I Started Saying 'No' to These 6 Things. My life and My business Got a Lot Better.

The most difficult obstacles to get past are the ones we place in front of ourselves.

Image credit: Paul M O'Connell | Getty Images

Image credit: Paul M O'Connell | Getty Images

I’m a people pleaser. It’s hard for me to say "no" to people who ask for something -- despite a reluctance inside of me. This has gotten me into trouble more than a few times in life and especially in business. Time is precious and slips by quickly but there is also no lack of things that have to get done in an entrepreneur's life.

For 12 years, I took life a day at a time. I had a dream but no goals for making it real. I just woke up each day hoping for something more. In 2011, I had had enough and began chasing my dream of starting a lifestyle business. This meant more work on top of a service business that took 60-80 hours of my week. It didn’t take long for me to realize that something had to give. I had to learn how to say no to open up room for the things that were important. Seeing how much time and energy was freed by saying no, I started looking at all the other areas of my life. Here are six things I said no to. Saying no helped me live a much better life and create the kind of business that I love.

1. Other people’s baggage.

Life is hard for all of us. Sometimes it’s easier to push your baggage onto someone else, maybe even without you realizing it. If you are trying to make changes in your life and someone reacts a certain way because of their baggage, it’s up to you to say "no". You don’t need any more drama in your life. For me, this meant ignoring some people on social media and purging negative people from my life. It meant ending the business partnerships that were not in alignment with the direction I was taking my business.

2. Situations that I knew would make me angry.

There are things in life that you know you don’t want to do. For years, I just rolled with it. I went to gatherings and hung out with people who I knew would make me angry. I got on "get-to-know-you" calls with entrepreneurs who were all talk and no action. I entered into collaborations with business owners that weren't serious. When I said enough and stopped, it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It freed my mind and business and helped me focus.

3. A business that I absolutely hated.

I had a service business in the vendor industry for 12 years and hated it. I felt stuck and believed that someone like me -- a high school dropout -- couldn’t do better. In 2011, I said "no" more and worked hard for four years to make my dream of being a global lifestyle entrepreneur a reality. I now wake up loving what I get to do for work and traveling the world. Saying no led to happier days.

4. Unhealthy habits that felt good.

I love food. I said yes to junk food and no to healthier choices. This, as you can imagine, led to major weight gain. At one point, I was 193 pounds overweight. I started saying no to unhealthy choices and started exercising, I've lost 121 pounds so far this year. Today, I have more energy, focus and confidence. Life is better. I wake up ready to work on my business. I feel great when I travel for consulting presentations at multinational corporations.

5. Toxic relationships.

Purging negative people from my life and saying no to what they tried to project into my life led to relief and happiness. These relationships included romantic relationships, friendships and business connections. It was hard, but I had to say no. Toxic people will keep you off track and make your life unenjoyable. Purge negativity from your life and business whenever it’s possible.

6. Holding onto the past.

I had a messed up childhood that involved physical and mental abuse. I chose to be homeless at 17 instead of continuing to be beaten with lamp cords. The demons from my past threatened to destroy me as I grew into an adult. I had to let go. I had to say no a lot more. I had to forgive to begin the healing process. I don’t know what you have or are facing. I do know that to heal, you have to let go.

Just because you’re saying no right now doesn’t mean you’ll have to say no forever. Life has seasons, and some are busier than others. The point is to make sure you’re doing the things you want to do and that lead to the kind of life and business you want.

Don’t let other people’s motives make decisions for you. This is your life. This is your business. You get to decide. Say no to things that don’t make sense for you. Say no to things that don’t feel right to you. Trust your intuition. You know whether or not you want to do something. Don’t be pressured into saying yes.

This article was originally posted/written by Entrepreneur.com.




Go Big and Go Home: 6 Tips for Upsizing With No Regrets

Westend61/Getty Images; realtor.com

Westend61/Getty Images; realtor.com

Remember when you bought your home? It was just perfect for the two of you. But now—with a couple of kids, some ever-shedding pets, or maybe an in-law living down the hall—that's no longer the case. Whether you’re already bursting out of your house or about to expand your family, the time to move to a larger home might have arrived.

If it's any consolation, you have plenty of company. In 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data found. If you have older kids, you can’t even count on having an empty nest, now that the preferred living arrangement for 18- to 34-year-olds is with their parents (more than alone or with a roommate). And more than one-fifth of Americans older than 55 live in a multigenerational household, as well.

