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Updated: 1 hour 3 min ago

2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers: All in the Family, and New Records Set

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 10:02

As the cost of homeownership increases and options remain thin, family is stepping in.

Among first-time homebuyers this year, 32 percent depended on family or friends for financial help purchasing, commonly in the form of gifts or loans, according to the 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the annual National Association of REALTORS® report, newly released.

Buyers depended on family or friends for help saving, too. Before buying their home, 23 percent cohabitated with family or friends, accumulating down payment savings without the additional burden of market-rate rent. Furthermore, in a growing trend, 4 percent of first-time homebuyers purchased as roommates. The average first-time homebuyer put 6 percent down, according to the report, and 25 percent financed through an FHA loan, which has a more affordable down payment threshold.

Despite the financial lift, 33 percent of buyers were first-timers—below the historic 40 percent. According to John Smaby, NAR president, a critical factor is supply, which is exceedingly limited in the starter tier, where first-timers search.

“Prerecession, the number of first-time buyers was higher in part because buyers had more options,” says Smaby. “However, over the past few years, we have unfortunately experienced a scarcity in housing inventory, especially at the middle- and lower-end of the market.”

“Low inventory conditions hurt would-be first-time buyers most,” explains Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “Their homeownership dream and the opportunity to build wealth gets delayed until more inventory choices reach the market.”

Because of the inventory shortage, buyers depend heavily on their REALTOR®, according to the report. Still, 52 percent found their home online—the majority. In the buyer-REALTOR® relationship, they appreciate experience, honesty and negotiation and pricing skills.

On the home-selling side, the average seller was 57 years old this year, and profited $60,000 at sale, the report shows. Typically, they garnered 99 percent of the price, and their home sold in three weeks. The average seller’s tenure was 10 years—considerably longer than six, the historic norm—and, when they moved, they bought newer and pricier compared to their previous property. Eighty-nine percent listed with a REALTOR®, and 66 percent were “very satisfied” with the process.

“Today, repeat buyer behavior is more similar to first-time buyer behavior as tenure in home has increased,” Jessica Lautz, vice president of Demographics and Behavioral insights at NAR, says, adding, “All buyers are doing their homework—going to open houses, following housing news—and are more reliant than ever on the expert advice of real estate agents and brokers.”

A Record Year
Within the report, there were many records set this year—a marked sign of the times.

Of all homes purchased, just 13 percent were new—an all-time low.
Of all homes sold, just 8 percent were FSBOs, closing in on the lowest on record.
The average first-time homebuyer is 33 years old—the oldest on record.
Of first-time homebuyers, 17 percent were couples that were unmarried—a high rate, compared to the historic trend.
The average non-first-time homebuyer is 55 years old—a high hit in 2018, and repeated this year.
Of home sellers, 16 percent bought closer to family and friends—the most common motivation in the report, and a first as the most popular reason.

Credit: National Association of REALTORS®

Credit: National Association of REALTORS®

For more information, please visit

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

The post 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers: All in the Family, and New Records Set appeared first on RISMedia.

Teaming Up for a Changing Landscape

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 21:04

Better Homes Realty and La Rosa Realty Strategically Align to Meet the Demands of Today’s Real Estate Business

Even though their firms are located in opposite corners of the U.S., it didn’t take Chuck Scoble and Joe La Rosa long to discover that they were kindred spirits. They both shared core values and a business philosophy that made them realize they could turn their similarities into a strategic alliance that allows both firms to retain their brand identities yet capitalize on their synergies. Their goal? To become the brands of choice for real estate agents and to be the leaders in the “agent-centric, consumer-first era of real estate.”

In this interview, we find out more about this unique alliance, and how it’s already leading to exponential growth.

Maria Patterson: Let’s begin by finding out a bit more about your firms’ respective histories.
Chuck Scoble:
Better Homes Realty was founded in 1964 and was based primarily in Northern California. La Rosa Realty was founded in 2004 as a traditional real estate company, primarily serving the Central Florida market.

Joe La Rosa: In 2011, La Rosa Realty shifted from a broker-centric model to an agent-centric model of real estate, offering more tools and value to the agents while offering a 100-percent commission split. La Rosa Realty has grown quickly since 2011 and has been named one of the Top 75 Residential Real Estate Firms by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) for the past three years. In 2019, we began franchising and converted several of our largest offices in Florida to franchises. Since that time, we have opened, or are about to launch (at press time), 21 other franchise locations.

MP: So how did your two companies cross paths, being on opposite ends of the country?
I had been watching La Rosa’s growth and reached out to Joe. We touched base and hit it off. One thing led to another. La Rosa has an up-and-coming model and team, which has been put together very methodically.

JL: I’ve been predominantly out on the East Coast and had known about Better Homes Realty for a while. Chuck and I had a mutual friend in the business who thought we both handled our businesses in similar ways and had similar core values. He recommended that we speak, and we really enjoyed getting to know each other and sharing war stories. That eventually transitioned into, “Hey, what can we do together?”

MP: So with the strategic alliance, how many offices and agents/employees does the firm currently have?
Between the two brands, there are approximately 50 offices and close to 3,000 agents located in Florida, California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, South Carolina and Mexico. New offices are scheduled to open in Panama, Peru, Columbia, Puerto Rico and Turkey starting as early as this month (at press time).

MP: What is the goal of your strategic alliance, and what are your plans in terms of expansion?
The strategic alliance between Better Homes Realty and La Rosa is very unique.
La Rosa Realty and Better Homes Realty are not merging together, but joining forces to create a strategic alliance to be better prepared and positioned as our industry and way of doing business changes. Our goal by joining forces is to create a stronger alliance and foundation and to provide the tools, tech and training that our owners and agents need to thrive in the changing landscape.

JL: Our goal is to become the brands of choice for real estate agents and to be the leaders in the agent-centric, consumer-first era of real estate. We are committed to empowering our agents through our technology and training platforms to deliver an unparalleled customer experience. We will continue to build off of the momentum that both brands have created and continue to expand within the United States, as well as throughout the world.

MP: How will the strategic alliance be different than a merger?
By joining forces and creating an alliance, we’ll be able to position ourselves in the right place as the industry shifts. We’re always focused on creating opportunities for agents.

CS: It’s more about tapping into the resources and systems that Joe has put together in order to benefit Better Homes Realty agents. We’ll be able to take advantage of better technology and training and systems, and that’s a huge benefit. It’s about sharing the platform that Joe has built.

