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Opinion Editorials

Shall I Be Trendy?

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According to the 2007 Swanepoel Trends Report, the Top 10 trends of Real Estate there are a lot of changes on the real estate horizon (oh wait, are we there already?!?). The concept of Web 2.0 is in the forefront of these changes.

I happen to like the whole Web 2.0 thing, and I like real estate … but now this makes me trendy?!? I do not know how “okay” I am with this. I spent the better part of my youth going against the grain – being the anti-trend. And since I still consider myself young (Didn’t you hear? 32 is the new 21 …) I still have that “If every one of my lemming colleagues are going THIS way, then I will go THAT way” kind of attitude. And yes. It IS an attitude.

So in looking at these Top 10 Trends, I am now facing a grain I am not too interested in going against. Ugh …

  1. New real estate business models: What is the impact of ABM’s (Alternative Business Models) on the real estate industry … Internet Real Estate Companies, Flat Fee MLS Shops? I believe that ABM’s are essential in the balance of the business of real estate. Although I disagree with several of them on various points, I still value their place in the business.
  2. What is happening to our local MLS? : The IDX systems out there are giving the local MLS systems a run for their money. A National MLS is definitely on the horizon … but IMHO it won’t be a TRUE National MLS as disclosure laws vary from state to state. (For example, in Colorado it is illegal to disclose that a house may be haunted, whereas other states demand that disclosure.) However, the exclusivity to listings that the MLS once had is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and that is FINE by me. I have no need to hoard my listings. I would rather SELL them.
  3. How does Web 2.0 fit into your life? : I know plenty of agents who run screaming from anything remotely “new fangled” like that pesky “internet”. Okay. Fine. I know that (just like their fashion sense and Glamour Shots) they are stuck in the day where door knocking and cold calling reined king. Well, they can HAVE their gold embroidery blouses and PUSH their advertising into everyone’s lap. I would rather answer the phone call of a new client that has researched me, like what I say and do and wants to do business with me, than cold call a “lead” that doesn’t know me from Adam.
  4. The New Consumer: Great time to plug a post I wrote a year ago about being a GenX Consumer (opens in new window). … Oh how the landscape is different when dealing with a Baby Boomer vs. a GenX or GenY consumer. I get it.
  5. How to deal with the poor image of real estate agents: Um. They suck and deserve that image. So there. Okay … not all of them, and definitely not
    you, my genius friends. But, c’mon! I REFUSE to deal with that poor image. I would rather CHANGE it. GO RENEGADE REALTORS!®
    (BTW, go to Google and type in Renegade Realtor®…)
  6. Consumer and Realtor® Demographics: Who IS a consumer? Who IS buying and selling and investing in homes right now? Who IS representing them? Who IS successful in real estate? Somehow, I am under the impression that thick polyester blend suits and greased back hair do’s are not in the picture as much … Yah, not so much.
  7. Race for/with/against/because of CHANGE: Things are changing so fast that those who are not “in the know” will be left “in the snow”. You might as well just wrap yourself up in toilet paper and ride the Subway to Manhattan … This report mentions CRITICAL MASS. AH! I have been brewing that phrase in my little head since I started real estate and saw the changes coming faster and faster and faster. If we are not on top of the wave of this “new” business of real estate, it will be too late. Early adopters of this Web 2.0 / Life 2.0 way of thinking and doing business will be the ONLY ones still doing business before long. Oh well. So Sad. No. Not really.
  8. Opportunity is knocking: 2.3 kids, a dog and a white picket fence are not the norms anymore. (I could argue that it never was, but that is a whole different post… )The home buying and selling public is a whole new breed of consumer – sprouting from every corner of every possible way of life and culture. Opportunity is endless and many avenues are untouched in regards to niche marketing and making a name for yourself. Yay for niche marketing!
  9. WTF are Realtor® Associations for, anyway? : Who cares? I know they serve a purpose, and I happen to really like mine, but their usefulness even 5 years ago is pretty obsolete today. To be seen as worthy – even a little bit – they are going to have to make some hefty changes in WHO they are and WHAT they offer their members.
  10. The Legacy of Today: Remember the Housing Bubble? What happened to the foreclosure rate? Where did all the Sub-Prime lenders go? Major events of yore are shaping the business that we call Real Estate, today. Do you ignore the importance that each of these have on your business, or do you find ways to make your business BETTER because of (or in spite of) it? I am always up for a good challenge, and these recent events have taught me more about the housing market and my business than any CE class ever could.

I am actually quite excited about these new TRENDS. So, shall I hang up my roller skates, pack up my skate board, put away my stripey tights and Doc Martins and be trendy? No. But, in real estate … if it means making this business a better place to be, then trendy I shall be. (But my yellow Doc’s are still great to wear to closings …)

(All photos courtesy of the Photo Archives of Mariana.)