So what do you look for in a home when you’re bringing so many people under one roof? There’s plenty more to consider before you upsize beyond just square footage. Topping the list: how to upgrade your home without fully downgrading your bank account. Yes, upsizing will cost you, upfront and on down the line. But that doesn't mean it's a bad investment. It just means you need to be smart about it.

Here are six things to keep in mind before leaping into a larger home.

1. Think critically about your goals

Yes, we get it: You want more space. But have you thought, specifically, about why?

Before you hit the house-hunting trail, take a moment to pin down what you really, actually need, suggests Suzie Mayes, a real estate broker at Living Room Realty in Portland, OR.

“How are you actually going to live in this bigger house? For example, why do you want a bigger kitchen?" she asks. "If you’re going to be hosting Thanksgiving moving forward, maybe that makes sense." But otherwise, perhaps not so much.

Listing your goals will help you prioritize, adds Christine Wren, a Realtor® and certified international property specialist with Keller Williams Realty in Austin, TX.

“Is the idea to accommodate your traditional nuclear family, or do you need to make rooms for seniors and young adults coming back from college?” Wren asks. “Is open concept right for you and your family? It sounds fabulous to watch the kids when they’re little, but you’ll get a lot of noise as they get older.”

In other words, have a plan and find a home that works into it.

2. Determine whether bigger is truly better

Before beginning your search, consider not just the home's square footage, but also the layout, says Kim Trouten, a Realtor and designer with Allen Tate Realtors in Charlotte, NC.

“What people want and need isn’t necessarily what builders are producing," Trouten explains. "In this very hot market, they’re building the largest houses they can on the smallest possible lots in order to amortize the price, which doesn’t necessarily equal good rooms for families.”

You might think you're getting more space, but if that space isn't useable or feels tight, does it really help you in the long run?

“Sometimes, the more bedrooms a home has, the smaller those bedrooms are," Trouten explains. "You don’t always need more rooms; sometimes you need more spacious rooms.”

3. Buy only the space you’ll use

On a related note: Before you speed forward with your upsizing plan, you should make sure the rooms or features in the larger house will actually be used, Trouten cautions.

An example from the not-too-distant past: “When home theater rooms were all the rage, it was a status thing to have a room with a very expensive system and theater chairs,” she says. “But many of those expensive rooms were barely used. That's not the way most people live."

4. Crunch the numbers

Are you prepared for the real financial burden of upsizing?

“It’s not just the sticker price on the house; it’s the long-term costs associated with it," Trouten says. "When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance.” And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

Make sure you can afford to move up without becoming "house poor." You can prevent this sad fate by using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar. Or talk with your lender to get the big picture on the costs of your move.

Pro tip: If you call the utility company, you can usually unearth historical data about the energy costs for a particular address year over year.

“Really do your research," Mayes says. "You don’t live in the price of a home; you live in the monthly payment and all the associated costs.”

5. Consider the resale value

Upsizing now can mean a tidy profit later if you choose your home and location wisely.

Sure, you might think that once you've found the right size home, you'll stay forever. But you might find yourself downsizing a few years from now. As with any home purchase, look at your potential new place through the eyes of future buyers.

That means doing your research about what home buyers want. And right now, that's flexible space.

“We get more asks about guest bedrooms than anything else, because as baby boomers age and their kids buy homes, they’re thinking about when Mom and Dad may visit or live with them,” Trouten says.

Keep the latest buying trends in mind as you scope out listings, and your new home could pay off down the road.

6. More space might mean buying in a different neighborhood

After you’ve predicted the future, don’t forget what you learned from the past: It’s all about the neighborhood.

Perhaps your starter home is in the perfect up-and-coming community—close to the city, public transportation, and your favorite craft brew pub. But having more room to spread out often means spreading farther away from the city center. So make the choice. Are you willing to move to a different neighborhood—one that might be far from where you live now?

“I’ve got people in downtown Austin who might have 1,200-square-foot, $800,000 condos, but when they need more square footage, they can take that same money and move 20 to 30 minutes away from downtown," Wren says. "Without more cash, they get a lot more space."

Life is about trade-offs, right? This might be a really smart one.