MP: Please tell us more about how you developed the global arm of the business. Why is this an important part of your future?
Over the years within La Rosa Realty, the majority of our growth has been organic—even now, we’re converting offices into franchises without having done a major national marketing campaign. We weren’t going to attack our international plan until mid-2020, but the moment I announced earlier this year at the Florida convention that we would become a franchise, folks within our own company immediately wanted to know how they could take advantage. Several key folks in our company wanted to know how they could bring the brand to other countries, such as Panama, Peru, Columbia and Turkey. I’m excited to understand how real estate is done in other countries. Can we come into those marketplaces with our agent-centric model and be a disruptor?

MP: How is your agent-centric model different than others?
Everybody is following the headlines over the last few years and shifting from a broker-centric to agent-centric model, offering 100-percent commission. But you have to break it down. Are there hidden fees and costs? There are multiple reasons why agents will hang a license with a broker: technology, education, culture and also value. We give agents the most value by offering a true business in a box. A complete package with a full menu of items so that agents can choose what makes sense for them—technology, marketing, social media, etc. They can pick and choose with no hidden fees.

MP: Do you feel this sets your firm apart from the competition?
Yes, because we are not just using the term “agent-centric,” we are redefining it. Our two iconic brands have vast offerings and business solutions for agents and owners. We make it incredibly simple and affordable to own and grow a business and provide state-of-the-art, revolutionary technology solutions and training for agents and owners.

MP: How would you describe the current state of your real estate markets?
Most markets are at some stage of shifting from a seller’s market to that of a more stable and normalized market. Low interest rates and continued demand are still offering plenty of opportunities for agents to thrive and grow their businesses.

MP: How is your value proposition meeting the needs of today’s real estate consumer?
We are both longtime brokers who embrace the continuing challenges facing salespeople, as well as those facing broker/owners trying to stay relevant in a very fast-changing environment. For both salespeople and franchisees, it’s a challenging market to make a profit.

JL: That’s why we’re empowering our agents to become leaders in this next generation of real estate by focusing first on being a true agent-centric office and brand that equips them with every possible tool, from technology to training and coaching, that then translates into the creation of endless opportunities to provide the consumer with the ultimate customer experience. With technology leading to customers wanting everything virtually on-demand, we want to be able to appeal to that through the platforms we put together.

MP: Can you elaborate on the types of training and technology you’re offering for agents?
We feel that we have it covered from every angle. We provide information on-demand for agents to market themselves in countless different ways. We provide websites and CRMs that allow us to push along data to consumers so that they can tap into the information they need. We’re also helping agents understand that social media is playing a larger role every day, so we have it set up for them on an autopilot system so they can work smarter, not harder. We also have a back-end so they can work more efficiently and send files and execute documents from their car. The company intranet allows communication to take place and creates synergy to blossom.

The company’s technology services allow agents to work smarter, not harder.

MP: Please describe your firm’s culture and leadership philosophy.
La Rosa Realty’s culture has always been defined by three words: family, passion and growth. We understand that for many, family can be one of the most important things in the world. The bond that links La Rosa REALTORS® is not that of blood, but one of respect and loyalty. Collectively, we share each other’s goals and values. Together, we are much stronger than we are alone.

With passion, we put our hearts, minds and souls into helping our agents achieve their dreams and aspirations. Through education, training, coaching, technology and support, our agents are positioned to become more productive, as well as provide a better quality of life for their families. Last, but definitely not least, with growth, we understand that in life and in your career, if you are not growing, you are dying. Our purpose is to assist and identify each agent’s unique talent and potential in order to help them obtain their goals.

MP: What are some of your most innovative marketing strategies? How are they helping you connect with consumers?
Our platform and the opportunity we offer as a franchise is flexible, one that can be delivered to consumers through a 300-agent, semi-virtual office or a 10-agent office on Main Street. Recruiting productive salespeople and enhancing lead generation opportunities for our agents is our focus. We understand that the days of the agents being in the forefront with technology as a resource has changed to where technology is now in the forefront, relying on agents to utilize it to their advantage. Both brands have now taken the proper steps to ensure that we are both aligned with the right technology that allows us to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

MP: When it comes to lead gen, what are you doing to help agents convert and close leads?
Through our coaching program, we monitor closely agents’ ability to convert leads into appointments and then into closings. Coaching is not only to hold them accountable, but to examine where their strengths and weaknesses are. Chuck and I are both big football fans, and the first thing a football coach does after a game is go back and review the film to see where players excelled and where they had challenges. We do the same thing. We want to dig deeper to help them develop a plan to improve.

MP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
Our combined leadership team, franchisees and progressive associates are always on top of what is coming down the path, giving us insight as to the value and opportunity of new solutions or tools. Our focus is always on being able to improve our technology platform so that it remains ahead of the curve and is always the leading and most cutting-edge technology available to both agents and consumers. Technology is constantly evolving, and so are we.

MP: Finally, gentlemen, what’s on deck for the future of the firm?
We’re looking at global expansion to include 100-plus offices and 5,000-plus associates within 24 months. I’m excited to work alongside Chuck. We share the same vision and goals, and we look forward to much success.

CS: Yes—it’s the USA version of East meets West! My offices will really benefit from the new network.

For more information, please email or visit and

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

The post Teaming Up for a Changing Landscape appeared first on RISMedia.

Maintaining and Promoting a Positive Culture

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 21:03

In the following interview, Troy Wilson, president of Bellator Real Estate & Development, a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World in Spanish Fort, Ala., discusses the firm, retention, and more.

Region Served: Mobile and Baldwin Counties
Years in Real Estate: 23
Number of Offices: 7
Number of Agents: 193

How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace?
While we’re well-known for new construction and development, what makes us unique is our breadth of expertise. For instance, we have the only real estate offices on Ono Island, and we do a great business in second homes and condo sales there. We also specialize in primary homes, as well as new construction projects. Real estate is so cyclical, so the fact that we have our hands in a little bit of everything means that we always have activity.

How important is building a positive culture?
Having a positive culture is one of the things that best defines our company. We begin every meeting by going around the room and sharing what we’re most grateful for—a practice that we feel allows us to live out our core values. We see all that we can do with all that we’ve been given, and we believe that we’re blessed to be part of a company where we’re free to do what we can do in this area. Our mission is to focus on our culture, which encompasses faith, effort, gratitude, honor, courage and commitment.

What is the key to agent retention?
Our agents are our clients, so we’re fortunate that we can be selective when it comes to choosing only those agents who we think will best fit our team. We’re also constantly looking for ways to improve, so we try to use the best technology available to offer our agents the best tools in the industry. There’s a great deal of business out there, so by taking the time to build relationships with our agents, we’re setting them up to be able to go out and build relationships with buyers and sellers.

