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Russian-Ukrainian conflict: Realtors fight against unethical housing market

(EDITORIAL) Inside Ukraine, people are fighting off the battlefield. This time for fair housing. Also, is it affecting the U.S. market?



Ukraine Housing

As fighting ramps up in Ukraine, especially around the capital city of Kyiv, a new fight off the battlefield has emerged among Ukrainian realtors: unethical housing practices.

“Unfortunately, housing prices are increasing disproportionately and have approximately tripled,” Association of Real Estate Professionals of Ukraine Vice President of Regional Development Natalia Mytsuta said in a video.


Mytsuta, along with being a realtor, leads a large volunteer operation funded by Ukraine Trustchain, according to Daniil Cherkasskiy, who founded the organization.

Ukraine Trustchain is a network of people that fund aid and evacuations in the Ukrainian war zone.

“She is feeding close to 3,000 people daily in Kyiv, Irpen’ and Chernihiv,” Cherkasskiy said in a LinkedIn post.

Mytsuta’s team delivers food and medicine to the elderly and people in need to cities under siege all while making sure those who leave can find somewhere to rest their heads.

“She took time out of her 20-hour days to attend a regional ethics meeting amid Russian bombardment to hold bad actors accountable,” Cherkasskiy said. “I can’t think of a better example of realtors standing for their clients and justice.”


“There is this group of people that calls themselves realtors, who don’t work with homeowners,” Mytsuta said. “[They] don’t communicate clearly that during the war nobody should be raising prices, even less so tripling them.”

Mytsuta added homeowners are unfairly raising rent pricing adding additional strain to people already suffering.

“People are coming out of the war zone, and do not have the means for even two months of sustenance,” Mytsuta said. “They face the prospect of losing their means to existence. Nobody acts like this during a war.”

For Mytsuta, the best way to keep other realtors honest, was realtors.

“We, the realtor community, have influence on housing prices. Pricing is worked on by professionals,” she said.

To combat those taking advantage of Ukrainians fleeing death and destruction, Mytsuta is looking to deflate inflated pocketbooks by accessing public records to find price-gouging homeowners.

“We created a committee that tracks all realtors that impose 100% commission rates in the western regions. If they think they posted an ad somewhere and then it will disappear, that is not how this will work,” Mystuta said. “Based on the information passed to our committee we will make sure that all homeowners will pay excessive fines for the failure to pay taxes for their rental income. No one case will go unpunished.”

The fines Mytsuta threatened start at 50,000 HRY (~$1,700), they can even reach 85,000 HRY ($2,900). Homeowners may face these even if they rented for a short time.

“It doesn’t matter if they rent their properties for a day, a week, or multiple years because there are people that make their properties available at no cost or provide large discounts, while others try to profit,” Mytsuta said.

On U.S. soil, there were growing fears the price-gouging in Ukraine would be mirrored at home.


When the conflict began, there were concerns the housing market could suffer in the United States with a drop in international real estate transactions, but new research from the National Association of Realtors hints that may not be the case.

There has been some volatility as mortgage rates dropped in early March amid the invasion of Ukraine. Toward the end of the first week of March, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.76%, with an average 0.8 point.

Two weeks later 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were back up and averaged 4.16 percent, with an average 0.8 point. That rise, however, is more than likely a direct reaction to the federal tax rate hike to combat 40-year high inflation.

The increased rate combined with global conflict signals the general cost of housing could continue to increase according to NAR researcher Scholastica Cororaton.

“Should oil prices be sustained above the $100/barrel level, the deeper effects of higher inflation, bigger future interest rate adjustments, weaker global currencies relative to the U.S., and slower global growth creates significant downside risks to the housing market,” Cororaton wrote.

Cororaton added “inflation and supply chain problems likely will prompt even higher construction costs” as construction materials have climbed 22% annually and lumber is up 40% over the past 13 months.


When the conflict began, multiple countries imposed sanctions on Russia and its oligarchs to try and tame the invasion. It’s a move that appears to have those oligarchs selling off their U.S. property, according to The New York Post.

An owner of Russia’s largest private bank hit by sanctions, Billionaire Alexei Kuzmichev — an owner of Alfa-Bank, listed his $41 million quadruplex in Manhattan.

The Post also reports Valery Kogan, the owner of Moscow’s Domodedevo Airport, and his wife are looking to offload their $50 million, two-unit combo at the Plaza Hotel as well as three other properties. All four total around $250 million.

Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., which is known as “Little Moscow,” has seen active listing grow by nearly 10% since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“They are afraid of getting their assets seized,” Erin Sykes, a broker and international chief economist at Nest Seekers International, told The Post. “Even if it is just guilt by association.”

On Monday, March 21, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project released the Russian Asset Tracker to track assets of prominent oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin.


Like the OCCRP, the AREPU is not giving up their efforts, adding career death among the fines to Ukrainian “bad actors.”

“You will see that all realtors participating in such abomination will be thrown out of the profession and will pay fines,” Mytusta said near the end of her video message.

