitoring cameras than other buyers; an eco-conscious client might be more concerned than most with monitoring their energy use day-to-day.

Once you’ve determined your client’s lifestyle needs, you can determine whether a home’s automation features are actually a selling point. Focus on the cost-saving aspects of automation and its convenience when making the case.

Paint a Balanced Picture

While smart homes improve people’s lives through convenience and cost savings, home automation is far from perfect. When talking to clients, make sure they understand all the pitfalls associated with the technology.

There is no real standardization of home automation software, so getting newer devices to sync with or talk to older devices is often difficult. Further, many connected devices require a monthly fee – so if your clients are moving into a home with an installed security system, they’ll still need to pay a fee to keep the system online.

Whether or not your client is interested in home automation, there’s a fair chance that some of the homes you’re showing will have smart home features. Make sure you’re familiar with various offerings so you provide honest, informed answers and help them decide if home automation is right for them.

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Keller Williams Realty Named Top Training Organization Worldwide

Keller Williams Realty, the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count, was recognized by Training magazine, the leading business publication for learning and development professionals, as the No.1 training organization across all industries worldwide.

For the fourth consecutive year, Keller Williams placed in the Top 5 on the Training 125, which ranks companies’ excellence in employer-sponsored training and development programs.

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“We are incredibly honored by this recognition because of what it means for our people,” said John Davis, president, Keller Williams. “All of our training is focused on helping our agents grow their businesses and help their clients.”

“World-class training is the foundation of providing our agents with the resources and tools they need to fund their lives and create opportunities for their families,” said Davis.”

On January 30, Keller Williams received the No. 1 ranking at Training magazine’s annual awards gala in San Diego, California. With the honor, Keller Williams becomes eligible for induction into the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame for 2018.

“The 2017 Training Top 125 winners don’t just set the bar for employee training and development, they vault over it,” said Lorri Freifeld, editor-in-chief, Training magazine. “They are champions of learning and ensure their employees have the skills to succeed in this competitive, ever-changing world. They insist on training tied to corporate strategic goals, and they have the results to show for it.”

The Training Top 125 ranking is based on a myriad of benchmarking statistics such as total training budget; percentage of payroll; number of training hours per employee program; goals, evaluation, measurement, and workplace surveys; hours of training per employee annually; and detailed formal programs.

“At Keller Williams, we’re not only an open-books company, we’re an open-learning company,” said Dianna Kokoszka, CEO, KW MAPS Coaching. “The leaders of our company have fostered a culture of collaboration because we know that together everyone achieves more.”

The Training Top 125 ranking is also determined by assessing a range of qualitative and quantitative factors, including financial investment in employee development, the scope of development programs, and how closely such development efforts are linked to business goals and objectives.

“This is an exciting time in training and technology,” said Chris Heller, CEO, Keller Williams. “A decade from now, the way consumers search for and buy homes will be almost unrecognizable from the process today.”

“Our success at keeping our agents at the forefront of this evolution, helping them differentiate themselves in their local markets, and providing an extraordinary customer experience will be determined by how well we train our people, said Heller.”

In-depth profiles of each of the top five companies will appear in the January/February 2017 issue of Training magazine. For more information on the Training Top 125, visit www.trainingmag.com.

Simple Ways To Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is here and already off to a momentous start. Like many, you may have sat down and created some resolutions to keep you focused on creating your best year yet. But experts say that close to 80 percent of people don’t succeed in keeping their resolutions. Here are a few tricks to keeping yours and even some ideas to make resolutions if you haven’t done so yet. It’s never too late to plan for a good year!

Simply rewording your “resolutions” as “goals” can make a difference. This creates a positive mindset shift.

Did you make your resolutions fun? You are more likely to stick to your resolutions if you actually enjoy them. Hobbies can actually be good for you because they can lower stress levels, improve focus and improve brain power.

Set a goal with daily variety like expanding your vocabulary. The internet makes life easy for learning something new daily, especially a new word each day.

Other daily goals include establishing a ritual you can follow each morning at the same time. This will get you into the habit and after 66 days, it will become a part of your day that you don’t think about, like brushing your teeth.

Exercise is the most commonly set and failed resolution. To stick with it this year, redefine exercise to be something fun for you. If you don’t enjoy running, but love dancing, look into taking a Zumba class. If you don’t like to sweat much, consider swimming laps. Even brisk walking each day or opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator can sneak in exercise into your day.  Short on time? There are a variety of exercise apps available, even a seven minute one!

One of our favorite goals is to practice gratitude every day. Gratitude creates positivity, which fuels all the other goals above and more! Take a few minutes every day to reflect on what you are grateful for. Set your phone alarm for a random time in the middle of the day and program it to read, “Stop! Be grateful.”

Remember, most people are unsuccessful at keeping their resolutions because they tend to ask unrealistic expectations of themselves. Dream big, but tackle it in steps, not leaps. Start with small, actionable goals and you are likely to be more successful.

Increase Your Profits In 2017

OutFront article by: Ruben Gonzalez, Keller Williams Realty Staff Economist

With the market hitting highs in 2016 and potentially moving toward a peak, questions have been coming up about what agents should do when the market slows down and, specifically, how to manage expenses. To help with this important conversation, I interviewed Garrett Lenderman, lead writer and researcher of KW Publishing.