 This article was originally posted/written by Realtor.com


9 Tips to Boost the Value of Your Next Client Appreciation Event


Have you ever found yourself downright impressed that the company you’ve made a purchase from followed up after the sale with a note thanking you for your purchase? I’ll bet it caught you by surprise, especially if it was truly sincere and not tied to a gimmick or upsell. Just like you, your customers and past clients enjoy the gift of appreciation.

Now’s the time of year to surprise and delight your customers, clients and referral sources with an invitation to an appreciation celebration. Such events make prospecting fun and profitable. When you create a connection through an enjoyable event, you ensure the power of face-to-face connections in a social setting. Savvy agents know they can reap the rewards of referrals and customer loyalty by scheduling face-to-face connections.

To boost the value and uniqueness of such an event, here are several ideas to consider:

1. Start with a guest list that includes your Top 50 past and current clients, referral sources and strategic partners.

2. Plan the event to occur before the holidays. Unless your intention is to throw a holiday party, avoiding the competition for dates during the busy holiday season may be your ticket to a better turnout. Other great seasonal party ideas include a picnic, a wine tasting or an ice cream social.

3. Consider co-sponsoring the event with your lender partner for the purpose of introductions and to offer options for a “no-obligation annual mortgage fitness review” to interested prospects.

4. Leverage the party to support a local charity. Consider asking for food pantry contributions or items to support veterans, seniors or local animal shelters.

5. Plan and sponsor fun activities like a photo booth or local live bands. If it’s a kid-friendly event, make it fun with balloons, games and prizes.

6. Set up a drawing (get names, emails and mobile numbers) for a fun grand prize drawing. If legal in your area, offer raffle tickets with the benefits going to a local charity, and have a representative for that charity at the event.

7. Seize the opportunity to take pictures to post on your Facebook business page or Instagram account, or in your annual calendar/newsletter.

8. Follow up after the event with handwritten thank you or “sorry we missed you” notes. Use the opportunity to anchor the event with a save the date for your next event and include a link to the pictures and videos of the most recent event.

9. Get a few minutes of video to post on both your YouTube account and Facebook page. Be sure to include the date and location of the event.

Everyone loves to be appreciated, and having fun while you prospect and reconnect at an event makes for great repeat business and endless referrals. The currency of the future is your database, and activities like this will help ensure your database is accurate and up-to-date. Few things are more powerful than staying in touch and recognizing and thanking those you’ve had the privilege of serving.

This article was originally posted/written by RisMedia


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Nextdoor: a Pro-Con List


The growth of Nextdoor has been nothing short of amazing. Current numbers show that it's currently in 160,000 homes, has expanded to the Netherlands and the UK, and has just launched in Germany, according to TechCrunch. But it's not without its issues, and, as users will tell you, having access to so much information about your neighbors and your neighborhood can sometimes be too much of a good thing.

PRO: You may discover an amazing new home baker in the neighborhood who is taking pie orders to support the adoption of three foster kids who lost their parents in a tragic accident (true story).

CON: She may be kicked off the site because of the complaints by another merchant, spurring a lively conversation about what constitutes commerce (also a true story).

PRO: It's great if you love to know all the gossip.

CON: But not so much if you're the focus of the gossip.

PRO: Your neighbors may help you find your lost dog

CON: You will inevitably get some character commenting on how irresponsible pet owners are because there's always a dog on the loose, causing you to use all your strength in not responding with the middle finger emoji, which would get you kicked off the site for using profanity.

PRO: You may be able to help someone else find their lost dog.

CON: See above.


PRO: You'll be warned when there is a wild animal sighting in the neighborhood.

CON: Wild animal sightings are generally not isolated incidents, so expect that 27 people will all comment at the same time on said wild animal, which will probably just turn out to be a large housecat.

PRO: It's a great way to buy or sell a piece of furniture or accessory (or even a car!) without having to leave your house.

CON: There's always someone who'll list 45 items in the general category, one at a time, clogging up your feed.

PRO: There is an "Urgent" function, which allows you to blast everyone in your neighborhood who is signed up for Nextdoor with an email.

CON: Not everyone agrees on what constitutes "Urgent."

PRO: You may get a good lead on a babysitter.