What is one thing you hope your agents say about you?
I would like them to say that they trust us and that they’re excited to be part of a company that doesn’t just talk the talk. Not only are they part of our growth, but they’re also part of something much bigger than themselves.

How does being part of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® help you and your agents do their jobs well?
One of the biggest advantages is that it differentiates us and places us as one of the top three companies in the marketplace. It also allows us to expand our footprint. At its roots, being part of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® connects us to a large network of like-minded brokers and agents, which allows us to send and receive excellent referrals, while at the same time learning from and sharing with this network.

For more information, please visit

Lesley Grand is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

The post Maintaining and Promoting a Positive Culture appeared first on RISMedia.

Michael Hilgenberg: Preparing Agents to Deliver at a High Level

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 21:00

Vitals: Keller Williams Realty Palm Springs
Years in Business
: 45
Size: 4 market centers, 2 business centers, 2 onsite country club offices and 1,090 agents
Regions Served: Greater Palm Springs, Redlands, Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead
2018 Sales Volume: $1.447 billion
2018 Transactions: 4,072

Michael Hilgenberg spent a decade in his family’s real estate business in Wisconsin before moving to California and starting Keller Williams Realty in the Coachella Valley in 2003, and opening a Keller Williams market center in Palm Springs a year later with his son. Housing just 27 agents when it opened, today, his firm employs more than 1,000 agents and is growing every year.

How would you characterize the market this year?
Michael Hilgenberg:
It remains a seller’s market, and in Palm Springs, we’re seeing a 2.8-month supply with sales down about 10 percent.

What are some of your most successful recruiting strategies?
Our agents refer other agents they’ve had positive cooperative transactions with. We’re also proactive in inviting top agents to our training and mastermind events. We have affiliated sponsors for some of our events, so we don’t label them a Keller Williams event. When it comes to retention, we identify agents at risk—those that aren’t attending sales meetings or training events. Once those individuals have been identified, our leadership staff calls them monthly, simply to say hello or to invite them to a particular event or training.

Once you do get in front of them, how do you motivate and lead agents toward success?
We ask our agents what they’re looking for in training and masterminds, and then we deliver. We have our leadership divide up our agent roster and stay in touch with them and see how they’re doing. We invite our top producers to participate and facilitate in our training, which gives them a sense of purpose. They prepare and deliver at a high level, giving them a sense of leadership, as well.

How important is utilizing the latest technology?
It’s very important. We use Kelle, Command and AI. We promote our technology, which is coupled with AI, and train and consult with our agents on how to best incorporate technology and create greater ease and a seamless transaction experience for their clients and themselves.

What is your firm’s unique value proposition in your market?
To provide an environment for our agent partners to grow and succeed at a high level through training, coaching, technology and strategic alliances. In addition to promoting the one-stop shop concept we believe consumers prefer, we expect the agent to provide the best services at the best value.

How are you competing against new business models?
Service, service, service. While real estate remains a relationship-based business, our technology provides great opportunities for the consumer and agents to communicate and provide services on an expedient level.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

The post Michael Hilgenberg: Preparing Agents to Deliver at a High Level appeared first on RISMedia.

From Restaurateur to REALTOR®: Converting Leads in a Competitive Landscape

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 12:43

In the following interview, Mike Novak, team leader and REALTOR®, The Novak Team, eXp Realty in Everett, Wash., discusses his journey into real estate, generating leads, and more.

Region Served: King and Snohomish Counties
Years in Real Estate: 2.5
Number of Team Members: 20
Had a Team Since: The end of 2017

You were a well-known restaurateur prior to joining the real estate industry. Why did you ultimately give up restaurants for real estate?
It’s a long story, but the short of it centers around the fact that Washington State changed its minimum wage in October 2016. We had 400 employees at that point, which changed our overhead $50,000 a month—putting us in a position that was no longer economically viable. Luckily, we saw the headwinds coming, so we decided to get our real estate licenses as all of this was taking place because we didn’t think there was a way to survive. I had worked as a real estate developer and builder prior to getting into the restaurant business, so it was a natural place to go back to.

Being new to the business, where did you source your customers?
While we jumped into pay-per-click (PPC) immediately, as it was a cheap and easy way to get started, we transitioned over to® last May after meeting the team at an industry conference. In getting to know the company, it became clear to us just how ready their leads were when compared to those being generated through a pay-per-click strategy. This is what ultimately gave us the incentive to dabble in and eventually scale it. It didn’t take long to discover that the leads we were getting from were warmer, which led to them converting at a much higher level.

What else are you doing to let local homeowners know about your successful new company?
We do a lot of video marketing on social media, in addition to continuing to take advantage of PPC and, as well as a variety of mass media marketing. As far as the videos we’re sharing on social media, most are either market reports or educational videos that we use to help people understand common misconceptions or myths surrounding the home-buying or -selling process. Additionally, we recently began using Local ExpertTM, which seems to be going well so far. Since we have 50 percent of the marketshare, we have a lot of impressions, and we’re excited to see where that goes as we head toward the future.

How is it working now that you’re this far along with the lead programs?
We’re seeing high conversion rates, north of 5 percent, which is really good when you consider the fact that PPC leads typically convert anywhere from 1-2 percent, while Facebook is closer to 0.5-1 percent. In 2018, we closed nearly $400,000 gross commission income (GCI) with

Final Question…

What influenced your decision to form a team?
Wanting to help other agents become productive and thrive, while at the same time being able to help more buyers and sellers that we couldn’t get to ourselves.

For more information, please visit

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

The post From Restaurateur to REALTOR®: Converting Leads in a Competitive Landscape appeared first on RISMedia.

Finding a Committed Property Data Vendor

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 12:36

Are you looking for a new property data partner? Do you know what questions to ask in order to find the best solution for your organization?

That’s the situation that the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) faced when they began researching their first-ever tax data platform. They selected two solutions to investigate further, and ultimately decided on CRS Data.

Assess Your Needs: An All-in-One Solution, or Best-in-Class?
First, your organization needs to decide what type of solution it wants. Do you want a dedicated tax system, or a solution with multiple functionalities, including property data?

For COAR, the choice was simple.

“There are two models of vendors in this industry,” says Casie Conlon, COAR’s CEO. “You’re either trying to be everything to everyone, or you’re trying to do one thing well, and I personally lean toward the people that want to do one thing well.”

So why did COAR choose CRS Data?

“I think that CRS Data is trying to be the best at one thing instead of being the best at 50 different things, and I like those types of partners. I would rather vendors focus on the one thing I’ve contracted with them to do, to do it the absolute best it can be done, and to do the best for my members,” adds Conlon.

