By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Clark Griswold would be so proud. The brokerage First Team Real Estate, based in Huntington Beach, Calif., sponsored an Extreme Holiday Makeover contest, promising to deck out one lucky home in holiday lights and make it the “brightest house” on the block, if not in all of Southern California.
Nearly 1,000 people liked the brokerage’s Facebook page to apply for the contest. One lucky winner was chosen at random.
The winner received $5,000 worth of professional holiday decorations and $500 to pay for the energy use costs too. Two runner-ups were also given American Express gift cards.
The brokerage included a sign in the front yard of the home, noting it as the winner of the First Team Holiday Makeover contest.
“We thought the best way to say Happy Holidays after a record-breaking year was to let one lucky family let their whole neighborhood and all of those orbiting in space see how bright the holidays can be,” Rick Brotherton, vice president of marketing for First Team Real Estate, said in first announcing the contest in late October. “Real estate has had a good year, and we want to make sure it is a great holiday season.”
What will be “hot” in home interiors in the New Year? Plenty of designers are offering up their predictions, and here’s one outlook from Neil Kelly Co., a remodeling firm based in Portland, Ore.
Neil Kelly Co. offers up some of the following interior design trends for 2014:
Embellished showers: Showers are becoming more popular than tubs, and one feature growing in popularity is the curb-less shower.
U-sockets: These wall plugs have two built-in USB ports to power up devices, such as iPhones, digital cameras, tablets, and more. U-sockets also have a smart sensor that allows it to automatically shut off when the device is fully charged.
Stand-alone bath tubs: For those home owners who still desire a bathtub, the free-standing tub is growing in demand. It takes up less space and also serves as a structural element to dress up a room.
Seeing blue: Bright colors are “in,” particularly cobalt blue. Expect to see it more in the new year, even in the kitchen.
More modest decor: The industrial modern decor look was big in 2013, but Neil Kelly Co. designers expect that style to be more “relaxed, classic, and modest” in 2014. Stone, metal, and wood will continue to be popular, but the designers expect that rounded designs with earth shades and raw metal finishes to become more prevalent in interiors in 2014.
More multigenerational features: More multigenerational features will be incorporated homes to help better accommodate more people living under one roof, such as aging parents and boomerang kids. For example, features like wall mounted sinks for wheelchairs, walk-in bathtubs, and motion sensing faucets are expected to grow in demand.
Eco-friendly cabinets: Earth-friendly cabinets that are chemical-free and do not have added formaldehyde and non-toxic glues, binders, and finishes will likely increase in popularity.
By Scott Newman
So you just found out your buddy got a big promotion and is now ready to buy a sexy luxury condo in downtown Chicago. He’s your boy–you’ve known him since grade school–of course he’s going to give you first crack at the business, and you’ve already started spending the commission check. But before you blindly agree to be his agent, stop and think of the potential consequences of working with close friends and how you can make sure it’s a positive experience for both of you.
Treat Them Like Any Other Client
Many real estate pros go one of two ways when they work with friends – and both are bad. The first is when all their professional experience and training goes out the window and they act super lax and unprofessional thinking it will be OK because they know the client.
The other is the agent who takes things so seriously that they literally suck all the fun out of the entire process for the client, who then ends up never wanting to work with–or refer anyone to them–again.
What’s the lesson here? Forget about the personal relationship you have with this particular client and give them the same high level of service and overall experience you provide to all your other clients. If you follow that golden rule, you virtually eliminate the risk of damaging the personal or professional relationship with the client.
Expect To Go Above and Beyond
I have literally seen agents arguing with close friends they are representing while in the hallway outside the closing office. The expectations the client had vs. the expectations the agent had might as well have existed in two separate universes.
If you work for people you know personally, know from the beginning that meeting the minimum acceptable requirements of your job will not be enough. If that’s all you do, then you will likely upset your client more times than not.
Remember, your friends are hiring you because they think you’re good at your job and because they want to give you the business. But they also subconsciously might expect to lean on you a little more–and probably expect more than if they hired some agent they saw on a billboard. For example, I have cleaned up more cat and dog messes than I can count for friends who didn’t have time to make it home to clean up before a showing. I’ve also picked up disgusting dirty clothes, picked people up from the airport, driven them to the suburbs, and even let them sleep on my couch when needed.
The bottom line is, if you’re not prepared to go above and beyond for the people you have pre-existing personal relationships with, then this is not a good source of business for you. If the idea of working with friends leaves you with apprehensions, then focus your energy in other areas.
Over-Document to Avoid Disaster
Some people handle stress better than others. And anyway you slice it, selling or buying a house is a stressful experience for any client. Things are said, things are forgotten or misinterpreted, and in the end, feelings can be hurt and relationships damaged. Fortunately, there is an easy way to avoid this: over-document.
You should never conduct any business for a friend without having detailed and explicit direction in writing. This goes for counter offers (which often happen orally or via email after the initial offer is submitted), commission changes, or anything else that can be misinterpreted or otherwise come back to bite you in the butt.
I learned my lesson the hard way. I had a client who I had known for years, and we discussed multiple times during the process that she’d be taking the washer/dryer (which were wedding gifts from her parents) and replacing them with similar models. I assumed the expectation couldn’t have been anymore clear.
However, right before closing, the buyer’s attorney asked why those items were missing during the final walk-through. My client suddenly had amnesia and denied ever having a conversation about replacing the washer and dryer. In fact, she was adamant that I had committed to giving the buyer a credit for these items out of my own pocket.
What were my choices at that point? Because I’d done such a poor job documenting the transactional details, I had no choice but to give up $1,000 of my commission to cover the cost of the credit so the deal would close and I could salvage the relationship with my client.
The lesson here? Documentation and organization are key to being successful with any type of transaction, and become even more essential when dealing with clients you have a relationship with.
If you have a strong network, leveraging personal relationships to grow your business can be one of the best paths to success. But it doesn’t come without risks. To effectively work with friends, it’s important to treat them like all your other clients, expect to go above and beyond, and over-document to avoid damaging either the professional or personal relationship. Follow these tips and you can make working your personal network a key part of your success in 2014.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine
As economic conditions improve, “special function” rooms within homes are seeing a resurgence, according to findings from the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey for the second quarter.
“As home sizes shrank during the housing downturn, special function rooms were particularly hard hit,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Many households view special function rooms as discretionary, and therefore easier to eliminate as homes were downsized. Now that average home sizes are growing again, interest in special function rooms is beginning to reemerge.”
The special function rooms most in demand lately are outdoor living areas, mud rooms, home offices, the in-law suite, and storm and safe rooms, according to AIA’s survey of more than 500 architecture firms.
Nearly 63 percent of residential architects said interest in outdoor living areas/rooms is increasing. Outdoor living areas ranked as the highest special function room in demand, according to the survey. (View the slideshow: Transform a Yard into an Outdoor Sanctuary)
Another area seeing growing demand are mud rooms/drop zones. More than 45 percent of architects reported a growing interest in mud rooms.
Home owners are also placing higher value lately on special home features that use energy efficiency and increase accessibility to allow aging in place. For example, extra insulation in the attic and a first floor master bedroom have seen an increase in demand, architects report.
“High demand for systems and technologies in the home that helps to lower utility bills and promote sustainability continue to rule the day in residential design,” says Baker.
Also, there is a growing popularity for home automation, with demand increasing for wireless systems, entertainment systems, energy management, and security, the survey finds.
By Anna Abbruzzo and Alain Courchesne, Guest Contributors
A new philosophy is taking hold in interior design, and it puts the onus on style without clutter. The recession has finally dwindled and people are yearning for all of the sumptuousness, texture, and good looks that they can get.
This exciting new movement is being called “maximalism.”
So many of us were attracted toward the bare, simplistic movement often referred to as “minimalism” in the last several years. But this new idea of maximalism looks to break that mold and go after the bright, bold, detailed accents that are connected to this new ideal.
During the recession everyone took it down a notch and gravitated toward repurposing. Many people were downsizing and reusing and recycling. People made do with as little as possible.
But are the days of repurposing and reclaiming items fading away and being replaced by maximalism?
The new maximalism means that the recession is almost over, and people are spending again. It’s the place where “more is more” and less is most definitely a bore.
As more designers and the public move toward this notion of maximalism, I’m quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean accumulating things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!
Maximalism as it pertains to interior design is about having elegance and sophistication in materials but striking a delicate balance between style and keeping disorder at bay. This requires a lot of editing.
What’s important here is maximalism, yes, but not the clutter and not over decorating — it’s all about curating spaces.
It’s important that we not be afraid of bringing luxe and detail back into our lives. It’s not necessarily the opulence of the 1930s and 1940s, but opulence with restraint that truly reflects what our lives are like today. Luxe is not intimidating.
Maximalism is a term that is used to emphasize work-intensive practices and concentrate on the process of creation itself. The term was coined by historian Robert Pincus-Witten to describe a group of artists associated with the challenging start of Neo-expressionism in the late 1970s. Charlotte Rivers describes how “maximalism celebrates richness and excess in graphic design,” characterized by decoration, sensuality, luxury and fantasy.
Heeding this new maximalist movement and integrating it into interior design projects is of particular importance to real estate developers. The fact that consumers are well on their way to seeking out this emerging trend proves the actual weight of this new model of interior design.
When developers are putting up a property they have to be ahead of the curve by eight or even 10 years because it all boils down to this: You have to be able to forecast beyond the trend and forget about “trendy” because by the time it is built, it is not going to be vogue anymore.
Maximalism likely will be the new wave and full future of interior design trends.
I see even more lavishness in the future of interior design, which often follows off of the heels of fashion runways. Since the recession started in 2007 we have been starved, but not anymore – real estate purchasers want a full package. They want to see color, light, detail, pattern, and they want to have fun.
Real estate developers need to realize this and adopt it over the upcoming year with a strategic focus on being ahead of the design curve. Luxe is coming and people want it. It just can’t be ignored.
About the authors: Anna Abbruzzo and Alain Courchesne are the Principal Designers of the award-winning interior design firm Igloodgn, with headquarters in Canada. The design duo successfully works with real estate developers to scale projects to the next level for both residential and commercial properties. Igloodgn’s previous clients have included the major burger restaurant Mister Steer; opulent housing development unit Roccabella Towers; exclusive men’s retailer Dom Rebel Threads; and the elegant Spa Calme. For more information, visit Igloodgn at http://igloodesign.ca/.