CON: Another babysitter in the neighborhood may report the post of the first babysitter thereby causing a war between all people who offer services in the neighborhood which will then be up to the discretion of the neighborhood lead to delete or leave alone, and which will undoubtedly not be enforced evenly, which will cause a huge ruckus.

PRO: You may be able to catch a thief easier.

CON: Of course, that thief might just be a local elementary school student selling cookies door to door. Yes, someone really will complain about an 8-year-old making door-to-door cookie sales.


CON #2: That "thief" may also just be someone hanging out in the neighborhood, or someone who lives in the neighborhood but has a "look" that some interpret as threatening. And this is one of the most dangerous and most debated aspects of Nextdoor. "'Community building' is usually more of a buzzword or phrase on social media, but in this case, it's quite literal. The idea is that Nextdoor promotes community engagement with the people in your actual, geographic community, and that it would build social capital and better citizens," said THE AWL. "Instead, it's been heavily criticized for contributing to fear, distrust, and racist behavior. The Crime category is where the ugliness of Nextdoor is most obvious. The coded language of ‘hip-hop types' and ‘thugs' (translation: black or brown), ‘suspicious' people and the homeless. In 2016, due largely to the efforts of advocacy groups in Oakland, California, the company changed how crimes and suspicious activity are reported in an attempt to crack down on racist language and incidents, forcing residents to describe a person's clothing, for example, rather than just being able to say ‘a black man.'"

PRO: You'll never be bored in your community. Have nothing better to do and have thick skin? Read the post that has more than 100 replies about the upcoming Democratic Club meeting in a verrrrrry red town.

CON: You'll need to beware of prickly people... and use that "enter" key judiciously. You never know when your seemingly innocent comment can set off a firestorm.

PRO: You'll get great tips about the hottest new security measures.

CON: You'll get them because a neighbor posted about their Ring doorbell camera catching someone heinously breaking the law because they placed a delivery menu on their front porch (the nerve!) or because a scandalous bird raided their trash can for a snack, which was picked up by their motion-sensor camera.

PRO: You may find a cute little puppy to adopt.

CON: You may have to ignore a couple dozen posts from people questioning where the puppy came from, wanting to know every detail of its life so far, and then bombarding you with their opinions about breeding and rehoming and training and socializing and on and on and on.

PRO: You'll definitely be better aware of what's going on around you.

CON: Overall, you may learn waaaaay more than you want to know about your neighbors. Think you live in a pretty progressive, open-minded community where everyone shares your values? Beware of seeing true colors. Maybe ignorance really is bliss.

Or, maybe it's better not to join at all.

This article was originally posted/written by Realty Times. 


Staging the Most Important Rooms in Your Listing


Staging every room in a for-sale listing may sound ideal; however, it may be a daunting task to both the seller and the listing agent. If your seller can’t afford to invest in staging the entire home, it’s OK to scale down—after all, it’s better to do a good job on a few rooms than to do nothing at all. When deciding which rooms to cut and which to keep, remember that not every room is created equally and that half the battle is decluttering.

Why Stage?
Because it’s primarily individuals rather than companies who buy homes, it’s important to appeal to the largest number and widest range of buyers possible. Even the most basic DIY staging (like having your client pack up their extensive porcelain doll collection or take down their numerous hunting trophies) can help buyers without those specific interests envision themselves in the home.

When buyers can picture themselves in the home, they’re willing to pay more. NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Staging reported that 29 percent of seller’s agents reported a 1 to 5 percent increase in offer amount compared to similar homes. A further 21 percent reported a 6 to 10 percent increase in their offer amount. Staging also decreases the amount of time a listing will spend on the market. Photos of a nicely staged home make people more willing to walk through a property they found online.

What to Stage
You don’t have to stage every room in a house to get good results. For example, it’s far more important to stage the living room than the laundry room. Here are the most popular rooms to stage, according to the 2017 Profile of Home Staging, as well as some ideas of what you can do in each:

Living Room
Remove the oversized couch and other bulky furniture and substitute smaller, narrower options. This will make the whole room feel larger. Also, remove all personal photos and enough books, movies and knickknacks to give the shelves extra room, emphasizing how the home offers plenty of “room to grow.”

Pack up all the small appliances and do-dads cluttering up the counter, from the coffee pot to the can opener. Clear off the top of the fridge and get rid of all coupons, magnets, personal bulletins, etc. Once all the useful but non-decorative clutter is gone, consider adding a fruit bowl or flowers to add some color to the kitchen. It’s also important to declutter inside the cabinets to make them seem more spacious when interested buyers start poking around.