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Kevin Sharkey

    November 8, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Got goose bumps on this one. Nice job of wrapping your hands around the greased pig of current real estate conditions and keeping a focus of where we could go. Inspired!

  2. Mariana

    November 8, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Hey thanks, Kevin. Ultimately, it’s all good…

  3. ines

    November 9, 2007 at 2:52 am

    Mariana is trendy, mariana is trendy

    You crack me up every time! number nine even made me spit my water out (I’ll remember not to drink and read your blog next time).

  4. Mariana

    November 9, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Yea Ines … No drinking and commenting! 🙂

  5. monika

    November 10, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Love it Mariana! Trendy…you go girl! I like this trendy …Just Please don’t go the glamour shot route

  6. Ann Cummings

    November 10, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Mariana – trendy?? Yep, I think so! Love that picture of trendy Mariana!

    I do remember that “Renegade REALTOR” post……

  7. Mariana

    November 10, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Monika – Thanks! yoah … No Glamour Shots for me!
    Ann – “Trendy” has never quite been in my list of “things about Mariana” … Guess it has something to do with that “box” I refuse to stay in…

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 and mask mandates: What we can and can’t control

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) A presidency can order a mask mandate, but as history shows, enforcement remains difficult. Could there be an incentive for COVID-19?

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Parent masking their child to protect from COVID-19

Did you know the United States government can’t actually enforce a nationwide speed limit? Seriously, I didn’t know this. The 55 MPH limit was something I vaguely remember from childhood, right on down to all the speedometers marking that number in its own color (usually red) to draw attention and denote special significance. I figured that was the deal and law of the land by way of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which shorthand states that federal law overrides state law if conflict exists.

While that much is true, the issue still boils down simply to enforcement – it’s not so much that there’s any question of legality, but difficulty in ensuring a mandate is followed. The government has the power to issue a new law, but smaller jurisdictions – states, counties, cities, etc. – are not held to any specific legal requirement to enforce it.

The polarization over COVID-19 pandemic is sharp and well pronounced, with both sides stressing their viewpoints with fervent belief. This debate has a storied history, with roots running all the way back to the influenza pandemic of 1918. I am not here to discuss either side directly – the goal is to address whether or not the federal government can effectively enforce a COVID-19 related mandate across the nation. As illustrated above, the answer is no. Similar situations have arisen in the last few decades on other matters that hinged on the fulcrum of personal freedom versus regulation.

Seat Belt Laws might be the most direct comparison, with a history that spans back into the late 60s. At that time, only 14 percent of drivers regularly wore seat belts. Similar to today, various laws were introduced by the National Highway Traffic State Administration that tried to enact new safety measures, including requiring passive safety belts in newly manufactured cars starting in 1968, a locking system that prevented cars from starting if a seat belt was not attached in 1973 (killed by Congress a year later), and automatic passive restraints (airbags or on-track seat belts that automatically engaged) in 1977.

Public and political backlash was intense, and the incoming Reagan administration issued its own deregulation-centric policies to fight against further legal measures. In the end, seat belts did become mandatory along with driver’s side airbags; only New Hampshire does not have a law as of today. Even so, the point here is that this fell to states to draft their own laws and then decide upon the level of enforcement (primary versus secondary); the federal government played a role in this (I’ll explain in a moment), but is not the ultimate arbiter.

Marijuana law is also analogous – the federal ruling is that the drug is outlawed, and will prosecute citizens from states that have made it legal (including situations deemed medical). Colorado has reported revenue in the tens of millions (more than alcohol sales, even), and numerous arguments have been made to try and have a federal law revision.

Drinking ages? Similar still – Congress did not enforce a minimum age of 21 until the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Despite states having the age at 18 or 19, many swiftly fell in line.

What do all of these – speed limits, seat belts, marijuana, and drinking – all have in common? Questions of enforcement and how to regulate it. Now, masks join this list of contentious argument.

So what can be done for COVID-19? Perhaps predictably, money becomes the primary motivator. How did the federal government respond to most of these situations? Through incentivizing – states that complied with the 55 MPH speed limit continued to receive their full funding from the Federal Highway Administration (Nevada famously lost all funding for calling the bluff in 1986). The opposite was also effective – states that did not raise their minimum drinking age were penalized via a reduction of road funding. While neither option could be classified as federally-driven enforcement, they demonstrate that there are still methods available to passively regulate the law of states.

The quick and simple way to think about this? Pizza parties. You got those in school when you read extra books or collected trash or sold candy bars. While teachers couldn’t explicitly force you to do any of those things, the promise of pizza was enough. The government has the right to legislate, but cannot enforce, but can use money to motivate.

So really, maybe all we need to do is get Taco Bell to hand out Doritos Locos Tacos to mask wearers preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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