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Real Estate Brokerage

Hilarious, terrible listing’s pics make us question the legality of virtual staging

(MARKETING) Real estate staging improves any listing’s appeal, but done poorly and virtually leads to an unintentional laughing stock.

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Real estate practitioners and photographers know you can’t Photoshop out the brown grass or ugly power lines in a listing’s photos. There’s major liability if you misrepresent the property you’re trying to sell. You already know that. But what about artificially adding in elements?

Clients often stage homes to give it that ready to move in feel. Staging gives potential buyers a chance to visualize what can fit into a space and at some price points is expected. The rise of virtual staging software and augmented reality apps speak to the power of staging. Professional staging.

However, virtual staging is best left to buyers to pursue on their own. Virtual staging in images of an actual home for sale is a big no-no. Surely no one would really use faked photos for a professional listing though, right?

Think again. We invite you to soak up this unintentionally hilarious listing in Massachusetts, featuring fake staging, ambitious proportions, and impossible furniture angles.

While the home looks perfectly normal and real from the outside, treat yourself to a journey of the interior:

Behold, a rug to make even non-OCD folks cringe. The other pieces are pretty convincing, and they would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that meddling rug angle.

While the virtual additions may be well-intentioned, this visual trickery makes it difficult to tell what’s truly included in the house. Is that built-in cabinet really there, or is it more Photoshop magic?

The kitchen seems pretty harmless in terms of fakery, but honestly it’s a little hard to tell what’s included or how physics works properly. You have to squint a bit to discover that you’ll need to install your own pot and pan rack (and 10 pound wheel of cheese), setting false expectations for buyers.

If a buyer falls in love with an element that was artificially added, a real life tour could lead to heartbreak (not to mention legalities around what conveys).

You’re not doing future homeowners any favors by faking the inside. Staging gives potential buyers a chance to visualize what can fit into a space. Digitally displaying furniture at wonky angles and haphazard proportions doesn’t give an accurate depiction of the home.

This example may be eye-wateringly laughable, but fudging details about the home you’re trying to sell has serious negative implications. Even if adding elements is meant to be helpful, it is dishonest. Especially when it’s done this poorly.

Include real pictures, and let potential buyers play around with augmented reality and digital design. Providing dimensions of rooms would be more helpful than ‘shopping in fake furniture.

Editing photos for better lighting is okay, but removing or adding elements reduces the integrity of your listing. Avoid a world of headache and potential litigation by accurately representing the property. If you can’t legally edit items out of listing photos, can you legally edit items into them?

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Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Inexpensive mental health resources for real estate pros

Mental health issues are often untreated when no insurance or few resources are apparent, but there are many resources available to keep the entire team cared for.

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There’s no shame in needing a doctor when you’re physically sick, but sometimes people think that mental illness should be hidden. No one likes to admit they’re struggling with an addiction, grief, or depression, but trust me, friends, family, and co-workers most likely know you’re struggling – they just may not know how to help.

Mental health assistance can be very expensive, especially without insurance. With the ACA, more people have access to services, but it may not be immediately evident.

Attention Brokers:
We recommend sharing this article with your team accompanied with a note explaining why. We’ve known many agents that suffer through drug addiction, unmedicated bipolar disorder, sex addiction, depression, and so forth. Open the door to a conversation. Everyone on the team deserves to be cared for, with or without insurance.

Free or inexpensive ways to get help:

If you or someone you know is in need of help or someone to listen to you, please do not be embarrassed. If you (or the person you’re concerned with) don’t have insurance or have limited resources, here are some places to get help.

  • If you are in a crisis, dial 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a 24-hour crisis center.
  • Check with your insurance company. You may not realize that you have mental health benefits, or understand how to find a provider that fits into your plan.
  • Talk to your primary care doctor. Your doctor may know of local resources that are available to you.
  • Most communities have local mental health centers that provide income-based services. Ask about discounts or reduced rates.
  • Dial 2-1-1 in Texas (and most states) for referrals to agencies that are in your community.
  • Go to your religious organization. Spiritual leaders are often willing to listen and help you get back on track. They may be able to direct you to resources within their community and network.
  • Search for your particular issue. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (adaa.org) has a full list of resources and help for dealing with every day and chronic stress and worry. If you get too many hits, try using the phrase, “national foundation” then the issue, for example, “national foundation OCD.”
  • Go to the library and seek out a book. Self-help books on grief or depression can help you navigate your own feelings and find a way out.
  • Go to the App Store. Type in what you need help with. You might be surprised at what comes up. Happify is a good app that helps you work on being positive. 7 Cups of Tea offers trained listeners to get you through anxiety.
  • Talk to a friend, a trusted mentor, or family member. Reach out for help.
  • Exercise. Get out of your rut.