Master Bedroom
Again, start by decluttering. The only things on the floor should be furniture and maybe a rug. Most bedrooms don’t need much more than the bed, dresser, end tables, and a mirror. Make sure the surfaces of the furniture are cleared of all personal items. Remove any laundry baskets, TVs, and items visible under the bed. Dress the end tables up with a nice decorative lamp and make sure the bed is neatly and attractively made. If the master bedroom is particularly large, you can also add a comfy sitting area.

Dining Room
Dress the table up with a nice centerpiece and some simple but attractive place settings, but don’t make the table feel cluttered. If the table sits six, lay out four places. If it sits four, lay out two. This will ensure the table looks spacious and inviting. Remove any extra chairs that are gathered around the room, and make sure there is plenty of light, as well.

If you want the bathroom to appeal to buyers, make sure it is spotless. Everything from the tub to the walls should look fresh and clean. You should also remove any medications from the bathroom and put out fresh rugs and towels. Adding a few decorative candles or jars to the shelves will help create a more spa-like environment, as well.

The first thing a buyer sees when they visit your listing is the outside. Make sure the lawn is freshly mown, the bushes are trimmed, the driveway is clear of leaves and weeds, the windows are clean, and you have an inviting threshold.

Child’s Bedroom
Start by packing up anything that will identify who the child in the room is, such as school memorabilia, sports jerseys, trophies or photos. Most of the toys and all electronics devices should go, as well. Try to emphasize the child’s bedroom as a creative space. A desk or table can help with this. Keep the center of the room clear to emphasize plenty of play space, and use a gender-neutral color scheme to help buyers imagine their children in the room.

Once your client’s home is staged, it’s your turn to step up to the plate and get it sold. 

This article was originally posted/written by RisMedia




6 Home Renovations That Pamper Pets Beyond Compare



You know your pets are genuine members of the family when you start to think about renovating your house specifically to accommodate their needs. Of course you want your cat, dog, or any critter under your roof to be happy, so why not add a couple of amenities built just for him? And when the time comes to sell, your home will be extra appealing to other pet lovers. Plus today's pet renovations have gone way beyond the usual tiny swinging door. Here are six of the newest house-trained trends.

A pet nap nook under the stairs

Consider making the area below your stairs into a fab pet nook, suggests Anna Shiwlall, a designer at 27 Diamonds in Los Angeles. "It's usually just dead space if it's not a closet, so talk to your contractor about cutting out this spot to make a comfy nest for your pup. Add lighting and then paint the inside a fun color. "You could also put up some fun wall decor, like bones for dogs or paws for cats, and pictures of foods they like, too." Choose a cute bed or dog chaise that looks like a normal chaise—but smaller. It'll give your furry friend a cool chill-out pit, and you a great conversation piece.

Spill-proof dishes

Along with tufts of animal fur, puppy kibble is the next biggest source of pet mess in most homes. The fix: a built-in feeding station that will store dishes out of the line of traffic and keep spills to a minimum. "You could also install concealed compartments in the kitchen to house your pet’s food bags and keep them from cluttering the pantry floor," suggests Kathryn LaBarbera, president of Closet Factory. If you feed your pet in the mud room, add hooks over this spot for her leash, extra collar, and jackets. A cubby or shelf can hold pet meds, shampoo, and a jar of doggie treats. "Sliding wire baskets are also great for organizing toys, whether they’re in the mudroom or the living room," says LaBarbera.

A doggy shower

Do you really want to share your tub with your Labradoodle? (Note: This is a rhetorical question.) If you have a dog that gets into the muck regularly, a specially designed canine shower will be invaluable. You might consider a walk-in shower or one that has a built-in step that your pup can mount; a shower nozzle with a long hose attachment makes for easy rinsing. Cabinets above the shower station can hold towels and a dog brush for after-bath beauty sessions.

A kitchen island pet crate

It may seem cruel to put your pooch in a pen, but puppies can benefit from crate training, and older dogs often like the security of their own little space. But if an unsightly cage taking up space in your home does not appeal to you, consider having it built into a kitchen counter or island. This streamlined approach looks smart and can easily revert back to a plain island when needed (just have the wire doors removed).