What Do the Tax System’s Uptime/Downtime Stats Look Like?
The best solution is one that your members use, and if your property data platform is always down, no one’s going to use it—which means you’re paying for nothing. Ask any vendor you’re evaluating what their uptime/downtime ratio is like. Be wary of any company that won’t provide a straight answer.

“We heard a lot about the other platform we were looking at being down,” says Conlon. “We’ve never had any downtime since integrating with CRS Data.”

Where Does the Data Come From?
Does the tax vendor you’re researching get their data from third parties, or directly from your local county? Data that comes directly from the source tends to be more accurate, more recent and better for the REALTOR® who ultimately uses the data to do their job.

“One of the things I’m constantly looking at when I’m evaluating vendors is where they’re getting data from and where they’re sending data to,” says Conlon. “If they can’t give me a good answer on where the data is coming from or where it’s going, that’s not really a company I want to do business with.”

In addition to asking where the data comes from, be sure to ask each vendor what their process is like for correcting inaccurate data.

“When we were looking at the different platforms, one of the things that really impressed us was CRS Data’s willingness to come out and work with local counties to get data online if it wasn’t available in the format they needed,” explains Conlon.

Can We Customize the System?
“When you’re working with vendors for MLS systems or even REALTOR® associations, a lot of times what you get is what you get, and they’re not willing to customize all that much,” says Conlon. “That’s because their product is being offered to clients around the country, so if they make one change here, it could affect things systemwide for other MLSs.”

Considering the varying rules, names and situations in locales across the country, that can be a real problem for a tax platform.

“Different parts of the country might call the plat map one thing, and other parts of the country call it something else,” notes Conlon.

Ask your vendor if they’re able to customize your system to match your local needs and vernacular, as this will help reduce confusion among your members and make things easier to use.

“I was surprised at CRS Data’s willingness to help us customize the system, which is another thing I really like about them,” says Conlon. “CRS Data is willing to get the data in a format that my members can understand, and they’re willing to customize the things that my members see to make it as user-friendly as possible.”

CRS Data was also willing to undertake complicated customizations for COAR.

“I have a very random scenario with an unincorporated city in my MLS that’s governed by an HOA, which is probably unlike anywhere else in the country,” says Conlon. “The property owners use a different address than what’s in county records. It’s a different address than 911 uses. It’s a different address than the internet company uses. CRS Data has offered to work on a way to customize a commonly known address field so that members can see it. It’s a very small community, but CRS Data was willing to work with us to help those local members get the most out of the system.”

What’s the Service and Support Like?
A property data system is going to see heavy use from your members, and as a partnership that will presumably last years, it’s important that your vendors offer robust service and support options.

“I want companies that have a dedicated staffperson,” says Conlon. “Having support for any members that are trying to troubleshoot the system is also key.”

Training for members is also important. After all, REALTORS® who don’t understand how to navigate a new solution are less likely to use it. Evaluate if your members need in-person training, webinars or a combination of both.

“I know I can contact CRS Data anytime, and they’re really great if there’s a data discrepancy (which are few and far between) or other issue. It all gets handled promptly,” says Conlon.

CRS Data also offered COAR members in-person training for launch, and currently hosts periodic on-site sessions, as well.

“Our CRS Data rep has gone out to all of our different communities for training,” says Conlon. “That’s something I really appreciate in our partnership with CRS Data—that they’re willing to do that.”

To learn more about CRS Data, please visit

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

The post Finding a Committed Property Data Vendor appeared first on RISMedia.

Getting to the Heart of Relationships: Leveraging Content and an Extensive Network

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 12:33

Alex Brandau knows a thing or two about relationships. In fact, he’s been an expert since childhood.

The founder and lead agent of Alexander Brandau Partners of Keller Williams Realty in Tennessee, Brandau is a fourth-generation investor who grew up around real estate and property management. His great-grandfather built houses and his grandfather subsequently began a leasing business, purchasing some of those family-constructed properties, which his mother then managed. Brandau was handed his first lease at age 12. That’s what set the tone for his career. Brandau got licensed in 2001 after realizing he had a passion for people.

“I’m a people person, and my success is making it about them. It’s always about the client,” says Brandau. “I love studying service models. We know there will be bumps in the road, but it’s about making the best real estate experience our clients can have. We want it to be as positive and smooth as possible.”

And there’s two resources he’s found incredibly valuable in his quest to create those “true raving fan” relationships he seeks out: the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM) and, through that membership, RISMedia’s ACESocial, an automated social media marketing service for agents and brokers.

“[ACESocial] posts regular, high-quality branded posts that show up every single week, and we are getting really good traction from that,” says Brandau. “It’s not clickbait and it’s not incendiary. When I heard about the program, I thought, ‘This is phenomenal. We’ve got to put this out immediately!'”

Video, he says, is getting straight to the way of the future. And that’s why ACESocial’s video articles have been a hit. However, Brandau says that leveraging both video and written content has helped him connect with the three or four major buyer generations.

“Sometimes people have habits they don’t want to change,” says Brandau, such as reading articles.

Although Brandau does work with a lot of luxury clients, he says his goal is to implement marketing that is balanced and has a specific audience identified. It’s that dual branding that helps him build solid relationships no matter the price point, and ACESocial helps him do that.

“We are very intentional about what we put out there, and it’s a two-pronged approach. It’s necessary to build those high-trust relationships,” he says.

One of his favorite articles from ACESocial was about home security because it hit both traditional and high-end luxury buyers. Readers learned about a variety of options, ranging from a $20,000 home security system to a $200 Ring doorbell that can easily be installed by anyone.

It’s about having powerful pieces that are approachable and have the right language, says Brandau. He’s even had celebrity clients reach out to him after reading the content, asking, “How do I get that? How can I have that in my house?”

With help from the Institute, Brandau is able to zone in on the luxury segment, which likes to have “the coolest new toys.” But it requires knowing “the language of luxury.” Brandau says luxury clients have very high expectations and want to be given options at a national and international level. With the Institute’s network, he’s been able to provide that value.

“With the Institute’s help, we publish statistics that show how affordable Nashville luxury markets are compared to other areas on a national level,” he says. That data has also helped him formulate conversations that look to the future and not just the present.

“We’re having a conversation with a celebrity athlete client right now (at press time) about list prices. I said, ‘Let’s look at seven to eight years from now because it could be a different market, which could have even more value.’ You want to be specific, but you also want to have a wide-angle lens.”

Brandau says he knew being a member of ILHM was going to be a key differentiator for his business, especially because it shows clients he is spending time with leaders in luxury and thereby giving his sellers a competitive advantage over other local brokerages.

“We are a leader in the luxury space. I tell clients, ‘I can put your house in front of several brokers in NYC, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, etc., and we know them and have actually spent time with them.'”