Lenderman, who works directly with Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, has spent a lot of time studying the Budget Model as well as the accounting and spending habits of agents to provide some insight for others on how they can manage expenses and increase profits, even in a shift.

Gonzalez: I want to talk about how agents should manage their budgets during shifts. But first, I want to start just by asking you, what is the single biggest observation you have had while looking at agent budgets?

Lenderman: The biggest observation I’ve had is that agents need to stay committed to having a budget and maintaining a P&L. Not many agents enjoy looking at numbers, and who can blame them? It’s important for agents to keep score and take into account things like their ROI when making decisions about spending money. Doing so creates accountability and is a diagnostic tool because it’s difficult to continually make smart decisions when you go with your gut.

One tool recently introduced to KW associates to help them with this process is the Profit Dash app. Profit Dash offers agents holistic finance management using KW’s exclusive listing and transmittal data right from their phone. It helps make managing expenses easier.

Gonzalez: On to the topic of shifts, what do you think are the things agents need to watch out for if they are headed into a slower market?

Lenderman: The first place I’d start with are expenses that sit below the line, and by that I mean expenses that aren’t necessary to the operation of your business. It’s tempting to treat your business as a personal account, but it’s important to separate that from your business expenses. If you do a good job of that already, the next place I’d look are expenses that aren’t vital for generating revenue. It’s easy, especially when things are going well, to take on extra expenses that aren’t directly driving revenue. But in a hard shift, those expenses can take you underwater.

It’s also important that you don’t make decisions you can’t outlast if things take a turn for the worst. This means either building up reserves that will prop you up in a shift or taking a good look at the affordability of long-term fixed expenses – especially those that would impact lead generation. When revenue starts to drop, you want to have minimal commitment to fixed expenses.

Gonzalez: What about teams? Are there some specific things that could get a team in trouble when things start to slow down?

Lenderman: The same rules apply for teams. However, I would say one of the biggest issues for teams now is their cost of sales. When things are booming and competitive, it can be a challenge to keep splits and salaries in check, but those are things that could make or break a team and will be a lot harder to negotiate down than it will be to keep them in line. Make sure you are making decisions that your business can survive when things get more difficult.

Gonzalez: Any final thoughts?

Lenderman: Watch out for shiny objects. It’s really easy when things are going well to start spending money on cool new systems, apps, fashionable furniture, sleek logos and watercoolers, but you need to really make investments that give you back multiple dollars in return. Hold your money accountable and have specific goals set for your investments. If you aren’t getting the return you want on something, cut the cord.

By: Ruben Gonzalez, Keller Williams Realty Staff Economist

Home Trends for 2017

As a new year rolls in, so do some new home trends. Here is a look at what you may expect to see at an open house near you in 2017.

It is easy being green. The Pantone 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery, has been called the world’s brightest neutral. This color represents rejuvenation according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

While on the topic of color, in 2017, navy is expected to be the new black. A sophisticated color, navy is making its way into homes in a big way to open up spaces, whereas black, which tends to minimize space, is scaling back.

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Say hello to faux. Experts predict that faux materials are going to be strong in 2017. The Wall Street Journal reported that even luxury homeowners were warming to faux materials such as faux marble and barn wood. Aside from being used as a reliable, budget-friendly alternative, additional faux materials like indoor foliage offer instant gratification with zero upkeep. Winter staging just got a lot easier!

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Fluttering design with butterflies. These fairytale-like creatures are not just for children’s rooms anymore. Butterflies, which symbolize optimism and grace, are showing up in large numbers on walls, pillows and home accents.
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Cork it. Cork is back with its multitude of purposes, natural qualities, sustainability and color tones.
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Other notable home trends to look for in 2017 include white kitchens with wood countertops, full kitchen walls of tile, modern-style bar stools, and fully decked-out laundry rooms with natural light and maximum space.

What home trends have you read about or noticed?

Viewing The Shift

Economic Update

Keller Williams Realty Staff Economist Ruben Gonzales talks about spotting a market shift.

If you have been in the real estate industry for very long, you probably know that the housing market goes through cycles. During the growth portion of the cycle, prices are going up and inventory levels are typically low but growing. After the market shifts, prices begin to decline as inventory levels reach a peak and then start to decline.

The cycle that real estate agents are most familiar with is the basic seasonal cycle that exists in the market. In the spring, as the weather warms up and summer is on the horizon, listings and sales start  to pick up. When summer arrives and kids are out of school in most locations and weather is at its warmest, sales peak. The fall brings the start of the slowdown as listings start to dwindle and demand decreases. The market typically bottoms in January when weather is coldest.

Then there are longer cycles that dictate where these peaks and troughs move from year to year. These cycles can last a few years or more than a decade, depending on the underlying factors that are driving them. They are very difficult to predict in advance.

In any market, there are two sides to the coin driving the cycles: supply and demand. On the demand side, you have demographic cycles which dictate how many people exist in an area who are able to buy houses, and economic cycles which dictate if those people are in a financial situation that’s  conducive to purchasing a home. On the supply side, you have availability of space for new construction, the number of existing structures and the costs of labor and materials.