Matching beds

Dogs need their own place to sleep, period, and a great-looking dog bed is the solution. If you've got the space in your bedroom, designate a corner for your dog, complete with his bed, pillows, and a basket for toys. If you love the matching look, choose bedspreads for the dog's bed and yours in coordinating colors.

Pet sanctuary

The hot thing right now in home renovation is to create multipurpose flex spaces, reports LaBarbera. And that trend can benefit your furred or taloned loved ones as well. "From home offices that transform into guest rooms, courtesy of a wall bed, to laundry rooms that double as pet sanctuaries, the key is to figure out how to double up on these spaces," she explains. For example, if you only do laundry once a week, you might want to design a spot for your pet to sleep underneath the cabinets so he's out of the way of regular foot traffic, but can still get some peace and quiet.

Let your pup snooze while you run a few loads. Closet Factory

Let your pup snooze while you run a few loads.

Closet Factory

 This article was originally posted/written by Realtor.com


Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell?


Your children have finally moved out and you and your spouse now live alone in a four-bedroom colonial (or a similar type of house). You have two choices to make:

  1. Remodel your house to fit your current lifestyle and needs
  2. Sell your house and purchase the perfect home

Based on the record of dollars spent on remodeling and renovations, it appears that many homeowners are deciding on number one. But, is that the best long-term solution?

If you currently live in a 3-4-bedroom home, you probably bought it at a time when your children were the major consideration in determining family housing needs. Along with a large home, you more than likely also considered school district, the size of the property and the makeup of other families living in the neighborhood (example: you wanted a block with other kids your children could play with and a backyard large enough to accommodate that).

Remodeling your home to meet your current needs might mean combining two bedrooms to make one beautiful master suite and changing another bedroom into the massive walk-in closet you always wanted. However, if you live in a neighborhood that historically attracts young families, you may be dramatically undermining the value of your house by cutting down the number of bedrooms and making it less desirable to the typical family moving onto your block.

And, according to a recent study, you will recoup only 64.4% of a remodeling project’s investment dollars if you sell in the future.

Your home is probably at its highest value as it stands right now. Instead of remodeling your house, it may make better financial sense to sell your current home and purchase a home that was built specifically to meet your current lifestyle and desires.

In many cases, this well-designed home will give you exactly what you want in less square footage (read less real estate taxes!) than your current home.

Bottom Line

If you are living in a house that no longer fits your needs, at least consider checking out other homes in your area that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling your current house.

This article was originally posted/written by Keeping Current Matters. 


Is your real estate team violating the law?

How to avoid legal snafus with an agent-run team

SAN FRANCISCO — If you run a real estate team or are the supervising broker of an office that has agent teams — listen up. There’s a high probability that your teams are violating the independent contractor laws, and it’s time to act now to rectify this situation.

The underlying problem when it comes to both teams and brokerages is that real estate law requires managing brokers to supervise their agents.

Under independent contractor (IC) law, however, the very act of supervising an agent makes that agent an employee. Although there is some degree of protection due to the real estate laws for brokers, there is no provision in the law for an IC agent team leader to supervise another IC agent.

During the Leadership Track at Inman Connect, June Barlow, senior vice president and general counselfor the California Association of Realtors; Linzee Ciprani, founder and CEO of Ciprani Consulting; and Penny Nathan, president/CEO of Ascent Real Estate Inc., identified the legal pitfalls inherent in running agent teams as well as best practices to avoid serious trouble.


Past litigation and damages

With the settlement (pending court approval) of Redfin’s independent contractor (IC) litigation at the onset of its IPO and Coldwell Banker’s reported $4.5 million settlement of the Bararsani litigation, there appears to be no major litigation currently pending that could upend IC status.

The primary risk, however, isn’t litigation, but the state labor boards, especially when it comes to agent teams.

To illustrate this point, four agents filed wage claims alleging that ZipRealty failed to pay its employee/real estate agents minimum wage and overtime premium pay. ZipRealty settled those four claims for close to $600,000.

Even though the litigation had settled, the California Labor Commission sought $7.5 million in minimum wages, $1.25 million in premium overtime pay and over $9 million in additional damages. The case ultimately settled with the Labor Board for $5 million. The company also had to pay the employer’s share of employer taxes on back wages.