This is in contrast to small boutiques or other local brokerages, who don’t have that network and simply send an email promoting the listing without having a solid foundation with national and international brokers. “And who needs another email?” he asks.

Brandau sees widespread growth for his company in the long run, and social media marketing and an extensive network of powerful luxury brokers is a key part of that. What’s especially important, he says, is partnering with companies that help streamline his processes rather than clogging up his steady workflow.

“Instead of having multiple people searching for content and having to qualify it, I now don’t have to worry about it. [ACESocial] is real journalism with real content that’s recurring. We know it’s there and we go with it. We don’t have to worry that it might be sponsored by our competition,” says Brandau. “The No. 1 thing is that it’s branded to us. You open the page and it’s branded immediately, and you get really good content. And, boom, there we are again with our image. It’s consciously and subconsciously branding us.”

Brandau adds that “it’s about continuing to show that we have something people want to consistently see. We want to be valuable and share what we are seeing in the market, but, at the same time, stay relevant.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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NAR to Address Pocket Listings This Week, as Debate Heats Up

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:48

The National Association of REALTORS® is considering the controversial MLS Clear Cooperation Policy proposal this week, which aims to bolster cooperation in the industry, centering on exclusive listings, including “Coming Soon” and “pocket” listings.

If approved, the policy—also known as MLS Statement 8.0—would require brokers to enter listings into the MLS within one business day of marketing the property publicly. As NAR outlines:

“Within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants. Public marketing includes, but is not limited to, flyers displayed in windows, yard signs, digital marketing on public facing websites, brokerage website displays (including IDX and VOW), digital communications marketing (email blasts), multi-brokerage listing sharing networks, and applications available to the general public.”

“MLSs have asked for more clarity on broker cooperation for many years, particularly around off-MLS ‘pocket listings,'” explains Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization and NAR’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management. “Brokers have also asked NAR for more consistency in policy across markets and a more orderly marketplace for listings.”

According to NAR, without additional cooperation within the MLS, buyers have less options, decreasing exposure for listings—a concern for sellers, as well.

In the proposal, NAR excludes in-house listings—those advertised within the brokerage’s office(s) only—but includes listings marketed to outside parties in “private listing networks,” who constitute “the general public.”

Through in-house listings, brokers can continue to offer privacy, according to policymakers—as well as capitalize on the “Coming Soon” label, but at the discretion of their local MLS, which has the authority to define its own policies, such as when days on market officially start.

Additionally, brokers can choose to distribute homes in the IDX and to public websites, or prevent syndication. However, if they choose not to syndicate, but the listing is otherwise promoted publicly, the policy rule stands, ensuring distribution to MLS participants.

“The proposal doesn’t require or prohibit ‘Coming Soon’ listings,” DeBord says. “Local MLSs make those determinations. If the policy passes, many MLSs will want to consider their local policies as to delayed showing forms, delayed showing statuses, or ‘Coming Soon’ statuses and policies. The proposal still allows for private, office exclusive listings. It requires all publicly marketed listings of MLS broker participants to be shared with the MLSs other participants for cooperation.”

A handful of local MLSs have implemented their own policies, including Chicago’s Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) and Northwest MLS. More recently, Bright MLS adopted a policy similar to NAR’s, attracting considerable scrutiny. (In the past week, Assist-2-Sell and Compass disapproved of the organization’s policy; in the case of Compass, Bright MLS CEO Brian Donnellan responded in writing.)

“We’re resolute in what it is we’re doing, and the entire board is behind the decision on this,” Donnellan says. “Bright is always looking at its policies to make sure they’re up-to-date and still serving our mission. The world changes, and we need to stay on top of it and ensure that everything we have is contemporary and meets the needs of the market today.”

Donnellan adds, “When you really boil this down, this is about pocket listings, and how pocket listings aren’t good for the consumer, not good for brokers and agents and the whole ecosystem in general. Pocket listings have huge implications on fair housing, as well.”

Bright MLS is one of the largest MLSs in the U.S., with 95,000 members in the Mid-Atlantic region.

In the broader brokerage community, the question remains: What benefits consumers? Is the NAR policy the solution?

“This is problematic for our sellers who are not ready to be in the formal MLS but are behind the market as it transitions and they are trying to catch up,” Chris Suarez, CEO and founder of Keller Williams Xperience Real Estate Network, says. “We are making a policy for all sellers to take care of all buyers. I don’t think that there is a solution for everybody.”

There are logistics to sort through, as well, according to Jim Fite, president and CEO of CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company.

“I am not in favor of this policy because of the time it takes to take professional photos and reality of human behavior,” Fite says. “For photos, when an agent/company submits their listing to MLS, it goes to thousands of websites—the first impression is the lasting impression. Then, preparing all the accurate data for a listing, along with the demands of a real estate professional, many times will take more than one day to prepare professionally.”

Craig Beggins, however—broker/owner of CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises—believes consumers ultimately win.

“I can see both sides of the situation, but in the best interest of the client, I can’t make a case that it’s in the seller’s best interest to withhold a listing from the competitive bidding environment that the MLS offers,” Beggins says. “While the listing agent/brokerage may in fact double-side an off-market listing and the seller may be happy with the price, we won’t ever know what the competitive bidding environment may have done.”

“I am definitely in favor of this policy, as it targets pocket listings which are detrimental to the consumer, to competition in the marketplace and to the spirit of cooperation between professionals that serves as the foundation of our industry,” Scott MacDonald, broker/owner and president of RE/MAX Gateway, says. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding what the policy does and does not do. Agents need to understand the policy versus reading speculation on Facebook pages and other sites. Exceptions can be made when privacy is required for a listing. Also, listings absolutely can be marketed as ‘Coming Soon’ as long as they’re entered into the MLS. The bottom line is just play fair, put the listing in the MLS and make it available in a level, open and ethical playing field.”

NAR’s MLS Issues and Policies Committee is considering the proposal at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Saturday. If cleared by the Committee, NAR’s Executive Committee must weigh in, as well as the Board of Directors. If both greenlight the policy, it will become effective Jan. 1, 2020, with a March 1 deadline for implementation.

Stay tuned for updates.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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Rise Above the Rest in a Competitive Real Estate Landscape

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:46

REality Provides Real Estate Professionals the Market Insight They Need to Be the Most Informed

Back in 1987, after selling his second company, Leon d’Ancona jumped feet first into the home renovation industry and began flipping homes. Not content to simply guess at which homes would bring the highest return in the shortest amount of time, d’Ancona set out to optimize his opportunities based on his statistical background.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that finding success in this venture depended entirely on the home selling quickly,” says d’Ancona, who began writing algorithms as he questioned whether or not real estate was predictable.

