social mediaOctober 2017 — Agents are forever in need of new methods to generate more business and close more deals. The rise of digital marketing has created a big splash, and for good reason. It's incredibly powerful and should not be overlooked. Why, and how, should agents be using Facebook to boost their business? With over 2 billion active users, the power of Facebook's audience is undeniable.

Approximately 30 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 25 and 34, making it the largest age demographic on the social network. Thirty-four percent of homebuyers are under the age of 36, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Those two trends go hand-in-hand and should be dictating real estate agents' marketing efforts.

Agents need to be experimenting with Facebook advertising in order to meet client expectations and remain competitive. It's easy to get left behind in today's fast-moving market. Agents should be improving and scaling their marketing efforts to keep up with competitors and maintain a positive reputation.

pumpkinOctober 2017 — As the days shorten and autumn arrives, it's time to start considering holiday gift items, or even a couple of household goodies you might just want to keep for yourself.

Take, for example, the remotely controllable slow cooker from WeMo, which lets you check on your meal in progress without actually having to be in the kitchen. Quickly and easily adjust your device's temperature and cook time via the WeMo smartphone app, or just turn it on or off completely while you're away. Plus, its six-quart oval stoneware cooking chamber is removable and dishwasher-safe.

Forget fall foliage and Indian corn—add some festive color to any of your home's doorways with a natural or faux berry fall wreath. Many retail and online home stores and garden centers are offering stemmed bittersweet wreaths gleaming with russet red and persimmon, instead of autumn's more understated browns and oranges.

Warning iconSeptember 2017 — There should never be a shortage of safety precautions, especially in the real estate industry. Here are some tips to keep both you and your clients safe.

Protect yourself. It's important to remember that while clients must be treated as such, they are also essentially strangers the first time you meet them. Keep these tips in mind while you're out showing properties or hosting open houses.

1. Before you take a client anywhere, make sure you take down their information and make a copy of their driver's license. Should anything happen, you want to be able to identify who you were out with.

2. When showing properties, always bring up the rear. You want to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This is also a great way to give your buyers some freedom to walk around the home at their leisure.

3. Make sure all lights are on while you are showing a property. Keeping rooms lit is an easy way to maintain visibility in a dangerous situation.

video recorderSeptember 2017 — For those with their toes in real estate's ever-changing technology pool, virtual reality house tours are likely not a new concept. These stimulating virtual tours allow off-scene buyers to view homes from the inside before requesting a listing appointment, which can save REALTORS® valuable time and energy.

No longer do agents need to scramble to show homes that aren't a fit for their buyer—the buyer knows the inside of the home before they actually enter it. With VR on the cutting edge of today's tech tools, these tours allow agents to shine as a competent professional on the forefront of their field; however, with the high price tag attached to most VR tech tools, creating virtual tours for every listing is not a possibility for most real estate professionals.

Real estate technology company InsideMaps hopes to change that by giving every agent the tools to capture their own HDR photos, 360-degree walk-through tours and videos.

smartphoneAugust 2017 — It's not just cat videos the public is going crazy over; it's all videos, including real estate videos. Marki Lemons-Ryhal, REALTOR®, teacher, social media expert and Facebook Live video host, swears by live video. "By the end of 2017, 74 percent of all content viewed online will be in the form of a video," she says.

Lemons-Ryhal doesn't just comment on the video phenomena; she's mastered it. She opened her first real estate company in 2003, and a year later had sold over 60 units and jumped to the top 10 percent of REALTORS® in Chicago, in large part due to her mastery of social media.

In 2009, she was invited to speak at National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo and was named Illinois Real Estate Educator of the year in 2010. She currently travels and teaches social media and technology classes for NAR, Chase and Goldman Sachs. She has multiple designations and degrees, including CRB, ABR, ABRM, CRMS, and an MBA from Saint Xavier University.

Her first video, "Crabs in a Bucket," received 19,442 views. By taking out a $20 Facebook Ad to boost the video, she got 1,241 more views, resulting in 23,683 views. Using those Facebook views, she leveraged the interest in her video into radio and television interviews. "Social media works," she says. "I don't teach theory. I practice what I preach. We have come to realize one can receive a 2,100 percent return on their marketing if they implement video."

energy starAugust 2017 — There have been a lot of studies, think pieces and discussions trying to figure out millennials. Business owners were skeptical about hiring millennials a few years ago and now, as this younger generation continues to grow and succeed in life, the housing market seems to be the next millennial-facing industry.