High-risk behaviors

If you engage in any of the following behaviors, you and your team are acting in an employee relationship rather than an IC relationship:

  • You serve as a boss to the IC agents on your team rather than treating them as an agent receiving an outbound referral.
  • The agents on your team are required to attend team meetings, prospect at specific times, hold open houses or show properties at the times that you designate.
  • You, rather than your supervising broker, approve the contracts, advertising and other activities that by-law must be supervised by the managing broker.
  • You have IC agents doing clerical or transaction management tasks that do not require a license, especially if these individuals work regular hours and are not getting paid minimum wage.
  • You have unlicensed individuals conducting activity that requires a license.

Transaction managers running amok

As the ZipRealty settlement illustrates, failure to comply with the IC law can result in fines in the millions of dollars.

Nathan explained how rampant the problem is in her area. For example, Nathan is a supervising broker for her firm. Nevertheless, an unlicensed transaction coordinator from another firm decided to “supervise” how Nathan was handling a transaction. This is a clear violation of real estate and IC laws. The transaction coordinator has no authority whatsoever to step into a supervisory role, especially when she is not even licensed.

An innovative solution

Nathan has come up with an innovative way to address this issue — an “agent leasing” program. Nathan hires licensed agents as W-2 employees of her company and trains them. Once they have completed their training, they can then be “leased” to other agents who need extra help.

Her IC agents use the agent leasing program on a full-time, part-time or even on a temporary basis. When they take a vacation, when they are busier than usual or if they need extra help for any other reason, that extra help is available.

The leasing program is also popular with teams because it lifts the burden of employee management from them. The agents only pay for the hours they use. Because these agents are employees and Nathan supervises them, (not the agent team leaders), there is no conflict with the IC laws.

Agents don’t get it

Any broker who supervises an agent team must be especially wary about allowing agent team leads hire people for their teams.

For example, Ciprani explained how some team leaders have contacted her about having someone work for them from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and paying them as an independent contractor.

If the person must work specific hours, five days a week, that’s an employee relationship.

Ciprani has also received requests to find a licensee who could work seven days a week for $300-$500 a transaction “because the agent is an independent contractor.” This arrangement could result in the type of fines experienced by ZipRealty because the pay rate is less than the minimum wage.

How to stay out of trouble

Some options for avoiding problems with the IC laws are:

  • Require all assistants or team members to be hired by a company such as ADP. The agent then contracts with ADP to lease one of its employees. This way, the team members are employees of the agency, which also takes care of any required tax withholding. Nevertheless, anyone, whether it’s an independent contractor or employee, must be properly supervised the managing broker, a role that managing broker cannot legally abdicate to anyone else.
  • Hire the agent as an employee with a salary of $30,000-$35,000 per year with a 10 percent bonus if they close two deals in a month, and a 15 percent bonus for anything over two deals per month.
  • Treat your independent contractors like an actual contractor, and stay away from requiring them to do hours of lead generation or having to attend team meetings. Instead, the team leader should “strongly suggest” that agents be present at the office at certain times and that they follow certain team guidelines to avoid having legal or other types of issues.

If you’re running a team and you’re currently engaging in behavior that violates the IC laws, review your situation with a local labor attorney.

To avoid possibly facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and back taxes, make sure that you follow your attorney’s recommendations about what the labor and real estate laws require in your state.

This article was originally posted/written by Inman.


5 Ways to Invest in Real Estate


If you’ve ever had a landlord, you probably don’t dream of being one: Fielding calls about oversize bugs and overflowing toilets doesn’t seem like the most glamorous job.

But done right, real estate investment can be lucrative, if not flashy. It can help diversify your existing investment portfolio and be an additional income stream. And it doesn’t always require showing up at a tenant’s every beck and call.

The trouble is that many new investors don’t know where or how to invest in real estate. So here are five options, ranging from high maintenance to low.

1. Invest in rental properties

Tiffany Alexy didn’t intend to become a real estate investor when she bought her first rental property at age 21. Then a college senior in Raleigh, North Carolina, she planned to attend grad school locally and figured buying would be better than renting.

“I went on Craigslist and found a four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo that was set up student-housing style. I bought it, lived in one bedroom and rented out the other three,” Alexy says.