Suspecting that there was in fact a level of predictability in the housing market, d’Ancona used data to predict short-term market trends and determine which segments of the market were moving. He then used the same data to select the most successful professionals to market his homes, which led to his business thriving as others around him continued to falter.

But his story doesn’t end there.

In fact, d’Ancona saw an opportunity to help real estate professionals increase their bottom lines, and so, REality®, owned by IMS Incorporated—a real estate market intelligence service—was born.

“The decision to create the company came about due to the fact that at the time—and even today—agents and brokers aren’t necessarily using real estate statistics to their full advantage,” says d’Ancona, CEO of the company.

“As the only occasional enterprise in the capitalistic free market system where you have a third party buying or selling for you, it’s not uncommon for real estate professionals to earn their license, yet have minimal knowledge of the merchandise they’re selling,” says d’Ancona.

While it can take agents 1.5 years to find their proper farming area, according to d’Ancona, his statistical strength has allowed him to better understand market trends and determine the “actionable niches” that allow both listing and selling agents to make the right decisions, thereby maximizing their profits.

“Our No. 1 goal today and every day is to ensure that the real estate professionals we’re working with are the most informed,” says d’Ancona, who has spent the last 33 years guiding the development of REality.

From its early days when the company published monthly books, to the high-speed SSD servers of today, REality has become the standard for what real estate professionals need to be the most informed.

With his mirthful manner and a sixth sense to present statistical information in an easy to understand and fun way, d’Ancona has a knack for making real estate statistics both compelling and profitable to its users.

Today, REality is available in four different levels, all with a heavy emphasis on the visual. The current levels include:

1. Graph It: For brokers with a minimum of 100 agents, Graph It is used to attract new agents by providing the necessary graphs and filters to make sure agents always get the listing.

2. Top Ranked Agents: Built specifically for agents who do a minimum of $4 million per year, the program sets agents up to reach their next income plateau.

3. REality for Brokers and Recruiters: The ultimate recruiting tool, this program comes with a complete CRM and allows real estate professionals to see pertinent information related to all agents.

4. REality for Multiple Offices: As high-tech as you can get, this program took 2.5 years to develop, and allows real estate professionals to see every company’s marketshare in any particular zip code.

“One of the biggest benefits associated with the REality program is the fact that real estate professionals can go in and prepare a listing presentation using graphs in about eight different ways,” explains d’Ancona, a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to placing real estate professionals ahead of the competition.

“While consumers only need a real estate professional every 8.5 years on average, their selection doesn’t necessarily come down to who the real estate agent is, but rather, how much they know,” says d’Ancona.

The acclaimed choice of thousands of real estate professionals at all levels of the industry, the most telling barometer of success for d’Ancona is the longstanding relationships he’s built with clients over the years.

“The best reference I can give is that I’m servicing the children and grandchildren of the clients of my first company,” concludes d’Ancona.

For more information, please visit

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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Strategies Top Luxury Real Estate Agents Use to Market a Slow-Moving Listing

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:39

It’s easy to overanalyze a slow-moving listing. Is it the photography? The ad copy? The price? Your skills as a luxury real estate agent?

Recently, some of the highest-performing agents in the luxury home market participated in a call to discuss what it takes to sell the properties that are tough to sell. On that call, Ernie Carswell, Debbie De Grote, Lorie Bartron and Boris Kholodov each shared valuable selling tactics that they personally include in their luxury home marketing strategy when they come across a slow-moving listing—and yes, even these top performers have all had them.

Whether you’ve closed one luxury home contract or 50, you may still run into a listing that just won’t budge. However, the luxury home market is changing, and your luxury home marketing strategy must change along with it. Staying open to new ideas and surrounding yourself with other luxury real estate agents, such as other CLHMS members, can help you grow your skills and your business.

Exchange Opportunities With Other Agents (Including Your Competitors)
It may seem counterintuitive to include your competitors in your luxury home marketing strategy, but doing so can open you up to opportunities that you didn’t otherwise know existed.

Creating a small network of local agents who you can negotiate with when times are slow can be the missing piece to your luxury home marketing strategy, especially if you’re in a small market. Having a weekly or biweekly meeting, phone call or online group chat to discuss clients and properties can lead to exchanges of business that you wouldn’t necessarily have access to without that local agent network.

For example, you may have a listing that won’t sell, but another agent might have a client looking to buy at exactly the price at which you can reasonably reduce it to, or someone who may take a lease option. At the very least, you may pick up new luxury home marketing strategies from other agents. Our CLHMS membership is a great way to meet other elite agents, but many areas will have local Facebook groups where you can easily find other agents to network with in your area.

Create a Top 5 List of Prospects
Another way to speed up a slow-moving listing is to reach out to clients or other individuals who you have an established relationship with to see if they, or anyone they know, might be interested in the property. These contacts don’t necessarily need to be currently looking to relocate, but they might be interested in upgrading their living situation or they might know someone that would be the perfect fit.

Maximize Your Showings
Your showings present a great opportunity to speed up slow-moving listings. Rather than giving guests a rehearsed speech or a tedious tour, take cues from your guests to gauge what parts of the home to highlight. Not everyone wants to see every closet, cabinet and window.

Another interesting showing tip? Let the guests have the prime parking spot. Park your car away from the property that you’re showing to let your guests get a true feel for what it would be like to make this property their own right from the moment they arrive.

Our CLHMS students say our training gives them the confidence to grow their business and provide referral-worthy experiences for their clients. Find out more about our live and online trainings!

Diane Hartley is the president of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a premier independent authority in training and designation for real estate agents working in the upper-tier residential market. Hartley brings her passion for luxury marketing and more than 20 years of experience growing and leading businesses to her role as president of The Institute.

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Is Your Family Safe From Tipping Furniture?

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:36

While many of us think about safety in our vehicles, safety at home is often less front and center, especially when it comes to furniture safety. Lawmakers recently introduced the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act (STURDY) that would direct the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt a stronger, mandatory stability standard for household furniture.

According to lawmakers, furniture or items on top of them like TVs have caused at least 363 deaths between 2000 and 2011 from children being trapped or crushed by unstable products.

Sadly, more than eight of every 10 victims were under the age of eight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ agrees that dressers seem to be especially dangerous, as kids can pull out a drawer to use as an unstable step to get to the TV. A study this group cites found:

Most of the overturned TVs fell off a dresser or armoire (46 percent), an entertainment center or TV stand (31 percent) or a table or nightstand (8.8 percent).