The bottom line is that whether you’re struggling or trying to help someone else who is, neither of you are alone. It may take more than one try, but we urge everyone to bookmark this page for reference, should it be needed now or int he future.

This story was first featured here on September 2, 2015.

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Real Estate Brokerage

The game doesn’t matter until you keep score

(BROKERAGE) How you collect feedback can determine whether your service actually improves or not. #science

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Every significant endeavor utilizes measurements and scorekeeping to record activities and progress. The most trivial of human pursuits often involves record keeping and statistical analysis.

While the sales and production side of real estate services are measured in-depth, the service side of the business enjoys less measurement, scorekeeping, and analysis than one might find associated with the performance of a neighborhood Little League team.

What does this truly say then about the importance many brokers, owners or managers place on service delivery, customer satisfaction, consistency and service performance?

It’s true that a few organizations do attempt to measure service performance by means of a customer satisfaction survey. Most of these programs are produced and administered internally. The surveys are sent under the company banner and the company tabulates the results.

First, when a customer is asked directly by the professional or the company for performance/satisfaction feedback, that feedback is always more positive than what is obtained by an independent, third-party asking the same questions.

This is known as the halo effect. Consumers are more diplomatic in their response to the person or company that provided the service.

Second, internal service/satisfaction assessment programs typically develop standards and objectives to validate the belief that good service is already being delivered. Thus this positively biased feedback data suits the objectives of the internal program just fine.

It’s just that measurement of those areas of service performance that sellers and buyers feel are important is not taking place.

For those more serious about customer service satisfaction and service performance assessment, there is recognition that the halo effect lessens the value of the data for internal use, and that keeping score of one’s own results has less credibility externally.

Instead, they seek the objectivity and credibility that third party validation of service assessment can provide.

Ironically, even without expert resources and objectivity the attention that measurement brings to the organization will effect positive results and performance improvement. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect.

The effect was first noticed in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. Production increased not as a consequence of actual changes in working conditions introduced by the plant’s management, but because management demonstrated interest in such improvements.

Unfortunately, this phase of initial improvement is not sustainable. Sustaining improvement requires more than measurement and leadership interest. Action steps that result in the actual improvement of the situation must follow collection of data.

Measuring service results and satisfaction in the real estate organization is an important first step. It will certainly gain the attention of the organization and send a serious signal.

Sustaining organizational interest and performance improvement requires more.

It requires systematic and timely feedback, objectivity, systems and service delivery processes, coaching and recognition/awards. But it really all does start by keeping score.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Best ways to handle stressed-to-the-max clients

(BROKERAGE NEWS) Moving can make even your calmest clients nightmare wackadoos. Here’s how to manage them.

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Three researchers have published an interesting study on how customer service can be improved by recognizing a customer’s stress level before a connection with your business is made.

For example, a customer can often be anxious over using a particular service, i.e., a funeral home or a lawyer in connection with a divorce. By learning more about how your clients feel when they call your business, you can better manage the customer experience. This offers your business a more effective customer base of referrals and repeat business.

The researchers identified the following steps to manage stressed-out customers:

1. Find out how your customers are feeling when they need your service.

One reason so many breast cancer facilities are free-standing, away from the main hospital complex, is because women voiced their ideas to the healthcare team designing the facilities. Women wanted coordinated care under one roof, but felt like the hospital was not a calming environment. Use your empathy to walk in your customer’s shoes to change the experience.

2. Hire not only for skill, but attitude and personality.

Employees who love their job can’t be trained. The passion and enthusiasm, even for a high-stress career like a cancer nurse or funeral director, cannot be taught. Look to bring on team members who have empathy for your customers and understand that business is all about customer service. It’s far easier to teach someone the skills needed for a job than it is to teach them to be motivated to work.

3. Study your approach to the customer’s journey.

How does your business interact with the client? From the first link online or phone call, to the payment options, what is the customer’s experience? Address the high-stress interactions by providing information about your services. For example, when calling to view a listing, what can your customer expect?

4. Give the customer more control over the service.

Dealing with a mechanic who tells you that your engine is shot is highly stressful. Instead, learn to be more specific and talk to the customer in a language that can be understood by someone without technical knowledge. Make sure your customer has one point-of-contact throughout their experience. Have a plan B in place for when that individual is sick or goes on vacation. Empower your customers through today’s technology, maybe an app that tracks the sale. There’s no excuse today for poor customer service and information.

I would highly recommend that every real estate professional read the research from Harvard Business Review. Leonard L. Berry, Scott W. Davis, and Jody Wilmet packed so much information into their report that there’s no way I could cover it all here.

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