She ended her video with a battle cry that, here, is both applicable in the war zone and the fight for fair housing.

“To victory!”

With nearly a decade of writing experience Dewey can’t stay away from the addictive quality of words, an addiction that rivals his constant need to share his opinion (he’s a Gemini). When he’s not working, writing or doom scrolling Twitter, you can find him on one of Austin’s many beautiful hiking trails or tucked away in a dimly-lit speakeasy. Oh, yeah, and he hates the Oxford comma.


Tips to become one of those people who is good with their money

(EDITORIAL) In real estate, it’s difficult to anticipate which years will be the busy ones and which will be eerily empty. So how do you manage money?



money for transactions

I’m a firm believer in making mistakes. Specifically, the all-out, crash-and-burn kind. You know those people who say “own it” – yeah, that’s definitely me. That’s the sort of high-risk, high-reward mentality that leads to really thrilling moments onstage and in life. And when the reward is that intense, so is the loss. It’s the same with money.

My formal background is as a professional opera singer. The level of training for a full-time career in the field includes Olympic-level physical, emotional, and intellectual training. Opera singers don’t use microphones, which means they must use their bodies in a perfect, practiced physiological balance to become a human megaphone.

They learn several languages, with enough facility to jump into rehearsals with colleagues who are relative strangers, singing about passionate love, and infuriating politics while maintaining that physical balance in a foreign tongue.

Unlike the Olympics, regular opera singers don’t get endorsement deals. (Okay, famous tenor Plácido Domingo is sponsored by Rolex, but that’s a particularly singular example.) So despite its extreme training, opera is a medium that requires its artists to manage themselves as freelancers. Freelancers and be-your-own-boss types, I know you feel me:

It’s difficult to anticipate which years will be the busy ones and which will be eerily empty.

Preparing for financial uncertainty

So how do you manage finances with so much up and down?

Invest time instead of money. I rethink how I’m approaching my everyday needs. I’m talking about what methods of transportation I use and how often; I’m talking about regular doctor’s visits or self-care; I’m talking about any payments that you owe regularly. Is there any way to reassess seemingly non-negotiable expenses? Can you refinance a mortgage? Can you drop the gym altogether and commit to really learning and developing an exercise routine? Find something convenient you can replace with a free education; the Internet is an insanely abundant resource and should be milked for information.

Develop multiple interests and invest in them. I am a professional singer, but I also love to cook and am serious about it. I write frequently and across a wide spectrum of interests. I read avidly. When you invest in other ideas and interests, you make yourself a more powerful candidate for the workforce, and you give yourself more ability to seize opportunities. Who knows – you might find yourself pivoting careers.

Design a financial contingency plan before you need it (but go broke at least once). Do you have a place to crash if you can’t afford your own place? How much money do you really need to get through the month? How far can you stretch $50? If you can’t define your limits, you’ll never be able to develop a plan with thoughtful security.

What’s life without risk?

The freelancers who truly succeed are the ones who failed. It’s that Oscar Wilde quote, right? “Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.” And so have I before, and so will I again. The only way forward is up. I’m going to take my experience along with me for the next chapter. I hope mine will help color yours a little, even if with a passing thought. Dare to lose it all — and see where it leads.

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Tips to combat lack of participation in virtual meetings or online events

(EDITORIAL) Even after the pandemic, virtual meetings and online events have no end in sight. But how do we get people to participate?



Online conference call on skype, without Meet Cam widgets.

Online meetings are here to stay and increasing participation is key to making them fun and inviting for everyone involved. Those little icons of our faces and initials showcasing the fact that cameras are off-strike dread in the heart of the presenter. Or even worse, the camera-on view of the ceiling fan or mic-on sound of the smoke detector that needs a new battery.

Instead of leaving the success of an online meeting to chance, presenters can help make their meetings more fun for everyone with a few easy practices.

Send out an agenda with meeting expectations early. If attendees know the time investment, expectations, and what will be covered, it’s easier for them to be involved. Do you want cameras on? Share that. Be specific with what that means. If you don’t make that expectation clear, be prepared for bookcases instead of people, ceiling fans instead of people, and other distractions. Do you know specific questions you will be asking? Include those in the agenda so people can be thinking about them ahead of time. Often people don’t talk because they don’t understand what you want them to say or they’re not sure you really want them to participate.

Ask participants to help create the agenda ahead of time. What questions do they want answered? What do they need from you?

Let people know you will be asking questions regularly and answers are appreciated either on the mic or in the chat. If you can, include when you will be taking questions or opening up for conversation in the agenda. The chat feature can run seamlessly throughout the meeting. Allowing and encouraging the use of the chat feature regularly increases participation and leads to a more conversational feel for the session. If you can have a co-facilitator who can answer questions on the chat so they don’t get lost, that helps. If you don’t have one, consider asking an attendee to watch to help make sure questions are answered throughout the meeting.

Break the meeting up into sections. Don’t throw all the information out at once. Instead, make sure you pause regularly for feedback and questions and answers. If the group is large consider breakout rooms where smaller groups can answer questions, work through agenda items or participate in roundtable discussions, then come back to the large group with their ideas and answers.

Know your end destination. What’s the purpose of the meeting? What do you want or need to accomplish? Make sure everyone involved knows what that is and why. That helps keep everyone focused.

Set a time limit for responses if needed.

Be prepared. It’s even more important to be prepared for your online meeting than in-person meetings where you have multiple resources at hand and the energy of the crowd to bounce off of.

If these online meetings are a regular occurrence, consider adding a fun element like bringing your pet or plant to the meeting day. If it’s a brainstorming session, consider creativity ice breakers. And again make sure attendees know the expectations.

Use the poll feature to help encourage participation. Then follow up with participants to go deeper with those answers.

Instead of asking are there any questions at the end, ask everyone to either tell at least two things they learned or share two things they still have questions about. Again utilize the chat feature here. Some people are more comfortable chatting than speaking on the mic.

Consider offering prizes and give-aways to those participating. It’s not always necessary, but it’s fun when you can.

If you can, run the meetings live instead of recorded presentations with the leader in front of a slideshow. The sit and get PowerPoint and speaker presentation leads to bored participants who aren’t invested in the content. However, if that’s not possible, make sure you have a real-time chat session available for participants who are watching and make sure your slides are light on text. That chat session can change “sit and get” boredom to excitement, fun, and learning for all.

As always remember the meeting needs to last long enough to cover what’s essential but should be short enough to keep people engaged. Use surveys to gather meaningful feedback throughout the meeting and at the end. You can’t get better without feedback from your participants.

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Social media addiction is 100% real, but whose responsibility is it?

(EDITORIAL) Social media addiction is not only real, but it is proven to be real. The question is who is to blame for it – the users or the providers?



Man giving out phone number using his phone representing addiction.

I’m not on Facebook. I don’t have a Twitter account. You won’t find me on Snapchat, Pinterest, or any other social media platform.

It may seem hard to believe that a Millennial – one who reports at an online news network, no less – would forgo participation in social media entirely. But it’s true. I deleted all of my social media accounts several years ago.

Cold turkey

When I was a Facebook user, I obsessively checked my newsfeed multiple times a day. I thought I was staying connected to friends, entertaining myself, keeping up with the news, and distracting myself from loneliness. Yet, the more I used Facebook, the more anxious and depressed I became.
When I read a study confirming that social media does, in fact, correlate with a host of bad feelings, I took a daring leap and left the platform, never to return. My life improved tremendously.Let me repeat that: My life improved. Tremendously.

But choosing to cut oneself off may be a lot more difficult for folks who have a genuine internet addiction.

While the American Psychological Association has yet to acknowledge addiction to the internet or to social media as an official disorder, they have published literature describing some of the negative effects of spending too much time online, and have acknowledged Internet gaming disorder in patients who spend so much time gaming that it affects their ability to work, go to school, or maintain healthy relationships.

Addiction wears many hats

Addressing addiction to popular (and profitable) products takes time. Undoubtedly, people were suffering from emphysema long before science proved that cigarettes were unhealthy. Cigarettes used to be ubiquitous; you could smoke in your office, in restaurants, even on public transportation.

It has taken decades of activism to create a culture wherein smoking is confined to designated areas, and where smokers are warned of the health risks by labels on the pack.

These days, folks can be found checking Facebook on their smartphones in all of the same public places where smoking used to be the norm. Nowadays, the idea of someone smoking a cigarette at the dinner table seems pretty gross. Will we one day look back at Internet-enabled devices at the dinner table with the same disgust?

Easier said than done

Cigarettes, truth be told, are far more easily avoided than social media. If you don’t want to be tempted, don’t buy a pack, and don’t go to the smoking patio. However, most of us require internet for our jobs and basic communications, making social media almost unavoidable.

Some jobs even require you to have social media accounts to apply.

So, who is responsible for social media addiction? Are people to be expected to cut themselves off, as I did? Or should the tech companies themselves try to intervene?

Helpful or harmful?

Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products admits that the strategies he wrote about in his book “intended to help product designers build healthy habits in their users… are the same tactics used by some to keep people un-healthfully hooked.”

Eyal believes that tech companies, who have a wealth of data to keep track of their customers’ usage habits, have a responsibility to help customers who exhibit signs of addiction, offering to limit their hours on the platform or blacklist their credit card. Eyal says that “tech companies owe it to their users simply to reach out and ask if they can be helpful, just as a concerned friend might do.”

Unfortunately, social media is not your concerned friend.

Tech companies have no particular incentive to limit use from addicts, and with just about everyone constantly glued to their smartphones, it will take a larger cultural shift to acknowledge that a smartphone between you and your dinner date is about as sexy as puff of tobacco smoke in your face.

In the meantime, I suggest that addicts take matters into their hands and do what I did: quit cold turkey. Delete your accounts, and never look back.

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