You may have observed that over the last few years the market has made substantial gains as it recovered from the huge downturn that started in 2006. The markets started coming back in 2012, and looking at the country as a whole, they have been up since.

So now the question is, “When will the market go in the other direction, and how do I know it’s happening?” The short answer is that we don’t know and that we won’t know until it has already happened.

It’s really difficult to predict the timing of market cycles because there are so many factors at play, and often the thing that causes a shift wasn’t even on the radar. However, there are some things you can watch to know when you are potentially getting close so that you can start shift-proofing your  business while you still have the resources available.

Look first for a persistent loosening in lending behavior by banks. As the most qualified buyers start to dwindle because demand is slacking, banks will look to loosen standards to stir some demand from the bottom of the credit barrel. Inventory will eventually start to rise, and prices will flatten  out, as demand begins to dwindle faster than supply can adjust. Sales will start to decline   year-over-year as the market begins to settle into a downward trend.

The things that might cause this on a local level could be caused by a dip in the local economy or  overbuilding spurred in the aftermath of a long spurt of population growth in an area. It’s important  to watch patterns in the local economy as well as the housing market in your area. If unemployment in an area begins to trend up or the population begins to trend down, chances are that the housing market has already shifted or will soon follow suit.

With the market at its healthiest in nearly a decade, now is the time to start shift-proofing your business. Remember, shifts are going to happen, but you can minimize your vulnerability by taking  actions now that will help you thrive, not merely survive, when the next one occurs.

Keller Williams Realty “Reinventing Work/Life Balance”

Blog Post From Jim Kennedy: Via (Huffington Post)

An increasing number of organizations are rethinking the concept of work/life balance.  During the US economic recession of 2007-2009, companies found new ways of doing more with less.  The advancement of technology meant that a number of jobs were abolished during that time and are never coming back.  Technology advancements also furthered the concept that an employee is never really off the clock.  The American Psychological Association reported that more people are working on weekends, during vacations and even while they are out sick.  Researchers are reporting that the line between work and home has effectively been blurred and workers are reporting more cases of burnout due to chronic job stress.

Workers are beginning to ask themselves a key question:  Am I working to live or am I living to work.  Gallup did a survey and found that 70% of U.S. workers are not actively engaged at work.  Employees are constantly being asked to make a choice between family and work and are increasingly saying that they want both.  Many prospective employees are now considering non-monetary factors as well as the opinions of current employees prior to making a decision on employment.  It is clear that many employers are listening.  In 2014, Forbes Magazine reported that 78% of employers rate employee retention and engagement as urgent or important.   Many are increasing the use of benefits such as alternate work schedules, personal services, parental leave, and even sabbaticals to attract and retain a quality workforce.  Some leaders, however, are strategically reinventing the concept of work/life balance.  One leader, in particular, had the courage and vision to make this a priority even before the term “employee engagement” ever existed.  That person is Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI).

I first learned of Gary Keller and Keller Williams by reading a few of his many books on real estate.  His best seller books The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and The Millionaire Real Estate Investor are classic, how-to books on succeeding in real estate.  He followed those books with the wildly successful business book The ONE Thing:  The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.  I found the book to really be an extension of the company mission statement:  To build careers worth having, businesses worth owning, and lives worth living.  After reading Gary’s books and learning more about KWRI, I found three lessons that enabled me to achieve true work/life balance.

A Life By Design

KWRI was founded in 1983 by Gary Keller and Joe Williams.  From the start, Gary made it a point to design the company around the needs of its agents, not the other way around.   With this in mind, Keller Williams asks each new agent or employee to think about the life that they would like to lead and then to design a business around that.  The goal is to have people think about and have success in all phases of their lives, not just one part.  KWRI calls it having a life by design.

A Career Worth Having

KWRI is a market leader that only wants to succeed based on its core set of beliefs.  These beliefs guide how it conducts business as well as how it treats its workforce.  KWRI relies on these beliefs to create the systems, products, and services that lead to productivity and profitability.    To accomplish this, KWRI believes in putting its workforce first because it can only achieve success through its people.

Success On Your Terms

Most people think of KWRI as a Real Estate Brokerage.  What isn’t as widely known is that Keller Williams is also the number one training organization in the world according to Training Magazine.  In his book The ONE Thing, Gary asks an essential question:  What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  KW’s training component, KW MAPS Coaching, is designed to help its workforce answer that question and then to offer tools to maximize their probability of success.  The main goal of KW MAPS coaching is to offer “programs for real estate professionals and business leaders to transform their businesses and lives through education and coaching.”  It offers many different programs for agents and employees to define, develop and refine success on their own terms.

KWRI thinks of itself as a training and consulting organization and encourages its workforce to reinvent the meaning of the concept of work/life balance based on individual and business needs.  The traditional 9-5 workday is long gone and companies such as Keller Williams are creating unique career paths to accommodate the individual needs of its workforce.  As a result, people can now find unique ways to fit work into their life.

Full Disclosure:  The author is a Licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas.