How Real Estate Agents and Mortgage Brokers are Getting Results with Social Media

With the rise in social media technology, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, financial planners and insurance agents are discovering how social media can help them generate new business. These professionals have found success in lead generation and sales through the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. With the drop the home sales, agents are heading online and finding new ways to communicate with their customers. Additionally, social media provides a way for businesses to connect with their customers and prospects in ways that are faster and wider spread than traditional forms of marketing

Social media is growing at an enormous rate and there does not seem to be an end in sight. This growth is resulting in a shift in client communications which must be covered in order to stay relevant in the current marketplace. However, staying connected with clients and keeping abreast of the ever growing social media market is time consuming. Many real estate agents and business owners do not use social media and Internet marketing to its full potential because it is too time consuming. Thus, they are missing out on a large percentage of their prospects.

Social media has a number of factors that make it different than traditional media such as newspapers, television, books, and radio.  Social media allows the user the ability to interact and communicate by leaving comments and participating in discussions. Additionally, if real estate agents can influence a group of followers, they can actually create a market position based on social acceptance.  Social media provides a complementary extension to traditional marketing efforts.  The one important difference between social media and traditional marketing is that with social media you can listen to it, measure it and track it over time.  All in all, social media can attract new customers, strengthen existing customer relationships, reinforce brands and enhance loyalty.  Social media has changed the way goods and services are taken to market.

In this rapidly changing world, it seems like technology is taking over the marketplace, and real estate agents and mortgage brokers who don’t communicate with their clients effectively will get snatched up by someone else who will. Social media and Internet marketing allows communication between clients and their customers in order to maintain their positive and professional image while building trust and credibility. To be successful in today’s economy, it is absolutely essential that you have a strong online presence that paints you as the true professional you are.

How To Make More Space In Your Garage

How do you use your garage? If you’re like most homeowners, you park your car(s) in it, then use the remaining available space for the random storage of “things that don’t go in the house”. 

Your garage can do so much more — all it needs is a little bit of organization.

In this 4-minute video from Lowe’s YouTube series, you’ll see how cabinetry, shelving, hooks and a master plan can add purpose to the non-car areas of your garage, and help you “make space”. You’ll even de-clutter parts of your home.

The video is rife with pointers for doing your garage right, including:

  • How to create “storage zones” of exactly the right size
  • How to organize sporting goods for easy access and optimal space-saving
  • Where to place trash receptacles, garden equipment, and seasonal decorations

According to the video, building out a garage should be a weekend project. You may finish faster, or slower, however, depending on the complexity and size of your garage and your storage needs.

Finishing a garage creates “space” — a helpful addition to any home. In addition, it enhances a home’s appeal to prospective buyers. Use the video above as a starting point and inspiration, and consider shopping storage specialty stores to finish out your project.

Which Is Better : Fresh Produce Or Frozen Produce?

Frozen Fruit and Fresh Fruit : Which Is Better?There’s a long-standing myth that freezer-section produce is “worse for you” than fresh produce from a farm. The truth, however, is often the opposite.

Because of upgrades in packaging and delivery methods, frozen produce is often more fresh than “fresh produce”, and contains higher nutrient levels, too.

The key is to know how to shop for it.

The main advantage that frozen produce carries over fresh produce is that frozen produce is picked in its most ripe — and most nutrient-rich —  state. Then, when the produce is flash-frozen, its nutrients become locked-in and sealed.

Fresh produce, by contrast, tends to be picked before it’s ripe, and is left to ripen in transit.

Because food nutrients degrade with exposure to heat and/or light, the longer it takes produce to get from the farm to the supermarket, the fewer nutrients the produce will have. 

Did you know? Fresh fruit and vegetables might sit for up 2 weeks before they’re sold by your local supermarket. And not to mention how long it may take you to consume them.

Another advantage of frozen produce is that it’s often less expensive than fresh fruit. For example, looking at the cost of strawberries bought in bulk:

This isn’t to say that frozen produce is “better” than fresh produce. It just depends on your circumstance. If you plan to consume the produce within a short period from purchase, and can account for its ripeness and freshness, fresh produce may be preferred. Or, if you eat organic produce, free from pesticides and chemicals — certain produce may be better eaten fresh.

But know the facts. Frozen produce can be healthier and cheaper — a good combination for your household.

How Healthy Is Your Bedroom?

Most people spend about one-third of their life in the bedroom. So, how healthy is yours?

In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn about dust mites, mold and the other hidden health risks in your bedroom. Some may be compriming your sleep, and others your well-being.

The interview is comprehensive and covers a lot of ground, including:

  • The importance of an excellent vacuum with HEPA filters
  • The advantage of latex pillows over other pillow-types
  • Why blackout curtains can help reduce blood pressure

The piece also talks on several goods reasons to leave your bedroom electronics-free.

For as much time as we all spend in our respective bedrooms, we should want it to be a healthy, clean place. Following the video’s advice is a step in the right direction.

How Does Your Real Estate Tax Bill Compare To Other Parts Of The Country?

Real Estate Taxes compared to local household income

Mortgage rates may be a function of free markets, but real estate taxes are a function of government. And, depending on where you live, your annual real estate tax bill could be high, low, or practically non-existent.

Compiling data from the 2009 American Community Survey, the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan educational organization in Washington D.C., published property taxes paid by owner-occupied households, county-by-county.

The report shows huge disparity in annual property taxes by region, and by state.

As a percentage of home valuation, Southeast homeowners tend to pay the fewest property taxes overall, while Northeast homeowners tend to pay the most. But statistics like that aren’t especially helpful. What’s more useful is to know how local real estate taxes stack up as compared to local, median household incomes.

Not surprisingly, real estate taxes are least affordable to homeowners in the New York Metro area. The 10 U.S. counties with the highest tax-to-income ratios physically surround New York City’s 5 boroughs. The areas with the lowest tax-to-income, by contrast, are predominantly in southern Louisiana.

A sampling from the Tax Foundation list, here is how select counties rank in terms of taxes as a percentage of median income:

  • #1 : Passaic County (NJ) : 9.7% of median income
  • #6 : Nassau County (NY) : 8.6% of median income
  • #15 : Lake County (IL) : 7.2% of median income
  • #18 : Cheshire County (NH) : 7.1% of median income
  • #70 : Travis County (TX) : 5.0% of median income
  • #90 : Marin County (CA) : 4.6% of median income
  • #110 : Middlesex County (MA) : 4.4% of median income
  • #181 : Sarasota County (FL) : 3.9% of median income
  • #481 : Douglas County (CO) : 2.4% of median income
  • #716 : Maui County (HI) : 1.3% of median income

The U.S. national average is 3.0 percent.

The complete, sortable list of U.S. counties is available at the Tax Foundation website. For specific tax information in your neighborhood or block, talk with a real estate agent.

How To Clean A Gas Grill

Keep a clean grillWhether you barbecue for friends or family once annually, or through all 4 Sacramento seasons, it’s important to keep a clean gas grill. A well-maintained grill will help your food taste its best — no matter what you’re cooking up.

Cleaning a gas grill is simple and should be performed at least once every 12 months for light use, and once every 6 months for heavy use. You’ll need the following tools:

  1. A drop cloth
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. A regular scrub brush plus a wire brush
  4. An active garden hose
  5. Dish detergent
  6. A soft sponge
  7. A bucket
  8. Rubber gloves

With these tools in-hand, follow these basic steps.

First, disconnect the propane tank and move the grill onto the drop cloth. Open the grill and remove its grates and the flame guards (the v-shaped metal pieces on top of the burners). Then, disconnect the igniters and remove the burners. Soak the grates in hot water if they’re excessively dirty.

Set the pieces aside for cleaning.

Next, clean out any loose debris from the bottom of the grill. Use the detergent to make a soapy mixture and scrub the bottom of the grill, including its grill pans and grease trays. Clean the grates at this time, too.

Gently brush the outside of the burners with the wire brush, then allow running water from the garden hose to flow through the tubes to clean out the insides. If the burners appear to be cracked, replace them according to the grill manufacturer’s instructions.

Allow all of the above cleaned pieces to air dry, then reassemble the grill.

Next, clean the outside of the grill using a soapy mixture and a soft sponge, treating early-stage corrosion with some cooking oil applied like car wax. If your grill has a stainless steel exterior, wipe with the grain to minimize streaking. And that’s it!

Cleaning a gas grill can be time-consuming, but better tasting food is worth it. Plus, your grill will last longer.

How Does Your Work Commute Compare To Other Cities?

Average Commute Times In The US, By County

As part of the Census Bureau’s data collection activities from 2005-2009, a number of interesting charts have been published at http://census.gov.

The data should not be confused with Census 2010 — a separate survey conducted every 10 years. This is the first-ever, 5-year American Community Survey. Based on data from 3 million households, it details social, economic, housing, and demographic data “for every community in the nation“.

Among the surveys:

  • Median Household Income, Inflation-Adjusted To 2009 Dollars (Chart)
  • Median Housing Value Of Owner-Occupied Housing Units (Chart)
  • Percent Of Households That Are Married, With Children Under 18 (Chart)

The ACS survey also charts average commute time by county. The chart is shown at top.

Whether you live in a “long commute” town like Richmond, NY (40 minutes), or a “short commute” town like King, TX (3.4 minutes), rising gas prices have made commute times and distances relevant to everyone.

Since the start of 2011, the average price for gasoline is higher by 54 cents per gallon. Assuming 22 miles per gallon on a passenger car, that’s an increase of 2.5 cents of gasoline per mile driven in the last 90 days. It’s a cost that adds up quickly, and can affect a household budget. Plan for higher pump prices moving forward, too. Historically, gas prices surge between April and June.

The American Community Survey is loaded with charts and data. It can tell you a lot about your current neighborhood, and any neighborhood to which you may want to relocate. Then, to bridge the ACS data with community details such as school performance and typical home prices, talk to a real estate professional.