Kids under age five represented 64 percent of all injured patients; boys accounted for 61 percent.

The most common injuries were lacerations (37 percent) and soft tissue injuries (35 percent). The injuries most often affected the head and neck region (63 percent). offers these important suggestions to prevent tipping injuries:

Secure TVs. Mount flat-panel TVs to the wall and place older, box-style TVs (CRTs) on low, stable furniture that can hold the weight.

Attach furniture to the wall using anti-tip brackets, braces or wall straps, and install stops on dresser drawers to keep them from being pulled all the way out.

Rearrange household items. Store heavy objects on lower shelves or in lower drawers.

Recycle old TVs. To find a location that safely and easily recycles unwanted TVs, go to

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also reminds parents and caregivers to remove anything that might tempt kids to climb, such as toys and remote controls, from the top of the TV and furniture.

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Earn BIG With REALTOR Benefits® and MVP!

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:06

NAR PULSE—New offer from NAR’s Member Value Plus (MVP) Program: Sign up for a digital marketing best practices Workshop hosted by Adwerx, a REALTOR Benefits® Program Partner. By signing up, you’ll receive 10 percent off your next Adwerx digital advertising campaign and a chance to win three months of digital marketing to target your sphere of influence, valued at $300. Act by November 15!

Watch the RPR ‘Wow’ Moments Video!
RPR’s new video commercial, “Wow Moments: Thank You”, was inspired by REALTOR® success stories and relationships.

Meet Billie Jean King at NAR Booth No. 5545
If you’re attending the 2019 REALTORS® Conference and Expo in San Francisco, visit NAR Booth No. 5545 on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 1-3 p.m. to meet and have a photo taken with Billie Jean King, sports icon and champion for social change and equality. Plus, receive a signed tennis ball while supplies last.

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Owning Your Area

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:05

Become the Go-To Expert in Your Region With®

Name: Randy Durham
Official Title: REALTOR®
Company: Randy Durham, Keller Williams Downtown Realty
Region Served: Greater Chattanooga, Tenn., and Northwest Georgia
Years in Real Estate: 25
Number of Agents in Office: 326
Number of Offices: 1

How do you and your team work to expose your brand online?
We have a strong presence on social media, a heavy campaign through Facebook, and we do lead generation through® programs as well as independently. We also have various URLs that we use for lead generation and I work with the CINC platform out of Atlanta, but overall, we rely heavily on

How do you track what is effective?
We carefully analyze dollars spent versus return, and we shift our spending based on what pays off. While we use several lead generation platforms, the majority of our online budget is spent on

From your experience, where are most of consumers browsing listings?
We’ve found that 98 percent of our buyers are looking online first, and buyers out there today are looking online long before they ever contact a REALTOR®. They often are looking for months until they actually make an initial contact., for me, has the best conversion rate by and far. It surpasses the rest of the platforms we use, and has done so consistently for some time now. I think that’s because the buyers coming to have recognized that that site has the best information, so the more serious buyer tends to gravitate toward the site that has the most accurate and important information.

Why is it so important for buyers to see your branding repeatedly?
Researchers say it takes 8-10 impressions for a buyer to recognize who you are, and operate on that recall. This means you need to not only have your name out there in your targeted areas, you need to be the agent that owns that area. When a consumer searches a city or zip code, I want to be the largest presence there. With’s Local ExpertSM program, a buyer is seeing my branding as they move from page to page in that area. This also works with past clients; if you’re out there consistently where your past clients are looking, they will see you and realize you’re still relevant. And home sellers also start their agent searches on the internet, so it works for both buyers and sellers. If they see your face while they’re doing their searches, that’s in your best interest, always.

How are you using your online marketing capabilities to attract clients?
I showcase my Local Expert results in my listing presentations. It’s powerful to have that mechanism, to be able to say you’ll be in at least 50 percent of searches a buyer makes in an area. I’m essentially showing the seller they will get continuous exposure.

What would be your top tip for agents looking to become a “name brand”?
Pick an area and make yourself the expert in that area. It doesn’t matter if the area is just your own cul de sac or a whole city, but you have to really commit to that area and make yourself top-of-mind in that region. Don’t try to be everywhere and anywhere—you’ll end up being nowhere.

Randy Durham, Keller Williams Downtown Realty

For more information, please visit

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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Women in Real Estate: WomanUP! Helps Create Leaders Who Make Bold Moves

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:04

The WomanUP!® movement was founded in 2017 by the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) to help the ambitious and passionate women in real estate achieve their leadership goals, as well as celebrate the men and women who support the cause.

On Oct. 23-25, C.A.R. hosted its third annual conference at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, Calif., showcasing over 50 speakers that provided valuable insights to the 1,000-plus in attendance.

“While the real estate industry is predominantly female, women are underrepresented in leadership positions both at the brokerage and senior management levels,” said C.A.R. President-Elect Jeanne Radsick. “That’s why it’s important to increase awareness about women’s leadership opportunities in the brokerage industry and inspire women to step into brokerage leadership. WomanUP! is a place for attendees to hear best practices, lessons learned and collective wisdom from experienced brokerage owners and receive support from a community of leaders and peers on their brokerage leadership journey.”

The three-day conference held a variety of panel discussions, covering a wide range of topics such as forming powerful partnerships, honoring women who have led the way and showcasing the journey to the C-suite. WomanUP! attendees heard from notable speakers, such as Leslie Rouda Smith, 2020 National Association of REALTORS® first vice president and Mary Lee Blaylock, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, among others.

WomanUP! Panel: Leading With Purpose, featuring Christine George, Tiana Uribe, Elisha Alcantara and Melissa Sofia

WomanUP! Panel: Honoring the Women Who Have Led the Way, featuring Leslie Appleton-Young, Leslie Rouda Smith, Rita Tayenaka and Michi Olson

WomanUP! Panel: Research Update, featuring Leslie Appleton-Young, Bernice Ross and Sara Sutachan

Here’s what speakers/organizers had to say:

“The biggest surprise over the last three years has been the support from both women and men who see this as a movement whose time has come. ‘I’ve never been to a conference like this’ is a common refrain. The authenticity and diversity is a stunning departure from traditional industry events and unites us in the shared goal of lifting each other up. What a joy it has been to have had such an impact—and we are just getting started!”
– Leslie Appleton-Young, Vice President and Chief Economist, C.A.R.