There’s no doubt that millennials have finally entered the housing market. In fact, they currently make up 35 percent of buyers throughout the United States. Approximately 68 percent of all first-time home buyers fall into this age bracket, as well. But what do they want inside their homes?

Let's take a look and see what millennials are looking for when it comes to buying a home:

Separate Laundry Rooms – Say what you will about millennials and their laundry habits, the majority of millennial homebuyers are searching for homes with an additional room just for laundry. Roughly 92 percent of homebuyers want a separate laundry room, coming in as the No. 1 thing millennials are looking for.

downwardsJuly 2017 —Housing demand continues to outstrip supply, with shortages now at their worst in 20 years. Why?

The answer is simple: Homeowners are happy where they are, according to a new survey by®. Sixty-three percent of homeowners surveyed say their current house meets their needs, with baby boomer homeowners especially unwilling to move—a problem for succeeding generations, who are missing out on the 33 million condos and single-family houses boomers currently own. An overwhelming 85 percent of boomers surveyed have no plans to list their home for sale in the next year, with 72 percent reporting that their existing house suits their needs. Sixty-five percent of Gen X homeowners and 52 percent of millennial homeowners echoed the same sentiment.

Homeowners overall also see no need to uproot, the survey shows. Sixteen percent are not moving up due to their low mortgage interest rate (and 13 percent due to their low property taxes), 15 percent are remaining in place because they recently bought their home (a reason reported by 27 percent of millennial homeowners), and another 13 percent are staying put to make upgrades.

marketingicon2June 2017 — How many times have you had one of your friends list or buy with another agent simply because they didn't think of you at the critical moment of making that decision?

Seeing another agent's sign in your past client's or friend's front yard can be bone-crushing, but the truth is, most agents don't deploy a consistent system of keeping themselves and their services top of mind among friends and neighbors. Most sales professionals will admit that they don't like to prospect, yet this system is the one habit that, when done consistently, yields measurable, impressive results.

This best-kept secret is outlined in the eBook "The Ultimate Marketing Handbook for Real Estate Agents That Want to Close 86 Deals or More a Year," which explains the "86-50-1" formula. The eBook*, authored by mega top producer Mike Parker and noted success coach Verl Workman, puts a pencil to a simple strategy that can generate more than one lead from each contact in your elite group of Top 50. This proven strategy works to save money, leverages your brand and reputation, and packs a fun factor.

social mediaJune 2017 — Real estate is an image-based business. Agents use photos and videos to both visually and emotionally connect with prospects. While many agents use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, others are turning to different platforms to reach younger buyers. With 100 million daily users, Snapchat can be a great way to connect with this younger generation.

Last week, Snapchat introduced Snap Maps, a new feature that leverages users' location services. While Snapchat was relevant to real estate agents from the beginning, the update opens many new possibilities for connecting with clients and prospects.

What Is Snap Maps?
Snap Maps can be accessed by pinching your screen in the Snapchat app. By using your phone's location services, the new feature displays your customized Bitmoji icon to show your location in real time. As you travel, your icon moves to each new destination. Snap Maps also compiles your stories in the maps feature, so users can see your snaps from the past 24 hours. If they're your friend, the stories will appear under your username. All other users will see the stories from the location where you uploaded the snap, without knowing it's from you.

dollarMay 2017 — Renters are in better financial straits than they were just six months ago. Is homeownership next?

The answer, according to a recent Freddie Mac survey, is unclear. Although 41 percent of the renters surveyed reported having more cash left over after payday, up from 34 percent in September 2016—and ideal for saving on a down payment on a home—only 15 percent reported working toward homeownership, down from 21 percent in September. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed do not expect to move in the next two years, also up from September, and 37 percent are unsure of their moving plans, again up from September.

Decidedly, 60 percent of the 35- to 49-year-old renters surveyed, as well as 55 percent of all renters surveyed, reported liking where they live, and staying put even if their rents rise. Fifty-nine percent reported planning to rent their next home—higher than the 45 percent who reported planning to own their next home.

UpMay 2017 — Home price growth in February bested analyst predictions, expanding 5.8 percent in the latest S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Indices.

Prices rolled along to a 32-month high in the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, increasing from 5.6 percent the month prior. The Index's 10-City Composite rose 5.2 percent, while its 20-City Composite rose 5.9 percent. The 10-City Composite shows an increase from 5 percent the month prior; the 20-City Composite, an increase from 5.7 percent the month prior. Month-over-month, the 10-City Composite rose 0.3 percent and the 20-City Composite rose 0.4 percent.