The setup covered all of her expenses and brought in an extra $100 per month in cash — far from chump change for a grad student, and enough that Alexy caught the real estate bug. Now age 27, she has five rentals and is a broker and owner of Alexy Realty Group in Raleigh.

Alexy entered the market using a strategy sometimes called house hacking, a term coined by BiggerPockets, an online resource for real estate investors. It essentially means you’re occupying your investment property, either by renting out rooms, as Alexy did, or by renting out units in a multi-unit building. David Meyer, vice president of growth and marketing at the site, says house hacking lets investors buy a property with up to four units and still qualify for a residential loan.

Of course, you can also buy and rent out an entire investment property. Find one with combined expenses lower than the amount you can charge in rent. And if you don’t want to be the person who shows up with a toolbelt to fix a leak — or even the person who calls that person — you’ll also need to pay a property manager.

“If you manage it yourself, you’ll learn a lot about the industry, and if you buy future properties you’ll go into it with more experience,” says Meyer.

2. Fix up and resell properties

This is HGTV come to life: You purchase an underpriced home in need of a little love, renovate it as inexpensively as possible and then resell it for a profit. Called house flipping, the strategy is a wee bit harder than it looks on TV.

“There is a bigger element of risk, because so much of the math behind flipping requires a very accurate estimate of how much repairs are going to cost, which is not an easy thing to do,” says Meyer.

His suggestion: Find an experienced partner. “Maybe you have capital or time to contribute, but you find a contractor who is good at estimating expenses or managing the project,” he says.

The other risk of flipping is that the longer you hold the property, the less money you make because you’re paying a mortgage without bringing in any income. You can lower that risk by living in the house as you fix it up. This works as long as most of the updates are cosmetic and you don’t mind a little dust.

3. Use a crowdfunding service

If you’re familiar with companies such as Prosper and LendingClub — which connect borrowers to investors willing to lend them money for various personal needs, such as a wedding or home renovation — you’ll understand the concept behind investing through a real estate crowdfunding site.

Companies including RealtyShares and RealtyMogul connect real estate developers to investors who want to finance projects, either through debt or equity. Investors hope to receive monthly or quarterly distributions in exchange for taking on a significant amount of risk and paying a fee to the platform. Like many real estate investments, these are speculative and illiquid — you can’t easily unload them the way you can trade a stock.

The rub is that you need money to make money. Real estate crowdfunding is generally open only to accredited investors, defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission as people who’ve earned income of more than $200,000 ($300,000 with a spouse) in each of the last two years or have a net worth of $1 million or more, not including a primary residence.

4. REITs

REITs, or real estate investment trusts, allow you to invest in real estate without the physical real estate. Often compared to mutual funds, they’re companies that own commercial real estate such as office buildings, retail spaces, apartments and hotels. REITs tend to pay high dividends, which makes them a good investment in retirement. Investors who don’t need or want the regular income can automatically reinvest those dividends to grow their investment further.

REITs can be varied and complex. Some trade on an exchange like a stock; others aren’t publicly traded. The type of REIT you purchase can be a big factor in the amount of risk you’re taking on, as non-traded REITs aren’t easily sold and might be hard to value. New investors should generally stick to publicly traded REITs, which you can purchase through an online broker. (See the NerdWallet analysis of the best brokers for beginners if you’re new to this world.)

5. Rent out a room

Finally, to dip the very edge of your toe in the real estate waters, you could rent part of your home via a site like Airbnb. It’s house hacking for the commitment-phobe: You don’t have to take on a long-term tenant, potential renters are at least somewhat prescreened by Airbnb, and the company’s host guarantee provides protection against damages.

This article was originally posted/written by Nerd Wallet. 



10 Inspirational Quotes for the New School Year

As the summer ends and the weather turns, it's a good time to re-focus on your goals. Even if you are no longer in school, the beginning of the school year often triggers an ingrained instinct to buckle down and get to work.

From a willingness to make mistakes, to staying true to yourself, to simply working hard and not giving up, here is a collection of quotes to help inspire your progress through the next nine months.

1. Make Mistakes


2. Don't let Doubt Kill Your Dreams


3. Help people see their potential


4. Be authentic


5. Small achievements happen every day

6. Say hello


7. Work Hard


8. Do Your Best


9. Keep Going


10. Believe in Yourself


This article was originally posted/written by Entrepreneur.com.