“Words cannot express the gratitude this mission has filled me with. The sisterhood. The inspiration. The honesty. The love. WomanUP! is a feeling that must be experienced to understand. It fills your heart and changes lives.”
– Lori Namazi, Owner, Namazi Real Estate

“There are no words that can express the energy, the raw emotion and feeling of connection these last few days. I’m still caught in the moment. There were so many heartfelt stories, stories of strength and empowerment. I met so many phenomenal women. I’m forever grateful to have shared the stage with so many power houses.”
– Sabrina Brown, District Vice President, Women’s Council of REALTORS®

“WomanUP! has been one of the proudest moments of my career. I am inspired by the women who are aspiring to take a chance on themselves, who saw themselves in one or many of the over eight diverse voices on our stage. We see you, we hear you and we are here for you.”
– Sara Sutachan, Vice President of Industry Relations and Strategic Initiatives, C.A.R.

“Together we found our focus, and ultimately inspired and ignited one another to build successful lives and businesses. 2020, put your seatbelt on—we are coming for you.”
– Debra Trappen, Empowerment Coach, Consultant, Author, Podcaster, Speaker

Do you know someone who is making strides toward the advancement of women leadership in the residential real estate industry? Contact to learn more about our Women in Real Estate series.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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For Boomers Reframing Aging, Age-Proofing a Home Won’t Come Cheap

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:03

(TNS)—Chris and Dennis Cavner, in their early 70s, are preparing to move less than two blocks away into a 2,720-square-foot, ranch-style house they bought this year. But first a renovation is underway, taking the 45-year-old property all the way back to its studs. When the work is completed, these baby boomers are confident the move will land them in their forever home.

“We wanted to find a house that we could live in literally for the rest of our lives,” he said. “We were looking specifically for a one-story house—and one that had a flat lot, to age in place.”

Aging in place is a major financial commitment, one that may be at odds with retirees’ plans to downsize their lives and budgets and squirrel away cash in anticipation of rising health care costs. The Cavners are rebuilding this house—assessed at $700,000 around the time of the sale—from a shell. The updates will easily cost $300,000 in the hot Austin market.

Leaving nothing to chance, the Cavners are making a number of modifications they might never need. For instance, neither uses a wheelchair, but contractors are making all doorways three-feet wide for accessibility throughout—just in case. The master bath roll-in shower, flat and rimless, will provide room to maneuver and the master bath vanity is also at wheelchair-accessible height. Kitchen drawers, rather than cabinets, will allow easy access in a wheelchair. The Cavners are closely watching details of the renovation, but it wasn’t a hard decision.

For some seniors, aging in place might amount to simple home modifications, such as adding shower grab bars and handrails or replacing a standard toilet with one that sits taller. But many seniors anticipate a financial crunch as they try to plan for their future on a fixed income, uncertain their savings and retirement funds will last.

With an average 10,000 people a day turning 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 65-and-older segment of the population is the nation’s fastest-growing: By 2050, almost one-quarter of Americans will be at least 65. A host of surveys conducted over the past decade show that older adults overwhelmingly want to age in their homes. Two in five U.S. homeowners are baby boomers, according to a 2018 report released from Fannie Mae.

But for many people, aging at home isn’t in the cards. Abbe Will, associate project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, said that many houses aren’t suited to “aging in place.”

“Currently, a lot do not have single-floor living—especially in certain parts of the country. There are lots of stairs and multistory homes when land is more valuable,” she said, and “many households and homeowners don’t necessarily have the funds to do aging in place.”

Home modifications and costs vary widely, starting with those simple safety features in the bathroom or lever doorknobs throughout the house, to more extensive changes, such as widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, replacing kitchen cabinets with drawers or lowering light switches to wheelchair height. Will said simple retrofits, such as grab bars and railings, “could be several hundred dollars,” but a “whole bathroom remodel would be in the thousands or tens of thousands.”

And a lot of people won’t have the money for extensive modifications. A new survey of 1,000 people age 65 and older by the California-based nonprofit SCAN (formerly the Senior Care Action Network) found 80 percent of respondents were concerned about their ability to age in place. The driver appears to be financial: About 60 percent said they have less than $10,000 in savings (including investments and retirement plans), while 28 percent reported minimal or no retirement savings.

A study in the journal Health Affairs published this spring illustrates the shaky situation for middle-class aging adults who can’t afford modifications to stay at home but who have too much money to qualify for federal housing assistance. Over the next decade, the researchers expect the number of middle-income seniors 75 and older to more than double to over 14 million. And, of that group, more than half (54 percent) won’t have the assets they will need to cover the projected average yearly cost of $60,000 for assisted living and other out-of-pocket medical costs.

“We don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline as we age,” said sociologist Deborah Thorne of the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, lead author of a study that found skyrocketing bankruptcy rates among those 65 and older.

The research, to be published in the journal Sociological Inquiry, finds the share of older Americans filing for bankruptcy has never been higher, with a filing rate increase of more than 200 percent from 1991 to 2016 among those 65 and older. “And bankrupt households are more likely than ever to be headed by a senior—the percentage of older bankrupt filers has increased almost 500 percent since 1991,” the study found.

James Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, attributes the increase “to the labor market and employment downsizing and letting older people go first. It can force them into retirement whether they’re ready for it or not. Retirement income may not be enough to carry their debts, and they don’t have enough savings.”

“The leading edge of baby boomers has not hit 75 yet,” said Jennifer Molinsky, whose work at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University focuses on housing for older adults. “When you think about the next five, 10 or 15 years when they’re in their 80s, you’re really going to see the needs shift.”

Because disability rates will rise with chronic illnesses and conditions, requiring more assistance, Molinsky said, communities need to think more about transportation for seniors, as well as “different kinds of housing than we have now.”

Don and Lynn Dille, both 75, built their Austin home with the intention of staying there for a long time. After living in California, Virginia and elsewhere in Texas, they moved to Austin in 2012 and, within a year, began drawing plans with an architect for an energy-efficient home to age in place. Their home was featured this summer in Austin’s annual Cool House Tour for its design making the most of natural light, cross-ventilation and solar panels, as well as wider-than-normal doorways and level floors for a wheelchair.

One key feature of the construction acknowledges that they might need live-in help down the road to avoid long-term nursing care. Just as the Cavners may convert a bedroom and bath on the opposite side of their new home into caregiver quarters, the Dilles constructed a second floor above their detached garage that could easily convert into living space.

“We think having a separate apartment where we could have a caretaker or part-time help to maintain our property makes us able to stay where we’d like to be and be independent,” said Don Dille, who retired from the federal government.

But, as adults consider whether to plunge ahead with simple modifications or undertake more extensive renovations, there are always unknowns.

Cavner, an investment adviser and co-founder of a new health care startup, said he believes what they’re spending to renovate the house for the years ahead will prove a sound investment. “The modifications we’re making are not going to make it less desirable. It will feel more spacious.”

©2019 Kaiser Health News
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