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Opinion Editorials

The trend of optimizing, not downsizing American homes

What can a few hours at an open house tell you about buyer trends in America? Quite a bit, especially when you’re listening for commonalities that extend beyond generational divides.

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Quick little market study

Hosting my open house today, I had over thirty folks come through my 2/2 condo listing that was just under 900sf and these folks came in all stages of home buying savvy. I found each and every one of them mesmerizing. Let me tell you about my own little market study that occured in the confines of the open house. Of course, all of this information was filtering through my own mind, and not at all discussed with them, but it was interesting nonetheless to hear why these folks wanted to be in the area and in a home of this specific size.

The Millennial

There was a gentleman who was a Millennial, looking to use the iRealtor program and grilling me for market answers, which I was happy to give; he wanted to be close to Metro and simplify his life. “I just want to be able to get into work really easily and not necessarily have to drive. I get a deeded car space here, right?”

Gen X pairs

There were the couple of pairs of GenXers (possibly Y’ers) who plowed through with their agents – already knowing all of the general area information and really not wanting to have any hands on from the lonely hosting listing agent until they were needed for the real specifics- but I’ll have you know that when I am doing marketing, I am all ears, baby. “OMG, it would be totally easy to get to Whole Foods from here,” says one Xer to the other. “Totally, and the Metro is like right there.” Disco. Simplification.

The Boomers

Then there were the several boomers who came in, some looking for investment potential, but others, these others, they were the ones who were quite interesting. These boomers who were so interesting were the ones who mentioned outright – I am looking to downsize. “Hi. I am looking to downsize. I have a 5 bedroom 3 bath home that my wife and I only use 2 rooms out of. We need to fix that.”

What does this mean, downsize? It means to take your larger than life- well, life- and simplify things. My boomer buddy answered it for us, you take your 3500sf home with a yard and realize that you only actually live in 800sf of it sometimes. Yeah, downsizing. I like to help people simplify things, I’m all about that. The interesting thing is that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we’re all looking to do it.

The shift in American housing

Did you know that last month our buddies, the builders, had their Showcase for the National Association of Builders in Orlando? The home that was the featured showcase “which measure[d] 4,181 square feet and is one of the smallest in the popular program’s 29-year history, shows that the love affair with McMansions seems to be waning.”

It is an exciting thing to hear for sure, to see builders taking things in this direction, especially as an EcoBroker Realtor who spends time discussing things like energy efficiency, smart design and even cost of living with clients.

Even energy efficiency gurus such as the Northern Virginia Mainstay, the Green Gobbler makes mention in a recent article, “Realtors probably could have told you that a couple of years ago, as the McMansions started to tick off area homeowners who were feeling that the over-sized homes were changing the look and feel of older, established neighborhoods and 5,ooo square feet for 2 people just seemed overly opulent. Now, as we see more folks, especially the baby boomers tackling the issue of downsizing and eliminating the minutia from their lives, we see people going back to houses that make sense for the way folks tend to live in their home. People seem to just want to be able to manage their homes and not have a whole section of a house shut off that they realize that they don’t even use. That is just depressing! Plus, when you have a smaller scale home, you have less bills for utilities, now, don’t you? Hmmm…. now that just seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?” Well put, Gobbler! I like how you think, friend.

Optimizing home sizes for all demographics

Saying all of this doesn’t mean that everyone needs to stop building huge houses. It just means that a thoughtfulness can be put into the functionality of space. A simplified lifestyle can come to anyone at any time is what was observed today. It isn’t so much downsizing, but optimizing and helping a client find a home that is going to fit the functionality of how they live once they are in their home and help them simplify their lifestyle by helping them achieve that by listening to what they want and then helping them become a home owner – no matter what stage of life they are in.

Genevieve Concannon is one of those multifaceted individuals who brings business savvy, creativity and conscientiousness to the table in real estate and social media.  Genevieve takes marketing and sustainability in a fresh direction- cultivating some fun and funky grass roots branding and marketing strategies that set her and Arbour Realtyapart from the masses. Always herself and ready to help others understand sustainability in building a home or a business, Genevieve brings a new way to look at marketing yourself in the world of real estate and green building- because she's lived it and breathed it and played in the sand piles with the big-boys.  If you weren't aware, Genevieve is a sustainability nerd, a ghost writer and the event hostess with the mostess in NoVa. 

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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Bob Ostrow

    March 26, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Interesting concept. I think people believe they’re right-sizing at every phase. However, there are times when people wrong-size themselves into a house. Any time you can see 5 years down the road, ie, having more kids, parents moving in or out, and you don’t take into consideration, you’re wrong-sized. Of course, there are always unforeseeable circumstances that can effect this.

    • Genevieve

      March 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      You’re totally right, Bob! The interesting thing is that some people seem to have had a little bit of a perspective change on how much space they actually need, which is interesting to watch- like being a fly on a wall when the light-bulb moment happens. Thanks so much for the comment!

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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women-owned business

Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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